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Posts Tagged ‘Manchester United’

In the scouting report section of the site, Liquid Football hopes to bring you the best young talent from around the World. We started off at Barcelona, with Alfie Long’s report on Jean-Marie Dongou. Our next wonderkid is Alen Halilović who plays for Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia.

Below is some footage of Dinamo Zagreb’s highly rated attacking midfielder Alen Halilović. Halilović is now 16-years-old. He has represented Croatia at youth level from U 14’s up, and recently became the youngest ever Dinamo Zagreb player making his debut at 16 years and 102 days old. 10 days later he became the youngest goalscorer in the history of the league.

Alen Halilović’s likes to play in the number 10 role but he can also play on the right wing. His slight frame and long blonde hair has seen him likened to fellow Croatian Lua Modric. Dinamo academy director Romea Jozaka said: “I watched Luka at the same age and it seems to me that Alen is a step, maybe two in front of him.” He went on to describe him as “an extraordinary talent. Incredibly powerful with the ball for his age. We know that he’s been mentioned throughout Europe as the best we’ll see in the next few years in his position.”

Both Manchester clubs have reportedly visited Zagreb to keep up to date with his progress, he also spent 4 days training with the Real Madrid youth team when he was 14. This is what a Real Madrid source had to say about him: “Everyone here knows he will be a sensation. When he as the ball he is reminiscent of Lionel Messi.” He is currently continuing his education in Zagreb, but he is destined to move to a top European club soon and if the praise he has received is anything to go by then he is certainly one to watch.

What we know about him…
 
D.O.B – 18/06/96 (Age 16)
Nationality – Croatian
Height – 5ft 7″
Position – Attacking Midfielder (Playmaker – No. 10) – Likes to cut in from the right hand side onto his left foot.
Preferred Foot – Left
 
 
Written by Charlie Cook @charlie_cook09
 
Thoughts and comments welcome, all support appreciated!

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Before each set of Premier League fixtures, I have a look at ‘BBC football expert’, Mark Lawrenson’s predictions. Every week I have the same reaction. I reckon I could do better. Season after season I complain about his ‘woeful’ tipping. Now it’s time to put my proverbial money where my mouth is and try to ‘beat Lawro’.

The points: 1 point for a correct result and 3 points for a correct score.

LAST WEEK

Very good week’s tipping last week. I managed to correctly predict Everton’s 3-1 victory over Southampton, Stoke’s 2-0 win over Swansea and Aston Villa’s 1-1 draw with West Brom.  Check out last weeks tips to see how we both did.

Lawro got four results right, including one perfect score with a score of 4.

I managed six results right, including three perfect scores with a score of 12.

After three weeks of tipping the scores currently stand at:

Liquid Football 32-21 Lawro

Don’t forget the BETTING TIPS at the bottom of the page, we are £130 UP after 2 weeks.

SATURDAY

Man City v Sunderland

I said it last week and I’ll say it again. Manchester City have yet to really hit their stride. I thought they would do that last week against Fulham, but they scraped a 2-1 win with a late Edin Dzeko goal. They were even more unconvincing, only just managing to nick a last minute equaliser at home to Borrussia Dortmund midweek. It says something about their performance, that Joe Hart was man of the match pulling of a number of outstanding saves to keep them in the game.

Sunderland will not be easy opponents, still unbeaten this season, although unconvincing last week in a 1-0 win over Wigan. Sunderland were the only side last season that City couldn’t beat in the league. They drew 3-3 at The Etihad and lost 1-0 at The Stadium of Light. I still see Man City shading this one, but it could be a tight game. Adam Johnson will feel he has something to prove, so expect a big performance from him.

My prediction: 2-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Chelsea v Norwich

This has been a very good week for Chelsea. The win against Arsenal may not have been the cleanest of performances, but it was a fantastic result. The greatest sides find a way to win when they are not playing that well and Chelsea did exactly that. I am not suggesting they are a great side yet, but they have definitely added an attacking flare to the team in the summer. They followed the win over Arsenal with a 4-0 thumping of FC Nordsjælland in the Champions League too.

I fear for Norwich in this one, they have conceded at least 3 goals in their past 4 matches at Stamford Bridge. They were very poor in their 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool and I don’t see them picking up anything from this one either. I can’t see anything that suggests that Norwich will stay up this season. Grant Holt has again been complaining about not being picked for England, but he should really concentrate on producing for Norwich because his goals kept them up last year and he hasn’t looked anywhere near his best.

My prediction: 3-0

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Swansea v Reading

Swansea were a revelation at the start of the season, but they are in a bit of a rut now. They have failed to score in their last 3 Premier League games. This will be a huge game for Michael Laudrup’s Swansea to show that they weren’t just on a hot streak. Reading are the weakest of the promoted sides by the looks of it. They gave a spirited performance against Newcastle last week in drawing 2-2 with Newcastle, and if it wasn’t for the brilliance of Demba Ba they would have taken all 3 points.

In many ways this is a must win for both sides, but I see Reading taking a point which will be a better result for them than Swansea who will be expecting to win the game.

My prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

West Brom v QPR

West Brom are the unsung heroes of the season so far. Not much has been said about them, but Steve Clarke’s side have made a great start. They have only lost once, and are sitting comfortably in 6th place. QPR on the other hand, are really struggling. Mark Hughes has had plenty of financial backing, and they should be picking up more points with the players they have. It won’t be long before he starts really feeling the pressure. West Brom have won all 3 of their home matches this season, and QPR have lost 9 of the last 10 away from home. This has home win written all over it.

My prediction: 2-0

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

Wigan v Everton

What a start to the season for Everton. 2nd in the league behind Chelsea, they are playing very good football, and bar the loss of the monumental loss of Fellaini, finally look to have some real depth to their squad. I have been very impressed by the new signing Kevin Mirallas, very quick, can play on the wing or up front, he works hard and looks like he scores a few goals too. He is a very good foil for the brilliant Nikica Jelavic, who is a brilliant finisher.

Wigan are in 16th place, and I suspect that if they finish the league season there they will be happy. This season like every other is about staying up. Even though Wigan put in a good performance away to Sunderland, I still think Everton will be too strong. It will be pretty tight.

