Tuesday, December 30, 2008

FutureShocks: Liverpool Win EPL, Fergie Resigns, Arsenal Turmoil and Hull Fall

Just imagine if...

Liverpool were crowned Premiership Champions last week. But the news moves quickly as today's story is Arsenal's continuing decline, and Spurs being involved in a match fixing scandal with Liverpool and Alex Ferguson's shock resignation from United. Here's a brief rundown of this week's news...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Manager of the Year 2008: Roy Hodgson

Exactly one year ago, Roy Hodgson took over as Fulham manager after Lawrie Sanchez's ill fated run. The team were in disarray and were conceding goals at an alarming rate and relegation looked a foregone conclusion. And just to rub salt in their wounds, Roy Hodgson found himself taking over on the verge of the crunch tie with Chelsea, a match that saw Fulham sink to even lower depths after a 2-1 defeat.

Move forward a year, and Fulham sit comfortably in mid-table. They are unbeaten in seven games, only Manchester United have conceded fewer goals and today they dealt a massive blow to Chelsea's title ambitions by claiming a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage, a real fortress under Hodgson.

West Brom Given Hope in Relegation Dogfight

The relegation dogfight took another turn at the Hawthornes today, as West Brom beat Spurs in a real six pointer.

Heading into this afternoon's game, West Brom were five points behind Spurs. A defeat would have seen them cut adrift, as we head into the second half of the season.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Arsene Wenger Blows a Fuse After "Villains" Visit the Ref at Halftime

Arsene Wenger was said to be furious following their encounter with Aston Villa last night. The Villains secured a 2-2 draw with almost the last kick of the game deep into injury time.

The Arsenal boss vented his fury in an outburst aimed at Aston Villa's management and the referee after it emerged that Martin O'Neill's assistant John Robertson visited the referee's dressing room at half-time to have a "chat" with the officials.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Profiles of the Great and Good: Garry Brooke—Better To Be Lucky Than Good

There are very few outside Spurs who would have heard of Garry Brooke, come to think of it, there are few Spurs fans who would even remember his time at White Hart Lane.

But Brooke earned a place in the clubs history, winning two FA Cup medals, playing 75 matches and scoring 15 goals has ensured that Brooke's name will go down in the Tottenham opus.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

As Dimitar Berbatov Heads To Utd, Who's To Blame? And What Do Spurs Do Now?

The death knell rang on Dimitar Berbatov's time at Spurs on Saturday after he was left out of the squad to face Roy Keane's improving Sunderland.

Monday, December 15, 2008

They Think It's All Over...EPL GameDay 17: Owen, Keane, Gomes, Gabby & Ince....

Gameday 17 of the English Premier League was all about managers and strikers, on and off the pitch. Michael Owen continued his return to form with a goal that set up Newcastle's 3-0 win over Portsmouth.

Gabriel Agbonlahor scored a couple for Aston Villa to enhance his already growing reputation, Didier Drogba came off the bench to change the complexion of the tie against West Ham, and Robbie Keane was firmly rooted to the bench as Rafael Benitez defied all known logic in leaving a £20M striker on the sidelines getting splinters while he made three baffling substitutions.

All good talking points, so let's move on...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

EPL: The Battle for 4th. Arsenal vs. Aston Villa Preview

Arsenal travel to Villa Park today in what looks like being another crunch match in the Gunners' up and down season. The battle for fourth place has intensified over recent weeks as Arsenal's poor form has been matched by Aston Villa's good form, the recent match between the two at the Emirates being a perfect example of both sides' seasons to date.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Luck Of Munich; as Bayern Snatch a Win at the Death Against Hoffenheim

In Germany, there's a saying about Bayern Munich, roughly translated it means "The luck of Munich." A testament to their ability over the years to grind out results when it looked unlikely.

Saturday's victory over high-flying Hoffenheim was exactly this type of result. Coming from a goal down to win the game in injury time, Hoffenheim manager Ralf Rangnick could be forgiven for thinking that Lady Luck was a Bayern supporter.

The highly anticipated clash between the best two sides in the country had captured the nation's attention, and rightly so.

Hoffenheim have been a breath of fresh air this season, playing magnificent football on their way to the summit, whereas Bayern, under a new manager in Klinsmann have struggled to hit the heights their supporters demand.

And heading into this first clash between Munich and Hoffenheim, the Bayern fans knew that a victory was essential, to keep within touching distance of the new arrivals with the winter break on the horizon.

The match between the top two was also a real "David and Goliath" type clash, Hoffenheim have come from no-where in a relatively short time to challenge the might of the Bundesliga establishment, leaving almost every team in their wake.

So far this season they have hammered giants Hamburg and Dortmund 3-0 and 4-1 respectively, they have played the most imaginative football seen in Germany in years and striker Vedad Ibisevic is the toast of Europe after notching up 18 goals so far this term.

Undaunted by what they faced, Ralf Rangnick stuck with the fluid 4-3-3 formation that has served Hoffenheim so well this season. And they started brightly, dominating possession in midfield without really creating any chances, but they never really let Bayern into the game.

