Seattle Sounders 1-0 Portland Timbers

Seattle Sounders starting XI: Gspurning; Gonzalez, Yedlin, Scott, Hurtado; Evans, Alonso, Joseph (Rosales 56′), Neagle (Traore 90′); Dempsey, Johnson (Carrasco 90′)
Subs: Hanhemann, Ianni, Burch, Traore, Zavaleta, Carrasco, Rosales

Portland Timbers starting XI: Ricketts; Harrington, Powell (Zizzo 81′), Jean-Baptiste, Kah; Nagbe, Valeri, Alhassan, Jewsbury (Zemanski 86′), Wallace; Johnson (Valencia 61′)
Subs: Kocic, Evans, McKenzie, Miller, Zizzo, Zemanski, Valencia

This latest installment of the Cascadia cup was a little bigger than the previous ones as new Seattle Sounder designated player Clint Dempsey made his home debut after making two appearances on the road in Toronto and in Dallas. But this match up had a bigger picture in line as the Portland Timbers were ahead of their rivals in the Western Conference standings for the first time ever this late into the season.

The match kicked off in front of over 67,000 fans, which was one of the highest attendances in the world this weekend, and the second largest attendance in Major League Soccer history. It started with a blistering pace as both clubs were going back and forth in what was a pretty open field, surprisingly, as the Timbers are usually pretty sound defensively. Kah was throwing his weight around all night and it started early in the 7th minute as he caught American international Clint Dempsey. Valeri was probably the best player in the first half as he was constantly threading passes to Nagbe, Johnson, and the lot, but the Portland Timbers could not produce the final movement that they so desperately needed.

Both goalkeepers came up huge multiple times throughout the match. Sharlie Joseph had two free headers in the opening twenty minutes but he did not produce the angle required and Ricketts saved both of them easily. The Argentine midfielder, Diego Valeri, released Will Johnson and was clean through, but Gspurning came off of his line quickly to collect the ball off of the feet of Ryan Johnson. The Austrian goalkeeper had little to do in the second half as the Seattle Sounders controlled the tempo of the match and were really in control for the final hour, but especially after the hour mark.

It was a very physical encounter as both teams were really going after one another, and the ref was letting them, despite some dangerous tackles. One of the key players in this was Kah who had plenty of rough challenges and one very dangerous tackle on Eddie Johnson late in the match in which he should have been shown a red card for persistent fouling, but instead was only shown a yellow. The league though should definitely look into some of the challenges Kah had throughout the match and really discipline him like he should have been during the match by the referee, as Alonso should be for his multiple fouls on Nagbe.

Seattle started the second half very narrow and could not break down the defense of Portland, but when Rosales came on around the 60 minute mark, he created a more offensive spark and really changed the whole outcome of the game. He came on for Joseph, who did not have the best of match in a Seattle jersey but Joseph was very sound defensively in the middle of the field for the first hour or so. The only goal of the match came off of a set piece where Rosales whipped in a cross from the left hand side with pace and Eddie Johnson got his head onto the end of the ball and directed it into the back of the net.

With this win, the Seattle Sounders are now in the final playoff spot in a highly contested Western Conference and this is their 10th straight win at home in which there is more than 40,000 people in attendance in the last 10 matches.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1. Bundesliga 2013-2014 Season Preview

The new Bundesliga season kicks off on August 9th, and more attention than ever will be on the teams after Borussia Dortmund’s and FC Bayern Munich’s strong campaigns in the 2012-2013 UEFA Champions League, from which Bayern Munich emerged as champions despite being given a difficult time by Dortmund. Meanwhile, the league remains as competitive as ever, with Bayern Munich crowned the 2012-2013 Bundesliga champions after two seasons of bare trophy cabinets. So here is the rundown on the teams that you can expect to see in 2013-2014, the players, the transfers, and how they can be expected to perform in the coming year.

1. FC Nuremburg

Image

Season Review

1. FC Nuremburg underwent a change in coach during 2012-2013, as longtime coach, Dieter Hecking, departed for VfL Wolfsburg and was subsequently replaced by youth coach Michael Wiesinger. While the season was by no means one for Nuremburg’s history books as they ended it in tenth place, they performed better following Wiesinger’s instatement. Nonetheless, Nuremburg suffered due to their lack of forward options – the team’s top scorer was none other than defender Per Nilsson

2013-2014 Preview

With the new season just around the corner, Nuremburg has worked to resolve their inadequacies in attack through a series of intelligent purchases in the transfer market. However, Nuremburg will have an even tougher time replacing defensive stalwarts Timmy Simons and Timm Klose, who departed for Club Brugge and VfL Wolfsburg, respectively. Coming into the squad are Swiss international forward Josip Drmic from FC Zürich, talented Polish forward Mariusz Stepinski from Widzew Lodz, and finally strikers Nick Weber and Daniel Ginczek from Borussia Dortmund. Austrian international Emmanuel Pogatetz has come in from VfL Wolfsburg to reinforce the defense, as has talented youth Martin Angha, who arrives for free from Arsenal FC.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Nuremburg’s key player for the upcoming season is undoubtedly Hiroshi Kiyotake. The Japanese international not only contributed with ten assists in the league, but also chipped in with four goals as well. If Nuremburg wish to avoid another season of disappointment, they will need Kiyotake to be just as influential.

1. FSV Mainz 05

Image

Season Review

In 2012-2013, FSV Mainz suffered a tale of two halves. Following a successful first half of the season and a sixth place finish by the time of the winter break, Mainz suffered a severe dip in form, with star striker Ádám Szalai (now at FC Schalke) scoring only four of his thirteen goals in the second half of the season and leading to a thirteenth place finish. Ultimately, Mainz’s struggles could be attributed to a lack of depth, compounded by injuries to a number of key players throughout the season. Nevertheless there were highlights within the dim, as Danish international Niki Zimling, German international Nicolai Müller, Austrian international Julian Baumgartlinger, and German youth international Shawn Parker all performed well, cementing their importance to the team.

2013-2014 Preview

Going into the new season, Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel will be happy with the business conducted during the transfer window. While the team was unfortunate to see some vital players of previous seasons depart, talented replacements were acquired for impressive prices. Defender Jan Kirchhoff made his departure to Bayern Munich after his contract expired, playmaker Andreas Ivanschitz likewise made his way to Levante in Spain, and the aforementioned transfer of Ádám Szalai to Schalke for eight million euros could be seen as a blessing in disguise given the player’s frequent injury concerns. Replacing Szalai in the attacking department is the underrated trio of Dani Schahin (who arrives from relegated Fortuna Düsseldorf), Sebastian Polter (from VfL Wolfsburg), and Shinji Okazaki (from VfB Stuttgart). Meanwhile the defense has been fortified by the arrivals of Joo-Ho Park from FC Basel and Julian Koch from Borussia Dortmund, and the midfield has found its reinforcements in the form of Johannes Geis and Christoph Moritz from SpVgg Greuther Fürth and Schalke 04, respectively.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

The key player for FSV Mainz in the coming season will be none other than the mercurial winger, Nicolai Müller. Having recently made his debut for the German national team, Müller will undoubtedly want to help lead his team back into European contention having gone two seasons without.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Image

 Season Review

Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed a highly successful 2012-2013 season, as they impressively finished in third place, ten points ahead of fourth-placed Schalke. Regular team members Gonzalo Castro, Simon Rolfes, and Lars Bender performed admirably in midfield, while young introductions to the squad Daniel Carvajal and Philipp Wollscheid helped shore up an occasionally leaky defense. In attack, Stefan Kießling and André Schürrle led the lines with aplomb, as Kießling ended the season as the Bundesliga top scorer, accepting the coveted Torjägerkanone.

2013-2014 Preview

With the departure of star attacker André Schürrle to Chelsea FC and the anticipation of a new season in the UEFA Champions league, Leverkusen has had to undergo a rebuilding process. Heung-min Son and Robbie Kruse have been brought in from Hamburg SV and Fortuna Düsseldorf, respectively, while Giulio Donati (Inter Milan) and Konstantinos Stafylidis (PAOK Saloniki) have arrived to replace the outgoing Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid) and Michal Kadlec (Fenerbahce SK). Three further signings in Roberto Hilbert (from Besiktas JK), Andrés Palop, and Emir Spahic (both from Sevilla FC) have all been brought in for their experience at the highest level. However, with so many new faces, there are doubts that Leverkusen will be able to continue their strong form.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

The key player for Bayer Leverkusen is newly signed Heung-Min Son. Signed for ten million euros, Son is expected to replace the outgoing Schürrle, but he has all the potential to perform even better. If he performs to this potential, then he could help Leverkusen replicate, if not better, their third-place finish.

Borussia Dortmund

Image

Season Review

Borussia Dortmund had a poor 2012-2013 season by their recent standards. While they invested much of their attentions into their Champions League campaign, they suffered more than anything from a lack of depth. While they were able to demolish much of the competition simply through the quality of their first team, their players were often running on fumes during important matches. Even Mario Götze (now at Bayen Munich) played over fifty matches despite being having suffered injuries multiple times during the season. Nonetheless, Dortmund were able to retain Champions League status with a second place finish.

2013-2014 Preview

Dortmund has had to rebuild its forward line follow the departure of Mario Götze to Bayern Munich and Robert Lewandowski’s publicly announced intention to follow him in a year’s time. Armenian attacking midfielder Henrikh Mikhtaryan has arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk as a capable replacement for Mario Götze, while Patrick Aubameyang has arrived from AS Saint-Étienne as a preemptive replacement for Lewandowski. In addition, Dortmund has purchased Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Werder Bremen to provide cover for Lukasz Piszczek during the latter’s rehabilitation following hip surgery. Moritz Leitner has departed Dortmund as well, leaving on loan to VfB Stuttgart in search of playing time, while Leonardo Bittencourt has made a similar move to Hannover 96, albeit permanently with a buyback option.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Borussia Dortmund will undoubtedly be counting on Marco Reus to be their key player in the 2013-2014 season, as he will be looking to continue the form that helped lead the team to the 2012-2013 Champions league final. However, with the departures of two of his partners in crime, Reus will be forced to take on more of the burden should injuries befall contributing members of the squad.

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Image

Season Review

2012-2013 was a satisfactory, if somewhat disappointing campaign for Mönchengladbach that left many fans wondering what could have been. New recruits Luuk de Jong, Alvaro Domingues, and Granit Xhaka failed to inspire, while Patrick Herrmann, Juan Arango, and Havard Nordveit continued their impressive forms. Nonetheless, an eighth place finish to the season was strong enough to represent the team’s second best finish in seventeen years, and gave the squad something to build off of as they enter the 2013-2014 season.

2013-2014 Preview

Mönchengladbach suffered during 2012-2013 from a lack of reliable forward options, and therefore has been working to quickly resolve that problem. While Belgian forward Igor de Camargo has departed the team for TSG Hoffenheim, Mike Hanke left for SC Freiburg on a free transfer, and Tolga Cigerci has returned to VfL Wolfsburg following his loan spell, German international forward Max Kruse has arrived from SC Freiburg for barely over two million euros, and Brazilian attacker Raffael has come from Dynamo Kyiv. With the additions of these forward options, the team is ready to battle for another chance at a European spot.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Newly signed German international forward Max Kruse will undoubtedly be the key man for Borussia Mönchengladbach during the 2013-2014 campaign, as he looks to continue the form that put him into the running for a chance with the national team. If nothing else, Kruse will almost assuredly represent the bargain purchase of the summer for two and a half million euros.

