Then Saturday Comes… the half decent football blog


Eduardo-gate, Scottish football & Lottsamoney County
August 29, 2009, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog | Tags: , , , , ,

Eduardo divingEDUARDO DOES SOMETHING… THE WORLD GOES MENTAL (#2)

Arsenal striker Eduardo is at the middle of a Uefa investigation after being charged with diving in the Champions League clash with Celtic.

The Croatian could be banned for up to two games when its disciplinary body meets on 1 September.  Good to see that just two weeks into the new season the football authorities have already exposed their infinite incapabilities.

Firstly, at the beginning of every season the media has one ‘hobby horse’ to talk about.  Last year they fixated on the ‘Respect’ campaign, and this year it’s obviously how to help referees make decisions in the box.

We’ve already enjoyed the inevitable furore after Crystal Palace had that perfectly good goal disallowed because… well, who knows?  Probably just because none of the refs were watching.

The resulting media backlash has called for television replays or additional referees.  Fifa and the FA have both openly criticised the idea of TV replays as they would slow the game down.  So what is the solution?

Seemingly, wait until the game is over and then punish players with television evidence.

OK, that makes sense in some instances.  For example, when Chris Morgan decapitated Iain Hume last season the Sheffield United man deserved to be suspended after the event.  He clearly set out to commit a red-card offence.

However, what Eduardo is facing a two-game ban for was no more than a yellow card offence.  He would not have receieved his marching orders for the dive, which admittedly was absolutely disgraceful.  If you’ve not seen it ici voila;

Lamentable yes, but not worthy of a two-match ban.  All this does is create a ridiculous precedent where teams can appeal against every little incident that happens and get opposition players retrospectively suspended.

If Eduardo gets a two-match ban for this yellow card offence, what’s to stop a goalkeeper receiving a similar ban for handling outside the area?  Or how about if a replay shows that the wall was less than ten yards away for a free kick?

Ban all five players for two games?

Of course this ridiculous state of affairs won’t happen and I’m clearly being facecious.  However, I’m sure Arsene Wenger and Arsenal won’t see the funny side of it.  And you just know Wenger will store this up for a good old moan next time something goes against him.

Finally… why does Eduardo receive such over the top reactions?  An injury and a dive have been blown up like 9/11 and Jacko’s death.  The media loves itself some Croatian/Brazilian drama!

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My Scotland team would beat George Burley's

My Scotland team would beat George Burley's

LET’S ALL LAUGH AT SCOTTISH FOOTBALL

The logical step from Eduardo-gate #2 is a look at the decline of Scottish football.  Champions-elect Celtic were thoroughly dominated by an Arsenal side expected to finish no higher than 4th this season, losing 5-1.

Elsewhere, Aberdeen crashed out of the UEFA Cup to the migthy Sigma Olomouc with a thoroughly unrespectable 8-1 aggregate score.  Similarly, Hearts returned from their preliminary match at Dinamo Zagreb with a 4-0 loss that cut short their European aspirations.

At this stage Rangers are the only team who qualified for Europe who have not been humiliated.  Then again, they are also the only team not to have played yet.

Meanwhile, the national team’s last result was a 4-0 loss in Norway (who were second bottom of their group at the time).  So what is going on north of the border?

A country that has produced players such as Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and even Matt Elliott is now probably the weakest of the home nations.  Don’t forget Northern Ireland posses the lethal David Healey.  It’s all rather a shambles.

Yet the calls continue for Celtic and Rangers to join the English leagues.  This would be disastrous, and as anti-football as when MK Dons’ usurped Wimbledon’s place in the league.

They would take away two spots in whichever division they entered (presumably the Championship), and there is nothing to suggest they would improve anything about the English league.  Who was the last player to move from Scotland and make a real impact in England?

Other than Mickael Arteta I’m struggling for a single name.  Frankly League One has a better record in the Premier League.  If you don’t believe me, compare Fabien Delph and Barry Ferguson over the next 12 months.  You’ll see I’m right.  I’m always right.

More importantly moving the Old Firm down south would certainly weaken the Scottish Premiership.  The already floundering league (thanks, Setanta) would lose its only marquee sides.