Despite this, Bayern always looked dangerous when they used the direct approach, and Italian striker Luca Toni caused the Hoffenheim central defenders a lot of problems with his physical prowess.

Any chances that Hoffenheim created in the first half were easily dealt with by Rensing in the Bayern goal, and as the game reached half time the league leaders could feel happy with their shift, Munich had been rendered impotent by their crisp passing and their ability to close the game down.

Both managers would have given contrasting speeches at half time. Rangnick would have told Hoffenheim to keep playing as they were and a goal would come, while Klinnsman would have been furious with his charges, one could imagine the air turning blue in the red dressing room.

With the second half underway, it looked as if Rangnick's talk had won the battle of the managers.

Hoffenheim, instead of starting brightly, started like a whirlwind.

Munich were swept aside as Ibsevic continued his fine form in front of goal with a brilliantly taken strikers goal, reminiscent of the great Gerd Muller.

After a brilliant one-two between Tobias Weis and Salihovic, Weis found himself in space on the right hand side of the box. His drilled low cross went behind Ibsevic, but he controlled it perfectly, and as the ball sat up slightly behind him, he drilled it home giving Rensing no chance.

Ibsevic has been a revelation within a revelation this season, and is now one of the hottest strikers plying his trade in Europe at the moment. His form is such, that he is now being compared to German goalscoring legend, Gerd Muller. And his strike against Bayern on Saturday bore remarkable resemblance to Muller's famous strike against Holland in '74.

Munich began to fade under intense pressure, as Hoffenheim went in search of the killer blow, and Klinsmann was frantic in the technical area as he tried to get instructions to his players.

They rode the storm, and "luck" played it's part. Lucio, Van Buyten, and Rensing were magnificent during this onslaught as Salihovic, Ibsevic, and Obasi all had chances to increase the scoring for Hoffenheim.

After coming through ten minutes of Hoffenheim peppering their goal, Munich began to settle, and won a corner. The corner was dealt with easily and the ball was cleared to Lahm on the halfway line.

For once Hoffenheim didn't close a player down, leaving Lahm with acres of space to run into, he powered his way to the edge of the box and shot at the goal, the ball taking a massive deflection which looped the ball over a stranded Haas, to make the scores level.

The goal took the wind from Hoffenheim's sails and directed it towards Munich, who now attacked with real confidence, the game flowing from end to end as the teams went in search of a winner.

Both sides went close, the best of Bayern's chances falling to Luca Toni. The big Italian has wrestled with his confidence this season, only returning seven goals from 16 games. His lack of confidence evident as he failed to dispatch two great chances with the goal begging.

Hoffenheim weren't out of the game either, Rensing pulled off a number of saves to keep his side in the game, before Salihovic missed a glorious chance in the 88th minute when it looked easier to score, firing tamely at Ransing.

With the game moving into injury time, Rensing cleared it long towards Toni, the Bayern forward won the header but the ball went straight up into the air, as both players looked for the ball, it bounced kindly for Toni who played it through for Klose.

But he was tackled by Beck who knocked the ball back towards his box, effectively playing a one-two with Toni, his first touch was heavy and as he was charged down he struck an on rushing Haas with the ball, it barely had enough legs to carry the ball over the goal line. Bayern had won the match in injury time. "The luck of Bayern" had played it's part again.

In winning, Bayern are now level on points with Hoffenheim at the top of the table. And with next weekends game being the last before the winter break, the result can't be underestimated.

It was a fantastic game of football, one of the best the Bundesliga has seen in years, unfortunately Hoffeheim came off at the wrong end of the result.

How they react in their next game will speak volumes of their title credentials, lose with Bayern winning and they face a long break thinking of what might have been.

Ralf Rangnick may have brought them to dine with the greats of German football, but the main meal has yet to be served, and it remains to be seen whether Hoffenheim have the appetite for a season long tussle with Bayern.

Hopefully the fairytale will bring us right to the end of the season, and if it produces another match like this, no one will complain.

twitter / WillieGannon

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Darren Anderton Retired Today, But He Bowed Out in Style for Bournemouth

In his final match as a professional footballer, ex-Spurs, Portsmouth, and England player Darren Anderton came off the bench to score from the edge of the box with a trademark finish to secure vital points for Bournemouth as they strive to fight off the threat of relegation from League Two.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The FA Decide Not To Take Action Against Liverpool Over Michael Shields Shirts

The FA today decided not to take any action against Liverpool FC after its players wore t-shirts supporting jailed Michael Shields during the warm up against West Ham on Monday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Roy Keane and the Influence of Brian Clough: Why He Won't Resign from Sunderland

Despite Roy Keane stating that he is unsure whether he will stay at Sunderland or resign after a poor run of results, I am of the firm belief that he is going nowhere. And furthermore, that he has no intentions of going anywhere until a job comes up that he considers a step up.

To understand why I believe Keane has no intention of resigning, I'll go into his background a little.