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Friday, December 23, 2011

Premier League Team of the Season So Far

Premier League Team of the Season So Far

The English Premier League will reach its 19-match midway mark before end of the year. As we close the year, I would like to put forward the Best XI players I think have outperformed their peers in a 4-3-3 formation. Feel free to add your comments or suggest your best XI.

Goalkeeper - Michel Vorm

Swansea City have conceded 21goals so far in the season but this could be twice more had it not been for the form of their Dutch goalkeeper Michel Vorm. The £1.5 million former Willem II custodian has been one of the star performers between the sticks this season. No other team but Liverpool can attest to the influence of the 28-year-old who pulled off stunning saves to deny the Anfield club three points in their own backyard.

Honourable Mentions - Ali Abdullah Harib Al-Habsi (easily one of the most underrated footballers in the league), and Pepe Reina – by virtue of having conceded the least number of goals in the league so far.


Micah Richards           Daniel Agger                Vincent Kompany              Phil Jones  
Liverpool boast the meanest defence in the Premier League having conceded only 13goals in 17 matches at the time of writing this article. In such situations, plaudits are mostly given to goalkeepers but Daniel Agger nicks it. The Danish center-back has formed a rock-solid partnership with Martin Skrtel at Liverpool and is easily one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League when fit. Manchester City sit at the apex of the Premier league and this can be attributed to the leadership of club captain Vincent Kompany. The 25-year-old Belgian stalwart has made the Citizens’ defence impregnable and will be key for the rest of the campaign. Man United’s Phil Jones has played as a box to box midfielder, centre-back and full-back for the club this season. His adaptability has seen him score a goal or two and rack in a few assists for the club. One of the best deals of the summer. Micah Richards has contributed as many assists as Gervinho, Ryan Giggs, Adebayor, Agbonlahor and Van Persie. Too impressive for a player who operates as a rightback.
Honourable mentions – Jose Enrique, Thomas Vermaelen, Ledley King


David Silva                          Check Tiote                                        Lucas Leiva

Manchester City’s David Silva twinkles the midfield like no other. He’s always at the center of all the good that the Citizens do. He has racked in 9assists this season, more than any player in the league. In writing about David Silva, I was tempted to say that he’s impossible to stop. But one players shut him down at Anfield. Lucas Leiva. The Brazilian before his injury was one of the best midfielders in the EPL. In the two clubs encounter at Anfield, Joe Hart’s mouthwatering saves earned him man of the match award to the chagrin of many who rightfully thought the Brazilian could have won it. The injury put him out, but he earns his place in my team of the season. Ivorian international Cheikh Tioté joined Premier League side Newcastle United on 26 August 2010 for a fee of £3.5 million. That his fee has already skyrocketed to around £20m tell you how much impact the former FC Twente midfielder has made in the league this season. The rumour mill has it that he will be moving on to a bigger club in January. Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal are likely suitors.           

Honourable Mentions – Scott Parker, Juan Mata, Luis Nani


Robin Van Persie                        Demba Ba                                           Luis Suarez 

Robin Van Persie has been a joy to watch this season. "Robin Van Persie, he scores when he wants" is the song the Gunners fans have been singing to the in-form Dutch striker. He not only leads the race for the Barclays golden boot with 16 goals but is on the brink of breaking Allan Shearer’s 1995 record of 36 Premier League goals in a calendar year. He now has 34, with two matches against Wolves and QPR before the year ends. Demba Ba is the second Newcastle player to grace this list. The French-born Senegalese has scored all manner of  goals for the Magpies which saw them sit comfortably in the top four before their downfall started amidst a string of tough matches. He has scored two hat tricks this season and has a cumulative 13goals, second only to Van Persie. Liverpool haven’t been scoring goals for fun this season. That Luis Suarez is chosen for the team of the season so far is debatable but the Uruguayan graces this category because he does more than score. He has been misfiring and hitting the post countless times, but how he creates those chances is second to none in the league.

Honourable Mentions – Emmanuel Adebayor, Wayne Rooney, Kun Aguero

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2011!!! :)

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Liverpool-Man U Rivalry Gone a Notch Higher with Suarez’s 8-Match Ban

“Today is a very difficult and painful day for both me and my family. Thanks for all the support, I’ll keep working!” Those were the words that Liverpool forward Luis Suarez tweeted immediately after hearing he had been handed an eight-match ban and fined £40,000 by the Football Association after being found guilty for racial remarks against Patrice Evra.

