Greetings folks! My country is dressed with the colours of the rainbow this festive season as there seem to be fireworks in the sky, and on the field. Pun unintended.
This is my first article in close to a month courtesy a deadly mosquito bite that almost cost me my life. But glory be, here I am to
lay down my views and such on the world’s most popular sport (off the bed).
The season is 2 months old now — Half way from the next transfer window opening – and the time seems ripe to judge who made the right buys, who spent a lot on another failure, and who is ruing the departure of a former player.
Transfer talks don’t sound right if we don’t start with Chelsea. The Londoners as expected, splashed out millions and millions — enough money probably to buy a country or two.
Their imports were extravagant in both Shevchenko and Ballack. I always felt Sheva wouldn’t do exceptionally in the premiership given how physical it is. Not at his age at least. So far he has lived up to my expectations. Nothing exceptional, except some heart stopping runs here and there. He will improve, but doesn’t seem likely to meet the standards he set in Italy.
Ballack on the other hand seems to be thriving in all the pounds he has earned and what I thought was going to be the Londoners most difficult challenge this season — keeping Lampard and Ballack together in the same line-up – didn’t look that difficult a job for Jose.
Salomon Kalou has been a wicked buy. Obi Mikel, hasn’t really delivered given all the hype. But he hasn’t really even had any time
to prove himself. I shall reserve my judgment for a later date.
And how can talks of Chelsea be complete without delving into the Cashley — Gallas saga. Both the players are doing as well in the
Premiership as they always were, only wearing different colours. Ashley Cole got some amount of attention after the transfer while
Gallas got more than enough before the 31st of August. This story can truly be reviewed and revered come the 5th of May 2007 when these two sides go head to head at the Emirates Stadium in part 2 of this London Derby.
Eidur Gudjohnsen left for the bench of Spanish Giants Barcelona after being linked with Manchester United.
Robert Huth’s and Hernan Crespo’s departure doesn’t seem to hurt Chelsea too much and neither does Damien Duff’s. Lastly Khaled
Boulharouz is at best worthy of a ‘Decent Player’ tag.
All in all: A (just because they got Sheva to the Premiership)
Enough said about William Gallas, Arsenal’s other big buys this season have been Julio ‘The Beast’ Baptista and Tomas Rosicky. The
Czech youngster has been beyond impressive in the middle. His petite size might be a disadvantage now, but given a couple of seasons in the Premiership he will get tougher and only better as an attacking midfielder.
Baptista on the other hand has no problem with his physique. He is doing well at the London club and Arsenal finally seem to be gelling well as a team (about friggin’ time one might add).
Jose Antonio Reyes was never exceptional with the Gunners and isn’t missed much either. Robert Pires though would definitely have been missed at the start of the season but with Rosicky’s impressive performances, he might just be a long lost memory by January (hey, it rhymes!)
All in All: A (Gallas + Rosicky = Excellent buys)
West Ham United
The transfer swoop of the season. No one could believe what they read/saw/heard when they found out that Argentine duo Carlitos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were on their way to Upton Park.
However, West Ham are struggling in the League, out of the Carling and Uefa Cups and have a manager who might be polishing his resume. In my opinion, these buys were wrongly timed by West Ham. They had an excellent team going. Looking to improve, which every club must do, they bought two over-hyped players in the hope to make an impact in Europe but have failed to deliver. I haven’t seen much of Mascherano so I won’t comment, but Tevez has done everything right for the Hammers except find the back of the net. He will thrive at a bigger club, and will be out of West Ham in a few seasons.
All in All: B- (I’m being gracious here!)
