Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

Football

Review of the Premiership part 4: Everyone else, West Brom to QPR

By Stefano on May 22nd, 2013

Simon Poulter of What Would David Bowie Do? rounds up the season

West Bromwich Albion (49 pts, GD -4) 8th

OK, to be third at the end of October was the sort of start Baggies fans could have only dreamed of. And we have been there before with unfancied sides enjoying the nosebleed reaches of the table within the season’s first three months. To end eigth may be disappointing, but put into context, not to be sniffed at either. Steve Clarke is still learning the art of management, and learning how to deal with player fallouts like Peter Odemwingie’s ridiculous show-up at QPR (which he must be relieved about now…), which suggested an unhappy dressing room.

Swansea City (46 pts, GD -4) 9th

Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rogers and, this season, Michael Laudrup have made Swansea a team to keep a close eye on. Though never realistically likely to bother the upper echelon – for now – this term Laudrup (and a ball boy) helped them to the League Cup (their first trophy in 101 years) and produced a Top 10 finish. The signing of Michu was a big statement of a club with a very healthy attitude to development and, although the final third of the season didn’t bring quite the same momentum of results as the first two-thirds, Laudrup has established himself as yet another Swansea manager with a future, and the club, an even better attacking package than ever before.

West Ham United (46 pts, GD -8) 10th

For a side connected, it would seem, by bungee rope to the Championship, Big Sam has instilled some stability – not to mention restored ‘Ammers’ customary robustness on their latest return to the Premier League. Tenth place may appear like the mid-table mediocrity Coventry went season-after-season pursuing and securing, but it reflects their solid home form (which took points off the two Manchesters and Chelsea) as well as their somewhat weaker performance on the road. The departure of Carlton Cole might indicate a bigger clearout by Allardyce, but the first priority must be pinning down Andy Carroll.

Norwich City (44 pts, GD -17) 11th

Chris Hughton’s dismissal from Newcastle in December 2010 still sticks in the craw of many, so it appeared that his appointment to Norwich, succeeding Paul Lambert, promised to be the sort of “good guy lands good club” story. And so it has proven, sort of, with Norwich pulling off creditable home wins over Manchester United and Arsenal, and, despite some relegation wobbles, coming to a halt in 11th. Norwich fans will want more, of course, or at least less hovering around the Championship trap door that has detracted from their game, but the potential for Norwich to be a top half player is there for their taking.

Fulham (43pts, GD -10) 12th

We all love Martin Jol. Big old Anglophile bear of a manager. We all find his “…and ah think…” interviews endearingly frank, which is no great surprise from a Dutchman. The trouble is, Fulham have hardly progressed under him. His squad has aged and even with Dimitar Berbatov/Andy Garcia in the ranks, Fulham have failed to look anything more than mid-table pedestrians. Jol may pay the price for this, with an unsettled Gus Poyet at Brighton possibly considering the ‘other’ west Londoners his next career development platform.

Stoke City (42 points, GD -11) 13th

No vintage season for Stoke. Not so long ago they were the Premier League’s Awkward Squad, possessing the disruptive ability to bruise the egos of clubs with bigger purses and bigger reputations. This time around they’ve looked less than average at times, prompting questions about whether Tony Pulis had taken them as far as he could. Developments, yesterday, at the Britannia Stadium said that they had. Sir Alex Ferguson lasted 26 years at Manchester United, the result of a perfect storm of club, finances, players bought and players brought through. Tony Pulis lasted just seven years by comparison, but even that is a lengthy stay in this day and age, when simply establishing your side as a Premier League fixture isn’t enough. Directors want more, and the supporters want even more in the way of team development..

Southampton (41 pts, GD -11) 14th

Much like the Little Britain sketch in which serial ASBO collector Vicky Pollard complained that she didn’t have a “brahn baby” like every other girl on her estate, Premier League clubs could be forgiven for missing out on the phenomenon of being taken over by a mad but wealthy foreign owner who promptly goes about creating dysfunctionality like an unwanted outbreak of acne in adulthood. Thus, Southampton acquired their very own sugar daddy, Markus Liebherr, who subsequently established Italian banker Nicola Cortese as club chairman, and then they set about securing Saints’ long-term future. Keeping Nigel Adkins in place as manager maintained at least two seasons of stability at the club with renewed ambition, but his generally-deemed unfair sacking in January, suggested another foreign owner gone nuts. But unlike, say, the Di Matteo/Benitez transition, the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino has at least endeared the fans, especially with the team’s adoption of attacking football. What won’t go down well, inevitably, is a precarious bottom half finish, with that term “safety” being a more acceptable term than “almost”.