Although on a sporting level it would be more interesting to watch a genuine title fight between Hearts/Aberdeen/Dundee Utd, the reality is that the removal of the big games against Rangers and Celtic would be the final nail in Scottish football’s coffin.

In conclusion, keep Rangers and Celtic where they are until they are, especially when they aren’t good enough to make an impact anywhere else.

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M'm! M'm! Good! M'm! M'm! Good!,  That's what Campbell's soups are, M'm! M'm! Good

M'm! M'm! Good! M'm! M'm! Good!, That's what Campbell's soups are, M'm! M'm! Good!

SVEN LOVES IT: I LOVE IT


Delightful news at Notts County: Sven’s revolution is in full swing.

Sol Campbell, a player who could still play at the top level in any league in the world, has decided to go to League Two and join the Meadow Lane express.  Good for him.

Everyone will say “he’s lost his appetite and wants an easy pay day at a lower level”.  Maybe, but isn’t that what Rangers and Celtic used to be?  Oops another pop at the SPL, but it’s true.

John Hartson, Chris Sutton, Ian Wright, Steve Guppy, Rod Wallace… all Premiership players who snuck off to the SPL when their legs packed in.

Sol’s trip to League Two is more exciting than this.  He has signed a five year contract, which will more than likely enjoy at least two title-winning seasons.  He is a man who has famous personal problems (remember the West Ham walk-out?) and the chance to become a club’s number one legend is a great opportunity to leave football with one exciting last chapter.

And also good on Notts County.  They are buying some quality young players (Jordan Stewart, Kasper Schmeichel and Billy Sharp) that will make them a force to be reckoned with.  True, it would be mental if they added Pavel Nedved or Luis Figo to that list, but I think having the odd world class player in League Two is a great thing for football.

Just like having 24 at the Walkers Bowl is.

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August 26, 2009, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog


Jilting David Moyes, Fantasy football & celebrating with Anton
August 21, 2009, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog
One of these people is a disfigured freak.  The other is from The Lord Of The Rings

One of these people is a disfigured freak. The other is from The Lord Of The Rings

IF MOYES WAS LESS OF A SCOTT HE WOULD HAVE ALREADY SOLD LESCOTT

David Moyes is continuing his over zealous opposition to Manchester City’s attempts to accrue a squad of overpriced international substitutes.

Despite offering a staggering £22m for a player who is the definition of 7.5/10, Everton are refusing to sell their centre half.  It’s certainly got more to do with pride than reality, because with that £22m they could go out and buy two superior defenders.

Rather they obviously don’t want to accept the symbolic handing over of the mantle of ‘the team who challenge the top four’.  Although Everton don’t really ‘challenge’ they could feasibly argue that if they had at least one striker they would have pushed on in the league and maybe caught up with Arsenal.

However, £22m is far too much to turn down just for pride.  More likely, Moyes has prudently judged that the closer Man City get to the transfer window shutting, the more likely they are to spend an even more ludicrous amount of money.

Moyes must know that it is as inevitable that Lescott will leave as it was Rooney would when Manchester United came knocking in 2004.  It’s therefore no surprise he is employing the same tactics as he did when Blue Wayne was leaving;

  1. Treat allegations with bug eyed confusion
  2. Say they’re not going anywhere
  3. Wait for transfer request
  4. Turn it down
  5. Criticise the player in public
  6. Make them train with the reserves
  7. Accept £30m bid
  8. Use the money to build a better team


That’s what I hope the case is anyway, because if David Moyes truly ideologically hates the idea of a rich team stealing his players he’s like an Egyptian in a riverboat: living in denial.

Everton stole Lescott from Wolves just as much as Man City are trying to do now.  Similarly, the new ‘golden boy’ Dan Gosling was snapped up from Plymouth and so on.

In football the money goes down and the players go up.  Just let him go already, Moyesy,  There’s a time to be principled and hold out for more money, but in this instance he’s not that great anyway and Everton should sell up before Mark Hughes gets tired of waiting.

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Could this be what he's planning?

Could this be what he's planning?

SOMETHING TO WATCH OUT FOR

As you well know, the Ferdinands enjoy a good old caper.