Eintracht Braunschweig

Image

Season Review

Eintracht Braunschweig surprised everybody on the way to their second-placed finish and subsequent promotion to the 1. Bundesliga. However with team captain Dennis Kruppke, Congolese striker Dominick Kumbela, and former VfB Stuttgart defender Ermin Bičakčić all having standout seasons, Braunschweig was able to justify their position by seasons end.

2013-2014 Preview

Eintracht Braunschweig acted quickly in the transfer market to bring in reinforcements to their side that severely lacked top-tier experience. Arriving at the club are experienced forward Torsten Oehrl from FC Augsburg, Canadian forward Simeon Jackson on a free transfer from Norwich City, and Marco Caligiuri from Mainz 05. Most notably, however, Omar Elabdellaoui was purchased from Manchester City following an impressive loan spell that took place during the second half of 2012-2013.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Omar Elabdellaoui will be looking to make a name in the 1. Bundesliga in the coming season, and by doing so become the key player that Braunschweig fans will be looking for. Elabdellaoui’s time with Feyenoord and Manchester City have prepared him for a high-pressure environment, and he will be expected to let his talent shine.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Image

Season Review

2012-2013 was a memorable one for Eintracht Frankfurt, as the newly promoted team rose through the rankings with panache, finishing comfortably in sixth place – strong enough for a position in the 2013-2014 Europa league. Players who had previously flown under the radar in the 2. Bundesliga were gathered by coach Armin Veh, and, along with a handful of Frankfurt academy graduates, took much of the Bundesliga by storm. Players such as Bastian Oczipka, Takashi Inui, Sebastian Jung, Sebastian Rode, Stefan Aigner, and Kevin Trapp impressed throughout the season, but the star of the Frankfurt show was longtime Frankfurt player, Alexander Meier. Meier led the team in goals scored, and was an engine that capably drove the Frankfurt team up the league standings.

2013-2014 Preview

Following their successful 2012-2013 season, Frankfurt have had the opportunity to polish up the squad prior to their foray into Europe. Gone are the experienced heads of Oka Nikolov (Philadelphia Union), Heiko Butscher (VfL Bochum), and Martin Amedick (SC Paderborn), while forward duo Olivier Occéan and Karim Matmour follow through the exit (both to 1. FC Kaiserslautern). Coming into the squad, however, are Johannes Flum and Jan Rosenthal (both from SC Freiburg), as well as the former Hoffenheim duo, Stephan Schröck and Joselu. Former Eintracht Frankfurt player Marco Russ also makes an emotional return from VfL Wolfsburg to the team of his youth. Should the new signings perform as is expected of them and gel comfortably with the rest of the squad, Eintracht Frankfurt could well enjoy their sophomore season back in the Bundesliga.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

The creator-in-chief for Eintracht Frankfurt during the 2012-2013 season was none other than Japanese international Takashi Inui. With his dizzying runs into the box coupled with his eye for shot, Inui brings with him a sense of class to Frankfurt reminiscent of Jay-Jay Okocha’s time. Inui will undoubtedly look to be even better in the upcoming season, as he will have the chance to demonstrate his talents for an even larger audience.

FC Augsburg

Image

Season Review

After taking just nine points during the first half of the 2012-2013 season, few expected FC Augsburg to mount a comeback, but they did so in style, ultimately finishing just above the drop zone in fifteenth place thanks to a win on the last day of the season. With summer signings Aristide Bance, Andreas Ottl, and Knowledge Musona disappointing, it was up for winter signings Dong-Won Ji and Andre Hahn to help Sascha Mölders and Ja-Cheoul Koo pick the team up.

2013-2014 Preview

Despite their sufferings during the 2012-2013 season, Augsburg is yet to truly replace the outgoing pair of Ja-Cheol Koo and Dong-Won Ji, who are returning from their loan spells to VfL Wolfsburg and Sunderland A.F.C., respectively. Coming into the squad on loan are young Greek attacker Panagiotis Vlachodimos from Olympiakos FC, as well as the talented midfielder Raphael Holzhauser from VfB Stuttgart. Turkish international and Bundesliga veteran Halil also arrives on a free transfer from Turkish club Trabzonspor. It has to be seen, though, as to whether these transfers will be able to capably replace the figures that they are meant to, or if Augsburg will be forced to suffer another year near the bottom of the Bundesliga table.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

FC Augsburg’s key player will yet again be the veteran striker, Sascha Mölders. His goals have been vital in the last two Bundesliga campaigns, and they will almost assuredly be needed again if Augsburg are to avoid relegation.

FC Bayern München

Image

Season Review

Bayern Munich blew the record books out of the water in 2012-2013, as they stormed to the Bundesliga title, losing only once in the process. Longtime players like Franck Ribéry, Thomas Müller, Philipp Lahm were vital to Bayern’s finish, and holes in the side that had previously been detrimental to the club’s hopes were ably filled by Javier Martínez, Dante, and David Alaba. Finishing the season a full twenty-five points ahead of second placed Borussia Dortmund has risen expectations, though, and it is yet to be seen as to whether the forced retirement of Coach Jupp Heynckes will be detrimental to the team’s chances in 2013-2014.

2013-2014 Preview

2013-2014 will see a new coach in Pep Guardiola taking over the reigns of Bayern, having watched with glee as the club acquires reinforcements for the new season. Forward duo Nils Peterson and Mario Gomez have departed for Werder Bremen and ACF Fiorentina, respectively, while Anatoliy Tymoschuk has returned to former club FC Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia. Coming into the squad are the world class midfield talents of Mario Götze and Thiago Alcántara from Bundesliga rival Borussia Dortmund and Champions league rival FC Barcelona, respectively. Central defender Jan Kirchhoff also arrives on a free transfer from FSV Mainz 05.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Bayern Munich’s key player to their success in the coming season is co-captain and midfield engine Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German international was pivotal to the team’s success and looks to be again in the coming year, despite the competition for places in the team’s lineup.

FC Schalke 04

Image

Season Review

FC Schalke 04 suffered from many inconsistencies during 2012-2013, else they may have been more successful in the league, only cementing their Champions league status for another year on the last match day. Highly dependent on Julian Draxler’s strong form throughout the season, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar failed to replicate his strong form from the previous year, and the club was forced to bring in veterans Raffael and Michel Bastos on loan in order to revive any hopes for European places.

2013-2014 Preview

This summer has seen Schalke 04 undergo an identity crisis, yet seemingly for the better. Gone are Spanish midfielder José Manuel Jurado and oft-injured loanee Ibrahim Afellay, as well as bit players Christoph Moritz and Ciprian Marica. Reinforcements have been noticeably younger in attempts to rejuvenate an aging squad. Ádám Szalai arrives from FSV Mainz 05, while talented German duo Leon Goretzka and Christian Clemens arrive from VFL Bochum and 1.FC Köln, respectively. A defensive reinforcement also arrives in the shape of Felipe Santana from Borussia Dortmund, as Santana seeks more first team opportunities.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

The key player for Schalke 04’s campaign to be a successful one is undoubtedly German international attacker Julian Draxler. At times he dragged his team along during 2012-2013, but he succeeded in helping the team to Champions league qualification, where he will be able to demonstrate his talents once again.

Hamburg SV

Image

Season Review

After a stuttering start to the 2012-2013 campaign, Hamburg SV made an attempt at recovery, but ultimately failed in their quest for a European qualifying spot due to their inability to perform at home. The season could well be defined by winning the double over reigning Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund, but losing easily to other teams, most notably 9-2 against Bayern Munich. Nonetheless, there were standouts within the team, as Rene Adler stood steadily in goal, Rafael van der Vaart had an adequate comeback upon his return, and Heung-Min Son struck up a fine understanding with fellow forward Artjoms Rudnevs, leading to a seventh place finish for Hamburg SV.

2013-2014 Preview

Hamburg will be going into the new season with the same goal of European football in mind, but it remains to be seen how they replace their outgoing talisman, Heung-Min Son, who leaves for Bayer Leverkusen. Jacques Zoua has been brought in from FC Basel in hopes that he will be able to take up some of the scoring load, Swiss international defender Johan Djourou has arrived on loan from Arsenal FC, and talented young defender Lasse Sobiech has been brought in from Borussia Dortmund to replace the outgoing Jeffrey Bruma, who leaves for PSV EIndhoven.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Rafael van der Vaart will be the key player in Hamburg’s 51st Bundesliga season. While satisfied with his performances overall, van der Vaart will be looking to help his team maintain some consistencies in the coming season, and to help younger players such as Hakan Calhanoglu become vital parts of the Hamburg SV machine.

Hannover 96

Image

Season Review

Hannover 96 started the 2012-2013 season as one of the most impressive sides in the league, but injuries to midfield maestro Szabolcs Huszti and defensive midfield linchpin Leon Andreason left holes too large to be filled in the Hannover side. Nonetheless, Hannover still ended the season in ninth and can expect to better it in the coming season.

2013-2014 Preview

Hannover 96 faced a mini-exodus of players following the 2012-2013 season, as Konstantin Rausch departed for VfB Stuttgart on a free transfer, Sergio Pinto similarly leaving for Levante UD, and Mohammed Abdellaoue following Rausch out the door to VfB Stuttgart. Reinforcements were quick to be procured, however, as standout SpVgg Greuther Fürth performer Edgar Prib arrived to shore up the central midfield, young attacking midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt arrived from Borussia Dortmund, and defender Salif Sané arrived from AS Nancy-Lorraine to replace the outgoing Johan Djourou, whose loan period expired.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Star Hannover 96 striker Mame Biram Diouf will be key to Hannover’s 2013-2014 campaign, as he looks to continue the form that has put some very large clubs on notice. Scoring twelve goals during 2012-2013, Diouf will be looking to better his record and help Hannover back into European contention.

Hertha BSC Berlin

Image

Season Review

the 2012-2013 2. Bundesliga season featured Hertha BSC steamrolling the competition en route to first a first place finish and automatic promotion back into the 1. Bundesliga. Featuring a squad full of top-tier experience, Hertha lost only twice in league play, yet only reached top gear two-thirds through the season. Nonetheless, standout players Adrian Ramos, Thomas Kraft, and Ronny will be looking forward to a season amongst the best, while youngsters John Anthony Brooks, Nico Schulz, and Pierre-Michel Lasogga will be raring to test themselves in the new season.

2013-2014 Preview

In anticipation of the new season, Hertha BSC has wisely sought out players with Bundesliga to add to an already talented squad. Japanese international Hajime Hosogai has been brought in from Bayer Leverkusen to bring additional steel to the midfield, while Alexander Baumjohann has been brought in from 1. FC Kaiserslautern to compete for a spot in attacking midfield. Sebastian Langkamp and Johannes van den Bergh have also been brought into the defense following their release from FC Augsburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf, respectively.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

The key player to Hertha BSC’s success in the coming season will ultimately be Ronny, who scored eighteen goals and assisted fourteen more during the 2012-2013 season. Ronny, whose older brother Raffael will be playing for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the coming season, will be looking to replicate his form against his Bundesliga opponents.

