February 28, 2020, 06:23:27 PM

Author Topic: English Premier League (EPL) Thread  (Read 141142 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline soccerman

  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 4449
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1350 on: August 08, 2015, 08:52:23 PM »
I know it's not the BPL but the game between Bury and Doncaster in League One and a strange turn of events with 2 very unusual goals in injury time.

http://www.espnfc.com/blog-the-toe-poke/story/2553871/doncaster-rovers-allow-bury-to-walk-the-ball-in?ex_cid=espnTW

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1351 on: August 08, 2015, 09:05:44 PM »
I know it's not the BPL but the game between Bury and Doncaster in League One and a strange turn of events with 2 very unusual goals in injury time.

http://www.espnfc.com/blog-the-toe-poke/story/2553871/doncaster-rovers-allow-bury-to-walk-the-ball-in?ex_cid=espnTW

Listening to Dickov's comments right now. Glad you posted it. Was about to source the video and post here. Instead ah going to find ah way of introducing Miguel Herrera to Paul Dickov. :devil:
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1352 on: August 08, 2015, 09:17:39 PM »
Arouna Koné hits late leveller to give Everton a point against Watford
By Richard Jolly (The Guardian, UK).


Everton 2 Watford 2

Watford are starting to rue late equalisers. One cost them the Championship crown on the final day of last season. Another, bookending the summer with further disappointment, deprived them of two Premier League points. Silverware was not at stake this time, but the verdict may be that Arouna Koné’s strike was a more damaging leveller, even if the early evidence is that, unlike their predecessors, this Watford team may not beat an immediate and ignominious return to the second tier.

They were five minutes from a victory that would have been extraordinary. Not so much because of their history at Goodison Park, which consisted purely of defeats, but because of the scale of the overhaul at Vicarage Road. The division’s busiest buyers have made 10 signings. Their fifth manager in a year, Quique Flores, chose six to start, including three of the back four and both defensive midfielders. The team contained 11 different nationalities, the matchday squad 16.

“So many nationalities, so many players who had not played before,” mused Roberto Martínez. “But Quique Flores is a very good manager and he structures a team very well.”

So it proved. Watford played with a level of cohesion that scarcely indicated they were strangers weeks ago. The only surprise, given their ruthlessness in looking to upgrade wherever possible, was that both of their goals came from survivors of their promotion-winning campaign.

Each was a strike to savour. Miguel Layún was making only his 15th Watford start but, considering the context, qualifies as one of the old-stagers. He opened his account for the club with their first top-flight goal since 2007. After Troy Deeney had a shot blocked, the debutant José Manuel Jurado crossed from the left, Phil Jagielka botched his attempt to clear and Layún drilled his shot past Tim Howard.

For an hour, the Mexican appeared the probable match-winner. Then that mantle passed to a colleague. After Ross Barkley levelled, Odion Ighalo had the cheek to dummy his way past John Stones, twisting and turning before defeating Howard. It was the Nigerian’s 18th goal in 20 league games but, after the summer influx and a switch in system, he had been demoted from the starting 11. “He didn’t train during the week,” Flores said. “He was injured.”

Everton have altogether more serious injury concerns. Leighton Baines had ankle surgery in May and could require another operation after he was hurt blocking a shot in training. “That has been a real disaster,” Martínez said. “He was devastated. It was a big knock. It is not going to be two or three weeks. It is going to be longer than that.” Baines is set to miss England’s Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Switzerland but, although the Everton manager wants three more signings, he has ruled out looking for another left-back.

Newcomers have been in short supply at Goodison Park. While Flores confirmed that the Italy international Alessandro Diamanti will become Watford’s 11th recruit, Everton were only able to unveil one arrival, the free transfer Tom Cleverley. Yet paragons of change were pegged back by a club with unwanted continuity. Certainly there were similarities to last season in the febrile mood. Everton were booed off at half-time and applauded an hour later. It was a soundtrack that summed up seesawing emotions.

But there is scope for improvement within Goodison. It was highlighted by their scorers, who each have a point to prove. Barkley mustered only two league goals last season but unleashed an unstoppable long-range shot. “Ross Barkley scores a goal that only he can score with that technique and that class, but with the maturity of a new Ross Barkley,” Martínez said.

Koné had struck only once before in his two-year Everton career until the substitute latched on to Romelu Lukaku’s pass and defeated Heurelho Gomes. One of Martínez’s former Wigan charges, he has not been a popular figure with the Goodison crowd. This, his mentor, hopes, will be a turning point. “When he arrived it was like a black cat crossed the road,” Martínez rued. “He got an injury and he never had any momentum or luck. Today he had to win the crowd over and I was delighted.”

He added: “We showed a performance in the second half that could be an incredible platform to become very good.” As eight of their next nine games are against last season’s top 10, they will have to be.
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1353 on: August 08, 2015, 09:39:49 PM »
Premier League 2015-16 preview: Watford
By Simon Burnton (The Guardian, UK).


After winning promotion, Watford enter the big stage with an almost entirely fresh cast and the task facing their new manager Quique Sánchez Flores is to meld them into a team capable of staying up


Heurelho Gomes is one of the few players in the Watford squad that won promotion considered by the club to be unequivocally ready for the top flight.

Ordinarily, this would be the place for a thorough appraisal of last season’s promotion-winning side – their strengths, weaknesses, frequently used formations, best players, weak links, etc and so forth – but, really, what’s the point? It’s not as if that team exists any more.

It is traditional for a promoted club, however impressive they looked in securing their Premier League spot, to do a fair amount of business before their season in the spotlight. They will ordinarily add a bit of top-flight experience – most commonly by picking the pockets of one of the freshly relegated trio – then look abroad for perhaps one retirement-approaching heavily garlanded international mercenary, and seal a season-long loan deal for a promising member of Chelsea’s reserve side. The core of the team who kick off the season in the top flight, however, will also have been there when the final whistle blew on the previous campaign. In last season’s Premier League, players who had also been involved in the club’s promotion made 66.75% of all league starts at QPR, 71.77% at Leicester, and 80.86% at Burnley.

For a manager, meanwhile, promotion may not secure long-term job security but it can normally be assumed the achievement will give him at the very least a chance to establish the team and his reputation in their new surroundings.

Under the ownership of Gino Pozzo, whose family have previously led Udinese in Italy and Granada in Spain to promotion and successful consolidation, Watford have not only ripped up this rule book, they have made origami monkeys with it, then set fire to them and eaten the ashes with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

First they looked at the squad who secured second place in the Championship last season – missing out on the title only because of a last-minute Sheffield Wednesday equaliser on the final day. It included three strikers who between them had scored 57 goals in the league alone, as well as a defence with the fifth-best record in the division. In all 27 players contributed to the promotion campaign and remained on the club’s books at its conclusion, and the owners made a list of those they considered good enough to be first-choice picks in the new-look, top-flight side. When they had finished, the list had two names on it.

Then they had to deal with the manager. Slavisa Jokanovic had arrived in November, famously the fourth permanent manager of the season, and had galvanised a team who had frequently underwhelmed into co-victors in the most closely fought promotion campaign of recent years. Although his contract expired at the end of last season, the intention was for Jokanovic to be in charge at least for the start of the new campaign – but first they had to thrash out a deal. They offered him a considerable increase on his basic salary, with a seven-figure bonus if the club’s top-flight status were secured for a second season; he demanded the proposed salary be doubled. The club called his bluff, and he now manages Maccabi Tel Aviv.

What has followed is not so much a facelift as major reconstructive surgery. So overwhelmingly different does the side now appear, if they pull this off it will make Ronald Koeman’s achievements with a thoroughly remodelled Southampton side last season appear humiliatingly ho-hum.

At the helm now is Quique Sánchez Flores, who took Valencia to the Champions League quarter-final in 2007, when they lost to Chelsea, and won the Europa League with Atlético Madrid in 2010, when they beat Fulham in the final. He has had a peripatetic career, most recently managing Al Ahli and Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, and spending six weeks at Getafe earlier this year but his pedigree is hard to question. He will need all of his nous to fashion a group of players unfamiliar not just to him but to each other into a cohesive whole – though of course the same was said of Gianfranco Zola when he arrived with a coachload of recruits in the summer of 2012, and he immediately guided the team to third in the Championship, missing out on automatic promotion in bizarre circumstances on the final day of the season.