If Les isn’t letting people into the Blue Peter garden, he’s slitting goat’s throats in Turkey.

Should Rio not be out missing a drugs test. you can be sure he’ll be merking his friends on ITV.

Sadly though, poor old Anton is still waiting for his crazydays moment… but he may have come up with a great plan.

It seems young Ferdi is planning a rather exciting Michael Jackson tribute for the next time he scores a goal.  And what better way to remember a man who at best didn’t understand reality and at worst was a paedophile than having a limited centre walking backwards in the north-east of England.

But don’t just blindly take our word for it.  Rather, you should take heed from local phrases everywhere and ‘ark at what he said yoursen’;

“(This summer) my hero Michael Jackson died. Me and Rio had it all arranged to meet Michael in London. I was 10 days away from meeting my idol when he died, and it broke my heart. He was an icon.

“I have been contemplating a tribute to him if I score this season.  I actually thought of putting a glove in my sock to pull out if I score, but it could be down there a couple of years, because I’ve not scored for a while.”

I wonder what his other ideas are.  Oh dear… lock up the family enclosure next time there’s a corner at the Stadium of Light.

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mindreaderFOOTBALL’S PROPER UNPREDICTABLE, INNIT

As is the Friday tradition, here be my seven fantastic predictions for the weekend’s soccer action.

  1. Arsenal thump Portsmouth by at least 3 goals
  2. But Man City score more against Wolves
  3. Darren Bent bags another goal
  4. Leicester continue their good start by beating Barnsley
  5. Newcastle lose at Crystal Palace
  6. Roy Keane’s Ipswich will be beaten at West Brom, prompting sacking allegations
  7. After the excitement of the new season, Birmingham-Stoke, Sunderland-Blackburn and Hull-Bolton will make people start to fall out of love with football again.  Especially Hull vs Bolton

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Of course, you never can be sure with the old soccer game early on in the season.  Who would have predicted that Burnley beat Man United?  Indeed, this fantastical cartoon (shamelessly stolen from the excellent Football 365 Forum) about fantasy football selections  sums it all up rather nicely;

.fantasyfootball



Over-excitement and Warnock’s ghost

BenitezLIVERPOOL IN CRISIS! WO! WO!!!1!!1

The first round of Premierball soccer has passed, and as ever the first game seems to be overanalysed beyond belief.

Far too much hyperbole goes into games at the start of the season, due to understandable overexcitement for the opening fixtures.  Sadly most pundits think that the very first hurdle is an inevitable reflection for the next 37 matches, and if you lose the first game people seem to think you’ll lose all season.

Of course the biggest loss of the opening weekend was Liverpool, who lost 2-1 at Tottenham Hotspur.  How dare they.

The widely-held opinion is that if Liverpool match their performance last year they should win the title.  Manchester United have lost 50 goals a season in Tevez and Ronaldo, and although Valencia and Owen will keep them in the hunt it’s hard to see them amassing the same number of points as last year.

And now for ironic some overexcited predictions that I was lamenting earlier in the article.

predictionsIf it is accepted that Liverpool need to match what they did last season then the loss at White Hart Lane is irrelevant, as they were beaten there by the same score last year.  And then Spurs were bottom of the league, so in many ways this was a far ‘better’ loss than the one they previously suffered.

Liverpool will clearly be fine.  They will rack up at least five wins from their next six games (Stoke, Villa, Bolton, Burnley, West Ham, Hull) – and these are the games the title was lost in last season.

If anyone is doubting my predictions I would again like to refer you to my psychic football abilities.  Last week I successfully predicted 5/6 Premiership results (including the Spurs-Scouse one, which is probably why I’m not jumping on the ‘Liverpool in crisis’ bandwagon.

And unlike Lawro I’m happy to be held accountable for my predictions.

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You're my mate, Arsene

You're my mate, Arsene

ARSENE WENGER MERKS THE WORLD

Oops he did it again.

Arsene Wenger seems to have merked the footballing world, after a quiet summer brought about a stunning 6-1 win away at Everton (who lets not forget finished 5th last season).

