Thursday, 30 January 2014

City can be stopped; exciting games ahead

Manchester City had another big win last night, 5-1 against Tottenham. Are they unstoppable?

Well, no, I don't think so. While they have been scoring for fun (68 goals in 23 league games so far), they do show occasional vulnerability in defence. Whereas teams like Spurs (sorry Spurs fans) are not good enough to hold them at bay, they very top teams (e.g. Chelsea and City's next Champions League opponents Barcelona) are capable of stopping City.

Ironically Chelsea failed to beat West Ham United last night, despite having a record-equalling (while failing to score) count of 39 shots. Jose Mourinho has accused West Ham of playing football from the 19th Century. Well, he's not afraid to vary his playing style, and although he wasn't in charge at the time, didn't Chelsea win the Champions League a couple of years ago by basically trying to stop Bayern Munich from playing?

West Ham boss, Sam Allardyce, was (quite rightly) unrepentant. He said: "He can't take it, can he? He can't take it because we've outwitted him - he just can't cope.

"He can tell me all he wants, I don't care.
"I love to see Chelsea players moaning at the referee, trying to intimidate him, Jose jumping up and down saying we play rubbish football.
"It's brilliant when you get a result against him. Hard luck, Jose."
There are many ways to play this great game of ours, Jose. Deal with it.

So on to the match on Monday night: Manchester City v Chelsea. This will go a long way to indicating whether City really are destined for the League title this year.

Then barely two weeks later the same two teams meet in the FA Cup 5th round. Mouth-watering.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Manchester United: simply not good enough

It's all gone wrong for Manchester United.

Dumped out of the League Cup at the semi-final stage by Sunderland last night, boss David Moyes is hiding his despair very well, simply saying that his team didn't play well enough. However, he must have been absolutely fuming over the way goalkeeper David De Gea fumbled a shot over the line in the last minute of extra time (when a save would have put United through); and he must have been fuming over some woeful penalty kicks in the shoot-out, of which Manchester United scored only one of five.

What's up? Let's have a look at last night's team.

David De Gea (goalkeeper). Mistakes will be made, of course, but De Gea has never truly inspired confidence and doesn't look to be a top-class keeper. He conceded Sunderland's only shot on target last night. 5/10

Rafael (right back): United have struggled to fill this position since Gary Neville got injured some years back. Rafael has some flare, but loses the ball too often and is not strong enough in the tackle or in the air. 5/10

Chris Smalling (centre back): Looks a little ungainly at times, making him slightly unpredictable in his touch. 5/10

Jonny Evans (centre back): Usually sure-footed, he seems to have lost some confidence. Some wayward clearances last night. 6/10

Alex Buttner (left back): Has neither the tackling strength nor the forward forceful movements of Patrice Evra, and was eventually taken off in favour of Evra. 4/10

Adnan Januzaj (winger): Has immense potential, but last night wasn't one of his best, though he did set up the goal. His shooting was wayward. Perhaps too much weight is being put on his young shoulders. 6/10

Michael Carrick (midfield): Over 32 now, Carrick remains an excellent passer of the ball, but is probably past his best. Never one to score many goals, this lack of contribution is hurting United currently. 7/10

Darren Fletcher (midfield): Coming back from injury, 120 minutes was a long stretch for him last night, but he was ineffective on too many occasions. Not what United need right now. 4/10

Shinji Kagawa (midfield): Not up to United's high standards at all. 4/10

Javier Hernandez (forward): Mis-control, mis-timed passes and poor shooting, Chicarito had a bad night, but then came up with a goal in the last seconds (he did  nearly miss from five yards, however). 4/10

Danny Welbeck (forward): Lacks power, pace and fizz, but doesn't have a bad scoring record. Not the answer, though. 5/10

Quite simply: they're not good enough. Sir Alex Ferguson may have seen this coming and got out at the right time. Poor David Moyes cannot really be blamed. This is a poor team. Juan Mata can't arrive too soon.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Long and Jelavic will strengthen Hull City - but at what price?

Well now, Hull Tigers - sorry, I mean Hull City.

Shane Long looks set to join Nikica Jelavic at the KC Stadium. There are two impressive signings for a club without much top-division history.

I imagine those complaining about the potential name change are biting their tongues right now.

Just a couple of days ago owner Assem Allam, 74, said he would leave "within 24 hours" if his application to alter the name to Hull Tigers is not backed.

Hull City fans reacted angrily to this, saying he had shown a lack of respect. The trouble is, as I have said on here before, they must be delighted at the player investment at the club, making the team stronger all the time, but such ambition comes at a price (the potential name change).

Wow, I've just noticed that the official club website is now called It's started already.

Is it the way the fans want the club to go?

Thursday, 9 January 2014

City ride high, but Sam's days are numbered

The problem for West Ham United last night was that Manchester City were just too good.

And Manchester City have been 'just too good' on several occasions this season - mostly at home of course. Here are the games in which they have scored four or more at home this season:

19 Aug: 4-0 v Newcastle United
22 Sep: 4-1 v Manchester United
24 Sep: 5-0 v Wigan Athletic (League Cup)
2 Nov:  7-0 v Norwich City
5 Nov:  5-2 v CSKA Moscow (Champions League)
24 Nov: 6-0 v Tottenham Hotspur
27 Nov: 4-2 v Viktoria Plzen (Champions League)
14 Dec: 6-3 v Arsenal
8 Jan:    6-0 v West Ham United (League Cup)

That's pretty impressive. Most fans would take that in a season! But you can't doubt that there's more to come. Backed by their multi-millions, Manchester City should win the Premier League, and could well add the League Cup to that. The FA Cup remains unpredictable, as ever. As for the Champions League, the next round against Barcelona will, to put it mildly, be fascinating.

As we have seen, West Ham United went the same way as many other teams at the Etihad this season. Sam Allardyce's real problem was the embarrassing 5-0 defeat in the FA Cup at Nottingham Forest on Sunday. By saving his top players for last night's League Cup tie, he sacrificed West Ham's place in the FA Cup, but the hiding was not on the agenda.

Sorry Sam, but unless the Hammers' league form takes a swift turn for the better, then your days are numbered.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Does a club have to sell its soul to compete?

When Roman Abramovich took over at Chelsea and transformed them into League winners and eventually into European champions with his billions, football in this country was changed forever.

It meant that a club had to have similar billions to compete.

Manchester City, for example, have received that their billions and they won the League and look set to add silverware to their tally again this season.

Now, we all wish for a billionaire sugar daddy to come to our club. Or do we?

As my club, Leeds United, looks at possible investment from Red Bull, I wonder whether we'd be selling our soul.

Examples at Cardiff City and Hull City make you wonder whether life really is greener with all the money.

Fans at Hull City don't want a name change to Hull Tigers, but they like the investment. Fans at Cardiff City hate the colour change from blue to red, weren't happy that Malky Mackay was sacked, and must fear what might happen next, but they must know that they need Mr Tan's money to keep them in the Premier League.

Leeds United fans would not accept a change of club colours to the red of Red Bull, I know for sure. As for a name change to Red Bull Leeds (like Red Bull Salzberg), no thanks - I'd rather stay in the Championship.

But you need billions to compete.

Chelsea fans have been unhappy with Abramovich's eccentric sackings and appointments at various times, but they're never going to call for him to go, are they?

They sold their soul and the rest of us might have to do the same.