Wednesday, 23 March 2011

SHINESAMBORA SPORTS BLOG: Player of the year nominees thin on the ground

SHINESAMBORA SPORTS BLOG: Player of the year nominees thin on the ground: "A week or so ago, Paul Hayward from the Guardian tweeted the first set of odds for the PFA Player of the Year awards. Taking a look on Oddsc..."

Player of the year nominees thin on the ground

A week or so ago, Paul Hayward from the Guardian tweeted the first set of odds for the PFA Player of the Year awards. Taking a look on Oddschecker, one thing really stands out here, there isn't a stand out candidate.

At the moment Victor Chandler has Gareth Bale a 3/1 favourite. Now whilst Bale is clearly a fantastic footballer who was deserving of his new deal at Spurs, I can’t help but feel that he has been made favourite here on the back of two performances that were a) in Europe and b) against a team managed by Rafael Benitez. Stats don’t necessarily mean everything; however I would suggest that a winger who has just one assist this season hasn’t actually been as effective as people may think. The seven goals from the wide area are impressive and whilst it can be argued that Bale scares the hell out of most defences which means teams double up on him creating more space for other players, there are other players who have had bigger impact on their team this season.

One of Bale’s teammates for example falls into that category. Rafael Van Der Vaart’s signing in late August is the signing of the season for me, and still haunts me. Bebe £7.5m, Van Der Vaart £8m. Urgh!!!! The ex Real Madrid player had ten goals and seven assists arrived before injury struck and derailed his campaign. He was in the type of form that would have seen him run away with the award, before his dodgy hamstring went.

Other candidates on Oddschecker’s current list include Arsenal’s Sami Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. I can certainly understand the value of Nasri to the Gunners this season, chipping in with nine goals, and being their most consistent threat throughout the season in terms of creating chances for his team, however I can’t see how Fabregas should be considered. Just three goals from midfield are not good enough return for someone who is allegedly worth £40m. It’s been clear all season that Fabregas has not been all there with his head clearly turned by a return home to Cataluña. Jack Wilshere (seen below with a meerkat who can pick his own nose) would have a bigger claim to the award than Fabregas this year.

Carlos Tevez is currently priced at 5/1 and may not be a bad shout. If you look at the impact he has had on a City side full of mercenaries, only him, David Silva and Vincent Kompany have come out of this season so far with any real credit. Tevez has 18 goals this season but offers much more to them. His technique is not the best you will see around (far from it actually) but his bulldog like approach (copyright Martin Tyler, FIFA 11) and willingness to chase down anything gives City fans something to get excited about as Mancini seeks to park the bus in every single big game that they play in. (David Silva if he continues the way he his playing should be in the running for this award next year, he has been far and away Mancini’s best signing.

I mentioned earlier that stats aren’t everything but its hard not to be impressed with Nani’s form at United this year. It’s not Ronaldo-esque, however if you had asked any United fan this time last season if they saw this coming, their answer would have been a categorical no. Despite his impressive stats, Nani does continue to frustrate and should actually have more assists than he currently has to his name, mostly due to the fact most of his crosses struggle to beat the first man. Players also probably won’t vote for a man (I’m using the term loosely here) who cries on the pitch during your team’s biggest game of the season. Awful tackle no doubt but if you’re gonna cry about it, at least put your head in the ground until you've stopped.

United have two other players at the top of the list. Berbatov is quoted at the same price as Tevez, and whilst it’s not unreasonable to find the league’s top scorer in the list, the fact that 11 of his 20 goals have come in just three games probably doesn’t help his cause. The Bulgarian is an amazing talent who is having his best season at Old Trafford but he has failed to start a game since the Liverpool game three weeks ago and it is looking increasingly likely that Hernandez and Rooney will be the partnership Fergie looks to reach title Number 19.

One of the main reasons United look on the verge of that historic 19th title is their captain Nemanja Vidic. United have lost just three games all season and in all honesty it may have been more if it wasn’t for some of the performances of their Serbian warrior who has marshalled a battered and bruised defence all season long with ease. The captain of the team that could win the league seems like an obvious choice to win the award but in a season where there hasn’t been a standout candidate it would certainly make the most sense.

Finally a quick nod has to go to Charlie Adam here who is by no means the best player in the league, however he has been a huge reason why Blackpool still have a chance to stay up this season. Where would they be without his nine goals and seven assists? Bottom is the answer you are looking for. If the award was given out based on impact of a player on one club, he would surely be in with a shout. Can’t see it though somehow, can you?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Quick CL draw thoughts

One team here will be very pleased. A quick hint; they are the best team in the world.

Although a trip to the Ukraine isn't easy (just ask City) Barca should have more than enough in the first leg to progress against a talented but inexperienced Shakhtar. They then face Madrid or Spurs in the semis. This is a tough tie to call. If Madrid were away from home first I could see them doing a similar job as they did on Lyon. But with the second leg at White Hart Lane, and a fit Van Der Vaart and Bale to return, Spurs can go through here. That said Madrid have to be the pick here as Mourinho is pretty much an expert in two legged games.

