This Week’s Definition Of the EPL’s Big Five

This Premier League weekend had too much to offer in terms of action. It was almost impossible to keep up with actions and reactions the world over. How about the big five?

Arsenal: Vintage
The Arsenal win over Chelsea was the classic case of being run over by the better team on the day. Arsenal simply ran Chelsea over, scored those goals via running faster than the sluggish Blues and ran away with the win. You can now understand how the Gunners scored 3 against a Chelsea side, in 45 minutes.

Special Credit to Mesut Ozil (for losing Kante) and Alexis Sanchez for that third goal. Even more special credit to Mustafi and Koscielny for giving it their all to keep a clean sheet. It was an amazing performance which made Conte look so ordinary and sent Kante disappearing. Speaking of Chelsea…

Chelsea: Sixes and Sevens
The last time I saw a Chelsea defense this confused was against PSG. Any Conte-led side is usually known for their water-tight defense. But this side seemed to let open the floodgates between the 10th and the 15th minutes of the first half.

Looking past Cahill’s gift, how about this for a full comprehension of the disarray in the side:

You’ll be wondering what those three Chelsea players were doing attacking just one player in the upper part of that image. You must also be wondering how Chelsea just caved in dramatically, right? I think I’ve got some suggestions.

One: Maybe it’s because Michael Jackson is now the HNIC, not Antonio Conte.

14470580_1183267031748138_1814759129664453186_n

Two: Maybe because Chelsea, according to Sky Sports, have lost 38% of their games in which John Terry did not play. Or maybe, according to Ivanovic, it was because the players failed to follow the manager’s instructions. Who knows!

Liverpool: Five Star
It’s been said that a team has to make mistakes or errors before the other can win. But what happens when the opposition is just more than you can handle? We’ll have to know what exactly can be too much for a Premier League side to handle. To do that, let’s see the Match Stats via BBC:

screenshot_2016-09-26-13-14-39-1

A 74% ball possession by the other team is already headache enough. You can’t do much without the ball. Add to that 32 shots, (the highest total by any side, in a game, in the Premier League this season), and you can already see the big picture! In addition, according to Mirror, Liverpool created 24 chances during the game. Rampant doesn’t get any better than that!

Manchester City: Unfamiliar
Fans of Manchester City must have had a pretty battle on their hands so far, as regards getting to fully understand their new gaffer and his methods so far. Pep has turned City inside out. And this has rattled all sides they’ve played against so far this season. Except Swansea.

Playing against them midweek seemed to give them this strange courage to go all out against the Cityzens. They were bold enough to come back from conceding an early goal, by scoring one of theirs almost immediately. Guardiola’s men were obviously rattled! They looked forlorn. Even though they eventually won, it may just be the beginning of things to come, with Spurs up next weekend and Kevin de Bruyne picking an injury.

Manchester United: Pogba + 4 In One Half
How else do you silence your critics? Those loud bags who have been running their mouth about your bad patch of form? Well, if you’re Jose Mourinho, you just make one hell of a tactical change to your team. Bench your captain then ask the rest of the team to score 4 unreplied goals, in the first half, against the current league champs.

What if you’re a certain Paul Pogba, who has been called just an expensive Seyi Olofinjana? Whose goals seem to have deserted him? Well, you just bully your way through the opposition’s defense, connect your head with your teammate’s corner kick and score your first English Premier League goal via a header. Then you run off to the corner flag, confused at first, on which celebrations to display, before choosing to just stare down those haters.

Then of course, share a dab with a teammate.

screenshot_2016-09-24-16-04-34-1

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

Dear Pep Guardiola, You’ve Started A Constant Battle In This Fan’s Head

You see, there’s this constant battle in my head…

screenshot_2016-07-10-21-53-14-1

Since this new English Premier League season kicked off, I’ve had this “secret love affair” with Manchester City.

Not that my admiration for the club doesn’t date back to the ages where I watched names like Stephen Ireland in midfield, Richards in defense, SWP and C. Tevez don the sky blue jersey. No.

I’ve been in love with the Citizens since the first time I was opportuned to fully understand the goings-on in the almighty Premier League. Of course, I have that HITV coup on DSTV to thank.

But Liverpool and Manchester United were all struggling for my attention. At the time, I was seeking an English football club as a second love to my dear AC Milan. The EPL was always in my face. Better to choose one and get it over with.

