Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Stoke City gained promotion to the Premier League on the final day of the 2007-2008 season. With Tony Pulis in charge they quickly gained a cult-status in the British and international media. Their physical "in your face" attitude takes you back to the earlier days of English football and the fanatical support of their fans has made the Britannia stadium into a real fortress. With the ball rarely touching the grass when the Potters are in possession their style of play is like a Scottish mid-table team on crack. Pulis has mainly focused on bringing physical power houses to the team and this translates to a rock-solid defence on the pitch, incredible workhorses on midfield and massive target men up front. Jermaine Pennant is the odd one out with his extra skills on the ball but he fits in perfectly with his mint crosses into the box. With a 12th an 11th position in the league Stoke has performed quite well for a newcomer but their true glory moment was last year's FA Cup final. Stoke had the misfortune of meeting the only team which was physically superior at that time, Manchester City. So this automatically cancelled out their gameplan and City managed to grab the cup. But Stoke were lucky enough that City managed to secure their Champions League ticket on the final day of the season thus opening up the way for Stoke into europe.This gave Tony Pulis the opportunity to add players to his squad like England internationals Matthew Upton and Jonathan Woodgate. An attempt to lure Romelu Lukaku to Stoke on loan was thwarted by Premier League rules. They also may sign Wilson Palacios before the transfer deadline expires to strengthen their midfield.
After dealing with Hajduk Split and FC Thun Stoke managed to reach the group stage of the Europa League drawing them with Andrey Shevchenko's Dynamo Kiev, Turkish giants Besiktas and Hapoel Tel Aviv which features the Israelian-Nigerian talent Toto Tamuz. Now it's certainly interesting how they will do in Europe, especially looking at the way they play and how their team is perfectly adjusted to their style of play.


Now Stoke's main strengths are finding their target man from counter-attacks and of course set pieces. Stoke is a master at creating danger from corners and their well known throw-ins. Everyone has seen the precision with which Irish midfielder Rory Delap can hurl the ball into the box. With their abundance of physically superior players Stoke will make any team work their socks off to keep the ball out of the net in these situations. Now Stoke won't be the best team on the ball but they'll certainly make the opposition work for their money. With players like Whelan, Delap, Whitehead and Etherington they will constantly put pressure on the ball and frustrate the opposing team. The only question is if they have a wide enough selection to keep a fresh set of players on the match every match, if not their gameplan will quickly come undone and they will struggle to get any result at all. In defence and midfield their squad is probably big enough to have some decent rotation of players going on but up-front they're quite lacking. With Fuller as the only quality replacement of Jones and Walters (or am I writing off Sidibe too soon anyone?) this will likely be a problem with their congested schedule. All in all Stoke City will be an interesting team to keep an eye on during the Europa League. Their style of play is perfect if you just want to kick back with a nice pint of lager, stout or ale.

For this you could try to get your hands on of the beers produced by the Titanic Brewery, situated in Stoke-on-Trent. Check out their selection on http://www.titanicbrewery.co.uk/ and see if it's available anywhere near you. I always like to match my beer up with the team I'm watching that evening... keeps things exciting.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Football isn't fair/ Life isn't fair

I've been noticing a very negative attitude towards City lately and people seem to be getting more and more frustrated about it. Shocked at the amount of money being chucked around by Sheikh Mansour people vent their frustrations in just about any way they can, but of course mainly on the most popular rage-outlet... the internets.

