Posts Tagged ‘EPL’

THE FIFA PRO XI OF 2012

Awards, accolades and acknowledgement for outstanding performance in any sphere in life are appreciated but when the award begins to lose credibility, there’s a need for a review.

The surprising FIFA Pro XI of 2012 comprised of players from just three football clubs based in Europe precisely Spain; a league where we have two gladiators and 18 other participants. Is football played in Spain alone? Well, Yes!! No!!!

It is the home of current World champions and back-to-back European champions. So why not?

My targets below are positions I think the technical team could have considered someone else.

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In goalIker Casillas of Real Madrid and Spain was picked. No doubt, Saint Iker had an outstanding first half of the year where his Real Madrid side ended Barcelona hegemony and won the league but it wasn’t his heroics that brought the title – rather, it was the ruthless attacking machines of Jose Mourinho side that secured the title. Iker also led Spain to an unprecedented triumph at the Euros and perhaps that could have pushed it his way but his poor form since the start of this season makes me question his inclusion.

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Right Back – Dani Alves. Undoubtedly the best attacking full back when in his element but he will certainly want to forget 2012 in a hurry. His below par performances for Barca and as well as his frequent visit to the treatment table ensured Copa del Rey title was Los Cules only title of 2012. The way fellow country man Ramires exposed him during the UEFA Champions League semi final match at Stamford Bridge summarizes his poor year.

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Centre Half – Gerard Pique. How in the world does he make it? As much as I rate Gerard, his performance last year does not come close to his personal best let alone make the pro team. His former coach Pep Guardiola confirmed Pique’s attention was elsewhere during the course of last season and he hasn’t hit the peak this term. Vincent Kompany, Matt Hummels and Giorgio Chiellini are guys that would challenge him effectively.

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Xavi Hernandez – Central Midfield. I can’t fault the orchestra but the music of 2012 was not exceptional. Everyone knows Xavi’s quality – precise pass accuracy, controlling the tempo of games and popping up with the goals but all this could not help the Blaugranas to either La Liga or UCL success. Juventus maestro Andrea Pirlo waved his magic in Turin and across Italy in serie A games. He was without a doubt the star for La Nazionale during the Euro 2012.

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Radamel Falcao – Forward. Who has got a natural striking instinct in the world that comes close to Falcao today? No one! We are blessed with a natural number 9 in the Colombian forward who terrorized defenses in La Liga and Europe last season enroute Los Colchoneros Europa league triumph but I’d argue that Ivorien striker Didier Drogba deserves a place in this XI because he rises to the big occasion. The Drog was the secret weapon behind Chelsea’s maiden European triumph last season which I feel was the biggest achievement in European football considering how their season panned out. Based on that, I will put Drogba slightly ahead of Falcao.

The whole list can be scrutinized hence the motive behind this article but above all, I would like to congratulate every member of the FIFA Pro XI 2012. I bet many people disagree with FIFA as well as my position. Please use the comment box beneath to express yourselves.

Thank you.

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WHO IS KEY TO ARSENAL’S SUCCESS THIS SEASON?

…exciting times ahead at The Emirates?

Seven years of fruitful harvest, seven seasons of famine. Does the biblical story relate to a certain North London club? I think so! The Gunners sudden change in status from genuine title contenders to pretenders in the last few years has been surprising.  Arsenal has become a perpetual selling club losing their key players to local and European rivals.

Wenger and the board have continued to convince their fans that the club is headed in the right direction financially but for the suffering supporters, they have continued to endure taunts from fans in West London, Liverpool and Manchester.

Every season starts with huge optimism and expectation but as the season winds down, it seem to be the same old story of misery.

Perhaps 2012/13 season may be different, despite losing former Captain Robin Van Persie and influential midfield man Alex Song to Manchester United and Barcelona respectively, Arsenal have made a good start to the season with one win and two draws.

Five out of a possible nine points is a good start? Yes, considering how they kicked off last season. Their impressive victory over Liverpool gives room for optimism and how they have shut out their opponents from scoring in 270 minutes of play.

