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Premier League & England Q&A

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Phil McNulty | 10:22 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Premier League is already starting to have a familiar look near the top of the table - Chelsea are at the summit after a flawless start and Manchester United and Liverpool are making up ground after an uncertain opening.

But there are still plenty of issues to discuss, both in the Premier League and around England's World Cup campaign, even though the season is still in its infancy.

We asked for your questions about your team's start to the season and England's World Cup prospects on Facebook and Twitter and have tried to answer many here. Sorry if we have missed yours, but there were just too many to respond to them all.

There will be plenty of other opportunities throughout the season so hopefully everyone will get a chance.

Paul Hughes (and lots of others) on Facebook: "Are you still backing Liverpool for the league?"

Lots of questions on this one, namely my apparently controversial pre-season prediction that Liverpool would win the Premier League, so let's get this one out of the way first. The answer is yes - I am still backing Liverpool. It would not amount to much of a prediction if I started backing away from it six games into an entire campaign.

I do accept, however, that they have not looked anywhere near as convincing as they did in the last three months of last season - but they have shown character to come back and win at Bolton and also get three points at West Ham, which is never easy.

It marked a good recovery from league losses against Spurs and Aston Villa, as many as they had in the league in the whole of last season.

Liverpool's defence is a worry, with Jamie Carragher going through a dip in form and in midfield I believe Javier Mascherano needs to just realise he is still at Anfield and not moving to Barcelona.

And of course, we have yet to see what impact Alberto Aquilani will have. Liverpool will have to cope with the ebb and flow of fortunes with injury, but this applies to other clubs as well and in Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard they have two match-winners of undoubted world class.

These are the calibre of players you need to win the league. Liverpool have them, and while Chelsea are looking outstanding and Manchester United still have that ruthless winning streak, I'll stick with Liverpool thanks.

Sunil Godhania on Facebook: "Which team in your opinion is most likely to break into the top four?"

ash350 on Twitter: "Is fourth spot really up for grabs this year and which of the pretenders is likely to get it - Everton, Spurs, Villa or Man City?"

Again lots of questions on this particular topic. The top four places will still, I believe, be occupied by Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal when the season concludes - although not neccessarily in that order.

If the established quartet is to be broken, however, I think it will be by either Manchester City or Spurs.

I have seen City a couple of times already this season, and this is a team with lots of goals in it from various sources. My worry is at the back, where they look likely to concede.

This could be because manager Mark Hughes is still working on the balance of his side with so many new players, and the central defensive partnership (always a huge element of any successful side) of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott is still bedding in.

City certainly have character, they showed that in coming back three times at Manchester United, but defensively they are a worry. What should also be remembered is that if City are in contention for the top four come January, Hughes has the power to launch another blitz in the transfer market.

Similar comments apply to Spurs. They have an array of attacking options, and while they have quality in central defence, the personnel spend too long on the treatment table.

Everton are now back in the groove after their traditional slow start and Aston Villa showed their potential by winning at Liverpool, but I expect them to fall short of a top four place, although they will be in the shake-up for places in Europe once more.

So to answer that one, I expect the usual suspects to be in the top four, with Manchester City and Spurs the only real threats.

JonAlexSmith on Twitter: "Who do you currently believe is England's best choice as a goalkeeper for South Africa?"

Oh dear. Lots of people wanting to know the answer to this - and even a long spell in a darkened room has not provided me with a definitive answer.

As I have said in previous blogs, I have got a real worry about the goalkeeping position for England's World Cup campaign. Fabio Capello needs to use the next few months as an audition for someone to come forward and say: "I'm the best. Pick me."

No-one has yet made that convincing case, although West Ham's Robert Green is the man in possession and no doubt Capello has ordered regular updates from his fellow countryman Gianfranco Zola at Upton Park.