Mansour recklessly giving the thumbs up to just about everyone and everything.
Now of course it's understandable people are angry with the way this club is buying their way to the top but it seems to be some kind of extremely arbitrarily way of judging clubs for their expenses and the way they conduct themselves in the transfer market. Because really. Are people really that naive? Isn't it just a pure fact that clubs need to spend insane ammounts of money to compete at a top level? Or is it just a coincendence that most top team have huge debts crushing down on them, and that most top teams nowadays were taken over by wealthy entrepeneurs in the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. The only difference is that those entrepeneurs were slightly whiter and slightly more conservative with their expenses. You can deconstruct just about any top club in Europe this way. The football half-gods of Barcelona used to be an expensive bunch of players thrown together on the pitch. After they pursued Cruyf's plan to focus on youth which resulted in the masterful total football which has been seen at Camp Nou for the last 4 or 5 years. But still ridiculous ammounts of money is being spent to bring in extra players. Just look at the huge fees which have been paid for the likes of Ibrahimovic, Villa, Fabregas and Sanchez. This also shows what sort of short-time memory dictates the general attitude in football. A team like Olypique Lyon is now considered as the top team from France. But people tend to forget it was a rich businessman who took over the club at the end of the 90's and led them to 8 consecutive league titles after an eternity of obscurity and mid-table performances. Of course Real Madrid were one of the first to start buying foreign players for big fees and have always kept wealthy oil magnets close by. Same goes for a club like Inter which has found the ideal partner in Massimo Moratti. And who could forget Milan with probably the most succesful crime boss ever, Silvio Berlusconi. People even seemed to have forgotten the whole Abramovic story. You'll hear things like "yeah but with Chelsea they were trying to build a team, city are just buying everyone" but this is the same with City, only they're going for the top top players exclusively. People seem to forget massive ammounts have been spent on facilities and scouting too. And that the choice for Mancini is actually a pretty justifiable one. Because the road to the top is a hard and long one and Mancini is taking a strictly result based route to get there. Strengthening the squad along the way it may seem baffling for outsiders seeing the likes of Dzeko and Balotelli on the bench but this will benefit the team in the long run. As the club settles into its position at the top it will have the room to create an own identity on the pitch. So my advice is to switch your hate to Manchester United because they always seem to score in extra time which makes it a great team to hate.

Dalglish adding the final pieces of the puzzle

It's been reported by several sources that young Uruguayan defender Sebastian Coates is about to sign a contract at Anfield Road. With this move Liverpool could finally strengthen the heart of their defence and bring in a good investment for the future. With an aging Jamie Carragher, injury prone Daniel Agger and the sale of Sotiris Kyrgiakos Liverpool's defence was in desperate need of a boost. The youngsters Wilson, Flannagan and Kelly still need to be brought into the squad to fully adjust to Premier League football. Sktrl's role will probably be minimized this season, unless he manages to surprise us all of course.

Coates holding the Copa America which the Uruguayan team managed to win last july.

Anyone who managed to catch some of Uruguay's games during the copa will surely agree with me when I say this lad is perfect for the Premier League. As most Uruguayans this bloke has a great working ethic and is also intelligent on the ball and in his defensive positioning. Luis Suarez undoubtedly played a role in this transfer and is showing to be a great club player with real hart for the club. He did a similar thing at Ajax where he managed to bring the immensely talented Nicolas Lodeiro to the club.

Next on the list is the extra striker Liverpool desire. Latest news is that none other than the ultimate cult-hero Craig Bellamy will fill in this spot. Manchester City will let him go for free if he finds a suitable club and apparently Liverpool has come knocking on the door. It'd be great to see a player with his type of flair on and off the pitch at Anfield but maybe he's just a little bit too much like Dirk Kuyt. Like Kuyt he enjoys operating on the right side of the pitch and to cut inside. Although Kuyt is more of a workhorse and Bellamy edges to the more technical side when it comes to creating chances I'm not quite sure he's the ideal man for the striker position.

Bellamy bein' all Liverpooly in earlier days.

As the transfer window enters its final days we will probably see more and more stories popping up with the club owners still willing to invest to strengthen this year's squad.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Transfer Rumours: Aug 22nd

Some interesting English transfer rumours to whet yr chops:

According to the Daily Fascist, Arsene Wenger appears to be ready to finally pull his finger out and drop some real cash on players, with respective bids of £15m and £20m+ lodged for Rennes DM Yann M'Vila and Lille AM Eden Hazard. He is also reported to have renewed his bidding for Everton CB Phil Jagielka, all in an attempt to revive his clearly flagging squad. 

M'Vila is an absolute beast in the tackle, and in many ways is one of the standout examples today of the "complete" modern midfielder, who can both defend and attack with equal aplomb. For comparison, think of players like fellow Frenchman Blaise Matuidi, Argentina's Ever Banega, and Liverpool's own Lucas Leiva (as long as you're seeing him through the heavily tinted glasses of a Reds fan). Not to make any hubristic predictions or anything, but expect this kid to become something of the new Michael Essien -- an exceptionally strong and acute-passing workhorse in the centre of the pitch. Would be an excellent buy for Arsenal, as he holds equal parts of the brute Wenger needs, and the technician he demands.