SC Freiburg

Image

Season Review

SC Freiburg was a force to be reckoned with in 2012-2013, as coach Christian Streich helped transform a squad that was largely unproven into a cohesive and tactically advanced team that ended the season in fifth place and a place in the 2013-2014 Europa league. Attackers Max Kruse, Jonathan Schmid, and Daniel Caligiuri played to their strengths on the break, while Johannes Flum and Cedrick Makiadi patrolled the midfield with an air of strength about them. However, with the departure of all the aforementioned with the exception of Schmid, Freiburg faced an intimidating overhaul before the upcoming 2013-2014 season.

2013-2014 Preview

The departures from Freiburg’s close-knit squad were abundant, with the most notable being Max Kruse’s decision to join up with Borussia Mönchengladbach. Following him out the exit was Daniel Caligiuri, who leaves for VfL Wolfsburg, while Cedrick Makiadi departs for SV Werder Bremen. Midfield duo Jan Rosenthal and Johannes Flum, both integral parts of Freiburg’s successful season, make their way together to Eintracht Frankfurt, where, like SC Freiburg, they will be competing in the 2013-2014 Europa league. Replacing these vital components will be up to new loanees Admir Mehmedi, Francis Coquelin, and Vaclav Pilar from Dynamo Kyiv, Arsenal FC, and VfL Wolfsburg, respectively. In addition, Freiburg have been quick to secure the services of Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes from Sporting LIssabon, French defender Christopher Jullien from AJ Auxerre, young talent Felix Klaus from SpVgg Greuther Fürth, and experienced forward Mike Hanke from Borussia Mönchengladbach. Whether or not all of these new faces will be able to transform into a functional team, however, remains to be seen.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

One of the few remaining faces from the 2012-2013 season, Jonathan Schmid, will be key to SC Freiburg’s success if they are to have any in 2013-2014. He was the second greatest threat behind Max Kruse during the 2012-2013 season, and he will be forced to step up and become a leading figure at the club this coming year. If successful, the man born in Strasbourg may even find a call up to the French national team a possibility in the future.

SV Werder Bremen

Image

Season Review

2012-2013 was a season of disappointment for all Werder Bremen fans, as longtime coach Thomas Schaaf finally found his reign at the club come to an end after fourteen years. High profile players such as Eljero Elia and Marko Arnautovic failed to impress, and the squad was resigned to depending on Chelsea loanee Kevin de Bryne for most of the season’s highlights. Finishing in fourteenth place, Werder will be expected to improve all possible aspects of their game if they are to prevent possible relegation in the coming season.

2013-2014 Preview

Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Kevin de Bruyne were the only names to depart from Bremen thus far in the transfer window, as they made their way to Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea FC, respectively. Nils Peterson, who impressed while on loan from Bayern Munich, made his loan stay permanent, while Cedrick Makiadi was brought in from SC Freiburg to reinforce the midfield. Italian defender Luca Caldirola also arrives from Inter Milan as a replacement for the outgoing Sokratis. Werder Bremen face a tough task if they are to survive another year in the top flight, and will need to rely on their existing squad if they are to improve in the coming year. The potential is there, nonetheless, and new coach Robin Dutt will be looking to bring it out as soon as possible.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Key to Werder Bremen’s 2013-2014 campaign will be starting forward Nils Peterson, who has made the central forward position his own with his vital goals. The expectations on his shoulders will be higher than ever, though, as he enters his third year in the Bundesliga top flight.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Image

Season Review

TSG Hoffenheim barely survived their 2012-2013 season, necessitating two late Sejad Salihovic penalties to earn a spot in the relegation playoffs against 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Against Kaiserslautern, however, Hoffenheim finally clicked, and maintained their Bundesliga status thanks to a team largely based on the youth players that had been neglected for so much of the season. Regardless, Hoffenheim’s summer signings Eren Derdiyok, Tim Wiese, and Afriyie Acquah did little to justify their wages, justifiably being left out of the team near the end of the season. Hoffenheim will undoubtedly be looking to improve as they enter their sixth consecutive season in the Bundesliga.

2013-2014 Preview

2013-2014 will be a season of transition for Hoffenheim as Markus Gisdol looks to reinstate the philosophy of youth development and intelligent transfers that brought the team up to the 1. Bundesliga in the first place. Exiting the squad are Igor de Camargo (to Standard Liège), Daniel Williams (to Reading FC), and the duo of Joselu and Stephan Schröck (both to Eintracht Frankfurt, the former on loan). Tarik Elyounoussi from Rosenborg BK and Anthony Modeste from FC Girondins de Bordeaux are the only notable arrivals at the squad, but a plethora of young talent from the reserve squad has been introduced to the senior side. Should Gisdol successfully reclaim the sense of unity that was so apparent during Hoffenheim’s inaugural season in the 1. Bundesliga, there is every chance that they could make a mark in the 2013-2014 season.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Hoffenheim’s key player to the new season will surely be Roberto Firmino. The playmaker failed to demonstrate his full potential in 2012-2013, but if used properly could be highly influential in all proceedings. He will undoubtedly be looking to improve his form, as there are few that doubt his talent, but many that question his ability to remain consistent.

VfB Stuttgart

Image

Season Review

VfB Stuttgart’s 2012-2013 season was one in which the team struggled against sides near the bottom of the table, yet somehow managed to find results against some of the top sides. The goals of Vedad Ibisevic played no small part in the highlight wins of the season against FC Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt, but it was apparent that what Stuttgart lacked was quality in depth.

2013-2014 Preview

Stuttgart have had a busy transfer season thus far by anybody’s standards. While Shinji Okazaki has left for FSV Mainz, Tim Hoogland (FC Schalke), Felipe (VfL Wolfsburg), and Federico Macheda (Manchester United FC) have all returned from their loan spells to their parent clubs. Meanwhile, reinforcements have arrived in the shape of Sercan Sararer from SpVgg Greuther Fürth, Mohammed Abdellaoue and Konstantin Rausch from Hannover 96, and Moritz Leitner from Borussia Dortmund. Further additions in Daniel Schwaab from Bayer Leverkusen and Marco Rojas from Melbourne Victory have been brought in to add valuable depth to the squad.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

VfB Stuttgart will be counting on key player Vedad Ibisevic to continue his run of form that he demonstrated int he throughout 2012-2013. The Bosnian attacker was as the center of all that was positive in Stuttgart’s play, and will be happily anticipating the start of a new season with valuable additions to the squad.

VfL Wolfsburg

Image

Season Review

VfL Wolfsburg began the season under the guidance of controversial coach Felix Magath, but after eight match days were at the bottom of the table. Shortly thereafter, Dieter Hecking took over the coaching reigns and helped lead the club to a respectable, in unspectacular, eleventh place finish. Nonetheless, players like Ivica Olic, Diego, and Makoto Hasebe demonstrated their class in the vital stretches of the season, while youngsters Maximilian Arnold and Robin Knoche demonstrated strong potential with the first team.

2013-2014 Preview

In an attempt to trim their 45-man squad down to a reasonable level, Wolfsburg have allowed many players to leave for little or no return. A quintet of central defenders have departed Wolfsburg, as Simon Kjaer leaves for LOSC Lille Métropole, Marco Russ returns to Eintracht Frankfurt, and Emanuel Pogatetz departs for 1. FC Nuremburg, while the duo of Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Alexander Madlund have been released from their contracts. The arrivals of midfielder Daniel Caligiuri from SC Freiburg, defender Timm Klose from 1. FC Nuremburg, and goalkeeper Max Grün from SpVgg Greuther Fürth should supplement the still crowded Wolfsburg squad. Dieter Hecking will undoubtedly be expecting his side to make it to European positions in the upcoming 2013-2014 season.

(Top 3 Talents for 2013-2014)

Key Player

Key to Wolfsburg’s ambitions is the world class Diego. When he is in the Wolfsburg lineup, he brings the team to a higher level, and demonstrates his irrefutable talent. Furthermore, with the introduction of the talented youngster, Maximilian Arnold, Diego has the opportunity to pass along his knowledge to a player that has the talent become a valuable partner in the upcoming season.

If you like Ludwig Gerdes’ writing, you can find more of his work at www.urbanetalente.com or follow him on twitter @urbanetalente

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scouting Report: Bastian Oczipka

Image
Photo: Bundesliga.com

Recently, the name Bastian Oczipka has been mentioned as a target for Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland A.F.C. during the 2013 summer transfer window.

The German left-back has seen his stock rise eight-fold since his 500,000 euro transfer to Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt prior to their successful 2012-2013 season, finishing third in the running for best in his position in the Bundesliga for 2012-2013, and yet he remains a highly undervalued potential target at only 4,000,000 euros.

Eintracht Frankfurt shone for great stretches of the 2012-2013 campaign, eventually ending the season in sixth place: a place good enough to qualify for a Europa League spot. However this was a result that was far beyond the estimations of even the most hopeful punters. The starting team was built with a combination of academy graduates and intelligent transfers, with the most expensive purchase being Germany youth international goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp for the princely sum of 1,500,000 euros. Yet despite the relative unknown quantities of his team mates, Oczipka rarely received the plaudits he deserved. Those instead went to the likes of Takashi Inui, Sebastian Rode, Sebastian Jung, and the aforementioned Trapp. Nonetheless, through a simple statistical analysis it is shown that there is more to Bastian Oczipka than meets the eye.

Player Profile

Bastian Oczipka was born on January 12, 1989 in Bergisch Gladbach, in what was then West Germany. He joined local club SV Blau-Weiß-Hand at the age of five, only to transfer to SSG Bergisch Gladbach two years later. Another two years passed, and in 1999 a ten-year old Oczipka was accepted into the Bayer Leverkusen youth football academy. There, he moved up the ranks, and won the U-19 Bundesliga in 2007, scoring in the final against a Bayern München side containing the likes of future German internationals Holger Badstuber, Thomas Müller, and Toni Kroos.

Upon Oczipka’s graduation from the Bayer Leverkusen academy, he was sent on loan to Hansa Rostock for the 2008-2009 season in the 2. Bundesliga. At Hansa Rostock, Oczipka made 42 appearances, assisting 4 goals. However, halfway through the 2009-2010 2. Bundesliga season, Oczipka was recalled by Bayer Leverkusen, who subsequently sent him out on loan to FC St. Pauli. At St. Pauli, Oczipka helped the team gain promotion to the Bundesliga for the 2010-2011 season, for which he remained at St. Pauli. In all, Oczipka appeared 36 times for St. Pauli, scoring one goal and assisting six others, but was unable to prevent the club from being relegated, largely due to an ankle injury suffered in February of 2011.

Despite his ankle injury causing him to miss the final fourteen match days of the 2010-2011 season, Oczipka impressed enough to be recalled to the senior Bayer Leverkusen squad prior to the 2011-2012 campaign. However, Oczipka was never able to fully recover from his injury at Bayer Leverkusen, as he missed all of pre-season and, when healthy, was often passed over in favor of Michal Kadlec, now of Fenerbahçe S.K.

Ultimately Oczipka made a mere nine Bundesliga appearances during the 2011-2012 season, starting only once, before gladly accepting a transfer to newly promoted Eintracht Frankfurt.

Style of Play

A simple observation led to a comparison of statistics, which in turn led to a starting realization: Bastian Oczipka is performing in a nearly identical manner to Fábio Coentrão circa 2009-2010, a period shortly before Coentrão was voted the Portuguese League Breakthrough Player.