Portsmouth's David James will be nearly 40 when the World Cup starts, has had injuries and has never been truly consistent, but I believe if he is fit and has not had any disastrous downturn in form, he will be England's first choice in South Africa.

Ben Foster? Not for me. Not the finished article yet and some of his judgement seems to be flawed. I know Capello keeps an eye on Joe Hart, but he is not going to be England's World Cup keeper.

So I would say James if all is equal - but it is not something that fills me with huge confidence.

Phil Bayley on Facebook: "Do you think the money that Man City have spent to improve the squad and the tactics they have used have turned most of the Premier League against them, or would any club in the same situation do the same?"

I think the only time their tactics have been questioned have been in the pursuit of Joleon Lescott from Everton, a deal which turned nasty towards its conclusion. From what I could see they did their business with Arsenal for Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor swiftly and without acrimony between the clubs and it was the same when they bought Gareth Barry from Aston Villa - it was virtually done in a day.

They were within their rights to buy Carlos Tevez and I did not hear Blackburn complaining when they were given £18m for Roque Santa Cruz.

There has been a lot of back-biting from other fans about what City have done, but I defy any supporter of any other Premier League club to say they would not want to do their club to try and do exactly the same and have the same resources City have.

I suspect there is some jealousy, and perhaps a bit of hypocrisy, at work. I think every other club would do the same in the same situation - you can name Chelsea for one as an example.

Hugh Gonzalez Walton on Facebook: "What do you think of the "Old Firm" moving to the Premier League - both in terms whether or not they should and also where they would finish?"

Great question. My hearts says I would love to see Celtic and Rangers in the Premier League - it would be fantastic to see English teams tested out more regularly at Parkhead and Ibrox.

But my head says it must never happen and I do not believe it will happen. How will other teams fighting to earn a spot in the Premier League, with all the rewards that entails, feel about seeing them simply parachuted in? It would cause uproar and rightly so.

The Scottish Premier League is the place for Celtic and Rangers not England, at least not unless they want to start in League Two and work their way up like anyone else. And surely the departure of the "Old Firm" would do much to kill Scottish football.

As for where they would finish, I think if you took them in their current state they might finish in the top ten but certainly nowhere near the top four. Arsenal's win against Celtic illustrates that point perfectly.

One thing is for sure, games at Parkhead and Ibrox would really be something. Won't happen though.

Michael Tickle on Facebook: "Got a question about Wigan. Do you think Roberto Martinez is already under scrutiny as Wigan boss, following on from the work Steve Bruce did at the club?"

Good. A Wigan question. Under scrutiny? Of course he is. Every manager in the Premier League is under scrutiny. Under pressure? No.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has huge faith in Martinez and has already stated he will still be manager even if they are relegated this season. I think he is an excellent choice as manager and needs to time to adjust to the demands of the Premier League, which I am sure he will, and also the fact that he has lost major players such as Antonio Valencia and Lee Cattermole.

joaoxavier on Twitter and Andy Denny on Facebook asked about Martinez's recruitments with the money he received for those players. The jury is still out on players like Jason Scotland, Jordi Gomez and Hendry Thomas, but I am impressed with Martinez and think he will keep Wigan up - which is surely the main priority.

Ricky Jana on Facebook: "Is Paul Hart the right man for the Pompey job?"

Who could seriously expect to be flourishing in the situation Paul Hart found himself in? Best players sold, the uncertainty of a protracted takeover and almost having to assemble an entire team in a matter of weeks.

Of course results have been awful, but removing Paul Hart would not solve Portsmouth's problems. Hart is very highly-respected in football, especially for his work with young players, and he should be left in peace to try and get Pompey right.

If a new manager came in he would only inherit the same problems Hart has - with no guarantee that he would handle them any better. Pompey must stick with Paul Hart.

Colin Michael Holland on Facebook: "Big fan of Bolton here.....Ok a question!...Expected one I suppose, but do you think Megson can survive another season without the supporters backing? (I for one am actually happy to see him stay considering he's kept us up twice now!)"