The existing squad have not exactly been cast aside – several have signed new contracts and the striker Matej Vydra, previously a loanee, has made his move permanent. A few – most notably the midfielders Almen Abdi and Ben Watson, centre-backs Gabriele Angella and Craig Cathcart, the Scotland winger Ikechi Anya and strikers Odion Ighalo and Vydra – are likely to make fairly regular appearances this season. But the only ones considered unequivocally top flight ready are the goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who despite occasional heart-in-the-mouth moments was unrecognisable last season from the calamitous carnival of blunders Tottenham fans will no doubt remember, and the striker and captain Troy Deeney.

And so the other positions – with the team likely to start the season in a 4-2-3-1 formation – were gradually filled. The Greece left-back José Holebas arrived from Roma for £1.8m, the centre-backs Sebastian Prödl, a free-transfer from Werder Bremen, and Miguel Britos, whose transfer was part of the deal that took the Udinese midfielder Allan to his previous club, Napoli, followed, with the Cameroon right-back Allan Nyom joining from Udinese (though he never played for them, and spent the past six seasons on loan at Granada). The defensive midfield slots were filled by Valon Behrami, once of West Ham, and Étienne Capoue, a club-record £6m arrival from Tottenham. José Jurado, who flourished under Sánchez Flores at Atlético, has been reunited with his former manager after signing from Spartak Moscow, and will play off the striker, while the left-footed AZ winger Steven Berghuis turned down PSV in favour of Hertfordshire. (His father Frank, a former PSV winger, memorably said of the deal: “When it comes to Watford you don’t immediately say ‘wow’. However, you do say ‘wow’ when it comes to the money.”)

There remains space for one more wide player – the club are yet to abandon their pursuit of Genoa’s Diego Perotti, even though the Argentinian rejected their advances when a fee was agreed in June. They would also like to sign another striker, going so far as to agree personal terms with Blackburn’s Rudy Gestede earlier this summer. In the end Watford decided to complete the deal only if they could sell one of the four forwards they already employ, ideally Fernando Forestieri (though Ighalo’s 23 goals in his last 24 appearances have not been enough to guarantee him a future at Watford either), and Gestede joined Aston Villa instead.


Valon Behrami, right, is among the many players signed by Watford this summer.

What this all adds up to is a giant swamp of uncertainty but for all that there is no lack of optimism. Promotion was no fluke: Watford had a fearsome squad in the Championship, one who, unlike Norwich and Bournemouth, flourished not because of one inspirational manager but despite a succession of fairly average ones, and they have since been massively strengthened. Given the quality of some of the teams who avoided relegation from last season’s Premier League, and of Watford’s’ fellow promotees, it seems puzzling bookmakers and journalists (including ourselves, to be fair) appear united in forecasting unmitigated failure. Still, this pessimism is yet to spread to the home support, the Pozzo family’s achievements at Udinese and Granada – and in the past three years at Watford – having led fans to accept that they probably know what they are doing.

One interesting curiosity: when Watford were first promoted to the top flight, in 1982, their first five fixtures were – in alphabetical order – against Everton, Manchester City, Southampton, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion. On their return this season, their first five fixtures will be – in alphabetical order (and you can tell where this is heading) – against Everton, Manchester City, Southampton, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion. If that run somehow ends as it did the last time they went through it – with four wins, 12 points and the club top of the league – everyone else may as well burn their rule books too.

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 20th

Last season’s position: 2nd (Championship)

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 5,000-1
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1354 on: August 08, 2015, 09:56:33 PM »
Premier League 2015-16 preview: Everton
By Andy Hunter (The Guardian, UK).


Roberto Martínez faces a difficult start, and has yet to seriously strengthen his squad, as he looks to prove that his disappointing second season was a blip

There was a certain kudos for Roberto Martínez in appearing the polar opposite of his predecessor a year ago. No longer. Rightly or wrongly, David Moyes established a reputation for playing down Everton’s prospects while gradually building his team up. The image Martínez must dispel in his third season at Goodison Park is of the manager who talked up Everton while swiftly bringing the team down.

Following the enterprising, re-energising debut campaign that yielded the club’s record points tally in the Premier League era, the only spectacular aspect of Martínez’s second year was the extent of Everton’s decline.

Last summer’s pre-season preview ended with a line intended to reflect the optimism and ambition of a team who had finished fifth on 72 points, secured their best young players to long-term contracts and agreed a £28m deal with Chelsea for Romelu Lukaku. “The next step is clear; to go one better,” it read. How misplaced that proved to be as an Everton squad that Martínez insisted had improved and was equipped to pursue both the Europa League title and with it Champions League qualification tumbled to 11th and 47 points.

The club’s lowest league finish in nine years and smallest points total since 2004 was accompanied by immediate exits in the FA Cup and League Cup for the first time in their history. Only from 15 March, when an appalling Newcastle United team were beaten 3-0 at Goodison, did Everton produce the momentum of three consecutive league wins to pull clear of relegation trouble. Martínez visibly aged amid the pressure and there has been little to prevent the spread of worry lines around Liverpool 4 since. Granted, with almost five weeks before the close of the transfer window, there is scope for that to change.


John Stones has been the subject of a £20m bid from Chelsea, which Everton turned down. The Premier League champions are expected to return with a fresh offer.

Chelsea have had a £20m bid rejected for John Stones and a second offer for the classy defender is imminent. Everton remain adamant that Moyes’ final signing as manager is not for sale and, in a rather quaint move, put their stance on the England international in writing to the Premier League champions. Hopefully the letter removed the need for a distracting transfer saga by simply stating: “You got £50m for David Luiz.” Manchester United’s outlay on Luke Shaw last summer, £27m rising to £31m, also demonstrates the market price for young English defensive talent. And Stones is comparatively more valuable to Chelsea than Shaw is to United if, as claimed, José Mourinho sees the 21-year-old as John Terry’s heir apparent.

Martínez ideally envisages constructing a Champions League-challenging team around the emerging core of Stones, James McCarthy – another player linked with the exit this summer in the absence of a new contract offer – Ross Barkley and Lukaku. He needs another central defender even in the event of Everton resisting Chelsea’s advances for Stones with Sylvain Distin and Antolín Alcaraz released. Another striker to ease the responsibility on Lukaku is also required, with a predictable attack one of Everton’s problems last season prior to the injection of Aaron Lennon’s pace and directness while on loan from Tottenham Hotspur.

Everton balked at Spurs’ £9m valuation of Lennon, a 28-year-old with only a year remaining on his contract at White Hart Lane, and have dismissed the idea of the winger forming part of a deal for McCarthy. They can ill-afford to lose the Republic of Ireland midfielder who needs to become more of a leader for Everton next season, though Martínez retains interest in a separate deal for Lennon.

The Everton manager has confirmed he wants two further additions before the window shuts. While he would never rock the boat with a board who stood by him during last season’s many trials, there must be concern at the minimal investment in his squad so far. Gerard Deulofeu has arrived for £4.2m from Barcelona after a belatedly effective season on loan at Goodison in 2013-14 while Martínez has also sought a reunion with Tom Cleverley, a player he managed briefly at Wigan Athletic and has acquired on a free from Manchester United. Both will have to address the lack of ingenuity and sharpness that afflicted Everton last season when a sudden vulnerability in defence increased the manager’s problems.

While the club has wisely used the current broadcasting deal to reduce overall debt there is an element of risk in improving only modestly a squad that spent the bulk of last season in the lower reaches. Swansea City, Stoke City and Crystal Palace all finished above Everton in 2014-15 and have been more active in this summer’s transfer market. Not that new faces are a cure-all by any means, but ambitious players like Lukaku, Stones and others will have noted West Ham United beating their employer to the signature of the Juventus defender Angelo Ogbonna and even Mike Ashley displaying greater intent at Newcastle.

Improvement must come from within, regardless of what materialises in the market before 1 September. The manager’s selections and tactics invited scorn from supporters – his own players even made a direct appeal for Martínez to abandon possession for possession’s sake and go more direct to Lukaku – but the under-achievement was collective. The Europa League became an excuse for Premier League toils despite Everton’s worst run of form arriving during the European winter break. Their workload is reduced this term.

Barkley struggled with heightened expectation and admitted recently to suffering a loss of confidence as the season progressed. An overdue break from football this summer, with the midfielder omitted from the European Under-21 Championship, will hopefully reignite the spark. Injuries or World Cup exertions – or both – impacted on Lukaku, Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, who eventually recovered superbly, and Leighton Baines. He and fellow full-back Seamus Coleman were contained too easily last term yet remain a potent asset. Lukaku was at times accused of coasting but it was hard not to feel sympathy for a formidable striker whose strengths were not always utilised and occasionally wasted. He still ended the season with 20 goals in all competitions.

