Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Summer Silly Season

It is that time of year again when contracts are up, players are looking for new clubs and hoping that the phone rings. It is never an easy time, with pre season only a few weeks away and clubs dropping wage bills it means that a lot of players will be left with nothing on the table. Last year after leaving Falkirk I was left with no full time options, so ended up spending all summer waiting before signing for Stirling around the start of August. It turned out to be a good option for me with the chance to play regularly up front, meeting a really good bunch of boys and winning promotion with them. At times it was frustrating, but at the end of the season it was all worthwhile. Now it is up to me to make sure I am not sitting about in July waiting for a contract from someone, and hopefully my form in the last 3 months will help me with that. It certainly doesn't help picking up an injury in the last game of the season, but hopefully potential managers can see passed that and know I'll be fit come pre season.

The Summer Transfer Window 

It is always an exciting part of the football calendar, the Summer window always attracts the biggest signings to the Premier League and the papers are full of rumours. Today I am looking at the 5 rumours that excite me the most for players who might be coming to England for us to watch every week.

5th - Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid - Arsenal). The young striker has shown he could be a real star of the future at Real Madrid, but there are persistent rumours of him moving to Arsenal as he is unlikely to play regularly at the Bernabeu. He was top scorer at the U19 Euros in 2011 and the 2013 U21 Euros with Spain and he would be a great option up front for Arsenal.

4th - Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro- Man Utd/Liverpool/Spurs) The Ukrainian winger seems desperate to move to the Premier League and it would be good to see him. He is a quick creative player with excellent dribbling ability. He would be excellent on the left in the system that those 3 clubs play, and at 24 years old he can only improve.

3rd - Emre Can (Leverkusen - Liverpool) The young German midfielder has been in great form this year in the Bundesliga and he would fit into Liverpool's midfield and be an important player. He is only 20 years old, but he has great composure on the ball, can pass with both feet and is strong in the tackle too. He would be an excellent signing.

2nd - Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid - Chelsea) It is probably just a matter of time before Costa signs for Chelsea, he is the ideal man to lead their attack under Mourinho. He is quick, strong, hard working and a good finisher and will lead the line in the Drogba mould that Mourinho likes. He won't be cheap, but it will be worth it.

1st - Pedro (Barcelona - Arsenal/Liverpool) Pedro is 26 now and should be in the prime of his career, and with his involvement at Barcelona not as much as he would like, he could potentially move the the Premier League. His record at Barcelona is excellent, 52 goals in 169 league appearances, and he has been an important part of a team that has won 4 league titles, 2 Champions League, 2 Spanish Cups and also a World Cup and Euro Championships with Spain. His pace and skill would be great to watch in the Premier League, I hope he comes to Arsenal, he would be a star.

The Weatherston World Cup Preview - Group H

Group H (FIFA Rankings)
Belgium (12)
Russia (18)
South Korea (55)
Algeria (25)

The final group sees the Belgium team that everyone is talking about as a potential surprise package drawn in a group that looks like they should progress comfortably. Russia who promised so much in Euro 2012 will be hoping to improve from that performance and challenge for qualification with Algeria and South Korea both hoping to upset the odds.

Belgium -  They have been talked about so much as surprise packages that it wouldn't be a surprise now if Belgium manage to win the World Cup. It is no surprise that they are being touted when you look at their squad, this is definitely a golden generation for Belgian football, but it will most likely be a similar result to Englands supposed golden generation. They don't seem to lack anything in their squad, but big tournament experience is certainly one thing having not qualified for any of the last 4 major tournaments. They have quality throughout, starting in goals, with Thibaut Courtois looking like the future number 1 goalkeeper in the world. Their back 4 is very strong, with Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen and Vermaelen all having plenty of experience at the top level in European football. Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini provide the strength in midfield which is important for the number of creative players they have. Kevin de Bruyne has been in great form at Wolfsburg this year since his £18m move from Chelsea, while Moussa Dembele and Nacer Chadli both have the skill and quality to unlock a defense. Pace comes in wide areas with Kevin Mirallas and Dries Mertens both extremely direct and good options in the squad. With the injury to Christian Benteke ruling him out of action it means the main man upfront will be Romelu Lukaku who everyone knows from the Premier League as a strong player, is relatively quick and a real handful for defenders. Manager Marc Wilmots will be hoping for big things from this squad, and it should emerge from this group comfortably and be in with a shout.
Key Man - Eden Hazard might not be Mourinho's favourite player, but he is one of the best in the world in my opinion. His close control is frightening, he has an ability to get past defenders so easily, has unbelievable acceleration and can score goals. He is very difficult to keep out of a game as he always wants the ball, he could be a real star this Summer.