When observing both players in action, the similarities are remarkable. Both players play as left-sided wing backs, overlapping regularly and more comfortable supporting the forward progression of play without neglecting their defensive duties. Both players are left-footed and comfortable crossers of the ball, as witnessed during both S.L. Benfica‘s successful 2009-2010 season as well as Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2012-2013 season. In addition, when either Fábio Coentrão or Bastian Oczipka made an assist in the 2009-2010 Primeira Liga or 2012-2013 Bundesliga, respectively, their teams did not lose. The similarities are quite amazing.

Fábio Coentrão

Image

Bastian Oczipka

Image

If these statistics are supplemented by their market value trends, it is apparent that the two most observable differences between are the relative ages at the time of the breakthrough (24 for Oczipka v. 22 for Coentrão) and the injury suffered by Oczipka in 2011.

Image
Market Value Comparison

Regardless, Oczipka is obviously undervalued at 4,000,000 euros, when Coentrão’s market value at a comparative time period was 5,600,000 euros.

So, why would a club such as Sunderland A.F.C. be in the market for a player like Oczipka? A more appropriate question may be why aren’t more clubs looking at a player who has the attributes and talent of Coentrão but at a fraction of the price.

 

If you like Ludwig Gerdes’ writing, you can find more of his work at http://www.urbanetalente.com or follow him on twitter @urbanetalente

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Russian Premier League 2013/14 Preview

The new Russian Premier league season starts this weekend, plenty of eyes will be placed firmly on CSKA Moscow after a very successful 2012/13 season which saw them complete the double. The first bit of action starts off with the Super Cup game between CSKA Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg on Saturday. Despite how tasty that tie is it’s not the focus of this piece, I will be looking at how well will teams did last season, transfers, key players and most importantly how I think each team will do this season.

Amkar Perm’

Last season Amkar managed to avoid the drop, finishing in 11th place. This season they will be hoping for better under the guidance of newly appointed Stanislav Cherchesov as manager, after he spent 2 seasons at Terek Grozny. So far the club have released 9 players from their contracts, while bringing in 3 players, Peter Zanev from Volyn, Nikolai Fadeev and Dmitri Kayumov are both on loan from Spartak Moscow. Under the new leadership of Cherchesov, Amkar can finish higher than last season, however I won’t be expecting a huge improvement this season. Highest position I feel they can achieve this season is 10th, lowest position would be relegation.

Key Player: Georgi Peev – The aging Bulgarian midfielder finished as the clubs top scorer last season and despite his age, he should play a key part in any success Amkar have.

Anzhi Makhachkala

Anzhi were title challengers for most of the season but they fell off after the winter break winning only 4 games in the league, they were affected by the sale of Christopher Samba to QPR. Anzhi are certain to challenge for the title again this season and they have already made a few big signings which have strengthen them for the upcoming season. 3 players have gone out on loan, 2 players have finished their loans at the club and Kamil Agalarov has joined Rostov. Anzhi have signed Igor Denisov for 15 million from rivals Zenit St. Petersburg, Aleksandr Kokorin from Dynamo Moscow for 19 million and they have also spent almost 11.6 million on bringing back Christopher Samba. Other purchases include Aleksei Ionov for 5 million and Mikhail Kerzhakov for 500k, Anzhi will be looking to buy a couple more players before the end of the window, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple more big names joining the Dagestan club. I’m predicting Anzhi to put up a serious title challenge and perhaps even win it, they have made a few great signings already and they will be boasted by Hiddink agreeing to stay on as manager.

Key Player: Willian – The Brazilian made the big money move from Shakhtar Donetsk in the January window, however he only made 7 appearances in the league due to injury. Fans of the Dagestan club will be hoping to see more of him this season and if he can play like he did in the Ukraine, he will thee key player in the side, unlocking the defences and chipping in with a few goals. Willian has a lot to do to live up to his 35 million price tag and I’m more than sure he will be able to do so this season.

CSKA Moscow

It was an outstanding season for CSKA, winning the double. This season will be even more impressive if they manage to do that again, however it will be a very tough ask, others such as Zenit and Anzhi are strengthening and if they wish to do well in the Champions League they will have to focus less on one competition which will most likely be the league. So far the champions haven’t done a great deal in the window, however they will most likely try to bring in a replacement for Honda who will be leaving the club be it this window or when his contract expires in December, his destination will be AC Milan. They have brought in Georgi Milanov and Steven Zuber so far and they have loaned out Petr Ten, while selling Artur Nigmatullin and Uros Cosic. I fully expect CSKA to challenge for the title, winning it again? I personally think they can, they still have a strong squad and if they can replace Honda well there isn’t a reason why they can’t be crowned champions once again.

Key Player: Alan Dzagoev – He had the most assists last season, the only player to have more than Honda, both scoring 7 goals as well. Dzagoev will have a big roll to play this season especially if CSKA fail to bring in a replacement for the outgoing Honda.

Dinamo Moscow

It was a rather good season for Dinamo as they finished 7th, only 6 points separated them from 3rd place Anzhi. The Moscow club will be hoping for an improvement this season and they will be boosted by manager Dan Petrescu staying at the club. He was strongly linked with a move to UAE Pro league club Al Nasr. This summer Dinamo have allowed 5 players to become free agents, Jakob Jantscher and Sergei Davydov both returned to their clubs after their loans, Vladimir Rykov has left on loan and they have received 19 million from Anzhi for Aleksandr Kokorin. Boris Rotenberg, Andriy Voronin, Fedor Smolov and Igor Shitov have all returned to the club after being loaned out last season, Alan Kasaev has arrived on loan from Rubin Kazan and George Florescu has arrived as a free agent. With a few more additions this Dinamo side can improve on last season’s 7th place and I’m expecting them to 5th or 6th.

Key Player: Balázs Dzsudzsák – The Hungarian will once again be an important player, last season he managed to bag himself 5 goals and he managed the most assists for the club, setting up 9 goals which was the second most in the league. Dzsudzsák will have a big role once again linking up with Kevin Kuranyi

FC Krasnodar

Krasnodar were only formed in 2008 and are entering their third season of top flight Russian football. The club will be looking for a successful season after finishing in 10th place last season. The Bulls have brought in 8 players so far, Ricardo Laborde, Marcos Pizzelli, Vitali Kaleshin, Artur Jedrzejczyk, Artem Leonov, Yuri Gazinsky, Ruslan Bolov and Gerard Bi Goua Gohou. They have also departed with 6 players, Igor Lambarschi has gone out on loan, while Adolf Teiku has returned to Metalurg Zaporozhye after his loan spell. Krasnodar have a great set up, new youth facilities just completed and a new stadium also on the way. I’m expecting them to do well this season, I believe they are good enough to finish in the top 8 this season.

Key Player: Joãozinho – The Brazilian had a brilliant season last season and he is one of, if not thee best player at the club. The midfielder managed to score 5 goals last season but the key aspect of his game is the difference he makes to the Krasnodar attack, he creates. Wanderson had a great season also and will indeed be key if they are to keep him, however it will be Joãozinho to make the difference setting up goals and cutting open the opposition defence.

Krylia Sovetov

Last season Krylia Sovetov finished just above the automatic relegation places, although finishing above 15th by 8 points, they still had to fight it out over two legs against promotion chasing Spartak Nal’chik. Over the two legs Krylia Sovetov were two good for the FNL side and won 7-2 on aggregate and earning another season in the top flight, they have never been relegated from the Russian Premier League. Arrivals for Krylia Sovetov have both been from Volga, Ruslan Adzhindzhal and Gia Grigalava arrived as free agents. Rais M’Bohli and Pablo Zeballos have returned from loans, while Dmitri Golubev and Viktor Svezhov have gone out on loan. Other departures include Shamil Lakhiyalov, Roman Grigoryan and Steeve Joseph-Reinette who became free agents, Igor Portnyagin has also returned to Rubin after his loan spell at the club. How well can they do this season? I can’t see them improving much, they have a couple of decent players but they also have some very poor ones. I don’t think they will go down, but I won’t be expecting them to finish around mid table. I see them finishing more or less in the same place.

Key Player: Luis Caballero – In the few games I do see of Krylia Sovetov, the 23 year-old was the player that impressed the most. He finished the clubs top goalscorer with 8 goals and he also managed to one of the leading players when it came to setting up goals. The Paraguayan is certainly a player Krylia Sovetov will rely on if they are to move up the table.

Kuban’ Krasnodar

Kuban have been very much a yo-yo club in recent years, up and down the RPL and the FNL, in 2010 they were promoted and in their first season back they managed to avoid relegation be some way as they finished 8th, last season was their second season since earning promotion and it turned out to be brilliant season for the Yellows and Greens. Kuban were the number 1 team when it came to backing from the stands, they were the most supported at home and that certainly helped them reach 5th place come the end of the season. Kuban have made 3 signings so far this summer, bringing in Vladislav Ignatiev from Krasnodar, Nikita Bezlikhotnov from Torpedo Moscow and Djibril Cisse from QPR. Only a handful of players have come in but going out there has been a bagful, a total of 10 players have left the club. Mikhail Komkov and Bauyrzhan Islamkhanov will be returning to the club as they have only gone out on loan, Igor Lolo, Dele Adeleye, Abdulwaheed Afolabi, Daniel Niculae and Nikolai Zhilyaev have all left after their contract expired. Vladislav Kulik has moved to Rubin, Marcos Pizzelli has gone to Krasnodar and Aleksei Ionov has completed a move to Anzhi for 5 million.

This season will be an exciting season for Kuban as they embark of European football, providing they get through the qualifying rounds. As exciting as the season will be for the club and it’s fans, it will also be a tough one having to compete in 3 competitions. I’m predicting them to still challenge for a European spot, however if they do well in the Europa League, their league position may suffer. They have enough quality to finish in the top 6.

Key Player: Aras Özbiliz – The former Ajax man had a decent first season in Russian football, finishing joint top goalscorer for the club with 9 goals. The midfielder also managed to set up 2 goals, His goals from midfield will be important for Kuban. However Özbiliz may need to result to being the creator following the departure of Aleksei Ionov to Anzhi. His assists will be a big loss to Kuban and if the club can’t replace him, then I can see Özbiliz being the player to step up.

Lokomotiv Moscow

Lokomotiv had a very disappointing season under the management of Slaven Bilić, the club finished in 9th, it was their lowest ever finish in the Russian Premier League. They have now parted with Slaven Bilić and also 3 million. The new man at the helm is Leonid Kuchuk, the club will be hoping he can turn fortunes around this season. Lokomotiv have brought in Taras Mykhalyk from Dynamo Kiev and Sergei Tkachyov from Metalist Kharkiv. While Senijad Ibricic, Maxim Belyaev and Manuel da Costa have all returned from their loans. As for outgoings Anton Amelchenko has joined Rostov, Artur Sarkisov has moved to Ural, Dmitri Loskov and Dmitri Sychev have both left and finally Denis Glushakov has moved to Spartak Moscow. It’s going to be an interesting season for Loko, new manager who has the ability to turn things around and move the club back to where they belong, challenging for European football. Loko are capable of doing that this season but it may be too much to ask, I certainly think and expect they will do a lot better than last season, at least a top 8 finish.