The squad that took Everton close to a top-four finish two seasons ago remains largely intact, for now. Martínez’s men face a demanding start with eight of their opening 10 matches against teams that finished above them last time out. It is also an opportunity to show last season was the exception, not the start of a retreat to the middle ground.

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 8th
Last season’s position: 11th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 200-1
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1355 on: August 09, 2015, 09:25:58 AM »
Premier League 2015-16 preview: West Ham United
By Jacob Steinberg (The Guardian, UK).


The stakes are high for West Ham as they enter a season with a new manager and relegation is simply not an option.

The reaction will be like a knowing tut from your mum when you cheerfully ignore her pleas to wear a jumper before venturing outside into the cold and return home with a sore throat and an all-consuming desire for sympathy.

If West Ham find themselves shivering in the winter months, they will not be able to say that no one warned them about the consequences of letting go of Sam Allardyce. They have been told repeatedly and ploughed on regardless, paying little heed to the received wisdom that saying goodbye to Allardyce is asking for relegation.

The one snag in that theory is that Newcastle United were relegated not because they sacked Allardyce but because Mike Ashley was presiding over a shambles, Bolton Wanderers went down five years and three managers after his decision to leave and Blackburn Rovers, well, Venky’s were too busy concentrating on signing Ronaldinho and David Beckham to hire a proper manager. It is true that West Ham are playing a dangerous game by trusting that Slaven Bilic represents an upgrade on Allardyce a year before their move to the Olympic Stadium, and Thursday night’s defeat at Astra Giurgiu means the team go into the Premier League season having already been knocked out of Europe, but it is not guaranteed that they will struggle domestically.

West Ham needed a fresh start after four years of grumbling about Allardyce. His relationship with the board and supporters had reached the point of no return at the end of last season. Although he won promotion in his first season and established West Ham in the Premier League by instilling a tougher mentality at a club whose players have had the attention span of Homer Simpson confronted by a dog with a puffy tail in the past, there was always discontent over the style of football, which was perceived to be negative and dull. Allardyce could have sneezed on the touchline and the crowd would have taken it as a sign that he was sticking 10 men behind the ball.

The reality of the Allardyce era lay somewhere between the stereotype of constant tedium and his Allardici self-hype. His football could sometimes be invigorating if one had an open mind about it, especially when Andy Carroll’s absence forced him to think outside the lump-it-in-the-box template in the first half of last season and he hit upon a diamond formation which brought the best out of Stewart Downing. However the manner of West Ham’s plummet from the top four after Christmas sealed Allardyce’s fate and a dreadful run of results convinced the owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, not to offer him a new contract. Injuries did not help Allardyce’s cause but those who insisted he had run out of ideas pointed out that he was overseeing relegation form: West Ham’s only league wins in 2015 came against Burnley, Hull City and Sunderland.

So in comes Bilic, a charismatic former West Ham defender who enjoys the backing of the crowd for now, although anyone who recalls the rancour that followed the Croatian’s controversial move to Everton in 1997 knows that attempts to depict his appointment as an emotional homecoming are slightly wide of the mark.

Bilic is still popular in east London, however, and it has been likely that he would be West Ham’s manager one day ever since his Croatia side made an impression on people in this country by qualifying for Euro 2008 at England’s expense. He has always wanted to manage in England and, unlike Allardyce, he will endear himself to supporters by saying the right things. In Turkey he was seen as something of a politician during his time at Besiktas and that charm, his appreciation of knowing what people want to hear, should buy him more time if West Ham do not hit the ground running.

A manager’s utterances should not be that important, yet they do matter in times of adversity. Although Allardyce was abrasive and never got to grips with understanding West Ham, his immense self-confidence gave him a thick skin despite the criticism that flew his way throughout most of his tenure and ensured that his players respected him.

It is not that Bilic will be a happy-clappy cheerleader, constantly banging on about the West Ham Way and the undisputable fact that they won the World Cup in 1966, but the early impression is that he will bring a touch more glamour and excitement than Allardyce. He is the kind of person who instinctively appeals to supporters and another populist move was the addition of Julian Dicks, a West Ham legend, to Bilic’s staff. Dicks managed West Ham Ladies last season, but he does not have much coaching experience.

Whether these changes will prove enough on the pitch remains unclear and it is not immediately obvious that Bilic is a better manager than Allardyce, who, for all his faults, understands the demands of English football. Bilic had a positive impact with Croatia and they were unfortunate to lose a dramatic quarter-final on penalties to Turkey at Euro 2008. His time at Lokomotiv Moscow was a disappointment and he did not win the Turkish league with Besiktas.

Equally, however, Besiktas were unable to use their stadium because of construction work during Bilic’s two years there and their title challenge last season was held back by their Europa League campaign. They pushed Arsenal hard despite losing 1-0 on aggregate to them in their Champions League play-off last August, they took four points off Tottenham Hotspur in their Europa League group and beat Liverpool on penalties in the round of 32. However a source of concern is that Bilic was not appointed in the immediate aftermath of Allardyce’s departure. It had been widely accepted that Allardyce was going by the time he left on the final day of the season but Bilic was not installed until 9 June.

West Ham were frustrated in discussions with other managers. David Moyes decided to prolong his stay at Real Sociedad, Unai Emery could not be tempted away from Sevilla after they qualified for the Champions League and Rafael Benítez surprisingly decided to accept an offer from Real Madrid instead. Marseille’s Marcelo Bielsa also featured in the club’s thinking. In the end, they plumped for Bilic.

Preparations for the new season have not been ideal, with West Ham’s unexpected entry into Europe via the Fair Play League forcing them to start their season with a qualifier against the Andorran part-timers of FC Lusitans on 2 July. They have been mixing pre-season friendlies with competitive, meaningful matches and it has not been straightforward doing so while some players have been missing, others have been getting up to speed and transfer business is still being conducted.

Reading too much into pre-season games is a waste of time, but a couple of unconvincing performances have made the mood more cautious. A side that was packed with reserves needed penalties to beat Malta’s FC Birkirkara on penalties in the second qualifying round and how very West Ham that they should qualify for Europe because of their fine disciplinary record and then pick up three stupid red cards in their first five matches. Diafra Sakho and James Tomkins reacted to provocation against Lusitans and Birkirkara respectively, and West Ham squandered a 2-0 lead against FC Astra Giurgi after James Collins was sent off for two quick bookings in the first leg last week.

Ultimately going out to Astra on Thursday night might have be a blessing in disguise. West Ham finished 12th last season, which hardly suggests that they are equipped to deal with the demands of the Europa League. Better sides than West Ham have struggled to recover after their exertions on a Thursday night and their squad lacks depth. The priority is staying up; imagine the embarrassment if West Ham’s final season at Upton Park ends with them going down and beginning the Olympic Stadium era in the Championship.

That is the worst-case scenario, although with a couple more additions in key areas, West Ham should be strong enough to finish in mid-table. They played well for an hour against Astra. Bilic used a 4-3-1-2 formation which had Dimitri Payet operating in a free role and the French winger can be expected to dazzle after his arrival from Marseille. Tempting Payet to West Ham is a sign of ambition, assuming he settles in England and that he does not turn out to be more of a Rémy Cabella than a David Ginola. Payet created plenty of goals for Marseille last season.

However the 2-2 draw with Astra was marred by Enner Valencia’s injury. Shortly after Valencia had given West Ham the lead with a powerful header from Payet’s cross, he was taken off on a stretcher. The good news is that he does not need surgery on his knee and ankle and should be out for roughly 10 weeks rather than the six months that were initially feared. The bad news is that Valencia’s absence means that with Andy Carroll not expected to return from his knee injury until October, West Ham are one Sakho injury away from having to rely on Modibo Maïga and Mauro Zárate up front.

West Ham must sign a striker, because Maïga is out of his depth and Zárate is a luxury player who hangs on to the ball for too long. They are trying to get a work permit for Atlético Madrid’s Mexican forward Raúl Jiménez and are also targeting Queens Park Rangers’ Charlie Austin. Jiménez was not prolific for Atlético; QPR will need to lower their £15m valuation of Austin.

What will Bilic have planned for Carroll when he returns? Carroll was Allardyce’s biggest signing at £15m from Liverpool two years ago but he has been blighted by injuries at Upton Park, every promising run of form scuppered by another lengthy spell on the sidelines. As likable as the big striker is, he is veering dangerously close to being written off as a dud. Yet although he may not be an automatic starter under Bilic, he can still be a hugely effective option, not least when he is paired with another striker. His lack of pace makes West Ham predictable, easy to defend against and too quick to launch the ball long when Carroll plays on his own up front.