Speaking to a French TV after the Premier League clash between the two clubs at Anfield on October 15, Evra claimed he was racially abused by the Uruguayan on no less than 10 occasions prompting him to report the matter to the FA.

The charge has elicited fuming reactions from the club and its fans. The club issued a full-bodied statement in defence of their star striker, saying among others, “It appears to us that the FA were determined to bring charges against Luis Suarez, even before interviewing him at the beginning of November.”

"Nothing we have heard in the course of the hearing has changed our view that Luis Suarez is innocent of the charges brought against him and we will provide Luis with whatever support he now needs to clear his name.

"We would also like to know when the FA intend to charge Patrice Evra with making abusive remarks to an opponent after he admitted himself in his evidence to insulting Luis Suarez in Spanish in the most objectionable of terms.  Luis, to his credit, actually told the FA he had not heard the insult."

You can read the full official Liverpool FC statement here.

Liverpool have 14 days from the day they receive the Football Association’s statement to appeal after which the ban will take effect.

The decision by the FA-appointed three-man Independent Regulatory Commission to hand Suarez one of the biggest punishments in the history of the English game has shocked many of the club’s fans. The Merseyside club’s manager Kenny Dalglish issued his message of support for the player tweeting: "Very disappointed with today's verdict. This is a time when Luis needs our support. Let's not let him walk alone."

The Uruguayan official tweeter page @luis16suarez is generating countless support messages. The buzz on the internet slaying the FA, labeled “Fergie Association” and Evra is unprecedented.


Methinks that the decision has taken the whole rivalry between the two clubs to a whole new level. The two clubs are not only the most successful clubs in England but are fierce rivals, thanks to that “knock off the perch” talk.


Should the ban be effected, Suarez will miss, among others, three crunch matches against Manchester City, two in the Carling Cup and one in the Premier league. However, he should be available on February 11 when Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the premier league. However, the two clubs could also meet in the FA Cup should the Red Devils United sail past city Rivals Manchester City in and then they are drawn together. 


The ban will definitely send Liverpool shopping for a marquee striker in January. It will also give Andy Caroll the chance to prove that he belongs at Anfield. However, bringing the Geordie into the team will also affect how Liverpool play, thanks to his aerial abilities.


The next few weeks could be so interesting at Anfield. But the Reds-Red Devils rivalry just got a notch higher. Hey, Evra, you would better not go shopping in Merseyside.


And That’s thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Far can Tottenham Hotspur Go?

Tottenham's Luca Modric celebrates a goal against Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-0 win over Sunderland over the weekend saw them leapfrog Chelsea into third place in the Barclays Premier League. Roman Pavlyuchenko scored the all important goal in the 61st minute to give Harry Redknapp’s side the three points which took them to third place with 34 points, only seven behind Manchester City but with a game in hand.

The Lilywhites have been in red-hot form since suffering a 3-0 loss to Manchester United in the opening day of the season before being humiliated 5-1 by Manchester City immediately after. But since then, they have won all but two matches, a 2-1 loss to Tony Pulis’ Stoke City and a 2-2 draw with Newcastle United.

The men of White Hart Lane have swept aside Liverpool 4-0, beat Arsenal 2-1 and come from behind to register a 3-1 win over West Brom among a string of fine performances.

The results have confirmed that Tottenham will be among the strongest contenders for not only a Champions League berth, but should their fine rich of form continue, they will give a valiant fight for the premier league title.

An exit from the demanding Europa League left them with only the Premier League and FA Cup to contest for. However, this could work in their favour as it gives the players enough time to rest and prepare for matches than traverse Europe every Thursday then travel back to England to honour weekend matches.

A trip to Chelsea is imminent. Avoiding a home defeat against the London rivals coupled with away wins over promoted sides Swansea and Norwich will see them finish the year placed third at worst, depending on how Manchester United fair in their end year fixtures.

Two things will determine whether Spurs have the grit to last the race and probably win the premier league come May. First, they have to get hold of their stars.