Key Player: Dame N’Doye and Alexandr Samedov –  Loko counted on N’Doye’s goals last season and much will be the same this season, N’Doye was one of the 10 players in the league that managed to reach double figures with 10 goals. As well as the Senegalese striker, Alexandr Samedov will be a key player. The 28 year-old topped the clubs assists chart and N’Doye and those around him will be hoping he can continue to create chances and cut open defences.

Rostov

There wasn’t any improvement on league position for Rostov last season, they finished 13th like they did in the 2011/12. They faced SKA-Energiya in the play-offs and managed to see the FNL club by winning 3-0 on aggregate and securing their Premier League status. Rostov have show they are looking to improve on the last two seasons by bringing in 10 players so far, Igor Lolo, Anton Amelchenko, Azim Fatullaev, Kamil Agalarov, Yoo Byung-Soo, Hrvoje Milic and Bastos have moved to the club on permanent deals, while Igor Khudobyak, Jano Ananidze and Artem Dzyuba have arrived on loan. Leaving the club this summer, Maxim Belyaev, Nikolai Zabolotny and Danko Lazovic have all finished their loan spells, Inal Getigezhev has moved to Rubin, Isaac Okoronkwo has become a free agent and Andrei Vasiliev has moved to Dynamo St. Petersburg on loan. Rostov have improved the squad and they have brought in some good players, I can see them doing well this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them fighting for a mid-table finish.

Key Player: Artem Dzyuba – Rostov have done a great job in bringing in Dzyuba, the Spartak man had a decent season and he will make a difference to the Rostov team and attack. Rostov were one of the league lowest scorers with only 30 goals, they will be looking to Dzyuba to get on the scoresheet as much as possible. Not only that he also has the ability to assist his teammates, something we all saw last season as he finished the season top of Spartak’s assist chart by setting up 7 goals.

Rubin Kazan

Rubin finished 6th last season, grabbing the last of the European places. Rubin will be very happy with managing to secure a Europa League place, a competition they do really well in, they managed a famous win against Atletico Madrid in their own back yard. Rubin were eventually knocked out at the quarter final stage by eventual champions Chelsea. Rubin will be looking at having similar success in Europe, but also they will be looking to finish in the European places once again this season, and who knows maybe a Champions League spot. They have brought in Vladislav Kulik from Kuban, Inal Getigezhev from Rostov, Aleksandr Prudnikov from Alania and Igor Portnyagin has returned from his loan at Krylia Sovetov. Igor Portnyagin didn’t return long as he has been shipped out on loan once again, this time to newly promoted Tom Tomsk. 5 other players have also joined Portnyagin in being loaned out, Gokhan Tore, Sergei Davydov, Ivan Temnikov, Alan Kasaev and Maksim Zhestokov. Vitali Kaleshin and Pablo Orbaiz both became free agents, Kaleshin already finding a club in Krasnodar and finally Aleksei Eremenko has left for 200k. This season will be the same for Rubin, they will be challenging for Europe and I believe they have enough quality to finish in the European places.

Key Player: Salomón Rondón – Going into his second season for the club, Rondón will be once again the main focus of the attack. He managed to get 7 goals last season and often plays upfront on his own, his pace is something he and Rubin use to great effect.

Spartak Moscow

Spartak had a good season after finishing in 4th place and qualifying for the Europa League. It’s exciting times for the club as their new stadium, which will be their first ever owned stadium is set to be completed by the end of the year. Spartak have already spent 17.3 million this summer bringing in Tino Costa from Valencia, Denis Glushakov from Lokomotiv and Jose Manuel Jurado from Schalke after a successful loan spell at the club. All should prove to be good signings and they should be able to push the team on and continue to challenge for the Champions League spots. Vladimir Obukhov, Soslan Dzhanaev, Aleksandr Zotov and Nikolai Zabolotny have all come back from their loans, while Artem Dzyuba, Jano Ananidze, Nicolas Pareja, Nikolai Fadeev and Dmitri Kayumov have all been shipped out on loan for this season. Igor Gorbatenko has become a free agent, Ognjen Vukojevic has returned to Dynamo Kiev after his loan and Demy de Zeeuw has moved to Belgian side Anderlecht. Spartak have made good additions to the side and with some more perhaps on the way, they should be able to finish in the top 4 once again.

Key Player: Dmitri Kombarov –  had an impressive season and will once again be key this season, he managed to set up 6 goals last season and also topped the Spartak scoring chart. Spartak have quality up front and Kombarov will be key in providing them with the quality they need in order to score goals. Tino Costa could also become a key player if he settles quickly.

Terek Grozny

Terek managed to finish in 8th last season which is their highest ever finish in the Russian Premier League. It will be tough for Terek to repeat last seasons success. The Chechen club have so far brought in two keepers Evgeny Kobozev and Evgeny Gorodov and defender Ivan Temnikov on loan from Rubin, Zaur Sadaev has returned from Beitar. Ezechiel N’Douassel and Adlan Katsaev have been loaned out, while Anton Amelchenko has returned to Lokomotiv after his loan. Piotr Polczak has moved to Volga and Musawengosi Mguni has moved to Ukrainian side Metalurg Zaporozhye. If Terek are to repeat their success they will need to improve their defence if they are to stay above the likes of Lokomotiv and Krasnodar. I can see Terek staying roughly in the same place as last season and finishing around mid-table.

Key Player: Aílton Almeida – The Brazilian scored 7 goals last season and lead the clubs scoring chart. Terek will be counting on him to score the goals as well as assist, towards the end of the season that was something Aílton added to the team, he provided as well as scored. Terek may need to bring in a creative player to help unlock the opposition.

Tom Tomsk

The newly promoted side finished 2nd in the FNL last season gaining an instant return to the top flight and there one target this season is plain and simple and that’s to stay up. Premier League clubs will be faced with more travel this season as both Tom Tomsk and Ural are further away than last season furthest away match which was Amkar Perm. Tom Tomsk isthe furthest away trip for teams, but clubs only have to make that journey once a season, this will be a regular distance for Tom Tomsk, this may be an important factor in their fight for survival. So far they have been busy in the window, bringing in a total of 11 players and one of those being Evgeny Chernov who has returned from a loan. Mikhail Komkov, Vladimir Rykov, Igor Portnyagin and Pavel Ignatovich have all been brought in on loan for this season. Andrei Ivanov, Evgeny Sidorenko, Gabriel Muresan, Zhivko Milanov, Mladen Bozovic and Kirill Panchenko have all joined permanently. Going out, Aleksandr Kasyan, Sergei Bendz and Aleksandr Zotov have all returned to their clubs following loan spells, while Andrei Gorbanets, Vitali Astakhov, Anton Khazov, Aleksandr Dimidko and Viktor Stroev were all sold. I can’t see Tom Tomsk having a wonder season and finish in the top 8 but I do think they can avioded relegation via staying up after the two play-off games. I think they can achieve a 13th or 14th place finish.

Key Player: Valeri Sorokin – providing he can convert his form in the FNL to the RPL, it will help Tom Tomsk fight against the drop. Sorokin managed 9 goals in the FNL last season and also managed to create 10 goals as well, both his goals and assists will be a key part of this Tom Tomsk side.

Ural

The FNL champions last season and like Tom Tomsk, they will be scrapping it out down the bottom of the table in order to survive the drop. Just like Tom Tomsk there has been plenty of changes at the club, Serder Serderov and Evgeny Pomazan have arrived on loan from Anzhi, Andrei Gorbanets, Gudzha Rukhaia, Aleksei Solosin, Artur Sarkisov, Aleksandr Belozerov and Yuri Kirillov have all signed for the club as well. 15 players have left the club of them being made free agents, those players are Konstantin Skrylnikov, Maksim Volkov, Aleksandr Kotlyarov, Artem Solovyei, Mikhail Biryuko, Dmitri Ryzhov, Aleksei Revyakin and Aleksandr Marenich. Anton Kobyalko has left for Gazovik, Dmitri Yashin has gone to Shinnik, Ivan Drannikov to Neftekhimik and Ivan Melnik has moved on loan to Dynamo St. Petersburg. As said earlier I believe they will be fighting the drop.

Key Player: Spartak Gogniyev – The 32 year-old striker had a brilliant first season in the Ural jersey as he scored a brilliant 17 goals and finished both the clubs top scorer and the league top scorer. Gogniyev will be a huge part of the success of Ural this season, providing he can still get the goals they will have a great chance.

Volga

Volga finished just above the play-off spots last season, although they had the same points as Rostov they stayed up due to goal difference. Volga improved on their 14th place finish which they achieved in the first season back in the RPL. Volga have signed 12 players and Nikita Malyarov has returned from a loan spell at Ufa. The 12 players are: Jorge Luis Luna, Artur Nigmatullin, Roman Kontsedalov, Piotr Polczak, Mukendi Mulumba, Leandro, Marcin Kowalczyk, Luton Shelton, Denis Kolodin, Mikhail Komarov, Artem Danilenko and Dmitri Sychev. Volga have also been busy getting rid of players, a total of 10 players have left. Artur Sarkisov has finished his loan, Mikhail Kerzhakov has moved to Anzhi, while Aleksandr Belozerov, Dmitri Aydov, Ruslan Adzhindzhal, Romeo Castelen, Aleksandr Kharitonov, Dmitri Kudryashov, Aleksandr Salugin and Alexey Sapogov have all left. Like last season I think Volga will be fighting in and around the play-off spots.

Key Player: Leandro – The new signing from Arsenal Kiev will have a big role to play at the club this season, the Brazilian has a lot of experiance in the Russian League playing for Luch-Energiya in 2008, Spartak Nalchik from 2009 to 2011 and a loan spell at Kuban last season. The Brazilian will add goals from the midfield and help with a few goals.

Zenit St. Petersburg

Zenit missed out on the title by 2 points last season finishing in second behind CSKA Moscow. Zenit will be keen to win back the title and they have the chance to get some sort of payback on Saturday in the Super Cup final against CSKA. Zenit a re also keen to add to the already quality squad and they have already added some new and old faces. Anatoly Tymoshchuk has returned to the club after his contract expired at Bayern Munich, likewise with Andrei Arshavin who has signed after leaving Arsenal. Danko Lazovic has arrived back from his loan at Rostov, Ramil Sheidaev has been promoted from the Zenit Academy, Yuri Lodygin and Ivan Solovyov have joined from Skoda Xanthi and Dynamo. As for departures Sergei Semak has retired, Igor Cheminava has become a free agent, Igor Denisov has joined Anzhi for 15 million and Bruno Alves has left for Turkey and joined Fenerbahce for 5.5 million. Zenit should and will be fighting for the title once again and they will at least get 3rd.

Key Player: Domenico Criscito and Nicolas Lombaerts- There is plenty of big names in the Zenit side and plenty that can score goals, however I believe the key players for them this season will be Criscito and Lombaerts, both are vital players in the Zenit defence. Zenit although having one of the best defensive records in the league season do need to add to the back line especially Bruno Alves has left.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

A huge thank you to Russian Football News for allowing me to use their Summer Transfer Table, so credit to them from all the transfer information.

Tagged , , , ,

Player Profile: Daniel Ginczek

ginczek

Recently 1. FC Nürnberg signed striker Daniel Ginczek to a three-year contract from Borussia Dortmund for an undisclosed fee. Ginczek has been given the number 11 shirt previously worn by the Nürnberg great Marek Mintal, who was Bundesliga scoring champ once and 2. Bundesliga scoring champ twice during his time with Der Club. Thus there are already expectations for Ginczek, who during last season’s loan spell at 2. Bundesliga side FC St. Pauli scored 19 times in just 33 matches in all competitions.

Ginczek was born in Arnsber, Germany on April 13th, 1991. He played youth football for his local club, SC Neheim, joining the club when he was just four years of age. Ginczek stayed there for over a decade before he made the move to Borussia Dortmund in 2007 when he was 16. The 6 foot 2 striker continued to develop his game in the youth system there until he got promoted to the reserve team. In 66 Dortmund reserve matches, Ginczek found the back of the net 28 times.

Borussia Dortmund would send him on loan for the entire 2011-2012 season to VfL Bochum, where he, unfortunately, did not live up to his full potential, scoring five times in 29 matches. His true quality showed last season for FC St. Pauli.

Ginczek’s spectacular change of pace, his ability to slow down and speed up again really confused defenders and allowed the striker to blow by them with ease. Daniel Ginczek’s right foot is the stronger of his two, as he scored 16 of his 18 league goals from his right last season, but he can score spectacular goals with both of his feet. Ginczek took 108 attempts on goal last year and created 159 chances for Hamburg’s iconic cult club.

The German striker has played for every level of the German national team thus far with the exception of Jogi Löw’s senior team, totaling 20 matches of youth international play. During his time in the youth ranks, Ginczek has performed very consistently, scoring at all of levels except for the U-17s, where he only made two appearances.

Mintal, who recently became a coach for Der Club spoke of the significance of passing on the number 11 at Nürnberg
This is completely normal in football, “I now begin my career as a coach, which is a new chapter in my football experience. In turn, there is a new generation of young players who want to follow in the footsteps of the predecessors. I have always enjoyed wearing that jersey and scoring so many goals in the number 11 shirt
Ginczek is aware of the tradition he will try to continue.”

Ginczek replied with this when he was asked about the significance of the shirt number at the club,”Of course I know what Marek Mintal has done for the club. He has experienced tremendous years here at Nürnberg. I will try everything that I can to at least build on his accomplishments”

In six weeks, Ginczek will begin to get his chance

Tagged , , , , , ,

U20 World Cup: Egypt 2-0 England

U20
A must win for both sides as they were both looking to stay in Turkey and avoid taking an early flight home. Egypt went into the last group game having lost their two previous games 2-1. England on the other hand had two points under their belt after a 2-2 draw to Iraq and a 1-1 draw against Chile.

Teams:

Egypt – Mossad Awad, Kahraba Mahmoud, Yasser Elhanafi, Rami Rabia(C), Mahmoud Metwaly, Gomaa Saleh, Samir Mohamed, Hamad Mahmoud, Osama Ibrahim, Ahmed Hassan, Trezeget.
T
Subs – Abdalla Elhadad, Hammad Elhambaly, Ahmed Refat, Bassam Omar, Mahmoud Wahid, Hossam Ghaly, Mohamed Elshami, Hamdi Mahmoud, Mohamed Sherif, Mahmoud Hassan

England – Sam Johnstone, Eric Dier, Conor Coady(C), James Ward-Prowse, Larnell Cole, Harry Kane, John Stones, Tom Thorpe, Luke Williams, Luke Garbutt, Ross Barkley.

Subs – Gael Bigirimana, Jon Flanagan, Christopher Long, Adam Reach, George Long, Connor Ripley, Jamaal Lascelles, John Lundstram, Alex Pritchard.

 

The game started brightly from an England point of view as they produced an early chance,  Luke Garbutt put in a lovely cross from the left and it was met by the head of Harry Kane but he could only head it just wide. Larnell Cole was one of the brightest players on the pitch in the first half and one of his highlights of the half and match was his brilliant run. He somehow managed to keep the ball before playing two one-two’s on his way to the box and having a go at goal, however the young Manchester United winger couldn’t test Mossad Awad as he saved the effort comfortably. Conor Coady got into the act after he had an effort from range which stung the hands of Awad, before he quickly gathered up his spill.

The best chance of the first half fell to Ross Barkley after his Everton team mate John Stones played in a fantastic cross from the right. Barkley went for the volley and it was on it’s way in but Awad was there to deny him producing a great save. Barkley was in the thick of the action again quickly after he threaded a pass between to Egypt players, however once again nothing came of it as Kane took a heavy touch which allowed the Egypt defence to recover and clear the ball out for an England corner. Stones found himself creating another decent England chance as he played in Cole, who then cut the ball to Kane, this time his first touch was better but he failed to test the keeper after sending his effort wide.

The Egyptians didn’t create many clear chances but towards the end of the half they managed to keep the England defence alert with two long range efforts. First up was Rami Rabia who fired a rocket of a shot but failed to hit the target. It was then Ahmed Hassan’s turn but he also failed to unleash a shot good enough to test Sam Johnstone, Hassan created good space for himself on the edge of the area but didn’t hit his effort well and it was an easy save in the end.

At half time it was hard to look past England for this game, they managed to create a number of great chances, unlucky with some but other chances needed more clinical finishing, especially those with the name Kane printed on the back of their shirt.

The second half kicked off and it wasn’t long before England picked up from where they left off as Cole managed to control nicely before beating his defender, but yet again England were let down by a poor finish, as the winger struck his effort straight at the impressive Awad. Shortly after Barkley tried his luck from the edge of the area but like Rabia’s effort in the first half for Egypt it fired past the goal.

One of the first attacks of the half from Egypt resulted in a corner and penalty claims which were correctly waved away by the referee, Ibrahim put in a cross from the right but felt the ball struck Garbutt’s hand, reply’s showed the ball hit his shoulder instead.

England continued to put pressure on the Egypt goal looking for the all important goal they needed. Two tame efforts from Barkley and Dier were easily saved by Awad. Barkley managed to twist and turn in the area before his tame effort, while Dier’s effort was with his head after he met Ward-Prowse’s quality freekick.

Throughout the game Egypt managed to get in good crossing positions but time and time again there was no end product, Johnstone in the England goal managed to claim a lot of them, if he failed to do that the ball went flying over the box.

Pritchard managed to earn England a freekick on the edge of the area after his great run,  it was then surprising  to see center back Eric Dier step up to take it. However he showed us all why he took it as his freekick flew over the wall and cannoned off the crossbar.

Egypt could have taken the lead if it was for Tom Thorpe who brilliantly blocked a threatening shot from Ahmed Refat after his bursting run. Egypt was now looking stronger and causing more problems for the young Lions. In the 79th minute Egypt put a massive dent in England’s hopes of getting through as Trezeguet came in from the wing, skipped past Coady before brilliantly curling his shot around Thorpe and into the bottom corner, leaving Johnstone with no chance.

Egypt were transformed and continued to push for more goals as they needed 3 in order to go through. Gaps opened as both teams were going for it and it wasn’t long before we saw another golden chance, yet again it fell to Kane. This was his best and most important chance of the game, the ball was played over the top of the Egypt defence, Kane found himself in plenty of space, but can only head the ball straight at Awad but the keeper couldn’t hold it, the rebound fell to Kane who looked even more certain to score but the striker fluffed his lines and sliced his shot wide. If the other chances didn’t sum up his night then this one certainly did.

Injury time arrived and for England it was only a matter of time before their fates were sealed. However more drama unfolded as Samir picked up the ball on half way, with had plenty of space to run into and two defenders back pedaling. Some skill on the edge of the area knocked the ball past the two defenders but his heavy touch took the ball away from him, but luckily Hassan was up with him and like Trezeguet earlier he produced a lovely finish to curl the ball into the far bottom corner past Johnstone, sending his fans and team mates wild. With only 90 seconds on the clock, there was no way back fro England and time quickly ran out for Egypt as they couldn’t get a third.

Despite having more and better chances than Egypt, England failed to make them count and will now be flying home early. Egypt can be pride of tonight’s victory, they may be out of the tournament but they went out fighting. England finish bottom of the group with 2 points, Egypt in third with 3 points and that leaves Iraq and Chile going through to the knockout stages.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

A Look at London Football – Part 2

watford
Watford

Watford Football Club was formed in 1881 by Henry Grover, who was also a left-back later on at the club that he created. In 1886, Watford entered the FA Cup for the very first time and then around 10 years later, they competed in the Southern League for their first in their brief history up to that point. 34 years after they came into existence, Watford won their first and only Southern League championship, with Harry Kent managing that side. Unfortunately, due to a very tight budget back in that day, was forced to sell a lot of their key players. Also because of the small wages, he would scout local players often from non-leagues and from around the area.

Five years after their Southern League championship, Watford joined the Football League to play tougher opponents and increase their reputation as a club. In 1922, Vicarage Road became the Hornets permanent home after bouncing around for a while and they continue to play their nearly 100 years later. The Hornets would, however, spend most of the clubs first fifty years in the Football League in the lower parts of the leagues. While the club was down there, they changed crests and club colours very often before they finally settled on an identity.

Graham Taylor brought Watford to their highest standards after nearly 100 years in existence. Taylor achieved promotion in his first year as manager bringing them to the third division after Sir Elton John named him Mike Keen’s successor in April of 1977. During their fourth division championship, the club recorded the most wins, fewest defeats, most goals scored, as well as the fewest amount of goals conceded that season. Taylor’s side was promoted once again to the second division as front man Ross Jenkins, native of London, finished that season as the top goal scorer netting 29 times for the Hornets. The next two seasons in the second division they finished in 18th place and then 9th place, but the 1981-82 season saw them be promoted, but they finished second in the league behind champions and rivals, Luton Town.

In just five years, Watford had climbed from the fourth division to the top flight of the Football League, all under Graham Taylor, which is quite an amazing achievement. Watford continued to dominate even in the first division by winning their first four out of five matches. At the end of the season, Liverpool had dominated to win the title, but Watford finished second place to secure a spot in the qualification for the UEFA Cup. The following season saw Watford lose to Everton in a classic FA Cup final game. Taylor left Watford at the end of the ’87 season to manage Aston Villa after a mid-table, 9th, place finish.

Graham Taylor’s replacement, Dave Bassett won only four matches out of their first 23 and was subsequently sacked in January of that season. Steve Harrison took over for Bassett, but in the end, could not avoid relegation and did not come straight back up to the first division the season after they lost in the playoffs. The closest Watford came to being promoted was a 7th place finish in Division One. Watford were relegated again in 1996 to Division Two and would struggle for quite some time.

Watford appointed Graham Taylor as Director of Football and was appointed as manager for a second time after Kenny Jackett, former player, was demoted after a mid-table finish. After two successive promotions Graham Taylor found himself once again in the Premiership season, but this time it was the first time Watford had played in the new Premier League. Despite a strong start to the season when they defeated Liverpool, the club finished dead last in the table and Graham Taylor decided that it was time to retire.

The Hornets were facing administration during the 2002-03 season and it was not until the club reached an agreement with the players and staff to reduce their wages by up to 12%. Boothroyd helped Watford avoid relegation to the second division after a poor league form did not improve despite reaching the semi-final of the League Cup in 2005. They gained promotion to the Premier League after finishing 3rd and defeating Leeds United in the play-off final in Boothroyd’s first full season at the helm of the North London club. And once again, they reached rock bottom of the Premier League with winning just 5 matches the entire season after Ashley Young was sold to Aston Villa for a club record.

