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How likely is Sidney Sam to Stoke City gossip to come true?

The Weekend Awards – Nonsense on and off the pitch

The Weekend Awards are a somewhat serious, somewhat tongue in cheek affair in summary of the best and worst of the Premier League. The usual drama followed the Premier League circus this week, so what was the best and worst?


Highlight of the Weekend

Frank Lampard notches 203

I guess you could nominate the send off to Sir Alex Ferguson at Man United and it would run this close but to me Lampard’s was a moment that might not have happened. Where Ferguson is in complete control of his retirement, nicely timed for a league winning Old Trafford celebration that also allowed David Moyes a home farewell, Lampard had to rely first on being played, and then on getting those elusive goals to reach the record. When it became clear at the turn of the year that Chelsea weren’t looking to keep him and in his increasingly deep role opportunities for goals looked scarce. It seemed that the goal record might be out of reach. However, he kept professional, didn’t become selfish and kept racking up the goals and wins to drag an exhausted Chelsea back to the Champions league next season.

He actually is a Leader and Legend and should always be the captain when he plays. Never mind some of his deplorable team mates, Chelsea need him to be the face of their club for next season.

Lowlight of the Weekend

Brainless Red Cards

Charlie Adam, Cristian Benteke and Ramires all got two yellow cards. Bare that in mind. None of them got straight reds. They combined for 147 minutes out of a possible 270. None of them lasted more than an hour. For two bookings? And it’s not as if the bookings were unavoidable. All of the offences which brought second yellows were just ridiculous decisions and Adam and Benteke cost their team badly. Ramires was lucky to be saved by the Lampard show.

Goal of the Weekend

Kevin Mirallas (1st) vs West Ham

This was magisterial goal that should show anyone that doubts the football that David Moyes can get United playing exactly what they are capable of. Leighton Baines started the move deep in his own half and after laying the ball off he blazed forwards in to space. After some nice one touch passing Baines was found precisely by Fellaini and he dummied inside before laying it back to the Belgian. Fellaini then nudged it on to Pienaar who immediately put it straight in to Mirallas’ path and his finish with one touch from the edge of the box was unerring. Lovely stuff.

What are you talking about?! Part One

Tony Pulis on Charlie Adam’s Red Card

As always, Pulis used his post match comments to excuse another Stoke showing which was despicable in it’s lack of ambition, quality and entertainment by talking absolute rubbish about the referee. He said that when Adam slid in on a yellow card he ‘gave the referee an opportunity to send him off’. The implication is that the referee couldn’t wait to send him off and that this was an outrageously soft decision that would only be given against Stoke. It’s pretty simple really. You can’t tackle from behind. It’s a booking. It’s a foul even if you get the ball now. Adam didn’t get the ball and was on a booking. Guess what happens next then?

Strangely, during this diatribe he didn’t mention that Stoke only managed six shots all game with the only one on target being the goal. It also must have slipped his mind that his team managed an eye watering 69% passing accuracy which includes a breath takingly bad 72% accuracy on short passes. He also didn’t say that his team commited twice as many fouls. But here’s the big one. In 90 minutes of football Stoke created three chances to score. Three! But that isn’t why they lost, it’s because of the red card.

What are you talking about?! Part Two

Harry Redknapp and Alan Pardew

Anyone who hadn’t seen the incidents in question from the QPR Newcastle game would be forgiven for thinking that the referee had a horror show. But, he didn’t. Redknapp was upset about the penalty awarded against Jose Bosingwa but Bosingwa near enough had Ben Arfa’s whole shirt in his hand and hauled him away from getting in a shot. It’s just clearly a penalty. Pardew was bafflingly complaining about the red card for Rob Elliot the goalkeeper. Elliot was booked already and then decided to catch the ball outside his penalty box. Not near, not on the line, but clearly outside. So it’s a red card right? Weird.