The club’s player of the year, Luca Modric, was subject of a transfer saga in the summer. The deep-lying midfielder was on the brink of moving to Chelsea but manager Harry Redknapp put a spirited fight which eventually saw the switch to their cross-town rivals collapse.

Not many big deals happen in the short January transfer window but Andre Villas Boas needs to sign and may be tempted to make another move for the Croat international.

Gareth Bale is another star player Spurs would have to grip on. The 22-year-old was once the talk of the footballing world especially after his startling performance against Inter Milan in the Champions League. Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid were all linked with the flying Welshman. A big-money transfer to any club or an injury to the swift winger will hurt Harry’s side, like it did last season.

Spurs should thus keep their promise and not sell any of their pinup players in January. Emmanuel Adebayor has proved that he is one of the top goal poachers in the Premier League. The renaissance of Jermain Defoe, the reliable nature of Rafael Van Der Vaart, and the Duracell-like work ethic of summer signing Scott Parker means that Tottenham are as good as they get in the premier league. A few more signing to add depth to the squad, which already looks strong enough, won’t do any disfavor to the club.

Secondly, Spurs will have to survive a run of tough games towards in the second half of the season, especially towards end of January, into February and March. A January 22nd match-up with Man City will be followed with a home game against Wigan. They will then travel to both Liverpool and Arsenal with a home fixture against Newcastle sandwiched in between. Manchester United (Home), Everton (Away), Stoke (Home) and Chelsea (Away), will bring an end to a series of uncompromising fixtures that will either make or break their season.

It will be interesting to see how Totteham will fair in these crunch matches. Whether they will experience the collapse Newcastle United are undergoing or push to the decisive end is a case of wait and see. But as of now, it can safely be concluded that they look as formidable an opposition as they come.

The club's Latin motto is Audere est Facere (To Dare Is to Do). They are daring to win the premier league now. But can they do it?

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

AC Milan v Arsenal, Napoli v Chelsea the Pick of Champions League Last 16

Premier League side Arsenal have landed the draw that all top-seeded teams were aiming to avoid after being paired with seven-time Champions League winners AC Milan in the knockout stages. The two teams last met on the same stage in 2008 when Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor both scored as the Gunners won 2-0 at the San Siro.

Andre Villas Boas’ Chelsea will also have an Italian job in their hands when they travel to Naples to meet Napoli who conquered Manchester City on their way to the knockout stages.

Defending champions Barcelona have been drawn against Bayer Leverkusen while fellow La Liga giants Real Madrid will have a relatively easy task when they face CSKA Moscow.

Debutants Zenit St Petersburg, who reached the last 16 for the first time in two attempts, will play their two-leg encounter with Portugal’s Benfica, while surprise qualifiers Apoel Nicosia from Cyprus will face Olympique Lyon.

Other favourites to lift the crown this year, Bayern Munich will have the task of going past Swiss side Basel who conquered last season’s finalists Manchester United.

Olympic Marseille landed an encounter with Inter Milan. The opening round of first leg matches will be played on February 14/15 with the remainder a week later on February 21/22.

The return legs will be played on March 6/7 with the rest being played out on March 13/14.

Meanwhile in the Europa League, Manchester City have been drawn against Andre Villas Boas' former side FC Porto. City rivals Manchester United who also fell to the lower tier of European football will face Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam while Stoke City have been drawn against La Liga side Valencia.

FC Porto v Manchester City
Ajax Amsterdam v Manchester United
Lokomotiv Moscow v Athletic Bilbao
FC Salzburg v Metalist Kharkiv
Stoke City v Valencia
Rubin Kazan v Olympiacos
AZ Alkmaar v Anderlecht
Lazio v Atletico Madrid
Steaua Bucuresti v FC Twente
                                                            Viktoria Plzen v Schalke
                                                               Wisla Krakow v Standard Liege
                                                               SC Braga v Besiktas 
                                                               Udinese v PAOK
                                                               Trabzonspor v PSV Eindhoven
                                                               Hannover 96 v Brugge 
                                                               Legia Warszawa v Sporting Club

And That's thesteifmastertake!! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Liverpool Need a Striker - But Who?

LIVERPOOL need a new striker. Well, that’s a fact that former Liverpool tactician Rafa Benitez will agree with in totality. The goals simply haven’t been coming for the Merseyside club.

