Club Focus – Aston Villa – Villans eye Carling Cup success

An early Gabriel Agbonlahor goal meant that Villa recorded their sixth successive win and in doing so progressed into the fourth round of the Carling Cup. Martin O’Neill fielded a fairly strong side to avoid any League Cup disappointment and for the most part the Villans enjoyed the majority of the possession. In the end, all it took was an excellent piece of partnership between John Carew and Agbonlahor and Villa were able to hold out for a win. Cardiff did in fact respond well after the early goal and…

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Club Focus – Liverpool – David Ngog, following the leader

Being an understudy to Fernando Torres must be a bit like being a support act for The Beatles. You know that if you hit the right notes and keep everything on key then you’ll do your job well, but ultimately no-one is going to be going home talking about you at the end of the night. The shadow cast by the headline act is an enormous one that’s almost impossible to emerge from, however hard you try. Liverpool’s 20-year-old French striker David Ngog was given centre stage in this week’s…

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Club Focus – Portsmouth – Wham, bam, thanks Dindane

Yes you heard right, Portsmouth did indeed win a match on Tuesday night. Okay, it was at League 1 side Carlisle but that wouldn’t have dampened the spirit of those die-hard Blues who travelled the 700-mile round trip to witness a victory they have been so desperate for. As much as things should be put into perspective after overcoming a side at the level of Carlisle (with all respect), there were still plenty of positives to take from the match. Aruna Dindane made his first start for the club –…

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Club Focus – Newcastle – Early cup exit shows where priorities are this season

Newcastle United suffered their second defeat of the season as they crashed out of the Carling Cup at the third round stage. The Magpies paid the price for fielding a starting XI made up almost entirely of young players as they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by a much more streetwise Peterborough United. There are no prizes for guessing where the much maligned Carling Cup was on Newcastle’s list of priorities. On a much brighter note for the fans talks of a takeover are intensifying. After plenty of false dawns could…

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Club Focus – Manchester City – Perfect opportunity to consolidate

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyanhas has finally this week seized complete control of Manchester City after his company completed the purchase of the remaining 10% of shares in the club and Mark Hughes would be well advised to similarly take total control of the team. It is fair to say that City have probably been the most talked about club in England over the past few months, primarily due to their transfer activity. A solid start to the season meant they remained in the spotlight and then back-to-back games…

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Club Focus – Fulham – Rotation, rotation and more rotation

Fulham’s two squads (one for the league, the other for European fixtures), after Wednesday’s narrow defeat at Manchester City, could be more interchangeable than first imagined. Should the supposed first XI continue to play as they did against Wolves, then some of them might – and indeed should – find themselves in full kit on the cold Thursday nights in Europe. That is, of course, all the while the reserve side continues to show bite and a desire to start in the Premier League. A glaring David Stockdale error and…

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Carling Cup round-up – Premier League sides dominate third round

There might not have been any major shocks or giant-killings but this week’s Carling Cup results certainly dispelled the myth that top-flight clubs no longer value the competition, as no fewer than 13 Premier League sides progressed to the last 16. As is customary nowadays, many managers seized the opportunity to give a run-out to players lacking in first team match practice, most notably Chelsea’s long-term absentee Joe Cole and big summer signing Yuri Zhirkov. However, in a sign of the widening gulf in English football, only Burnley crashed out…

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Club Focus – Tottenham – Redknapp almost spoilt for choice

Whilst Tottenham’s centre-backs are dropping like flies, manager Harry Redknapp is finding himself in an enviable position with his selection dilemmas in other areas of the pitch. Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes made his return from injury against Preston in Spurs’ 5-1 Carling Cup win to challenge his understudy Carlo Cudicini for the shirt again, whilst three star strikers found the net, including a hat-trick for Peter Crouch. Gareth Bale was also back after injury to bolster the options on the left side of defence and there was a demonstration of…

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Club Focus – Chelsea – Anelka to thrive with the return of Cole