My prediction: 1-2

Lawro’s prediction: 1-2

West Ham v Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has had many opponents during his time at Arsenal, but ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce may just be one of the toughest. His record in home matches against Arsenal is 5-3-4, which is unlikely to have been bettered by many. It is as much the style of football that his teams play, as opposed to tactical nous. Arsenal used to dread trips to The Reebok Stadium to meet ‘Big Sam’s’ Bolton and he has created a similar side at Upton Park. Marshalled by the  consistently dangerous Kevin Nolan, West Ham provide threats in every supposed area of Arsenal weakness. The return of Andy Carroll will also worry Arsenal, he has caused them many problems in the past.

Arsenal have not had a good week. They were poor against Chelsea last weekend. In a game that they would have gone into feeling very confident, they looked lackluster and they gifted Chelsea two goals. They were second rate against Olympiakos too, despite coming out 3-1 winers. They have started to look shaky at the back and their weakness in defending set pieces and corners will be a real concern against West Ham. Steve Bould will have worked hard during the week getting the defence up to scratch, but they conceded another header against Olympiako and that will be a worry. Per Mertesacker should be reintroduced in place of Koscielny and they will need his experience and organisation as well as his height at the back. Giroud could well be key on the weekend, both up front and at the back defending set plays. Expect him to start.

This is a very tough game to pick as Arsenal have the quality to produce enough chances to beat West Ham regardless of defensive frailties. I can see it going either way, but I am going to go for an upset. Nolan will relish the opportunity and I think he and Carroll will lead West Ham to an unlikely victory.

My prediction: 2-1

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

SUNDAY

Southampton v Fulham

I was really pleased for Southampton when they got their first win of the season against Aston Villa a couple of weeks ago, but it was back down to earth with a bump last week as Everton beat them 3-1 pretty comfortably. Gaston Ramirez scored first but it was all Everton for the rest of the game and they really could have scored more than 3 in the end. One thing that Southampton offer is goals, whether for against, I think this could be a high scoring game. Fulham have been a touch inconsistent, but they were unlucky not to get a point against Man City last weekend and Mladen Petric and Bryan Ruiz look to be forming a good partnership. Southampton will be hoping to get all 3 points at home especially as Fulham are still missing Dimitar Berbatov and I can see them doing that.

My prediction: 3-2

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Liverpool v Stoke

Liverpool seem to be taking one step forward then two steps back. As much as Brendan Rodgers will be disappointed with the loss against Udinese, his main focus will be on the league and that was evident as Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard were on the bench for the Europa League tie. I may sound like a broken record, but Liverpool are going nowhere until they can find a consistent goalscorer. Suarez scored a brilliant hat-trick against Norwich last week, but he is infuriatingly inconsistent in front of goal. This will be a tricky game as Stoke will look to frustrate Liverpool and they will need to be at their best in front of goal to break down Tony Pulis’ side. I can see Liverpool winning, but I think it may be a nervy one.

My prediction: 1-0

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Tottenham v Aston Villa

Spurs recorded their first win in 23 years at Old Trafford last week. Remarkably they only had 26% possession yet still came away with the points. They look very dangerous on the break, and they attack with a lot of pace. Aston Villa will be looking to not give Spurs as much space to play in, they will be sitting deeper and they may well find it harder to break a team down at White Hart Lane, as they have showed so far with disappointing draws at home to QPR and Norwich. I still think Tottenham will be too strong for Villa though and I think if they can break the deadlock early then they could run out comfortable winners.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Newcastle v Man Utd

This is going to be a cracking game. Man Utd have a glittering attack with Wayne Rooney back, joining Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, but their defence looks very brittle. Nemanja Vidic is a huge loss and Rio Ferdinand looks to be on his last legs. He was very vulnerable when left defending against the pace of Gareth Bale, and Newcastle will be hoping that Hatem Ben Arfa will get a chance to run at him too. Demba Ba looks to be in brilliant form once again, and I think Newcastle will cause Man U a lot of problems.

Although United lost last weekend against Spurs, they did manage to control 74% of the possession, and if van Persie had had his shooting boots on they could have come out on top. He missed a number of glorious chances to at least get Man U level. I am going for another upset in this one though, Newcastle got a very imressive 3-0 victory over Bordeaux on Thursday night and with Demba Ba firing they could nick a victory. However, they will have to keep RvP quiet, as anything can happen when he is on the pitch.

My prediction: 2-1

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

BETTING TIPS:

We suggest putting £10 on each choice at betfair. Our First goalscorer bet on Steven Fletcher won last week at 4/1, leaving us £40 up for the week and £130 up overall.

First Goalscorer: Demba Ba – Newcastle v Man U at 7/1 on betfair.

Accumulator: Southampton, West Brom, Tottenham and Liverpool at 9/1 on betfair.

Thoughts and comments welcome, all support appreciated!

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We suggest putting £10 on each choice at betfair. Our First goalscorer bet on Steven Fletcher won last week at 4/1, leaving us £40 up for the week and £130 up overall.

First Goalscorer: 

Newcastle’s Demba Ba is in fantastic form. He scored two goals against Reading last week including this sumptuous volley. The United defence without Vidic has looked weak, and I am hoping Ba will be able to exploit that.

Demba Ba – Newcastle v Man U at 7/1 on betfair.

Accumulator:

Southampton although soundly beaten are a good side, expect them to pick up the points in a tough game against Fulham. The loss of Berbatov is a big one though, so I think the saints will come through. West Brom have won their first 3 games at home this season, and QPR have lost 9 of the last 10 away from home. Sounds like a no brainer to me. Spurs got a brilliant win at Old Trafford and both they and Liverpool look to have turned a corner of sorts and I think they will both win at home to Villa and Stoke Odds of 9 to 1 on the four is not bad if you ask me.

Southampton, West Brom, Tottenham and Liverpool at 9/1 on betfair.

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Before each set of Premier League fixtures, I have a look at ‘BBC football expert’, Mark Lawrenson’s predictions. Every week I have the same reaction. I reckon I could do better. Season after season I complain about his ‘woeful’ tipping. Now it’s time to put my proverbial money where my mouth is and try to beat Lawro.

The points: 1 point for a correct result and 3 points for a correct score.

LAST WEEK

After struggling the first week, I had a good one last time out. Managed to correctly predict the 2-1 victory for Manchester United and the 1-1 draw between West Ham and Sunderland. Check out last weeks tips to see how we both did.