They were at their most devastating as an attacking force last season when Sakho and Valencia started together. Sakho surely would have scored more than 12 goals after joining for £3.5m from Metz if his season had not been prematurely ended by a thigh injury in April and the pair were pivotal in West Ham’s victories over Liverpool and Manchester City during the autumn.

That was when West Ham were playing with a diamond in midfield. Downing was superb in that system and watching him link up with Payet would have been a delight – yet he was allowed to follow his heart and move back to Middlesbrough. Payet was supposed to complement Downing rather than be his replacement and his departure has left West Ham searching for another creative player.

Matt Jarvis has no end product and even less confidence, Morgan Amalfitano is too inconsistent to start regularly, Martin Samuelsen is only 18 and West Ham have taken a punt on Manuel Lanzini, a 22-year-old Argentinian forward who has joined on loan from Al Jazira Club in Qatar. For what it is worth, Lanzini’s nickname is The Jewel and will hopefully turn out to be more useful than the last South American player brought in from Qatar, Nenê. Payet will need some more assistance than just Lanzini and West Ham are targeting Barcelona’s young Croatian, Alen Halilovic.

Another Barcelona player who could join is Alex Song, who was on loan at West Ham last season. He made them tick before Christmas and although his form fizzled out, signing him on a permanent basis would undeniably be a coup. The deal was held up after Song injured an ankle.

If it goes through, he will slip into a midfield that already has a solid look to it. The versatile Cheikhou Kouyaté had an outstanding debut season in England and Mark Noble is dependable, while Pedro Obiang was highly rated at Sampdoria.

Diego Poyet, neat and tidy, will hope to be involved more and Reece Oxford, who is only 16, has been assured as a defensive midfielder in pre-season, but Kevin Nolan’s best days are behind him. The captain is too slow, although he can be a useful ally for Bilic in the dressing room if he is ready to accept a reduced role.

Leadership should not be an issue, though. West Ham’s defence will be tough to penetrate if Bilic organises the team well. In goal, Adrián has developed into a cult hero, saving more than his fair share of penalties, and will be backed up by Darren Randolph, a free transfer from Birmingham City.

The right-back will be Carl Jenkinson, who has joined on loan from Arsenal again, and the diligent Aaron Cresswell will continue on the left. Joey O’Brien will provide cover for Jenkinson, Stephen Hendrie for Cresswell after his arrival from Hamilton Academicals.

Bilic’s options at centre-back are enviable. Winston Reid’s partner is likely to be Angelo Ogbonna after the Italy international left Juventus and Tomkins and Collins are able deputies. The Canada international, Doneil Henry, will push for recognition, while Reece Burke has impressed during a few cameos. Allardyce was content with only three centre-backs, a gamble that backfired on a couple of occasions, but West Ham have competition for places now.

There are holes that need to be filled elsewhere, but many of the pieces are there for Bilic, who needs to assemble them in the right order quickly. West Ham are in a unique position, the pressure on them to stay up more extreme than it has ever been. Relegation this season would be disaster from both a financial and PR perspective. Leaving Upton Park will be enough of an emotional wrench without people queuing up to tell them how misguided they were to get rid of Allardyce come the end of the season.

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 12th
Last season’s position: 12th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 1,500-1

« Last Edit: August 09, 2015, 05:20:39 PM by asylumseeker »
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1356 on: August 09, 2015, 09:31:09 AM »
...

Interesting how van Gaal slid van Persie out the door with not much fanfare. Another manager, and van Persie probably wouldn't be going anywhere.

Didn't realize that van Persie and Nani ended up at Fenerbahce. Perhaps one will be missed more than the other.
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1357 on: August 09, 2015, 09:39:50 AM »
Premier League 2015-16 preview: Arsenal
By Amy Lawrence (The Guardian, UK).


... A good start has been drummed into the players, particularly as they began sluggishly last time, with a load of draws that had them playing catch-up.

...

So much for that ...
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1358 on: August 09, 2015, 09:46:59 AM »
Arsenal 0 West Ham 2





Quote
Give me some old rope and I’ll find you an Arsenal season ticket. That was, as comedowns in north London go, among the most spectacular in a long list and all the more so because Petr Cech, cited by many as the finishing touch to Arsenal’s well oiled machine, did himself absolutely no favour there. Glaringly at fault for the first and complicit in a chain of errors for Zarate’s opportunistic second, his performance was a considerable factor in West Ham’s win although you have to give Slaven Bilic and his men big credit.

Yes, you do. From the first couple of minutes it was clear that they would get on the ball and get men forward when they could and, while they spent a couple of periods under the cosh, they generally played with a sense of authority that you’d have been forgiven for thinking was beyond them. Arsenal, who seemed flustered and hurried in possession, created a number of half-chances but rarely got behind a team superbly marshalled by Winston Reid and bolstered by a remarkably mature display by the 16-year-old Reece Oxford. Most of us underestimated West Ham today but the manner of their performance suggested the win was no accident.

As for Arsenal, they’ll go again at Palace next week. It’s just one defeat, just one blip in what has been a positive year, and there is plenty of time for them to go on the title charge many expect. But there will be alarm bells that, regardless of personnel, the same errors keep repeating themselves at inopportune moments. It seems systemic and needs to be cut out if they’re to get to the next level.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/live/2015/aug/09/arsenal-v-west-ham-premier-league-live
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1359 on: August 09, 2015, 10:05:23 AM »

Christian Benteke, a long-standing Brendan Rodgers target, has been brought in to ensure Liverpool do not lack firepower.

Premier League 2015-16 preview: Liverpool
By Sachin Nakrani (The Guardian, UK).


After a season of disappointment that reached an anticlimax with the 6-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium, Liverpool go back to Stoke on the opening weekend with much to prove and Brendan Rodgers feeling the pressure

Brendan Rodgers’ reaction to the release of the 2015-16 Premier League fixtures in mid-June would have made for an interesting sight. Up first for Liverpool: a trip to Stoke. Not what any club would want, but ever the optimist Rodgers may well have greeted the news with a smile. Here, after all, was the chance to make an immediate amends for arguably the lowest moment of his managerial career, to quickly right an almighty wrong.

To many Liverpool supporters it is now simply known as “the 6-1”. That scarcely believable afternoon last May when their team were humiliated at the Britannia Stadium. It was a rotten way to end what had been a rotten season and a wretched denouement to Steven Gerrard’s 17-year association with his boyhood club. Afterwards, with Liverpool having finished sixth in the Premier League and 25 points behind the champions, Chelsea, Rodgers accepted his job was on the line. “I’ve always said if the owners want me to go, then I’ll go,” he said.

But Rodgers survived and is poised to begin a fourth season in the Anfield hot seat. He is under pressure like never before and that is why a return to Stoke exactly 11 weeks after Liverpool’s biggest thumping in more than half a century may just be what the team and their manager needs. Ghosts can be laid.

Rodgers is a polarising figure and what is dividing many before the new season is the Northern Irishman’s credentials as a top-level manager. His backers will point to the 2013-14 campaign as proof that he is a forward-thinking, inspirational leader, capable of amalgamating players of varying talent and temperament into one of the most breathtaking teams English football has seen, and one that came agonisingly close to winning the club’s first league title in 24 years.

Rodgers’ critics, on the other hand, will shift attention to last season when Liverpool looked devoid of ideas and character on numerous occasions, failing to make any sort of impact in the title race as well as meekly surrendering to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final and exiting the Champions League at the group stages.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Rodgers is neither the second coming nor the emperor’s new clothes. What he must prove, however, is that the 2013-14 campaign was not a flash in the pan and that, under his charge, Liverpool can reestablish themselves as a genuine force in English football. At the very least, they need to be contending for a top-four finish until the very last stages of the season.

What doesn’t help the manager’s cause is a second successive summer in which he has lost a key player. Raheem Sterling may not be Luis Suárez but he was an important element of Rodgers’s plans. Aged 20 and having been at the club since he was 15, Sterling was meant to be Anfield for some time. Instead he moved to Manchester City amid much acrimony.