Really?! Moment of the Weekend

Rob Green picks up a back pass

Another to add to Rob Green’s blunder list which thanks to the atrocity committed by Ben Foster isn’t even the biggest howler, but certainly the most mind bendingly bizarre. Armand Traore passes the ball back to him in the box and for some reason Green bends down to pick it up. Maybe he think’s it’s 1991 and it’s allowed again. Its not Rob. Adding to the comedy was Mark Lawrenson’s Match of the Day analysis in which he blamed Traore.

Most Deceptive Result of the Weekend

QPR 1-2 Newcastle

Considering this is dominating the awards given with a question and exclamation mark it says a lot. Newcastle are safe because of this result. Because of this, they are allowed to play in the Premier League next season. But, by Harry Redknapp’s own admission, QPR are not a Premier League team. They have an expensively assembled bunch of mercenaries with no fight or ability. And Newcastle only just beat them because Jose Bosingwa donated them a penalty and then an open goal after selling Green up the river with a heinous back pass. That’s it. That’s all Newcastle had to do to stay up. There’s a lot wrong up there.

The Weekend Awards – Sunderland at the double

The Weekend Awards are a somewhat serious, somewhat tongue in cheek affair in summary of the best and worst of the Premier League and FA Cup.


Highlight of the Weekend

Paolo Di Canio’s celebration

With each goal that Sunderland scored Di Canio’s celebrations became more and more over the top and his wide eyed visceral passion was transferred on to the pitch as a Sunderland side who had looked moribund and completely uninspired for a couple months fizzled in to life. They played the exact brand of football that Di Canio promised which is an impressive achievement after just two weeks of work in season.

They pressed high and consistently, they passed the ball with a purpose and tempo that has been sorely lacking and they looked like a team that believed in themselves. It’s pretty basic stuff yes but sometimes doing the basics well is exactly what is needed when you are in trouble.

Lowlight of the Weekend

Tony Pulis accepts defeat before kick off

Stoke have made a name for themselves by making life extremely difficult for visiting clubs at the Britannia through a mix of ferocious passion from the stands, commitment on the pitch and a direct, in your face, scared of no one style of play.

So, after a terrible run of results, and with a possibly tentative Manchester United heading to town surely the time was right to attack them and go all out for a victory which would haul them 6 points clear of the drop zone. Well, apparently no one told that to Pulis. All of the old favourites were selected with the selection of Ryan Shotton on the right wing particularly baffling. He was picked to counter the roaming runs from left back of Patrice Evra. Seriously? You pick a right winger to stop their left back? At home? In a team that is overburdened with attacking talent. If United found that Evra was shut down he could just stay back and the attack go elsewhere and still be just as dangerous. This isn’t Everton and Leighton Baines we’re talking about.

He picked Charlie Adam, a deep lying midfielder by trade as the number 10 behind the striker. Thus, when Adam dropped ever deeper to seek out the ball Kenwyne Jones was stuck upfront on his own and unable to bring any others in to play. The apparently key Glenn Whelan was back but hardly got a touch of the ball as the defensive full backs meant that Stoke were so deep. They didn’t try to unsettle an out of position Rooney in midfield and didn’t bombard David De Gea in goal.

Instead of flying all out for a win they went in to the game trying to avoid a loss but expecting that they would. Disgraceful.

Goal of the Weekend

Stephane Sessegnon vs Newcastle

This was good for two reasons; importance and quality. In and of itself it was a nice goal. A tricky shuffling run followed by a precise finish in to the tiniest of spaces from a good 20 yards out. All very pretty. But the key to this being the goal of the week was it’s importance in the flow of the game.

Sunderland had started well but cautiously, not really able to capitalise on their good attitude with any real goal threat. It was a familiar pattern for their fans who must have feared that when they eventually ran out of steam that Newcastle would punish them, but the goal came at just the right time and sent the delirious Sunderland fans, including one who had somehow got in to the commentary box, in to raptures.

Really?! Moment of the Weekend

Sergio Aguero tangles with David Luiz

Was it a two footed horror lunge? Was he falling over in an unfortunate way? Only Aguero knows what his intention was.