I have picked three key men who I feel will be crucial to the Gunners success this season.

STEVE BOULD

… marshaling the defence from the dugout

The former Stoke City, Arsenal and Sunderland defender had an illustrious playing career of 20 years has been promoted to the role of assistant manager at the club and has been saddled with the responsible of ensuring the back line is much tighter than it was before. Three games played, no goals conceded despite the absence of Koscienly and Sagna and maybe Andre Santos. The Gunners back four have stifled opponents, shielded their goal and are well coordinated when set pieces are whipped in. It is well documented fact that as long as your opponent don’t score, they are not likely to win. Scoring has never been a problem at the North London club with Professor Wenger’s philosophy and brand of football.

Steve’s role is keeping the defense performance top-notch. Time will tell if the early praises are not too premature.

ABOU DIABY

..can he stay fit?

Has the hour cometh for the man dubbed the new Patrick Vieira to finally lay claim to that huge comparison? Since his arrival at the club, only a few which includes Arsene Wenger have believed in the French man. A broken ankle stalled his progress as a youngster upon his arrival from France, his fitness has seen been a concern for his followers coupled with his indifferent form. The elusive midfielder has started the season well with a man of the match performance against Liverpool where he pulled the strings effectively. Such performance highlights the qualities seen in him when Wenger sanctioned his move from Auxerre to North London in the January 2006.

If he stays fit and can keep his level of performance high, he is a player who can lift his team above many on his day. I am of the opinion that Diaby’s performance for the Gunners is vital to their campaign this time around.

SANTI CAZORLA

…pulling all the strings in midfield

Once again, Arsene Wenger has shown us that he is still a master at wheeling and dealing. The capture of Santi Cazorla from Malaga is probably the best piece of business in terms of incoming player  the willy old French man has done most recently. The diminutive Spanish winger/playmaker is the closest thing to Andres Iniesta on the football pitch. Cazorla offers both feet and subtle skills, excellent crosses, powerful shot and he’s got to be the new jewel in the crown for the Gunners.

His link up plays with Diaby in the middle of the park shows a player who is ready to take up responsibility. Oliver Giroud and Lukas Podolski need to make the appropriate runs for the Spanish international to find them on the field – an example was Podolski’s first goal for Arsenal against Liverpool. He also adds his own fair share of goals from direct free-kicks and log range shots. The 5ft 6” man early season impression is leaving the Gunners excited about the prospect of a season deemed to be another long one after the exit of their erstwhile captain and talisman.

The season is just getting under way but these three men will need to play their significant roles to perfection if the Gunners will be celebrating for the first time at the Emirates.

I reckon you agree or disagree. You can have your say………

Why Brendan Rodgers must not walk alone

***Before we go on, since this post is about Liverpool, it is nice to spare a thought for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.  We hope the verdict of this week eventually gets them the justice they deserve, it might be delayed, but lets hope justice is not denied****

We on Redjiblog are walking with them, they are not walking alone.

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“The king is back” was the glorious chorus being chanted on Meyerside upon Dalglish’s return. He was perceived to be the Messiah the new owners were talking about. Eighteen months later, King Kenny brought success in the form of the League cup and the FA Cup runners up medal, but couldn’t resurrect the Reds league form.

Someone had to pay the price. Fenway Sports Group reviewed the 2011/12 season where 110 million GBP was spent in the transfer market on players with very little to show for it – Dalglish was fired, Rodgers replaced him.

At the unveiling ceremony, club owner, John W. Henry said;

“Brendan Rodgers’s appointment today as manager of Liverpool Football Club is one of the most important steps we will take in building the kind of club on and off the pitch supporters can be excited about.”

It is three weeks into the 2012/13 season with Liverpool haven played seven competitive matches already securing three victories, two draws and two defeats. Perhaps the results in the EPL are the ones with cause for concern for their followers considering that they are winless after three rounds of games.