This amazing result went some way to silence the critics who have said Wenger’s refusal to make any new signings will bring an end to their Champion’s League aspirations now that another team is bothering to break into the top four.  Hopefully they will do well this year as they are clearly the least financially psychotic of the top five.

Most neutrals have a begrudging respect for Arsenal because although they do buy their success by rampaging through rivals’ youth teams, it is a bit more respectable than just buying superstars willy nilly.

Still, I am sticking to my guns about Arsenal.  Although Tony ‘Cas’ Cascarino’s predictable lament in The Times that “they won’t like playing in February” is a bit over the top, there are still questions about the strength in depth at Arsenal.

But the signs are admittedly very good.  This Saturday they got on fantastically well despite already having six injuries in the first team squad (Walcott, Diaby, Djorou, Rosicky, Nasri and Fabianski).

It's Ebouuuuuuue!
It’s Ebouuuuuuue!

For this reason, this man is the most important person at the Emirates this season.

After a yo-yo type 2008/2009 campaign, Emmanuel Eboue is rumoured to be departing Arsenal before the end of the transfer window. The Ivorian, who was booed off by his own fans in November 2008, is said to be linked with a move to Serie A or La Liga.

The Ivory Coast international was their right back for a couple of years, but since the arrival of the consistent Bacary Sagna Eboue has had to make due with oppurtunity in the Arsenal midfield.

Eboue biggest assest is his versatility, the 26 year old is able to play pretty much any were on the pitch.  He is also quick and offers a good cross.  However Eboue feels his place at Arsenal is lost, but I am not so sure.  Yes, he’s not likely to break into the starting XI but he is a certain pick for a substitute’s role.  Also, every season we see their injury list pile up and Arsenal end up lacking an experienced head on the field.

With injuries likely to occurr, Eboue could see himself playing a major and senior role for Arsenal this season.

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GREAVESY WAS RIGHT, IT’S A FUNNY OLD GAME

Neil WarnockYet more proof that football is a scripted soap opera this week.

Everyone’s favourite pantomime baddy Neil Warnock was left fuming when a perfectly good Freddie Sears goals was ruled out by an inept referee during the game between Crystal Palace and Bristol City.  There’s not really too much to be said here, apart from that it’s obviously time technology was introduced to the game.  Surely they could put some sort of a chip in the ball that says when it crosses the line.

Anyway, here’s the said incident.

My favourite mental image of the season so far came from hearing that ‘arry Redknapp phoned up Warnock after the game for a quick chat.  You just knew they’d be friends didn’t you – and I’m super happy their friendship has outlived the whole John Bostick affair.  If only Israel/Palestine (or for that matter Tinchy Shryder/N-Dubz) could resolve their differences so amicably.

Anyway, here is what ‘arry said to NW (and bear in mind that these men are in charge of multi-million pound companies).

“No goal for that?  Tell me Neil, how long ago since we put a man on the moon?  Fifty years?”

Still it’s a fine triple question.



Fabulous puns, managerial guns and internet funssh

That Tinchy Schryder talks a bit too much about monogomy doesn’t he?  Almost makes you wonder if he’s hiding something.

GUNN FIRED.

Bryan Gunn fired

Our purpose in Norwich is to prevent the success of aggression. It is not conquest, it is not empire, it is not foreign bases, it is not domination. It is, simply put, just to prevent the forceful conquest of Norwich by League One.”


One game into the season and we already have our first managerial casualty!

Punmakers everywhere were delighted when classic 1990s goalkeeper Bryan Gunn got fired from a job he was begged to take.  Gunn stepped into a job nobody wanted to try to fight off an inevitable relagation from the Championship.

Sadly, life in League One didn’t start well for old Bryan.  A 7-1 home defeat to East Anglian rivals Colchester meant that Delia had to reach for her pistol and give Gunn his marching orders.

Regular listeners will be all too aware that Bryan first got the job because his daughter set up a Facebook group.  It may not have gone as well as she hoped, but surely Ms Gunn now has a glittering career in headhunting.  Snap her up, Foxtons.