The “noisy neighbours” caught my attention and I picked interest in them, especially when those Arab Boys with their “Arab Money” *in Puff Daddy’s voice* came to town. Alas! The one team I chose to support started winning stuff, and attracting big names… names like Josep “Pep” Guardiola.

When Pep was announced as new manager of the Cityzens in February 2016, I had mixed feelings. “A legend is coming to a club whose history isn’t as trophy-laden as its cross-town rivals’,” I thought to myself. “What will he bring to this English table?” “And how about Granpa Pellegrini?” I had already taken to this South American and his approach. He was old but he was good.

At this time, my love for this Kompany of Blues residing in Manchester, was at an all-time high. I’d be caught at viewing centres, playing the lone wolf, screaming in support of this Mancunian side. Of course other Nigerians found it weird (this is a norm if you’re a Nigerian and you’re not a fan of either Abrahamovic’s Blues or the Gunners or Chelsea or the Reds or the Red Devils or Barca or Real Madrid. Some Rossoneris & Juve faithfuls still find life hard).

“This has got to be the farthest a man can go, as regards loving a football club,” I thought. But I didn’t know (or expect) what the Philosopher was bringing along with him.

Of course I was well acquainted with his Catalan achievements. I saw a little of his exploits in Germany; the tinkering with formations, player positions and all. But I wasn’t well prepared for what happened after his arrival, even though I knew what he was capable of.

screenshot_2016-08-15-09-34-31-1

From his first game-in-charge, it was obvious this one has changed the whole system; turned it upside down! The new kids shone brightly, Tasende and co. The goalkeepers now preferred passing the ball to the nearest man, instead of shooting the ball.

New football season, even more changes. The mesmerizers retained their titles; Silva and Kevin de Bruyne were still as slick as ever. But Fernandinho had stopped being the kind of player Yaya Toure used to be. No bombing foward. He was a full time defensive midfielder now. What?

Aguero was now more terrifying. Sterling came alive again. An aggressive Nolito joined the fray. Joe Hart was all of a sudden the third-choice goalie. Yaya Toure disappeared. Names like Nasri, Mangala, Bony became surplus to requirements.

Obviously Pep was more interested in building his own team. This of course irked my curiousity. His first EPL game against Sunderland almost ended in a disaster. And I remember watching Man. City like I’ve never seen the team play before. ALL THE PLAYERS PLAYED STRANGELY! It was so confusing!

That sense of urgency, familiar with Pellegrini’s side was gone. No more counter-attacks. There were now more short passes and a three-man backline. Yaya and Kompany were ably replaced. But no shots from outside the opponent’s 18-yard box.

Now, this is where the constant battle happens: After watching for a while, a team that has been overly dependent on Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, “outside” shots, a poor Sterling, sharp counter, it has been a pleasant surprise, disruptive too, to see how much has changed, and how fast they’ve changed!

It still makes my head swirl, Sterling’s newly-installed positioning system. Though I’m still unfazed by Aguero’s lazy man-marking techniques, Kevin de Bruyne’s new-found technical abilities and Kolarov’s flexibility has been overwhelming! What’s more: Pep’s unpredictability just brings even more surprises every matchday.

You see, there’s this constant battle in my head… a battle between the old Manchester City and this new Manchester City. The old one made me fall deeper in love. This new one has had me curiously finding even better ways to love a football club.

screenshot_2016-09-24-17-53-35

Pep’s report card, for now, has a 10/10 score on it. He hasn’t even drawn any competitive game so far, not to talk of losing one. He has been that good. And when you’re that good, everybody gets bored fast, and quickly start looking forward to the day you’ll drop points.

I’m looking forward to it too!

But until then, Pep Guardiola has started a battle in my head. And it may take a while before one-side will defeat the other. As for my dear head, well, I’m not so sure. This may be the one battle that’ll deepen my love for Manchester City.

City! City!! Manchester City!!!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

Pogba: The Football Anonymous

Balon d’OR or Salon d’OR: Paul Pogba is in the eye of the storm after failing to live up to expectations. Photo creds: Twitter

Imagine a field full of footballers. Now, instead of a ball, there is a microphone and, like an Aa (alcoholic anonymous) meeting, each player has to introduce himself before he talks.

Pogba is up. He starts by saying, “Hi, my name is Paul Pogba. I’m a footballer.” You get the drift? 

