All posts by simonkermack

Kiko could bring the best out of the Hoops

With 4 goals for the first team in 4 years it’s no surprise that Frederico Macheda has been farmed out to another side to improve his ability.

QPR are the benefactors from this move and are hoping that the Italian wonderkid can do what Daniel Sturridge did to Bolton last season for them. Their striking options have been bolstered in summer by the purchase of Jay Bothroyd and DJ Cambell but veteran Heidar Helguson has been preferred as the lone striker in Neil Warnock’s system.

Macheda, or Kiko as he is known as at United and in Italy is mainly remembered for his superb equalising strike against Aston Villa. However he has been forced mainly into substitute appearances and starts in the Carling Cup.

At 6’ 2” he could fit well as the lone striker in the 4-2-3-1 which QPR have been utilising this season and while he is only young at 20 years old, his skills as a lone striker were apparent on loan at Sampadoria, where he may not have been profligate but still managed to bring the midfield into the game well.

QPR’s strengths are in their midfield, with Joey Barton, Adel Taarabt, Alejandro Faurlin and Shaun Wright-Phillips providing the drive in the middle of the park. The way that QPR play their football means that their midfield need to be the centre of attention, which means that a strong forward leading the line, with some quick legs could do the business for the Hoops.

What may let Kiko down though is confidence, the United fans of late have been quite harsh of the young Italian’s performances and the last thing a boy developing at his age needs is the fans getting on his back at Old Trafford.

The advice to the Loftus Road faithful is this then, give the lad some support. Goals will follow, the ability is there and let’s be honest, Manchester United don’t do average players on their books.

Who knows, you could be gifted a finish like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpbHcgi-ONA.

John Fernandez

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A Bridge too far for Wenger?

Wayne Bridge’s bench-warming skills have dramatically improved in his time at Manchester City, but surely a former England international of his quality is itching for some first time football?

Wenger’s defensive options have been whittled down to the bone, with all his recognised left sided defenders coming a cropper.

Full backs Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs both don’t look like returning any time soon, while Thomas Vermaelen who has been covering in the left back slot for the past few games is also out for 2-3 weeks with a calf strain.

Bridge has been collecting dust in the reserves for the past year and boss Roberto Mancini has made no secret of the fact that Bridge is not in his first team plans.

But Bridge seems reluctant to go and Wenger seems even more reluctant to take him on. Surely an experienced Premiership pro would be a good fit for his defensive conundrums in a time where Arsenal really need to push on and get some results, so as not to be left behind by Harry Redknap’s barnstorming Tottenham.

Where Wenger’s defensive reinforcements will come from still seems elusive, I’m still not ruling out a shock return for Sol Cambell again, or maybe even Lee Dixon, he can still put a shift in right?

John Fernandez

Football Friends bring you the latest football news and opinion from football fans around the world. Football News 

The pass masters secret

Barcelona, Arsenal & Swansea are all teams who play their own variety of keep ball. Whether it’s 4-5-1, or the Barcelona super formation with a fake number 9, all of these teams never relent when it comes down to maintaining possession.

Why then, if they all build their teams around possession in the same way, are Barcelona far superior to these sides and with that every other team in the world.

Two words can explain this. CUTTING EDGE.

When Spain played England earlier this year, they played with many of the same team which tore apart Premier League Champions Manchester United, so surely playing in the same style as Barcelona, with a Tiki-Taka rhythm was going to see of the one dimensional Three Lions. They were wrong, even with a striker with the ability of David Villa leading the line the cutting edge was there.

Teams who play with strong defensive midfielders, such as QPR as was shown when Swansea faced them earlier this week, as Alejandro Faurlin was able to break up their play and dictate the pace. With Spain they ran into the colossus that is Phil Jones, aided by bruiser Jack Rodwell.

Barcelona though have a cutting edge which can stop strong teams, who defend in numbers. His name is surprisingly one you will be guessing already. Lionel Messi. We all know his class, he unlocks defences; he makes teams look like they are standing still and most of all he makes Barcelona the winning side they are.

