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.

 

 

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Beating Mourinho’s Chelsea would cap off a season of improvement for Arsenal

ozil fabregas

 

Last weekend, there was the small distraction of an FA Cup Semi-Final to take Arsenal minds off Chelsea’s clash against Manchester United. United offered a decent enough challenge but ultimately the 1-0 result was all too routine for this well-drilled, resilient Chelsea team who are proving to be the most Mourinho of Mourinho sides since his Inter of 2009/10. Even if Arsenal do beat Chelsea this Sunday, the gap will still be seven points. It does seem that their “title challenge” is over before it even began.

 

Arsenal v Chelsea Betting Odds:

Arsenal win 27/20

Chelsea win 2/1

Draw 43/20

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

 

However, this does not take anything away from the game’s wider significance. Sunday’s London Derby presents a real opportunity for Arsene Wenger to show that his side have made a meaningful stride forward since last season. In the first few months of this season, many critics rightfully questioned whether Arsenal were actually any better off despite the acquisition of starman Alexis Sanchez who at that point was firing on all cylinders amidst a team of underachievers. Yet Arsenal have rallied since the start of 2015 and a 2nd place finish, along with an FA Cup Final, are just rewards for their respectable turnaround.

Chelsea’s inevitable title on the other hand has come across as rather unremarkable due to the lack of serious contenders. This is somewhat unfair given how impressive and one-sided Chelsea’s early season performances were. From Thibaut Cortois between the sticks to Diego Costa up top, complemented by Eden Hazard’s consistent excellence, this Chelsea team may yet be considered one of the Premier League’s best, if only there had been some decent competition to show it as such.

 

The reason why both media and neutrals alike have been slow to praise Chelsea’s feats this season is because they are so set up in the eye of their maker.  Despite an attractive start, they have reverted to a more functional, strength-based approach that Mourinho favours. This can be seen quite clearly in the introduction of the titanic Kurt Zouma as a defensive midfielder for Chelsea’s big games. Mourinho has also engrained a siege mentality, in which the world and his wife are anti-Chelsea and also attempts to question the regime are met with little attention.

Wenger would love to end his unfortunate run and finally record a victory against Mourinho. The “specialist in failure” jibes still sting deep for the Frenchman, who is yet to beat Mourinho’s Chelsea in 12 attempts. There should be some cause for optimism this year as Wenger has broken the hoodoo of playing the big clubs. The victories away at Man City, at home to Liverpool as well as against United in the Cup, showed different strings to Arsenal’s bow. They also demonstrated that other personnel such as Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil were capable of stepping to the level that Sanchez had set from the off.

 

Sunday’s game will also mark Cesc Fabregas’ return to the Emirates for the first time since his departure to Barcelona in 2011. Had Fabregas ever played against Arsenal for Barca, he might have expected a fond reception from the home crowd but there will be no civilities this time around. While it was difficult to begrudge him a move back to his boyhood club, the subsequent transfer to Chelsea has left a sour taste in the mouths of the Arsenal fan base. This has been aggravated by the fact that Wenger turned down the chance to re-sign him and the visual evidence that he is quite clearly still up to scratch as the Premier League’s top provider, with 16 assists.

Intriguingly, Wenger is likely to employ his surprise of the season Francis Coquelin to marshal Fabregas in the middle of the park.  While Coquelin joined Arsenal in 2008, he did not make his Premier League debut until the fateful 8-2 defeat against Manchester United in August 2011 by which time Fabregas had just signed for Barcelona. After such a baptism by fire, it is pleasing to see that he has not given up the fight to be a top flight footballer following a series of loan spells.

 

On paper Sunday’s result will count for very little. However, if Arsenal can record a convincing victory with the performance to boot, they can lay down the gauntlet for next season and show that it needn’t be a one-horse race again.