The one real regret with the whole episode is that it could so easily have happened to Alan ‘Big Al’ Shearer.  He and Gunn were both given caretaker jobs at crisis clubs due to the inexplicable belief that past on-pitch ability is a fine substitute for competent managerial competency.

Sadly, while Norwich continued with Big Bri, Big Al was not offered the chance to fully expose his inadequacy.  Newcastle may not have lost 7-1 at West Brom had Shearer been in the dug out, but it would have been close.

Soon enough he’ll be back in the dug out though.  And from what I saw of him last year, he won’t last much longer than the Darth Vader lookalike at Carrow Road.

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Some people really shouldn't use Twitter...

Some people really shouldn't use Twitter...

MUTLIMEDIA MULTIMORONS

For the lazy journalist there is no better invention than Twitter.

The public relations teams who censor celebrities’ public outbursts to no more than monosyllabic grunts must be pulling their hair out at the invention which essentially exposes the ‘stars’ as being morons.

Jordan/Katie Price has been doing this to good effect in the showbiz world, and now it’s creeping in nicely to football.

Most famously we have had the whole Darren Bent affair.  The (ex?) England striker was obviously trying to endear himself to the Spurs fans who had financed his £40,000 week wages while updating his page to show how hard it would be for him to leave White Hart Lane.

In case you missed it, here are some of his more interesting tweets;


“Seriously getting p***** off now”

“Why can’t anything be simple. It’s so frustrating hanging round doing jack s***.”

“Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around levy [sic].”


Fabulous stuff.

Still, it seems that Darren was not Tottenham’s only Tweeter.  Apparently ‘appy ‘arry ‘imself has got an account!  I must stress that it may be a fake, but according to the trustworthy F365 forum it’s real.

http://twitter.com/harrysblog


I’m 100% sure it’s a fake, as it reads too much like Redknapp barks.  Still, it’s worth a gander if just for such musings as “I’ve promised to call Sandra before heading for the gate. Gate 18 is it Bondie?” and the sublime “What should I have for breakfast; Dim Sum or Egg-fried noodles?”.

Lets just agree to pretend that it’s real.

Still, one football ‘personality’ who has been writing very real social networking updates is Leicester City (reserve) striker Ricky Sappleton.  Sapps came in with a big reputation as a young player with bags of potential hidden under bags of personal baggage.  Bagdhad.

Anyway, his career at the Walkers Bowl hasn’t taken off in the slightest.  Although he has probably been paid handsomely, he hasn’t done anything on the pitch and has been ferried out on loan to Bournemouth, Oxford and Telford.

It’s not going well for the fella.

Poor old Sapps

Poor old Sapps

Anyway, here’s some of the thoughts he’s been posting on his Facebook status recently…


Ricky I WISH I WAS 16 AGAIN SO I COULD CHANGE SOME OF THE DECISION I MADE ESPECIALLY THE BAD FOOTBALL 1’S I MADE

Ricky: dis place is killing my career bloody hell fam


And finally, here’s an astute conversation between our future number 9 and his pal;


Joe Weston: LOL so just joining Leicester was a bad football decision?

Ricky: take a wild guest


The letters are consistent to Mr Sapps’ original spelling.  I’d love to take a wild guest to his house, seeing as I paid for it with my season ticket money that paid for his wages to sit around and not have to do anything ever with his life, especially when out on loan and struggling to get into the Telford team.

Don’t blame Nigel for your own shortcomings, Sappsy!

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Me channeling my psychic powers

Channeling my psychic powers

BIG KICK OFF BIG PREDICTIONS

So the Premiership kicks off this weekend.  My long-term theories for the season are Chelsea champs, Man City to replace Arsenal in the top four and Burnley, Portsmouth and Hull to get relegated.

However, come the end of the season I will of course claim that I had tipped Manchester United the whole way, and I could see Man City’s relegation coming a mile off.

For more accountable tips, here are some predictions for the weekend…

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BIG WINNERS:

  • Chelsea, Arsenal & Man U win comfortably (and Owen scores)
  • Stoke – thumping opening day win over Burnley
  • Hull fans – Chelsea will put the first nail in Phil Brown’s coffin, sacked by October

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BIG LOSERS:

  • Liverpool and Man City both suffer first day defeats
  • Fans at Bolton vs Sunderland (the most boring game ever?)

