Archive

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Last night Lille playmaker, Eden Hazard, put an end to the growing speculation surrounding his future by declaring on Twitter that he will be joining Chelsea. After weeks of public speculation in which Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea were the forerunners for the 21 year old Belgian’s signature, Hazard declared: “I’m signing for the Champion’s League winner.”

Though some of the City faithful may be disappointed, it may be a blessing in disguise. After a fine season playing for Lille in the French Ligue 1 it was inevitable that Europe’s biggest clubs would be interested in the services of potentially lethal Hazard. However, the manner in which Hazard has publicly fanned the flames of the speculation has not endeared himself to many. Prior to Chelsea’s Champions League victory he strongly indicated that it would be the blue of City that he would be wearing next season. I may be mistaken but  it seem that all the praise of his ability and the stature of the clubs interested in him has gone to his head.

Few players are afforded the opportunity to be linked with, let alone play for, clubs like City, United and Chelsea. The youngster who is relatively unproven, domestically and internationally, seems to be somewhat of a prima donna. With undoubted potential Hazard has performed well in the French league but it is not the pinnacle of European football. Moreover, on the international stage, Hazard has had a high profile run-in with the former Belgium coach, Georges Leekens, which did little to enhance his reputation.

Eden Hazard is Chelsea bound

His arrogance is something that City and Roberto Mancini could do without. After all, City have plenty of their own problems in the shape of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli. Whilst they are both undoubtedly fantastic players their attitude is not exactly first class. Then there are the hangers on: players like Emmanuel Adebayor and Wayne Bridge who claim they want to play football but are unwilling to take a wage cut to do so. City should only recruit those who want to play for the club for the right reasons. It seems that if City had captured Hazard it could amount to be more of a problem than a benefit. Only time will tell but it seems Hazard was more interested in where the money was and who he thought owned the most prestigious trophy. I can’t imagine Mancini will lose any sleep over this.

Ultimately, Hazard opted to join Chelsea, the FA Cup and Champions League winners. On the other hand, he has joined a team that finished extremely poorly in the Premier League. They finished 6th, 25 points behind the Champions, Manchester City, and behind 5th place Newcastle. Going into the final day of the season, Chelsea could finish no higher than 6th, regardless of what other teams did. Chelsea is an unsettled club owned by a Russian mercenary on a personal crusade who changes his manager more often than most. Chelsea is a club run on player power with the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard ruling the roost, seemingly able to influence the owner to dispose of managers who they dislike. Maybe, just maybe, the culture of player power at Chelsea is the perfect match for the seemingly arrogant Eden Hazard.

Words by Rob Toole

Advertisements

The dust had barely settled from Manchester City’s historic Premier League victory when the Manchester City team took to the streets of Manchester to parade the trophy to thousands of delerious supporters. On Monday 14th May 2012 an estimated 100,000 poeple crammed into the streets of central Manchester to sing the praises of their heroes.

Words by Rob Toole – Photos by Sam Ellis

What a great season! After a long campaign which, at times, threatened to end in disappointment, Manchester City were crowned Premier League Champions on Sunday, ending their 44 year wait for the league title. Few, if any, could have predicted the dramatic fashion in which the title was clinched at the death, including myself. Although I predicted silverware this season, I was way off the mark in terms of the grandeur of what City ended up with:

Premier League: predicted 2nd, finished as Champions.

Champions League: predicted quarter-finals, finished at group stage.

FA Cup: predicted 5th round, finished at 3rd round.

League Cup: predicted Winners, finished at semi-finals.

In spite of my flimsy predictions, it has come to that stage of the season to take stock and look back at the highlights of an unforgettable and historic campaign. In a similar vein to the nauseatingly blinkered Premier League 20 Seasons Awards, I have a number of categories.

Player of the Season

An extremely difficult decision given that players in all positions have excelled throughout the season. If you were to ask me tomorrow it is likely I would select three different players.

1st: Sergio Aguero

In recent years, City have bought strikers of high prestige who have not cut the mustard. Not Sergio. He is the real deal. With great skill, a fantastic attitude and the frightening potential to get even better, I have to include Aguero in the top three.

2nd: Yaya Toure

Simply indispensable. City are not the same without him as was proven when he left for the African Cup of Nations in January and February. Nothing beats watching the versatile midfielder running at speed with the opposition quaking in their boots.

3rd: Gareth Barry

Despite his advancing years, Barry is a mainstay in Mancini’s midfield. Solid and consistent, he has kept Nigel De Jong on the periphery of the starting 11 for most of the season, with little room for argument. Enough said.

Game of the Season

Though the QPR game won the title, the game itself was not the best so I have another category, “Moment of the Season”, to account for that. With so many great performances, it is a difficult choice to narrow to three games, apart from the obvious.

1st: Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City – 23rd October 2011

City beat United 6-1 at Old Trafford and it could have been worse for them. The flurry of goals proved decisive in the goal difference that won City the League Championship.

Fact: This game was the first time that United conceded more than 5 goals at home since December 1978.

2nd: Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City – 28th August 2011

I despise Tottenham and Harry Redknapp. Destroying Spurs on their own turf, thanks to an Edin Dzeko 4 goal haul, was a personal highlight.

Fact: In this game, Samir Nasri provided 3 assists, 2 more than he provided in the entire of his last season at Arsenal.

3rd: Porto 1-2 Manchester City – 16th February 2012

It was a classic European away performance against the holders of the Europa League with astute defending and two vital goals to take into the second leg. It was a good contest in which neither team flaked that I enjoyed. City were deserved winners.

Fact: This game represented Porto’s first competitive defeat at home since 23rd February 2011.

Goal of the Season

1st: James Milner versus Aston Villa – 15th October 2011

Stunning! A beautifal 3 pass move using the majority of the pitch. Thwack!

2nd: Mario Balotelli (2nd) versus Manchester United – 23rd October 2011

Pass and move, pass and move. Lovely intricate passing that calved open United’s defence. That was liquid football!

3rd: Joe Hart versus Aston Villa – 12th February 2012

It wasn’t a goal, it wasn’t even a shot. It was a save that felt like a goal (it didn’t). However, in the interest of proving that one can claim that just about any moment throughout the season won City the league (I have already in this article: the 6-1 over United adding to the crucial goal difference), I am claiming this last minute fingertip save to deny Darren Bent won City the league.

Moment of the Season

This is obvious. After all, it was the moment of a lifetime for thousands of people. City winning the Premier League Championship 13 seconds after Manchester United had kicked the final ball of their season (for clarity, this is the actual moment City won the league). Words cannot describe….

Champions

Words, that cannot describe, by Rob Toole

GUEST BLOG

written by Robert Pollard – 14th May 2012

With both Manchester City and Manchester United going into the last match of the season with a chance of lifting the 2011-2012 Barclays Premier League trophy, it promised to be a great final day of the season. However, what ensued will go down in football history; a day of the highest possible drama that brought a fitting end to one the most entertaining seasons in recent history.

It was Manchester City who won the coveted prize; their first league title in 44 years, a period in which their fans have suffered ridicule on a grand scale. Relegation to the third tier of English football saw them branded as a laughing-stock, with even their own staff recognising their problems. Former player, and one time chairman of the club, Francis Lee famously claimed City would ‘win cups for cock-ups’, and Joe Royle, the manager who rescued them from their deepest slump, coined the phrase ‘cityitis’, a word which described City’s unerring ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

But all that was forgotten as they clinched the biggest prize in English football in the most dramatic of circumstances, scoring two late goals to seal the trophy their fans, players, management and owners had long craved. Manchester United did what they had to do on the final day – beat Sunderland away. Their 1-0 victory had, at one stage, seemed enough to snatch the title from their rivals, but City’s late, late salvo changed it all within minutes, scoring with their 43rd and 44th shots of the match. It seems poetic that the team so often praised for their ability to produce late drama have been usurped in exactly that fashion.

Roberto Mancini, City’s Italian manager, must now begin to take some long overdue credit. He took the job when many others were shirking it, coming to a new country to take the reins at a club where expectations had soared due to their new-found wealth. Since then, despite success, he has received little praise. When City do well it is to be expected; when they don’t it is a failure on his part. An FA Cup success, qualification for the Champions League, and now a Premiership title, all delivered in the space of two-and-a-half years, mean his excellence deserves to be recognised. He found himself trailing United by 8 points but managed to win the last 6 matches of the season – including a win against United – to take the title. This is a remarkable achievement. You feel if Harry Redknapp, or another similarly well-liked manager, had turned round such a deficit and won the league he’d be carried on the shoulders of journalists through the streets of London. However, Mancini is not afforded such favourable press.

The hard work starts here for Mancini and creating a team capable of dominating for a long time his the task he is charged with and he has an outstanding set of players to achieve this. Vincent Kompany grows in stature every day, with his performances, leadership, professionalism and interview style now a vital part of Manchester City. Every club needs a leader and City have one of the best. The spine of Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero is the best in the league, and provides a frightening prospect for opposing sides. This City team is young and hungry for more success.

A special mention must also go to Pablo Zabaleta, one of the best full backs and undoubtedly the most valuable utility player in the Premiership; his grit and determination is something City fans will long remember in what has been a tiring campaign. Gareth Barry, who may not feature quite so heavily in a title-winning side again as he enters the twilight of his career, has also been excellent. City must now use the momentum this title has created to push on and become even better.

Manchester United also deserve great credit for their season. They have had crippling injuries to deal with, most notably the absence of Nemanja Vidic who, along with Kompany, is the best central defender in English football. Sound logic would suggest if he had been available all season, United may well have been lifting the trophy. Sir Alex Ferguson will spend this summer and United will be a force again next season. Only a side managed by Fergie could have kept pace with such an excellent City side, and they came so close to an unlikely 20th league title.

If city were ever going to become champions of England, one suspected it would be dramatic, heart-in-the-mouth type stuff, but even by their standards this was remarkable. Never will there be a final day quite like yesterday.

Robert Pollard is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter and Passions Just Like Mine