 

 

Betting Instinct tip – with Chelsea preferring to keep things tight, the Gunners could all but seal second place with victory this weekend. Arsenal to win 1-0 is 13/2 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Hugo avatarHUGO GREENHALGH is co-founder and editor of The False Nineand a contributor to Eurosport and When Saturday Comes. He can be found following his favourite clubs: Arsenal and Dulwich Hamlet. Follow Hugo on Twitter.

Burnley Could Be The Team to End Arsenal’s Sequence Of Victories

 

It’s April, Arsenal are second in the Premier League table and have won seven games in a row. Before we begin, it’s probably worth taking a second to let that sink in. After a pretty dreadful start to the campaign, they have somehow managed to string together an impressive amount of victories and, for the most part, performances to match. However, all things must pass.

There’s a reason why a big team away at plucky newly-promoted minnows from Up North is on TV – there’s the hope of an upset. Of course, your dual narrative kills two birds with one stone pretty effectively, but this game is a 5.30 kick-off rather than a lunchtime one for a reason; the floodlights, the chill in the air, the slightly more intoxicated and subsequently louder home crowd – the whole thing is set up rather nicely for a Burnley result.

 

Burnley v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Burnley win 19/4

Arsenal win 53/100

Draw 31/10

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

 

This isn’t to say there is some conspiracy against Arsenal of course – this isn’t that type of website. Both Chelsea and Manchester City already found themselves in similar situations at Turf Moor, with the results rather conveniently reflecting both sides’ respective seasons. Chelsea were exciting to begin with, Diego Costa scored without playing particularly well, then Mourinho went and Mourinho-ed – making his side see out the victory in a more professional, yet unspectacular fashion. Manchester City, meanwhile, were underwhelming and failed to match the standards they set last season.

So what kind of game would be representative of Arsenal’s season? Definitely not a handsome win – certainly not as good as Chelsea’s. Probably a 3-2 win or a 2-2 draw, with the Gunners falling a couple of goals behind early on before roaring back in the second half rather surprisingly.

 

And Arsenal have unquestionably been playing well. With 10 wins in their last 11 league outings, Arsene Wenger’s team have finally played themselves into form and last Saturday was probably the first time that their three best players – Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez – all played well in the same game at the same time. However, they’ve also been playing opponents at the right time over the last couple of months.

 

Liverpool were in good form before Manchester United visited Anfield and put a hole in their boat, which enabled Martin Skrtel and captain Steven Gerrard to nobly go down with the ship – both earning themselves three-game suspensions for violent conduct. All this, added to Daniel Sturridge’s injury, allowed Arsenal to steamroller a much weaker Liverpool team than one that would have shown up at The Emirates, say, four weeks earlier.

Everton and QPR were also playing pretty badly prior to their respective fixtures with the Gunners last month. And since Newcastle and West Ham both achieved all their goals (getting enough points to avoid relegation) in the first half of the season, they saw no need for a second, and both allowed Arsenal to stroll away with three points.

 

After spending what felt like the entire Easter weekend trying to bore Tottenham into submission, it’s pretty safe to acknowledge that, comparatively, Burnley aren’t so out-of-form. This isn’t to say they are actually good, mind – they are still second bottom – but as a relatively well-drilled, two-banks-of-four team who have something to play for and aren’t as desperately low on confidence, they may well prove to be Arsenal’s toughest opponents since the North London Derby.

Sean Dyche’s side have unexpectedly tried to fill the spot vacated by Middlesbrough and, more recently, Wigan Athletic, of that side who only seem to take points off big teams. Their record of 10 points against teams in the top seven this season is at least twice the total of anyone else the wrong side of 15th. Despite Sean Dyche having the constant expression of a bouncer of nightclub that’s reached full-capacity before midnight, it’s almost as if Burnley are, in fact, just happy to be here.