Midfield players, in times past, have been compared to almost anything in sight. You name it! As a midfielder, you could be a rock (Makalele Kante), a Bentley (well Bentley) or even a magician (Ronaldinho, Zidane).

Speaking of midfielders being magicians,  apparently, there appears to be a new breed of magicians. I’m not talking pulling a rabbit out of a hat or some fancy trick that captivates the audience. I’m talking the disappearing acts, mastery of illusion type of thing, the “now you see me, now you don’t” type of magic.

In the famous words of a wise old professor (ahem Wenger), if you cost 100million, you better be able to play the value. Has Pogba shown the value, even in flashes? NO? If you’re a player bought for a world record fee, you better play like Ronaldo or, at least win two Champions League trophies in three years. 

You better settle in and don’t be a source of joy to opposition fans. You better score week in week out and not have more hairstyles than goals. You had better help the team win and not be compared to a dabbing Seyi Olofinjana. You’d better be on course to be the world’s best and not the world’s most expensive joke. You’d better help your team win and not be missing in matches.

You can’t cost 6 Eric Diers, 8 Charlie Austins, 4.5 Gundogans, 186 Riyad Mahrezs’, 14 Casemieros, 4 Toni Kroos, 8 Nampalys Mendys, a hundred Jamie Vardys’, 3 N’golo Kantes and still not be able to lace Joe Allen’s boot at the moment… It’s preposterous. It’s disgraceful. It’s abysmal!
You are the world most expensive player, the button of jokes. You become anonymous in games and have no meaningful impact whatsoever. The only real contribution is the amount you have made for United in short sales. That’s Pogba.

Juventus must be very happy with this piece of business, and this is what I call the real Italian job. Replacing Pogba with a player that has already scored 3 goals in 3 games (Higuain if you’re wondering).

I love football. No I’m not a United fan but, when a player is valued a hundred million, he better make me feel privileged to watch football, lucky to be alive to watch him play. Sadly, Pogba has insulted all these. He might get better but, as a Liverpool fan, I hope not. 

Cheers!

This Week’s Definition Of the EPL’s Big Five

screenshot_2016-09-10-23-23-28-1

It’s not very often that derbies, in any football league, end without a trace of controversy in sight after the game. Well, whatever controversy there could be was quashed by the way Pep Guardiola’s men played the first half and how Jose Mourinho’s army responded in the second.

Even though there were more than enough talking points this weekend (the referees stole the show), yes, I had to start with the biggest game of the weekend. The big one.

Liverpool and both Manchester clubs impressed. Arsenal and Chelsea struggled. Now let’s take an in-depth look at each club’s performnaces over the weekend.

Arsenal: Intensive
I think the saying that, “you play at the level of your opponent,” has an iota of truth in it. Southampton came to the Emirates with a fast game plan. Redmond, Jay Rodriguez and Virgil were the fast guys.

The only way to counter them was simple: Play faster… and intensely! The intensity of the Gunners was needed to cope with the pressure of the Saints and also create something going forward. Even though a 93rd-minute penalty was needed to win the game, the Gunners gave the fans an intense display.

Chelsea: Latecomers
And for the umpteenth time this season, the Blues needed an 80-somethingth minute goal to garner points. Let’s just say it’s becoming a habit for Antonio Conte’s men. Maybe it’s some sort of game plan. Who knows!

Yes, the fans had legitimate cries as regards the officiating of this match and the performance of some of their players. That FERocious kick (okay maybe more glaring than ferocious) on Cahill? The dilemna of a bicycle kick to the head of a defender before a goal? What was Courtois thinking? But I’m sure most of them will be happy they’ve got Cesc Fabregas on whom they can always call on.

Liverpool: Spot On
I’m not sure what it is about this Klopp side but, when they turn the switch on, every other thing must bow. Yep, that’s right. I was expecting a tight game against Leicester. But the Reds had other ideas.

Yes I’ll admit I didn’t see the wide margin coming. Firmino, Lallana did run riot. There was the slight case of Sturridge but it didn’t hurt them too much this time around. Hopefully, they won’t be brought back down to earth by another shock away loss next weekend.

screenshot_2016-09-10-23-23-28-1

Manchester City: Tireless
The first half of the Manchester derby was entirely dominated by Guardiola’s men. The domination was so severe that the Red Devils needed a Bravo fumble to score. This domination looked simple on T.V.