Russia - Russia qualified well by beating Portugal in their group, and manager Fabio Capello will be hoping to go further than the Last 16 that he managed with England in 2010. The squad is based entirely of home based players, except Denis Cheryshev of Sevilla, who is quite likely not make the final 23. The spine of the team has a lot of experience with goalkeeper Akinfeev, defenders Ignashevich and Berezutski, midfielder and captain Roman Shirokov, and striker Kerzhakov having over 350 caps between them. They played some great football in Euro 2012, but they lost games they shouldn't have due to lack of goals. They will need Kerzhakov to be on form and Aleksandr Kokorin will have to chip in alongside him. The advantage of a home based team is they all know each other well, will have a good understanding and also they are mid season, so will be as fit as any team. The conditions would have affected them more if they were playing in the North, but only the game in Cuiaba will potentially be a problem for them, which is their first game against South Korea, so the players should cope fine. They have enough quality from players in midfield like Fayzulin, Zhirkov, Shatov and Denisov to cause problems, so they will be battling it out for qualification from this group with Belgium and South Korea in my opinion.
Key Man - Alan Dzagoev is 23 now and should be making his name on the big stage. He showed at the Euros that he has great ability on the ball, can spot a pass and also has an eye for goal. His 3 goals at the tournament was enough to be joint top scorer, and he will be hoping this time his goals can take his team past the group stages.

South Korea -  The Koreans made it to the last 16 in 2010 before being beaten by Uruguay, but they struggled in qualifying this time, just edging out Uzbekistan into second place behind Iran, who they lost to twice. Their squad consists of 9 players based in Europe, and the rest playing in Asia, and their is noticeable difference in quality between their best players and weaker players. Unless you know your Korean players, not many names are recognisable, but one that has been impressive in the Premiership this season is Kim Bo-Kyung of Cardiff. The 24 year old is very comfortable on the ball in attacking midfield and can create chances with his quick feet. Up front, Sunderland reject, but new Dortmund signing, Ji Dong-Won has obviously impressed Jurgen Klopp enough to sign him this summer. His lack of bravery in going for a header led Paulo Di Canio to letting him go but he must have quality. Arsenal striker (yes he is still there) Park Chu-Young has been a top player for Korea, amassing 24 goals in 63 appearances, so he will be hoping a season spent in the reserves hasn't hindered his sharpness. In central midfield Ki Sung-Yueng of Swansea looks like a quality player at times, but perhaps lacks a little bit of work ethic. There is no doubt he has a great touch, great composure on the ball and can see a pass, so with the hard working Korean team around him, he could blossom and provide them with a really good base to start attacks.
Key Man - Son Heung-Min of Bayer Leverkusen is only 21, but he already has 24 caps, and is a star player in the Bundesliga. Anyone who watches German football will know how good this forward is. He is both footed, quick and has an eye for goal, scoring 12 goals for Leverkusen this season as a second striker behind Kiesling. I think he is a quality young player, and I am sure he will have a good tournament. He has been linked with a move to the Premiership this summer, with Liverpool a potential destination, a definite star of the future, if not already.

Algeria - Algeria beat Burkina Faso on away goals to qualify for this World Cup and will go in as big outsiders. They managed a drew with England last time out (their only point) but they will do well to get any points this time. In their previous 3 attempts they are yet to get out a group, although controversially in 1982 they lost out to Austria and West Germany as they played out a convenient 1-0 win for the Germans as the BBC reported here. They don't boast many recognisable names either, but free agent, and former Rangers man, Madjid Bougherra is the captain and main defender. Most of their players are playing around Europe, with strikers Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon) and El Arbi Hillel Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb) both boasting a goal every other game for their country. Nabil Bentaleb who broke through at Spurs this season is a recent call up, and made his debut last time out in a friendly win over Slovenia. He is tidy on the ball, but doesn't seem to go forward very often and lacks a killer pass. At 19 however he can only get better.
Key Man - Sofiane Feghouli is the one player that is a genuine star of Algeria. He is a regular for Valencia in La Liga, and he is one of their top players too. He is quick, great on the ball and is a very good creative player who will set up a lot of chances for his strikers. It will be tough for him to show how good he is in this team, but if he can get plenty of the ball he can cause trouble for opposition defences.

Teams to Progress - Belgium and Russia

As this is the final group of the preview, I will be doing one more before the tournament starts next week consisting of predictions for winners, top scorers and best young players.

Rudi Voller points out the unwelcome addition to his perm
World Cuts

The second last World Cuts isn't an easy one to decide, but I have gone back to 1990 for this one, and it is not a good one either. Rudi Voller had a terrible perm/mullet combination, but in 1990 it became even worse. When Frank Rijkaard spat in his hair he reacted and they were both sent off, then as Rijkaard ran off, he did it again. Probably the most disgusting thing you will see on a football pitch, but Rudi Voller became the first and last man to have better hair due to spit dangling out of it.

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