QPR vs Manchester United: Complacency Would Lead To Disaster

Originally published online for Sabotage Times on February 23 2013.

The Premier League title may seem all but secured at this early stage, but dropped points today could let City right back in again…

We’ve all been there. You’re strolling down the street, taking the whole world in your stride as you strut about your daily business. The sun is shining and an attractive stranger smiles at you, distracting you from the laborious task of placing one foot in front of the other in steady succession. Mid-step, your toe catches the pavement and you’re sent flying into a world of scuffed knees, bruised egos and public humiliation, landing in a sprawled heap of physical pain and embarrassment.

QPR are that loose snag of ground; a trip hazard flagstone jutting out to sendManchester United stumbling on their rickety path to an unprecedented 20thleague title. A quick glance at the current standings suggests today’s encounter at Loftus Road should be little more than a formality – a landslide for the Premier League’s current summit versus a team sinking below sea level. However, United must stay mindful and watch their step. Over the past two seasons, Sir Alex’s side have slipped up to supposedly weaker opponents, losing 3-2 against Blackburn last year and 2-1 at Wolves in 2010/11.  Continue reading

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FA Cup Success Sweet for United

Originally published by Pick Our Team on February 21 2013.

It’s about time the FA Cup returned to Old Trafford. While the Premier League takes priority, ending this season with just one piece of silverware in the bank would feel like an opportunity missed considering the names left in the running.

After United disposed of Reading on Monday night, only Chelsea, City and Wigan have qualified for the sixth round from the Premiership (Everton must first navigate a tricky reply). Championship and lower league giant killers round out the remaining contenders. It’s a cup that, on paper at least, is there for the taking.

That’s not to say that the likes of Barnsley and Oldham should be dismissed: their continued presence in the tournament is testament to their threat. However, with Middlesbrough and Chelsea battling for the chance to play United in the next round, surely it isn’t too controversial to suggest that facing the former is preferable to a tie against Roman’s real life Football Manager fantasy? Continue reading

Arsene Wenger, Ken Barlow: an observation

Arsene Barlow/Ken Wenger: Uncanny.

Perhaps it’s the coiffed, hirsute cloud floating upon his brow, or the disturbing likeness between Deidre Rachid and his former dug out partner Pat Rice, but with each passing season, Arsene Wenger morphs ever closer to becoming football’s answer to Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow.

As “professor” of the Premier League, at times Arsene seems suffocated by an air of impotence like a supposed academic stumbling through a soap opera. With his colourful and proactive co-stars buzzing about the crescendo of the summer transfer window, the beige, boring man refuses to be drawn into such impulsive frivolities. Continue reading

Tony Pulis vs The Premiership: reviewing the visit of the poncey foreign blueberries

A look at the weekend’s events from the perspective of the tracksuited one.

“WE ARE STOKE BOBOMB! ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!”

Arsenal. Arsenal. They’re no Valencia, are they?

I tell you, I was rubbing my hands with glee when I found out we’d have Arsenal so close to the start of the season. As were the fans, probably. Either rubbing their hands with glee, or shaking them around madly. Can’t always be certain which. He got his excuses in early as well, did the big French pudding, complaining that the grass was too long. I know! That man will whinge about anything. Continue reading

Three Observations: Audere Est Facere

Gurning, rather than football, was the real winner in Spurs vs. West Brom.

So another Tottenham Hotspur match has come and gone, and like so many before it and presumably like so many to come, it ended in disappointment. Nonetheless, there were some positives to be taken from the match, and so in a feature I’m hoping will be semi regular throughout the course of this season – here are Three Observations. Continue reading

Hazard impresses as Wigan fail to convert chances

McArthur and Hazard duke it out on the second day of the season.

As two of the teams chosen to concentrate on, the first Sunday of the PL season is a direct comparison to pair Wigan and Chelsea on. While Wigan have lost Rodallega to Fulham and the underrated Diame to West Ham on free transfers, they have so far kept manager Roberto Martinez and Victor Moses whilst adding to their squad of players with more low profile signings in Arouna Koné from Sevilla, defender Ivan Ramis from Mallorca, and Ryo Miyachi on loan from Arsenal. Chelsea could not be more different – losing club hero Didier Drogba to Shanghai Shenhua, aswell as Alex and Saloman Kalou. They have replaced with high-profile quality: Eden Hazard from Lille, the Brazilian Oscar, and Marko Marin.

The two teams are still connected of course, as Moses may still move to Chelsea as replacement for Drogba. Chelsea have had the best of encounters between the two in recent years, including an 8-0 victory to secure the Premiership in 2010..

Most league previews have put Chelsea into a Champions’ League place, and Wigan towards relegation – however, my thoughts on the matter were that Wigan would be safe in mid-table should they keep Moses and Martinez. Continue reading

Previewing the English Premier League season 2012/13 [3/3]

Read who will be challenging for the title and Champions League places in part 1 or check out the mid-table tips in part 2.

The looks of a Tory junior minister, the footballing ability of Andy Carroll’s wettest dreams.

In the relegation scrap: Norwich City

Last season’s impressive league finish will be hard to repeat with squads reinforced and upgraded across the league. Norwich too have tried to add more punch to their first XI, and while Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker have Premier League experience in England Scotland respectively, Robert Snodgrass and Jacob Butterfield are talent yet untested at this level. With Lambert gone, who settled and motivated the squad though their two years of promotion and Premiership consolidation, the players must focus their heads on the qualities of their new gaffer, Chris Hughton. Grant Holt remains but struggle to recapture the hunger and drive of last year, having handed in a contract request in the summer. His ability to find the net and inspire his comrades is key to Norwich’s hopes of avoiding the drop zone.

Javier Garrido arrives on loan from Lazio while Canary fans will be hoping the experiences of last year will push the likes of Jonny Howson, Wes Hoolahan, Andrew Surman, Steve Morrison and Anthony Pilkington to new heights. If they stick together and rally around Hughton they should be ok but they lack the individual quality to survive without a collective spirit. Continue reading