Losing a player of Sterling’s quality and potential was a blow for Liverpool and the fear for many of their fans has been that the £49m City paid for him would not be reinvested wisely. After all, when Suárez moved to Barcelona last summer, Liverpool’s transfer committee, of which Rodgers is a part, took the £75m they has got for the Uruguayan and, alongside another £31m, signed nine players who largely ranged from the unproven to the unremarkable in order to beef up the squad and fit in line with the strategy of the owner, Fenway Sports Group, to get “maximum value for what is spent”.

A sensible long-term approach but in the short term the result was disastrous. Liverpool endured their worst start to a league campaign in 22 years, and although Suárez’s absence was an obvious factor, as was the long-term loss through injury of Daniel Sturridge, it was also the case that the vast majority of those who arrived in the summer simply did not come to the fore. Indeed the only one who can be deemed to have had a good season was the Germany Under-21 international Emre Can.

A lack of goals was Liverpool’s biggest problem, with the two forwards they brought in, Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert, scoring just three between them in the league. The team simply cannot afford to be so blunt again if they are to progress, and in that regard Sturridge’s absence until October after hip surgery and the departure of Liverpool’s two leading scorers from last season, Gerrard and Sterling, are unhelpful to say the least.

However, the purchases of Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke suggest Rodgers and his fellow committee members have this time made the right moves to ensure the team are not short of firepower.

Firmino built a reputation during his four and a half years at Hoffenheim as being a tactically intelligent forward with an unrelenting work ethic. Remind you of anyone? OK, he’s no Suárez either, but for £29m Liverpool appear to have signed a player who, unlike Lambert and Balotelli, suits their style of play under Rodgers. And although the 23-year-old Brazil international is not a prolific goalscorer – he got just seven in 33 appearances for Hoffenheim last season – he knows how to provide opportunities for others. Indeed, no player created more goalscoring chances in the Bundesliga during the past two years (138) than Liverpool’s new No11.


Phillipe Coutinho, here playing against Porto B in pre-season, is a player around whom Liverpool can build their attacking shape.

If Firmino’s job is to supply the ammunition then Benteke’s is to fire the bullets, and a record of 49 goals in 101 games for Aston Villa shows the 24-year-old can do just that. Despite this, the Belgian’s arrival has not gone down well with all Liverpool fans, with his £30m-plus fee and sizeable frame bringing about Andy Carroll flashbacks.

Such comparisons are somewhat unfair – Benteke is a far more mobile player than Carroll, able to drive into space and directly at opposition defenders, with and without the ball. Yes, the £32.5m fee is high, but unlike with Carroll in 2011, and indeed with Balotelli last summer, Liverpool did not make their move in a blind panic – Benteke was a long-standing Rodgers target. “He’ll fit our tactical idea of the game and he can be a huge player for us,” said the manager.

Two other forwards have arrived: Danny Ings from Burnley and Divock Origi, from Lille, who was actually one of the nine players purchased last summer but remained with the French club for an extra season. Both are raw but also have the attributes to fit into Rodgers’ style of play.

Some would suggest the signings of Firmino, Benteke and Ings, alongside those of James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez and Adam Bogdan, show that for a second successive summer Liverpool have pursued a quantity-over-proven-quality transfer strategy, but the club were simply not in a position to shop at the top end of the market having failed to qualify for the Champions League, and what they can at least be praised for is acting quickly and decisively in regards to their transfer business.

And no deal was done quicker than that for Milner, with the midfielder signing on a free transfer from Manchester City just 11 days after the end of the previous season. Aged 29 and with two Premier League titles to his name, the England international provides Liverpool with a level of experience and winning knowhow it requires in the post-Gerrard era. His appears a shrewd move.

Rodgers’ task is to fit his players into a functioning, coherent unit, something Liverpool often did not appear to be last season when the manager took his reputation for tactical flexibility to bewildering extremes. A host of different formations were deployed, sometimes in a single match, with players regularly used out of position. It all came to a head during the “battering at the Britannia” when Liverpool looked lost at sea.

What seems certain is that Rodgers will go with a four-man defence, having deployed a three centre-back system for a period last season, with Milner and the new captain, Jordan Henderson, his midfield bedrock. The top end of the pitch is less easy to call with a host of players vying for first-team places, including 19-year-old winger Jordon Ibe, who caught the eye during Liverpool’s recent tour of Australia and Asia. But one thing is for sure: the team’s attacking shape should centre around Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian was Liverpool’s one real shining light last season and has what it takes to dazzle for years to come.

It is perhaps unfair that there is so much scrutiny on Rodgers following last season’s failings. After all, he was not wholly responsible for the players who arrived post-Suárez and the players themselves must take their share of blame for how the team performed. But as is the nature of football, it is the manager who carries the greatest burden for failure and, having kept his job while two of his backroom allies in Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh lost theirs, Rodgers must now prove he was the right man all along.

It will not be easy given the loss of Sterling, the task of bedding in another batch of recruits and juggling a domestic campaign with the gruelling rigours of the Europa League. That’s not to mention a start to the Premier League season in which, post-Stoke, Liverpool travel to Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City before the end of November. But Rodgers has no choice but to rise to the challenge. His job, almost certainly, depends on it.

“I promise I’ll fight for my life and the people in this city,” Rodgers said upon becoming Liverpool manager in June 2012. Now is the time to come out swinging.

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 5th
Last season’s position: 6th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 22-1

Related Video
« Last Edit: August 09, 2015, 05:22:52 PM by asylumseeker »
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1360 on: August 09, 2015, 05:14:06 PM »
Premier League 2015-16 preview: Stoke City
By Paul Doyle (The Guardian, UK).


Mark Hughes has assembled a talented squad and the quality of football should remain high. There’s a danger of Stoke becoming the new darlings of hipsters

For his next trick, Mark Hughes will step down and entrust the Stoke City reins to Arsène Wenger. Or maybe not, but we can’t rule it out completely because the Welshman is working some kind of magic at the Britannia Stadium, where seats risk being ripped out before the new season and replaced by bean bags. For there is a real danger of Stoke becoming the new darlings of hipsters.

That must be quite a culture shock for locals who, for most of the time since their club’s return to the top flight a decade ago, have prided themselves on their team’s ability to defy and offend bien pensant types. It must also amaze all the people who, when they heard talk of Stoke being given a makeover two years ago, couldn’t help but picture Lemmy in lipstick. Oh my, Delilah! But Hughes has made it work and now, even though they will not challenge for the title nor dice with relegation, Stoke are going to be one of the most interesting sides to look at this season.

They have already been one of the most interesting recruiters of the summer. Going from Barcelona to Stoke used to be seen as akin to regressing from man to chimp, but now it seems a sensible and exciting evolution. After luring Marc Muniesa in 2013 and, most of all, Bojan Krkic last summer, Stoke have signed Ibrahim Afellay and Moha El Ouriachi ahead of this campaign. Bojan was wonderful until he was struck down by knee ligament damage in January – his imminent return is another reason to watch Stoke keenly this season – and if either of the latest arrivals from Camp Nou have a similar impact, then Hughes will have pulled off another masterstroke.

There are doubts about both players of course – El Ouriachi is only 19 and Afellay, now 29, has struggled for years to fulfil his potential, but both clearly have rare talent and could embellish Stoke’s creativity from out wide. That is an area where the side still need to improve if they are to better last season’s Premier League goal tally of 48, which was higher than they ever achieved under Tony Pulis. Marko Arnautovic, at times brilliant, was inconsistent last season and their most regularly dangerous winger, Victor Moses, has returned to Chelsea after a quietly excellent season on loan.

The loss of Moses has not attracted as much commentary as the departures of Asmir Begovic and Steven N’Zonzi but could prove problematic if Afellay or Moha flop. But there is a still a fair chance Hughes will capture another uplifting signing before the transfer window closes, having not abandoned hope of prising Andriy Yarmolenko from Dynamo Kiev.


Ibrahim Afellay, here playing for Holland, has the pedigree of four years with Barcelona.
 
The wingers will have a decent array of strikers to serve. Mame Birame Diouf scored 12 league goals last season and seemed to improve as the campaign progressed, his movement becoming more elusive and his finishing surer. Peter Crouch, Jon Walters (who often wreaked havoc from wide, as, indeed, did Diouf, especially when counterattacking away) and maybe even Peter Odemwingie are still potent centre-forwards and Joselu, a 25-year-old former Real Madrid reserve, signed this summer from Hannover for £5.75m, offers a different option and is another intriguing recruit.

But in midfield N’Zonzi needs to be replaced. The Frenchman earned a transfer to Sevilla with performances at Stoke that made him a strong all-round influence, negating opponents’ attacks and orchestrating his own team’s, being an influential conduit in a side who, shredding the stereotype, averaged the same amount of possession as Swansea City last season.

