Category Archives: Stoppage Time Rants

7 Goals And 5 Assists: Could This Midfielder Be The Answer To Manchester United’s Problem?

Manchester United failed to control the midfield against Everton on Wednesday evening and as a result failed to get anything out of the game as the Toffees returned to Merseyside with a 1-0 win. United did have a good game, though, but they couldn’t penetrate the Everton backline. If they had this man in their team, however, then it could have been a different story, as I think he is the perfect player for David Moyes to move for in January.

Ivan Rakitic is currently plying his trade for Sevilla in La Liga, and he’s doing a very good job of it. He’s an energetic player who loves to burn up the ground as he zips around the central areas and frustrates opponents.

He’s creative, too, and he has proved this season that goals aren’t a problem for him. The 25-year-old has already scored seven goals in the Spanish topflight and has claimed five assists, far superior to anything the current Manchester United squad have mustered this term.

The thing that I like about Rakitic though is how he keeps the ball moving. He has averaged 61 passes per game this season and created 36 chances from those, and in my opinion is exactly what is needed to inject some life back into the United midriff.

He is a player who I compare to the rest of the current crop combined – he has the passing range of Carrick, the energy levels of Cleverley and the creativity of Kagawa, blend them together and add some end product on that and you find yourself with Ivan Rakitic, the 59-time Croatia international.

stats via Who Scored

Have QPR won yet?


Harry Redknapp can be commended on a very credible career leading to the deserved label of Harry Houdini – but he may well have bitten off more than he can chew with the task of keeping QPR in the Premier League.

‘Arry has had an esteemed career which is anything short of bereft with overcoming challenges. Relegation triumphs, an FA cup trophy, a Champions League quarter-final and elevating Spurs to a top 5 Premier League club are among his greatest achievements.

QPR certainly have grabbed the best man for the job, but this uphill struggle is too much even for Harry himself to find a way out of. Redknapp has been in charge for only three games, avoiding defeat in each, and he has already found his new club written into the record books. Unfortunately, it’s for failing to record a win in the first 16 games of a season – surpassing Swindon’s 15 games at the beginning of their 1993-94 campaign.

The embarrassment will be hard to swallow for the QPR faithful who had high hopes for the season. To add insult to injury, a prankster has taken to Twitter to rub salt into the wounds of QPR fans by creating an account named, Have QPR won yet? After only 3 tweets, the account has already attracted over 3,000 followers, a number sure to grow if the run continues.

Simply put, Redknapp has to buy in January. Hughes failed to replace Joey Barton with an adequate influential midfield figure and that has to be rectified in the transfer window. QPR possess great speed in the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adel Tarrabt and Djibril Cisse. Redknapp will get the best out of these players but he needs a couple of solid players to keep QPR tighter at the back.

One thing for sure is Redknapp will relish the challenge, and if he achieves the impossible, it’ll be the biggest achievement of his career.

Torres proving critics wrong (video)

Fernando Torres has been belittled by many as losing his goal scoring flair, but four goals in two games shows that the instincts are still there.

In the wake of Rafa Benitez’s appointment at Chelsea, many a fan and pundit were quick to suggest the choice was based on the hope Benitez could reignite Torres’s goal scoring habits for which he demonstrated at Liverpool. Di Matteo failed to find an adequate replacement for Didier Drogba meaning the form of Torres plays a big part in Chelsea’s success.

Most critics suggest Torres’s prolific ability in front of goal has since diminished and the Spaniard must now adapt his game to contribute to assisting as many goals as he can. What a load of rubbish! When has a natural born finisher ever lost his knack for scoring goals? Never. But is a professional footballer prone to the human possibility of losing confidence? Of course.

More relevantly, it’s no secret that some players perform better under the leadership of particular managers and when placed in a particular system. It’s difficult to pin point which factor led to Torres’s demise at Chelsea, but anything of inexperienced managers, overbearing competition for a place in the team or a tight knit of big personalities could be considered.

Irrespective of Torres’s failures at Chelsea thus far, a significant improvement has already been had since the arrival of Benitez during a very short period of time. If continued, a firing Torres aligned with the return of John Terry and Frank Lampard could prove to be a defining moment in Chelsea’s Premier League bid.

For all those who have forgotten, see the compilation video of Fernando Torres at Liverpool below to be reminded of what the Spaniard is capable of.

