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2010/11 Review of the Season: Liverpool

June 20, 2011

Given the sheer chaos going on at Liverpool when he took over Roy Hodgson was always going to be under pressure and never given a long time to settle. The fans made it quickly clear that he wasn’t their man for the job and with rumours circulating that the players weren’t enjoying training under him, things got awkward. If the results had of gone his way on the pitch, all that could have been forgiven and forgotten.

Defeat in John W Henry’s first match as Liverpool owner against bitter-rivals Everton left the Anfield club languishing in 19th place; and it appeared Hodgson would be shown the door. Remarkably he lasted until the turn of the year before Kenny Dalglish replaced at the helm. Initially, the Scotsman’s appointment appeared nothing more than a ploy by Fenway Sports Group to get the Liverpool fans onside only for Dalglish to mastermind an incredible run in the second half of the season.

Raul Meireles, a disappointment under the man who signed him, looked like a new player in Dalglish’s side and inspired Liverpool up the table along with the sensational new signing Luis Suarez. Dalglish reinvigorated Liverpool under his direction, got them playing an exciting brand of football and even bedded in some young players into the first team squad. Liverpool fans were quick to write off 2010/11 as a disaster but with the immediate success of Dalglish continuing right until the end of the season, dreams for 2011/12 continue to grow.

Regular Starting Eleven

Game of the season Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd Liverpool did trounce Birmingham and Fulham but nothing will have given the Anfield faithful more joy than comprehensively beating the Champions. Just days after Dalglish celebrated his 60th birthday, he reignited his rivalry with Sir Alex Ferguson by masterminding a victory.

Luiz Suarez tormented the United back-line, Dirk Kuyt popped up to score all three goals, Andy Carroll was introduced off the bench for his Liverpool debut and there was even time for the crowd to serenade the birthday boy. Glorious match.

Player of the season Lucas Leiva Despite of the horrid start that Liverpool made to the campaign, Lucas was able to impress. It’s probably become fashionable to praise the Brazilian but the effort he has put in to turn around the Liverpool fans has been admirable.  He tireless, solid performances and refusal to back out of any challenge established Lucas in the centre of Liverpool’s midfield.

Season in a tweet

Biggest disappointment Joe Cole It’s like flogging a dead horse by this stage but the former Chelsea man failed in almost every way to live up to his billing. His move to Liverpool was supposed to be the spark he needed to fulfil his potential but after an opening day red card, the former England man just continued to disappoint. Joe Cole looked out of shape, out of sorts and unable to fit into a system with the other players. He wasn’t helped by Steven Gerrard comparing him to Lionel Messi before the season opener.

Changes needed for next season? Dalglish doesn’t need to change too much; just continue to improve Liverpool’s squad like he has done. King Kenny will be keen to bring in better quality so as to secure Liverpool’s 19th title as quickly as possible. A couple of Hodgson’s signings need to be shipped out and replaced which has seen Liverpool linked with pretty much every player going.

Rumblings that Steven Gerrard could be shipped out appear to be nonsense but the club captain will need to accommodated into the side. Towards the end of the season, Liverpool were performing at their highest levels and that was with Meireles and Suarez working in tandem in the hole Gerrard likes to fill. The Scotsman could have a problem if he wants to start all three.

2010/11 Review of the Season: Fulham

June 17, 2011

Mark Hughes inherited a well put-together, hard-working and defensively sound squad when he took over from Roy Hodgson at Fulham. The former Wales coach didn’t need to overhaul the club, unless he wanted to and he wisely chose not to fix what wasn’t broke. He simple supplemented what he had with a bit more depth in Moussa Dembélé, Carlos Salcido and Philippe Senderos.

He didn’t try to re-invent the wheel with Fulham’s style of play either. The midfield remained hard-working and tireless as they tried to support the front men and it eventually lead to 8th place in the Premier League; the 2nd highest placing in the club’s history. Fulham were difficult to beat for pretty much every team in the league although they failed to record any memorable results against the big guns of the league. Bobby Zamora was a big miss following the leg break he suffered in September and had he of played a full season, Fulham could well have finished higher.