Swansea’s cutting edge this season is Danny Graham, who while working 100% for the team and having a great record in the Championship does not provide the cutting edge necessary to turn 65% possession into a 3-0 victory. Swansea now may be happy with a lack of an edge, but Arsenal’s possession game and reputation means that the lack of an edge can see them dominating games, but leaving with a draw, as they did against Wolves this week.

Barcelona while being the ideal model for possession football have stuttered this season. They have been held to 4 draws this season, which has seen them fall behind front runners Real Madrid, teams are beginning to suss out the style and physicality, stubbornness and having 10 men behind the ball are coming out trumps at times.

Can teams who play this ‘beautiful’ football change it up, or will physicality and the good ole’ British 4-4-2 prevail. Good news for Blackburn/Steve Kean, bad news for football. 

John Fernandez 

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Last Chance Saloon for Capello, Anyone Else For a round?

Euro 2012 is Fabio Capello’s England Swansong, after the collapse in Bloemfontein, the embarrassments in qualifying for Euro 2012 and the captaincy debacle, the Italian general is on his way out soon. Which fringe players and hopefuls will be joining him in his last hurrah though?

Injury permitting then, regulars Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Joe Hart, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole will be certain of travelling to the tournament. On the flip side though there is a contingent of players who will be fighting this season to stand a chance of making the flight to Eastern Europe.

Prior to the World Cup in South Africa and all the headlines centred on whether Man City anchor-man Gareth Barry would be fit. He was seen as the integral cog allowing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to play to their strengths in midfield. Barry played and ended up thoroughly disappointing fans and Capello, who had a lot of faith in the ex Villain. His international career is in doubt now with the young talents of Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson and Lee Cattermole breathing down his neck. His club form in the past season has suffered, and he has even lost his guaranteed starting place under Mancini, with the Italian preferring Dutch enforcer Nigel De Jong and the versatility of James Milner in the heart of his midfield. Barry will need to impress on the training ground and at the Ethiad stadium if he is to be stand any chance of gaining a place in the Euro 2012 squad.

Another ex-Villain Stewart Downing who managed to wrangle a £20m move away from Villa Park is challenging for a place on the plane. The width he provides will be integral to Daglish’s new Liverpool and Downing will be hoping that his impressive performances against Ghana and in other England fixtures will put him firmly in Capello’s eye for selection. Competition for places at Liverpool will be fierce, but if the Middlesbrough trainee can break into the first team and stay there he should definitely be a contender for the squad at next summer’s tournament.

Downing will be competing for a place on the flanks with a number of other talented English wide men. One of these is Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, who could count himself unlucky to miss out on the World Cup squad and who has had his most impressive season at the Emirates yet; providing 13 goals and 8 assists in all competitions before being sidelined by injury. Walcott has youth on his side at only 22 and already is the proud owner of 17 full England caps. He is another that if injury free and with a good season at Aresnal behind him will be pushing for a place on the plane.

Tom Huddlestone had a fantastic season for the Lilywhites in the 2009-2010 campaign, which saw Harry Redknapp’s men qualify for Champions league football. But his 2010-2011 was marred by injury and this absence at club level has left him in the international doldrums. Huddlestone though brings a good balance to any team and provides a steady stream of goals from midfield as well as some of the most pinpoint passing in England. With an injury free season he could look to add to his 3 full caps and really challenge for a place in Capello’s final squad.

 

 

One more of Tottenham’s lost international stars is Aaron Lennon, who after a fantastic season in the Premier League last time of asking will be itching to get back on the England radar and add to his 19 caps. Lennon’s pace and eye for goal are a real addition to any England squad and Capello is an admirer so maybe a re-call for the Lilywhite winger is in order?