SCORING 18goals in 15matches is not a record a club aiming to finish in the top four and guarantee European football next season would want to be associated with. Heck! Even, Bolton, the team lying rock bottom in the premier league have scored more.

LIVERPOOL’S lack of goals may be down to two reasons. One, the proverbial beauty and the beast partnership between Luis Suarez and Andy Caroll has come to no good. 

THE two were touted as potentially the best strike partnership in the premier league. Suarez was supposed to be the creator, Caroll, the natural finisher. From headers inside the opposition penalty area to left and right foot drives from outside the box. Even Stewart Downing was signed to feed the Geordie’s head with balls, only for the him to nod them in. I wouldn’t want to delve into the problems with Andy Caroll because enough has already been written across the web, some legitimate, some a wee bit shortsighted and off the cuff.

THE second reason has been the profligacy of the players in front of goal. Opta, the match statistics guru will not only tell you that Liverpool have hit the post the most number of times in the premier league – and they continue doing so even in their latest match against Queens Park Rangers – but they’ll also tell you that they have the least chance conversion rate, converting the lowest percentage of shots into goals this season at 8.9%. 

GOALKEEPERS from Manchester United’s David De Gea to Man City’s Joe Hart to Michel Vorm of Swansea have all looked inspired to produce the form of their lives especially at Anfield. They have kept Liverpool from turning a single point into three. But this shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat.

LIVERPOOL seem to be lacking that killer man in the opposition penalty area. A Mario Gomez-esque frontman who does more of scoring than scuffing clear-cut efforts wide.

AND as the January transfer window approaches, the rumours are back and Liverpool, like it always happens when such a period is nigh, is being linked with all manner of players.

MENTIONING Fernando Torres among the likely suitors for Liverpool should be an abomination, given the circumstances under which the Spaniard left the club. But this hasn’t stopped all manner of websites, including the Daily Mail from linking him with a return to a club he ditched for a “bigger team”, Chelsea.

SHOULD Liverpool buy him back? Should they even consider a loan move should that be an option? These are the questions many KOPS are asking themselves now. The answer of course depends on how much the fans think El Nino betrayed the club, and whether you think he could revive that form that saw him bang in 65 goals in only 102 appearances in his 4-year stint at Liverpool. With Chelsea, he’s only managed a return of three goals in 25 appearances.

CRAIG Bellamy returned, so did Robbie Fowler. Michael Owen almost returned. Alonso’s return is still a thought so common in many of the Kopites’ mind. Heck! The King also returned! But the difference lies in the fact that none of these players or the manager handed in a transfer request like Nando did. And none of them insinuated that Liverpool was a smaller team than any of the teams they moved to. Nando did. And that is could prove to be a big problem.

BUT the biggest fix is whether Chelsea will allow the club’s and premier league record signing to leave Stamford Bridge. Villas Boas has already reiterated that Torres will not be sold saying, “'Fernando Torres is not for sale at any price, now or in the summer.”

ALL managers say that, but players still move. Nando is no different. Should Torres decide to put his nightmarish stay in London behind him, it will be at an astronomical loss to the club because I don’t see any club willing to pay anything beyond £30 million for the 27-year-old.

A swap deal with Barcelona which will see David Villa leave Camp Nou for London has been mulled over but I don’t see the La Liga Champions recruiting a player who doesn’t look the bit a player he once was.

VILLA is another player Liverpool has been linked with in recent days. The all-time leading goal scorer for the Spanish national team is reported to have fallen out with Lionel Messi and was dropped from the starting line-up in the crunch El Classico clash with Real Madrid. The latter move added fuel into the speculations that the former Valencia forward was looking into moving to another club, with Chelsea and Liverpool his likely brooding grounds should El Guaje move to England.

THE former Valencia hitman has scored five times in 15 league appearances for the Blaugrana this season and looks certainly a better piece of business than Torres. But with reports indicating that Villa could be out with a broken leg for up to six months (hence eliminating him from any January deals), a transfer looks dead at least until the summer transfer window.

SHOULD Liverpool fail to capture any of these two players, the likes of Lucas Podolski and Mario Gomez can be used as fallback options.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!