Tough(er) job?

Is this the excitement promised by Rodgers and Henry?

In a bid to defend the club’s new philosophy, the owner released wrote an open letter to the fans and this was quite significant

“”No one should doubt our commitment to the club. In Brendan Rodgers we have a talented young manager and we have valued highly his judgement about the make-up of the squad. This is a work in progress. It will take time for Brendan to instil his philosophy into the squad and build exactly what he needs for the long term.”

Rodgers has been saddled with the responsibility of charting a new path for Liverpool by investing in the youth which guarantees a future while playing attractive football and be competitive on a tight budget. It is very clear that he has quite a challenge at hand. The expectation of the Reds supporter is lofty, considering how the Northern Irish man’s former team (Swansea) played last season in their first season in the top flight.

Like every new manager, he has dipped his hands into the market to acquire players he feels will fit into his philosophy. The most notables are Fabio Borini from AS Roma, Joe Allen from Swansea City and Nuri Sahin on-loan from Real Madrid. Players have been promoted from the academy to the first team to gather experience as they build towards the future.

Now, let’s look at the team in prospect.

As it has been in the past few years, Pepe Reina is the first-choice goalkeeper at Anfield and would be assumed he is the ideal last line of defense for Rodgers; his position wouldn’t be threatened with backup options Alex Doni and Brad Jones not top-notch.

Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger were successfully retained at the club along with Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson. The same defensive unit of last season will continue. The same cannot be said for the midfield that lost Brazilian anchor man Lucas Leiva through injury last season and had to rely on unproven back-ups. Jay Spearing and misfit Charlie Adam have been shipped out paving way for Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin with Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson serving as back up.

Scoring was the biggest problem encountered last season. Suarez and Borini are the centre forwards available in the first team with the Uruguay born forward as the most recognized striker saddled with the responsibility of getting the goals. His tricks and intelligent movement can compete with Lionel Messi while his execution and finishing leaves much to be desired  with just 23 goals and 15 assist in 56 appearances for Liverpool, it shows he doesn’t have the capacity to carry this enormous weight on his shoulders.

Brendan has his work cut out!

Where will the goals come from? His philosophy will require sufficient time for it to be transfused into his new team as they embark on a new journey.

The American owner stressed;

“No one should doubt our commitment to the club. In Brendan Rodgers we have a talented young manager and we have valued highly his judgement about the make-up of the squad. This is a work in progress. It will take time for Brendan to instil his philosophy into the squad and build exactly what he needs for the long term.

We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes. It will not happen overnight. It has been compounded by our own mistakes in a difficult first two years of ownership. It has been a harsh education, but make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over.

That ethos is to win. We will invest to succeed. But we will not mortgage the future with risky spending.

“It will not be easy, it will not be perfect, but there is a clear vision at work.”

The early signs have shown that it would neither be easy nor perfect but the WORK IS IN PROGRESS. The future looks bright with youngster like Raheem Sterling, Oussama Assaidi, Daniel Pacheco, etc who are coming through the ranks while veterans Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard  will step to the back stage quietly.

John W. Henry’s letter indicates the board position and their willingness in backing up this new project but I reckon they will have to do more than an open letter in the coming months as Brendan Rodgers tries to navigate the Reds’ ship through difficult storms created by previous regimes.

Rodgers must not be allowed to walk alone even in the coldest night.

Will He Never Walk Alone?

Underrated Bent joins the Centurions

100 and counting...

Last Wednesday, Darren Bent joined the exclusive class of players who have scored at least 100 premier league goals. This is not mean feat considering the quality players who have played in the Premier League with only 20 scoring over a hundred goals.

The 27 years old England poacher said

It meant the world, It was fantastic to score my 100th in a Villa jersey. That meant a lot to me. It meant the world to me actually.”

Bent is one of the finest strikers in terms of goals-to-games ratio, he has been consistent at all of his clubs, but endured a nightmare spell with Tottenham before finding his feet again.