Marko van Ginkel, on loan from Chelsea, has been given N’Zonzi’s old jersey but although the Dutchman is highly talented, asking him to emulate N’Zonzi after two injury-hampered years is a tall order. Again, it would not be surprising if Hughes sought to strengthen his options. He’s got Charlie Adam and Stephen Ireland, of course, but what a thrill it would be if Xherdan Shaqiri had a change of heart and decided to join the Stoke style revolution after all. Or perhaps Hughes could attract someone else similar. With Krkic close to regaining full fitness, just think what frolics could be had!

Brendan Rodgers might not relish a return to the Britannia so soon after the 6-1 annihilation there on the final day of last season, but it might actually be a blessing to visit Stoke on the first day before they are fully assembled and really into their stride.

Begovic will not be badly missed if Jack Butland does as well as expected, and Shay Given could serve as a reliable stand-in at times, though whether he is still of the required standard to keep goal for months in the event of injury to Butland is questionable.


Marco van Ginkel, here in action in a friendly against Wrexham, has joined Stoke on loan from Chelsea.

At least Stoke’s defence will likely be even more solid than last season, when frequent injuries, even to the previously indomitable Ryan Shawcross, regularly forced Hughes to improvise at the back, which made achieving the sixth best defensive record in the league all the more impressive. That also showed, of course, that while introducing more flair, Hughes has not discarded the qualities that enabled Stoke to establish themselves in the top flight under Pulis. Glen Johnson needs to embrace those qualities if he is to prove a useful acquisition.

After the fiasco at Queens Park Rangers, Hughes has restored his managerial reputation by revamping Stoke without spending fortunes and guiding them to two successive top-half finishes. If he were to make it three in a row, that would be the first time for Stoke since 1937. That season is also remembered fondly for attacking fiestas – including a 10-3 win over West Bromwich Albion, which is still a club record – and a record home attendance of 51,380 – for a visit by Arsenal, who, it seems, Stoke have always relished hosting.

Arsenal may not perform as badly at the Britannia this season as they did when losing 3-2 last term, but they are unlikely to enjoy their trip there, and nor will any other opponent. Hipsters, on the other hand, could be in for a treat.

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 7th
Last season’s position: 9th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 1,000-1

Related Video
« Last Edit: August 09, 2015, 05:23:32 PM by asylumseeker »
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1361 on: August 10, 2015, 11:56:17 AM »
Premier League 2015-16 preview: West Brom
By Ian McCourt (The Guardian, UK).


Rickie Lambert is a shrewd signing during a quiet summer for the Baggies, but Tony Pulis’s major goal will be making sure Saido Berahino stays at The Hawthorns

It is only a few days since the Victoria & Albert museum’s doors closed on the first major retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s art. The exhibition was adorned with those how-do-you-walk-in-them armadillo boots as well as quotes from McQueen explaining his philosophy. There was one, however, that they missed out on. “Give me time,” he once said, “and I’ll give you a revolution.” It’s a maxim that could easily be applied to the work of Tony Pulis.

Under Alan Irvine, West Bromwich Albion had lost direction and when they trooped off the pitch at Stoke last Christmas with nothing to show for their efforts, they had lost seven in nine games.

That meant Irvine had won only four games in 19 attempts and only one point separated the Baggies from the sticky mud of the relegation zone. In his interview after that defeat, Irvine said he would concentrate on the game against West Ham United but by the time that came around four days later, he was gone and Pulis had been parachuted in to replace him. The club’s then technical director Terry Burton said of Pulis: “He made it clear that this position excited him and that he was eager to get back into the business of winning Premier League points, and there are few who know how to do it better.”

It was a prescient statement as under Pulis a team that were more ragged than a Dickensian orphan’s clothes reappeared looking suited and booted. As you would expect, most of the Pulis revolution took place at the back. Starting with the 1-0 win over Hull City on 10 January, West Brom kept 10 clean sheets in 18 games, more than any other Premier League club during that period. There were blips and glitches – see the four defeats in five league games in March and April for further details – but safety was achieved as it always is with Pulis. He is the manager who has never been relegated, a comfort-blanket fact that should give West Brom fans a warm glow inside after the boing-boing years of the 2000s.


Rickie Lambert had an unhappy time at Liverpool but will be a threat up front for West Brom.

There will be no relegation for the Baggies this time around but the success of their season will depend on their business in the transfer market. So far this summer, players such as Chris Baird, Graham Dorrans, Youssouf Mulumbu, Georgios Samaras and more besides, have been pointed in the direction of the exit door. Not all were regular starters under Pulis – a manager whose circle of trust is a small one – but with only three signings so far, their exit leaves the squad short, a fact that alarms even the players.

“When you look around the squad and you see how many people were there on Saturday and you see the bench … we’ve not got a lot of numbers,” Darren Fletcher said after the pre-season win over Swindon Town. “Gareth McAuley came off injured and it’s a case of whenever someone feels something there’s a panic because we are low on numbers. It is not ideal. We know the manager is desperate to change that. It needs to be done before we get into the season.”

Pulis did not disagree. “We need to bring players in,” he said. “[But] the important thing is that we get the right players. Don’t throw mud at the wall and hope that things stick … I’m not going to say how many [players we need] but it is quite a few.” That hoping-the-mud-will-stick approach is a perfect summation of last season’s fairly calamitous purchases so Pulis is right to be cautious.

His first signing, James McClean from Wigan Athletic, is a good one. When McClean first strutted on to the Premier League scene for Sunderland, his direct running and old-fashioned wing play was a joy to behold. Since then he has evolved into a more well-rounded player with a significant defensive aspect to his game, all of which means he should fit snugly into Pulis’s plans.

The signing of Rickie Lambert is also a smart move by Pulis. His side were far too reliant last season on the brilliance of Saido Berahino – the 22-year old scored 20 goals in all competitions, 13 more than any of his team-mates – and on set pieces, the source of 23 of their 51 league goals (including penalties).

Lambert joins the club after an ill-spent season at Liverpool and the former Southampton striker sounded suitably fired up. “I feel as if I’ve got a point to prove to myself,” he said. “That’s always the biggest drive – yourself – and it will carry on being that way.”

The third and final signing is James Chester from Hull, whose adaptability should see him provide decent cover on the right-hand side of the backline.

McClean will add width and speed but Pulis knows that he needs more and that is why Bakary Sako, who was available on a free from Wolverhampton Wanderers, was one of his top targets. The summer-long game of kiss chase between these two failed, however, to end in an embrace as the France-born Mali international joined Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

His signature and skills would have been a boon for Pulis but now the manager must take another look at Matt Phillips. Queens Park Rangers value him at £10m but it is arguable whether West Brom should pay that much for a player reportedly eager for a swift return to the top flight.

Apart from another winger, Pulis will want another goalkeeper, given that Ben Foster is out until at least October and that there are questions around Boaz Myhill and his ability to command his box. There have been confirmed inquires as to the availability of Cardiff City’s David Marshall, but as yet nothing has come of them. The manager may also want more cover at the back and, given last season’s poor return of the club’s record signing, Brown Ideye, another striker. Of course, the biggest signing of the season may be internal should Berahino be convinced to reject the overtures of others.

One of the recurring accusations levelled at Pulis is that watching his side can be anything but easy on the eye. That was true of his time at Stoke but not so much of his time at Crystal Palace. At Selhurst Park he added an exciting counterattacking touch to his tried and trusted approach of hard work, organisation and discipline. Keeping Berahino to play alongside Lambert (in the same way Marouane Chamakh and Cameron Jerome combined), as well as getting his hands on Phillips – or possibly Nottingham Forest’s Michail Antonio – would logically see Pulis revert to those tactics and should ease supporters’ legitimate fears about the lack of style on show at the Hawthorns.

West Brom have a tough opening to the campaign with games against Manchester City (home), Watford (away), Chelsea (home) and Stoke (away) and a run of opening defeats could dissuade intended targets from signing up. However, should these players fail to arrive, there will be no need to panic. Pulis will still be able to drive his side to safety. But his ultimate aim, of reinventing the club as a top-10 side, will surely remain unfulfilled this season. But give him time, he will get them there.

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 13th
Last season’s position: 13th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 2,000-1

Related Video
« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 12:08:09 PM by asylumseeker »
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1362 on: August 10, 2015, 12:01:25 PM »
West Bromwich Albion sign Venezuela striker Salomón Rondón for £12m
By Sam Robinson (The Guardian, UK).




West Bromwich Albion have confirmed the signing of the Venezuela international Salomón Rondón. The striker, who has signed a four-year contract at The Hawthorns, joins from Zenit St Petersburg for a club-record fee of around £12m.

The head coach Tony Pulis said: “He’s got a fantastic goalscoring record in some of the top leagues in Europe and for his country. He’s 25 years of age and still to fulfil his full potential.

“We hope he hits the ground running of course, but understand it might take him time to settle. I’m sure our fans will help him and get behind him.

” But we feel with age on his side and the prices English clubs are asking for their players, it’s a deal worth doing.”

Rondón said: “I am very happy to be here. This is a new opportunity in my career. I can’t wait to be with the other players and to play. The club showed a lot of interest in me, that’s what is important for a player, what you take into account, and there are expectations of me.”
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1363 on: August 10, 2015, 12:09:09 PM »
What's Venezuela's position on the most recent FIFA rankings?
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1364 on: August 10, 2015, 12:22:40 PM »
Premier League 2015-16 preview: Manchester City
By Paul Wilson (The Guardian, UK).


Manuel Pellegrini has not gone in for a full squad overhaul but that may be due to company policy in what may well be his valedictory season at the club

Manchester City are among the big spenders of European football, they have just been released from restrictions on incoming transfers based on Financial Fair Play rules and there is still a month of the transfer window to go. So maybe there is still some Kevin de Bruyne-shaped business to be conducted before the squad for the 2015-16 season is complete.

And maybe there is not. The season starts in just over a week, after all. City with Manuel Pellegrini in charge have traditionally done their trading early and decisively, eschewing the uncertainty of last-day drama.

Unlike Manchester United, who have bought themselves a whole new midfield this summer and are still bemoaning the lack of genuine creativity, City are fairly happy with what is already at the club. They were champions two seasons ago and runners-up last time out. They may need a few tweaks to remain competitive but they are not in the market for an overhaul, especially with a manager widely believed to be in his last season at the Etihad.

There, perhaps, is the explanation for the apparent stasis. If there is to be a new manager coming along in a year’s time, leaving aside the question of whether his name is Pep and he is currently in charge of Bayern Munich, it would not make sense to let the outgoing manager spend too much money on changing the side in ways that his successor may not approve of.

Yes, City have just raised the transfer record for an English player to £49m for Raheem Sterling but that could be viewed as a declaration of intent for the future. Sterling is 20 years of age and could easily be a prize asset for the next decade or more. Pellegrini is saying warm, complimentary things about him now, as well he might, though it is on the whole unlikely that the manager went to his superiors and said there is a lad at Liverpool we ought to buy at any price.

City have people in place to do that sort of business without being asked, to identify the most promising talent at the optimum age, so that potential managers of the future, including Mr G of Bavaria, can look over the squad and see the club is in a position to compete.

It is a bit like United buying Wayne Rooney in 2004. Everyone could see he was the brightest English attacking player around, most likely a fixture in the England team for a decade or more to come, so hang the expense and buy him to ensure he gives his best years to your cause and no one else’s.

That is the theory, anyway. Of more immediate concern to City fans is whether Sterling alone can make a significant difference to the club’s chances of finishing ahead of Chelsea. The only other signings City have made to date are two more English players, neither of whom is expected to make an immediate impact. Patrick Roberts, a slight but highly promising teenage acquisition from Fulham, is one for the long term. Fabian Delph, formerly of Leeds and Aston Villa, has been given assurances he will feature in midfield, despite the fairly hefty claims of Yaya Touré, Fernandinho and the rest, although he is injured.

Of those three signings only Sterling will arouse genuine early-season excitement. He has done well against City in the past – weakening Liverpool was a not insignificant part of the attraction of the deal – and he appears to be just the sort of lively, irrepressible forward who can correct the tendency in Pellegrini’s players last season to stroke the ball around elegantly without summoning the urgency or penetration to hurt opponents.

Yet, and this is quite a big yet, a lack of incision up front was not City’s only shortcoming last season. There were also problems in central defence, where Martín Demichelis is not getting any younger, Eliaquim Mangala is not developing as quickly or as smoothly as had been anticipated, and Vincent Kompany ended the season with question marks over his decision-making and positioning.


Fabian Delph has been given assurances he will feature in midfield but he suffered a hamstring injury on his Manchester City debut in a friendly in Australia

As Burnley’s George Boyd said after the City defeat at Turf Moor that proved an expensive low point in Pellegrini’s season, the then champions do not possess a commanding backline. “If you get in their faces they don’t like it and they have several players who don’t track back as much as they should,” Boyd said. “Liverpool noticed the same thing and exploited it. You can usually find space if you know where to look.”

That is quite a damning criticism, even if – or perhaps especially because – Burnley ended up relegated, yet little appears to have been done to shore up the defence. Perhaps Delph was bought in an effort to persuade Touré to track back more but that is about the best one can say. City are now up against a José Mourinho version of Chelsea, which inevitably comes with the most solid of backlines and a super-organised defensive screen ahead of it.

In comparison City are not as slick. They have issues in central defence and the efforts of their defensive midfielders have been haphazard. Are they going to buy a central defender before the deadline? Or perhaps another striker will be needed should Edin Dzeko follow Stevan Jovetic out of the club.

Wilfried Bony is still around and Sterling should be more than useful but once again it appears City will need an extraordinary season from Sergio Agüero to challenge for major prizes. For a club of their resources, that is a slightly deflating statement to keep making. If the model is Barcelona, then you do not just keep looking to Lionel Messi for inspiration but you add Luis Suárez and Neymar, even if it means freezing out Pedro. It could be argued Sterling is a step in that direction, though on its own it might not be enough.

Similarly, while Delph might be a decent acquisition by English standards, he would struggle to make the Barcelona midfield or even Chelsea’s or Arsenal’s. City should be good for a top-four place next season. They do not appear to be gearing up for a fully committed title challenge, even allowing for the possibility of De Bruyne joining the project. Maybe the season after, once they break free of planning blight.

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 4th
Last season’s position: 2nd
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 11-4

Related Video
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1365 on: August 16, 2015, 10:24:22 AM »
Diego Costa is a pest. His playing personality adds a lot. Watching him after the elbow from Fernandinho and he's been simply that ... a pest.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2015, 10:28:05 AM by asylumseeker »
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline Sam

  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 8139
  • Police face and dog heart.
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1366 on: August 16, 2015, 11:52:09 AM »
City was just to good today, Yaya, Aguero, Silva and Kompany come out to play this season. Surprisingly Fernandinho, Kolarov and Navas did good to.

Hazard, they to reliant on him and he look like he really to mess down de season.

Costa is a boss, he wicked no ass, but he does fight, de thing is, he hoping for de call to much, just play de ball nah.

Willian does play like he need ah worm out.

Begovic might stay number one, he to good.

Terry and Cahill lame, especially Terry.

Cuadrado is a mess.

Fabregas and Matic played some good ball.

Faster than a speeding pittbull
Stronger than a shot of ba-bash
Capable of storming any fete


Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1367 on: August 19, 2015, 02:29:18 AM »
TV Report: EPL buries Bundesliga and Ligue 1 on cable
by Paul Kennedy (Soccer America).


The German Bundesliga kicked off its 2015-16 season on Fox Sports, which aired six games over three networks for its first week of coverage, drawing a cumulative average audience of 268,000 viewers. The eight English Premier League games on NBC Universal networks were watched by 3,039,000 viewers, while the four French Ligue 1 games on BeIN Sports were watched by 42,000 viewers.

English Premier League Live on U.S. Cable
AVG. MATCH, NETWORK (DAY)
818,000 Man. City-Chelsea, NBCSN (Sunday)
465,000 Aston Villa-Man. United, NBCSN (Friday)
450,000 Tottenham-Southampton, NBCSN (Saturday)
417,000 Crystal Palace-Arsenal, NBCSN (Sunday)
384,000 Liverpool-Bournemouth, NBCSN (Monday)
307,000 Southampton-Everton, NBCSN (Saturday)
149,000 West Ham-Leicester City, USA Network (Saturday)
47,000 West Bromwich-Watford, NBC Universo (Saturday)
Total: 3,039,000

German Bundesliga Live on U.S. Cable
AVG. MATCH, NETWORK (DAY)
74,000 Hoffenheim-Bayer Leverkusen, Fox Sports 2 & Fox Deportes (Saturday)
Fox Sports 2: 34,000; Fox Deportes: 40,000.
54,000 Bayern Munich-Hamburg, Fox Sports 2 & Fox Deportes (Friday)
Fox Sports 2: 32,000; Fox Deportes: 22,000.
50,000 Ein. Frankfurt-Wolfsburg, Fox Sports 1 (Sunday)
42,000 Bor. M'Gladbach-Bor. Dortmund, Fox Sports 2 (Saturday)
29,000 Hertha Berlin-Augsburg, Fox Deportes (Saturday)
19,000 FC Cologne-VfB Stuttgart, Fox Deportes (Sunday)

French Ligue 1 Live on U.S. Cable
25,000 Ajaccio-Paris SG, BeIN Sports (Sunday)
6,000 Bastia-Lorient, BeIN Sports (Sunday)
6,000 Lyon-Guingamp, BeIN Sports (Saturday)
5,000 Lille-Monaco, BeIN Sports (Friday)
Note: Bein Sports en Espanol viewers unavailable.

Source: http://sportstvratings.com
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1368 on: August 22, 2015, 01:16:16 AM »
Nicolas Otamendi and Manchester City underline Argentina influence in Prem
By Sam Kelly (ESPN).


The summer transfer window in 2014 might prove a turning point in English football's relationship with Argentine players.

Argentines were no strangers to English clubs beforehand but seemed to explode in numbers around a year ago, with the likes of Willy Caballero, Angel Di Maria and Esteban Cambiasso among others moving to English clubs.

Some of those moves turned out to be more successful than others, but with Argentina having long been seen as one of the world's biggest exporters of footballing talent, it seemed Argentine players had finally reached critical mass in the Premier League.

This season, no English club has more enthusiastically embraced the idea of an Argentine contingent than Manchester City. The signing of Nicolas Otamendi from Valencia and the return from loan of Bruno Zuculini pushes the tally up to six. Sergio Aguero's change of shirt means City can now even boast that most coveted of performers, an Argentine No. 10.

Why the sudden spike in numbers of Argentines at City? In truth, it goes beyond one club. Di Maria has moved on but two of Aguero and Zabaleta's Argentina teammates are a short drive across town at Manchester United (Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero), while Crystal Palace, QPR, Southampton, Swansea City, Tottenham, West Brom and West Ham United all have Argentines in their first team squads. That's half of the top flight.

These increasing numbers of Argentines in England are down to the increasing numbers of Argentines in the world game. A widely cited 2010 report said Argentina had overtaken Brazil for the number of footballers plying their trade overseas and the boom seems to have continued.

It makes sense that eventually, a number of those exports would make their way to the league which sits at the top of the game's financial tree -- particularly bearing in mind that not only are Argentines found in large numbers in foreign leagues, they're also frequently among the top performers. City's new signing Otamendi was named in La Liga's Best XI of last season, for example.

Clearly, some players arrive by more roundabout routes -- Southampton's third-choice goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga never played in his homeland, or for that matter Valencia's first team, and spent a season with Gillingham before being picked up by Southampton. Leicester's Leonardo Ulloa made more of a dent in the Primera but has hit it big at his current club.

By and large, though, Argentines are arriving in England in greater numbers because they're impressing elsewhere and the sheer weight of numbers means they're more visible than ever. There's a clear knock-on effect helped by increased perception of their ability, too.

Everton are set to sign Ramiro Funes Mori in part because other Argentine defenders have gone to Europe recently and looked good. He's a player they feel they can get "at the ground floor," so to speak.

If a player like Funes Mori goes to Benfica or Porto, for instance, for the kind of fee Everton will pay for him (around $8 million), and does well, he could move on for far more than that in a few years.

At that stage, Everton would probably be priced out. Here, they're taking on the risk that he might not turn out to be good enough for them. It's certainly a deal that carries that risk, though having lived in the United States for a while, he speaks English already which will help him adapt.

In many ways, the Premier League's new television deal has created this situation, in which clubs of Everton's hitherto more constrained means are going to be more able to compete with regular title-winners in other leagues. If Funes Mori does well in England, other English sides might go down a similar route and choose to go straight to the source. Some already have. Again, let's return to Manchester City and consider Zuculini.

He is the younger of two brothers who came up through Racing's youth sides. He didn't impress too much for first Valencia and then Cordoba last season, but at only 22 and having been signed for around $2m, he's a very low risk.

Given the financial disparity between the economically booming Premier League and an impoverished Argentine league which nonetheless has a long track record for churning out talent, it's not hard to see why English clubs find Argentina a tempting shopping destination.

City are in the vanguard of the Argentine surge in the Premier League, but expect others to join them.

Whether it is financial big-hitters buying established stars or sides further down the table looking to help players become established, Argentines will feature prominently.
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1369 on: August 22, 2015, 01:21:44 AM »
View Shaka Hislop being put on the spot regarding whether City or Chelsea ultimately prevail in the Prem
http://www.espnfc.com/video/espn-fc-tv/86/video/2573034/hislop-i-think-city-are-the-better-squad
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1370 on: August 22, 2015, 01:53:33 AM »

David Silva's touches during Manchester City's 3-0 defeat of defending champs, Chelsea, on match day 2.
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1371 on: August 22, 2015, 02:05:33 AM »
Saturday, August 22nd, 2015
Manchester United v Newcastle United @ 7:45 TT time
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa @ 10:00
Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur
Norwich City v Stoke City
Sunderland v Swansea City
West Ham v Bournemouth

Sunday, August 23
West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea @ 8:30
Everton v Manchester City @ 11:00
Watford v Southampton

Monday, August 24
Arsenal v Liverpool @ 15:00

"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1372 on: August 23, 2015, 08:00:25 AM »
Even if Chelsea leaves West Brom with 3 points, piercing questions still have to be asked of them.

It's good to see Rondón having an influence in this game. His acquisition by WBA raised an eyebrow bc it's wasn't (and still isn't) clear how compatible he is with Pulis, but I hope he makes solid progress in the Prem.
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline Bitter

  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 9673
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1373 on: August 23, 2015, 08:14:25 AM »
Even if Chelsea leaves West Brom with 3 points, piercing questions still have to be asked of them.

It's good to see Rondón having an influence in this game. His acquisition by WBA raised an eyebrow bc it's wasn't (and still isn't) clear how compatible he is with Pulis, but I hope he makes solid progress in the Prem.

Crystal Palace/West Brom Pulis is not Stoke Pulis.
Bitter is a supercalifragilistic tic-tac-pro

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1374 on: August 24, 2015, 02:51:45 PM »
Even if Chelsea leaves West Brom with 3 points, piercing questions still have to be asked of them.

It's good to see Rondón having an influence in this game. His acquisition by WBA raised an eyebrow bc it's wasn't (and still isn't) clear how compatible he is with Pulis, but I hope he makes solid progress in the Prem.

Crystal Palace/West Brom Pulis is not Stoke Pulis.

Fair enough.
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.

Offline Football supporter

  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 5206
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1375 on: August 24, 2015, 03:49:14 PM »

David Silva's touches during Manchester City's 3-0 defeat of defending champs, Chelsea, on match day 2.

I wish we could record the same movement for Pro League players. It would be a fantastic coaching tool. You'd be amazed how players think they played compared to how they actually played!

Offline Deeks

  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 17299
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1376 on: August 24, 2015, 06:16:09 PM »
So FS, why can't you get a recording of the Chelsea-Man. City and edit it yourself. Or pay someone to do it.

Offline Deeks

  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 17299
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1377 on: August 24, 2015, 06:20:36 PM »
By the way, Arsenal Liverpool was a very entertaining game. Could have gone any way. Pool has a young left back called Gomez. I wonder if he is of Trini parentage. Good player.

Offline Dinner Mints

  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 3728
    • View Profile
    • Cory Thomas: Illustration and Design
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1378 on: August 24, 2015, 07:15:59 PM »
Pool has a young left back called Gomez. I wonder if he is of Trini parentage.
Don't matter.

Offline asylumseeker

  • Moderator
  • Hero Warrior
  • *****
  • Posts: 15825
    • View Profile
Re: 2015/16 Barclays Premier League Thread
« Reply #1379 on: August 29, 2015, 06:19:24 AM »
Is Alexis Sánchez Arsenal's best dead ball kicker?  His consistency on the training ground must be more productive than in matches. I think Cazorla is losing out.
"It is not possible to make successful policy in a state of ignorance or indifference to what goes on in the real world." --- Martin Daly.