 

There aren’t many things more dangerous to a title challenge than a team who seemingly cares more about treasuring their time in the top flight, rather than extending it. Playing Crystal Palace or Hull is meaningless to Burnley – it’ll probably end up being a Championship play-off semi-final in a few seasons anyway – so hosting Arsenal is far more mouth-watering.

Being Arsenal, however, especially in April, is probably one of those few things more dangerous to a title challenge. It was all going so well too. While the rather unrealistic nature of this particular pursuit of the league leaders may be a useful dry-run for next spring, Wenger’s side seem to have developed a bad habit of wetting themselves every time they get within a moderate distance of silverware. This late-season charge from the Gunners really does seem to mirror much of Liverpool’s form at the end of last term, and while the “This Does Not Slip” episode really did set a new bar for hilarious title-bottling, if anyone can better it, Arsenal can.

 

Betting Instinct tip – The score draw is 7.38 with Intertops.eu

 

caolan_avatar CAOLAN COSGROVE writes about football, especially all things Arsenal-related, for BendtOverBackwards, Sabotage   Times and others. Follow him on Twitter.

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.

Manchester United and Sunderland face potential giant-killings in FA Cup 5th Round

Love is in the air this weekend, and I don’t mean the cheap Valentines Day booze-up and romp you regret nine months later. No, open your hearts, put down those homemade 50 Shades-inspired whips and chains, and rejoice as the magic of the FA Cup comes hurtling back with all the mystique of a Silent Witness episode.

In truth, last time out proved to be quite the upset as Chelsea were felled at home by League One opposition Bradford City (more on them soon), and the number of Premier League teams left in the competition were reduced to 10.

 

Out are big-hitters Chelsea and Manchester City, who have appeared in five of the last six finals, concentrating their efforts on league glory instead.

And now, just two rounds away from the Wembley showpiece, thoughts of the smaller clubs will start to turn towards the rare possibility of following in the footsteps of recent finalists Millwall and Cardiff. Two teams in particular will be hoping to do their best David impersonation as they take on top tier Goliaths.

 

Bradford City v Sunderland Betting Odds:

Bradford win 5/2

Sunderland win 19/20

Draw 23/10

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

 

Bradford welcome Sunderland to Valley Parade for the first game between the two teams in 12 years. While the visitors’ ability should see them through, Bradford have pedigree in similar situations to these. In 2013 they overcame Premier League clubs Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan to reach the League Cup final. Although that proved a bridge too far, with the Bantams losing to Swansea 5-0, Bradford’s capacity to cause a shock result should not be doubted, having beaten Chelsea in the previous round.

Currently two places outside the League One play-offs, the Yorkshire club has lost only two of its last 17 games across all competitions, winning 10. And if they come out swinging like their co-chairman over the BBC’s decision not to show the tie, then we should be in for a full-blooded slugfest on Sunday afternoon.

 

In Sunderland’s case, this fixture could offer the respite needed from the doom surrounding their league campaign. Sitting a mere two points off the bottom three, Tuesday night’s loss to relegation rivals Queens Park Rangers will have dented their confidence further heading into the sell-out away FA Cup fixture.

But a game against lower league challengers provides the perfect opportunity for retribution, and a chance to improve their mind-set with a convincing win ahead of a crucial couple of months.

In all likelihood, it’ll be an attritional contest, fought out on a pitch resembling a tattered old rug won by the side with greater fitness and talent. Yet with Sunderland in need of shoring up their defensive errors that have seen them slip in the new year following a defiant November run, and struggles at the other end – even the January arrival of 32-year-old striker Jermain Defoe hasn’t mended Sunderland’s goal-woes – there’s every chance of a surprise.

 

Monday night’s prospect of Preston North End versus Manchester United should finish predictably too, but Preston’s manager Simon Grayson has form when it comes to defeating United. Five years on from his League One Leeds side stunning Manchester United thanks to a Jermaine Beckford winner, Grayson is hoping to repeat the feat.