A product of Ipswich’s youth system, he broke into the first team in 2001-02 and he banged 18 goals in all competitions. Two more solid years saw him emerge as a real talent before Charlton Athletic came calling. The striker joined the Addicks during their struggling period in the Premier League, he still bagged 32 goals in 68 starts for a team which was eventually relegated in 2007

He moved on to Tottenham Hotspurs for a club record fee of £16.5 million. It proved to be a frustrating experience as he found first team opportunities hard to come by and he failed to hit the net with the same regularity, bagging 18 in his two seasons at White Hart Lane.

Sunderland snapped him up for £12 million in 2009 and his career was back on track again with a career high of 24 goals in 38 games in his first season which saw him finish as the 3rd top scorer in the Premier League. However, a shock bid from Aston Villa saw him move south in January 2011 for a record fee of around £24 million.

Bent hasn’t been accorded the respect he deserves. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp once made this comment after a Bent miss

“You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one”.

Despite finishing third top scorer behind Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney in the 2009-10 season, Fabio Capello couldn’t find a place for him on the plane to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The fast, powerful, quick and incisive striker said

“If I could get another 100 in the Claret and Blue I’d be happy, delighted. It would really be fantastic.

An affirmation of his commitment to Aston Villa.

Congratulations to Darren Bent!

Here are the other exclusive members of the illustrious group.

  1. Alan SHEARER –  260 PL goals
  2. Andy COLE – 187 PL goals
  3. Thierry HENRY – 175 PL goals
  4. Robbie FOWLER – 163 PL goals
  5. Les FERDINAND – 149 PL goals
  6. Michael OWEN – 149 PL goals
  7. Frank LAMPARD – 148 PL goals
  8. Teddy SHERINGHAM – 147 PL goals
  9. Robbie KEANE – 148 PL goals
  10. Wayne ROONEY – 132 PL goals
  11. Jimmy Floyd HASSELBAINK – 127 PL goals
  12. Dwight YORKE – 123 PL goals
  13. Nicolas ANELKA – 123 PL goals
  14. Emile HESKEY – 117 PL goals
  15. Ian WRIGHT – 113 PL goals
  16. Dion DUBLIN – 111 PL goals
  17. Ryan GIGGS – 111 PL goals
  18. Paul SCHOLES – 103 goals
  19. Matthew LE TISSIER – 101 goals

What next for Carlos Tevez?

No Love Lost

I got my first glimpse of Carlos Alberto Tevez during the FIFA u-17 World Cup hosted by Trindad and Tobago in 2001. His goal celebration caught my attention during their semi-final loss to France. He pulled his shirt off and to my surprise, I saw a full grown man with a hairy chest at age 17.

Carlos’ professional career has been hugely successful but it has also been accompanied with its bags and bags of controversies and issues. His protracted ownership right alongside his country man Javier Mascherano who both moved from Corinthians to West Ham in the summer of 2006 couldn’t be resolved until Manchester City acquired his full rights in 2009.

During his second season of his loan spell at Manchester United, he showed a lot of animosity when he dropped down the pecking order. One of his famous act of cynicism was him standing right in front of the Man Utd dug out with his hands to his ears (a gesture to SAF to listen) as the Old Trafford fans were chanting his name after his goal against Manchester City. A few months later, he was on the other side.

Tevez was signed by Hughes but was made captain by Mancini when the Italian replaced the Welsh man. The Argentine was arguably City’s best player in his first two seasons at the club despite his numerous outburst of being unsettled in England and had his fixed eyes on the exit door.

The day it all went south...

Manchester City managed to deal with his tantrums quite well and the manager even appeared to be a partial with the way he handled Carlos’ case when one compares it with the situation of Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy who were turned to outcasts. Every beginning they say must have an end so it is in Tevez’ case. His Munich refusal to warm up and play in a UCL game against Bayern appeared to be the final straw that broke the camel’s back. He has been suspended indefinitely from the first team and in a bid to force his way out of the club, Carlos went AWOL in November and vowed never to return to the club.