Gianfranco Zola, former Chelsea legend, is currently at the helm of the Hornets and reached the play-offs of the Championship this past season and will hope to build on his recent successes.

tottenham
Tottenham

On September 5th, 1882, Hotspur Football Club was formed from boys in the All Hallows Church Bible class, who were also members of the Hotspur Cricket Club. To avoid confusion with the already established team, Hotspur FC, the club changed their name to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Originally, the club varied its colours from navy-blue to other various shades of blue, to red shirts and blue shorts, to just about every colour that had ever existed.

Tottenham finally settled down to a location near High Road and the stadium became known eventually as the White Hart Lane. Players from the north came to play at Tottenham early on as the northern professional game faced unionsation in the 1890s. Because of this Tottenham won the Southern League championship and the following season they won the FA Cup, becoming the only non-League club to do so since the formation of the Football League. Tottenham immediately gained promotion to the First Division as runners up as the Second Division after they won election to the league.

The club that played at White Hart Lane won their first ever championship after being promoted back to the first division in 1950, after the Second World War, under manager Arthur Rowe, who developed the push and run style of football. This type of football proved to be effective because the players moved the ball at pace where the players were positioned and the movement was very fluid. Players like Alf Ramsey, Ted Ditchburn, Len Duquemin, and Bill Nicholson helped win the First Division. Injuries and adaptability of the clubs saw the Hotspurs success decline once again, despite finishing second a couple of years later, only losing the title to Manchester United’s goal average.

The 1980’s started out very well for the Spurs as they lifted the FA Cup by defeating QPR in 1981 after a nice run in the cup to start this decade. The boys from White Hart Lane were in contention for four other trophies that season but were denied in all of them, unfortunately. Tottenham were in contention for the First Division title up until Easter and eventually finished fourth, with Liverpool being crowned champions. Liverpool also took away the League Cup in extra time from Tottenham. Barcelona defeated the Spurs 1-1 at home in the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals.

Because of the Heysel disaster on May 29th, 1985, where 39 spectators were crushed by a wall when Liverpool fans rioted at the European Cup final saw all of the English clubs banned from European competitions indefinitely. Tottenham qualified for European play that season, but because of the incident were unable to compete.

The early 2000s saw Glenn Hoddle, Tottenham legend, take over as the main coach in April of 2001 when the team was in 13th place in the table. Hoddle’s first match in charge was a defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final. After expressing his desire to stay at Tottenham, Sol Campbell, the club captain, moved to Arsenal on a Bosman free transfer shortly after the season had ended. After his transfer to their rivals, Campbell was vilified by the club after that after not even giving the Spurs money for his transfer.

The 2001-02 season saw Tottenham finish in 9th place, even after using experienced players such as Teddy Sheringham, Gus Poyet, and Christian Ziege. Tottenham also reached the League Cup final again, but were beaten by the Blackburn Rovers, despite being heavy favorites. The next few years were pretty average as well, finishing mid-table it seemed time after time again.

Andre Villas-Boas is currently managing the Spurs. They finished in 5th place last season losing out to Arsenal for the final Champions League qualification spot again. Rumors going around the last few days are saying that highly rated Brazilian midfielder, Paulinho, will sign for the club after the Confederations Cup final and will keep Gareth Bale for the foreseeable future. So the future certainly looks bright for Tottenham, they just need someone who can score goals on a regular basis.

arsenal
Arsenal

Arsenal was founded as an amateur club back in 1886 by a group of workers from Woolwich and gained professional five years later in 1891 and just two years later they joined the Football League. Arsenal was the first Southern club to enter the League, joining the Second Division. Some of the amateur players did not like the professional status and because of that they left the club to form their own alternative club. Arsenal stayed in the Second Division for over a decade and achieved only mid-table mediocrity before Harry Bradshaw was named manager in 1899. Arsenal was never able to challenge for a league title despite reaching the FA Cup semi-finals in consecutive seasons.

In 1904, Arsenal saw themselves get promoted to the First Division for the first time in their history, but were in some serious financial trouble and were very close to bankruptcy by 1910. Sir Henry Norris bought the club that year and improved their financial standing. Three years later he moved them to Arsenal Stadium in North London. Sir Henry Norris wanted the club to get Arsenal back to the first division, but he did it controversially. One of the main reasons that the club was failing was because of their isolation up in North London.

Norris moved the club to their new stadium in 1913, despite being relegated back to the Second Division after finishing bottom of the table. Norris also replaced Woolwich with ‘The’ in front of their name and by 1919, the club removed ‘The’ to become, simply, ‘Arsenal.’ The North London club returned to the First Division once World War One was over when a mistake in the goal average put them fifth. It also helped that the First Division expanded from 20 teams to 22 teams. They were also promoted because of the history of their club instead of the clubs standings with that to the likes of Tottenham, Barnsley, or Wolverhampton who occupied the final three relegation spots.

Arsenal appointed Huddersfield Town manager, Herbert Chapman in May of 1925. Chapman really reformed Arsenal and really modernized them as far as their training regimes and he added numbers to the back of the shirts by the start of the 1928-29 season. Chapman had a big transfer budget and used it very wisely and was known as the Bank of England club way back in the day. Chapman utilized pacey forwards, he had winger that liked to cut the ball back to the inside and put heavy emphasis on the creative midfielder role.

After the first full season under Herbert Chapman, the club finished second in the first division, which was their best ever finish at that time. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a fluke as the next few seasons they were back to finishing mid-table. Cardiff city defeated Arsenal 1-0 in the 1927 FA Cup, after a harmless shot found the back of the net, and gave the FA Cup for the first time to a club outside of England. The 1930-31 season saw Arsenal win their first ever First Division championship after some several victories throughout that season and scored 127 goals, which somehow was not the best goal scoring record for that season.

Bertie Mee was Billy Wright’s successor in the summer of 1966. Mee brought a more professional approach to a club after the status of the club had slowly slipped a little as every season went on. Mee promoted youth academies players if he felt like they had worked hard and performed well to achieve it. He did bring in some experience at every position to help round out every position. Arsenal won their first trophy in seventeen years won they defeated Ajax 3 goals to 1 in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. This trophy would also be their first ever international trophy. The next season would be even better because they would win Arsenal’s first ever double.

Arsenal would win the title on the last day of the season when they defeated rivals Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane and just five days later the North London club would defeat Liverpool at Wembley to win the FA Cup and finish off the double. Arsenal went down 1-0 in extra time before coming all the way back to win 2-1, which was another classic FA Cup final. Terry Neill, who was a former player for the club, was Arsenals youngest ever manager at that time brought Arsenal to four cup finals between the years 1976-80.

Terry Neill’s side was led by Irish star Liam Brady as well as experienced players such as Pat Rice, Frank Stapleton, Pat Jennings, and David O’Leary. Malcolm Macdonald, Alan Hudson, and Don Howe were added to the coaching staff to help round out the squad. Liverpool was on a tear during those years and no one could really compete with them but his side reached three FA Cup finals in row. However, the only one that they won was a 3-2 victory over Manchester United. The following season, Arsenal played a club record 70 matches, reached two cup finals, but came up empty handed, even though they were favorites to win the FA Cup against second division West Ham. The other final that they reached was the Cup Winners’ Cup against Valencia after defeating Juventus in the semi-finals.

Arsene Wenger, the current manager, became manager in September of 1996 after Rioch had been fired because of a dispute of transfer funds. Arsenal immediately improved under the Frenchman. The North London side finished in third place in his first season and won a UEFA Cup place after not earning a Champions League spot because of a lesser goal differential. That summer Wenger signed Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit, and Dutch man Marc Overmars in the summer of 1997. With this new crop of players, as well as some of the old experienced ones, Wenger became the first foreign manager to win the English league and won their second straight double the following season despite looking like they were out of contention by December.
Again Arsenal came second in 2000 behind champions Manchester United who had won the league by an astonishing 18 points. The club also did not fair to well in the Champions League for the second straight year after failing to make it out of the group stage. They lost the UEFA Cup to Galatasary on penalty kicks later on that season. The 2001-02 season was a bit different as they won their third double in their history. During that season, they were the only club to win every away game in the English league and they also scored in every single game. Arsenal defeated Chelsea that season 2-0 to win the FA Cup with goals coming from Ray Parlour and Arsenal great Freddie Ljungberg.

In 2003-04, Arsenal became just the second team in English football history, and the first one being over a hundred years ago to Preston North End, to not lose a single game all season long. However, that was the only trophy that they would win that season after being knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals and FA Cup semi-finals by Chelsea and Manchester United in successive matches. French striker Thierry Henry had been a key factor for them scoring with ease it seemed. Ashley Cole, at the time, was an emerging Left Back that played a key role in the defense despite being promoted from the youth academy recently.

Right now, however, Arsenal has been in another long trophy drought without having won silverware in over 8 years now. Arsene Wenger is rumored to be leaving the club next summer some time. It will be interesting to see how the players react to the news and how it will affect this upcoming season and who will replace the long standing manager.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scout Report – Christian Atsu

Atsu
Several reports over the last couple of days have stated that Liverpool are close to signing Ghanaian attacking midfielder Christian Atsu, who is currently playing at the defending Primeira Liga champions, FC Porto.

Liverpool are certainly going to be ready for the future with all of their young attacking talents. The Reds have so many talented young footballers it really is quite unbelievable to be honest. It starts from the Brazilian Coutinho, to the Italian striker Borini, Wisdom, Sama, Sterling, Suso, and I know I am forgetting others but those were just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Profile

Christian Atso was born in the southeastern Ghanaian town of Ada Foah. The 5 foot 8 inch winger joined the youth ranks of FC Porto at the age of 17 and would stay in the system until he was 19. Current Tottenham manager, Andre Villas-Boas, sent him on loan to Portuguese side Rio Ave.

That season on loan, Atsu made his debut for the side on August 28th, 2011 against SC Olhanense where the Ghanaian and his club lost one goal to zero. At the end of the season, Christian had made a total of 30 appearances scoring six times and setting up goals four different times. At the end of that season, if my math is correct, he contributed to 30% of Rio Ave’s goals during the 2011-12 season and helped them avoid relegation.

Atsu did not really get much of a chance to play because of some really talented wingers ahead of him in the squad. But he did play in 28 matches that season, but he only scored one time during his loan spell. His goal scoring record will improve if he is able to get more playing time.

He has slowly started to break into the Ghanaian national side this past season having competed in the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup Qualifying matches. Christian Atsu has scored three times for his nation against Lesotho, Malawi, and Niger.

Style of Play, Strengths, and Weaknesses

The first thing that stood out tome when I watched him play was his explosive speed both on and off the ball. He can easily beat defenders one on one to get into excellent crossing positions for the other forwards in the box waiting to get their head on to something good from Atsu.

The only thing that I think he needs to improve on if or when he makes his move to Liverpool in his shooting ability. I have watched countless videos on Atsu and it really irritates me when he gets into the box and creates space for himself, but his shot ends up going straight at the goalkeeper. This will need to improve if he wants to be a stand out player in the bigger clubs.