Things appeared rosey for Hughes at the London club after a year only for him to go and run it by resigning. With the jobs at Chelsea and Aston Villa seemingly of interest, he decided not to activate the second year of his contract. Mohamed Al-Fayed had the last laugh by insisting Hughes serve out a month’s notice and with it, the interesting jobs have apparently passed Hughes by.

Regular Starting Eleven

Game of the season Fulham 4-0 Tottenham Sure they were helped by Michael Dawson’s sending off in the 13th minute, but for the first forty-five minutes Fulham played the Champions League-chasing Tottenham off the park in the FA Cup. Wave after wave of white attack rained down on the Spurs goal and they could do nothing to deny them scoring four goals/

Danny Murphy and Steve Sidwell bossed the Tottenham midfield and allowed Duff and Dempsey to get in either side of the visiting defence. Fulham were superb and gave Tottenham no chance to get back into the game or save their Cup campaign.

Player of the season Clint Dempsey Just as his role within the US national team has grown and become more important, Dempsey has continued to improve for Fulham this term. With the two central midfielders anchoring the play, the American has been given a licence to support the strikers more and more. Cutting in from wide positions, sitting in the hole or arriving late in the box; Dempsey played the role of attacking midfielder brilliantly throughout the season and ended up with 13 goals to his name.

Season in a tweet

Biggest disappointment Moussa Dembélé Far a disaster by any stretch of the imagination, the £5 million signing did struggle to make an impact on the goalscoring charts. The Belgian commanded the biggest fee of Fulham’s summer and will have been expected to produce more than three league goals for the club. He should improve next year after finding his feet in the first term.

Changes needed for next season? Martin Jol looks like an excellent match for Fulham. He was poorly treated by Tottenham when they got rid of him and with Fulham he can prove them wrong while doing a fine job at Craven Cottage. The first task for the Dutchman will be sorting out any problems with Bobby Zamora, Danny Murphy and Simon Davies. Jol sold them on when he was at White Hart Lane and will need to mend some bridges to get them onside.

After that, he can look to improve on the solid squad he has inherited. He’ll need to do it quickly as Fulham’s season starts on June 30th with the Europa League which he will hopefully take seriously. Jol should have enough knowledge of European football that will allow him to improve his playing staff while remaining within Fulham’s budgets.

It’s a Sneaker Thing

June 10, 2011

Are you a crazy sneaker addict? If you are then It’s a Sneaker Thing is the place for you. Of course if you are, then I imagine I’m preaching to the converted but just in case you didn’t know, you need to be turned on to the sneaker movement gaining huge momentum across the globe.

Over the last couple of weeks, the antics and shenanigans of Sneakerheads have been receiving more and more coverage. Adam Smith quit his job because his boss didn’t like him wearing his Jordans at work. Lace Street Art of the neon and the massively over-sized kinds has started popping up all over the show.

If you thought Turtle, the buddy of movie star Vincent Chase, paying $20,000 for some hand made Fukijama Air Force 1s in Entourage was over the top for even a fictional universe, it has got nothing on true sneaker fans.

These Super Mario Bros. Chuck Taylors are easily the best we’ve seen in a long time. Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the legendary game which was celebrated some six months ago, the Converse trainers with their reproduced 8-bit graphics from the game are just plain awesome.

What am I saying? You already know about Footlocker’s Sneaker movement. You’ve already pre-ordered the Super Mario kicks. I’m just wasting characters and screen space right now by continuing to tell you about it. Aren’t I?

Just in case I’m not and you’re a Sneakerhead that just didn’t know there are others like you. You’ve been altering your Pumas and improving your Jordans for years and never felt truly appreciated for your fine work.

It’s a Sneaker Thing and Footlocker want to know all about what you’ve done and they want you to share it. The more ridiculous the situation, the better. Get over to http://www.footlocker.eu/itsasneakerthing/ to see videos and join the Facebook group so you’re updated constantly.

For now, you need to check out Milan’s very own sneaker streaker. A truly outstanding show of passion and love for sneakers on what looked like quite the chilly evening for the rest of the Italian city.