Preston may not be on the kind of form Leeds were then, where they went into the game unbeaten in 17 matches, however they do reside comfortably in fourth place of League One with the third tightest defence in the third tier. Although struggling for goals in the league, Preston forward Paul Gallagher is the Cup’s leading scorer, and with United having conceded in six of their last eight league matches, he may well add to that tally.

 

For United the FA Cup has been a kind affair, though unnecessarily difficult to progress in, requiring a replay to defeat Cambridge United. In the midst of journalists and supporters bickering over whether they are a long-ball side and limp wins, United have crawled their way to third in the division. They have lost just once in 18 games in all competitions and manager Louis van Gaal seems content now to use a Plan B where essential.

It may well be another tough watch, but we can’t see past United leaving victorious and through to the quarter-finals having jinked past Premier League draws en route.

Betting Instinct tip – Paul Gallagher to score at any time is 10/3 with Coral.co.uk

 

FRANCIS KELLYfrancis avatar is a sports writer who has contributed to the Independent, the Guardian and The Cricketer magazine. He can be found waxing lyrical about Norwich City on Twitter

Arsenal after revenge for last season’s mauling at the Etihad

City will rely on David Silva to unlock the Arsenal defence yet again

City will rely on David Silva to unlock the Arsenal defence yet again

The month of January can be make or break for sides fighting at the top of the table. Title-challenging Manchester City host Arsenal on Sunday afternoon and while the visitors’ ambitions have taken a bruising since the start of the season, they find themselves in a scrap to secure Champions League qualification. Every game from now until the end of the season will be vitally important for both these sides, with City locked in a close battle with Chelsea at the summit and Arsenal tussling for third or fourth place along with Southampton, Manchester United, Spurs and West Ham.

 

Manchester City v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Manchester City win 73/100

Arsenal win 33/10

Draw 53/20

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

 

The Citizens go into the game on the back of a blistering run of form that has lifted them right back into contention for the league, as well as guaranteeing progress into the Champions League knockout stage. A 2-2 draw at Loftus Road in early November left them eight points adrift of a then-rampant Chelsea and their title seemed to be fading away. But a nine-match winning run in league and cup has salvaged City’s season. They have faltered slightly in the last few weeks, relinquishing leads late on against Burnley and Everton, but nevertheless remain in a strong position as the run-in draws closer; just two points off top spot.

They have hardly even been hindered by a striker crisis which saw them have to play the (admittedly superbly versatile) James Milner in a false nine role for a considerable stretch of games. It is testament to the firepower of this City side that they did not wilt after losing Sergio Agüero, who had seven goals in five before his injury in early December.

Their recent run of form has been typical of a resilient side with individuals who can step up to the plate in the absence of a key player, but the heartbeat of City’s team has been ever-present throughout this period. David Silva, arguably the best player in the Premier League, has been immense all season and came into his own as the winter arrived. It is upon his narrow shoulders that a sizeable portion of City’s hopes this season rest.

 

As he has done in so many games already this campaign, Silva could well make the difference at the Etihad on Sunday. However, Arsenal have a player of their own in top form. Alexis Sánchez produced yet another wonderful display in last Sunday’s 3-0 win over Stoke, scoring two and setting up the other, and it is hard to describe quite how crucial he has been to the Gunners’ hopes this season. He’s bagged 18 goals since his summer switch from Barcelona and has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player this term.

And yet despite possessing such a talented, effective forward as Sánchez in the form of his life, Arsenal lag far behind the top sides (13 points behind leaders Chelsea) in fifth place. They face a fight to secure Champions League football at the Emirates next season and, although history tells us they are likely to get their act together in time, these are frustrating times for Arsenal fans as we pass the halfway point of a season that promised so much more.

 

And their collective mood could still have taken a further turn for the worse by Monday after playing a City side who, despite the aforementioned recent slip-ups, have the bit firmly between their teeth. With close rivals Manchester United, Southampton, Spurs and West Ham all having winnable games this weekend, the table could make for grim reading for the Gunners should they fail to take a positive result from the Etihad. And it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for them of late, with last season’s 6-3 defeat the fifth in their last seven trips to the stadium.

