Posts by allymonc

Things We’ll Learn In Football This Month – May

 

This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end.

 

Yes that’s right one of the most underwhelming Premier League seasons we’ve ever had to endure is spluttering its way toward some sort of unsatisfactory conclusion. The Champions League places are all but concluded with Chelsea impressively but unmemorably coming top of the pile, there is a bit of a scuffle to avoid the Europa League and in fairness to the dregs at the bottom of the league there is still a bit of a question mark as to who will drop down into the Championship. But in the overall scheme of things this has been a poor season in terms of quality, drama and laugh out loud incompetence.

 

The first weekend of the month has no interesting games, none, not one. It’s utter dross. Do some work in the garden or something, or maybe go swimming? It’s been ages since you’ve been at the pool and you always enjoy it when you go. Whatever you do don’t watch the football, especially Spurs (49/20 with Intertops.eu) vs Man City (19/20) which looks deceptively like a game that might be good but in reality both sides gave up weeks ago.

 

The second weekend starts terribly with the inexplicable decision to televise Everton vs Sunderland and doesn’t get much better after that. Hull vs Burnley is a big one down at the bottom of the table but the soul crushing inevitability of Burnley’s relegation and the fact that no one in the world cares about Hull mean that I’m going to stop writing about it now. There is a ‘Super Sunday’ of sorts, with Chelsea vs Liverpool, which if nothing else will be a nice ‘have a look at what you could have won’ moment for Steven Gerrard.

 

Stop press we’ve got a game that might be alright! Weekend number three is mostly awful meaningless nonsense but finishes with Manchester United hosting Arsenal. Louis van Gaal will be looking to overcome the handicap of his weird hair to exact revenge over Arsene Wenger for their FA Cup defeat. For the last 4 months Arsenal have looked like a side who can challenge for the title, there is a new found pragmatism to sit alongside the flair. Of course this could be (and probably is) just Arsenal being Arsenal and they’ll regress to the mean with a spectacular explosion of incompetence before we know it, however a fixture against a rejuvenated but still not all that good Manchester United might give us a better idea.

 

I care so little that I can’t even be bothered looking at the last day, so in an effort to end on a mildly entertaining note I’m going to abandon the formula and go rogue by paying tribute to those who for one reason or another won’t be with us next season.

 

Steven Gerrard – Heading for MLS. Either one of the greatest players of his generation or the worst human of all time, depending on who you ask, Stevie is a man that splits opinion. One thing you can’t deny though is he has very consistent hair.

 

Frank Lampard – Heading for MLS. Got called fat a lot even though he wasn’t fat (but is still a bit fat for a footballer). Scored loads of goals, rumours that he’s a Tory.

 

Manuel Pellegrini – Will probably get sacked. City want Pep so big Manuel is probably done for sooner or later. Got called a “f**kin old c**t” by Alan Pardew and once wore a hoodie like he was nipping to the shop for milk rather than managing one of the richest clubs in the world.

 

Sam Allardyce – West Ham will probably let his contract run out. There are few finer sights in football than the big man after he’s ‘out tacticed’ one of the league’s elite. If there was an instrument to measure smugness then he’d break it.

 

Radamel Falcao – Heading to the glue factory. Knee injuries and advancing years (some say they’ve advanced more than his passport is letting on) mean that the Colombian’s stay in England has been a massive anti-climax. Another name to add to the lost of South Americans who haven’t quite cut it at Old Trafford.

 

John Carver – Heading for the record books. In years to come when they talk of the worst managers in history, big John and his staggeringly bad stint at Newcastle will be right up there. Great stuff.

 

I’m sure there are others but we all have things to do so let’s wrap it up. Some of you might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the FA Cup but I’ve just found out I’m at a wedding that day so I’m pretending it isn’t happening.

 

Betting Instinct tip – defy Ally by betting on the very real FA Cup Final. Arsenal to win and both teams to score is 2.98 with Intertops.eu

 

Ally avatar ALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t  tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.

 

 

Advertisements

Things We’ll Learn In Football This Month – April

 

April is a glorious month, the days get warmer and longer, outside boozing become socially acceptable and I can start my now annual crusade to be allowed to wear shorts to work. The football season also approaches what that Football Cliches bloke on Twitter would call the ‘business end’ (or are we there already? – ed.).

