Archive for the ‘EPL’ Category

Wednesday Factors: Lilly, Bedoya, More..

Seems like a lot of news for a new year, no?

Lilly ran away from defenders and everyone in the stats department...

• Bigger than MJ….seriously

Kristine Lilly has just announced her retirement from the US Women’s National Team this morning after 6,435,943 caps.

Kidding, after 392…that’s just amazing and in fact more than any other player, man or women, in FIFA history.

We caught up with Kristine earlier this year. Interview is here.

• The Ambassador to Brazil now in Sweden

A few moments ago, Ale Bedoya tweeted that he was on his way back to Orebro Sweden.

Bedoya responds that his club wanted him back for preseason. He’s due back in camp on January 15th.

Preston Zimmerman, one hell of a European story...

• Running the Mainz maze

MLS Soccer caught up with our good friend Preston Zimmerman, who after moving to the midfield, is now suiting up at righback on occasion. You get a little bit of insight into German football–and the value of Jozy Altidore–when Zimmerman comments in the exchange that he was moved because Mainze like their strikers to have bigger frames than his.

You can read more on Preston here.

If you are new to our publication and haven’t read about Preston’s amazing experiences the past two years, you can begin here.

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A Murky Outlook for American Keepers At Villa

This is the second guest column by Preston Petri

Gerard Houllier, contemplating changes in front of the mesh at Villa Park...while higher-ups likely contemplate his...

Recently, Aston Villa of the Barclays Premier League have followed in the footsteps of the old Fullhamerica teams by integrating former and current USMNT players into their first team fold. There’s been a lot of talk and praise for the young American defender Eric Lichaj, who has recently been thrown into his first ever two Premier League starts. Its exciting for most USMNT fans to see a young prospect in a right back position which desperately needs a future in Bob Bradley’s side, however one of the most debated positions at Aston Villa, also happens to encompass a couple of Yanks.

Brad Friedel and Brad Guzan, or Big Brad and Little Brad, as they are referred to in the Villa circles, have been the top two goalkeepers at the club for over two seasons, with each of them putting in some impressive as well and forgettable performances. However with Villa in such a terrible run of form as of late, every position, including the goalkeeper has been put under scrutiny by fans and critics alike.

Whereas American fans could always count on an American being between the sticks when they turned on a Villa match on the tube, it appears those days (along with at least one of the Brad’s) may be numbered.

For weeks some fans have been calling for Friedel’s number one jersey to be passed to his fellow Yank understudy in Guzan, but for every fan calling for Friedel’s head, there is another just waiting to go on about how inexperienced Guzan is. It has become quite the debate on Villa fan sites, and now with the January transfer window opening and rumors and speculation flowing about, the debate has expanded.

Complicating matters further is Brad Guzan’s one-month loan to Hull City of the Championship for just a single month’s time—perhaps a lease with the option to buy–and a buzzing undercurrent that much maligned Villa skipper Gerard Houllier is poised to secure a keeper in the January window.

The netminder that has been most consistently linked to a relocation package with to Aston Villa is Rangers keeper Alan McGregor. McGregor, who of course is a teammate with USMNT midfielder Maurice Edu, has been impressive in recent seasons and quite naturally is getting looks at by English clubs. It certainly isn’t a debate that can be settled in a day, or an article for that matter, however let’s take a look at all three options. (assuming McGregor is a realistic transfer target for Gerard Houllier and Aston Villa)

Friedel, looking over his shoulder for oncoming keepers on Trinity Road?

Brad Friedel

Big Brad has been an ever present in the Aston Villa lineup ever since he and Guzan arrived there in the summer of 2008. In Brad’s first Premier League campaign with Villa, he was arguably their player of the season, starting all 38 of their matches, collecting 13 clean sheets and making 124 saves, while Guzan rode the pine with the occasional start in a non league match. The next season (2009/2010) Big Brad continued his impressive displays by again starting all 38 Premier League matches and making 126 saves while raising his clean sheet tally to 15. Guzan again rode the pine in every league match, and featured only in cup matches. You could perhaps make an argument that the Villa defense that season, which ranked second behind Chelsea for the majority of the year, helped make Brad look better, however defensive organization starts with the goalkeeper, and Friedel is one of the best.

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It Appears Sylvie Is The Most Talented Van Der Vaart…But This Video Doesn’t Prove It

Thank goodness, John Terry isn't your teammate Rafael...

Wait…hold on….

Okay, Miss TSG is not around the corner.

Let it be said right here that Rafael Van Der Vaart is the sidekick to his beautiful wife Sylvie.

Sylvie, a model by trade, at 32 has a few pretty notable “accomplishments” affixed to her kit:

• First, being number one on nearly every WAG list on the Internet. Look it up, I dare you to find more than two instances where she’s not at the top of the list.

• Two…and seriously….beating breast cancer by stomaching a grueling chemotherapy treatment….and then having the courage–as model nonetheless–to go out in public with a shaved head and a wig.

• Coming back to be a hair model for L’Oreal…

• And finally having somehow figuring into the best computer-aided sure to go viral video on the new year.

Christmas on Tuesday: EPL Docket

Nearly forgot about the Premiership match-ups midweek today. All about to go down.

As good as he is, this is not a face you want to put on program guides


Villa v. Tevezchester City

Nothing like sending a message of cluelessness to your egregiously overpriced team like making Carlos Tevez the captain last week after he flip-flopped on a homesickness claim to remain at City.

That said, what does the fact that Tevez is so invaluable to the team say about your wild spending on other players over the past more than two years. Where have you gone Joleon Lescott, Roque Santa Cruz and Emmanuel Adebayor? Buyer beware should these names come across your transfer sheet in January.

Meanwhile Americans will be hoping for an encore performance from Eric Lichaj? After containing Gareth Bale this past weekend though, Lichaj gets the start against promising England youngster Adam Johnson. Another audition.

Omar Cummings arrives shortly.

The Boredom Bowl: Stoke City vs. Fulham

Precisely what this game would be for US fans if it didn’t include Clint Dempsey.

Fulham are fighting relegation. Surprised?

Stoke City…okay forget it, next.

"I'm running a bomb route, then I'm going to post you up and you're going to be worried."

Spurs v. Newcastle

Now this will be a good match-up. This one previews like an NFL match-up.

Tottenham Hotspur are doing a good job of spreading the field and incising the opponent with checkdowns (Alan Huttons crosses), fly routes (Gareth Bale barreling down the left) and screen passes (scatback Rafael Van Der Vaart finding defensive holes you didn’t know your team had.)

Newcastle’s defense batters you all day long and then it’s “hike it up to Andy Carroll from a Joey Barton bomb or pray for rain.” Did you know all of Carroll’s goals have been assisted by Barton. You hear that ‘Arry?

West Brom vs. The Remnants of the Artist Formerly Known as Big Sam

Chris Brunt, most underrated player in the Premiership. Bears repeating.

Onward as the left winger is not in the line-up today due to a knock. (Can’t do a proper preview here…I’ve got like 4 West Brom games on DVR…for some reason I really like watching that team.)

Birmingham vs. Manchester United

The Blues are notoriously stingy up at St. Andrews. This will be a good game. I can’t say it will be pretty to watch, but it’ll be a close one.

Alex McLeish’s crew–after having their Everton game postponed–are also well rested coming into this one. It’s got the making of, potentially, Manchester United’s first loss of the season.

Birmingham however will need to something, anything out of striker Cameron Jerome– the biggest disappointment of the EPL season thus far–to keep Manchester United’s defense honest.


Arsenal Make Chelsea Blue

Arsenal vanquished Chelsea at the Emirates on Monday, 3-1, marking the first time that Arsene Wenger left the pitch with a smile on his face in more than 2 years against the Blues.

Arsenal pressured high up the pitch, using surprise starter Theo Walcott, to expose Chelsea poor ball management out of the back. Two of Arsenal’s three goals came on gaffes in their central third, but that might have been a chain reaction as Chelsea missing Nicolas Anelka due to a bum knee and Didier Drogba, due to playing defense continually in his own defensive third, had no outlet over the top.

By the time Chelsea inserted Gael Kakuta to attempt to stretch Arsenal defense vertically it was too late, despite an Drogba-to-Ivanovic set play score. It didn’t help that Kakuta looked very much his 19-years-of-age.

The game was not without some questionable play from Arsenal who saw Robin Van Persie dispossessed in his few possessions and Jack Wilshere continue his uneven play. However, stellar play from the captain Cesc Fabregas and stand-in center back Johan Djourou far outweighed the few subpar home time performances by Arsenal as they dominated possession and the rest of the score sheet.

Notes: Lichaj’s Start, Gooch, Celtic(s), Stu, More

Lichaj...doing some serious clubbing too....(photo credit: Matt Mathai)

The Big Nasty, Eric Lichaj, acquitted himself well in a 2-1 Aston Villa loss to Tottenham Hotspur going up against one of the best wingers in the Prem on Sunday, Gareth Bale.

You can ballpoint it that Lichaj is at least second on the rightback depth chart for 2014 at this point and likely 2011 as well (despite some folks at ESPN suggesting Jonathan Spector already has the starting 2014 spot locked-up. In our best Discovery Channel voice, when you don’t do your research….critics attack.)

Villa faithful give Lichaj MOTM.


• Rumor: Calling this a rumor right now. A friend’s email to us out of Mexico suggests Benny Feilhaber will sign for Cruz Azul this week. Not a “report” until there is another confirmed source.

• While Freddie Ljundberg might head to Celtic in the Scottish Premier League, word is the US star of the 2010 Milk Cup, Adrian Ruelas is set to sign with the storied franchise come the January transfer window. Again, we need confirmation here before this is more than a rumor.

• Multiple reports have Oguchi Onyewu FC Twente-bound in Jan. Not surprising given Twente’s Michel Preud’homme coached Gooch at Standard Leige less than two years ago.

• Stu Holden went 90, again, as Bolton beat-up on West Brom, 2-nil. We chatted with the great tactical writer Jonathan Wilson last week, who had this to say about Holden’s game.

• Arsenal v. Chelsea, Monday….excellent.

• Edson Buddle now linked with Sheffied United as well as Birmingham….getting interesting…

• A little more like it here. At least if Manchester City is going to overpay for player they might as well go young and home grown and create some flexibility. Man City through the acquisitions of Milner, Adam Johnson, Joe Hart and more doing a great job of stockpiling young Brits. Now word comes Mancini wants Andy Carroll.

Holden, #1 In The Readers’ Ratings

Holden, loved by everyone.

After every game, we as fans love to go through the starting 11 and the substitutes that come off the bench and give everyone ratings. Newspapers and online publications do the same, and I for one immediately gravitate to this section.

It’s a great forum for discussion and debate, and rarely do people completely agree.

Usually on a 1-10 scale, the numbers are meaningless. Aside from 1 being absolutely terrible and 10 amazing (2 numbers I’ve never seen given), the handing out of player ratings is arbitrary. Most journalists who give out these numbers tend to say it’s a quick after thought to round up a piece, or drive readers to view the report.

I for one, have never seen a “key” or explanation as to what each number represents. Does a goal automatically give someone a rating of 6 and higher? Often a casual fan watching on TV might have given Claude Makalele a 5, as that would seem average, and since he doesn’t really do anything spectacular, it would seem about right.

As all we soccer experts know, Claude Makalele was the cog and link up in the Real Madrid sides of the early naughts and Chelsea after that. He was often voted the MVP by his fellow players, because he was the guy that made the engine run, made everyone else look better and gave recognition to a role often left unsung.

Celebrating his goal against Wolves.

So a one game rating of 9 does not make a player Lionel Messi, and maybe they just happened to score a goal, but were pretty useless aside. A rating of 4 does not make a keeper terrible, just cause they let in 3.

What is a clear indication of a players worth in the fans and journalists eyes, is consistency, and in the other Guardian’s, reader match ratings after each league game, they rank Stuart Holden Number 1 (WITH AN AVERAGE OF 7.4!!!!). It’s a good and interesting read, and the final 11 in a 4-4-2 formation may not be the exact top 11 of the season so far (another topic of great discussion debate), but one would have a hard time arguing that these 11 were not having incredible seasons, and the fans have seen  that.

Is he the US midfielder the number 1 player in the premiership so far this season? Probably not, but he’s certainly up there.

Congrats to Stuart Holden and the other 10 for an ultimately meaningless accolade, but one we as fans are proud off!

The Guardian U.K. readers ratings so far…

G – Richard Kingson (Blackpool); D- Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Leighton Baines (Everton); M- Samir Nasri (Arsenal), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Luka Modric (Tottenham), Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham); F- Johan Elmander (Bolton), Andy Carroll (Newcastle).


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