4th place battle could be goal happy


Sunday’s 3pm kick off at Goodison Park pits together two sides with Champions League place aspirations in what promises to be a tight affair.

Moyes will feel blessed that he’s welcoming a Tottenham team without Gareth Bale, especially given that Tony Hibbert may not be the most pace adept right back out there.  Nevertheless, Defoe and co will be confident of knocking one or two past an Everton defence which have failed to keep a clean sheet in the last 10 Premier League games.

Since the return of Moussa Dembele, Spurs have won three matches in a row and looked like a whole new side. The Belgium’s energy and drive will be key to the visitor’s game today when they try and unlock the Everton back four. Everton tend to try to set a slow tone, so if Dembele can galvanize the likes of Defoe, Dempsey and Lennon to keep the pace of the game high, Spurs can do some real damage.

Another defining moment could be the power of Jelavic and Fellaini – particularly if William Gallas is given the nod. Michael Dawson is expected to miss the game through a hamstring injury and AVB may bring in Gallas to restore some experience in an otherwise young backline. The Frenchman has had problems with big forwards in the past and Moyes will look to capitalise on that.

Interestingly, in spite of stark inconsistency this season, Spurs would be top of the Premier League if all games finished after 80 minutes. The statistic shows they find it difficult to motivate themselves in the final stretch of the game, and the fact that they have won every Premier League game Dembele has played suggests they have missed an influential figure to rouse them on when he is out. Not surprising considering Scott Parker and Younes Kaboul have yet to feature this season.

Expect it to be a tight affair and closely fought with a couple of goals leaked by both sides.

Both Fergie and Mancini will both look to swim home with the 3 points

Manchester City and Manchester United clash at The Etihad today in the biggest game of the season so far and Alex Ferguson will see this as the perfect opportunity to begin executing revenge on last season.

Fergie started his assault on City with his obligatory mind games directed at Mancini, focusing on the fact City win too many penalties at home – 21 since the start of 2010/11 to be precise. Much like last season, Mancini is exhibiting a cool exterior and showing no signs of the comments getting to him; and even responded with a well-targeted jab of his own by bringing up Ashley Young’s ‘swimming’ antics last year.

Interestingly, the desired result of Ferguson’s comments was unlikely to be to get a reaction out of Mancini, but more to manipulate the thoughts of the referee to protect United’s fledging backline.

It’s no secret that Ferguson has been disappointed with the defensive performance of his team this year and his remarks appear to expose the insecurity he feels over his back four facing the likes of Teves, Aguero, Nasri and Silva – slippery players who are susceptible to being tripped in the box.

From a neutral perspective, the game really has the makings of a classic. United’s tendency to leak goals has been surpassed by their prolific scoring at the other end, notching a total of 37 in 15 games – 9 more than City. These stats suggest we could be in for a goal fest, especially with Mancini already labelling a game as a must win for the Sky Blues.

City are still unbeaten in the league and have conceded the lowest amount of goals with a mere 11 getting past Joe Hart – 5 less than any other Premier League club. Captain Vincent Kompany will face their toughest challenge yet though and the prospect of keeping Robin van Persie and co from scoring may be too much to ask.

Expect Rooney to spend a lot of time close to the central midfielders in an attempt to nullify Yaya Toure’s physical presence. City have little threat on the wings, so Patrice Evra is likely to be asked to stick close to Nasri and at times may look to form almost a central back three with Evans and Ferdinand. Ferguson will order his central midfield, along with Rooney, to focus their distribution to the wings where United could enjoy their biggest threat.

The two keys to the game will be how well United’s defence can withstand the pace and trickiness of City’s forwards, and how much damage United can execute down the wings.

One dive too many (Video)


It’s important that appropriate action is taken now in regard to the diving problem in the Premier League before it becomes accepted as a part of the game.

Santi Cazorla’s embarrassing simulation in yesterday’s game against West Brom fuelled a debate which has existed for too long and is exhausted to the point where it’s in danger of emerging as tolerable.

The Spaniard’s dive was shameful and desperate; whoever suggested otherwise – such as he was getting out the way of a potential injury – is an utter moron. It’s understandable that there’s a lot riding on these games; pressure, money, competitiveness – but it is flat out cheating and simply put: West Brom was robbed out of a massive point.