This leaves a Madrid v Barca semi which will mean four games in 15 days between the two of them. I predict the Spanish press is currently in meltdown. With the second leg to be played at the Camp Nou you would have to favour them. Given their lead in Spain it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them field a weaker side (do they have a weak side?) in either their Copa Del Ray final or their league game.

On the other side of the draw, United head to Chelsea whilst Inter entertain Schalke. Before the draw was made I spoke with a Chelsea fan and we agreed that no British team would make the semis unless they faced each other. Now it looks like one could make the final. The United V Chelsea tie is too close to call. Chelsea have won their last three competitive games against United, however in the two games in West London it could certainly be argued that United deserved a point in both games. However with United having what seems like an entire defence currently out with injuries Chelsea will certainly fancy their chances. A key figure in the tie won't even be playing. David Luiz's ineligibility leaves a huge hole at the back for Chelsea which will have to be filled. He has been their best player by distance since signing in January and has ability that no other Chelsea defender possesses. The second leg at Old Trafford could be the key thing in this all English contest.

Inter v Schalke is a repeat of the 1997 UEFA Cup final (you remember the UEFA Cup don't you? It was a good competition once). Anyway the Nerazzurri would fancy themselves here. They showed a lot of spirit in Munich, have fought back well in Serie A after a horror start (and thats a fact Rafa), and two of the best attacking players in the world on their day in Eto’o and Sneijder. Schalke on the other hand are not in their best run of form, lie 10th in the Bundesliga and have just sacked their coach. Inter has to be the pick here.

Gut initial feel here is a Barca v Inter final with Barca getting revenge for last year semi final defeat.

(I really wanted to pick United here but our midfield scares me so much that I worried enough about the game against Bolton, never mind the Champions League)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Time for one of all time greats to hang up his boots

Sitting down to watch the United v Maresille game on Wednesday night, I never imagined that I would be later thinking it would be time for one of United's greatest ever to hang up his boots. Hear me out on this one but I think it's time for Paul Scholes to retire. And not just due to the embarrassment of having to face the fact that Darren Gibson was picked ahead of him. I genuinely think it's time for United to say thanks for everything and move on.

Scholes is, it could be argued, the best midfielder in United's squad, however this has been down to a lack of real competition for that title over the last 12 months rather than anything hugely special that he has done.

I took one look at the United midfield on Wednesday night and was genuinely fearful. Gibson, Fletcher and Carrick. Which one of those would you put in an Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, city, or even Liverpool midfield for that matter?

The fact that a 36 year old was been called upon to try and bring some creativity is in all honesty not good enough for a team that wants to be competing for league titles and European Cups.

The whole of the centre of midfield needs to be looked at starting from the holding player which I guess at the moment is a combination of Carrick and Scholes depending on formation and selection. The supposed role of the 'water carrier' in midfield is to strip the opponent of the ball and give it off to the more creative ones, or at least do something with it himself. In his near five years at Old Trafford I can honestly say I have seem Carrick win no more than 10 tackles and enough has been documented about Scholes lack of ability to tackle. Fletcher it could be argued could play that role but after a return to his 2006 form this season I'm not convinced. This role was made for Hargreeves and it's clear that sadly his days are numbered. United have to look elsewhere here.

From an attacking point of view Anderson, I'm fairness to the lad, has had a good season after many fans had written him off. Yet he is the only player United have who has the confidence to pick up the ball 30-40 yards from his own goal and drive at the heart of the opposition.
Whist Anderson does bring that to the table it can certainly be argued that there is a little creative spark missing from his game that can open up defences.

Whilst Scholes clearly does posses this ability, the problem is that he is sometimes too far behind play to effect anything. The game has to be played at a slower pace in order for him to be effective. This isn't his fault, he's 36 years old for god sake!

What I am trying to get at here is that once Scholes goes, the three that started against Marseille and Anderson are United’s four central midfielders. This frightens me. Why? Because there is not one player there that would frighten Barcelona, Real or Bayern who are probably the three best teams left in the Champions League right now. However I think it does need to happen now so Fergie will realise that what he has left is nowhere near good enough and that changes must be made.

So where do United go? In a perfect world Wesley Sniejder would be wearing red next season but I can't see it happening. A more realistic signing would be someone like Modric, however I think that hinges on how Spurs fare this season. If they fail to make the Champions league then he could end up at OT, but if they do make the top 4, I can't see him leaving. Elsewhere Fiorentina’s Riccardo Montolivo may be an option but in all honesty it's slim pickings.

The same could be said for the earlier mentioned holding role. One stand out player is Everton’s Jack Rodwell who looks a class act all the way. The big question here is would Everton sell another prize asset to United? Everyone has a price but somehow I can't see United spending 30 million on him.