I think very little needs to be said about Hazard, who is widely lauded as one of the best young attacking prospects in world football, and has received many comparisons from coaches and journalists to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He is extremely fast, and incredibly technically gifted in both feet, with the ability to operate through the middle or on both flanks with the same incision and flair, and difficult to dispossess due to his stocky frame and low center of gravity. He has great composure under pressure, and possesses a laundry-list of clutch goals in league play, including this wonderstrike against Marseille. 

He is also remarkably cool-headed and fair-minded for a flashy young talent, accumulating only 9 yellow cards (and no red) in 130 appearances, and being widely acknowledged for his tendency to stay on his feet. Perhaps his only drawback is his allegedly lacking work ethic, which has been commented on by both Dick Advocaat and Belgian national team manager George Leekens. Though a £20m+ bid would smash Arsenal's current transfer record, Hazard could hardly be thought of anything but a sterling buy, and considering the type of money spent on duds like Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll these days, £20m for a generational talent like Hazard would seem like a no-brainer. One stumbling block, however, could be his preference for England, Hazard being quoted as saying "I appreciate England a lot, and Germany as well, but my characteristics correspond more to Spanish football," going on to cite climate as another issue. 

No word on how much Jagielka could cost, but considering that bids ~£10m have been thoroughly rejected by Everton, the total cost could be somewhere in the region of £12-£15m, certainly no small chunk of change for an Arsenal defender. Though he is somewhat injury prone, Jagielka is a very tough player, and certainly not afraid to get stuck in or challenge a contested header with a bigger player. I could see him slotting in very well with Thomas Vermaelen, whose excellent positioning and precise technique could use some English graft during the sometimes rough-and-tumble play of the EPL.

In another Daily Fascist headline, Steve Kean is rumored to be going for a Balkan double, gunning for Bosnian Hoffenheim ST Vedad Ibisevic and Montenegrin Sporting CM Simon Vukcevic (who, according to always-reliable Wikipedia, is already a Blackburn player). 

Liverpool are, according to multiple media sources (including BBC) are reporting that Liverpool is currently in "advanced" negotiations with Uruguayan club Nactional over signing their young star CB Sebastian Coates (pronounced: "koh-ah-tays" -- also Uruguayan). Coates shone in the 2011 Copa America tournament, helping his Urugayan team win the trophy, while picking up the tournament's Best Young Player award. He is 20 years old, listed at 6'5'', and considered one of the most promising defensive prospects in the world. His obvious size is complimented by surprisingly deft technique, and his talent has earned him wide plaudits throughout South America. Could be the franchise centre back that Liverpool thought they had in Daniel Agger, before his injury problems became a regular concern.

In addition, Liverpool is allegedly sizing up a move for Manchester City ST Craig Bellamy, who was last seen in Merseyside attacking John Arne Riise with a golf club. As far as ability goes, Bellamy is akin to a less-talented combination of Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez, pacey breathless workhorse with a tenacious playing style and temper to boot. As far as like-for-like replacements, Bellamy is about as good as one could find for Luis Suarez on the island, without shipping a considerably larger sum to City for Carlos Tevez and all of his "family issues." 

In outgoing transfers, The Fascist reports that Milan has confirmed reports that they are close to signing CM Alberto Aquilani in a loan-to-buy deal, and that QPR are interested in a deal for prematurely aged AM Joe Cole, provided Liverpool can 'absorb' some of the massive salary outlay he carries.

The altogether reliable Guardian is reporting that City and Arsenal have agreed to terms of £22m for AM Samir Nasri, which represents an obvious coup for the blue half of Manchester. Do I really need to break anything down here? Nasri was one of the best performers from the 2010 EPL season, and possesses pretty much everything one could want in , except for the ability and desire to track back and defend. So yeah, there's a little more you could want. But looking at City's potential offensive lineup this season should 
scare anyone: Silva, Nasri, Dzeko, Tevez, Aguero, Adam Johnson? Shit man.