Cazorla’s defence was that “he lost his balance” – has this man completely lost the plot? Defending an act of cheating shows a considerable lack of dignity to himself and an absence of respect to the opposition. Even more, it’s shows an atrocious lack of responsibility. His status as an Arsenal football player places him in a position as a role model. He defending cheating teaches other people to do the same. The cowardly defence is even more of an embarrassment than the dive itself and it is moments like these which ignite the assumptions of footballers being stupid.

Wenger also raised an interesting point in his comments after the game: “When he [a player] is touched, he goes down, the referee can give or not give the penalty.” With that, he is suggesting that players, if touched, are morally obligated to go down and claim a foul. Is this what our game has come to? It seems football is becoming more and more of a non-contact sport, and more damning, one which advocates play-acting to con the referee.

Something needs to change. Often games can, through injustice, be decided by a poor refereeing decision or through the omission of sufficient technology. Mistakes can be accepted and measures be brought in to help the referee. But if football is reduced to a level where a players immoral behaviour could lead to victory and go unpunished, then there is a serious possibility of the game being brought to universal disrepute.

FIFA’s goal of the year finalists (Video)

FIFA have named Rudamel Falcao, Miroslav Stoch and Neymar as the three finalists for the 2012 Puskas Award, recognising the year’s best goal of the year.

The honour is decided by the public through online voting on the Fifa website and the eventual winner will collect his price at the same ceremony the Ballon d’Or winner is announced on January 7.

Before viewing the goals and casting your votes, let’s revisit the criteria set by Fifa to be adhered to when judging:

  • It should be a beautiful goal (subjective — the spread of goals should include long-range shots, team goals, overhead kicks, individual plays, etc.).
  • The importance of the match should be taken into account (objective — limited to “A” international teams, confederation championships and national top-division club matches: the more important the goal, the better).
  • The goal should not be the result of luck, mistakes or a deflection by a teammate or the other team.
  • The goal should support fair play, i.e. the player should not have behaved badly in the game or have been charged with doping, for example

It would appear that, since these measures were put in place, the powers at be at Fifa may have had a change of heart on the second guideline.

Falcao’s overhead kick, as sensational as it was, came during a friendly match against America de Cali. It’s reasonable to assume that, in the conditions of a competitive game, Falcao never would have been given the space needed to deliver such a devastating acrobatic strike.

Neymar’s exquisite mazy run through Internacional’s midfield and defence demonstrated pace, power and control, but it’s highly doubtful he’d be given the same opportunity against stronger opposition in the top European leagues.

That leaves us with the volley from a player who is generally rated lower than his competitors. Though it was also against sub-par opposition during a far from esteemed competition, Stoch’s volley showed impeccable timing, technique and style, and, more importantly, would have beaten any opposition in any competition on the planet.

Nonetheless, that’s merely one way to judge. Have a good look at the goals yourself and then cast your vote on the FIFA website.

Radamel Falcao

Neymar

Miroslav Stoch

Guardiola a City boy, says Fifa agent

A FIFA agent has come out and said that agreements are already in place for Pep Guardiola to replace Roberto Mancini as manager of Manchester City.

The statement came from Francois Gallardo, telling a Spanish radio station that City have already had a preliminary contract accepted by Guardiola to succeed Mancini.

“Guardiola has a pre-deal to be the next manager of Manchester City,” he claimed, “No matter if Milan or whoever make offers to him.”

In spite of the fact Gallardo offered nothing to support his claims, it would certainly appear to be a good match for Guardiola, who is currently enjoying a sabbatical in New York with his family. Personnel wise, City already have two former Barcelona executives, Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, as part of the team at the Etihad Stadium.

Having only Barcelona on his management CV, Guardiola is used to operating under a big budget and with an abundance of talent. At City, he would have much of the same and plenty of room to grow. It has to be said, it’s more likely Guardiola would thrive under City’s environment as opposed to Chelsea or Arsenal’s – two clubs he has heavily been linked with.

Tevez, Aguero and Silva are a similar breed of player which Guardiola has got the best out of and built a team around at Barcelona. Mancini opts more for the rotational method – an approach which suggests he still may not know what his best team is.

Guardiola was always very decisive with his team selection at Barcelona and perhaps that’s the attitude which makes the difference in Europe – an area which Mancini has struggled.