Incidentally, anyone doubting by psychic abilities can watch me perform some mind reading on the stage by clicking  here!!



Back with a boom: a look at the 2009-10 season

As you’ll notice from the brand new layout, TSC has hopped aboard the Obama bandwagon and embraced change.  Thankfully, the mantra of change has also been accepted by football during the two two months since we snuck out of your life.

And it’s all gone mental.

Best pun ever?

First photoshop of the new season... and it's an instant classic

Refreshingly, the most absurd thing hasn’t happened in the Premiership, but rather down in lowly League Two.

Ex-England, Lazio and Manchester City boss (and gossip site goldmine) Sven Goran Eriksson has bizarrely rocked up at Notts County.  If you don’t remember him, he’s a lovely geezer but don’t forget that he’s from Sweden.

Sven’s apparently only getting paid £250,000 a year at Meadow Lane, and says that he’s there because it’s the oldest club in the world.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with the impending bank-rolling to the Premiership by a Middle Eastern billionaire.  By the way, how many of  them can there be before it dilutes the market?

The Notts County revolution started with a 5-0 opening day win against Bradford, and I’d love to see them doing a ‘Gretna’ and blitzing their way through the divisions (as long as they only get promoted to the Premiership with Leicester City, obviously).

Hopefully in ten years the ‘big four’ will be current lower-league teams owned by insane moneybags.  To see Notts County, QPR and Ipswich outspend Liverpool, Man U and Chelsea into the Champion’s League would be hilarious.  To hear their moans about it not being fair would delight any football fan who has sat through the ‘big four’ bankroll their success for the last decade.
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Man City will finish in the top four... I'm super serial

Man City will challenge... I'm super serial

THE BIG FOUR – AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

While Notts County and Leicester City have spent the summer setting foundations for a future Champion’s League assault, the ‘big four’ have done little to prepare for the impending threat.

The bright lights of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have greatly dimmed following a plethora of high-profile departures, inspired by Christiano Ronaldo’s hasty departure after the Champion’s League final.  His exit set the tone for the rest of the summer.

Of course, with all this weakening we must take note of the ominous goings on at Middle Eastlands.

Manchester City seem intent on compiling a team of overpriced players who couldn’t cut the mustard at a ‘big four’ team.  Still, an attacking line-up including Adebayor, Tevez, Santa Cruz and Robinho (remember him??) make them a genuine threat.  Their 11/1 odds from William Hill seem very decent.  Although I don’t think they will win the league, coming third (or maybe even second) seems fairly likely.

I think we’ll have to get used to the phrase ‘Big Five’, even if it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily.  Unfortunately the team to drop out of the Champion’s League will probably be Arsenal – the only team that is built and not bought.  Still, it’s good to mix things up and it would be good to see them drop out and give someone else a go.

To celebrate the brand new football landscape, I ventured to watch three of the big five playing soccerball this summer.  First I took in Arsenal play against Glasgow Rangers in the Emirates Cup.  The big report is that Arshavin and Fabregas both looked great, if a little uninterested, and that Jack Wilshere is probably going to be in the World Cup squad.

Check this out, multimedia fans.  Interview with your humble host from 0.40;

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Next, I travelled over to Wembley to watch the Charity Shield game between Manchester United and Chelsea. Ancelotti’s charges looked a lot stronger than a Man U outfit that lacked midfield bite.  Although it’s ridiculous to say they will struggle, it’s hard to see how an old-school 4-4-2 with a midfield of Nani, Fletcher, Anderson and Valencia is going to set the world alight.

Their defence is obviously fantastic.  But apart from that, the only really top player they have is Wayne Rooney.  Oh, and Tom Cleverley.

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Cheer up Mickey, Jim's gone and fixed it!
Cheer up Mickey, Jim’s gone and fixed it!

MICHAEL’S GOWEN TO BE GREAT

A second feature about Man U?  Sitting with their fans at Wembley must have had a bad impact…

But we must touch on the big transfer that will make or break a former European Player of the Year’s career.  After Mickey Owen proved he’s not an absolute mental, the former Liverpool striker chose to go to Manchester United instead of Hull or Stoke.  I’m sure negotiations were tough.