How did you miss that Ref?!

Gouffran on Johnson & Torres on Aguero

This could easily go to the Aguero one but that was so absurd we won’t give it two awards. This however, is a joint winner because both tackles were similarly vicious. Jamie Redknapp pointedly, and correctly, called them ‘cowards’ tackles. Both of them involved studs being raked down an opponents legs to cause maximum, and intentional, damage.

As Redknapp said, perhaps referees don’t realise the severity of these assaults but anyone who saw the way that Adam Johnson’s ankle buckled was surprised not to have witnessed a bad injury. Torres could have annihilated Aguero’s achilles.

Mind you, the ref was right there when Johnson took his shirt off to celebrate his goal. Quite right too, we don’t want any of this shirt off nonsense. Two bits of awful refereeing that have so far gone unexplained.

One man team of the Weekend

Dimitar Berbatov vs Aston Villa

Berbatov successfully defends his title from last week after another virtuoso, and single handed, display. He literally posed the only threat for Fulham and probably should have won the game for them. His frustration at his inferior team mates is getting stronger by the week despite Fulham’s serene mid table progress.

Most bizarre team selection

Frank Lampard rides the bench

Benitez deployed Ramires and Mikel in deep midfield behind the ‘three musketeers’ and it was a disaster. Chelsea didn’t need John Terry, they need Frank Lampard and he was conspicuous by his absence

Analysing the Transfer Gossip 09/04

There’s always plenty of transfer talk throughout the season. So how much of it makes sense, and how much of it is just rumour?

QPR chairman Tony Fernandes will order a major clear-out at Loftus Road this summer with midfielder Adel Taarabt, 23, likely to be the biggest sale.


Full story: Daily Mirror

What’s the story? If Harry Redknapp stays he won’t be told who to sell or he’d quit. However, QPR are going to have an utterly unsustainable wage bill for a soon to be Championship club.
Does it make sense? I wouldn’t have thought selling Taarabt should be a priority for a variety of reasons. Firstly, last time he was in the Championship he accounted for 50% of the clubs goals, secondly, he isn’t paid anything like as much as the rest of the junk they’ve signed over the last couple of years.
Is the price right? I doubt there will be a queue forming for him after this year, but they might get £4-5m. Is that enough to sell? Not really.
Will it happen? 5/10 – It’s almost impossible to predict what will happen at QPR

Tottenham are among a group of Premier League clubs that would consider triggering Loic Remy’s £8m escape clause if QPR are relegated. The 26-year-old French striker has scored five goals in seven starts since joining from Marseille in January.


Full story: the Guardian

What’s the story? Good planning on Remy’s part to persuade QPR to give him an affordable release clause if they go down. He looks a Premier League player for sure and at £8m is worth looking at.
Does it make sense? I’m not convinced he’s quite what Spurs need but there are plenty of clus that he would make a ton of sense for.
Is the price right? £8m is a good price. You never know, you could be signing the next Demba Ba.
Will it happen? 10/10 – there’s no way he’s at QPR in the Championship if he can be had for £8m.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney will not leave Old Trafford for Paris St-Germain this summer, according to team-mate Federico Macheda. The French side are said to be monitoring Rooney’s situation after the 27-year-old England forward was left out of last month’s Champions League defeat by Real Madrid.


Full story: Metro

What’s the story? Manchester United Head of Player Personnel Macheda insists that the obviously not moving Rooney is not moving.
Does it make sense? I love that they’re quoting Macheda. What could he possibly know? Anyway, Rooney isn’t going anywhere.
Is the price right? PSG need to be Fair Play compliant and buying Rooney to play in an area of the pitch that they are already stacked is massively illogical.
Will it happen? 1/10 – Nope.

Sporting Lisbon’s Diego Capel, 25, is being targeted by Liverpool but the Anfield club will face competition from Marseille for the £10m-rated Spanish winger.