Livin' Lavida Loca?

His club responded by freezing his salary account at the end of November. A total of £9.3m has been taken away from the Argentine in fines, lost wages and bonuses since the start of this season.

The final resolution to the problem is for both parties to part.

AC Milan and a host of other clubs signified their intention to sign the embattled striker but City have refused to be bullied into selling a disgruntled star at a cut price.

Manchester City have warned Milan that they are “not an option” for Carlos Tevez unless the £30m price-tag is met, despite their “misplaced sense of confidence.” According to reports, the AC Milan’s negotiating team have agreed personal terms with the players and hope to use that as a means for City to lower their asking price.
The usually quiet Abu Dhabi owners have finally broken their silence on the matter to express their anger about what they regard as Milan trying to engineer a way to sign Tevez on the cheap.
On the other hand, PSG, another front runner for Tevez signature look to have pulled out of the race. Their Sporting Director, Leonardo told L’Equipe,

“We’ve ended the talks, there was an opportunity to sign him, but it is over. We did our calculations, we made a good offer but we’ve been unable to reach an agreement. We don’t intend to overpay in order to sign him.”

With just a day left in the January transfer window, it appears all parties involved in the Tevez saga have reached an impasse.

Manchester City have refused to budge. Milan who can’t match City’s demand have opted to sign another Argentine, Maxi Lopez from Catania. This may signal the end of their pursuit.

All interested clubs have in one form or the other backed out, what becomes of Carlos Tevez from now till the end of the season if no one comes to bail him out of his wilderness by 11:59pm, January 31, 2012?

In Arsene We Trust?!

In Arsene We Trust? Or Rut?

Over the years, a large percentage of Arsenal followers have always put their faith in the “professor” and believed his judgment.

Pundits and skeptical fans have criticized his philosophy but everyone appears to agree that Arsene Wenger knows his onions and his decision should be respected if not necessarily appreciated.

The verbal assault has come in different form. His transfer recruitment policy, his preferred formation/tactics, perceived lack of hair-dryer treatment and now his substitutions.

In the midst of all this, the die-hard Gunners faithful always have a response to give – IN ARSENE WE TRUST.

Something strange happened at the Emirates stadium during Arsenal last league match against Manchester United. BIZARRE in the sense that in Wenger’s over 15 years reign in the North London, the entire stadium has never in unison chorused their disagreement like the one that happened when starlet Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain was substituted and replaced by Andrey Arshavin.

The moment that made the fans go mad

Chamberlain was the surprise name on the team sheet as he was included in the starting XI for the first time in the EPL and the young English man justified his inclusion with an awesome performance. His direct runs and dribbles gave seasoned veteran Evra a lot to ponder upon while switching to the other flank to torment Rafael da Silva. He capped his performance with an assist before he was substituted.

The decision to remove him was greeted with disapproval from the crowd, the expression of team captain (Robin Van Persie) and many who watched the game. In a contrast of fortune, Arshavin who replaced him showed his defensive vulnerability which led to the winning goal for the visitors – a defeat which leaves Arsenal in an uncomfortable position considering how their season has panned out so far.

After the game and in the mix zone, Arsene Wenger tried to defend himself;

“I’ve been a manager for 30 years and have made 50,000 substitutions. I don’t have to justify every one. I can understand that the fans are upset about the substitution, especially when it doesn’t work, but he had started to fatigue”.

This particular decision appears to have incurred the wrath of probably the most loyal Arsenal fan including the popular CNN man Piers Morgan as they are beginning to lose faith in Arsene.

1/10000th of what @piersmorgan had to say about the substitution and the boss

Football fans are as dynamic as the game itself. It keeps evolving. One bad decision however costly isn’t enough to make me doubt Professor Arsene Wenger.

IN ARSENE I STILL TRUST…… What about you? Lets hear your opinion on the Professor in the comment box.