But no domination comes just like that. Domination of a game this big involves a whole lot of running, (off and on the ball). And Pep’s men did this so effortlessly.Two men in particular gave the game their all: Kevin de Bruyne and Otamendi. Tireless attacking by the former which won a half, tireless defending by the latter which saved the other half.

screenshot_2016-09-10-23-23-47-1

Manchester United: Half-Beaten
While the world showers Guardiola with all the praise for beating Mourinho in yet another derby, a Jose Mourinho commendation is due. How he and his boys managed to survive that first half is still a mystery.

His selection let him down the entire first half and he was bold to make changes that paid off immediately in the second half. Rashford’s introduction swung the game’s pendulum in United’s favour. City may have won the game but, Manchester United won the second half by a large margin, even though they still ended the game pointless. Fair or not?

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Manchester United vs Manchester City: What The World Is Saying About The Manchester Derby

pep-guardiola-jose-mourinho

This season’s Manchester derby has been called all kinds of names already. From the “Monster Derby” to the “Mother of all clashes,” the first Mancunian derby of the 2016/2017 English Premier League season has been the talk of the town.

And why not? Any game that involves Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola locking horns is one that gets a lot of people talking. Throw a Zlatan-like spanner into the mix and you have a “Manchester Derby Fever.”

To be honest, it already feels like another El Clasico game with a red card lurking somewhere in the corner for one of Jose’s men (remember those days).

Jose and Pep have stolen the headlines (forcing Ibrahimovic to come up with an advertorial just to get some of the spotlight on himself). Everybody is talking about what who will do to outsmart the other, and win.

And so, for this post, I have searched through the internet to find out what people are saying in anticipation of the almighty Manchester derby. Here’s some of what I found out

“For me, the big games are the ones that trigger you. They’re the games everyone speaks about. I have played in many derby games, I’ve played in El Clasico, the Inter-Milan derby, Ajax and Feyenoord, which was the big one there, and PSG-Marseille. I have played in all of them, the only one I missed was this one. This is coming on Saturday and I am very well prepared, confident and focused, and there is a lot of hard work behind that. We are prepared and we are ready. We just wait for the game now.” – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“They must have studied every move and it’s going to be a beautiful show on the touchline, the pitch, everywhere. City will base their game on possession even though Guardiola has not been there for too long. Mourinho will be more practical. It’s going to be beautiful to watch, and I’ll watch it too.” – Luca Toni via Express

“We talked about it before, if City play with a false nine and that player is dropping, Pogba will have that false nine behind him, so how do you cope with that ball always going behind you? The two centre-backs won’t be able to come, because the two wingers might be inside the centre-back and the full-back. So if they put the ball in behind, you’re going to have to drop.” – Thierry Henry via SkySports

“Sergio Aguero is obviously a massive miss for City and his suspension tips the balance in United’s favour. Kelechi Iheanacho is rumoured to be replacing him and I’m sure he is capable of performing on the big stage but nobody can replace Aguero really.” – Harry Redknapp

“If any player is to score in Saturday’s
Manchester derby, it’ll be him,” said the former City midfielder. He’s a big game player and Jose Mourinho is the reason that he is at Old Trafford. As a player, Ibra oozes confidence, and Mourinho will big him up so much that he will enter the pitch on derby day feeling 15 feet tall.”
– Didi Hamann

“The height and power of United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will make Saturday a big test for City’s entire defence, not just their keeper. As I said in my analysis on The Premier League Show, United under Mourinho get the ball into the box far earlier and far more often than they were doing last season. This season they have already made 53 crosses from open play, compared to 29 in the final three games of last season. The reason they are doing that is their aerial threat, not just through Ibrahimovic but also the physical prowess of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini when balls are delivered into the box. They will play the same way against City – looking to get the ball out wide and then crossing it into the danger areas for someone to put their head on it.” – Alan Shearer via BBC

“Let’s try not to derive too much meaning from this encounter. It’s just too early, not only in the season as a while, but also the new managers’ Mancunian history, to take any sign as symbolic of either’s spell in their new surroundings. Both stories of José and Pep in the north west of England are unwritten, not even in progress, so it’s impossible to take out any judgment from this game as definitive.” – Tancredi Palmeri via WhoScored

Well, I think I saved the best quote for last! Regardless of the hype that has gone on before this game (round of applause for the English media please), both managers, Mourinho and Guardiola, have only started a very long journey.

No, I’m not trying to take anything away from this derby. A derby will always remain one: bragging rights are always at stake! Plus, this time around, the chance to have the pendulum swing heavily towards your direction, in terms of winning the league.

But this derby is only the fourth game of a young season. As much as a lot is being expected, the season has only just started, this time, with a bang.

All that being said, what do you think? Who will win this derby? Mourinho’s army? Guardiola’s Philosophers? Or, will both teams settle for a point each, while leaving the remaining point for the ref? Leave your comments below and let me know what you think?

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

It’s Another Matchday In the Premier League but How Did the Big Five Fare In the Last Matchday?

img_20160713_143556.jpg

Another English Premier League Matchday and more to discuss. The big teams had contrasting performances in their last outings in the league. While Manchester City and Chelsea had a roller coaster ride, Manchester United found things tough.

But how did they really fare, talking about England’s Big Five?

Arsenal: Ice Breakers
Arsenal finally got their first three points of the season against Watford and Mesut Ozil called it “the icebreaker” on a post on his Instagram page. Most expected a routine win for the Gunners and they didn’t disappoint. Ozil and Sanchez looked alive in the game and it was a relatively easy win. With Lucas Perez joining the fray, maybe it’ll be a run of wins for Arsenal. Just maybe.

Chelsea: Perfect Start
With 9 points from their first three games of the season, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea have hit the ground running. The Blues seem to have shaken off last season’s blues (pun intended) and are now looking like a very serious side. Can blame them though, Conte is now in charge. Conte, the Fierce One. Hazard and Moses were two of the star players against Burnley. Their goals were superb and their speed, break-neck! Be very afraid

Ouch! Dear Klopp, I'm sure you've seen this right?

Ouch! Dear Klopp, I’m sure you’ve seen this right?

Liverpool: A Point Won or Two Lost?
It had been said that the English Premier League title will come down to how much points the Big 6 get off each other (or maybe Big 7?). In Klopp’s title chase, has he just lost two valuable points? Or has he salvaged one? I expected a perfect start like the Manchester sides have had but, that can be tough when your goalie conceding every shot in his direction. In other news, I’m still confused about the Sturridge move.

Manchester City: Up and Down
Honestly, the Hammers made it too easy for the Cityzens. They were too disorganized. Two quick goals in the first 30 minutes of the game put Pep Guardiola’s men firmly in control of the game. Although West Ham stagged a comeback in the 2nd half, it was too late. As for the players, Sterling was Sterling (you should see his second goal if you missed it). Nolito was ebbulient as usual. Aguero got lost in transit and now faces a risk of missing the Manchester derby after elbowing Reid. Caballero conceded again, to the fury of the Philosopher. Nasri made a cameo appearance, lol.

Manchester United: MOUving On
It didn’t come easily but it did. After Hull had won their first two matches, I half-heartedly expected a goals galore. I even tipped both teams to score. But Hull City had other ideas. In the end, for Mourinho, it was another display of “fight till the end.” No matter who scores, just get the win. Get the three points. And even though it was the first time a teenager scored under Jose, he was joyous to see the 92nd minute winner rattle the onion bag. The perfect start continues.

Now that the dreaded international break has come and gone, the Manchester Derby is upon us! Who do you think will win? The Pep or the Mou? Who will be the first to lose a game this season? Or will it end in a draw? Let me know what you think? Leave your comments and let me hear from you.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav; and on LinkedIn

LOANly Deadline Day?

Transfer windows in the football world have always been dramatic right from time. No matter the league, you can be guaranteed that at least one “crazy” move will occur once that window is opened.

And the craziness usually drags on until the window is “almost closed.” At this point, clubs begin to scramble and fall over each other in a last-day bid to push through deals before the deadline. And with the 11th-hour rush comes drama. De Gea, Manchester United and Real Madrid acted one out for us recently.

IMG_20150901_171531

The deadline day, this time around, had a different kind of drama. It seemed like almost all the business concluded on the day were loan deals! Dramatic right? See if you can spot the players that stand A LOAN:

Loaned Out: Nasri offloaded to Sevilla... But still a Man. City player

Loaned Out: Nasri offloaded to Sevilla… But still a Man. City player

Another list... of loanees!

Another list… of loanees!

20160831_230748

20160831_230532

Photo Credits: Sky Sports

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn