Thursday’s Thoughts #3: The Transfer Window Results

Due to the fact I now have an obscene four and a half hour gap between lessons on Thursdays, I have decided, in a desperate attempt to write more, that every Thursday, in said gap, I will offer my opinion on something from the wonderful world of football. This will be called Thursday’s Thoughts. This week’s thoughts are on: Every Premier Leagues team’s dealings in the transfer window…

Arsenal

This window smells like a massive chance missed for Arsenal. I feel that if they had have gone out and strengthened through out the team, especially up front, then they would have a real chance to go on and win the league. Instead they spent the window chasing Julian Draxler, who would have been an excellent addition, but the move materialised. Don’t get me wrong, Arsenal’s squad has proven that they are capable of coping with injuries, with Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain recently covering in centre midfield and performing brilliantly. The loan signing of Kim Kallstrom, could prove to be a shrewd one, he’ll add experience to the squad and will provide good cover in midfield areas. I just think that relying on Oliver Giroud to play upfront for the rest of the season, when Arsenal have some tough games coming up, could prove to be costly.

Result: 2-0 loss

 

Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s transfer window has largely been a shambles. Although the capture of Ryan Bertrand on loan is a very good signing and now gives Villa a left back that actually has some ability. Grant Holt is a strange signing, yes he’s played under Lambert before and gives more options upfront, but they really should be aiming higher than Holt. But the real mess for Villa this window was their chase of Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan. While I believe he is exactly what Villa need, when it became obvious that Norwich weren’t going to sell, they really should have begun to look for other targets. You telling me Lewis Holtby wouldn’t have preferred to play for a comfortable mid-table side, rather than a team in a relegation battle? Now Villa are left without any creative influence. I think they’ll stay up comfortably, but it just stinks of a lack of ambition.

Result 2-0 loss

 

Cardiff

New manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done his best this window to put his own mark on Cardiff, which resulted in a recruitment of six players and the departure of eight, including the early departure of summer signing Andreas Cornelius, who proved to be a big waste of money. While I can’t offer much on Wolff Eirkrem and Inge Berget, I can say that from the cameo in which I watched Mats Moller Daehli at the Reebok, he looks a really exciting prospect, full of flair and trickery. I think Kenwyne Jones will prove to be a smart signing, who will pop with some vital goals in the run in and Wilfried Zaha could provide some moments of magic, like he has already. All in all, a good widow for Cardiff, but I do fear it might not be enough to keep them up.

Verdict: 2-0 win

 

Chelsea

No matter your opinions on the selling of Mata and de Bruyne, from the perspective of Jose Mourinho, they have had an excellent window. They’ve managed to sell a bench warmer for £37million and a player who rarely made the match day squad for £17million (an £11 million profit). As a side note, after watching Chelsea beat City, (I now fully understand why Jose sold Mata, Hazard and Willian are excellent and tireless defensively.) They also managed to get Michael Essien off the wage bill. On top of getting top money for players who weren’t in any type of plans, they brought in Nemanja Matic, Mohamed Salah and Kurt Zouma. Matic, as we all witnessed on Monday, is an excellent footballer, who adds steel and composure to Chelsea’s midfield. Salah is an  good option to bring on late in games, when his pace can stretch teams and he adds even more depth to Chelsea’s squad, and Zouma is one of the most promising defenders in Europe. A brilliant month for Chelsea.

Result: 5-0 win

 

Crystal Palace

It’s been a steady and solid window for Crystal Palace, much in the fashion of Tony Pulis. They’ve acquired an experienced defender in Scott Dann, who very well may excel under the defensive style Pulis. The promising winger Tom Ince arrived on loan from Blackpool, and he will add depth out wide for Palace, an area where they could do with some added ability  The signing of Wayne Henneseey, for a reported £3 million, is a really puzzling one as that’s quite a bit of money for someone who is only going to sit on the bench. Finally, the addition of Joe Ledley, which I believe is a  very good one. He’s got experience in the Champions League and is a very sound player at both ends of the pitch, I think he’ll compliment Jedinak very well.

Result: 2-0 win

 

Everton

Martinez’ second transfer window at Everton and he’s yet to disappoint. The signings of Aiden McGeady and Lacina Traore are both exceptional captures, and being able to shift Nickica Jelavić and Johnny Heitenga off the wage bill is very useful. I can’t say I’ve watched much of the Russian league in recent times, so I can’t provide anything substantial on Traore, but the big striker is an excellent option to either cover for or play along side Lukaku, especially since the Belgian hasn’t been his best as of late. And we all know McGeady is a tricky winger, who could win the Blues points out of nothing.

Result: 2-0 win.

 

Fulham

Fulham have had an astounding window, considering the position they currently find them selves in. They’ve made several signings who really are better than the level they are, Mitroglou and Holtby especially, both of them players that if Meulensteen gets Fulham going, will add goals and creativity to a dire team. Dempsey and Heitenga add Premier League experience, Kvist may add steel Fulham’s midfield and the signings of Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole could prove to be shrew investments as they develop. Fulham’s biggest successes this window however, was being able to get Ruiz, Taarabt and Berbatov out of the squad, three players who, despite their occasional ability, aren’t up for a relegation dog fight and only hindered Fulham’s chances. Fulham have had a fine window, definitely, but it’s another question if it will keep them up.

Result: 3-0 win.

 

Hull

Hull spent this window bolstering their strike force, a wise thing to do, because the last thing you want as a team like Hull, who’ve had a good start but could easily fall into the relegation scrap, is the goals to dry up. I really rate Shane Long, and believe he will be a very good signing for Hull. Jelavić however, hasn’t been good for a while now, and looks really rusty. He may score a couple, but I reckon he’ll miss more golden chances than he’ll score.

Result: 1-0 win

Liverpool

Just like Arsenal, Liverpool have missed a massive opportunity this window. They had the chance to really cement their place in the top four, but squandered it. Had they strengthened with the additions of a defensive midfielder, full back and a winger, it would have been there’s for the taking. Instead they spent the entire window chasing Mohammed Salah, then Yevhen Konoplyanka, and ended up with egg on their face. I still think they will be able to attain top four come May, but this is the opportunity they had to seal it. Chance missed.

Result: 3-0 loss

 

Manchester City 

City didn’t make any signings in January, but they didn’t really need any. They’ve been brilliant this season and don’t need to change a squad that has been so relentless in dismantling most teams in the league. Mangela and Fernando would have been very good additions to a squad already brimming with quality, but that can definitely wait until the summer.

Result: 0-0

 

Manchester United

The signing of Juan Mata is an excellent one, like I’ve stated many of times. But they’ve really not strengthened in the areas they desperately needed to. Additions in the centre of midfield and in defence were desperately needed to save their season and somehow clench a Champions League spot. Since they haven’t signed anyone in those positions, I can’t see them getting top four.