One more winger is on the list of will they won’t they’s as far as the Euro 2012 squad goes and that is another ex-Middlesborough trainee, Manchester City man Adam Johnson. Johnson impressed on his debut by scoring and went on to score once more  in his next appearance, however injuries last season meant that he had to forfeit a place on the England flanks. At club level Johnson is a firm favourite of fans and manager alike, but with the severe competition for places at City at the moment will Johnson get an extended run in the first team or be relegated to cameo appearances from the bench? With a run in the first team Johnson looks certain to be on the plane next summer; much will depend though on how this season at City goes.

Jordan Henderson made his international debut in an ill-fated loss to France which saw a youthful England side given a thorough hiding by more organised, ruthless and efficient opposition. Still a promising start to the season last term has resulted in a multi-million pound move for the Sunderland youngster. Henderson also appeared in England’s ill-fated under 21’s European Championship squad, where they managed to be knocked out in the group stages. Henderson was played far too deep to be effective and consequently looked way out of his depth. Daglish though surely knows where Henderson’s talents are; otherwise he wouldn’t have paid so over the odds for him. As an attacking midfielder or wide man is where the boy’s talents are and if they can be suitably unlocked he could be in for a re-call to the England squad.

Finally we have striker Daniel Sturridge. At Manchester City he saw his options of first team football as increasingly low due to the big bucks available. Which paved a move to Chelsea, where now with the arrival of Fernando Torres he could again be set for a move on loan to a Premier League club. If he can repeat his successes at Bolton though and show the clinical edge that England have often lacked of late then this boy’s international future could be in for an early jump-start.

While this may only be a handful of hopefuls there are numerous others hoping for places? £35m Andy Carroll may make the cut, Everton youngster Jack Rodwell has bags of potential and with a first team run may surprise Capello, Gary Cahill is consistent as ever and only 25. At Liverpool there is abundance of talent at full back, with Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Paul Robinson all pushing Glen Johnson for a place and that is still forgetting surprise package at the under 21’s, Tottenham full back Kyle Walker.

Capello’s final selections will be scrutinised intensely, and is he puts a foot wrong and brings the wrong players it’s likely one of the above 10-15 names that will be quoted in red on the front of the tabloids.

 

John Fernandez @JohnFernandez1

 

Self Destruction or Re-Construction: A Newcastle United Story 

2 years ago today, the proud Toon Army were preparing themselves for the inaugural match of the Coca-Cola Championship after falling victim to relegation from the Premiership, nobody believed it until it would happen, but fans and pundits alike were awestruck when the Tynesiders faced the drop. Not even the prodigal son Alan Shearer could save them from dropping out of the top tier of English football.

Now back to the present. After an immediate return to the top flight in comfortable fashion under the helmsmanship of Chris Hughton and thanks to the undoubted class of players like Joey Barton, Fabricio Coloccini, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique. After a season establishing themselves in the Premiership, which was interrupted by the sale of prize striker Andy Carroll, yet they still finished a comfortable 12th and now are looking to re-establish themselves as one of the forces in English football once more.

Then arrives the summer break and seemingly the backroom staff of Newcastle United thought, out with the old guard, in with the new stars. Queue the sale of top-scorer, captain and talisman Kevin Nolan for a fee reportedly under £4m.  Outrage was sparked amongst the Toon Army’s following, who after the sale of Carroll were already very bitter about losing top players. Pardew commented that he couldn’t see any long-term future for Nolan at the club and that while he led the clubs scoring charts, he was surplus to requirements at this new St James’s Park.

The outrage didn’t end with the fans though. No, controversial figure Joey Barton added his 2 cents to the row with his now notorious tweet ‘Great player, leader, captain, person, trainer and mostly a friend for life. Devastated to see him SOLD #mejoseandjonasnext.’ He may have yet to see what happens to Jose Enrique and Jonas, but yesterday Barton’s fate was sealed as the Newcastle hierarchy decided he was ‘persona non grata.’ (His words not mine).

Barton’s next move is even less obvious than the reason he is being forced out  of the door. But surely an experienced Premier League player of his caliber will spark a lot of interest. Arsenal seems to be as good a move as any, providing some experience and grit in the centre of midfield which they have been lightweight the past few seasons. Wherever he goes though, the decision to let him go for free will surely be questioned, no matter how much of a disruptive influence he is he could easily command a fee of over £5m in this market.