 

March finishes with the bleak nothingness of an international fortnight so thank the Lord above that April has an absolute cracker of a game to get us started. Brendan Rodgers and his band of merry men travel to face Arsenal, where they really have to win to keep their top 4 hopes alive. They do of course make this trip minus their captain, which in most cases would be a disadvantage but in all honesty when your central midfielder is so busy raging against the dying of the light that the physical act of football becomes an irrelevance in his tortured mind then maybe it’s for the best if he takes his place in the stand. Arsenal are in form and at the stage of the season where they traditionally win games so are heavy favourites. Their form is such that there has even been talk of a title challenge, that obviously won’t happen but they could conceivably finish in the top two, which would represent progress of a sort and save any awkward early season ventures to deepest darkest Europe in the name of Champions League qualification.

 

Arsenal v Liverpool Betting Odds: 

Arsenal win  4/5

Liverpool win 3/1

Draw 53/20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change) 

 

The other stand out game that first weekend is the Tyne Wear derby, Sunderland (29/20 with Intertops.eu) have terrible players and are terrible so they will lose, but then again Newcastle (19/10) gave up on their season a couple of months ago and have a terrible manager so they’ll probably lose as well. Sunderland have a new manager who is in theory less terrible than the last one so that might help. Honestly unless you support either of the sides you’re only watching this one for the inevitable comedy violence.

 

The following weekend we get to witness the sight of Tottenham’s greatest ever manager returning to the scene of both his glorious triumph and the scandalous betrayal that ended his White Hart Lane reign. It is never wise to speculate on how history will remember a man and his deeds but in the case of Tim Sherwood we can rest assured that future generations will speak of him with the reverence reserved for only the truly great. He does have to be a bit careful that for all his undeniable majesty and grace he doesn’t end up forgetting to stop Villa getting relegated. A win at Spurs would be handy.

 

On Sunday we have the Manchester Derby and although United have spent the majority of the season grinding out results whilst playing suspiciously Moyesish football their recent upturn coupled with City’s recent malaise probably makes them favourites. United might have Van Persie back but he probably won’t get in the side ahead of Marouane Fellaini. Which when you think about it is a bit odd.

 

The season is actually in real danger of petering out, the top 4 looks familiar and unlikely to change save for a bit of jostling. The teams occupying the relegation zone all have a very Championshipy look about them, Burnley might just drag themselves out and haul someone back in, with Sunderland looking most likely. Leicester have played quite well at points this season without ever looking like they might still be here come next August and QPR are a shambles both on and off the pitch. I’m not saying I’m struggling to find things to write about as we approach the conclusion of another campaign but we could really do with a good handshake/non-handshake scandal to keep things interesting over the next few weeks.

 

The only saving grace may come in the remaining cup competitions where the Champions League despite/because of (delete as appropriate) its lack of English participants looks particularly well poised for a brilliant last few rounds. We get repeat of last years final where Atletico (8/5 to qualify with AllYouBet.ag)will be looking for revenge against their city neighbours (11/25) and if there’s one man on this planet you’d bet on to exact his revenge it would be Diego Simeone. His rebuilding of the second Madrid club is one of the great stories of modern football and rarely can one team have been created to resemble so closely the mould of its master. That’s probably the pick of the ties but Zlatan visiting any club he feels he has been wronged by is always entertaining, so Barcelona vs PSG should be fun.

 

There’s also the FA Cup where we’d all like to see Steven Gerrard sign off as a champion/fall over and gift the opposition a goal in the last minute (delete as appropriate). Arsenal will probably win the thing for the second year running but it’s been a while since they spectacularly imploded against lower league opposition so maybe they have one of those in store for us.

 

Betting Instinct tip Liverpool to beat Blackburn in their FA Cup replay and move closer to that dream final is 3/5 with Intertops.eu

 

 

Anyway that’s enough filling, see you next month. Or maybe I’ll see you over on Twitter where I recently got 250+ RTs on a tweet with a typo which I thought was the type of thing that only happened in horror stories designed to frighten grammatically substandard children https://twitter.com/AllorNothingMag

 

 

Things we’ll learn in football this month – March

Nothing much usually happens in March, it’s the most unremarkable of months. This March however might just be different, this could be the month where the race for the top four finally starts to take shape. The importance placed on finishing in the top 20% of the league is often used as a stick with which to beat the league (and Arsenal) but for all it’s modern football awfulness it does at least provide an element of genuine interest and drama that would otherwise be missing. If we’re lucky a bit of that drama will explode into our lives during the month of March.