The headlines will be singing the praises of returning midfielder Joe Cole this week as the magician dazzled in the League Cup. The Blues secured a 1-0 victory over their Championship-based London rivals QPR- a Salomon Kalou goal was the difference after a well-placed assist from Cole. Returns for injury-ridden pair Paulo Ferreira and Yury Zhirkov were also in order, as they made up the back four alongside youth product Sam Hutchinson and Branislav Ivanovic. Fabio Borini was granted a start after a substitute appearance against Spurs and the teenager…

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Club Focus – Manchester United – Tough trip to Stoke after lacklustre cup performance

Sir Alex Ferguson elected to pick a completely different starting XI than that which started Sunday’s derby match for the visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Carling Cup on Wednesday evening. This may have been a so-called second string but no fewer than eight internationals started the game for United, with the likes of Michael Carrick, Nani, Michael Owen and Gary Neville all on the pitch from the beginning. Tomas Kuszczak replaced Ben Foster in goal and the exciting young prospects Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda – following their recent…

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A Different Opinion – Wayne Rooney – Room for improvement from United’s best (“luxury”) player

After an amazing proclamation on Sunday night on this site by one of our staff that Wayne Rooney is a luxury player, this writer decided to take the subject further and truly ask…is he? Not in the sense you have perhaps first read that, no. A luxury player can best be described as one whose contribution in games is detrimental to the team, so by the very definition of the term, Rooney cannot be called a traditional luxury player. However….looking into the matter in more detail, there could be some…

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A Different Week – A matter of race in the beautiful game’s ugly side

We were reminded of the dark days in English football’s past on Sunday as Blackburn’s El Hadji Diouf was accused of making a racial slur towards a ball boy at Goodison Park. Diouf responded to this by claiming that bananas were thrown at him by sections of the Everton crowd. Even in the year 2009, racism is still a big issue and despite the sterling efforts of campaigns like Kick Racism Out of Football, anybody who attends football matches on a regular basis knows that there is still an element…

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Match preview – Liverpool vs. Hull – Tigers aim to pounce on Reds’ defensive frailties

Having won their last three matches Liverpool will be hoping to continue their recent winning form against Hull at Anfield on Saturday. Coach, Rafa Bentiez will look to take advantage of Hull’s poor start to the season and should field a strong side including in-form striker Fernando Torres who has scored five goals in his last seven appearances. Hull will be eager to make amends for a shaky start to the season having lost four out of their opening six games – winning just one and scoring only five times.…

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Sol Campbell joins the list of high profile transfers gone wrong

Sol Campbell’s decision to join Notts County in August was one which shocked the English game. Yes he would link up with his old England boss Sven Goran Eriksson and yes the club had recently been the subject of a takeover meaning they are the richest club in League Two. However, it still seemed a very strange decision for an ex-England international that was apparently wanted by a host of Premier League and Championship clubs. Just three weeks into his contract he has again shocked English football by walking away…

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Ligue 1 action round-up – Week 6 – September 19/20, 2009

The sixth week of France’s Ligue 1 saw the newly promoted Montpellier finally lose a match this season as they came up against title hopefuls Marseille at the Stade Velodrome. The visitors had not conceded a first half goal all season but on 31 minutes Lucho Gonzalez broke this record with his first goal for the club and the lead was doubled two minutes later by Mamadou Niang. Gonzalez set up an opportunity late in the half which was duly converted by Edouard Cisse and six minutes after the break…

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The Championship – Week 8 review / Week 9 preview

Week 8 – Separated by just a point at the top of the table pre-game, West Brom and Middlesbrough were a class apart during the match. The Baggies travelled to Teesside and rampaged through the Boro defence, with a Chris Brunt double putting them on the way to a five-goal haul. Brunt’s second was a sensational first-time hit from just inside the opposition half, lobbing home goalkeeper Danny Coyne who had made a hash of a clearance and found himself stranded off his line. Youssouf Mulumbu, Roman Bednar and Jerome…

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Craig Bellamy and El Hadji Diouf – Two players forget their wider responsibilities

Both the Greater Manchester and Merseyside police will be spending the early part of this week investigating two incidents involving Premier League footballers from this weekend’s round of matches. The Greater Manchester constabulary are investigating the incident following Michael Owen’s winner for Manchester United in which a United fan entered the field of play and was subsequently struck by Craig Bellamy while being apprehended by stewards. The Police have issued the following statement:“At the end of the derby between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford, a member of…

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The Coaches – Terry Venables (1994-1996)

When Kevin Keegan resigned in 2001, with England’s World Cup qualification hopes seemingly in tatters, 40% of voters in a BBC online poll said that Terence Frederick Venables should be the man to replace him. In the end it was Sven-Goran Eriksson who walked through the doors of Soho Square to become England’s new Head Coach, but the fact that Venables still enjoyed a massive amount of public backing is reflective of the fond nostalgia with which people remembered Euro ‘96, and the high-esteem in which he was held as…

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Club Focus – Aston Villa – Villa continue their unbeaten run

With Nigel Reo-Coker’s bust up with Martin O’Neill being the main focus of attention during the past few days, it did not appear to affect Villa’s performance on Saturday against Portsmouth. It has been finally cleared that the disagreement came about after Reo-Coker had criticised a fellow player for a bad pass during training. Every now and again situations similar to this are bound to occur and O’Neill acted professionally, sending his midfielder home and dropping him from the clash against Pompey. Since Villa turned around their poor start to…

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Club Focus – Tottenham – Honesty not always the best policy in football.

It is always a sad situation when honesty is seen as a bad policy. No one likes a cheat or a liar but in football, as in life, sometimes dishonesty seems like the way to go. A case in point was Tottenham’s defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. With the score at 1-0 to the home side, a plucky Spurs side were denied a clear penalty by referee Howard Webb, Robbie Keane was brought down by Ricardo Carvalho when through on goal, with the Portuguese centre-back not taking any of…

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World Cup Years – England 1966

The 1966 World Cup provided the greatest moment in the England football team’s history. On home soil they lifted the Jules Rimet trophy and confirmed their place at the top of the football hierarchy. Since then the Three Lions have failed to live up to expectations and, despite a few near misses, have not lifted a major international trophy. The 1966 victory was brought about by years of meticulous planning and key players hitting their peak at the right time. England was chosen to host the tournament in 1966 by…

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Club Focus – Manchester City – Error-strewn defence to blame for derby-day heartbreak

Four minutes of stoppage time was shown at Old Trafford, yet with 95:28 on the clock, Michael Owen picked up a through pass from Ryan Giggs and dinked the ball over Shay Given to break City hearts and controversially give United three Manchester derby points. United had brought on Michael Carrick during the allotted four minutes of extra time, and Craig Bellamy had raced down the pitch to equalise just as the clock ticked over the 90 mark, so it was inevitable the time added on would creep over four…

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Club Focus – Portsmouth – From bad, to worse, to downright horrendous

As David Nugent emphatically smashed in a second half brace to secure victory for his new club Burnley in Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off, the travelling Blue Army – awaiting their fixture at Villa Park – could only smile and shake their heads with Fratton Park beginning to feel cursed. That feeling was not helped as Paul Hart’s men gift-wrapped a 2-0 win for their opponents in Birmingham as once again the Blues showed some glimpses of optimism but ultimately fell to yet more defensive errors. Nadir Belhadj was again a culprit…

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Club Focus – Chelsea – Ancelotti magic continues

Chelsea remains the only team to maintain its 100% Premier League record after Manchester City conceded late on in an entertaining derby. The Blues stepped up the pace against Spurs, who to their credit produced worrying attacks of their own. Chelsea started strongly and it was not until the half-hour mark when Ashley Cole broke the deadlock. This writer had pre-match concerns of Cole’s impact in this game, believing the threat of Aaron Lennon would prevent the left-back from his usual attacking tendencies. However, Lennon’s game saw long spells of…

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