The Toons have bought and sold a host of players. One of the most impressive performers so far had been Damien Duff. I’m a big fan of the winger and he is as dedicated as ever for Newcastle. Obafemi Martins is a great buy from Internazionale and will be a difference maker as far as Europe is concerned. Other worthy mentions are A. Sibierski who has done well in the Uefa Cup and Giuseppe Rossi who has already banged in a goal in his first start. Things are looking up for the Tyneside giants
All in All: B (Newcastle looks like it’ll end its cup drought courtesy their new recruits. Much the same as far as their yearly transfers are concerned)
The Merseyside Big Guns have made more advances to becoming a Spanish team with winger Mark Gonzalez (born in South Africa, he is Chilean, I know… but seriously, Liverpool will soon be a part of La Liga). After some worries in the strike force, reinforcements were bought in the form of Irishman Craig Bellamy and Dutch superstar Dirk Kuyt whose pace is troubling most defenses in the Premiership. Jermaine Pennant was a wicked snatch from Birmingham City and the winger is thriving at Anfield.
As far as the departed are concerned, the only thing missed about Djibril Cisse is his hairstyle. Djimi Traore served the club as best
as he could but won’t be missed a lot as is the case with Dietmar Hamman. Cinema — Pong goal is an already forgotten Red.
Liverpool have other worries within the club. The club needs a midfield makeover. Not in terms of buying players, in terms of
positioning players. The fans seem content with Rafa Benitez’s side.
Given, he has delivered two trophies in two years (one which is the biggest of them all), but this is a massive club. One huge victory among a few draws and defeats is unacceptable.
All in All: B+ (Just on the basis of the performance of their new recruits)
Sounds of cha-ching could be heard till the Seven Sister’s tube station when news came that Michael Carrick has made his way to Old Trafford. Martin Jol wasn’t much too happy to lose the youngster who held his team together last year but bought a few players who combined made up for the loss of Manchester United’s new number 16.
Didier Zokora was bought as the replacement for Carrick; the strike force was strengthened by adding Dimitar Berbatov who still is to make his impact on the Premiership. Assou-Ekotto seems like another Sissoko, I mean headless chicken. Mido is hardly a new buy after having been a regular already with the Spurs.
The best buys for the Spurs however this season have been Frenchmen Steed Malbranque and Left-Back Pascal Chimbonda. Both of them have experience in the Premiership and this team looks set to challenge for a place in Europe on a regular basis.
After a very shaky start to the season, the Londoners haven’t lost a game since their 3-0 hammering at Anfield last month.
All in All: A (Despite losing their brightest midfield prospect)
The summer was agonizing for most United fans. One year later, we still seem to be searching for a replacement for Roy Keane. Though Carrick has donned the number 16 jersey, he is far from the Roy Keane that got us to the 1999 European Champions Cup! However, the table doesn’t lie.
United is right on top, has won each game in Europe and Carrick has been a regular in the squad so he is contributing for sure. I’m sorry Michael, we expect a lot from our players.
The only other man to find a new locker at Old Trafford this year has been Polish stopper Tomasz Kuszczak. He is yet to keep a clean sheet for the first team but has looked more than promising so far. His first game was against Arsenal and he lived up to the pressure with a fantastic save against Gilberto.
But the biggest transfer saga of the season was that of Ruud van Nistelrooy. After all the controversy and hype, he finally went to Real Madrid and has been doing quite well for Los Galacticos. So far, the decision to sell him seems justified with Saha banging in the goals on a regular basis.
All in All: B (This was a tough one. Fans wanted to see a lot of players being bought — Owen Hargreaves, Fernando Torres, Riquelme, etc… to name a few. However, the new recruits are performing so far and the departed aren’t missed too much)
Other worthy mentions are Silian Petrov (Celtic to Aston Villa), Nwanko Kanu (WBA to Portsmouth), Jonathan Woodgate (Real Madrid to Boro) and Andy Johnson (Welcome back to where you really belong, brother! Crystal Palace to Everton) – Martin O’Neill looks like he is here to stay after having a brilliant start with Aston Villa. I know he’s not a transfer but a new face nonetheless.
The January window is much awaited now. Chelsea will be looking for a good keeper on loan, United still searching to fill the Roy Voyd. Arsenal will be looking to invest in any 17 year old who can dance with the ball at his feet, Liverpool for some more people from Spain and the Spurs will take more steps in becoming an all — England club (p.s Becks is already being linked)
Viva la Futbol!