So where does that leave United? Well it means that the scouts are going have to pull something out of the bag a little better than Obertan and Bebe. You can’t replace a player like Paul Scholes, but United must and they must act quickly.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Transfer Deadline Day thoughts

A mate of mine sent me a text asking if I was going to blog on the hilarity that was deadline day. Having spent most of it in work and then playing football, i missed out on the Sky Sports overkill and as a result didn't really feel like I would be able to write anything. However due to the madness of King Kenny and the arrival of the former golden boy of Merseyside in West London my mate won't go disappointed.

Starting with Carroll, let's get one thing straight; it's not his fault that he has gone for such a ludicrous price. However unless Liverpool change their style of play rapidly, he will struggle initially. Liverpool don't play with any width whatsoever and whilst he is more than capable with his feet, Carroll's strength is in the air and with a lack of service from the flanks he could find life on the red side of Liverpool difficult early on. Carroll can't be judged on this season but his high transfer fee means that he will be. On a completely different point, when Dalglish and Carroll met, could anyone else in the room understand a word that was said? Seriously I would have been amazed.

The biggest losers out of this are the Geordies, who despite pocketing £35m will be losing a lot more than that if they don't stay up this season. Without giving themselves anytime to get a proper replacement, Ashley has once again left them in the muck. Not that he cares.

Another highlight on deadline day was as usual, Harry Redknapp. I heard him on five live around 8.45 saying that he had put in one bid and that was for Phil Neville. "I'm going to head back to the hotel and put my feet up with a cup of tea and a sandwich." Anyone who believed him must have been mental and sure enough come the end of the night Charlie Adam was nostril hair away from becoming a Spurs player. Redknapp can always be counted on for some sort of entertainment on deadline day.

Speaking of Adam he hasn't exactly come out of the window as a winner. You can’t blame him for wanting to join Liverpool or Spurs, not one bit. But for his old man to call Blackpool a "cheap skate club" was one of the more ridiculous things you'll hear all year. The same "cheap skate club" that redirected your sons’ career. Seriously!!!

There wasn't a lot of movement in the top three with the exception of the fantastic rumour that City wanted to LOAN ( that's right, LOAN) Sebastian Larson from Brum. Yeah, that will end the trophy drought.

And I'll finish with Torres who has finally got the move to the big club he had been dreaming of all these years. Hold on a minute, I thought he got that in 2007. Quick history lesson Fernando ; whilst what you said made me chuckle, the facts speak for themselves. Liverpool is a proper football club built on winning trophies (although there's been a distinct lack of them recently) whilst Chelsea is a club built on a Russian Oligarchs cash and a few titles. That said though, signing for Chelsea does give him a better chance of winning trophies.

Liverpool should have got rid in the summer. He hasn't looked interested all season long, with the exception of ironically enough the Chelsea game when he scored two. Perhaps he was trying to prove a point to Abramovich. I asked a friend of mine who is a season ticket holder at Anfield what he thought and after using the 'C' word to describe his former hero, he said that there is no loyalty in football anymore. Well no there isn't. But the reality is that we shouldn't be surprised one bit by anything. In my first blog in July I talked about U.S basketball star Lebron James and how he shamelessly defecated on the entire Cleveland fan base. In the same blog I talked about how Tevez had done something very similar (in my eyes anyway) to United fans. Since I wrote this, Rooney, Tevez (AGAIN!!!) and now Torres have all either left or threatened to leave their respective clubs for various reasons, with fans of these clubs asking for loyalty. In reality we shouldn't expect anything because players are just like me and you; if someone offers them more money their head will turn, no matter how much they are currently on. I'm not saying its right, but it's a fact.

At the end of the day the Scousers have got good money for Torres, I'm just not sure they have spent it all that wisely.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Quick Picks


Blackpool v Birmingham, 20:00. Home win.

Blackpool haven't played at home in over a month. They will be fired up.

Fulham v West Brom, 20:00. Away win.

A team that has won at The Emirates should win at craven cottage.

Man Utd v Stoke, 20:00 Home win.

Standard home win here. On a separate note can Gary Neville please retire now. Seriously it's getting embarrassing.


Arsenal v Man City, 19:45 Home win.

City have no Silva or Balotelli. Shame as it would have been interesting to see Wilshere introduce himself to him. Gunners look to be hitting good form again.

Aston Villa v Sunderland, 19:45 - Home win

Villa will be hugely up for it after their performance at Chelsea. How great was the look on John Terrys face at the end of that game.

Newcastle v West Ham, 19:45 - Draw

Hammers have put some form together and Newcastle are very Jekyll and Hyde.

Wolverhampton v Chelsea, 19:45 - Away win

Wolves were unlucky on Saturday at Upton Park. Chelsea whilst being very funny at the moment, also have more than enough to win here.

Blackburn v Liverpool, 20:00 - Draw

Rovers are awful at the moment.Liverpool got out of jail on saturday but are shocking away from home.

Bolton v Wigan, 20:00 Home win

Bolton have too much quality for Wigan here.

Everton v Tottenham, 20:00 Away win

Spurs have to win these games if they are going to challenge for the title