EPL 2011-12 Season Preview (PART 1)

Will Chelsea, Manchester City and the others allow Man Utd make it five in six years?

What can Swansea city, Norwich City and QPR to do achieve survival?

It’s back!  The Barclays English Premier League will be kicking off today barring any further drama by looters rioters in England.  We all have waited for the new season to commence and so, let the games begin!

This preview is centered around the top-six sides since the former group of four has been extended to six by Tottenham and lately Manchester City while attention will also be on the bottom six.

THE TOP SIX

ARSENAL (finished 4th last season)
Transfers in: Alex Chamberlain(£15m), Gervinho (undisc.), Carl Jenkinson (undisc.)
Transfers out: Kyle Bartley (loan), Gael Clichy (undisc.), Thomas Cruise (free), Roarie Deacon (free), Denilson (loan), Mark Randall (free), Jay Emmanuel-Thomas(£1.1m), Wellington (loan)

For Arsenal fans, it has been more of another miserable summer for the Gooners faithful with Arsene Wenger’s dealings in the transfer market. Gervinho’s arrival from Lille appears the most significant of the signings made so far though there is still time to bring in additional new faces. Contract rebel Nasri and the age long drama between the London club and Barcelona on the subject Fabregas appears to be a distraction in their preparations for the new season. The pressure continues to pile more on the “Prof” as he searches for their first major silverware in the seventh season of drought or famine. In my opinion, Arsenal do not stand a chance in winning the EPL this season as it stands but I believe they can keep their top-four spot.

CHELSEA (finished 2nd last season)
Transfers in : Thibaut Courtois (undisc.), Oriol Romeu (£4.35m)
Transfers outFabio Borini (free), Thibaut Courtois (undisc.), Jeffrey Bruma (loan), Jack Cork (undisc.), Samuel Hutchinson (free), Carl Magnay (free), Michael Mancienne (undisc.), Danny Philliskirk (free), Jacopo Sala (free), Jan Sebek (free), Michael Woods (free), Yury Zhirkov (undisc)

Carlo’s exit paved way for Andres Villa-Boas entrance. The Portuguese tactician will be looking to address last season midway slump that saw them surrender their title. Michael Essien’s long term injury will either be a gift or a curse to the Blues – only time will tell. The aging squad is something of great concern but the manager sees numerous positives from his experience team but his major headache will be the £50million man and his return to goal scoring form for AVB side as they battle to reclaim their lost title.
Chelsea look to be taking another route this time as indicated by the recent arrivals of youngsters Oriol Romeu and Romelu Lukaku but I’m surprised the Mr Abramovich’s billions couldn’t land Javier Pastore with Luka Modric’s chase waning too.
The 33 years old knows success is all that matters in South-West London club for him to continue. They are the strongest threat to Manchester United for the league title this season in my opinion.

LIVERPOOL (finished 6th last season)
Transfers in: Charlie Adam (undisc.), Alexander Doni (free), Stewart Downing (undisc.), Jordan Henderson (undisc.), Sanchez Jose Enrique (undisc.)
Transfer out: Jason Banton(free), Gerardo Bruna (undisc.), Deale Chamberlain (free), Douglas Cooper (free), Stephen Darby (loan), Peter Gulacsi (loan), Martin Hansen (loan), Sean Highdale (free), Tom Ince (free), Steven Irwin (free), Milan Jovanovic (undisc.), Paul Konchesky (undisc.), Chris Mavinga(undis.), Nikola Saric (free)

Kenny Dalglish was brought in on a rescue mission last January to salvage a disastrous campaign. The aim for the new season will be different as he has busied himself during the close season to strengthen the average team of last season. The arrival of Adam from Blackpool should help ease the burden of skipper Gerrard who has been battling injuries. A natural wide man in Downing to provide Carroll with the goods combined with the craftiness of Suarez in addition with workaholic Kuyt makes The Reds a tough nut going forward. It’s the defense that needs some shoring up now. A good left back is required and it seems they have captured the signing of Jose Enrique from Newcastle. They would also require an additional centre back to provide competition for the aging Carragher and injury prone Agger. Where does that leave Skrtel?
With no European distraction, Liverpool will probably set a target of a top-four finish for themselves before they can start dreaming of the league title in subsequent seasons.
A top-four position is achievable for Kenny’s team in my view.

MANCHESTER CITY (finished 3rd last season)
Transfers in: Sergio Aguero (undisc.), Gael Clichy (undisc.), Costel Pantilimon (undisc.), Stefan Savic (undisc.)
Transfers out: Jerome Boateng(undisc), Javier Garrido (free), Shay Given(undisc.), David Gonzalez (loan), Jo (undisc), Michael Johnson (loan), Scott Kay (free), Shaleum Logan (free), Ben Mee (loan), James Poole (free), Kieran Trippier (loan), Andrew Tutte (free), Javan Vidal (free), Patrick Vieira (retired), James Wood (free)

Carlos Tevez’ transfer request drama rocked the Manchester based club but billionaires are never deterred. Club manager, Mancini with the backing of Sheikh Mansour has signed Sergio Aguero to boost their attacking option as they attempt to challenge for the Premier league crown. It remains to see how City manage their UCL adventure alongside the rigor of the league. Mancio days may be numbered if he doesn’t turn his multi-million side into a consistent winning team soon. Their catastrophic second half performance in the Community Shield should give him a lot to ponder on. Money isn’t a problem here, success is what is expected.
A top-four finish is the most I feel MCFC can achieve under Roberto Mancini this season.

MANCHESTER UNITED (finished 1st last season)
Transfers inDavid De Gea (undisc.), Phil Jones (£16.5m), Ashley Young (undisc.)
Transfers out: Nick Ajose (undisc.), Bebe (loan), Wes Brown (undisc.), Ritchie De Laet (loan), Conor Devlin (free), Joe Dudgeon (undisc.), Owen Hargreaves (free), Gary Neville (retired), Gabriel Obertan (undisc.), John O’Shea (undisc.), Paul Scholes (retired), Ryan Tunnicliffe (loan), Edwin van der Sar (retired), Scott Wootton (loan)

If there is a reason why MUFC have been the most consistent force in English top tier for almost two decades, it is all down to a particular 69 years old Knight. Sir Alex Ferguson has continued the tradition at Old Trafford of installing self-belief and a winning mentality to all his team from the youngsters to the established ones.
At the end of last season, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Edwin Van der Saar retired while Wes Brown, John O’Shea and the bit part Owen Hargreaves and Gabriel Obertan have moved away from the club. The arrival of Young, Jones and De Gea with the development of Welbeck, Cleverly and Smalling have ensured another seamless transition from one generation to another. United proved their class once again last sunday as they came from two goals down to scupper their noisy neighbours – a warning note to all their title rivals.
MUFC are undisputed favorites to the title this season.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (finished 5th last season)
Transfers in: Cristian Ceballos (free), Souleymane Coulibaly (undisc.), Brad Friedel (free)
Transfers out: Nathan Byrne (loan), Bongani Khumalo (loan), Paul-Jose M’Poku (undisc.), Kyle Naughton (loan), Jamie O’Hara (£5m), Jonathan Woodgate (free)

The North-London showed their worth during last season’s premier European competition when they reach the quarter-finals in their debut campaign. Their excellent performance brought attention to their key players (Bale, Modric) and Spurs have fought very hard this summer to keep star midfielder Luka Modric at White Hart Lane. They have shown ambition by keeping their valuable asset but that’s where it all end. Tottenham haven’t strengthen their side during the close season. They need a quality striker who can guarantee them 20goals per season. Centre back Michael Dawson needs a regular partner in the heart of defense for stability.
The marathon Europa league campaign is another distraction for Spurs as they look to challenge for a top-four position this campaign.
Harry Redknapp knows he needs to strengthen to stand a chance. A top-four finish is unlikely.

…..to be continued