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)