Seemingly to us outsiders it look as if Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew have gone mad, their two top midfielders and stand out performers last season sold, self-destruction could be the only route.

However, summer signings Yohan Cabaye, Sylvian Marveaux and Demba Ba are all huge signings for the future of the club. Barton and Nolan’s departures have left holes in the United midfield, while Andy Carroll has never been suitably replaced… No matter how hard Shola Ameobi works. Newcastle fans are not convinced by the signings and the look of the squad at the moment, I however am quietly convinced at how Newcastle’s squad is shaping up, and here is why.

Last season’s arrival of French midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa was in my eye’s a serious coup for the club, a young player with heaps of talent and ability at his feet. He was unlucky to have his season cut short after Nigel De Jong’s tackle caused him to break his tibia and fibula leaving him sidelined for the rest of the season. He is the direct replacement to Kevin Nolan, a midfielder comfortable behind a central striker with a good amount of skill and an eye for goal, as we all saw with his strike against Everton on his full debut. He could very well turn out to be the suprise of this season, injuries aside, this man is someone to look out for. 

Next we have ex-Lille man Yohan Cabaye, a player who describes himself as a Box-to-Box midfielder. He fits into the Joey Barton mould and arrives with a flawless discipline record along with his Ligue 1 title medal. He is a midfielder with a record of 31 goals in his career and will undoubtedly create numerous chances for the Toon’s fantastic wide men. The fact that last season he played in a team who played some of the best football the French leagues have seen in a good while seems to have been overlooked and he is another one who I can see making a massive impact over the next year. 

Senegalese hit man Demba Ba managed 7 goals in 13 appearances for a side struggling against relegation and devoid of any kind of drive. So a move to a team comfortably safe from relegation is a good step for the ex-Hoffenhiem striker. While he may be a different player to Andy Carroll, he does look a frugal, effective replacement for the England international. He is dangerous in the air, has a fine shot on him and is only 26 so has years on his side. Pardew says he is still looking for another striker, but for now Ba, with a back up of Ameobi should surely do the trick up top for the Toon.

With the start of the season fast approaching then, Newcastle are definitely looking like a different side to the bunch Chris Hughton brought kicking and screaming from the Championship. Their fortunes this season will very much reliance the keeping of Spanish full-back José Enrique and the adaptation of the new signings to the English leagues.

One thing remains certain though, Mike Ashley can ill afford another season like 2009-10, while Pardew will surely be shown the door if his upheaval fails to manifest any progress. It seems this close seasons re-construction will be pivotal in the future of the Tynesiders, for the worst or for the best is yet to be seen though.

John Fernandez

 

 

Ferguson’s re branding… Again

Sir Alex Ferguson is a manager revered by many as a gaffer who has stood the test of time; he has broken seemingly every managerial record going and still keeps on surprising everyone by building a new United side ever 5-6 years. He has coped with the sale of massive stars in the shape of Christiano Ronaldo, Mark Hughes, David Beckham and Paul Ince. He has coped with shifts in tactics, from the rigid 4-4-2 which he had grown up with to adapting to anything, he’s coped with players going off the rails (Stam, Van Nistelrooy) and he still remains.

So what has Fergie got up his sleeve this time around in terms of rejuvenating his squad? Well the retirement of some key players forced his hand on some issues and has seen him spend big on talented youngsters this window. David De Gea has arrived as a £18m replacement for Edwin van der Sar from Spaniards Athletico Madrid. Phil Jones has arrived as a defensive reinforcement after the retirement of Gary Neville, which coincided with the sale of seasoned vets John O’Shea and Wes brown to Tynesiders Sunderland. Ashley young has arrived as a supposed replacement for ginger wizard Paul Scholes in a £17m deal from Aston Villa after his impressive showings in an England shirt.