Lawro got five results right, with one perfect score.

I managed seven results right with two perfect scores.

After two weeks of tipping the scores currently stand at:

Liquid Football 20-17 Lawro

Don’t forget the BETTING TIPS at the bottom of the page, we are £90 UP.

SATURDAY

Arsenal v Chelsea

What a game to start off the weekend. In previous years this has been a battle of styles; the direct, powerful game of Chelsea up against the more technical, passing game of Arsenal but since their last meeting, Chelsea, with the likes of Hazard and Oscar have gone through a transformation under Roberto Di Matteo. Arsene Wenger has already mentioned this week that although Chelsea may miss Didier Drogba, Arsenal certainly won’t. This will hopefully be a more open, entertaining game than in the past.

Both teams have started the season well. Arsenal have gone to Liverpool, Man City and Stoke yet still remain unbeaten. Chelsea too have not lost a game, so it is the battle of the undefeated. Chelsea’s new open attacking style could suit Arsenal this weekend though. In the past Arsenal have found Chelsea a difficult nut to crack,  but this is a new side. Chelsea are top of the League but there have been signs that they have not completed their transition yet. They were beaten 4-1 by Athletico Madrid in the Super Cup and came close to dropping points against Stoke and Reading recently.  All the talk during the week has been about John Terry’s trial, but both teams scored 6 midweek in the Capital One Cup so it should be a very good game. Arsenal were unlucky not to take all the points against City and I think they will be too good for Chelsea this weekend.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

Everton v Southampton

I wrote a piece earlier in the week about David Moyes and what a fantastic job he has done. Everton have been the surprise package so far this season, currently sitting in 3rd place. Last week they were brilliant in dismantling Swansea 3-0. Southampton had a poor start with some very tricky fixtures, but they showed their true potential with a brilliant 4-1 win over Aston Villa last time out. Many pundits suggest that the key ingredient in survival for the promoted sides is having a goalscorer and Ricky Lambert looks like he is exactly that. They also have some very exciting players, and play attractive attacking football. They will trouble many sides this season and I believe they will stay up, but Everton will be too strong for them on Saturday. Everton are on a fantastic run, and I don’t expect that to let up at Goodison.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Fulham v Man City

Martin Jol has done a great job at Fulham. They have lost two of their top performers in Dembele and Dempsey, but have arguably made one of the signings of the season by nabbing former Premier League top goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov. Fulham are a very difficult proposition at Craven Cottage and they have a good record there against the bigger sides. They have only lost 5 of the last 30 at home, but when they have lost it has been by a few goals. Manchester City have stuttered so far this season without reaching top form. I feel they are due a big win and with Dimitar Berbatov out for the next two weeks I think this could be a bit of a one sided encounter.

My prediction: 1-4

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2

Norwich v Liverpool

If the table is to be believed then this one could be classed as a relegaton 6 pointer. Neither side has registered a victory yet in the League, but Liverpool have already had to play both Manchester clubs and Arsenal as well as two tough away trips to Sunderland and West Brom. Since Norwich lost 5-0 away to Fulham on the opening day, they have made themselves difficult to beat without offering too much going forward. Snodgrass has been a real bright spark for them, but with Grant Holt misfiring they are really struggling. Liverpool have been very unlucky so far this season, but the signs from the League Cup win over West Brom midweek suggest they are going in the right direction. With memories of last years magnificent hat-trick still fresh in his mind, I am backing a Luis Suarez inspired change of luck for Liverpool. Just.

My prediction: 1-2

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Reading v Newcastle

I said last week that Reading look like the weakest of the promoted sides, and they have done nothing to change my mind. Reading have managed one solitary point at home to Stoke, a game which in all fairness they should have won. Newcastle have been short of the form they displayed last season but they have still been picking up results. Last time out at Reading, they were soundly beaten by Spurs. You don’t want to give the two Newcastle forwards, Ba and Cisse too many chances, and I think they will be the difference between the sides. I can see Newcastle scoring a few goals.

My prediction: 1-3

Lawro’s prediction: 1-2

Stoke v Swansea

Swansea started the season brilliantly, but they have lost their last two without scoring a goal. I feel that Laudrup made a mistake leaving out Leon Britton last week, he is an underrated player. His ability to sit behind the Swans midfield and dictate the tempo of the game was sorely missed as Everton dominated. Even if Leon Britton is included I still think Stoke will be too good. It is hard to go to the Britannia and play good football as Stoke try to suffocate their opponents. Stoke will be too physical for Swansea and I expect them to win comfortably.

My prediction: 2-0

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Sunderland v Wigan

Sunderland have drawn their first four games of the season, but when you take into consideration trips to Arsenal, West Ham and Swansea I expect Martin O’Neil will be pretty pleased with how his side is shaping up. Steven Fletcher is in fantastic form. In only his second game at the Stadium of Light, he will want to impress again and he could cause havoc against Wigan’s leaky defence. Only two sides in the league have a worse defensive record and I think Sunderland will take advantage of this and score a few goals in a comfortable win.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Man United v Tottenham

Last time Spurs beat United in the league was in 2001 and Spurs havn’t even managed a point at Old Trafford since 2005. That will give you some idea of what a tall order this is for AVB. Having said that, they have now recorded two wins on the bounce as well as an encouraging 3-0 win midweek in the Capital One Cup. So they will go into the game with increasing confidence.

The loss of Nemanja Vidic is a big one for United, but with Rooney returning and van Persie as lethal as ever I think they will be too strong for Spurs. Spurs are adjusting to life under AVB and they are improving steadily, but Old Trafford may be a step too far for them. Should be a very entertaining game, keep an on Moussa Dembele he was the best player on the pitch when visiting Old Trafford earlier in the season with Fulham.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

SUNDAY

Aston Villa v West Brom

Most derby games are tense scrappy affairs and I expect that this game will be very tight. West Brom have had a very good start with 3 wins and a draw in their first 5 games. Aston Villa looked to be progressing well under Paul Lambert with a win over Swansea, but last weeks 4-1 loss to Southampton will have been very disappointing. The one positive will have been Darren Bent finding the back of the net. They will also have had a huge boost from beating Man City in the Capital One Cup midweek. There is never more than a goal between these two sides and I fancy it to be a draw.

My prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

MONDAY

QPR v West Ham

Monday night football is back with a London derby. Both managers have a tendency to set their sides up as hard to beat and go from there, so I don’t expect it to be an open game. QPR need a win, as they are sitting second bottom with only 2 draws so far, West Ham on the other hand have started the season very positively. If you were to follow form, then West Ham would be favourites, but QPR are looking better each week. Esteban Granero is slowly acclimatising to the Premier League and his influence on the side will grow as he is a quality player. It will be a nervy game at Loftus Road, but I think QPR have the quality to nick their first win of the season.

My prediction: 1-0

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

BETTING TIPS:

We suggest putting £10 on each choice at betfair. Our Accumulator won last week at 10/1, leaving us £90 up.

First Goalscorer: Steven Fletcher – Sunderland v Wigan at 5/1 on betfair.

Accumulator: Arsenal, Everton, Stoke, Sunderland and Manchester United at 18/1.

Thoughts and comments welcome, all support appreciated!

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Everton provide blueprint that others should follow

In an era when having two managers in a single season is normal, it is remarkable that David Moyes has manged to spend 10 years at Everton. The chairman, Bill Kenwright’s faith in Moyes, and his undoubted ability are the key to Everton’s success so far this season and in the past decade. Moyes has never had much money to spend, in fact he has only had a net spend of £14 million pounds while at Everton. Despite that, he has transformed them from a team battling relegation to one currently sitting in 3rd place in the Premier League.

Everton’s lack of funds has led many to suggest that their squad lacks depth. This is the case to some extent, but every season despite losing key players Everton become stronger and this season they have more quality beyond the first team than many give them credit for. Jelavic has proven himself as an impressive goalscorer since arriving from Rangers, and he has been joined in the attacking ranks by his former partner at Rangers Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas who was brilliant against Swansea. It looked like the absence of Jelavic for that game at Swansea on the weekend would be a big loss, but Anichebe was a more than handy replacement. They are also well stocked in defence too, with Distin, Jagielka and Heitinga an imressive trio of centre-backs. Everton have a number of players that are versatile enough to play in a various positions, meaning that injuries have less of an effect. Phil Neville can play anywhere across the defence and in the midfield, Fellaini can play up front or in midfield and Jagielka can even play in goal, as Arsenal fans will remember when he kept a clean sheet against them back in his Sheffield United days. These are just a few examples.

Admittedly Fellaini and Pienaar are vital to this Everton side. The diminutive South African adds that touch of class, cutting in from the left flank, he is their creative spark and Marouane Fellaini the afro-haired Belgian has the ability to bully sides off the park as he did against Manchester United on the opening day. Like many sides, they will need to be lucky with injuries to keep this brilliant form going, but it would be harsh to say their squad lacks depth.

I am not suggesting that Everton will win the League, or necessarily even a finish in the Champion’s League places, but they have already shown that they are quality side and they will continue to grow under David Moyes. Their success is a direct result of Bill Kenwright’s trust in his manager. He has given him the time to improve the squad and implement his plans and it has undoubtedly paid off. He is the 3rd longest-serving manager in the Premier League and has recently become one of only four managers to amass 150 Premier League victories joining Harry Redknapp, Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson. This Everton blueprint is one that other teams in the Premier League would be well served following. It may well be one that their Mersyside neighbours may need to adopt to achieve their former glories.

Short supply of luck in Liverpool

It is clear that Liverpool need a finisher, they are 3rd for number of shots per game yet they are lying in 18th place with only 4 goals. It is also clear that Brendan Rodgers only let Andy Carroll go because he was of the assumption that Clint Dempsey was on his way to Anfield.

Liverpool’s bad luck continued on the weekend. Like the Arsenal and Manchester City games previously, they were the better side for much of the game, but on this occasion their inability to score goals was not the sole reason for their downfall. The key decisions of the game went against them. The referee Mark Halsey, in my opinion was very poor. There were two key decisions that changed the game. The first was the red card for Jonjo Shelvey. It is clear from the photo (above) that if Shelvey deserved a red card then Johnny Evans did too. If anything, Evans’ challenge looks worse, it could easily have gone the other way with Man Utd being reduced to 10 men had Shelvey been the one lying on the floor after the challenge. Even after Shelvey’s dismissal Liverpool looked dangerous, but Mark Halsey came to United’s rescue again awarding a very debatable penalty. Glen Johnson was stupid to put his arm across Valencia’s back, but the contact was minimal and not enough to warrant a penalty.

If the defeat wasn’t bad enough, Martin Kelly suffered an injury that could see his season over, Daniel Agger will be out for at  least a week with a “heavily bruised knee”, and Fabio Borini is out indefinitely. Brendan Rodgers has had a difficult start to his tenure at Liverpool, but he has been unlucky. He is trying to transform this Liverpool side and it will take time. Let’s hope John Henry and Tom Werner take a leaf out of Bill Kenwright’s book and give it to him.

Arsenal 12/13 are better than Arsenal 11/12

It seems that Arsenal have solved all the problems from last season. They looked shaky at the back, they lacked structure in the midfield and they were almost devoid of creativity. These are all overstatements that were toggled by the media and fans throughout the season. The one thing that everyone agreed on though, was that Arsenal had the best striker in the league.

What was clear from the game against Manchester City at the weekend, was that Arsenal are more solid at the back now, Steve Bould has obviously made a big difference. They have only conceded 2 goals in their 5 games as opposed to 14 at this stage last season. Per Mertesacker looks to be the player to have benefited most, his intelligence and ability to read the game was evident with 7 interceptions at the Etihad. Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs have also improved remarakbly, they were a constant threat down the flanks and looked far more composed in defence.

Much was said about Arsenal’s lack of a defensive midfielder to start the season, but Wenger’s choice to replace Alex Song with Mikel Arteta has been a master stroke. Arsenal’s midfield looks to be more structured with Arteta in that role, as he is more disciplined than the wandering Song. He is also more efficient with the ball, he made 100 of his 106 attempted passes against City. Diaby too has been a revelation. On the weekend Yaya Toure only really managed to influence the game when Diaby left the field. Aaron Ramsey also had a good game, he will be hoping that he can finally put his injury hell behind him. Santi Cazorla has perhaps been the most important addition to the Arsenal midfield. He provides the creativity that has been missing since Cesc Fabregas left. Wilshere and Rosicky are back in training too and the talented Oxlade-Chamberlain is currently on the bench so there are more options waiting in the wings.