Result: 1-1, conceding a last minute equaliser. Would have taken a point, but left slightly disappointed.

 

Newcastle

Selling your most influential player is never a good thing, and even more so when said player isn’t replaced. Cabaye was Newcastle’s most creative player, and with him leaving for PSG a massive void has been left in the side. Luuk de Jong has potential and could possibly be a good signing, but he’s not had the best time at Borussia Mönchengladbach, not scoring a goal in nine months and hardly playing recently, and he isn’t going to fill the Cabaye shaped hole. Newcastle look like another club who could have done with Lewis Holtby, but alas, they’r left with Sammy Ameobi.

Result: 3-0 loss

 

Norwich City

Norwich are in real danger of going down, they’re in complete free fall and don’t seem to be stopping. They did add the experienced Joseph Yobo and Jonas Gutierez, but are they enough to keep them up? I can’t see it. The only way I think they will survive the drop is if the influx of players they bought in the summer finally click together and results start coming in, or if Hughton is sacked.

Result: 1-0 loss

Southampton

Not much happened at Southampton during the window, but I suspect that’s just what Pochettino wanted. Dani Osvaldo ended his brief stint at the Saints and somehow got a big move to Juventus, after hitting a teammate in training. The move does leave Southampton a little light on strikers but they have Jay Rodriguez who can cover and young prospect Sam Gallagher.

Result: 0-0

 

Stoke

The only real addition to Stoke in January was the loan signing of Manchester City starlet John Guidetti. Whilst unproven in the Premier League, Guidetti has an exceptional scoring record in the Eredivise and could add a bit of spark for Stoke, if he gets the chance.

Result: 0-0

 

Sunderland

Sunderland have had an interesting window, whilst I can’t offer any real knowledge on the Argentine trio of Santiago Vergini, Oscar Ustari and Ignacio Scocco, I can testify to the knowledge that Liam Bridcutt is a tremendous signing. Bridcutt sitting in front of the back four, winning the ball and dictating play will do wonders for Sunderland. They also signed a player I know very well in Marcos Alonso; whilst sometimes prone to silly errors he improved massively at both ends of the pitch in his last season with Bolton, and looks to have carried that on, on Wearside. Also with being able to shift some of the dead wood which previous managers had brought in, such as Danny Graham, Modibo Diakité and Ji Dong-Won, Sunderland have had a very good window, and I expect to see them comfortably avoid relegation.

Result 3-0 win.

 

Swansea

Well then, Swansea have probably had one of the strangest transfer windows in quite a while. Six months ago they were signing Wilfried Bony, now they’ve signed David Ngog (thank you very much) and Marvin Emnes. I suppose they both offer cheap cover in attacking positions, but it’s still just so weird. Surely they should be aiming a bit higher? I don’t know. Weird.

Result: 2-0 loss, both own goals.

 

Tottenham

Tottenham didn’t sign anyone during the window, which can be taken positively or negatively. We’ll go negative first, they really could have done with strengthening some key positions most notably left back and up front. Danny Rose hasn’t turned out to be as good as was hoped, and he’s just one puncture in a leaky defence; and up front they’ll be left pretty bare when Defoe leaves for Canada. On the other hand, Spurs made a lot of signings during the summer and most of them are still yet to fully integrate in to the squad, if they ever do. Adding more players to the mix could have disrupted the squad even more and halt the progress that Sherwood has made.

Result: 0-0

 

West Brom

Not much to say here really, the Baggies signed young French forward Thievy Bifouma from Espanyol, on loan, and apparently he’s quite fast, apart from that I know nothing. Selling Shane long may prove to be costly, but West Brom aren’t short on forwards and should have a fairly comfortable end to the season.

Result: 0-0

 

West Ham

For a while it looked as if West Ham were going to have a disaster of a window, with other reported targets apparently getting stolen from their grasp, and only adding Roger Johnson to the ranks. But in the final days of the window they pulled off a trio of Serie A signings in Marco Borrielo, Antonio Nocerino and Pablo Armero. All three players give West Ham cover across the pitch with them being a striker, centre midfielder and left back respectively, and we may well see them offer game winning moments. But personally, I’m not sure that they are good enough to completely change West Ham’s season, they aren’t galvanising signings ala Mitroglou. Borrielo and Nocerino especially, are probably more likely to come on towards the end of the game to try nick a goal if needed, where as Mitroglou at Fulham, they hope, will be the spearhead them to safety.

Result: 1-0 win

 

Some teams had good windows, some teams had bad windows, but I think we can all appreciate that the true winner of this January transfer window, was no other than the agents. Taarabt to Milan, Emnes and Ngog to Swansea, Senderos to Valencia. Bravo lads, bravo!

So there’s my write up on the Premier League dealings during January, what are your thoughts? Let me know below!

‘Til next week (there probably won’t be one next week because I have mocks so whenever!)

 

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Thursday’s Thoughts #2: Underwhelming Wanderers

Due to the fact I now have an obscene four and a half hour gap between lessons on Thursdays, I have decided, in a desperate attempt to write more, that every Thursday, in said gap, I will offer my opinion on something from the wonderful world of football. This will be called Thursday’s Thoughts. This week’s thoughts are on: Bolton Wanderers. The joys…

To say Bolton Wanderers’ season has been a complete and utter disaster would be a massive understatement. In every aspect, from tactics to transfers to results to interviews, Bolton have been an embarrassment this season. Not even remotely close to the lofty expectations we all had coming into the season.

This season we have won only twice at home, six in total, we have lost a total of eleven games and conceded a total of forty-four goals, joint second most in the division. We have witnessed countless gutless performances, bewildering decisions and uninspiring transfers. All things considered, we are becoming a bit of a joke.

And unfortunately, it’s time for Dougie to go.

I’ve been fully behind Freedman all season and I still genuinely believe that there is a good manager in there somewhere, but this season he has made so many mind-boggling calls that it defies belief, and he is so stubborn in his own ideas and appears to be unwilling to change, despite the evidence that his brilliant plans just aren’t working.

When I was mentally planning this blog, some weeks ago, it was going to be entitled “The Dougie Dilemma” and I was going to propose the ideas to why Freedman should stay, that he is the best man to rebuild our desperately broken club. But no, he has to go before it really is too late. The three turning points, which fully cemented this change in opinion for me, happened this week: A) his pre-QPR comments B) not playing a single winger against QPR and C) the resigning of Mason which is obviously in the works.

If you ever want to see what a man excepting defeat looks like, take a glance at Freedman’s comments pre-QPR. He said:

“If we can stay in the game for the first 25 minutes, I firmly believe we will grow in confidence from there.”

He had absolutely no faith or belief that his team can go to an other team and win, he went into the game so negatively that we had lost already. If the manager doesn’t believe the team can get a result, then why should the players? This links nicely to point B, playing five centre midfielders across the midfield is just so negative, it invites pressure from the offset and tells the other team that they’re better than us. I’m fine with setting up defensively against a team who are far better than us, but playing with no wingers gave us no outlet or pace to counter with. He also played our arguably best creative player, in Mark Davies, out wide instead of through the middle where he can be the most influential. Freedman has made several questionable decisions this season, but that tops it off.

Then we get to his decision to go back in for Cardiff City ‘striker’ Joe Mason, whilst I’m more than aware that we are riddled with debt, that Dougie barely has two coins to rub together for transfers and it’s a really difficult situation for him, we really should be aiming higher than Mason. On his loan spell here he was mostly dreadful, unable to win or hold up the ball and offered very little presence. Although you could argue we didn’t play to his strengths, which is fair enough, but then it just lands back at Dougie’s feet. Why does he sign a striker that isn’t suited to the way he plays? The talk is that Craig Davies will be leaving to make way for Mason, and while I think Davies isn’t good in the slightest, he does make a presence and will take a shot if he gets the opportunity.

There are also rumours that Davies is leaving to fund a move for a left back, which I can understand, but we only have three first team strikers in the squad, one of which is injured. Is letting one go now, despite his inability, really a wise thing to do?

One final thing that really has disappointed me with Freedman, is the lack of youngsters we’ve seen integrated in the squad. He came to the club with this reputation of developing excellent young players and putting them in the team, and that just hasn’t happened. I agree to an extent that throwing in young players in times when the team isn’t performing well can be a real risk. But when the seniors are constantly disappointing, surely it gets to the point that you throw caution to the wind and give them a chance?

I realised something today which got to me a bit: Nottingham Forest today signed Danny Fox from Southampton, which means that they now have four first team quality left backs in their squad, they also have seven, SEVEN! (not including the injured, but was loaned out, Marcus Tudgay) strikers. Bolton have four players in their squad in those two positions combined. I know Forest have money to burn and everything, but if you ever wanted a  parameter to see just how far Bolton have fallen. That’s it.

I don’t blame Freedman for the downward spiral Bolton Wanderers are in, that runs deeper then I even want to know. But he gets most of the blame for how abject we have been this season and that we now find ourselves in a very real relegation battle. I like Dougie, I really do, but it’s now time to go.

‘Til next week.

Thursday’s Thoughts #1: Juan Mata

 

Due to the fact I now have an obscene four and a half hour gap between lessons on Thursdays, I have decided, in a desperate attempt to write more, that every Thursday, in said gap, I will offer my opinion on something from the wonderful world of football. This will be called Thursday’s Thoughts. This week’s thoughts are on: Juan Mata’s supposed transfer to Manchester United…

Presuming of course, that this move does go through; I can’t really put into words how good of a signing Juan Mata will be for Manchester United. Saying that, I’m now going to put it into words.

He’s a world-class player, no doubt about it. Jose Mourinho doesn’t believe he’s good for his team, which is fair enough, he’s a fantastic manager who has earned the right to make big decisions, but that doesn’t mean Mata is any less of a player. Jose’s opinions don’t change the fact. He’s been, at the very least, in the top three best players in the league every year he’s been in England and rightfully so. It would be foolish to forget his quality just because he hasn’t been playing.

Then we get to the argument that United don’t need Mata. Let’s not be silly, what United need more than anything, is to win matches, Mata will win them football matches. People have been commenting all season how average United’s squad is and it’s lack of world-class players, so why do people think Mata isn’t needed? Of course, they still need to strengthen in the defensive midfield area and in defence, but when that quality of a player comes up, you don’t pass it by. The perfect example is Arsenal in the summer; they didn’t necessary need Özil, but they signed him and look at the effect it has had.

Which leads nicely on to my next point, Mata is the caliber of signing that will completely galvanise the whole club, from first team to the fans to old David himself. It will install so much confidence in the club, to know that they can still attract players of that ability and will give everyone associated with Man United a massive lift.

Where would he fit in? I hear you cry. Well, he’s better than United’s entire current attacking midfielders, so I’d imagine around that area. He could play behind the main striker or just as easily out on the right, where he’s played most of his football for Chelsea anyway! He offers United even more depth and options in attack, and if they are lucky, will give the players who haven’t been performing to the standard they should be a rocket up the arse. The prospect of an attacking three of Januzaj, Kagawa/Rooney and Mata is a mouth watering one. And one that must have United fans biting at the bit to see.

Mata’s excellence in the attacking third is exactly the type of directness and penetration the Red Devils have been lacking all season. Last year alone Mata contributed to 24 goals for Chelsea. Manchester United need that.

You could argue that the price is a bit steep, which it proably is, but a player of Mata’s ilk isn’t going to come cheap, especially in January and United need a player of Mata’s ilk. If he some how manages to drag them into the Champions League the price suddenly becomes irrelevant. You could also argue that Moyes and co are just painting over the cracks and trying to keep the fans onside. Even if that is the case, it’s one good quality paint to be doing it with and it’s one hell of a statement from the club.

So that my friends, is Thursday’s Thoughts, a small piece just giving my opinion on matters, in a bit more depth than 160 characters. With any luck I won’t end up with a good helping of egg on my face. ‘Till next week.

“Manuel Almunia, We’re Laughing At You”


I’m back! Sorry it’s been a while since my last report (not really sure who I’m apologising to, as I’m sure you’re not that bothered) but the combination of Bolton being woeful and a serious lack of motivation on my part, had left me completely void of inspiration. But naturally, getting back on the road to watch my beloved team play away under the early winter flood lights, has some what rekindled my joy in writing about it.

The drive down south with the company of Joe, Blake and Peters was a disco of laughs, and in what seemed like no time at all, we were busy scowling the glorious streets of Watford  for somewhere to park. After several minutes of doing so, we finally found a car park. And Joe just about managed to park, without running over the fairly annoying attendant.

Team colours and everything

We tackled the walk up to the ground, which included moderately slanted gradients and numerous potholes, with relative ease. Although we were a bit confused when we reached  it, as it appeared to be a block of flats, but it transpired that it was Vicarage Road, the home of Watford FC. We made our way to the away end and soon discovered that Vicarage Road is actually a football ground/building site hybrid.

We took our seats and were then treated to the most serious ball boy performance I’d ever seen; complete with customised named bib, the kid was all over the show. Kicking, throwing, flicking, was only the begging of his techniques in ball retrieving. He was getting it out of the goal, making short dashes of pace to get the ball before his comrade, he was all over the show. A marvel. I mean, he genuinely looked as if he’d beak down in tears if the fans didn’t return a ball that had ventured into the crowd. Mean while, Neil Danns’ wayward shooting in the warm up broke a seat and very nearly took some poor bloke’s head off, but I think we all survived unharmed.

By this point the away end was filling rather nicely and a good amount of noise was being made. The team’s entered the field, greeted by roaring cheers from the Bolton fans and modest applause from the pretty much full home stands. Watford in their traditional

Best. Ball boy. Ever.

Best. Ball boy. Ever.

Yellow and Black, with Bolton in all white.

Dougie Freedman made one change to the side who earned Bolton’s first home victory two weeks ago, with Darren Pratley getting the nod over Rob Hall, a change probably made to combat the packed midfield which Watford implement. Gianfranco Zola was forced into making six changes to his side, with many key players unavailable.

The Hornets were quick out of the traps and nearly found a route to goal after Forestieri pressured Mills into a rare mistake, thankfully that man Tim Ream was there to sweep it all up.

Shortly After that came what would be the beginning of a tough day for Watford ‘keeper Manuel Almunia. Alex Baptiste sent in a good cross from the left, which Almunia gather comfortably. Well, until the sliding Beckford clattered into him and left him in a mess on the floor.

Bolton then began to grow into the game and carved out some chances of their own. The excellent partnership between Danns and Beckford continued to thrive, the former sent in an inviting cross into the path of Beckford, but he was always stretching and the header went wide. Danns was at the forefront again moments later, as his improvised bicycle kick went wide.

Watford continued to dominate the ball but did very little with it. Then on the 27th minute came the defying moment of the game.

What should have been an easy take for the former Champions League goalkeeper, Almunia, from Neil Danns’ cross, turned into a disaster for the Spaniard. He somehow dropped the ball through his legs and Jermaine Beckford was on hand to put the Whites

Jermaizing!

Jermaizing!

ahead, in front of the delirious Bolton fans.

Then followed an array of amusing chants aimed at Almunia from the Bolton faithful. “Manuel Almunia, we’re laughing at you”, “you’re just a sh*t Fabianski”, “1-0 to Almunia” among others and the standard sarcastic woahs and weheyyys.

Almunia, obviously low on confidence after his mistake, very nearly messed up again. As his poor clearance landed at the feet of Lee, but the man who recently captained his country, just couldn’t get a shot away under pressure.

Watford went on to control the rest of the half, but just couldn’t get past the ridged Bolton defence, and for all their possession, they went in at the break a goal down and with out a single shot on target.

Half Time: Watford 0-1 Bolton Wanderers

Half time was a boring affair, compared to the entertainment we’re accustom to down at the Reebok. A fairly atrocious set of penalties from two kid teams and that was it. Although I did see my college form tutor, which was a bit strange. Actually, just before the second half began, the worst mascot I have ever, ever seen in my life: Harry the Hornet. Began to dance in front of the Bolton fans, which was really weird.

The players came back out for the second half, all, except one. Almunia. We were all quite

"Manuel Almunia, we're laughing at you!"

“Manuel Almunia, we’re laughing at you!”

bewildered to where our best player of the half was and chants of “where is Almunia?” soon rained down. Oddly, it transpired that Zola had opted to give the club captain the hook at half time. Much to our disappointment. The creative Bolton fans were soon at it again with their songs, this time with “come and sit with us, Manuel” begin sung. The line from the club is that Almunia was taken ill at half time, I personally think he was so low on confidence that he either asked to be subbed or Zola made the call.

Watford continued in a similar fashion to the first half, still unable to craft any clear cut chances. Faraoni flicked the ball into the box, but Acuna couldn’t get on to the ball and Lonergan palmed away Pudil’s inviting cross. All very laboured from the men in yellow (definitely yellow, not gold).

Watford’s most influential player, Forestieri, fashioned Watford’s first and only shot on target all game. A twenty-five yard strike which Lonergan smartly averted wide and out of the box. This save actually really impressed me; it’s good to know that Lonergan can go long stretches of game time with out making a save, and still have very high concentration levels. It’s reassuring.
Moments later however, it was Bolton who came close to scoring. With Lee being sent through, he opted to try and lob the keeper, instead of slotting the ball home. Which was ultimately the wrong decision, as his effort sailed over.
Diego Fabbrini came the closest to unlocking the resilient Bolton backline, ghosting past Spearing and Medo, then flicking by Mills, but Spearing made his way back to block off Fabbrini’s effort and the follow up from Pudil. Tireless defensive work which brilliantly represented Bolton’s fighting spirit and resilience.
Freedman then threw on the classy André Moritz, for the last fifteen minutes of the game, and the Brazilian impressed again. His delightful diagonal pass found it’s self at Danns’ feet, the midfielder who’d had yet another good game, skipped past Pudil, but his tame effort was easily blocked by replacement ‘keeper Jonathan Bond.
The flamboyant playmaker then displayed an amazing piece of skill. Moritz shrugged off Fabbrini’s challenge then hit a mesmerising rabona pass, which would have played through Beckord beautifully, had he not been offside. I, among many others, were left in awe.
David Ngog was introduced to the game, sporting actual hair on his head, which was really weird. I didn’t even recognise him at first, then I thought he had a wooly hat on
A new do

Yes, that is David Ngog

before I actually realised. Back on topic, he came on and held the ball up quite well when he received it and in one move combined with Lee and Danns, to send the latter through but his effort went over.

As the game wore on into the few remaining minutes it was Watford who were dominating the ball, but just like the rest of the game, they could’t break down the air tight defensive unit of Bolton. Spearing and Medo ran tirelessly through out, pressing the ball when ever it came near, and the ever solid partnership of Ream and Mills dominated in the air and won most things on the ground. It really was a brilliant defensive performance.
Which was summed up perfectly in the dying moments of the game when Pudil’s effort went well wide of the post. Earning Bolton Wanderers a well deserved win.
The players walked off the pitch to a resounding round of applause, and the new fan favourite, Beckford, came up and gave his shirt to a fan. That stupid hornet also returned again, and not sparing on the taboo terms, I told it to go away. Which brought giggles from the little lad in front of me, who then decided to repeat it. Thankfully his mother laughed. Phew.
The drive back home dragged some what, but it didn’t matter, because we had bloody won!

Full Time: Watford 0-1 Bolton Wanderers

Man Of The Match:

I think it’s really hard to choose one after this game, because everyone played well and pulled their weight defensively. It was definitely a full team effort. So I think I’m going to sit firmly on the fence and award the team the prize, for a tireless and defensively spot-on performance. Kop out, I know.

Negatives:

There aren’t many, that’s for sure. But if I’m going to be really picky, I’d say our finishing still needs a bit of improvement, we did waste some good chances and on another day it could have haunted us, like it has so many times before. But today it didn’t, yay! So I’m not really too fussed.

Positives: 

There are too many to count. For a start that’s our third win away in a row, the first time that’s happened since 2008, I believe. We’re actually on an eight game unbeaten streak, if you can believe it. We’re climbing up the table and we’re coming into form just at the right time, for the busy festive fixture list. The fans are all onside and behind the team, which is brilliant, because all the negative energy has just disappeared. The defence is as solid it as it has been in years. Beckford is scoring goals. And most of all, which makes me happy the most, there’s passion again. The players really want it and it is so pleasing to see.

Final Thought:

You know what? Things actually might be looking up.

A Word on Bolton’s New Signings

In the last week Bolton made three loan signings in the shapes of Neil Danns, of Leicester City; Liam Feeney, of Millwall; and Kevin McNaughton, of Premier League outfit, Cardiff City.

The reaction to these three signings has been very mixed among the Bolton support, some people just being happy that we’ve actually added to our squad and others wishing the names brought in were a little more exciting. So I’m going to offer my thoughts on Bolton’s latest recruits.

First in through the door on Thursday was Leicester City’s, 30-year-old attacking midfielder, Neil Danns on a three-month loan. Danns has plenty of experience in the Championship and links up with his former manager at Crystal Palace, Dougie Freedman, once more.

I have to admit, when the news first broke on Wednesday night that we would be signing

Danns in action against Huddersfield Town

Danns in action against Huddersfield Town

Danns, I was left mightily underwhelmed and I’m sure a lot of Bolton fans felt the same. It’s not the most inspiring of names, but that’s all we can sign now. Something we have to accept. He’s been in the game for many years now and has never made too much of an impact at any club, also the reviews from Leicester fans were not promising.

But after thinking about it, I think Danns could turn out to be a very solid signing. He has worked under Freedman before, so you’d think Dougie must see something in him. His scoring record isn’t that bad, in fact it’s pretty rosy compared to some of our midfielders, so he could add more goals to the team. Something we have been sorely lacking. He may also add some creativity in the middle of the park for Bolton, another thing we desperately need. I have a strange feeling Danns may surprise some of us.

Bolton’s second signing of the week, on Friday, was Millwall’s 26-year-old winger, Liam Feeney. Who also arrived on a three-month deal. Feeney started his career in non-league football with Hayes and Salisbury City, then made the jump to the football league with Bournemouth. He played a vital part in Bournemouth’s promotion to League One and was then snapped up by Millwall.

Feeney is another really uninspiring name, unfortunately. He’s struggled to make it even on to the Millwall bench this season and the Millwall fans do not hold him in high regard.

But he is an unknown quality to us Bolton fans and with him being in the current situation

Feeney takes on Leeds players

Feeney takes on Leeds players

he is in, I imagine he’ll want to fully take his chance, shall he get one. He may not be anything special and I personally can’t see him having any sort of impact, but Bolton fans really shouldn’t be too mad at this signing. He has clearly been brought in to add some depth to the wide areas and will probably only play if we are struck by an injury crisis, and what are the chances of that? Although I would like to see some of the younger players be used for back-up, I can fully understand why Freedman has signed him. However uninspiring he may be.

The last of Bolton’s signings, and definitely the best, also happened on Friday, with Cardiff City’s, silver-haired, 31-year-old right back Kevin McNaughton. Joining the cause on a one month loan deal. Dubbed the Silver Fox, McNaughton is currently Cardiff’s longest serving player having spent seven years with the Blue Birds. A club from which he is adored by the fans and leaves with many blessings.

This is a signing I am extremely happy about. McNaughton has a wealth of experience,

McNaughton battles with Burnley's Stanislas

McNaughton battles with Burnley’s Stanislas

he’s a leader, he’s a winner and praise the old gods and the new, he’s a right back who can actually defend. I believe McNaughton will be an excellent signing for us, even if the length of the loan is a little disappointing. His signing will allow Baptiste to move out of the right back slot, a place he does not look comfortable, and form a partnership with either Mills, Wheater or Knight. Who ever Freedman opts for. This will be brilliant for the simple fact that both our centre backs will no longer be really, really slow. He’ll also sure up the right side of the defence himself, and with any luck, our defence will become less of a sieve and more of a wall.

The three signings may not be the most exciting of names or brilliant of players, but three signings for the first team in two days can only be a positive. The new bodies will add depth should another (probable) injury crisis occur and add competition for places. These players will also come in knowing they need to perform or sit the rest of the season in the stands at their parent clubs, so they’re going to try their damnedest.

So in conclusion, I’m pretty happy with our signings. Can only hope they go out and perform now, hopefully starting against Yeovil, because god, we need a win.

Possible Loan Targets For Bolton

Every Football League fan’s favourite time of the year is now upon us. I am of course talking about the Football League Loan Window; as fans of the 72 clubs eagerly await to see just which completely random squad dweller or which up-and-coming star will come and plays for their club, just for a little bit.

During Bolton’s first season back in the Championship, the club made several signings in the loan window, all with varying success. With the likes of Danny Butterfield, Stephen Warnock, Steve de Ridder and of course, Craig Dawson, all coming in through the revolving Reebok door.

Transfers in the loan window really can swing either way, from the player hardly featuring at all (de Ridder), or the player coming in and completely changing the team around (Dawson). It is a massively important time of year for Football League clubs, and the business clubs do in the window could decide their fate in the coming season. So with that in mind I take a look at which Premier League players we could realistically sign and would make an impact at The Reebok.

Billy Sharp – Southampton

With out a shadow of a doubt, this man should be our number one target. He is a proven goal scorer at Championship level, something we’ve been calling out for, for what seems like forever. In the past three seasons Sharp has scored 44 goals, a tally we can only dream of here at Bolton. We need a goal scorer and he scores goals, so there really should be no thought about it, please go for him Bolton! The only problem we face in getting Sharp, is that every club in the championship will be vying for his signature, and we probably won’t be able to compete financially. Sad face.

 

 

Luciano Becciho – Norwich City

Failing Sharp, striker target #2 should certainly be Norwich’s Argentinian striker, Luciano Becciho. Due to an influx of strikers at Carrow Road this summer, it appears that Becciho is now surplus to requirements. If that is the case then he is another forward we should be looking at. Becciho is another proven striker at Championship level, with a fantastic 75 goals in five years at former club Leeds United and I am certain he could rekindle that form at Bolton. Sharp and Becciho are both strikers who quite frankly, know where the goal is and how to put the ball into it. They are the type of strikers who can make a goal out of nothing and will finnish chances, the type of striker we desperately need. If we are not in for either of them, I’ll be really disappointed.

 

Craig Dawson – West Brom

Now, I know this move is now little more than a pipe dream. But… If Dawson continues to be being benched by West Brom, surely he is going to want out of the club after tasting first team action? And surely if he does want to leave to play football, he is going to want to go to the team where A – he’s familiar with B –  he’ll play under a manager who clearly rates and trusts him and C – he knows he is going to play and that he makes a massive difference to the side. This is all hypothetical, of course, but it is within the realm of possibility and it shouldn’t be ruled out. Not just yet.

 

Daniel Ayala or Ryan Bennett – Norwich City

Ayala and Bennett are both quite far down the pecking order in the centre back positions at Norwich City, so I imagine at least one will be available for loan. So if a move for Dawson doesn’t materialise, either of these players will do nicely. Both are of a good young age, have a lot of potential and have ample experience in the Championship. I’m a big fan of Bennett in particular. I feel if we are to sign a centre back (or any player for that matter) we’re going to have to get rid of one first, if that be the case, I’m honestly not fussed which centre back makes way for a new one. They’re all under performing and none will be missed. Well, apart from Ream. I like Ream.

 

 

Adnan Januzaj – Manchester United

The young Manchester United winger has earned a lot of plaudits recently. The young Belgian has creativity in abundance, along with pace, skill, graceful balance and excellent set piece ability, he has the potential to make it all the way to the top. However, he needs to play games. A loan move to the Championship has been touted for the starlet, and I’d love it if Bolton where he continued his development. The Whites are scarce in wide positions, with only Chris Eagles, Chung-Yong Lee and Robert Hall the only natural wingers in the first team, so more depth needs to be added in those positions. I think Januzaj would be a very good addition to the squad.

 

I’m not for one moment saying we will sign these players, I’m sure our financial woes will probably restrict us to players of much lesser quality, but these are some of the players I think Bolton should defiantly be in for. Either way, this loan window is probably going to throw up some surprises.

Who do you think Bolton should attempt to sign on loan? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Football’s Back, With A Moderately Small Bang

Rotherham United 2-1 Bolton Wanderers

The New York Stadium

16th July 2013

The 73 days since Bolton Wanderers, last took to the field, has felt like an absolute age, I’m sure you’d agree. Thankfully that long wait finally came to end on Tuesday night as Wanderers faced Rotherham United, at The New York Stadium, for their first game of pre-season.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t the best of ways to welcome back the football. 

Me and Ben were picked up, by our trusted away game company of Joe and Blake. A car journey full of laughs and some awful music later, and we arrived at the very impressive, New York Stadium.

New signings Rob Hall and Conor Wilkinson started the game along with youngsters Cian Bolger, Chris Lester and Jan Gregus. It was actually quite refreshing to see the younger players of the squad given a chance to impress the manager, for once.

The match got underway, in the evening sunshine, and Bolton were immediately on the back-foot. Tim Ream (playing left-back) had to slice the ball clear from beneath his own crossbar, within the first couple of minutes.

Rotherham continued to put pressure on the Bolton back-line, winning most of the possession and creating chances. The best of which fell to Karl Arnason, who headed over a cross from, the deliciously named, Ben Pringle.

The climate inside the NYS wasn’t the most pleasant, and I can’t tell you just how good it was, when the sprinklers started shooting out water in front of us. It was a god send.

Bolton began to grow into the game a bit more with Gregus, who looked quite tidy on the ball and Hall, who looks like he could be really useful in the coming season. The whites got their first shot on goal in the 18th minute when Marvin Sordell cut in from the right, but Shearer, in the Rotherham goal, easily dealt with his tame effort.

Another opportunity presented its self to Bolton when Wilkinson, was upended outside of the area, after he cleverly flicked the ball over a Rotherham defender’s head. Hall stepped up, but his effort hit the side netting. Then, Matt Mills almost managed to bundle the ball home from close range, after he was the first to a swinging free kick from Hall.

Rotherham then got them selves back into the game and began to test the Wanderers defence, who somehow, after several heart-in-mouth moments on the goal line, managed to keep the score at 0-0.

The score even stayed at nil-nil after a golden chance fell to the way of Daniel Nardiello. The striker was mere inches away from sliding in a wonderful cross, from the right hand side, but he was just agonisingly too short.

Just two minutes later, the deadlock was broken, and the goal undeservedly fell to the men in white.

Hall, who was a constant danger throughout, danced past two challenges before getting to the byline and teeing up the advancing Marvin Sordell, who swept the ball into the net.

Rotherham were unscathed after the Bolton goal, and the game should have been level before the break. Defender, Claude Davis, rose highest to meet another accurate cross from Pringle. But his header sailed aimlessly over Bogdan’s goal.

The teams went in at half time with the score at 0-1 to the Wanderers, a score that flattered them, in all honestly. Rotherham dominated large portions of the game, and were unfortunate not to get on the score sheet.

Half Time: Rotherham United 0-1 Bolton Wanderers 

The second half kicked off with no changes for either side.

The Millers, started the second half as they ended the first, dominating proceedings. A long ball was cushioned into the path of Lee Freklington, whose dipping volley flew just wide of the post, from 20 yards.

Rotherham continued to press for an equaliser and had many opportunities to do so, with Nardiello, Worrell and Freklington all squandering chances. However, United finally got the goal their efforts deserved on 63rd minute mark.

Bolton lost possession stupidly, in the middle of the park. The Ball found it’s way to the impressive Pringle, who delivered another pinpoint cross, which found Revell at the back post, who directed a low header into the goal.

Bolton almost scored an instant reply as Ream’s searching ball, over the top, fell perfectly for Lester. However, the youngster dragged his shot wide when he should have done better,

That would be his last involvement of the game as Chris Eagles, Samni Odelusi, Marc Tierney and Alex Baptiste replaced him, along with Hall, Mills and the disappointing Tyrone Mears. Only seven minutes had passed before Freedman made five more changed to the side, with Medo, Darren Pratley, Joe Riley, Craig Davies and Zat Knight coming on for Wilkinson, Andrews, Bolger, Sordell and Ream.

Bolton started seeing more of the ball, but made little of it, every player seeming to opt for one more pass instead of a shot. C Davies did take a half-chance, as he blazed a shot from 25 yards way over the bar.

The game was equally poised and could have gone either way, but with three minutes left on the clock, the wining goal went to the hosts. It was that man Pringle, yet again, with the decisive ball as he split the Bolton defence to play through Nardiello, who calmly slotted the ball past the stretching Bogdan. To earn Rotherham the win, to the delight of the Rotherham fans.

Despite some early traffic and drama, the journey home wasn’t too bad. We even got to meet Andrews, at the services, he wasn’t for having a hand shake or anything though. To be fair, if a group of young lads had have pulled up next to me, in an empty car park at night, I wouldn’t be hanging around.

And that’s game number one of the season.

Full Time: Rotherham United 2-1 Bolton Wanderers

Man Of The Match: Ben Pringle

Delivered several high quality balls, got himself to assists and was a constant threat to the Bolton defence.

Negatives:

It wasn’t a good showing from Bolton, especially in the centre of the defence, where constant mistakes were made. However, this is to be expected, it was the team’s first game time in three months, and even longer for some of the players. The result shouldn’t be looked into too much, there’s plenty of time for that later.

The passing and first touch from a number of the players was quite rusty and the movement was almost non-existent, hopefully these things improve as pre-season goes on.

Positives:

Despite the score and performance, there were some positives to take from Tuesday’s efforts. Tim Ream looked good at left back, he was composed on the ball, made some good cross-field passes from that position, got forward well and won most things that came his way. There may still be a future for him at The Reebok.

Robert Hall, looks like he could be a really good asset for next season. He’s fast, extremely tricky and very direct, which could come in quite handy. Also, he isn’t afraid of doing his share of the dirty work, and he often tracked back to win back the ball.

Jan Gregus also looked quite composed and tidy on the ball, it remains to be soon how much game time he’ll get next season, but he’s a versatile midfielder and does add good depth to the squad.

Observation:

One thing I did notice, that Dougie seems to be wanting to implement into the squad, is split centre-backs. On goal kicks and when Bolton had possession in their own box, the centre-backs would split, allowing the full-backs to push further forward and the holding midfielder, in this case Andrews, can slot into the middle and collect the ball. It’s an interesting tactic and it promotes a more passing game, so look out for that in the coming games.

Reaction:

The result and performance were disappointing, with some ropey passing, static movement and suicidal defending but it has to be remembered this is a pre-season friendly, that means extremely little in the grand scheme of things, so nobody should be calling for heads just yet. The game was a good run out for Dougie’s squad and I’m sure the match has given him a lot to think about, for when the big day arrives on the 4th August.

The Next Bolton Captain

With the news that Bolton legend, and captain, Kevin Davies will be leaving the club at the end of the season, Dougie Freedman has the task of choosing a new captain. It won’t be a clearcut decision to make, with a few players in the current squad worthy of the armband, for different reasons; and there’s a possibility that Freedman will bring in a man of his own choosing to captain the side.

In this article I shall asses the candidates I feel could be captain material in our current squad, and see who is up to replacing the iconic, Kevin Davies.

Zat Knight

Probably the favourite to take on the captain’s duty, Knight has been deputising in Davies’ absence for most of the season, and has done pretty well at it. All though prone to clumsiness and a lack of communication with his defenders, Knight is a decent enough leader and being one of the older heads in the team, it would make sense to make him captain, with the experience he has; but then again, with his contract set to run out next summer, what’s the point in making him captain if he’ll soon be leaving?

Medo

Maybe not everybody’s first choice, but to me, Medo being captain makes perfect sense. He’s a player with Champions League experience, a higher playing level than all of our other players. He’s a technically brilliant player, with shrewd positioning, tidy passing and he’s great at winning the ball back. He’s also a very dominant player on the pitch, and really looks like he’d make a great leader. He has a lot of experience at winning things too – with his former clubs he’s won three league titles and three cups – this winning mentality that Medo clearly possesses is a vital quality, especially with the direction Dougie wants to take the club.  Personally, Medo, would be my captain.

David Wheater

A name that a lot of people have said they’d like to see as captain, and it’s no surprise. Wheater is a tall, strong, dominating defender, the type of player usually akin to having the armband wrapped around his arm. He’s also got experience of captaining his former club, Middlesbrough. I think Wheater is a plausible candidate for captaincy, he is also at a good age and has a lot of experience, but he’ll have to force his way back into the starting eleven, and stay there, first.

Jay Spearing

Obviously, this all depends on whether Dougie manages to secure Spearing on a regular basis in the summer. If that does happen, I think he’s proven to everyone that he is more than captain material: he always shows great commitment and passion in the centre of midfield and has the right balance of qualities to be a brilliant leader. I have come to love this little bundle of scouse magic and fire, and would love to see him as captain of Bolton, some day.

Stuart Holden

The US stalwart may well have been missing from the Bolton side for such a long time now, but it would be silly to not consider him as a candidate to the captaincy. Holden, was/is a truly awesome player, and has absolutely everything in his locker, but it isn’t just that, that makes Holden captain worthy. Holden is an electric, bubbly character and clearly has a massive effect in the dressing room, and appears to be liked by all; he’s also loved by all Bolton fans, I don’t think any would moan too much over our favourite blondie taking on Kevin Davies’ mantle; and finally, as sad as it sounds, Holden is a very popular player: he has 284,758 twitter followers, compared to the official Bolton Wanderers account that has a mere 41,626 followers. Holden is clearly a popular/well-known player, and with him being captain it could possibly attract interest from more fans from the US of A. Of course, before being properly considered for the armband, Holden will have to get back to full fitness and back into the starting eleven. My only worry of Holden being captain, is that the captaincy may distract him from his game and change him as a player, but then again, it could make him even better.

That’s what I make of the top candidates to take the armband of Davies next season, and to conclude, I think Medo should be captain next season, with either Knight, Holden or Spearing being vice. At the end of the day, Bolton need more than one leader in the starting lineup, so hopefully more players do step up and prove that they are worthy of the armband, that SKD wore with such pride and passion and heart.

Agree or disagree? Have your say here, and place your vote, on who should be the next Bolton captain…

Craig Dawson – The Game Changer

When Craig Dawson joined Bolton Wanderers, on loan from West Brom, I’m not sure that anyone quite knew the effect he’d have on the side.

I already knew of Dawson, and his quality. I knew he was a very good, promising centre back and one who was as much as a threat to the oppositions’ goal, as he was at protecting his own. But even I didn’t expect that his signing, would be a major catalyst in Bolton’s turn of form.

Dawson is your typical “no-nonsense” centre-half, but he does have the quality to be able to pass it on the floor; one of his biggest skills is his intelligence, he knows when to pass and when to put the ball out of the stadium. He also possesses strong heading ability, good leadership skills, a striker’s instinct when it comes to scoring in the other box, an expert of the precise tackle and has a godly knack of just being able to get in the way of a player or pass, just when it matters most. In the short time that I’ve had the pleasure of watching Dawson in the heart of the Bolton defence, I’ve often been a moved by just how good he is; I’m not ashamed to admit that he’s sometimes made me moan with joy, over some of his last-minute clearances. For such a young age, he really is an excellent defender, and one I truly believe will go right to the top of English football.

Ever since the Rochdale born defender made his début against Burnley, the Bolton back line has looked its strongest in years; proven by the number of clean sheets we have kept since his arrival. In the sixteen games he’s played for Bolton, the Whites have kept five clean sheets; before he joined Bolton had only managed four clean sheets all campaign. To add to the increase in clean sheets, Bolton have only conceded more than one goal on three occasions.

Dawson also brought leadership and a calming influence to an often calamitous Bolton back line, with Zat Knight, especially benefiting from him. Knight, has looked like a different player since Dawson’s arrival and has improved his game massively. In fact the whole of the Bolton defence has taken inspiration from Dawson, and all though there are still some mistakes in them, on a whole, they have dramatically improved, which has made our unrealistic play-off push a reality.

With a more solid defence, it allowed Bolton to be more adventurous in attacking areas, which lead to a whole lot more wins. In the sixteen games that Dawson has played Bolton have won ten, drawn three and lost only three. Just showing the effect that he’s had on the team; it’s no coincidence that Bolton’s best form in years, coincides with the signing of Dawson. The numbers don’t lie, with out Dawson Bolton won a mere 27.6% of their games, but with Dawson Bolton won a massive 62.5% of their games.

Dawson, has also made a massive difference in making a Bolton, a threat from set pieces once again. He attacks the ball with real venom, but his movement is also first class; it allows him to get leverage on his marker and get an effort away on goal. He scored four times for Bolton, and assisted on two occasions, an excellent record for a centre back.

Dawson has now completed his spell at Bolton Wanderers, to the dismay of all concerned (I’m in tears), going back to West Brom an even better player than he was when he left. With his departure, Freedman has now got a massive decision to make regarding who plays at the back in Dawson’s absence for the one/two/three remaining games of the season. Dawson will be sorely missed by all at Bolton, I really wish he’d have been able to stay for the last game of the play-off push, and the resulting play-offs, but unfortunately that’s not to be.

He is already a brilliant centre back and will only get better; so with a heavy heart we bid him goodbye and wish him the best of luck for the future, because he’s been our game changer.

XI of 11 Leagues

I was recently set the difficult challenge, by the lads over at ChapsTalkFootball, to name a team but you can only name one player from a league. So after much deliberation and head scratching, I finally came out with this: fully complete with substitutes (yes, I’m that sad) and lining up in a slightly attacking 3-4-3 diamond, here’s my XI of 11 Leagues.

Igor Akinfeev – CSKA Moscow 

The Russian ‘keeper made his CSKA début at the tender age of seventeen, and he’s been their number one ever since. He’s a very good shot stopper and the clean sheet count currently stand on eighteen for this season. Akinfeev has won thirteen trophies with CSKA a long with a haul of personal accolades, and he’s even a member of the Lev Yashin club, earning his membership by achieving over 100 clean sheets in his career.

Darjio Srna – Shakhtar Donetsk 

Captain of club and country and a brilliant defender, with obsolete set-play and crossing ability. Srna is a player, often forgotten about by the masses due to his loyalty to Shakhtar but he is an absolutely awesome footballer.

Thiago Silva – Paris Saint-Germain

Arguably the best centre back in the world, Silva, is an excellent, precise tackler, brilliant reader of the game and is also a strong leader, proving that by captaining Milan, PSG and the Seleção Brasileria. An outstanding player.

Stefan de Vrij – Feyenoord

de Vrij is only the tender age of age of twenty-one, but he is all ready the captain of his side – making 100 appearances – and is one of the best defenders in the Eredivise. Good on the ball, strong in the air and a very good tackler.

João Moutinho – FC Porto

Moutinho is a player I really like, he’s a lovely, jinking type of player, with an eye for a pass. He plays the deep-playmaker role expertly, with a lot of flair and finesse. Would love to him in the Premier League, one day.

Marco Reus – Borussia Dortmund

A truly extraordinary footballer, Reus has all the skills at his disposal: lightning pace, mesmerising skill, ability to see a pass and a great finisher. He won German player of the year, for his brilliant performances for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund, and he’s only going to improve.

Stephan El Shaarawy – AC Milan

One of Europe’s hottest prospects, El Shaarawy, really does have the potential to be one of the world’s greats. With sixteen goals to his name this season – sensational for 20-year-old who plays on the wing – bags of skill and trickery, and en extravagant hair cut to match, El Shaarawy is one of the most exciting players around and I’m really looking forward to see how much he develops.

Gareth Bale – Tottenham Hotspur

Are there any superlatives left to describe this man? I think they all got used up during the length of his phenomenal season, in which he has scored countless breathe-taking goals, for both club and country. Bale has been truly outstanding all campaign  and he’s always mesmerising to watch.

Lionel Messi – Barcelona 

Do I really need to justify this man’s inclusion? He’s the best player in the world, end of. An honour to be able to watch such a special player.

Didier Drogba – Galatasaray

No matter what you think of this man, in footballing terms, there is no doubt that he is a great, great player. A barnstorming striker, with skill in abundance. He may not be playing at the top-level anymore, but he easily could be. Easily.

Neymar – Santos

The most exciting thing to come out of  Brazil in years, and one of the most talked about players on the planet. Neymar is exceptional. Filled to the brim with confidence and charisma, he certainly isn’t afraid to implement his own style on things and with his unbelievable talents, he’s the future of Brazil.

Substitutes

Yann Sommer – FC Basel

Sommer is a very good young ‘keeper, great shot stopper and a good catcher. Sommer has a big future ahead of him.

Charlie Mulgrew – Glasgow Celtic

Mulgrew is a player I’ve liked for a while. Can play across the defence in midfield to a good level and has excellent set-piece ability.

Thierry Henry – New York Red Bulls

One of the best strikers the world has ever seen, and he can still play now, scoring 34 goals for Red Bulls in seventy games.

Marco Fabían – C.D. Guadalajara

Fabían is a tricky, little playmaker with good dribbling skills and a good eye for a pass. He impressed me a lot during the London Olympics.

Jay Spearing – Bolton Wanderers

It is highly plausible for anyone to claim, that I’m being biased for sticking this little piece of godly material on the bench, but it’s fully justified. Spearing has been great for Bolton this season, the only way I can describe him is as: Pirlo and Gattuso all wrapped up in a scouse shell.

Asamoah Gyan – Al Ain

As you can probably guess, I haven’t kept that much up to date with Gyan’s career since he left Sunderland, for the treasure mine of the United Arab Emirates. But if my memory serves me well, he was a good, pacey player and a clinical finisher.

Alessandro Del Piero – Sydney FC

I did consider giving Emile Heskey this spot, but in the end, I would have felt dirty for denying this legend such a deserved place in my side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I’m more than aware that this team is an extremely attacking one and would not function in really life, and concede a monumentous amount of goals. But it’s just a wee bit of fun, ain’t it?

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and you can check out their blog over at – www.chapstalkfootball.blogspot.co.uk