The past few close seasons have seen Sir Alex aiming in a different direction in terms of strategy and that has been in the shape of youth development. His transfers in the past two close seasons have leant sharply towards looking for players with high re-sale prices; this is after he said in his £30.75m buying of Dimitar Berbatov that this would be the last transfer of its kind from him. Youngsters like the Da Silva twins, Darron Gibson, Gabriel Obertan, Thiago Bebe and Chris Smalling are all examples of this shift in policy, from proven names to players for the future of the club for bargain prices. While some have proved to be flops, the most notable of these being £7m Bebe, others such as Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez have turned out to be gems for the future, for a side which looks set to be being built in Fergie’s mould that can run onwards after he retires.

For the 2011-2012 season then Ferguson is going hell for leather with the backing of his new guard after the old guard has moved out. Where these new players will fit in though is the question I am considering?

Keeper David De Gea’s future is the easiest to predict as he has been signed purely as a replacement for Van Der Sar, he has all the potential to be just as good, comes straight in as the new number 1 keeper at United and will start in front of perennial underachiever and Polish international Tomasz Kuszczak. His ability is not in question, but whether he will be able to handle the pressure of being the number 1 at one of the world’s biggest clubs is yet to be seen. It will be after his first big blunder that we really see the young Spaniards true colours; hopefully he will turn out to be another Schemichel, not another Massimo Taibi.

Defender Phil Jones’s signing was one that worried me. The 19 year old Blackburn centre back enjoyed regular first team action last season and saw his development as a footballer come on in leaps and bounds. However will he see such prolonged spells in the first team here as he competes with first team duo Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and back up’s Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling. Smalling and Jones are widely regarded as England’s first choice central defensive pairing in the future. But it is my opinion that a lack of first team options for Jones could see his development stunted; only time will tell, let’s just hope that Fergie has his best interests at heart and didn’t just want to stop him moving to Anfield or the Emirates.

The oddest of the summer additions in my opinion has been Ashley Young, yes the loss of Paul Scholes left a hole of creativity in the centre of the park But Young is an entirely different player to Scholes, and first and foremost his best positions are on the wings or behind the striker. Positions Scholes was never really familiar with. Leaving me with the query where does Young fit in? Will Fergie play him on the wings in front of Valencia, Park and Nani or behind lone striker Javier Hernandez in the position that Wayne Rooney looked so comfortable in last season? This indeed seems to be another conundrum which we will have to wait until the start of the season to solve. However if there is anybody to solve this one, it surely has to be Ferguson.

The final big question for Fergie’s summer spending spree is over the proposed move for Wesley Sneijder to old Trafford. Ferguson has come out and unequivocally said the player they are constantly linked to, is not on his way to Old Trafford. While a player of Sneijder’s undoubted talent would be a welcome figure in any dressing room I think for Fergusons new look United this is the right move. Sneijder is a whole other kind of player to what United want and need. He will end up playing deeper than needs be, thus wasting his talents. Sneijder should stay at Inter and reap the rewards of his freedom, and should stay away from the premier League at all costs.

So this season will be a stiff test for Fergie’s new guard, one which as we have seen time and time again now, that the Scott will rise too. Whether his new players can rise to the challenge though that’s the real question.

John Fernandez

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Are Manchester City better off without Tevez?

In 2009 Tevez made a shock move from the red side of Manchester to join those noisy sky blue neighbours, they paid an estimated £25.5 million to sign the controversial Argentinean striker and since then he has become a symbol of the rise to prominence of the Citizens. Appearing on the ‘Welcome to Manchester’ posters around the city and amassing a formidable 43 goals in 66 games in his time at Eastlands (or now the Etihad Stadium). Only Robin Van Persie has a better goal to minute’s ratio with the City captain netting a goal every 123 minutes in the past 2 seasons compared to the Dutchman’s goal every 115 (Although Van Persie has played less games)

Surely that means Tevez’s departure would be catastrophic for City, they won’t just be losing their top goal scorer, but the figurehead for the Manchester revolution and most importantly their captain. Mancini has spent big money on his strike force though, but it has been Tevez, who was brought in under the old manager Mark Hughe’s reign, who has provided the cutting edge, as Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Emanuel Adebayor have struggled to find any kind of consistency.

The problem for City with Tevez is that, with him playing, he is the focal point of all attacks; all play is built around his movement, so when another striker partners him, they end up out of the game, secluded. This is why I think City need to get rid of Tevez, not just because his heart is no longer in it, but to let the wealth of talent on the bench thrive.

Mario Balotelli may have a temper but he has the potential to be a truly world class striker and it is he who I fully expect to fill the Argentines shoes when he eventually packs his bags and leaves, we saw moments of class from in the FA cup final and given a starring role up top I believe he will thrive. Not forgetting Bosnian strike sensation Edin Dzeko, who in his time at Eastlands may have been criticised for not contributing with many goals, however his link up play has helped to bring other gifted players into the game, providing opportunities for mercurial Spaniard David Silva, and talisman Yaya Toure.

If and when Tevez goes though replacement will be brought in there is no doubt, especially with City’s ridiculous financial backing. But who could come in and replace him? Mancini’s top target is said to be Athletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero and again I think Mancini has it spot on with his selection. Aguero is a player who can fill Tevez’s boots and more, he has fantastic movement, provides a wealth of assists, scores goals and has a burst of pace like few others with his ability do. Batista’s Argentina are already reaping the rewards of a Tevezless side with Aguero netting twice against Costa Rica in the Copa America, so maybe City need to follow suit and see away with the old and in with the new.

Whatever Tevez decides to do, the fact remains he wants to leave, and a disruptive player is not what a team of City’s ambition need, he needs to be shipped out as soon as possible and the team can start from there. 

John Fernandez

Is Daglish flooding the midfield to his demise?

Liverpool ended the 2010-2011 campaign on a high, sure they hadn’t reached Europe but after a disastrous start and the sacking of Roy Hodgson miracles could not be expected from King Kenny in such a short space of time. Hodgson left Anfield in a poor state, his summer acquisitions bar one were extremely poor notably Cristian Poulsen and Paul Konchescky. Daglish needed to come in and re-inject some life into the place, que the second half of the season and Liverpool’s dramatic revival.

The new season then, is a chance for King Kenny to put his stamp of approval on this Liverpool side. We already saw at the tail end of the season how he wasn’t afraid of giving youth a chance with the debuts of full-backs John Flanagan and Jack Robinson. We also know that he isn’t afraid to splash cash to buy quality players. It sounds like he is getting it all right so far, but then it comes to day 1 of the season, who does he pick for his first team.

His midfield options have been bolstered, but this is where I believe a problem lies. He has too many central midfielders and while competition for places is healthy, international players want week in week out football. Daglish will choose between Steven Gerrard, Charlie Adam, Lucas Levia, Jordan Henderson, Raul Meireles, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey. While the latter two may be content to warm the bench and wait for their chance the rest are surely first teamers?

 

 

A fit Steven Gerrard surely walks into the team, but who will join him in the centre? If Daglish chooses to play 3 in the centre as preferred last season he will need at least two to anchor the midfield and act as a foil for Gerrard’s forward ambitions. Lucas played this role well last season and Meireles is a player suited to this to. But then you have your £27 Million worth of signings left on the bench!

Problem is, bar Lucas and on his day Merieles no others can play a holding role which leaves Daglish a problem, he will want to play Henderson and may play him too deep for him to be effective. My solution here is, play Henderson wide on the right, kill two birds with one stone, Liverpool have suffered for their lack of width and Henderson could be the man to provide it with perhaps Downing providing it from the left?

The conundrum is hardly the worst in the world, I mean who can complain that they have too many good players, but it will be up to Daglish to make sure everyone is happy in that dressing room and whoever starts that first fixture may be integral to the wellbeing of that room for the next season. 

 

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