The problems from last season, seem a long way away. Unfortunately, so does the best striker in the league. The one thing Arsenal didn’t need fixing in 11/12 is now missing in 12/13. Arsenal’s most wasteful player, Gervinho, played up front against Manchester City. It would be hard  not to argue that if a certain RvP had been in his place then Arsenal would have won. The Ivorian’s all round play was good, but his finishing was atrocious. Olivier Giroud has failed to find the target and may need more time to adjust to the Premier League. Podolski seems to have slotted in perfectly forming a brilliant partnership with Cazorla, but Wenger seems reluctant to move him from the left flank. It is clear that Arsenal look a far better team than last season, but if they want to truly challenge for the title then they will have to find someone to “score when he wants”, like van Persie did.

Just one final thought…

Sunderland have drawn their opening four games of the season, but with Steven Fletcher in red hot form and Adam Johnson returning you would definitely fancy them to beat Wigan at the Stadium of Light. Maybe have a save some money for a cheeky bet on Fletcher for first goalscorer too.

Wouldn’t be surprised to see home wins for Arsenal, Everton and Stoke either. May be worth an accumulator.

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Before each set of Premier League fixtures, I have a look at ‘BBC football expert’, Mark Lawrenson’s predictions. Every week I have the same reaction. I reckon I could do better. Season after season I complain about his ‘woeful’ tipping. Now it’s time to put my proverbial money where my mouth is and try to beat Lawro.

The points: 1 point for a correct result and 3 points for a correct score.

LAST WEEK

After my bold claims it was tougher than I expected, Lawro went ahead and recorded his best score of the season so far. He got seven results right, with one perfect score.

I managed five results right with two perfect scores. 

Leaving us both tied with nine points each.

 

SATURDAY

Swansea v Everton

Both sides have had similar starts to the season. Very impressive in the first two rounds, but have since slipped slightly. Swansea suffered their first loss away to Aston Villa last week and Everton were unlucky to draw 2-2 at home to Newcastle (let’s not mention goal-line technology again). Swansea have a number of injuries defensively: Ashley Williams could be out, Kyle Bartley is still missing and they are still adjusting to losing Neil Taylor for the season. Everton should have won last weekend, but in the second half their defence looked shaky against Newcastle. Everton are rightly favourites for this one with Swansea’s increasing injury list, but Everton’s poor performance away to West Brom makes me think Swansea will at least get a point. There may well be some goals in the contest too, should be entertaining.

My prediction: 2-2

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

 

Chelsea v Stoke

Chelsea have not won a game since their 4-2 win over Reading almost a month ago. They have lost 4-1 to Athletico Madrid in the Super Cup and drawn with QPR and Juventus. The Champion’s League draw against Juve would have been very disappointing after starting so brightly with two wonderful goals from Oscar. He looks to be an incredible talent, the second of goals is an early contender for UCL goal of the season. I have talked a lot about Stoke’s run of draws, 8 in a row now this season, but if Chelsea play anywhere near their best then Hazard and Mata will cause them too many problems. Stoke will try to sit deep and frustrate Chelsea, but if they concede an early goal then I can see Chelsea scoring a few here.

My prediction: 3-0

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

 

Southampton v Aston Villa

I wrote a piece earlier this week saying that Southampton were better than they looked, but after four games and no points they will be feeling the pressure. Nigel Adkins will see this as the perfect opportunity to open their account in the Premier League, but Villa got a good point away to Newcastle a couple of weeks ago and followed it up with a win against Swansea. I see Southampton nicking this one, but it will be very tight.

My prediction: 2-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

 

West Brom v Reading

In my opinion, Reading look the weakest of the promoted sides. They were poor against Tottenham last weekend and were beaten comfortably. Reading impressed in their first away game of the season at Chelsea and were unlucky not to at least get a point. West Brom have been very good at home though, beating Liverpool 3-0 and Everton 2-0. I fancy Reading to put up a fight, but I can’t see anything other than a home win.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

 

West Ham v Sunderland

To stay in the league you have to make yourselves hard to beat at home, West Ham have had two games and two wins so far at Upton Park. Sam Allardyce couldn’t have asked for a better start. Carlton Cole is a doubt and with Andy Carroll already out, that could be a huge blow for the Hammers. Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland side are unbeaten so far with three draws out of three. They were impressive on the break against  Swansea and if Adam Johnson is passed fit, then he and Sessegnon could once again cause havoc. Unfortunately for them, West Ham don’t give opposition teams much space to play in and they will try to sit deep and avoid letting Sunderland get the ball in to the increasingly impressive Steven Fletcher. This could be a very tight game and I think both side would be happy with a draw.

My prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s prediction: 1-2

 

Wigan v Fulham

Wigan were beaten convincingly by Manchester United last weekend, they kept them at bay for the first half but capitulated in the second. Fulham have suffered with the loss of their two main players, Dembele and Dempsey, but Berbatov has added a real spark and looks like he could be a fantastic signing for Martin Jol. Wigan have not beaten Fulham since 2005 and five of the last six at The DW stadium have finished in a draw and I expect that to be the case on Saturday too.

My prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

 

SUNDAY

Liverpool v Man Utd

This is a huge game for Liverpool. It’s the first at Anfield since the new Hillsborough verdict and they have only managed to pick up two points so far this season. Liverpool have a very good record against Manchester United at Anfield and Brendan Rodgers desperately needs a win, but I can’t see it coming this weekend. I don’t know whether the occasion will have a positive or negative affect on the Liverpool players, but either way I think Man Utd will be too good.

My prediction: 1-2

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

 

Newcastle v Norwich

Newcastle were lucky to get a point against Everton last weekend and like their opponents they havn’t really got going yet this season. Norwich have started to look more solid. Since their 5-0 humbling on the opening day, they have picked up three draws on the run. Even so, they could really struggle this season. Newcastle were brilliant last season finishing just outside the Champion’ League places. It will be tough for them to replicate that, but I expect them to beat Norwich comfortably at St James’ Park.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

 

Man City v Arsenal

This could well be the game of the round, both teams have some very exciting players and like to play free-flowing football. A lot has been made of Arsenal’s new-found defensive stability with Steve Bould garnering much of the credit, but they have not properly been tested yet. They certainly look stronger but Tevez and Aguero, if fit, will provide a clearer idea of where they are at. They way Arsenal are set up now, should make them a very dangerous proposition away from home. They are sitting deeper in defence and Podolski and Cazorla look very dangerous on the break. I think they could come away with a win at the Etihad. It is a bold call, but Man City havn’t quite clicked yet. Southampton ran them close and their trip to the Bernabeu will have taken a lot out of them.