 

On the very first day (pinch punch and all that) we have Liverpool vs Man City and Arsenal vs Everton. We also have the League Cup final but I’ve got a theme going this month and I’m sticking to it. Liverpool’s heroic but unsuccessful tint at the title is long forgotten but with Sturridge back and a tactical switch bringing about an element of defensive stability they might just force a route back into the Champions League, where they’ll presumably look to do slightly less badly than they did this year. Their recent good form means they’ll fancy their chances against a Man City side who every now and again look like they really can’t be bothered. City of course are almost assured their place in the top four, unless there’s a spontaneous African Cup of Nations and they have to do without Yaya again. It’s a game that has the potential to be an absolute peach and for all CIty’s occasional malaise they are still the best team in the country on their day so it should be a good test of those Scouse Champions League aspirations. It’ll probably be a draw, a score one.

Betting Instinct tip Back the score draw at 5.44 with Intertops.eu

 

On the very same day it’s Arsenal (1/2 with AllYouBet.ag) vs Everton (5/1) which would have been a game significant to the theme of this column last season but Everton are rubbish now. Still though, they’re not as rubbish as their league position would suggest so Arsenal will need to be at their best if they’re to keep their top 4 bid on track.

 

There is a full mid-week card in the first week of the month and the most intriguing of the fixtures it throws up is Manchester United’s trip to play Newcastle. There’s a school of thought (well I tweeted it once) that once you factor in the cost of removing Moyes, hiring Van Gaal and the fees and wages that have been lavished at the Dutchman’s behest that never in the course of human history has so much money been spent to achieve so little. Now I am prone to hyperbole but the fact remains that at best United have been underwhelming, so far Van Gaal has had an easy ride with the assumption that he’ll secure Champions League football protecting him from any real scrutiny. If that Champions League place starts to look doubtful then that will swiftly change. Dropping points to a team managed by John Carver would not go down well, not well at all. Now of course Van Gaal has pedigree so deserves time to get things right but he also has an unsettling haircut so maybe he’s had enough time and needs to be moved on.

 

As we reach the middle of the month it’s time for Tottenham to have their say as they visit Old Trafford. Spurs have an excellent first XI where everybody is super fit and knows their role, if they leave Manchester with all three points it’ll be one of those shocks that isn’t really a shock but is still a bit shocking. Both teams have brilliant goalkeepers, which is nice.

Earlier that day it’s Chelsea who will win the league vs Southampton who will not finish in the top four but might come quite close. Like all Southampton’s games against the leagues biggest and best it should be an intriguing if ultimately pointless clash.

 

March ends with some of that international nonsense we all hate so the final Premier League games take place over the weekend of the 21st/22nd. Once again we have a game that will have a massive say on who gets to take on the European elite next season and once again it involves Manchester United and their unsettlingly coiffured manager. This time it’s a trip to face their old enemies Liverpool and their unsettlingly unsettling manager (I’m not sure what I mean by that). There will always be something special about this fixture and for all these two clubs would prefer to be battling each other for top spot their respective and relative mediocrity won’t dim the ferocity of this one. History teaches us that Arsenal always finish in the top 4 and logic tells us that Chelsea and City will this season, so it might just be between these two old foes and their clash at the end of March could very well prove pivotal.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Get on Chelsea to win the Premier League while you still can. They’re currently 1/4 with Intertops.eu

 

You should follow me on twitter where I’m occasionally funny https://twitter.com/AllorNothingMag

 

Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.

Things We’ll Learn in Football This Month – February

So the month many of us thought would never end has done what we least expected and ended, how cunning of it. January with its abandoned diets and stretched paychecks is no more and February is upon us. Apart from the exquisite agony of exchanging Valentines gifts with someone you stopped loving years ago, February is shaping up to be a pretty good month. By that I of course mean there are some decent games on – you’re not going to finally rekindle your failing romance or anything like that. To be honest most of you reading this will probably die alone or at best end up trapped in a loveless sexless hell. It’s not all bad though because the first weekend in February serves up not one but two derbies to distract you from the loneliness.

 

First up it’s the North London derby which is a frequent source of goals, glory and comedy. Basically all you want from a football match. Both sides are in good nick coming into this one, Mauricio Pochettino seems to have finally got his Spurs side playing the way he wants and in Christian Eriksen they have one of the leagues form players, plus with Harry Kane defying all logic and actually turning into an incredibly effective attacker they’ll fancy their chances. Arsenal, however, will be equally confident as all of a sudden the injuries have cleared up and they have an attack that is packed with craft and speed. Plus they’ve got Alexis Sanchez and well, he’s just great at football. If we’re lucky it’ll be a high scoring draw, 16 all or something like that.

Betting Instinct tip A score draw of 2-2 or higher is 9.35 with Intertops.eu

 

Later that day it’s the turn of the Merseyside clubs, now whilst there is a school of thought that says any derby calling itself ‘the friendly derby’ should be outlawed swiftly and all records of it stricken from the history books there is enough at stake for both clubs that we might just get a decent game. Liverpool’s title charge of last year, like Everton’s run at the top four, seems a distant memory, but due to the crapness (not sure that’s a word – ed.) of everyone else it’s not impossible that Liverpool could salvage a Champions League spot from what threatened to be a disastrous season, whereas Everton seem to have contrived to end up in some sort of relegation scrap. I mean they obviously won’t go down (have you seen some of the teams in this league?) but they could do with picking up a few points. Also it will almost certainly be Stevie G’s last derby before he moves to Los Angeles.

Betting Instinct tip – Liverpool to keep their top four hopes alive with a win at Goodison Park is 5/4 with AllYouBet.ag

 

There’s some midweek action as well but the only game that looks mildly interesting is Liverpool vs Spurs, unfortunately I’ve just written about both of them and I’d only be repeating myself, go back and read the previous paragraphs if you really want. That said, nothing breaks up the drudgery of the working week like midweek league football, so in this context we should celebrate Hull vs Villa like its the World Cup final.

 

The following weekend it’s not only Valentines day but also the FA Cup 5th round, my goodness this might just be the most romantically charged weekend in the history of the world. Ah I can feel the magic in the air already it’s going to be………… *checks fixtures* *files lawsuit against whoever decided to televise West Brom vs West Ham and Villa vs Leicester*.

 

Assuming you manage to avoid slipping into an Aston Villa-related coma then you’ll be able to watch the resumption of European competition after its extended break. If Arsenal can recover from the shock of not drawing Bayern Munich or Barcelona then they should cruise past a Monaco side whose uber rich benefactor appears to have got bored and given up. Oh well at least the Monaco fans (all 14 of them) get to enjoy the nonchalant brilliance of Dimitar Berbatov on a weekly basis. Man City and Chelsea have much tougher tasks and even though neither Barcelona or PSG are at the level they were a few years ago England’s top two will need to be at the top of their game to progress. Man City probably won’t.

Betting Instinct tip – Arsenal to win with less than 2.5 goals in the game is 2.7 with Intertops.eu

 

None of you care about the Europa League and that’s fair enough but as a Celtic fan (9/5 with AllYouBet.ag) the draw against Internazionale (29/20) is an absolute peach. Both sides are shadows of their former selves, in fact both sides are a bit crap but it’s a glamour tie nonetheless, it’s steeped in history and glory and Celtic Park will for the first time this season feel like its old self again.

 

February finishes with me on a train heading down to London, maybe I’ll see some of you in the pub (not you), I’ll be the drunk Scottish guy complaining about the price of a pint.

Before I go, you should follow me on Twitter, or at least send me recommendations for good Malaysian restaurants in North London.

 

Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.

 

What We’ll Learn In The Transfer Window

Will Wilfried Bony to Man City be the biggest Premier League transfer this month?

Will Wilfried Bony to Man City be the biggest Premier League transfer this month?

A little change of pace this month, as we look ahead to what will happen during the transfer window. And as we all know transfers and the accompanying rumour mill with it’s glorious highs and crushing lows is far superior to the drudgery of actual football. Handily because nothing really happens until the last few weeks my tardiness isn’t that much of an issue.

 

Premier League Outright Betting Odds:

Chelsea 3/5

Manchester City 3/2

Manchester United 18/1

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

One thing (at the time of writing) that might possible already have happened/be in the process of happening is the transfer of Wilfried Bony to Manchester City. A devastatingly direct attacker with a deft first touch and a fierce strike, he can’t be anything other than great. His on-pitch time will be dependent on Sergio Aguero and his hamstrings but they’re made of rubber bands so Bony should get plenty of chances to impress.

On the other side of the city Louis van Gaal will do whatever he damn well likes. However he should probably look into sorting a defence that is, well it has, I mean…….it’s a bit crap really. He’s already brought in Victor Valdes, and might follow that up by buying his countryman Ron Vlaar who once got a 2! (out of 10!) for me on Football Manager. Make of that what you will (as I type this he’s just been ruled out for 4 weeks but I have a word count to hit so he’s staying in the article)

 

Arsenal will do what Arsenal do, there will be opinion pieces, banners and possibly some booing. At the end of it Arsenal will finish fourth and every single one of us will be ever so slightly closer to the blessed release of death.

Chelsea have completed the ‘transfers’ level of football so unless they fancy trying to beat their own high score we can ignore them during January.

 

Tottenham will sign a midfielder. He’ll pretend to be good for a bit, then it’ll turn out he’s rubbish. Aaron Lennon might leave, possibly for QPR where………..