His control of the ball is unlike anything I have seen from a young player. The natural speed of the winger really helps his control. The ball will get away from him for time to time but because of his blistering speed, he will be able to get the ball back and continue on with the attack.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

U20 World Cup: USA 1-1 France

I do not really know what to write about this match because for most of the match it was extremely dull and it looked like there was not going to be any goals the entire game, but here goes nothing.

Most, okay, lets be realistic, all MLS teams would be jealous of the line-up that France put out which included the likes of Pogba, Kongdobia, Umtiti, Thauvin, Sanogo, I could go on and on and on and they really should have won by at least three or four goals, but they did not.

The first several minutes to this match were really poor and nothing of note until Kongdobia’s shot went wide of Croppers goal, but it was never going to trouble the American goalkeeper, who has to live up to the likes of Guzan, Friedel, and Howard. There was not a whole lot of possession for the USA in the early going but their compacted formation did not allow France any room to get creative down the middle of the pitch and it really affected their captain, Paul Pogba’s, play for most of the game and because of this he was subbed out in the second half.

Luis Gil did not have as good as a match as I was expecting. The first game all of the American offensive creativity was through him and during this one against France, he was pretty nonexistent to be blatantly honest. In a half of few bright spots, Thauvin, the FC Porto young striker, was one of them. The FC Porto man played out wide tonight, though and his crosses into the box were decent looking ones, it was just USA’s defense that were able to clear most of them away without any harm done.

Cody Cropper came up with some huge saves for the Americans and really kept them in this match single handedly. It could have easily 3 or 4 nothing before the first half whistle and I do believe that this was frustrating the French forwards.

The second half was a little better but still pretty much more of the same old boring dull action other than the two penalties that were given by the referee.
Torre appeared to have fouled Foulquier outside of the box, and I thought that it was pretty clear that it was outside of the box, but for some reason the ref awarded France the penalty kick. Sanogo stepped up and powered the spot kick past Cody Cropper to give his side a one nothing lead. Less than ten minutes later, the United States bench was livid for not getting a penalty called for them after Joya was shoved to the ground in the French box Lemina.

Rodriguez would eventually get the US their penalty in the 65th minute of play. Luis Gil, the Real Salt Lake player, stepped up to take it, but it was a poor effort and it was easily saved by Areola as he dove down to his left to collect it.

France had most of the possession during the match, about 60% of it, but they did not make the most of it. The United States would win a free kick with about five minutes left to go in the match and Gil took it. The ball was driven low and second half substitution, Cuevas, got on the end of it near the back post and tapped it past Areola to get the deserving equalizer.
The United States will now play Ghana in their final group match and will be looking to get all three points to almost secure their position into the next round if Spain can beat France by a hefty margin which is what I am hoping for.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Look at London Football – Part 1

The Championship Playoff final on Monday the 27th between two London sides, Crystal Palace and Watford, got me thinking about some of the greatest matches ever played in London. This is going to be a three part piece were I take a brief look at some of the well-known clubs in the capitol as well as some of the best matches in history. Yes, I know that some people will wonder about other note able matches, but these are the ones that I feel are most noteworthy. And I might do a few pieces about some of the clubs in lower divisions depending on the success of this piece.

QPR
Queens Park Rangers

Queens Park Rangers, or sometimes just simply known as QPR, and is based in White City, London. They were formed in 1886 when two clubs, St. Jude’s (1884) and Christchurch Rangers (1882), merged together to form the current club. Queens Park Rangers got their name because most of the players on the squad were from the Queens Park area of North-London. They became a professional club three years after that. QPR set and still holds the record for playing in twenty different stadiums until finally settling down at Loftus Road until 1931, where they would move around a little while longer to try and bigger crowds to their games.

In 1966-67, Queens Park Rangers won the third division and, thus, were subsequently promoted to division two. The club was also the first third division club to ever win the League Cup, and they did so by defeating West Bromwich Albion three goals to two. The following season, 1967-68, the received a second promotion in succession, and were in the first flight in English football in their history, after nearly 80 years in existence. Unfortunately, the Rangers only lasted that one season in the top flight for the time being, and would stay in that division for the next four years.

Terry Venables took over as manager for the club in 1980. Two years later, his side reached the FA Cup final, while still playing in the second, against holders Tottenham Hotspur, but only gave up one goal during the match, the game winning goal. Queens Park Rangers would return to the first division the very next season and would finish in fifth place, which was good enough for a UEFA Cup Qualification spot. Venables, however, would go on to manage FC Barcelona the next season.

Gerry Francis, who was a key player for the club in the 1970s, was appointed manager in 1991, and he guided the club to a mid-table finish. QPR were also co-founding members of the current Premier League, and finished fifth again. Francis was in charge of one of the most famous wins in the clubs history when they defeated Manchester United 4-1 at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day on live TV back in 1992. Francis’s Queens Park Rangers were relegated at the end of the 1995-96 season, and Francis resigned after an up and down reign.

Ian Holloway, another former player at the club, became manager after taking over for Francis’s second stint towards the end of the 2001, but was unable to keep them up in the second division and the club was relegated to the third division after more than 30 years. The club would go into administration and would struggle for a few years with investment issues and were under a lot of boardroom controversies. Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone, Formula 1 team owners, invested in QPR to help them get out of debt and return them to the Premier League. Further investment towards the club promised the QPR faithful that they would return to the top flight of English football within the next four years.

Queens Park Rangers push to return to the top flight of English football began in 2008 and appointed Iain Dowie as manager, but Iain only lasted 15 matches as manager before being sacked. On April 30th, 2011, QPR were awarded promotion by defeating Watford 3-0. However, an investigation was filed by the FA shortly after that and a point deduction could have been in place, but QPR were only found guilty of 2 of the 7 charges, and were only given a fine of £875,000. Unfortunately again for the club, they have been relegated once more with Harry Redknapp at the helm. Hopefully good times will come in the next few years as they

fulham fc
Fulham

Fulham Football Club was originally started way back in the year 1879. But back then they were named Fulham St. Andrew’s Church Sunday School and the players of those days were mainly worshipers from the Church of England in West Kensington. This group of amateurs won their first trophy as a football club by winning the West London Amateur cup back in 1887. The club shortened their name the following year to Fulham Excelsior. Excelsior entered the 1893 West London league and won it on their first attempt at it, which is a pretty major accomplishment for a club that had amateur status for their first 14 years in existence.

Fulham Football Club started playing in their current stadium, Craven Cottage, back in 1896 and is currently the oldest established club that plays in southern England, playing professional football. There are other clubs that are several decades older than FFC, but they are currently playing non-league football for the time being. The club gained professional status on December 12th, 1898, which was the same year they joined the Southern League’s second division. Fulham earned promotion in 1903 to the first division of the Southern League and would win the division two times in a row in a span of just three to four years later.

After back to back Southern league championships in 1905-06 and 1906-07, Fulham joined the second division of The Football League. That first season in The Football League saw Fulham finish in fourth place just three points behind promotion to the first division. They would however, make a deep run in the FA Cup that season, which includes a victory over Luton Town in a match that was 8-3 away from Craven Cottage. Newcastle thrashed them in the semi-final of the FA Cup 6-0, which is still a record for the heaviest margin of defeat in this round of the cup.

Fulham’s first season in Division Two would be their highest that the club would achieve in just over twenty years when they were relegated to the third division of the Football League. After finishing in 5th, 7th, and 9th, out of 22 teams, in their first three years, they gained promotion back to the second division after a very successful fourth year down in the third division. Fulham Football Club scored 111 goals, won 24 out of 42 games, including a 10-2 victory over Torquay United. After a few poor seasons back in the first division, Fulham found themselves rock bottom, 22nd out of 22 teams, thus being relegated once again from the top flight of English football.

In 1958, Fulham FC signed Graham Leggat, who scored an astounding 134 goals in 277 appearances, making him the fifth leading goal scorer in the clubs history, and with his help, they finished 10th in the league, which was their highest position in the league until the 2003-04 season where they finished 9th. There was more of the same misfortune for the club until Egyptian business owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, took over and provided more financial stability for the Cottagers.

Al Fayed’s first involvement as owner was that he established a two tier type of management where the club would be more successful in the long wrong. Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan got into disputes about who the starting XI would be and so at the end of the 1998 season. Kevin Keegan took over complete control of the managerial role and the following season, Fulham FC won a total of 101 out of 138 possible points, earning them promotion once again. Jean Tianga was put in charge a couple of years later and gave Fulham their third promotion in the last five seasons and again earned 101 points and signed a lot of young French players, including Louis Saha, which also made Fulham the first ever English football club to gain over 100 points in two successive years.

The Cottagers finished in 13th place in their first ever season in the Premier League. Fulham avoided relegation the following season by winning ten out of a possible fifteen points and because of this, Jean Tigana’s contract was not renewed at the end of the season. Roy Hodgson really transformed Fulham into a stable Premier League club. However, it did not start out as planned and he only one won game in the first month as manager of the club. Fulham continued to struggle for the rest of that season, but again, managed to avoid relegation.

The following season was a far better season for Fulham Football Club. Brandon Rodgers’ side finished 7th in the Premier League and earned qualification to the 2008-09 UEFA Europa League. Fulham reached the finals of the Europa League and was deemed the most successful campaign in their history, despite the twelfth place finish.

chelsea fc
Chelsea

Gus Mears acquired the Stamford Bridge athletics stadium in 1904 and his only goal was to turn the area into a football stadium. After an initial offer to lease it to nearby Fulham FC, he decided to create his own football club the following year. Chelsea FC was founded on March 10th 1905 and were elected to the Football League. Chelsea gained promotion to the first division in just their second season, but it was a constant struggle to stay up for the first few years of their existence. In 1915, however, the club reached the final of the FA Cup, only to lose to Sheffield United at Old Trafford.

In 1920, the club finished third, Chelsea’s highest finish in history up to that point in time. Success would not happen quickly for the west London side, despite drawing big crowds to every match and signing big names to wear the blue shirt. Ted Drake, former Arsenal and England defender, took over as manager of the first team in 1952 and improved the quality of the youth academy immensely. With his constant focus on developing players from lower leagues and even amateur sides, a trophy came, the 1955 League championship cup.

The 60s were a time where Chelsea, under player-manager Tommy Docherty, were so close to winning trophies upon several occasions but could not seal the deal completely. His starting elevens were built around talented youngsters that had shown great strides in the youth academy and earned their spot in the first team. They would win the 1970 FA Cup, beating Leeds United 2-1, under Dave Sexton. The 1980s were not a great time at Chelsea Football Club as the team were relegated because of the selling of star players due to financial instability.

Chelsea’s form in the new Premier League was not convincing enough for their local supporters who feared that they would be relegated once more, even with reaching the final of the 1994 FA Cup. Ruud Gullit was named player-manager in 1996 and acquired the signings of several international players that helped the club reach and win the 1997 FA Cup and was a perennial powerhouse in the English Football League. The following season, Gullit was replaced by Italian Gianluca Vialli, and under him, Chelsea won the League Cup Final in 1997, the Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 1998, the FA Cup in 2000, and reached their first ever UEFA Champions League.

Roman Abramivch bought the club from Bates for around £140m and would shape the club into what it is today and has continued the clubs success and has helped guide the club to their first ever Champions League and Europa League trophies, despite instability in their head manager role until now.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: