Archive for the ‘EPL’ Category

Be Patient Kop Faithful: Old Red Dalglish Will Deliver New Reds to Europe

John Henry's promise to restore Liverpool to former glory placed great faith in an old legend. He's beginning to deliver.

Neil Blackmon examines why the skeptics about Dalglish’s tactics and managerial ability are likely wrong.

A year ago, as  Liverpool stumbled out of the gate to a mid-table Christmas position, dark clouds swirled around Anfield and more than one commentator uttered the frightening “end of an era” cliché about England’s “other” most storied club. Roy Hodgson was sacked before he unpacked, and an American owner, the most cynically-viewed type of outsider in a parochial league gone global, John Henry, took control of the club. Henry promised the faithful in the mother country he would be “committed to winning” and “restoring Liverpool’s historic place” of competitive excellence, but such promises had been made before. Still, the man he backed to lead the Reds, Kenny Dalglish, was as fine a gesture of goodwill as any he could give to the wary faithful.

If anyone was to lead Liverpool quickly out of the coming darkness, surely it would, or should be, a former legend like Dalglish. Hiring an old legend or leader from the storied past is a time-honored show of good faith in sport. It doesn’t always work of course, but it buys you time. And when it does work, it’s all the more satisfying- in any sport. Johan Cruyff, in glorious fashion, led Ajax and Barcelona back to the promised land after arriving in troubled times. In 1958, Alabama football had won four games in three seasons and was lost in the wilderness. A championship coach and former Crimson Tide player, Bear Bryant, was hired to lead them. When asked why he left powerhouse Texas A & M to go to Alabama, Bryant responded, “Momma called. And when Momma calls, you have to come runnin.’” Mike Ditka, a former Bears player, returned Chicago to the mountaintop as its head coach in 1985. And former Florida Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier returned home to Florida in 1990, taking over a program that had won zero championships in 80 years of football and winning seven in twelve years. There’s a certain passion that accompanies allegiance that makes a hire like Dalglish’s seem safe, or more likely to succeed.

As early as 1990, greats like the late Sir Bobby Robson suggested the 4-4-2 was finished as a winning formation.

Yet there were cynics, and there were (and are) fair questions. The most prominent of these involves criticism of Dalglish’s 4-4-2 system, with his beloved tucked-in winger. Indeed, even in 1990, the last time Liverpool won a title, there were questions to greats like the late Sir Bobby Robson as to whether that formation was dying, and the answers weren’t positive. Among the first to ask, and smartly diagram, this criticism was the great Jonathan Wilson, who while conceding the obvious—that King Kenny loved Liverpool, and there were few who questioned his ability to motivate and inspire—wondered if Dalglish’s hire would turn out to be a cautionary tale about the failure of conservative tactics in the Premier League’s gone global age where winning often involves being the best at a tactical chess match over 38 fixtures.

These questions remain, and judgment, as a whole, should be reserved. But a recent impressive run of form, a display on Dalglish’s part this campaign of tactical flexibility, and some film study suggests there is certainly reason for less than guarded optimism. Any discussion of Liverpool generates large-scale debate—such is life at one of sport’s most storied franchises. In my view, much of the debate around Dalglish’s tactical ability to lead Liverpool back to the promised land of the top four, however, ultimately turns on the answer to two questions.

First, as Wilson asked, Can the 4-4-2 still be successful today- or better put—the Bolton Test. Can the 4-4-2 be relied upon to grind out the necessary results against the Boltons of the world you absolutely must have to play the Benfica’s in the Champions League Group stages next autumn?

Opinions on this question are mixed. Wilson’s article was (oddly) inconclusive- but it did suggest (correctly) various limitations with the formation in today’s English football. Former Liverpool player Gary Gillespie is even more negative in his view, having gone as far as suggesting that Dalglish’s 4-4-2 is really not a tactical idea at all—and that in fact, when he was at Liverpool under King Kenny, players were told simply to “go out and play.” That sounds a bit like sour grapes from a former player who at best was a top-end backup, but it is a stern criticism nonetheless. And film study, at least in an isolated instance, validates that concern. Here we briefly look at Liverpool’s mind numbing 0-0 draw with Swansea City.

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The Prem: On Those Who Would Be Blackpool

TSG welcomes back Women’s World Cup stalwart Maura Gladys with a report on the Barclay’s minnows at the direction of Neil Blackmon.

Big Impact: The Norwich City Canary

Big Impact: The Norwich City Canary

They’re full of spirit, courage and pluck. They’re punching above their weight, a trio of little fish in a big pond. They’re Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City, the three debutantes in this season’s English Premier League.

It seems like that’s always the tag attached to the teams that emerge from the Championship at the start of the Premiere League season. They show courage and spirit when they run up against the big dogs, and then, at the end of the season, they struggle to stay up, we say they were just overwhelmed by clubs with more cash and talent. While that stereotype is often true, there’s more to the minnows than just pluck, spirit and hard luck and long days at the bottom on the table. So far, each squad has shown, not only the requisite doses of pluck, but actual ability, and while it’s not likely that all three will avoid relegation, they have intriguing stories and styles to make their time in the EPL an interesting ride.

QPR

Nowhere were the ups and downs of the Premier League more evident than with Queens Park Rangers. At the end of last Saturday’s 4-0 drubbing by Bolton, which included an own goal, a red card and an injury to a newly signed star, the team was in the midst of an ownership crisis. It looked like it was going to be a long season at Loftus Road.

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EPL Season Preview: Part II: Five Stuck In The Middle

By Neil Blackmon — Part I here

As noted in the first helping of the TSG Barclay’s Premier League preview, last year saw at least nine teams threatened by relegation entering April, so we’re taking liberties in suggesting that the following five teams will be unequivocally safe. The truth is, they won’t—we just think their odds of seeing the drop are markedly lower than the five teams from the opening piece.

In the end, expect these five teams to battle it out for the traditional after-ran status spots of 11-15, with an outside chance of looming disaster should the football stars cruelly align.

It's high time the Barclays had a replacement for the Hull City Tiger.

Norwich City

Last Year: The Canaries, as they are called, capped a meteoric two-year rise from League One to the top flight by finishing second in the Championship, scoring a league-high 83 goals in the process. It should be noted they managed to concede a somewhat eyebrow-raising 58 goals.

Still, the season was remarkable given they came straight from League One, and much has been made of the rising-star manager Paul Lambert, who, now in his third year at Carrow Road, faces his biggest challenge yet: keeping Norwich City up and doing so by building a base that makes an extended stay in the top flight possible.

Summer Additions: To the promoted briefly go the spoils, or so the adage should go, and Norwich City have not been afraid to spend money attendant to making the top flight jump.

Kyle Naughton is a very talented young right back in on loan from Tottenham Hotspur who can be dangerous getting forward. He’ll have to be intelligent about choosing when to make his runs, and that’s an adjustment for any young top-flight regular, but he could be a bargain for those who enjoy the Fantasy side of the EPL.

Manchester United loanee Richie de Laet is another promising youngster who has looked outstanding in the preseason, most recently in a convincing and encouraging 3-0 victory over Parma (yes, the one of MB 90 repute). Signee additions include Elliott Bennett, a former Wolves youth academy product and former Everton man James Vaughan, a nice talent who was unable to stick at Goodison but might find the absence of European pressures a relief and a great chance to start over. Of all these, Naughton and Bennett look to have the largest upside, but the key is they all possess youth and if Norwich can stay up—a sound nucleus to remain up will be in place. Millwall’s Steve Morrison, a plucky striker who can score the dirty goals required to avoid relegation, was another Lambert signee, and a bargain at just under 3 million pounds.

Summer Losses: Losses to transfer haven’t been a problem this summer, but Paul Lambert has released four players who played mid-size to even large roles in Norwich City’s promotion, including Matt Gill, Sam Habergham, Scotish midfielder Owain Tudur Jones, and clumsy, rugged Danish defender Jens Berthel Askou.

Strengths: Attractive football isn’t necessarily a strength but certainly the ability to score goals is, and while the jump in class between the Championship and the EPL is large, as Blackpool showed at times last year, a team that can score goals can simply score goals. Elliott Bennett will be a name everyone knows by the end of the campaign if he can stay healthy, he’s a winger who makes defenses stretch or respect his space, and his ability to deliver a pass should be well-utilized by top-scorer and Championship Player of the Year candidate Grant Holt, as well as Steve Morrison and James Vaughan, the latter of who at least your writer thinks will revive his career away from Everton.

Canadian Simeon Jackson takes aim in the Prem this year...

Canadian international Simeon Jackson provides another scoring option who adds pace and width to an already diverse attacking structure. Finally–there’s something to be said for a manager who secures two consecutive promotions and has a Champions League winner’s medal on his wall as well—a rising star who players trust because of his historic success might be a large strength when the tough stretches inevitably come.

Weaknesses: The defense. Sure, Kyle Naughton is an exciting young right back in terms of his ability to get forward but he didn’t get much of a run out at Tottenham Hotspur and will be asked to start more than FA and Carling Cup matches on the right. That learning process is okay if it’s just one player, but he’ll be expected to make it with fellow loanee Richie de Laet of Manchester United and some growing pains are inevitable. American Zak Whitbread is a steady player, but the Premier League is a step up in class, and it might be too much to ask for Whitbread to make the adjustment. Another “nothing special” player in Marc Tierney rounds out the likely starters in the back, and the depth isn’t great either. In goal, another England prospect, Declan Rudd, sits behind former Tim Howard ball boy Dean Ruddy, which in addition to raising a host of jokes about last names creates more concerns about teams with mediocre defenders and very average keepers.

Best Case: The goals keep coming. Grant Holt doesn’t find a second rise in competition to be too overwhelming at the age of thirty. Elliott Bennett shines and loanees Kyle Naughton and Richie de Laet prove their big-club pedigree is worth its salt by solidifying concerns behind the midfield. The club starts strongly, building on a very impressive run of form in the preseason. Cup runs are short, but mostly because the manager is astute enough to know home points are the thing and the occasional draws on the road will be enough. A 13th isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Worst Case: One of two sides in this portion of the TSG preview who could still see the drop. Holt can’t adjust to another step up in competition. Injuries expose the gulf in quality between the starters and reserves. Attractive football from width becomes choppy football without a top flight forward after the jump. Ruddy shows why David Moyes was afraid to play him in anything but the Carling Cup, and costs the Canaries a few points on howlers. Relegation.

Our Guess: Fifteenth, thanks to a fine manager whose star is rising and an astute transfer window where money was well spent, as the temptation to acquire a brand name player was passed over in order to alleviate club needs. That’s how you stay up these days.

West Bromwich Albion

Professor Proletariat back where he belongs for a full campaign...

Last Year: Roy Hodgson’s well-documented implosion at Liverpool was West Brom’s renaissance (and Liverpool’s, come to that), as the Baggies turned a season seemingly destined for relegation into one of the more compelling stories of the campaign, earning more points than more than half the teams in the league from February onward.

The season included two signature victories—a stunning 3-2 win at the Emirates in September that proved to be an omen of Arsenal’s goalkeeping woes to come, and a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in April, only two months and change removed from the end of the Hodgson experiment on the red side of Merseyside.

Summer Additions: More than anyone brought in—the Baggies can rest their laurels on who didn’t escape the Hawthorns.

Nigerian forward Peter Odemwingie- MVP of nearly every EPL fantasy champion and one of the most electrifying players in the Premiership as winter turned to spring last season, did not depart despite high-profile suitors such as Juventus circling.

Captain Chris Brunt (Editor’s note: This guy is scintillating) whose season on a personal level reflected the rollercoaster ride of West Brom’s season, re-signed despite interests from the likes of Everton and Liverpool.

Ben Foster was an essential addition as well following the surprising departure of Scott Carson for Bursaspor in Turkey. Roy Hodgson being Roy Hodgson, the signing of Fulham man and Hodgson favorite Zoltan Gera should surprise no one—what will be surprising is if Gera has anything left in the tank. Hodgson claims there is more money to spend, but if any additional moves are made, they likely won’t be head-turning names. Instead, Hodgson has suggested shoring up a defense that was porous at critical moments times is his priority, so look for any additional signees to fall into that category.

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EPL Season Preview: Part I: Hey You Down There

*Editor’s note: With this piece, TSG welcomes Neil Blackmon into the fold. Neil will be covering the EPL and the USMNT for TSG going forward.
Welcome Neil.*

"Carlton's" got his groove back early this season....two deposits for Nani on Community Shield Day.

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW: PART ONE

[Note: removed a thank you to TSG, not necessary Neil, but you’re welcome.]

Introductions aside—this piece is the first of a four-part series where TSG attempts to preview the 2011-12 Barclay’s Premier League season. Hopefully the series will create a healthy and fascinating discussion about what should be a banner year for England’s top division. Let’s get started.

The curtain opened on a new English Premier League season this Sunday in the traditional way, with the FA Community Shield fixture at Wembley. Usually a formality with a trophy at the end whose only reward for viewers is the end of a long summer away from English football, this year audiences globally received a treat of a Manchester derby, won by the Red Devils on a Nani goal shortly before Phil Dowd was set to whistle for penalties.

In a way, it was a telling opener–odd for a game that is typically contested as a glorified friendly–one with two sides with eyes on multiple prizes this year trying to send an early message to the other—a “We’ll be here all year” kind of message—the kind that is particularly gripping when it involves bitter rivals.

Early on, it appeared City were delivering the stronger message to the Red Devils: our backline is still formidable, pricy Joleon Lescott still has a good campaign or two in him, and our midfield is just as capable of sustaining multiple competition success as yours.

Oh by the way: we don’t need Aguero and Tevez to stare you down.

But City are still City, or so Manchester United’s response indicated, and it was a particularly compelling response in so much as United responded to the 2-0 halftime deficit with its own youth—Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and surprise England call-up Danny Welbeck. Giggs? Giggs?

There were other interesting tales Sunday at Wembley too. Will Spain international David De Gea succumbed to the pressure that saw Tim Howard move south on the isle to Everton?

For City?

They retreat to Eastlands knowing they can stand toe-to-toe with their bitter rivals sans Tevez and Sergio Aguero,  but there must be  concern about the momentary collapse of the typically steady Vincent Kompany, who had a “Jay DeMerit against Ghana type” space out moment on Rooney’s late clearance that freed Nani and sealed City’s fate.

Manchester City will review its stable of young strikers as well.

Despite a goal, Edin Dzeko was average at best, missing a free header from close range just before the Nani winner.

The EPL version of Drago vs. Clubber Lang

And of course Mario Balotelli.

The Hanley Ramirez of English soccer (his talent is gargantuan, his effort and desire is beyond shameful), was no more than a warm body on the pitch for an hour before being mercifully replaced by Gareth Barry.

All in all, a far more fascinating curtain raiser than what we usually get—and hope that’s a signal of intent about the season to come.

Our preview turns away from two Champions League sides and plummets to the bottom of an English Premier League that is increasingly becoming more competitive, at least from spots 7-20.

Last year was the first year in recent memory any number of nine teams were concerned about relegation entering April, and things shouldn’t be much different this year, as (mostly new, and a handful American) owners have grown increasingly desperate to maintain their economic status in the Barclay’s Premier League cashcow. And while old-timers lament the end of the blue-collar game, fans the world over can finally tune and expect increasingly competive battles week in and week out, as parity rules the day. With that in mind, here are previews for five sides TSG expects to battle relegation in the coming campaign.

FIVE WHO’LL FIGHT RELEGATION

Wigan Athletic

Last Year: Hugo Rodellega scored late, late, late in the spring English afternoon against Stoke City and your friendly World Cup analyst Roberto Martinez’s men narrowly avoided the drop, earning eight points in the final month.

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Michael Bradley: Trying To Reclaim MB90 Status

Bulletin July 2012: Michael Bradley to Roma.

MB90 with a Gatorade and “smile” circa a DCU Reserves vs. Metrostars match in October 2005.

May Update:

What’s changed since we did this piece below in March:

• The Resurgence of Stan Petrov at Aston Villa

The skinny: After coming back from injury, the captain increasingly found the pitch for Villa as they navigated away from relegation waters. Petrov’s calmness on the ball and “been through it before” resume certainly contributed to his name being on the first eleven team sheet more often than not through the first half of 2011.

Whereas it though Petrov might be encouraged to move on from Villa at year’s end, it now looks like a sure bet that he will finish out his contract, training his days at The Barn.

• Today, Nigel Reo Coker and Robert Pires were released by Villa.

The skinny: Pires was done-for well before today at Villa. He rarely contributed through the 2nd half of the campaign.

As for Reo-Coker, it appears that the demand for his services is paramount to what Villa was willing to ante up to procure his services. Very interesting indeed and it moves up Michael Bradley now to 3rd or 4th in the pecking order, depending on how one evaluates it.

The depth chart in the central midfield may look like this: 1) Jean Makoun 2) Stan Petrov 3) Fabian Delph (for more on Delph see below) 4) Michael Bradley

Delph, a star in the making for England, will certainly be given more chances in 2011.

• Ashely Young and Stuart Downing are both “plotting their escapes” from Villa.

The skinny: Ashley Young is rumored to sign for Manchester United (oh my) on Monday. While Stuart Downing this past week did an abrupt you turn and said that he would play out his current contract with the club.

Downing’s future is more of a mystery, while Reo Coker sees assured of moving to a stronger side, be it in the EPL or elsewhere.

The impact here? How will Villa uses the funds secured from moving Ashley Young. With Mark Albrighton in reserve, they may not opt for another winger and it’s well known that Houllier loves his central midfielders.

• Borussia Moenchengladbach escape relegation on Wednesday with a win over Bochum.

The skinny: Bradley of course went on loan from “Bo Munchen” in January to Villa. Many different reasons why the transfer ensued–American media reports say he put in for a transfer while German reports are mixed.

Either way Gladbach can stomach the return of Bradley from a roster cost perspective in 2011-2012, though (thanks to @amfid on Twitter for the next part where I originally erred), Gladbach Sports Director Max Eberl said in an interview that there is no way back for Bradley.

Additionally, Havard Nordtveit (20) and  Roman Neustädter (23) doing well in the dual holding roles and Gladback reportedly seeking a new player for this position in young Matthias Zimmermann (2009 U-17 euro champion with Germany) a talent from 2nd Bundesliga team KSC set to join Gladbach in the center.

From fans that have cascaded through TSG, the sentiment seems to be that they want Bradley to transfer and get a decent price for him.

Going into June:

Going into June, Michael Bradley will be a key figure for the US in their pursuit of Gold Cup victory. Incredulously, Bradley has played nearly as many international minutes thus far in 2011 as he has club minutes.

A strong showing in the Gold Cup would help Bradley, but most of the audience for the tourney is here in the States, not abroad.

Best bet for 23-year-old Bradley? Back to the Bundesliga or slotting in with a mid-to-bottom table side EPL side if Villa declines to make the move for him, perhaps a Wigan. Roberto Martinez obviously did the American World Cup coverage for ESPN and saw quite a bit of the Bob Bradley’s son.

Wild card? Let me toss out Everton, long with a storied connection to Americans as well as rumors of Jack Rodwell moving on. Bradley would be a fine complement there to the possession, less-defensive oriented hubs of Fellaini and Arteta.

Our bet right now? Villa makes a short term (2 years?) play for his services. With Reo-Coker out and Bradley already familiar with the system, Bradley would seem like a good bet in the midfield committee for the Villians. Villa has until May 31st to decide if they want to accept Gladbach’s transfer terms.

That said, it sure looks like Gerard Houllier is jettisoning Americans at the club with Brad Friedel rumored out to Liverpool and other realms, with Brad Guzan likely moving to a Championship side and with Eric Lichaj saying he wants to stay at Leeds.

Below from March 6th…

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Always determined: Michael Bradley (photo credit: Matt Mathai)

Much has been made in the American media about the growth, and recent plight, of US international Michael Bradley.

A polarizing figure to say the least.

2007 USMNT camp: Tough guys..

A wavy, but abundantly positive-trending, career has seen Bradley selected into MLS…by his father (present USMNT coach Bob Bradley, then NY-NJ MetroStars manager) as a precocious and brooding 16-year-old. Bradley soon after took to Europe and ended up scoring more goals in a season overseas than any American, 16 league goals for Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen in 2007-08 (of course, this record is currently threatened by Giuseppi Rossi in La Liga who notched his 15th for Villarreal in their stunning 3-1 loss to Atletico Madrid this past Saturday.)

Upon his Dutch success, a big move to Bundesliga side Borussia Moechengladbach (Bo’Munchen) was in the offing and Bradley became a fixture in their line-up during his time there (despite some clashes with the coaches).

Bradley’s fixture status even extends to the USMNT national team where he played all possible minutes for the US in South Africa. This after being one of three players through the 2010 World Cup qualifying to play 1300 minutes or more for the States (the others were Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra). Bradley and company played 12% more time than anyone else including stalwarts Oguchi Onyewu (injured in the final game of qualifying) and Tim Howard.

The case in point?

Michael Bradley is resilient, oft-not-injuried, critical component of any team he plays on and his pedigree shows an upward moving level to his play.

That notion makes Bradley’s next few months at his club Aston Villa all the more compelling.

Having been transferred to Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa side in the January window–until this past Wednesday in the FA Cup–Bradley had not played more than 45 minutes or started for club or country in 2011, astounding for a player who seems more and more effective the faster and faster his pitch odometer revolves.

American media loves to use and re-use the statement that wherever he has went, Bradley has eventually earned starter’s minutes and made an impact.

Man, Barry Bannan is like Deco-tiny, huh? MB90 being a bad Citizen this past Wednesday.

However, while it appears Bradley will stick at Villa Park–his current playing time hiccup more a matter of game fitness than ability in this writer’s opinion–the battle for consistent and exclusive starter’s minutes may be less about how he plays and more about the dynamics outside of his control, specifically player contracts and manager tinkering.

The crowded Villa centerfield has no less than eight players that could theoretically play for the 1st team or have played for it.

Let’s take a look at each of these players, dissect their situation and round out with Junior Bradley’s playtime prognostication:

First, let’s dismiss two of these players outright:

The Non-Contenders

It’s a good thing Ireland isn’t there, or else with fellow dome waxer MB90 it could get awfully confusing on the inside….

Stephen Ireland: The highly talented Irishman arrived at Villa Park with a bunch of quid in a swap for James “I wish I never met Steve Cherundolo” Milner under the reign of previous manager Martin O’Neill. Once Houllier arrived, Ireland appeared to fall out of favor and both sides mutually agreed to part ways for the rest of the season as Ireland join the Tynesiders on loan through the end of the campaign. Said Houllier at the time, “Once a player wants to go, he goes.”

Ireland is out of contract this year and his chance of re-upping at Villa I would put at no higher than 0%.

Isiaih Osbourne: England youth international Isiaih Osbourne appears to be moving on as well as Summer 2011 dawns. The 23-year-old is currently on-loan at Sheffield Wednesday–where they’ve been pleased with his play–but the same can’t be said for the Mothership.

Osbourne–who was arrested, but not charged for suspicion to rob in 2009 further muddling his shot at Villa– has been loaned out four times by the senior side.

Despite being 6’2”, 23-years-old and clearly having some talent, Osbourne appears destined to move on in the Summer when his contract expires as well.

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That leaves six, for now. Let’s handicap the rest, starting with may appear the lesser of the threats:

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EPL: Relegation Day: Who Stays, Who Goes

"You and your buddies are going down, man!"

How are you feeling–better how do you take responsibility today–if you’re a player like Morgan Gamst Pedersen. The frosty-tipped Norwegian has been at Blackburn’s Elwood Park since 2004. He recently–2010–re-upped for four more.

Yet, if a confluence of circumstances shake out a certain today, Pederson could see his life in Lancashire turned upside down.

Down to the Championship–not likely, but still–will he need to be transferred or will the club move other personal to accommodate his contract–on the larger side.

Pederson, just one of the players whose next year at least will be decided by today’s action.

The other clubs looking to stay afloat on Premiership.

Look Back: Clint Dempsey’s give-and-go scoop shot against Liverpool keeps Fulham up in 2007. Long considered the most important goal by an American in club play.

Drop you commentary here and vote below.

Gareth Bale Wins PFA Player Of The Year, More

Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale was selected by Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year. The award is voted on by the players.

Bale pressing forward...

The other nominees were Charlie Adam, Samir Nasri, Scott Parker, Carlos Tevez, Rafael van der Vaart and Nemanja Vidic.

While Bale sparkled–more so in Champion’s League play–TSG would have given a vote and the award to United’s Vidic, the perennial stalwart of United’s backline who balanced multiple partners in again providing shutdown defense.

The Premier League Team of the Year as selected was:

Goalie: Edwin Van Der Saar (Manchester United)

Robbed?

DEF: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Ashley Cole (Chelsea)

MID: Nani (Manchester United), Samir Nasri (Arsenal), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

FW: Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

Bullets:

• In this eat-crow segment, TSG probably would have went with Luka Modric, Charlie Adam or Scotty Parker over Jack Wilshere who came on late in the campaign but was not a different maker early. Sounds like a hometown pick there.

• Good to see Edwin Van Der Saar recognized as always, nobody marshals their defense better than the Dutchman.

• Odd that Berbatov is selected as Sir Alex Ferguson has acknowledged that Javier Hernandez has passed him on the depth chart. A case could be made for Peter Odemwingie in that spot–seriously.

• Wasn’t impressed by either of Sagna’s or Ashley Cole’s campaigns this year. Thankfully the overrated Patrice Evra was not the option. I would have went with Leighton Baines at one of the cornerback spots–great defense, solid free kicks and 11 assists to boot.

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