*insert your own ‘dawwnn to the bare bones’ Harry Redknapp joke here*

 

Aston Villa are obviously far too boring for any of us to care about. Even if they do sign someone mildly interesting that poor soul will be subsumed by the overwhelming force of mediocrity that resides at Villa Park.

Nobody knows who is in charge of transfers at West Ham but let’s hope it’s the new fun loving version of Big Sam and he brings in Jay Jay Okocha, you know just for old times sake. Oh and they’ll sell Winston Reid to someone, maybe Arsenal.

 

The Anfield transfer committee will gather round the table, amalgamate their thoughts, you know some real blue sky thinking ‘there’s no such thing as a bad idea here, this is a safe space where we reshape the rules and turn dreams into reality’ and decide to spend twenty million quid on a center back who somehow manages to make their defence worse. Liverpool might try and punt Mario, but he’s performing so admirably in the role of scapegoat that that would surely be a grave error.

 

Southampton will sell someone who isn’t as good as people think he is for more money than he’s worth and will replace him with a better player from the Netherlands, their youth team or Celtic.

The only Leicester player I know is Esteban Cambiasso so it’s very hard for me to take much of a guess at their transfer activity. I’ll save any embarrassment by not bothering.

 

Stoke might sell Peter Crouch to West Brom now that Tony Pulis is in charge. I might make veggie burgers for tea tomorrow.

Now that he’s swapped Newcastle for Palace Alan Pardew will celebrate not being forced to exclusively sign French players with high sell on value by signing someone quintessentially English with no sell on value. Possibly the Queen, or some sort of Duke.

 

All I’ve got to say about Sunderland is that my mate met Gus Poyet once, I forgot to ask what he was like. I bet he’s a dick.

Everton should sign a defensive coach but they’ll probably sign someone from Wigan, Shaun Maloney maybe.

 

Burnley will continue their attempt to prove that a Championship team full of Championship players can survive in the Premier League by signing a Championship player.

Going to level with you here – I’m writing this on a train and my stop is coming up. So if I’ve forgotten your team then I’m sorry but you’re just not important enough (sorry Hull fans – ed.).

 

Follow me on Twitter where I occasionally RT something funny

 

Betting Instinct tip – with few transfers likely to go through before this weekend’s games, back a London treble: Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham all to win is 3.59 with AllYouBet.ag.

 

Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.

Things we’ll learn in the Premier League this month – December

Will Aleks Kolarov get into the Christmas spirit once more? (photo credit: YouTube/Manchester City FC)

Will Aleks Kolarov get into the Christmas spirit once more? (photo credit: YouTube/Manchester City FC)

Goodness me it’s December already, and amongst other things that means the traditionally packed Christmas schedule. With it being a bumper month for football you’d think that would mean a bumper column, but I’m getting paid the same for this as I would on a normal month so that won’t be happening.

 

We get an early Xmas present (yes there will be a festive theme running throughout, deal with it) with the first round of fixtures in December being played mid-week. What better way to break up the drudgery of our miserable lives than a televised feast of Leicester vs Liverpool on a Tuesday and Arsenal vs Southampton on a Wednesday. Both clashes are tricky to predict as Leicester pretended to be good for a bit before discovering they were actually rubbish and Liverpool pretended to be really good for a bit before discovering they were actually rubbish. It’s a similar dynamic in the Arsenal vs Southampton game as Wenger’s men are pretending to be rubbish (they’ll get better soon) and Southampton are pretending to be good (they’ll get less good soon). Now none of that might make much sense to you right now but don’t worry it’ll become clear in time.

Betting Instinct tip – Liverpool and Arsenal to both win is 3.51 with Intertops.eu

 

The first weekend of the month throws up a set of fixtures that are surely designed to let us get our Christmas shopping done. So head to the high street my friends and spend more money than you can afford on unwanted gifts for people you don’t even like. It’s what Jesus would have wanted*.

* My editor insists that I make it clear I do not speak for Jesus and have no way of knowing what he would want us to do with our weekends.

 

Come the middle of the month we have two of the Premier League’s flagship fixtures. First up it’s Arsenal hosting Newcastle, now at the time of writing Arsenal are the club in turmoil, but by the time this game comes around both clubs could conceivably have been in and out of a season defining crisis on three or four occasions. Also the two managers really don’t like each other, so that’s worth keeping an eye on. Then on Sunday it’s Man Utd vs Liverpool, English football’s one true firecracker of a fixture and it’s a game both teams will be even more desperate than usual to win. Last season Liverpool, high on the scent of a potential first title in decades, ripped through a hesitant and meek United, but this time it’s Liverpool who look primed for a doing. Louis van Gaal hasn’t got things right quite yet but his side are brimming with talent and are going to run up a big score against someone soon, it may as well be their fiercest rivals.

It doesn’t get much easier for Brendan and his merry men as the week after the trip to Old Trafford they welcome Arsenal to Anfield/A bit of relief for Brendan and his merry men as the week after the trip to Old Trafford they welcome Arsenal to Anfield**.

** Delete as appropriate taking into account the current Arsenal crisis level.

 

It matters little that the Boxing Day fixtures aren’t up to much, we have a full Premier League card the day after Christmas. Who cares if the televised matches are two middling London derbies, you can spend a full day gorging on chocolate and leftovers slumped in front of Sky Sports basking in the glory of your existence, it’s what Jesus would have wanted (we’ve already been over this – ed.). Alternatively you could actually go to a game, work of some of the holiday excesses by cheering on your chosen side. Keep in mind it will be cold and your side will probably lose on account of your left back being even more sluggish than usual thanks to a serving or two too many of trifle the day before

Just to add to the anarchical nature of the days between Christmas and New Year there is another round of games on the Sunday, just two days after the Boxing Day extravaganza. How anyone is supposed to know what day it is and where they’re meant to be is beyond me. As long as you don’t accidentally go to work you have Southampton vs Chelsea to look forward to, at the time of writing this is a top of the table clash but that may not be the case come the end of December depending on how quickly Southampton regress to the mean.

 

Anyway that’s enough from me, I hope your December is full of wonder and joy and that your football team doesn’t extinguish that wonder and joy with their ineptitude.

 

Come wish me a Merry Christmas over on Twitter https://twitter.com/AllorNothingMag

Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.

 

Things We’ll Learn This Month – November

Can Mario Balotelli's first domestic goal for Liverpool inspire a fruitful November?

Can Mario Balotelli’s first domestic goal for Liverpool inspire a fruitful November?

October is almost over, so now it’s time to embrace the wintry delights of November, with its bonfires, its toffee apples and its anti-catholicism. There’s some football games scheduled as well, let’s see if any of them might be capable of bringing a bit of sunshine to our bleak existences.

 

The opening weekend of the month sees the first Manchester derby of the season, it’s been a pretty reliable fixture in terms of entertainment value recently, with late goals, comedy errors and the odd hiding thrown in to keep us amused. United are a different beast to the pale imitation of a football side David Moyes was in charge of last season, they still aren’t particularly good, the defence is awful and the midfield hasn’t really been fixed but they do have Angel Di Maria and he’s part footballer part magic elf (by that I mean he’s good and looks like an elf) so they pose a far greater threat than 12 months ago.

City meanwhile have problems of their own, namely in the shape of a sulky Yaya Toure but when a side can call on Sergio Aguero and David Silva then they’re never going to be far short of ‘pretty bloody good’. City will probably win because they’re a better football side but United should have enough about them to ensure November starts with a bang (I think that might be a firework joke, sorry). Also on the first weekend we have Burnley travelling to play Arsenal, Burnley are a Championship team in all but name, Arsenal will still somehow struggle, there might, if we’re lucky be some booing, Arsenal fans are some of the best booers in the league. You don’t want to miss that.

Betting Instinct tip – Manchester City and Arsenal to both win this weekend is 2.25 with Intertops.eu

 

On to the second weekend and the big one is Chelsea visiting Anfield. With Mario Balotelli doing a passable impression of Chelsea era Fernando Torres/Andry Shevchenko/Adrian Mutu/Mateja Kezman and Chelsea doing a passable impression of a first Mourinho era Chelsea side only much prettier, you’d have to expect we’ll be hearing more creative excuses from Brendan come the final whistle. Maybe this time Balotelli’s hair will be the problem? or his choice of aftershave? Ah well, let’s just hope no one swaps shirts prematurely, we all know that’s the real scourge of modern football, and Brendan won’t stand for it (I thought it was holding in the box – ed.)

Having looked at the fixtures, West Ham actually have a pretty easy month, maybe this top 4 charge isn’t so unlikely, maybe we’ll get to see Big Sam manage at the Bernabeu after all or maybe Andy Carroll will come back and they’ll revert to type, long diagonals into the big man with Kevin Nolan feeding of the scraps. It’s hard to tell (no it isn’t – ed.).

 

During November we also have one of those international ‘week of football’ things, normally this would send us all into a fit of despair so deep that many of us would never fully recover but in this instance we have a genuinely big game to look forward to. It’s the battle of the Celts at Celtic Park as Scotland entertain Ireland, two evenly matched sides with everything to play for on a Friday night in Glasgow, it’ll be brilliant, or if not brilliant then at least a bit violent (amusing violence not real violence that is). A few days after that it’s the turn of England to take on the resurgent Scots but because I promised to take my girlfriend to see Jack White the same night (before I realised there was a clash (it’s part of her birthday as well, no getting out of it (not that I want to get out of it if you’re reading honey*))) I completely refuse to discuss it.

 Betting Instinct tip – Ireland (9/1) and Scotland (16/1) are generously priced with Coral to qualify from Group D

 

When Premier League action resumes the stand out game is probably Arsenal vs Man United. This fixture which has given so much over the years has been diminished somewhat with the cooling of hostilities between the two camps. During the later years of the Ferguson reign there was even signs of a mutual respect beginning to emerge, which I think we can all agree is frankly unacceptable. However whilst there will almost certainly be no food fights or the like, we do have the prospect of two talented but fragile sides going head to head, a scenario that often results in goals and red cards, and I’m not sure you can ask for more than that.

 

* I obviously don’t call my girlfriend honey.


Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF

Things We’ll Learn This Month – October

Arsenal's Mesut Özil has underwhelmed as former captain Cesc Fàbregas has impressed at Chelsea. The two square up this weekend

Arsenal’s Mesut Özil has underwhelmed as former captain Cesc Fàbregas has impressed at Chelsea. The two square up this weekend

So we come to October with the Premier League table still in a state of flux, as new signings and new coaching methodologies begin to click into gear there is intrigue wherever you look. Which makes it all the more annoying that there is another one of those international ‘week of football’ things in the middle of the month. Being generous there are possibly three games a human being in charge of their cognitive processes would consider watching, and one of them is Scotland vs Poland. So for the good of all our souls they will not be mentioned here.

 

The first Premier League weekend of October does throw up a few tasty fixtures, most of them are on Sunday though, so you have no excuses not to do something community spirited on Saturday, maybe mow an elderly neighbour’s lawn? On Sunday the oldies can do their own gardening (they love that kind of thing anyway) as we have Louis Van Gaal who continues to channel the spirit of Kevin Keegan (Keegan is not dead – ed.) with his ‘buy loads of great attackers and hope the defence somehow sorts itself’ strategy facing up against Roberto Martinez whose Everton team have gone a bit Wigan this season, there will be goals, there just has to be. After that it’s Arsenal taking their traditional injury crisis on the road to Stamford Bridge where they will receive their traditional spanking from Chelsea, the only difference this time is that they get to have their hearts broken by watching Cesc Fàbregas, their former idol looking really rather good in royal blue.

Betting Instinct tip The Manchester United/Chelsea double is 9/5 with AllYouBet.ag

 

*INTERNATIONAL WEEK KLAXON*

 

With the unpleasantness of European Championship qualifying out of the way for a while it’s not the most exciting set of fixtures to return to. QPR vs Liverpool might be fun, if only to see how Richard Dunne deals with the electrified scampering of Raheem Sterling, you would guess not well.

 

At the end of the month we get to witness the first meeting on English soil of Van Gaal and Mourinho (I can’t be bothered to check if they’ve met on any nationality of soil, to be honest I just don’t care). The one thing missing from the Premier League in recent years is a genuinely bitter managerial rivalry. This is by far our best chance to get back to the peak years where the heavyweight showdowns of Mourinho vs Benitez and Ferguson vs Wenger were box office entertainment. Now that Mourinho has presumably given up on the Manchester United job (remember when they hired David Moyes ahead of him!?) he might finally aim some of his verbal jousts in the direction of the not exactly shy Van Gaal. It promises to be spectacular. Oh and the game might be decent as well.

 

Burnley are in the Premier League apparently, without checking their fixtures I think we can safely assume that they will collect at best one point during October, they are possibly the most Championship side ever to play in the top flight, it’s a miracle Sean Dyche took them up, if he keeps them there he should be made Pope.

 

The standout Champions League tie this month is of course Liverpool entertaining Real Madrid. It’s not been the best of starts for Brendan ‘Brendan’ Rodgers post-Suarez, the defensive cracks covered up by the (possibly) evil Uruguayan are now cavernous in their obviousness and if he’s in the mood you’d expect that Portuguese lad Real have could score about a dozen. Anfield on European nights is often a quite magical spectacle though and this is about as glamorous an opposition as you can get, the old place will be rocking and whilst anything other than a Madrid victory would be considered a massive surprise football isn’t as simple as that. Of course what will actually happen is that Ronaldo will strut about like the prettiest peacock in the zoo, only stopping to batter in a couple of goals and extravagantly ‘shush’ the locals. Also Sterling will play quite well and will then be linked with a move to the Bernabeu for the rest of time.

Betting Instinct tip – Real Madrid to retain the Champions League this season is 7/2 with Intertops.eu

 

In fairness October looks a bit rubbish but it is the month of Halloween so we can look forward to lots of pictures of footballers in fancy dress, which is nice as long as no one ‘blacks up’, I’m looking at you *REDACTED*

 

Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.

Premier League and international friendlies: things we’ll learn this month

World Cup winner Mario Götze will face a different sort of test against Scotland

World Cup winner Mario Götze will face a different sort of test against Scotland

The feeling of coming home from the supermarket and realising you’ve completely forgotten something is a familiar one to most of us, sometimes it’s something frivolous that you can do without, like organic cinnamon sticks, you have the dried stuff in the cupboard it’ll be fine, other times however it’s something vital, such as toilet roll, for which there really is no substitute. This is how many Premier League clubs will be feeling in the early days of September, whether it’s a third choice goalkeeper (the organic cinnamon) or a first choice goalscorer (the toilet roll) that’s been overlooked, the result will be much slapping of foreheads and murmuring of ‘I knew I should have made a list’. As is traditional Arsene Wenger will claim he didn’t forget the toilet roll at all, in fact he’s got some rather lovely wallpaper that can do just as good a job.

 

September sees a truncated set of Premier League fixtures due to the return of international football. Will the first round of Euro 2016 qualifiers bask in the feelgood factor engendered by the brilliant Brazilian World Cup? No, they won’t. The World Cup is over, it’s now frowned upon to go to the pub every night, the days of a 16 hour drinking session being justified by Iran vs Nigeria being on have long gone. Be prepared for people to moan about international football again. The standout fixture of the early qualifiers is of course world champions Germany hosting Scotland, now, whilst on paper the Germans would appear to be favourites it is telling that their lynchpin, the peerless Philipp Lahm has decided to retire rather than face the twin threat of Ikechi Anya and an overlapping Alan Hutton. Lahm has always come across as an intelligent man so don’t be surprised if Scotland take not only 3 points from the Westfalenstadion but the crown of ‘moral world champions’. England will get a satisfactory result (against whoever they’re playing) but there will be question marks over the performance, someone will be the new Gerrard, someone will be the new Lampard, they’ll never play together again.

 

Betting Instinct tipEngland to beat Norway in their friendly tomorrow night is 1.45 with AllYouBet.ag 

 

Once all the international based fun is out of the way it’s back to league action. And straight away we have an absolute cracker on our hands as Arsenal host Man City, a good test of which is the more effective strategy when building an elite level team, just buying loads of players you like and think you could have fun with, or identifying which areas of your team need reinforced and swiftly purchasing players to do just that. At the other end of the scale, Hull vs West Ham is one of the televised games in September, anyone not emotionally invested in the outcome of that match that chooses to watch it needs professional help.

 

Man City have another big game later in the month when Chelsea come visiting, by far the two strongest sides in the league managed by two men not overly fond of the other, it could be a classic. It won’t, it’ll be a draw so dispiriting you’ll wonder what it was that made you fall in love with football in the first place.

Maybe it’s matches like the Merseyside derby that sparked your passion? But then again it’s also known as ‘the friendly derby’ which is just about the most offensive phrase (excluding all the genuinely bad stuff) you could possibly imagine so maybe not. The same weekend we also have the almost always entertaining North London derby, at the end of which we will see one of Arsenal or Tottenham hailed as title challengers, neither will challenge for the title, but you knew that.

 

The reduced fixture list probably means that none of the twenty Premier League managers will get the chop this month (this is conditional of course on them all resisting the temptation to indulge in some ‘friendly text message banter’ and in the process offend just about everyone on the planet).

One last thing, by the time September comes to a close and I sit here penning Octobers entry the quite brilliant Mario Balotelli will have done something that makes your heart sing with joy, I don’t know what he’ll do, you don’t know what he’ll do, Mario doesn’t know what he’ll do, but he’ll definitely do something.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Mario Balotelli to help Liverpool finish in the top three is 11/10 with Intertops.eu

 

Ally avatarALLY MONCRIEFF is a freelance football writer and editor of All or Nothing magazine. Sometimes even he can’t tell if he’s being serious or not. Follow Ally on Twitter and maybe he’ll be your friend.