Aston Villa (41 pts, GD -22) 15th

Villa have had a truly baffling season. From Premier League staples, they started taking on water quite ominously. The 8-0 Christmas defeat to Chelsea – a fixture that normally gives Villa rich pickings and damns the incumbent Chelsea coach to an Abramovich payoff – was a low point from which they only just managed to recover in the nick of time in the final two weeks of the season. That said, Paul Lambert is in the luxurious position of having a club owner who recognises that his manager is trying to build a young new team. It will take time, as the disjointed performances this season have exposed, but in Christian Benteke they have a precocious talent to build around or behind. For now, 2012-13 may simply be a season for Villa to draw a line under and build on.

Up and down the land, the final day of the 2012-13 season was notable for its so-what results, the odd last-minute escape and a handful of retirements. Of them all, none were more poignant than that of Stiliyan ‘Stan’ Petrov, the Villa captain diagnosed with acute leukaemia – “this crazy thing” as he calls it. Football wishes him every success in continuing to fight it and fight for those who also have it.

Newcastle United (41 pts, GD -23) 16th

How Newcastle ended up 16th (and that could have been a lot worse) from their fifth-place finish last season is an abject lesson in how easily – and quickly – it can all go wrong in the Premier League. No sooner had the club tied itself to Alan Pardew for a six-year contract, than the points started dropping like Christmas tree pine needles on Boxing Day. Another club which hasn’t been without its own form of owner meddling-induced madness, Newcastle’s bright start almost ended in relegation, the football equivalent of the office lift’s cable snapping. The New Year influx of young French talent may have been good news at the time, but their apparent failure to gel appeared to be major factors in the telephone number-score defeats inflicted in the second two-thirds of the season.

Sunderland (39 pts, GD -13) 17th

If this season’s verdicts seem to draw mainly on the instability of so many clubs, then it’s no accident. Managerial firings well into the season have now become so commonplace that we’re pretty blasé about them. The sight of Martin O’Neill – arguably one of the most respected gaffers in the game – struggling to arrest Sunderland’s slide with a squad seemingly lacking any of the passion and nuclear reactor-like drive of the Northern Irishman was a pity. So what do they do next? Bring in a manager with no Premier League experience and a historic sympathy towards fascism. Not since the FA bungled their attempted appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari as England coach has a managerial arrival been such a PR disaster. To his credit, Paolo di Canio kept Sunderland out of relegation – just – but only by coming second in the ‘mini league’ fighting for Premier League survival in the lower reaches. In the process, it would appear, di Canio has applied his own version of tough love. Time, and next season, will see whether his approach has been the right one. For now, this season has to be marked down as a very poor one for Sunderland.

Wigan Athletic (36 points, GD -26) 18th Relegated

Yes, yes, yes. It was all very Hollywood to see Wigan beat Manchester City in the dying seconds of the FA Cup Final. Yes, yes, yes, we Brits love an underdog. Roberto Martinez is one of football’s most likeable and erudite managers, and Dave Whelan, apparently, one of those old school, local-boy-made-good chairman (unlike that porky upstart across the country at Newcastle…). But, romance aside, Wigan left it too little too late to fight themselves out of the drop. Always a good side to watch, always – by reputation – a good side to play for under Martinez, it just didn’t go right this term. When they had to dig themselves out of trouble, the response was brilliant. Just too late. If Whelan can keep Martinez, and the core of the squad, they’ll be back.

Reading (28pts, GD -30) 19th Relegated

Have I mentioned dysfunctional clubs already? Oh well, have another one. Same story, promoted, start to flag, didn’t invest, replaced the manager with almost a clone of his predecessor, and still found themselves going straight back down to the Championship. Sadly, Reading’s Premier League season was simply one of underachievement, and they paid the price.

20th Queens Park Rangers (25 pts, GD -30) 20th Relegated

Manchester City and Chelsea could easily look down the cliff face that is the Premier League and see QPR losing their grip and plummeting back to the Championship. While QPR’s equally minted rivals have an infinitely stronger tenure on their elite league status, QPR’s season has served as a stark reminder that, no matter how much money you throw at the problem, and even bringing in Harry Redknapp to work his Houdini magic, if you don’t have your playing assets kicking the damn ball in the right manner, you will get sucked out of the top flight as fast as you were blown into it on a gilded magic carpet.

Things were a mess when Redknapp walked into Loftus Road, as Mark Hughes’ heals were seen skidding off into the distance. Hughes, yet to truly demonstrate the same managerial form he had running Wales in his first coaching job, left his successor in November with a team who appeared happy to slide inexorably towards the Premier League exit, while continuing to cash Tony Fernandes generous cheques. Jose Boswinga – a flash-in-the-pan right-back at Chelsea – took on the mantle of representing best QPR’s mercenary player profile, with his ridiculous refusenik stance showing that Redknapp had, like Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen (and forgive another war movie reference), been handed the worst of the worst.

While it may seem generous not to blame Redknapp, blame for result after lurid result must be placed squarely on the players’ shoulders. For once, the accusation that a team gets a club relegated, not the manager, has been proven correct. If Fernandes has the ability to do so, he will let Redknapp rebuild in the Championship, while ruthlessly discarding those who patently don’t want to be at QPR, haven’t wanted to be there, and shouldn’t be there any longer.

Article originally published here.



Football

Arsenal transfer update: Sunzu confusion, Gonalons linked

By Stefano on February 27th, 2013

There is an interesting story in Here Is The City about the fate of the brilliantly named Stoppila Sunzu. If you remember rightly the Zambian defender Sunzu was apparently all lined up to be Arsenal’s first signing of the window with the association in his own country reporting that a move to North London was imminent.

And then it went odd, very odd. The player seemed destined for Reading and then Sunderland were reported to be interested and then nothing.

HITC asks the question what is going on with the player and puts the blame for the lack of activity squarely at the feet of the player’s team.

It says

The confusion stems around his agents and representatives who appear to have not been doing a very good job of representing their client’s best interests. They had reportedly informed the Zambia international, and any interested suitors, that his contract at current club TP Mazembe was invalid therefore he was eligible to leave on a free transfer.

In fact the DR Congo club, one of the richest football establishments in African football, are requesting a fee of £4 million as his contract is more than legally binding, a fact confirmed by Mazembe’s club president Moise Katumbi in an interview with the BBC last week:

“The matter has been resolved after we went through the contract with everyone and the player admitted his contract was still valid. The problem is that his handlers have been lying to him so that he rebels against us. We suspect they wanted to get all his transfer fees by declaring him a free agent. TP Mazembe is a professional club and we will never stand in the way of our players as long as the right procedure is followed.”

The club are apparently keen to cash in on one of their prize assets and £4 million would be enough to land the player. But it seems that for now at least he is going nowhere.

The Metro has an update on a player who is alleged to be one of Arsene Wenger’s long term targets.

Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons has apparently been tracked by Arsenal’s Mr French Football Gilles Grimandi for several months now and has put in a string of impressive performances. He’s a defensively minded midfielder who has only ever played for Lyon. The Metro reckons he will cost the Gunners around £12 million. Arsenal are reported to be tracking several midfielders including Etienne Capoue of Toulouse and Newcastle’s Chieck Tiote.

How would you spend Arsenal’s cash? Check here.



Football

Man United update: Is Wilfried Zaha a done deal? Danny Wellbeck on loan to Reading?

By Stefano on January 9th, 2013

So have United done a deal to sign Crsytal Palace’s tricky winger Wilfried Zaha? The Telegraph seems to think so. The paper believes that other clubs have been frightened off bidding for the player because Fergie has already agreed to sign him

The Telgraoph says

The main issue is when, not if, it will happen with Crystal Palace hoping to keep the £12 million-rated 20-year-old until the summer at least.

Palace are hoping for a deal that would enable the player to stay at the club on loan for the rest of the season.

Zaha was attracting a lot of interest from Premiership clubs a few weeks ago. Arsenal have dropped out of the race because it seem that the club will now re-sign Theo Walcott while Spurs distanced themselves from bidding for Zaha yesterday.

Meanwhile United striker Danny Wellbeck is reported by The Mail as being on the verge of joining Reading on loan. There have been few opportunities for the player at Old Trafford this season and a move to another club might help him re-ignite his United career in the log run.



pick of the blogs

Hot stuff – this week’s top stories; Arsenal destroy Reading pics, Christmas gift guides and more

By Stefano on December 18th, 2012

This week’s stories from Brandish and our pals

Some great pics of Football in the snow

Arsenal destroy Reading pics

Evil Knievel talks cycle safety

Brilliant video of a hammered Kim Wilde singing Kids in America on a train

Nintendo Wii U games console review

Samsung’s budget new big screen phone 

Huge selection of Christmas gift guides

Great pics from the golden age of Formula One – the 60s and 70s

Last minute Christmas jumper ideas

Which is the best Live album ever?

 

 



Football

Are Chelsea now favourites to land Theo Walcott?

By Stefano on December 18th, 2012

So the Theo Walcott  transfer saga rumbles on in many ways over shadowing everything else that is going on at The Emirates at the moment.

Last night the youngster got his wish and was started by Arsene Wenger as a central striker. Walcott scored one and looked a constant threat trying to latch on to balls from Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta. It is clear that Reading gave Arsenal way too much room to play their free flowing football and that naivety cost them dearly. Still, Waclott seems a better bet in the striker position than Wenger’s other winger turned poacher Gervinho.

Wenger has once again called for Theo to sign a new contract and BBC Radio Five Live were reporting that insiders think that the issue of signing a contract is about to come to ahead this week.

If Walcott doesn’t sign then Goal is reporting that the club in prime position to secure the signature of the England player is Chelsea. In an article this morning here’s what they had to say.

Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs and Juventus are all on Walcott’s trail but they all fall short in one notable area.

“Location is key for Theo,” said one source well acquainted with the 23-year-old’s situation. “He is settled in the South East and would prefer to stay there.”

The article suggests that Walcott will stay at The Emirates until the summer and then sign for The Blues.

The sticking point for Walcott could be his insistence that he wants to play as a striker. Were Benitez to sanction the deal Walcott would run the risk of being frozen out of his preferred position if Benitez’s successor has other plans.  It would make a lot more sense to wait until the Chelsea choose a new manager before signing. Choosing to play as a striker will also scupper moves to the Manchester clubs who both arguably need wide men as they are well stocked with front men.

So where do you think Theo will be next season?

 

 



Football

Walcott Crucial for Gunners’ Reading Trip

By Stefano on December 14th, 2012

On Monday night, Arsenal return to the scene of their incredible 7-5 win over Reading in the Capital One Cup, and will be desperate to bounce back strongly from their embarrassing midweek defeat to Bradford City.

Arsene Wenger’s team selections this season have generally been predictable, but he’s struggled to decide on his best right-sided midfielder. Theo Walcott has started there five times, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey four times each, and Gervinho has played there on three occasions. Walcott missed the Bradford defeat with a calf injury, but seems likely to be fit for his game at the Madejski.

If Walcott is available, Wenger must pick him. Walcott hit a fine hat-trick in the 7-5, and his raw pace will be crucial up against Reading’s Nicky Shorey, who lacks speed. Playing Walcott and Olivier Giroud together gives opponents a positional dilemma: the natural approach against Giroud is to push the defence high up the pitch, keeping the Frenchman away from the penalty box, but Walcott’s speed makes a high defensive line problematic.

Despite his lack of starts, Walcott remains Arsenal’s joint-highest league this campaign and their most prolific assistor, and while Wenger might be reluctant to pick him because of the ongoing stand-off regarding a new contract, Arsenal can’t afford to do without such a key attacking weapon.

If Walcott is injured, Wenger should turn to Oxlade-Chamberlain, telling him to stay wide and dribble at Shorey. Out-of-form Gervinho would also offer pace, but Ramsey would be a negative selection: left-back is Reading’s weak spot, and Arsenal need to attack it directly.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.

Pic from PA




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