Their form in recent weeks has been patchy and for them to take anything back to north London, Arsenal will have to cut out the errors that have blighted their season. With a sizeable injury list which includes Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere (by contrast City have no injury concerns, though Yaya Touré is away at the Africa Cup of Nations), their task will not be made any easier. However, with Sánchez, as well as a rejuvenated Santi Cazorla, in their ranks you could never truly rule them out from causing a surprise.

 

Still, the smart money is most surely on Manchester City taking maximum points and keeping up the pressure on Chelsea. It was in January of last year that they really began to seize control of the league and put together a run that would ultimately win them the title. Sunday’s game will be a test of how likely they are to repeat that trick, and many will back them to pass with flying colours, but could it possibly be Arsenal who, for once, stand up to be counted and set the tone for the remainder of their season.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Manchester City to win and both teams to score is 2.65 with Intertops.eu

 

Jack C avatarJACK CHATTERTON is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter

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.

Resurgent Lukaku can help Everton shock Man City

Has Romelu Lukaku rediscovered his goalscoring touch?

Has Romelu Lukaku rediscovered his goalscoring touch?

The first half of this season has not been kind to Romelu Lukaku. Everton’s record signing, purchased for £28m from Chelsea over the summer, has failed to hit the heights of the last two seasons, when back-to-back 15-goal hauls pushed him towards the top of the Premier League’s goalscoring charts.

As the Belgian has struggled, so have his club. The Toffees’ 21-point total is 17 shy of this time last season, and Roberto Martinez’s side have scored three fewer goals than in their first 20 games last campaign while conceding 14 more. An FA Cup third round exit looked set to add to the club’s misery, however a stoppage time equaliser from Lukaku earned a replay against West Ham United. Perhaps it can spark a turnaround for both player and club, ahead of this weekend’s fixture against Manchester City.

Everton v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Everton win 16/5

Manchester City win 4/5

Draw 12/5

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

 

All logic points towards a comfortable away win at Goodison Park on Saturday. The Merseyside club have lost their last four league games and five of the last six, the only exception being a home victory over a QPR side that has lost all nine of its away games this campaign. Indeed they were beaten 1-0 by this weekend’s opponents at the start of that six-game run, with a Yaya Touré penalty the difference.

City, in contrast, have shaken off the absence through injury of top scorer Sergio Agüero, picking up an impressive 29 points out of a possible 33 since the start of November. However this weekend they will be without Touré as well as Agüero, with the Ivorian having joined up with his national side in Equatorial Guinea for the Africa Cup of Nations.

With a forward-line stretched by injuries in recent weeks (Edin Džeko is still absent, while Stevan Jovetić has only recently returned from a spell on the sidelines), City have been grateful for their captain’s goals from midfield: Touré has found the net in four of the last six games, and the absence of him, Džeko and Agüero means that the scorers of more than half of the club’s 44 league goals will be unavailable for the trip to Merseyside.

Touré’s international team-mate Wilfried Bony is seemingly poised to move to the Etihad, and his arrival will surely help City’s title challenge in the latter part of the season, but for now this weekend’s fixture could prove challenging. Everton have injuries of their own to contend with, not least the calf problem that continues to rule out goalkeeper Tim Howard, but they finally have options up front with Lukaku, Samuel Eto’o and Arouna Koné all available for selection.

While Martinez’s side does not have too enviable a home record – just 12 points accrued and 15 goals conceded – they have lost just once at Goodison Park since September, and that came courtesy of a Bojan penalty for Stoke City.

If Lukaku can build on Tuesday’s crucial goal, with the support of his team mates, then he could help kickstart his club’s season while handing former employers Chelsea a huge boost in the race for the title.