At Sunday’s Charity Shield 85,000 fans witnessed the moment that might be the first sign of Fergie finally losing it, or proof eternal of his genius.  On 74 minutes Fergie brought on three subs with a combined age in the triple figures; Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and new signing Michael Owen.

Although all three are amazing players, this ‘Dad’s Army’ brigade seems a little risky to me.  It would be fine if the young players who will do the donkey work weren’t the plodding Fletcher/Gibson or the unpredictable Valencia/Nani.

That said, although he played like a 40-year-old last year, Owen is still only 29.  His goalscoring record is unbelievable and you just know he’ll do amazingly at Old Trafford.  The difference between his runs being picked out by Paul Scholes rather than Kevin Nolan.

I’d be surprised by anything less than 20 goals and a seat on the plane to South Africa.

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My predictions for 2008-09?

1. Chelsea
2. Manchester United
3. Liverpool
4. Manchester City
5. Arsenal

6-17. Other teams

18. Burnley
19. Portsmouth
20. Hull City

Top goalscorer: Darren Bent

In the two months since TSC snuck out of your life, football has jumped on the Obama bandwagon and embraced change.

The bright lights of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have greatly dimmed following a plethora of high-profile departures, after Christiano Ronaldo’s hasty departure after the Champion’s League final set the tone for the rest of the summer.

Of course, with all this weakening we must take note of the ominous goings on at Middle Eastlands.

Manchester City seem intent on compiling a team of overpriced players who couldn’t cut the mustard at a ‘big four’ team.  Still, an attacking line-up including Adebayor, Tevez, Santa Cruz and Robinho (remember him??) make them a genuine, if unlikely, threat.  There 11/1 odds from William Hill seem very decent.

I think we’ll have to get used to the phrase ‘Big Five’, even if it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily.

To celebrate the brand new football landscape, I ventured to watch three of the big five playing soccerball this summer.  First I took in Arsenal play against Glasgow Rangers in the Emirates Cup.  The big report is that Arshavin and Fabregas both looked great, if a little uninterested, and that Jack Wilshere is probably going to be in the World Cup squad.

If you don’t believe that I was there check out this video, multimedia fans;

Next, I travelled over to Wembley to watch the Charity Shield game between Manchester United and Chelsea. Ancelotti’s charges looked a lot stronger than a Man U outfit that lacked midfield bite.  Although it’s ridiculous to say they will struggle, it’s hard to see how an old-school 4-4-2 with a midfield of Nani, Fletcher, Anderson and Valencia is going to set the world alight.

Their defence is obviously fantastic.  But apart from that, the only really top player they have is Wayne Rooney.  Oh, and Tom Cleverley.

MICHAEL’S GOWEN TO BE GREAT

Second feature and it’s also about Man U?  Sitting with their fans at Wembley must have had a bad impact…

But we must touch on the big transfer that will make or break a former European Player of the Year’s career.  Afer Mickey Owen proved he’s not an absolute mental, the former Liverpool striker chose to go to Manchester United instead of Hull or Stoke.  I’m sure negotiations were tough.

At Sunday’s Charity Shield 85,000 fans witnessed the moment that might be the first sign of Fergie finally losing it, or proof eternal of his genius.  On 74 minutes Fergie brought on three subs with a combined age in the triple figures; Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and new signing Michael Owen.

Although all three are amazing players, this ‘Dad’s Army’ brigade seems a little risky to me.  It would be fine if the young players who will do the donkey work weren’t the ploddnig Fletcher/Gibson or the unpredictable Valencia/Nani.

That said, although he played like a 40-year-old last year, Owen is still only 29.  His goalscoring record is unbelievable and you just know he’ll do amazingly at Old Trafford.  The difference between his runs being picked out by Paul Scholes rather than Kevin Nolan.  20 goals minimum.

My predictions for next season?

1. Chelsea
2. Liverpool
3. Manchester United
4. Manchester City
5. Arsenal

18. Burnley
19. Portsmouth
20. Hull City