Full story: Daily Mirror

What’s the story? Capel was linked to Spurs for much less two weeks ago. Do Liverpool play with pure wingers?
Does it make sense? No.
Is the price right? Sporting are in all kinds of financial trouble so they can’t be haggling too much. £10m is way too much.
Will it happen? 5/10 – since when do Liverpool make sensible market decisions?

Inter Milan have moved ahead of Arsenal and Newcastle in the race to sign Saint-Etienne striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Inter have submitted an £8.5m offer for the 23-year-old Gabon forward.


Full story: talkSPORT

What’s the story? Inter seem to be looking for a new striker, and so they should do because they’ve got nothing in the way of quality.
Does it make sense? Inter have less pull than Arsenal and Aubameyang isn’t really suited to Italian football.
Is the price right? St. Etienne would be crazy to sell for £8.5m.
Will it happen? 6/10 – It’d be a real surprise if he doesn’t move. I’m not convinced Inter are the ideal landing spot but it’s still a step up.

Fulham could make a £4m move for Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, 25, who has been linked with a summer switch to Manchester United.


Full story: Daily Mirror

What’s the story? Haha, £4m.
Does it make sense? Man United have De Gea who is better. It makes great sense for Fulham. Stoke’s recent transfer policy has been dodgy but this would be crazy.
Is the price right? £4m? Just, obviously not.
Will it happen? 0/10 – not at this price. 5/10 – Fulham if Stoke go down.

Stoke are set to make an offer for 24-year-old PSV Eindhoven left-back Erik Pieters in the summer.


Full story: Voetbal International

What’s the story? If Stoke stay up they need some quality. Pieters is an attack minded full back which Pulis doesn’t ever utilise.
Does it make sense? Yes. Pieters would offer Stoke something utterly different. But Pulis doesn’t sign this type of player.
Is the price right? Probably £4m ish which is very affordable.
Will it happen? 0/10 – if Pulis is in charge

Stories collected by the BBC Gossip Column

Tony Pulis can not save Stoke from the drop. The issues are far deeper than just tactics.


As I predicted last week Stoke City are in big big trouble. They’ve made their Premier League name by playing rugged, physical, hard to stop football and that had seen them establish themselves as an elite force in the league up to this season. For the last 4 years they’ve bulldozed teams that cross their path and played a direct style in attack with a resolute and solid defence behind. They played with two quick tricky wingers who would get the ball in the box quickly to lead either to goals or set pieces. This year though, that hasn’t worked. So why not? There are a few key reasons; lack of flair, picking out of form ‘favourites’, very basic tactics, lack of pace & increasingly poor work in the transfer market that has led to an unbalanced squad.

Firstly, Pulis has ventured away from their usual tactical plan to a more basic defensive set up and any nod to flair has been utterly abandoned. Pulis has always valued endeavour over flair but in the past he has found room in his teams for players that make things a little different happen. The side that got promoted to the Premier League did so guided by the unpredictable Ricardo Fuller. Since then Pulis has deployed and improved the likes of Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant out wide who could both make something out of the ordinary happen, even if they weren’t quite so solid in defence.

He also had a few daliances at trying to replace Fuller in the number 10 role but with little success. He has tried Sanli Tuncay and Eidur Gudjohnsen briefly but after showing some initial signs of life they were cast aside for more industrial players. This summer he signed Charlie Adam to be his creator but that was a signing that was never going to work. Adam isn’t a hard worker so when he didn’t create or score goals he was dropped. But why wasn’t he creating or scoring? Because he doesn’t have the talents to do so without a very specific type of player around him. At Blackpool he had a lightning fast attacking trio in front of him who could hunt down his passes. For every 50 yard pass that made the Match of the Day highlight reel there were another 4 that bombed in to the stands or one where he’s caught in possession and it costs a goal. Sir Alex Ferguson tricked Liverpool in to signing him and they couldn’t wait to unload him on to Pulis. He scored a lot of penalties and free kicks at Blackpool to boost his tally, but you need quick tricky players to win lots of those and Stoke don’t have any.