Betting Instinct tip – Everton to win or draw is 9/10 with AllYouBet.ag

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter.

In-form Cazorla should relish Liverpool trip

Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings once more after tearing apart Newcastle United last week

Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings once more after tearing apart Newcastle United last week

What extraordinary times these are for Liverpool. After coming within one slip of winning a first league title since 1990 last term, they have endured an unimaginably nightmarish first half to this season. Gone is Luis Suárez and, perhaps not coincidentally, gone are the goals. The Reds, so easy on the eye as they powered through the Spring of 2014, are now a team with a distinct lack of direction and one in desperate need of inspiration. They have picked up just 14 points from the last 30 available and have already suffered defeats to the likes of Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Aston Villa. That they have only managed seven league goals all season at Anfield tells its own story.

They have been hit hard by the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge (he has not featured in a Liverpool shirt since August) while summer arrival Mario Balotelli has found life in front of goal difficult. Steven Gerrard’s performances have begun to deteriorate rapidly and Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet have suffered horrendous starts to the season. The Reds did manage to negotiate a potential banana skin in Bournemouth in the league cup in midweek, but serious questions still hang over their defensive solidity.

 

A miserable run of form culminating in last Sunday’s dismantling at the hands of Manchester United means they languish in eleventh place in the Premier League but they still have a chance of making the top four – down largely to the inconsistency of those above them more than anything else. The gap currently stands at seven points but it will surely widen quickly unless Liverpool experience a marked improvement in the next few weeks.

But things won’t get any easier for Brendan Rodgers’ men, with Sunday seeing the visit of Arsenal. The Gunners have recovered well since their calamitous defeat at Stoke City, with progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League as well as a convincing defeat over in-form Newcastle achieved since then. Olivier Giroud is back fit and firing and he has injected some much-needed impetus into Arsenal’s season. Problems still abound for Arsène Wenger’s side but for all the talk of crisis at the Emirates, they know a win on Sunday could lift them as high as fourth.

 

Liverpool v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 7/4

Arsenal win 29/20

Draw 23/10

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

 

Arsenal’s fanbase has never been more divided over whether Wenger should remain in charge, but the Frenchman’s skin is thicker than most and he will be focusing solely on the job in hand this weekend. Santi Cazorla turned in a mesmerising performance in the 4-1 win over Newcastle last Saturday and he is likely to start again at Anfield. If he can rediscover his best form after an indifferent start to the campaign then the Gunners will have one of the division’s most exciting number tens. He may have just turned thirty but he still has lots to give and could very well make the difference on Sunday.

Arsenal will remain without Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey, though, who along with Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil form an extensive injury list. Nacho Monreal will hope to return to the matchday squad while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a slight doubt.

Liverpool’s injury woes are far less pronounced; apart from long-term absentees Daniel Sturridge and Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson is their only concern. He will face a late fitness test.

 

Despite Arsenal’s drastically reduced options they still go into this game as overwhelming favourites. A repeat of their last visit to Anfield, when they were blown away with four early goals and went on to lose 5-1, somehow looks unlikely. That was only in February but already it seems an eternity ago. Liverpool’s confidence has been shot to pieces and while Arsenal remain shaky away from home they would be disappointed to come away on the end of a defeat.

We know Liverpool have the players to lift themselves from their current predicament, but it’s increasingly difficult to see where the next win is coming from. If Raheem Sterling can display the same scoring touch he showed at Dean Court on Wednesday then they will have a chance, but the young Englishman has been inconsistent at best this season. A victory on Sunday could definitely provide them with the momentum to start climbing the table but if there’s one word that sums the Reds up at the moment it’s ‘fragile’. Any early setback is likely to derail them, and Arsenal will look to take full advantage of this.

 

Betting Instinct tip Draw at half-time/Arsenal at full-time is 9/2 with Intertops.eu

 

Jack C avatarJACK CHATTERTON is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter

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.