To encourage and promote the Sneaker Movement and to make sure all these incredible moments are captured across the globe, Foot Locker has set up www.itsasneakerthing.eu. It’s the hub Sneakerheads need to share their overwhelming passion for sneakers! Log-on now and share your story or just sit back and be inspired by others.

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Viral video by ebuzzing

2010/11 Review of the Season: Everton

June 10, 2011

If David Moyes could find a way to get his Everton side to start the season well, they could easily be top four contenders. If you add together Everton’s points hauls from the second half of the 2010/11 and the 2009/10 seasons, the total is 75 points. Enough for second place this season.

Everton do not normally start the season well so this year came as no exception. Their first home win of the season came in October’s Merseyside derby win over Liverpool, and it was only their second overall league win of the whole campaign. In the new year, they hit a rich vein of form that propelled them up the league to their eventual finishing position of eighth.

They were of course many positives to take from the season such as the development of Jermaine Beckford into a solid top-level striker, Leighton Baines’ continued growth at left-back and the brilliant partnership developed by Seamus Coleman and Phil Neville down the right flank.

If only, they could get the start right.

Regular Starting Eleven

Game of the season Everton 2-0 Liverpool Ask any Everton fan and they couldn’t have picked a better opponent for their first home win of the season. The fact that it only arrived in October was momentarily forgotten as they heaped even more misery on Roy Hodgson’s underperforming Liverpool side.

Everton were sharp and composed against their bitter rivals. They looked constantly in control of what was John W Henry’s first game as the new owner of Liverpool. The result left the red half of the city languishing in 19th place in the Premier League. A perfect day for David Moyes’ side.

Player of the season Leighton Baines The fact that Everton’s number three played every minute of every league game this season is not only testament to his fitness levels but also a nod to the level of performance he produced throughout the season. He seemed to have an uncanny ability to pick out Tim Cahill with a pinpoint cross, defended the left side of Everton’s defence superbly and even contributed five crucial goals. Such has been Leighton’s brilliance, Ashley Cole is currently facing the biggest test for his England place of his career.

Season in a tweet

Biggest disappointment Diniyar Bilyaletdinov Having completed his second full season, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov continues to struggle under the weight of his near £9 million price tag. The Russian isn’t making the impact expected of him by the Everton faithful who don’t often get to welcome ‘big money’ signings. He’s proved to a decent player. The fans would just like to see more glorious moments like his goal against Wolves and less of the anonymous appearances that were so common.

Changes needed for next season? Since taking the Everton job in 2002, David Moyes has cultivated a comfortable sense of expectation amongst his supporters during the transfer window. The Scottish manager has only a shoestring budget to deal with in the transfer market and the fans know he will do his best to bring in players at premium. It won’t necessarily be a lean summer at Goodison Park but it will be cheap one.

Despite the progression of Jermaine Beckford, Everton are still likely to target more reinforcements up front. DJ Campbell and Demba Ba has proven they can score goals in the Premier League so are likely to be targets while there have been calls for the natural width of Everton’s play to be improved. Moyes will also have a job hanging to a handful of his players; most notably Jack Rodwell. If Everton can hang on to their prize assets for another season and improve up front, they should improve up the league.

2010/11 Review of the Season: Chelsea

June 7, 2011

After a double winning season last term, Carlo Ancelotti paid the price for following it up with a second place finish to Manchester United. You have to feel for the Italian. He saw his assistant manager Ray Wilkins unceremoniously sacked in November and replaced with Michael Emenalo, a confidant of Roman Abramovich and had the out-of-sorts Fernando Torres, signed for a British record transfer fee from Liverpool, forced upon him.

Chelsea had started the season so well. If they had of been able to keep their performances of the first few weeks up throughout the year or even somewhere around 80 percent, they’d have strolled to every title going. Unfortunately, his side went through a miserable run that apparently just happened to ‘coincide’ with Wilkins’ departure. Even though the Stamford Bridge club recovered from their poor run, they found themselves behind in the league and always facing an uphill battle towards the title.

Manchester United were beaten thanks to a spirited second half performance in the league but Sir Alex Ferguson masterminded a comprehensive win for his men in the Champions League quarter-final to dump their rivals out of Europe. Chelsea’s hopes of silverware rested on the return clash with United at Old Trafford but they were unable to recover from a quick start by the eventual Champions.