The loss to Aston Villa showed what a basic lack of pace Stoke have. Sure, they have some big and quite athletic players but no pure speed. Their quickest players like Jerome, Etherington, Shea & Pennant aren’t exactly track stars. Quite apart from the fact that they haven’t seen much action this year anyway. Villa came at Stoke with a team packed with pace and it was because of pace that they scored all 3 of their goals either directly or indirectly. Stoke can compensate for their lack of pace by dropping deep, but this is a way of grinding out 0-0, 1-0 type results. The irony is, this tactic would normally be reserved for a counter attacking team, but Stoke don’t have any pace to counter attack effectively. In fact, Stoke hardly ever counter attack, and it is for this reason. The de rigueur tactics in football are rapid counter attacking from a deep base and the possession dominating game based on tiki-taka principles and Stoke aren’t able to do either.

So, Stoke can’t counter attack and they can’t pass it. Pulis lamented the absence of Glenn Whelan, his ‘play maker’ against Villa. Whelan is OK but has a limited passing range. Of course, he can’t set a passing tempo without other players to pass the ball to. If he lays off a tidy pass and the ball is then pumped forward, what’s the point? The list of players comfortable passing the ball is about as short of the list of quick players. There’s really only Whelan and the inexplicably ignored Wilson Palacios who are properly comfortable in that type of game. The rest of the midfield are what could be described as coal stokers. They work in the engine room but they can’t drive the train. The train analogy is particularly appropriate because Stoke only play in straight lines. Or, a rogue train because Pulis’ post match press conferences often miss the points. Nice.

So, they’ve got no pace and no ball players, and that is because of increasingly poor operations in the transfer market. Pulis has done brilliantly at signing certain types of players. Every member of the starting defence has been a tremendous bargain and developed immensely. His worker midfielders are good at the job they do too and could do so elsewhere in the league. However, when it comes to signing attackers or skill players he hasn’t been so good. Peter Crouch, Michael Owen, Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome are the strike force. Owen isn’t what he was and the rest are limited by lack of goals. They are all good number two strikers, hold up men, but they need either a proper number 10 behind them or a goal getting partner. Crouch was at his best with Defoe alongside him for example. It’s a similar problem to Sunderland. Too many ants, not enough butterflies.


The final gripe is that Pulis picks the same players regardless of form or output because they are his ‘favourites’. Now, every manager can be guilty of that but Pulis does seem incredibly loyal to certain players. The real problem isn’t the players he picks as such, but it is as an affect of who he doesn’t. He prises the tenacity and reliability of Jon Walters above every player in his squad. He likes the raw physical presence of Kenwyne Jones and Ryan Shotton despite their limited technical capacity. He deploys the defence only full back pairing of Geof Cameron and Marc Wilson. Both excellent at the back but offering nothing on the front foot.

The frustration for Stoke fans is that he hasn’t tried anything different. Why not start Crouch and Owen up front with two of his wingers? Why not copy Swansea and play all 3 wingers in a rotating carousel behind one of the strikers or Walters? Why not experiment with a 433? Is it simply that Pulis doesn’t believe in it or that he can’t coach it?

Stoke have hit a wall because nobody saw that Pulis had taken them as far as he ever could do without changing his style and approach. It’s not simply a case of too much long ball, the problems are rooted far deeper than that. The problem is though, it is far too late to do anything about it unless they try something radically new. But they won’t. And they will be relegated. The parallels to the Birmingham City team under the similarly negative McLeish of 2011 are stark for Stoke fans. That year Birmingham weren’t in the relegation discussion. They had a good defence and a dull attack. They did enough early in the season to mask the lack of goals but when they dried out they dropped like a stone as others found vibrancy. Sound familiar? Both teams have spent poorly and been hamstrung by tactical inflexibility. I can’t see Stoke avoiding the fate that befell Birmingham.


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