My prediction: 1-2

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

 

Tottenham v QPR

Spurs got a very good win against Reading last week, and they are looking better with each game, I still don’t believe that they are as good as last season though. They have drawn their last two games at home conceding late goals to West Brom and Norwich but I think they will have too much for QPR. Jermain Defoe is in brilliant form and I fancy him to score another couple on Sunday. QPR got a good point against Chelsea last weekend and the more Granero gets to play the better they will get, but I feel this game will be a bit too early in their season for them to have an impact.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

 

BETTING TIPS:

First Goalscorer: Jermain Defoe v QPR

Accumulator: West Brom, Southampton, Newcastle and Tottenham.

 

Thoughts and comments welcome, all support appreciated!

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The pre-game handshakes should be scrapped

John Terry looks longingly at Anton Ferdinand after the he refuses to shake his hand.

PFA chairman Gordon Taylor suggested yesterday that the row over Anton Ferdinand’s refusal to shake John Terry’s hand could descend into a “Mafia feud”. Having watched the Sopranos I know what a Mafia feud looks like, and this is not about to become one. However, it is rather pathetic that we end up spending half the weekend talking about a handshake, or the lack therof, rather than another brilliant weekend of Premier League football.

These pre-game handshakes have caused more trouble than they are worth. First we had Terry v Bridge, then Evra v Suarez and now Terry again v Anton Ferdinand. Next weekend, we are going to have to go through the whole sorry debace again as Evra and Suarez come face to face. The PFA should have a look at how it’s done in the world of rugby and cricket. In rugby, they belt eachother relentlessly for 90 minutes but at the end of the game the mutual respect is clear. Whatever kicks, punches and eye gouges that are suffered stay on the pitch and that’s it. Similarly in Cricket, they sledge eachother and compete fiercly for 5 days but will sit down in the changing room at the end of the match and have a beer together.

They should scrap the handshake and let the players, who are grown up enough to do so, shake hands at the end of the game. This way, it doesn’t give them the opportunity to ruin what we are all actually all there to see, the football.

How long is it going to take to implement the obvious?

Anichebe’s disallowed goal against Newcastle last night

Ever since Frank Lampard had a goal disallowed in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal, it has been clear, especially in the Englishman’s mind, that goal-line technology needs to be introduced. So, why hasn’t anything been done about it? Unfortunately, last night another fantastic game was marred by a poor decision that could have been easily rectified with it’s introduction. If Anichebe’s goal had been given Everton would have gone 2-1 up with 10 minutes to play against Newcastle.

There is an argument that says football is unique amongst sport because it is the same from the professional ranks all the way down to your average Sunday league kick about, but it no longer makes sense to not use the resources that are available. Enough is enough, the sooner it is introduced the better. Then we can get back to talking about football and what an enthralling match it was on Monday night.

Southampton are not as bad as they look

Rickie Lambert celebrates his goal against Manchester City with Southampton captain Adam Lallana

Southampton are stuck at the foot of the table with no points, but they have played both Manchester clubs and Arsenal and we are only four games into the season. Very few teams would have come out of those games with anything to show for it. It is fair to say that their loss at home to Wigan was the big disappointment, but the performances against the two sides from Manchester suggests they have a lot to give to this season. They were 3 minutes away from victory against Manchester United, and 2-1 up at The Etihad against City only to be beaten 3-2 in both.

They have a young side, with bags of talent. Jason Puncheon and England call-up and captain Adam Lallana terrorised Manchester United from the flanks. Top scorer in The Championship last season, Ricky Lambert has shown that he has the quality to score goals against the big boys with strikes against United and City. 22 year old Morgan Scneiderlin who signed for Southampton in 2008 despite interest from Arsenal and Chelsea, has represented France from U16 up to U21 level. He is a calm head in the middle of park and combined with 17 year old James Ward-Prowse who has started every game this season they look like an exciting young duo. Gaston Ramirez is still to be added to the midfield so they have enough good attacking players to trouble many teams. Nigel Adkins will have to temper his teams attacking instincts with a bit of defensive stability before they can truly flourish, but expect a lot more from Southampton in the coming weeks.

Just one final thought…

Last week we mentioned that Stoke’s run of draws may be worth a punt and they came up with the goods against Manchester City holding on for a 1-1 draw. This week, that run could well end. Stoke have a poor record at Stamford Bridge having conceded 10 in the last 3 seasons and scoring none, so expect a comfortable Chelsea win.

Elsewhere, Manchester United have not won in the League at Anfield since 2007 and Wigan have not beaten Fulham since 2006, both could be worth a dabble.

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Before each set of Premier League fixtures, I have a look at ‘BBC football expert’, Mark Lawrenson’s predictions. Every week I have the same reaction. I reckon I could do better. Season after season I complain about his ‘woeful’ tipping. Now it’s time to put my proverbial money where my mouth is and try to beat Lawro.

Each week I will give a small preview to the game explaining my choice and follow it with mine and Lawro’s predictions.

The points: 1 point for a correct result and 3 points for a correct score.

 

SATURDAY

Norwich v West Ham

I fancy Norwich to get their first win of the season in this one, but it will be tight. Sam Allardyce’s team will play their own scintillating brand of long ball football, but without Andy Carroll and away from home it may not be quite so effective. I was very impressed with Norwich at Spurs a couple of weeks ago, especially Robert Snodgrass who has been brilliant. They are beginning to gel under Chris Hughton, and I think they may just knick this one.

My prediction: 2-1

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

 

Arsenal v Southampton

Arsenal will be heavy favourites after their good win at Anfield and I expect them to back that up with their first home win of the season. It won’t be as easy as many expect though. Sothampton were 5 minutes away from an upset win over Manchester United last round, and were leading 2-1 at Manchester City with not too long to go either. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Giroud open his account for the gunners and Southampton score a goal to end Arsenal’s run of 3 games without conceding.

My prediction: 3-1

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

 

Aston Villa v Swansea

Villa need a win, and they need some goals. Swansea have lost Chico to suspension plus Neil Taylor and new recruit Kyle Bartley to injury, so there is no better time to do it than against an ailing defence. Swansea have undoubtedly been the surprise of the season so far. Many, including myself, expected them to struggle with the loss of Brendan Rodgers, but Michael Laudrup has brought in some fantastic players and they have really kicked on. There is a long way to go, but they are a very exciting team. I think this one could end in a draw.

My prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

 

Fulham v West Brom

There hasn’t been an away win in fixtures between these two sides for over 10 years. Fulham started the season with a bang, but have since faltered. The loss of Moussa Dembele is huge. Dimitar Berbatov will be a boost, but the energy and quality that Dembele brought to the midfield cannot be replaced. He was the best player on the pitch when they went to Old Trafford. West Brom have started very brightly under Steve Clarke with wins over the two Mersyside clubs at home and a very good point away to Spurs. I think their success may continue in London, but it will only be a point.

My prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s prediciton: 2-1

 

Manchester United v Wigan

I think Wigan could get a bit of a pasting here. United are due a big win. There were concerns over the fitness of Robin van Persie and Kagawa midweek, but they are both fit. I thought they were excellent at home to Fulham a few weeks ago, and could have scored many more than 3 in the first half. The inclusion of Darren Fletcher in the squad will be a massive boost to them too. Wigan have conceded 24 goals in their last 7 games at Old Trafford and I don’t expect that stat to get much better.

My prediction: 4-1

Lawro’s prediction: 3-0

 

QPR v Chelsea

Leading up to this game their has been more talk about the handhsake than the contest. I predict their to be handshake, or a snub of a handshake or whatever. Who actually cares whether they shake hands. The FA should just scrap them altogether as they have cause more problems than they are worth. Evra v Suarez, John Terry v everyone enough’s enough. Get rid of them. In terms of the game, I think it could be very tight. Chelsea are top of the league, and QPR are second bottom, but I think QPR will get better as the season progresses. Granero is a magnificent signing from Real Madrid and I think they could just grab a cheeky point at Loftus Road.

My prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

 

Stoke v Manchester City

Stoke fans will be excited about the signing f Michael Owen, but this game could come a bit early for him. Stoke set themselves up to be very hard to beat and then go from there. The news that Sergio Aguero is close to a return is a big boost for City, other than Carlos Tevez who has been outstanding, they havn’t been all too convincing at the start of this season. Stoke have drawn their last 8 games in all competitions. They have also drawn their last 3 at home to Man City. No surprises that I think this one is going to be a draw too.

My prediction: 1-1

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

 

Sunderland v Liverpool

This is not an easy trip for Liverpool, and it gets worse next week with Manchester United travelling to Anfield. Sunderland are improving under Martin O’Neill. They got a good point away to Arsenal and were close to beating Swansea at Liberty Stadium. Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson, have looked very sharp and this is Sunderland’s first home game of the season so they will be looking to impress their new fans. Liverpool were brilliant against Manchester City, but gifted a sloppy equaliser to Tevez late on. They were very good in the first half against Arsenal too, but had no cutting edge in attack. They need to find goals very soon, as their only goals have come from set plays so far this season. I think Sunderland are starting to look like a very good side and I expect them to take all the points.

My prediciton: 2-1

Lawro’s prediciton: 2-1

 

SUNDAY

Reading v Tottenham

Reading were unlucky not to at least get a point away from home to Chelsea, and they would have won at home to Stoke if it wasn’t for a goalkeeping howler. Tottenham are still looking for their first win under AVB. They are struggling to cope with the loss of Modric and Van der Vaart, but with Moussa Dembele, Adebayor and Clint Dempsey all fit and able to start I think they will be too strong for Reading.

My prediciton: 1-3

Lawro’s predicition: 1-2

 

MONDAY

Everton v Newcastle

Newcastle started off brightly with a win against Spurs, but were pretty ordinary against Chelsea and Villa. They will need to improve significantly to get anything at Goodison. Everton are another team that were very impressive early on, with wins against Man U and Villa. Fellaini’s comments about this season being his last at Goodison during the week will have been a shock though, he has been outstanding. It will be interesting to see if that will have any effect on the dressing room. He has been somewhat of a talisman for them.  His performance against Man U was probably the best we’ve seen so far this season. With Krul, Tiote and Colocinni out for Newcastle, I think Everton will be comfortable winners.

My prediction: 2-0

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

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This is not a list of the 5 worst players in the Premier League. Each player’s position on the list is based on their talent in relation to how highly rated they are by the media and fans. So don’t expect to see names like Marouane Chamakh or Emile Heskey. I know they are not very good, but they aren’t rated very highly either. Here is my top 5, let me know what yours is too?

5. Ashley Young

Ashley Young has been a huge disappointment. When he signed for Manchester United in a high profile £16 million move from Aston Villa, so much was expected of him. Unfortunately he had a largely underwhelming first season at Old Trafford. He started brilliantly with a couple of assists in his League debut against West Brom and two goals and three assists in the Red Devils’ famous 8-2 win over Arsenal. Since then, though, Young has tallied just one goal and one assist for United. He is very talented, but infuriatingly inconsistent. At the end of last season, he went through a rather deplorable phase of regularly hitting the turf as though he’d suffered a one inch punch from Bruce Lee, which would be all well and good, if he could only stick one in the back of the net.

Ashley Young misses his penalty in the Euro 2012 quarter final shootout against Italy

4. David De Gea

Manchester United paid £17 million for 20 year old David De Gea last summer. Finally, Manchester United had signed a replacement for the legendary Peter Schmeical. Attempts to replace him with the likes of Fabien Barthez and Raimond van der Gouw failed spectacularly. Ok. fine. Edwin van der Sar was a fantastic player for  Man U for 6 seasons, but every Manchester United goalkeeper that plays at Old Trafford will eventually be compared to The Great Dane. David De Gea has time on his hands, but he hasn’t come close to either van der Sar or Schmeical. He is a wonderful shot stopper, but he is nervy when dealing with crosses prefers an extravagant punch to an easy catch which puts his team under unnecessary pressure. He has a lot to prove, especially with the £17 million price tag to live up to.

3. Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott has been overrated since Sven-Goran Eriksson unfortunately thrust him into the limelight by selecting him as a 17-year-old for England’s 2006 World Cup squad. In hindsight it was completely ridiculous. He hadn’t even played in the Premier League. He really struggled to cope with the attention that was thrust on him. Not too easy when you are dubbed the English Thierry Henry. The hat-trick in Croatia propelled Walcott to new levels of adulation, but he’s struggled with consistency ever since then. His most irritating trait is to run the ball out of play without any pressure from the opposition, and his crossing at times is very poor. Walcott with his pace, can be sensational but the good performances are too rare for him to match some of the hype that surrounds him.

2. Gareth Barry

I am not completely sure how Gareth Barry became an England regular. He went through a purple patch that lasted about 4 games under Fabio Capello where people thought he was the English answer to Xavi. Barry was a relatively big fish in a small pond at Aston Villa but at City he is a tiny fish in the biggest of Oceans. I don’t know how well that analogy works, but I am sure you understand what I mean. He is not as good as many make him out to be. Liverpool even tried to ship Xabi Alonso off to Arsenal to accommodate him at one point. Unbelievable. He is a good passer of the ball, but much of it is lateral and makes little impact. He has no distinguishable attribute that separates himself from most other Premier League midfielders, and is now just an older, less talented Jack Wilshere.

1. Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale scores a hat-trick against Inter Milan mugging off Maicon in the process

A hat-trick at the San Siro 2 years ago had people comparing Gareth Bale to Lionel Messi. Let’s just put that into context: Messi scored 50 League goals last season and got 27 assists. Gareth scored 9 with 10 assists. Now I am not seriously suggesting that Gareth Bale or anyone for that matter should be compared with Lionel Messi, bar Cristiano Ronaldo who brings that on himself, but many people in the last couple of seasons have done so. He is still a very good player, but he is nowhere near as good as most make him out to be. Bale took the Premier League and Champions League by storm in 2010-11 season but now the opposition has caught up and Bale has regressed. He has pace, size and all the athleticism you could ask for in a winger but lacks the intricate technical skill required to be elite. His preferred move is to kick the ball 10 yards in front of his opposition number and then to beat them to it. The more experienced and intelligent Premier League defenders have got wise to this keeping him quiet in the big games. It’s a shame that the ageing Maicon didn’t have this inside info otherwise Gareth Bale may not have been top of this list.

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Tottenham lacking in creativity

Tottenham struggled to create chances against Norwich on the weekend. The Norwich midfield was more than a match for Spurs and they deserved their 1-1 draw. Dembele made a difference when he came on, but it was clear to see that Tottenham were missing Rafael Van Der Vaart and especially, Luka Modric. Gylfi Sigurdsson, does create chances and he looks to be a top prospect. He had a great start to his Premier League career with Swansea, but he is still very inexperienced. He now has to deal with the pressure of filling Van der Vaart’s shoes and at Spurs the expectation levels are that much higher. Although he looked good in pre-season he has struggled to have the same impact in the first few League games. This will come as the season progresses and he fits in to his new surroundings.

The real loss for Spurs will be in the centre of the park though. Modric completed over 2200 passes last season, averaging 70 passes a game. None of the new recruitments get close to this sort of turnover. Every Tottenham move went through him, ESPN FC describes him as “skilful, creative, classy, a playmaker with immense vision.” It’s the playmaker in him that has not been replaced. Dempsey and Dembele are more direct players, and it make take a slight change in style for Tottenham to adapt to their strengths. They still have quality throughout their squad and Spur’s first team still looks very strong, but it may take a few more games for them to adapt to life without Modric. We saw at the beginning of last season, when he was heavily linked with Chelsea that they really struggle without him. A slightly more direct approach will suit Dempsey and Dembele better.

Same old problems for Liverpool

Only Chelsea, Man City and Tottenham had more shots per game last season than Liverpool but they still only managed to score 47 League goals. More worryingly, only 5 teams scored less goals at home last season and only 4 won fewer games at home than Liverpool. This is largely down to their profligacy in front of goal. Suarez is a brilliant player, and on his day can produce moments of absolute genius. The hat-trick away to Norwich last season, where he scored a spectacular 40 yard lob, immediately springs to mind. He is not a finisher though. He can be very wasteful in front of goal.

Yesterday, against Arsenal, they once again lacked that cutting edge. They were on top for most of the first half but just couldn’t find the back of the net. They also seemed to be very short of options off the bench. Stewart Downing was the only attacking change that Rodgers was able to make yesterday. He admitted after the game that it was a mistake to let Andy Carroll go and that he was very confident in signing a replacement before deadline day ended. To make matters worse, Carroll had a very good debut for West Ham and showed exactly how useful he could have been to Brendan Rodgers who was obviously under the impression that he was going to sign Clint Dempsey. What is clear is that: if Liverpool do find a goalscorer, whether it’s Owen who Rodgers refused to rule out, or Suarez discovering some shooting boots, they create enough chances to be a force this season. If they don’t, they will be battling for a Europa League spot once again.

Are Manchester United a one man team?

The most common insult thrown Arsenal’s way last season was that they were a one man team. I am not actually suggesting that Arsenal were or Manchester United are, but this season United fans may well come to understand how Arsenal fans felt. Yesterday, Robin van Persie scored a sublime hat-trick to defeat Southampton 3-2. Other than missing a penalty he was at his brilliant best: The first was a classy finish, the second was a real poachers goal and the third a sublime near post header to wrap up the game and his hat-trick.

Van Persie doesn’t have the best fitness record. Last season was his first injury free season in his 7 years in Highbury. Arsenal fans were hoping that the ‘Wenger curse’, that affected Hleb, Flamini and plenty of others who have left would strike Van Persie and that his fitness would maybe be in question after a long season followed by the Euros. If anything he looks fitter than ever. He looks very sharp and every time he got the ball yesterday he looked like scoring. This could well be a long season watching Van Persie for the Arsenal faithful, whereas Man United fans could come to revel in the tag of being a ‘one man team’. Who could blame them, when the one man is that good though.

Just one final thought…

Stoke love a draw don’t they. Since they won their first pre-season game 1-0, they have drawn the next 8 most recently against Wigan on Saturday. They have in fact drawn 14 of their last 19 games. May be worth a punt…

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