Second in the Premier League and the last eight of the Champions League season. To every other owner, it’d go down as a competitive season that can be improved upon with a smart summer. For Abramovich, it doesn’t come close to good enough.

Regular Starting Eleven

Game of the season Chelsea 6-0 West Brom It started so well. On the very first day of the season, Chelsea brushed West Brom aside like they weren’t even there. Didier Drogba scored a hat-trick. The midfield looked cohesive and composed and left their opponents chasing shadows for the entire game. Chelsea signalled their intent on the first day but failed to maintain any consistency.

Player of the season Ashley Cole No matter how the rest of his side plays, Ashley Cole seems to have an ability to maintain his own personal levels. The full-back was the only English player to have a good World Cup and throughout the 2010/11 season, he produced the goods for Chelsea. Whether he was nullifying the threat of a right-winger or getting forward to give the narrow Chelsea midfield a much-needed boost of width, the left-back had a fine year and was named in the Premier League Team of the Year. He remained accomplished throughout the season.

Season in a tweet

Biggest disappointment Fernando Torres Following a £50 million switch from Liverpool, Fernando Torres was supposed to provide the extra fire power that helped Chelsea towards the league title but he could only produce one goal in his first five months. Where David Luiz, the other January signing made by Chelsea, looked suited to their system and style; Torres looked like a player forced upon Carlo Ancelotti. The Spanish striker has looked uncomfortable and out-of-form for nearly two seasons now and with so much pressure and so many eyes on him, he wasn’t given a chance to settle.

Changes needed for next season? Depending on how quickly Chelsea recruit a new management team, they could be in for a busy summer. A lot of the squad appear to be coming towards the end of their careers with the London club and with all the constant changing of managers, few youth players have been able to make their mark on the first team. That fact hasn’t been helped by Chelsea’s former head scout Frank Arnesen doing what he can to lure the best of the youth ranks to his new club Hamburg.

Of course even without a manager, Chelsea have been linked with a string of targets; most notably Neymar. And within the club, much of the talk has been focused on where Didier Drogba will move to now that Fernando Torres has inherited the role of lead striker. Of course, nothing can be effectively speculated until a new manager has been employed. The odds are that it will be busy a couple of months at Stamford Bridge.

2010/11 Review of the Season: Bolton Wanderers

June 6, 2011

Having finished the season in 14th place, Bolton fans have every right to be a little annoyed with such a low finish. For much of Owen Coyle’s first full season in charge, Bolton had competed in the top half of the Premier League and well away from the huge relegation battle. At one point, it even seemed as though European qualification was possible.

Unfortunately, their season ended in March. After winning the FA Cup sixth round clash with Birmingham on March 12th, Bolton started on a fall down the league table and were humiliated 5-0 by Stoke City in the semi-final. They just seemed to stop competing.

Thankfully up until that point, enough had been done to confirm Bolton’s position in the top flight for another year. Coyle installed a belief and a confidence in his players that made them hard to beat and got them into a routine of winning games. At times they played decent football, but more importantly they resorted to whatever game plan they needed to so as to ensure a result. More often than not, that meant utilising the ‘typical Bolton style’ of long balls towards the strikers. Most importantly, it worked.

Regular Starting Eleven

Game of the season Bolton 4-2 Tottenham Days after Tottenham had conquered Inter Milan at White Hart Lane, Bolton Wanderers brought them crashing down to earth. Gareth Bale, whose stock had exploded over the two games, was kept anonymous by Gretar Steinsson and the Spurs defence couldn’t live with Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander at the other end.

Bolton were committed from start to finish and were deserving of a more convincing score-line even if Roman Pavlyuchenko’s volley was a thing of beauty.

Player of the season Gary Cahill Gary Cahill has fast become one of the finest and most complete centre backs in the Premier League. Alongside Zat Knight and David Wheater, he has formed a solid base at the heart of Bolton’s defence as well as contributing some key goals over the course of the season. He’s a regular in the England squad and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a regular in the starting line-up as well.

Season in a tweet

Biggest disappointment Martin Petrov Having agreed a deal at the Reebok Stadium after leaving Manchester City, Petrov has failed to repay the faith placed in him by Owen Coyle. He was a constant feature in the starting team but failed to produce an end product on too many occasions. Eventually he was phased out of the side and used more and more as a replacement for Matthew Taylor and Lee Chung-Yong.

Changes needed for next season? With John Elmander’s contract expiring and Daniel Sturridge heading back to Chelsea following his loan spell, Owen Coyle needs to bring at least one new striker. Kevin Davies is the only one of his preferred frontmen remaining. He hasn’t given Ivan Klasnic the game time to suggest he backs him to get enough goals for the team.

The manager may also have a tough task keeping hold of Gary Cahill. He does have David Wheater and Zat Knight already on board as a solid pairing. If he does lose Cahill to one of the bigger clubs reportedly chasing him, he should be able to use the funds to strengthen the whole team overall.

2010/11 Review of the Season: Blackpool

June 2, 2011

When the Premier League season geared up to kick-off, the knives had already been sharpened for Blackpool and what was supposed to be a dreadful season. They hadn’t made any signings until the week before the season began and everyone apparently ‘in the know’ had put them down as the first side down; doing so with the lowest points total in the history of the league.

On the first day of the season that was blown to pieces. Blackpool ended the day at the top of the Premier League table after an incredible 4-0 win over Wigan; and with it began the greatest story to capture the top flight for many years.

Lead by Ian Holloway off the pitch and Charlie Adam on it, the Seasiders were a breath of fresh air to the league. Unlike the promoted teams of recent years, they went out to win games and score goals. Always attacking and always going for teams, Blackpool wanted to have the ball, even against the bigger teams.

By the end of the season they had fast become many people’s second teams; although that now stands for nothing. Blackpool were a joy to behold. They went down trying to score goals.

Regular Starting Eleven

Game of the season Liverpool 1-2 Blackpool In just their seventh league match of the season, Blackpool rocked up to the home of the five-time European Champions and walked away with a well-deserved victory. Charlie Adam and Luke Varney struck in the first half to gain the Seasiders what was the first of a double over Liverpool.

It was an incredible result and an incredible afternoon for the new-boys to the Premiership as they hung on to the result. Matt Gilks, so often deployed instead of Richard Kingson, pulled off a string of vital saves that helped Blackpool to the three points.

Player of the season Charlie Adam Anchored in the midfield, Charlie Adam set the Premier League alight with his incredible left foot. The system Ian Holloway utilised was developed around the Scotsman and he flourished thanks to it. He could drift in front of the back four, look up and pick out anyone of the front three who doing their best to stretch the opposition defence.

That says nothing for his whipped dead-ball deliveries and composed dispatching of penalties that helped Blackpool on their way. He had a really incredible season and was fully deserving of the many Player of the Year nominations that came his way.

Season in a tweet

Biggest disappointment Elliot Grandin The fact that it was a real struggle to pick out a disappointing player is a real testament to the Blackpool squad. I could obviously look at the leaky defence but they were set-up to super-defensive at the back. The Seasiders always looked to score more goals and that was much of their downfall.

As such and with the help of Twitter, Elliot Grandin has been picked for fading as the season progressed. Whether he got tired or lack the fight of his team-mates as the year drew towards a climax the French star, who played at the point of Blackpool’s midfield three, struggled to make a telling contribution.

Changes needed for next season? Blackpool could be a very different club next season. Ian Holloway has done himself all kinds of favours with his exploits in the Premier League and a number of his players are likely to remain in the top flight. Charlie Adam has no end of suitors looking for his signature and DJ Campbell ended the season in the top five scorers in the Premier League. The rest of the squad aren’t exciting or glamorous ‘names’ but they have all proven themselves capable of doing a job.

The real problem for Blackpool remains their strict wage policy. Relative to their rivals, Blackpool don’t reward their players as well which could see their current squad members electing to join over promotion chasers to improve their terms.

In an ideal world, Blackpool would bounce back into the Premiership at the first time of asking but in truth, it could be much harder than that. Retention of staff and players is key. As little change as possible would be the best outcome from the summer for the Tangerines.

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