I was at Bolton on Saturday for the draw against Stoke City, and the atmosphere was pretty rotten at times to be brutal. It is a clear a large number of fans do not approve of Gary Megson as manager and never will - a fact he readily accepts himself.

I can sympathise that the style of football is not easy on the eye and obviously if discontent among fans continues chairman Phil Gartside would have to weigh up whether it is having a counter-productive effect.

One thing I will never do is use this forum to say a manager should be sacked, and I actually do not think Megson has done a bad job at Bolton. He has kept them in the Premier League so I personally think he should stay.

It's tough though when you are always fighting against some fans. It transmits itself through to the players and there actually seems to be a split among Bolton supporters, which again is a negative influence.

But I think Bolton will stay up and to me that represents Megson doing his job. And as I asked with Paul Hart, is there a guarantee anyone else will do better? This is the question that should always be at the front of a chairman's mind whenever he is contemplating change.

Chris Kirkman on Facebook: "Do you think the Blackburn board would have the guts to sack Sam Allardyce? As a Rovers fan I hate what he has turned us into. It's easy enough to just lose interest now, and most Rovers fans I've talked to feel the same."

Why on earth would they do that? Allardyce preserved your Premier League status last season, an excellent feat, and this season has only just started. He appears aware of the problems that need addressing so he needs time and patience. Blackburn's board showed no hesitation when it came to sacking Paul Ince last season, so they are capable of making decisions, but I do not believe for one second that Allardyce's future has even cross their minds.

Philip Evans on Facebook: "Which player would each of the big teams miss the most if they got injured and are the big teams too reliant on certain players? Torres/Gerrard, Giggs/Rooney, Drogba/Terry etc."

I think all big teams are reliant on certain players and you have just named them. If we just take the top four Manchester United would suffer very badly if Wayne Rooney was missing, Liverpool's biggest miss for me would be Steven Gerrard (even ahead of Fernando Torres), Chelsea would find it tough to plug a gap left by Didier Drogba and Arsenal would never want to be without Cesc Fabregas.

And if a supplementary question was asked about which team would be most affected by the absence of one single player, I would say it would be United and Rooney.

James Davis on Facebook: "How can Wenger turn Arsenal from a team of great potential into a Championship-winning side?"

As you might imagine, there was more than one question posted on this. One fact we have to accept right away is that Arsene Wenger is not going to join the mad dash into the transfer market unless it is the right player at what he regards as the right price. The £40m he got from Manchester City for Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor will not be burning a hole in this man's pocket.

My opinion is that Arsenal need another strong central defender to complement William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen and a powerhouse ball-winner in central midfield. The players they currently have are not up to that job, with the consequence that Arsenal look superb with the ball but very vulnerable without it.

If only Wenger could find a young Patrick Vieira or persuade Barcelona to part with Yaya Toure. I wonder does he regret passing on Wilson Palacios and recommending him to Steve Bruce when he was at Birmingham?

One thing is a fact though - Wenger has a philosophy and will not shift from it.

Tome Obaro on Facebook: "Do you think its appropriate for officials to pal around with certain managers while ignoring others? Case in point. Alan Wiley being strict with Mark Hughes while joking and laughing with Sir Alex Ferguson mere seconds later."

I cannot say whether Alan Wiley was strict with Mark Hughes, but I could certainly see why Manchester City might be annoyed to see him laughing and joking with Sir Alex Ferguson in the moments after that highly-contentious late winner.

There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest anything wrong, this must be stressed very strongly, but it would only be human nature for Hughes and City to be unable to see the funny side - might have been better for Wiley not to be seen joking with Sir Alex in that particular situation.

Coastalpastor on Twitter: "Why not have basketball style clocks for football? No more debates about time added on."

All I can give here is a personal opinion - and I would absolutely hate that. We have a system that works pretty well most of the time and it is only once in a blue moon (pardon the pun Manchester City fans) that we have an outcry. And nobody has yet proved conclusively that fourth official Alan Wiley and the team of officials were wrong to add on those six minutes - which were actually available to both sides not just Manchester United.

I am all for technology for line decisions, but as for big clocks and extra officials stationed around the penalty? Not for me I'm afraid.

Foolhandy on Twitter: "England's first World Cup match is on Saturday - who would be your starting eleven on current form?"

Great question...although we will take fitness into consideration as well. I am assuming Rio Ferdinand is fit and Emile Heskey isn't! It's this Saturday right and it's my pick?

Green, Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry (captain), A. Cole, Lennon, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, Defoe.

To play the game by taking it forward I can see David James challenging Robert Green when the first side is picked in June, Theo Walcott would be my first choice ahead of Lennon if he was fit, but Joe Cole could also come into that equation.

Joe McNamee on Facebook: "Tigers fan here, Q: When do you think Browny will get the sack? and who should replace him?"

Plenty of comment on both Facebook and Twitter from Hull fans, so I will take this one. As I stated earlier, I will never use this platform to say someone should lose his job but I will happily make observations on Hull.

If someone had told Hull fans at the start of last season that they would stay in the Premier League, they would have been dancing in the streets. They had such an incredible start, however, that maybe everyone got a bit ahead of themselves, possibly even Phil Brown and the club's hierarchy.

I think Brown was unwise to a) berate his players in public at half-time on the pitch at Manchester City and b) deliver that singalong on the pitch at the KC when they stayed up after losing to Manchester United. After the poor run they had suffered that should have been a time for reflection, not celebration.

This season was always going to be hard and I expect Hull to be relegated. Brown had trouble attracting top targets to Hull, and the home defeat against Birmingham was a shattering blow, even coming so early in the season.

But taken overall, Brown has got Hull promoted to the Premier League and then kept them up. Maybe he deserves to be cut a little more slack - but this is a time when boards of directors can start to get twitchy. He must hope that Paul Duffin keeps faith with him.

Ryan Jay on Facebook: "Following the defeat to Bolton on Tuesday, are West Ham in serious trouble? And are they falling into the same trap of the 02/03 season in thinking that they're 'too good to go down?'"

Far too early to say that. They have got a very good crop of young players mixed with the experience of Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker and the goalscoring potential of people like Carlton Cole.

Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke would not let such an attitude creep in. I do not expect to see West Ham in the relegation zone later in the season.

Alex Sole-Leris on Facebook: "How is Rooney viewed around the world? He is a brilliant player and one of the best in the world and yet I've never seen newspaper speculation about clubs abroad (or in England) being interested. Do people not realise just how good he is in leagues like Spain and Italy is wouldn't he suit them?"

Rooney is viewed around the globe as one of the world's great players. There is no speculation linking him with clubs at home and abroad because there are no clubs either at home or abroad he would consider leaving Manchester United for. If Rooney went up for sale tomorrow every club in the world would be interested - but this will not happen.

Rooney loves living in the north-west of England and believes he is at the perfect club for him at Manchester United. He has stated he is happy to stay at Old Trafford for as long as he is wanted - which we can assume will be for a very long time.

And as for the poster asking is Rooney "over-rated"? I'll spare you the embarrassment of naming you, except to say my answer to that is an emphatic "no" and wonder whether it was a wind-up.


IN BRIEF

Shriramrox on Twitter: "I'm surprised by Michael Carrick's continuous absence in the Manchester United starting line-up. Is it because of his penalty miss at Burnley? He's not been at his best. EXPLAIN."

I think you've just explained yourself. He's not been at his best. The usual rules apply to him as well as anyone else.

Kyle Utterson on Facebook: "Can Man City challenge for the title?"

No. Too much of a period of transition. Expect them to be challenging for the top five though.

Jonanthan Wood on Facebook: "Who is the signing of the summer?"

Tough one that. I still think Michael Owen on a free will prove a great signing for Manchester United. Also think Darren Bent will prove a great buy for Sunderland. Will score goals given the games.

Jayadeep Purushothaman on Facebook: "Do you think bringing Michael Owen to Man Utd another master stroke by SAF?"

See previous answer!

Dennis Des on Facebook: "Patrice Evra, Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy. Who's the best left back in the Premier League?"

Ashley Cole.

Connor Andrews on Facebook: "Does Liverpool's Carling Cup triumph at Leeds United prove they have enough strength for the season ahead?"

Not totally. My main worry about Liverpool lies underneath their first XI. I used a cricketing term to describe it last week. I have think they have some great quality in the top order but a bit of a long tail.

Murray Priscott on Facebook: "Will Manchester United's loss of two of their stars and dodgy defence cost them their title?"

I presume you mean Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez? I think the loss of Ronaldo will ultimately damage their title hopes, not the loss of Tevez. And yes, there have to be concerns over the defence and goalkeeping position.

Ahad Shaukat on Facebook: "Who is that one footballer you would like to see play in the Premier League?"

Dead easy. Lionel Messi every time.

You can follow me throughout the forthcoming season at twitter.com and join me at Facebook (requires registration)


Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Still sticking with Liverpool then?

    I admire the loyalty to your prediction but i just can't see it (even only 6 games in) it's going to take something special to stop Chelsea (and i'm and Arsenal fan).

    Agree with your comments regarding Rooney he is top top class, however, i genuinely believe Man U would struggle badly without him - he is their talisman and Man U really need him to stay fit.

    On Arsenals chances - as stated above i believe Chelsea will win the league but i guarantee the gunners will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

  • Comment number 3.

    It'll take longer than extra time at Old Trafford to read this now. I think I'll read it later XD

  • Comment number 4.

    I cannot say whether Alan Wiley was strict with Mark Hughes, but I could certainly see why Manchester City might be annoyed to see him laughing and joking with Sir Alex Ferguson in the moments after that highly-contentious late winner.

    ---------------------------------
    Phil, good blog. However, would Mark Hughes be justified in saying Sir Alex was beyond the pale? Serious question! It seemed to me if Rafa laughed and joked around with the 4th official in similar circustances right in front of Mark Hughes then the media and Sir Alex would have something to say about it.

    Again, SAF wasn't asked about it by terrified Journos as to whether his conduct was becoming of a professional! Why are you all so scared of him Phil?

  • Comment number 5.

    I disagree with the player Liverpool would miss the most. Without Mascherano, Liverpool will lose shape and performance. Lucas is an able deputy in both of the central positions, but he doesn't excel at either in the way Masch does at the holding role. Liverpool can keep plodding along without Gerrard and Torres - they might draw a few or win by one goal - but without Masch, they will concede a lot. They lack pace in central defense, and without the screen provided, this will be exploited.

  • Comment number 6.

    OWEN iS A LEGEND ALREADY!! But i say that Liverpool would miss Torres' goals more than Gerrards influence Phil.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Chelsea are at the summit after a flawless start and Manchester United and Liverpool are making up ground after an uncertain opening."

    =======================================================================


    How can you say united have had an uncertain opening, with only 1 loss and the rest victorys?

  • Comment number 8.

    "Rooney is viewed around the globe as one of the world's great players."
    LOL

  • Comment number 9.

    for a change, a very interesting mcnulty column. more wanted !

  • Comment number 10.

    Is it me Or do people sense a problem with Carrick at United?? He has been playing really bad and there was that time he just didn't play without reason??? I just sense a problem in the camp with him. But not sure what?

    What do people think on this matter???

  • Comment number 11.

    Capello said he already knows who hos golakeeper will be at the world cup. Could it be Carlo Cudicini?

  • Comment number 12.

    What's with the moderation today Phil??

  • Comment number 13.

    When will the media realise there are 14 other teams in the premier league other Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Spurs???

  • Comment number 14.

    Phil would you not consider Fabio Aurelio as one of the best left backs in the league??? Much better then the much maligned Gael Clichy.

  • Comment number 15.

    Regarding the best premier league left back question:
    A year ago I would have said Patch Evra by some distance, but Ashley Cole has really picked up his form the last couple of months. Am I right in saying that he didn't actually get booed by the England fans in their last couple of matches too? I think those boos and the general public opinion of him may have knocked his confidence somewhat during last season but as an England fan I would be delighted if he could be back at his best this season. Still a close one to call, but on present form, I'd just about agree with Phil and say AC

  • Comment number 16.

    " but I defy any supporter of any other Premier League club to say they would not want to do their club to try and do exactly the same and have the same resources City have."
    OK here I am saying that I would hate for my club to aquire resources from elsewhere and do this and the majority of Arsenal fans I've spoken to agree and oppose any takeover by Korenke or Usmanov. While I wouldn't mind a share issue to pay off the stadium debt (as long as it didn't lead to being taken over by the aforementioned billionares), the idea of being completely bankrolled by persons other then the fans and viewers sounds terrible to me and would take from me my feeling of involvement with the club. I know that I lend a real contribution to Arsenal, City and Chelsea fans can only chear from the sidelines. Perhaps if an investor used the money to help grow a fan base and a stadium for a club to continue to improve in a sustainable manor a la Hoffenheim in Germany I wouldn't mind, but what Chelsea and City have done is the equivalent of a sprinter on steroids to me (whereas with Hoffenheim it could perhaps be analogous to an Olympic committee providing extra training funds and facilities) and I would be disgusted and disappointed if Arsenal were to ever follow down that roud.

  • Comment number 17.

    While people might mock Phil's Liverpool prediction, it has to be pointed out that they have won all their games outside of those oft-mentioned defeats. Villa and Spurs are teams that there is no disgrace in losing to, so really they are still on track.

    One thing that Liverpool do have in their favour, they wont have their team decimated by the African Nations, while some of their rivals are going to be losing 3-4 key players.

  • Comment number 18.


    Im not sure how Liverpool are more of a threat for Chelsea and Utd than they were last season. Im a fan of Serie A and Italian football and I know Aquilani is very talented- good passer and has a good shot. Similar to Alonso in those respects if Alonsos passing range is sruperior still.

    Crucially though Alonso is a deep lying midfielder. That gave Gerrard great freedom, the fact that both Alonso and Mascherano were behind him- Mascherano to 'sit' and Alonso to 'knit'.

    Aquilani is more attacking and has even played off the striker for Roma. And all this not taking into account the fact that Aquilani will take a little time to adjust to pace of the Premiership, he might need more time on the ball than he will get here.

    They might well win the premier league but they arent as strong a team as they were last year.

  • Comment number 19.

    Wow, lots to talk about here. But I think "clubs in danger" is a big talking point now.

    The first Premier League manager to be sacked this season? My money's on Phil Brown, with Paul Hart following soon afterwards. Hull and Portsmouth aren't looking good and i've yet to be convinced about a recovery. I can see Megson leaving sometime too.

  • Comment number 20.

    Sticking with Liverpool for the title and suggesting that Manc Untidy are now a one-man team with a comedy keeper?

    I can't wait to follow this thread...

  • Comment number 21.

    Phil, I have to admit that you are very good at describing the game in contrast to prediction and everybody knows it. I am surprised of you still sticking with previous prediction. Though now its potentially only few points difference between first and seventh (assuming Arsenal to win the the remaining game), teams have shown where they are likely to be at the end of the season. And looking at the performance so far and squad I think Liverpool are just not upto it. I for one think its too late to stick with Liverpool.

  • Comment number 22.

    Phil

    Your best blog of the season. Real variety of points with something for everyone to get their teeth into and debate.

    Shame it won't happen though because of the completely awful moderation delay. I STILL haven't been provided with an answer to why this is the case.

    Shame

  • Comment number 23.

    Re - Roberto Martinez - Dave Whelan also said he would never have a non-english manager at the club... If he is stating that he will support Martinez then great, but he is speaking as a fan. When the business brain kicks in 10 games from the end of the season and Wigan are in trouble, he can do the sums and then we will see if these are to give confidence to the manager now or if he really means it in the long term.

  • Comment number 24.

    Great answers Phil. I think u got it spot on with the Gunners, as i too think they need only a strong, sensible, defensive midfielder (i.e. another Vieira) and a good central defender (i.e. another Vermaelen) to maybe replace instead of supplementing Gallas and we will be a championship side. We also need back our injured players too. One thing i disagree with u on is that Clichy is the best left back, he only loses concentration and does silly things (eg. the game agianst Man City and the slip against Spurs last season)hence maybe why u chose Ashley Cole cause he almost always puts in a good performance.

  • Comment number 25.

    I can't see Liverpool winning at all, the strength on the bench isn't there and it will only take a few games where SG or FT missing to end their challenge.

    As a Utd fan I am very happy about that!!! The title will be fought out by Utd and Chelsea and 3rd and 4th will be between Liverpool, Arsenal and Cidy.

    Chelsea will also have problems during the Cup of Nations (Funny name that...)

    Man U for the title, again.

  • Comment number 26.

    " The top four places will still, I believe, be occupied by Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal when the season concludes - although not neccessarily in that order. "

    Like it Phil, Like it Phil

    a nice lil positive piece

    i think phil like many of us see the Gunners as a real prospect this term

    I myself think it will come the end of the day be between Chelsea and Arsenal.

    Man U are flattering to decieve thats for sure.

    I will reserve judgement on Pool and Chelsea dispite the latters somewhat " flawless " start.

  • Comment number 27.

    Really interesting stuff - more Q&A's BBC!

    I'm not sure Drogba would be the player that Chelsea miss most. More likely Lampard or even Cech? Rooney would be a big miss for United but if he was injured, someone else would come in to score goals. However Gerrard is Liverpool's driving force and the player to pick the match up by the scruff of the neck if things are tight. I think he'd be the biggest loss.

    On a sidenote (perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek), it's about time the issue of time-keeping was addressed? In the second half of last nights match between United and Wolves, the referee indicated three minutes of injury time but the referee didn't blow his whistle until 3:28. It's outrageous and yet further evidence that Wolves / Mick McCarthey is favoured by referees and the FA alike.

  • Comment number 28.

    You say Phil that you don't like 'big clocks' but my view is that you would eliminate all forms of cheating/time wasting at a stroke.
    My thought is this - Actual playing time in each 45 minutes always seems to be somewhere between 22 & 30 mins. Why not scrap the 45 minutes thing with the ref in the middle making the decision as to how much time to add on etc. Make the game 30mins each way with the clock stopping all the time the ball is 'dead' - No more time wasting at goal kicks, throw ins etc.
    The real plus point it will stop all the feigning injury and rolling about to waste time, it would also mean that a player can be treated on the pitch and being able to resume play once fit. This then means that teams with players who get genuinely fouled don't get penalised by having to go down to 10 men until the ref sees fit to wave them back on.
    All cheating/timewasting would be eliminated at a stroke and there could be no argument over the subjective opinion of the ref as to how much time to add on.
    In your same answer you say you favour line technology - What makes that more important than any other crucial decision? Penalties? Sendings offs? Fouls? You either have technology for all issues or none at all in my opinion, and i just can't see how you could do it in the flow of a game.

  • Comment number 29.

    Very interesting read: I can't say I agree with you about Owen being the best deal of the transfer window though, even if he was on a free: United could afford to splash out on someone much more influential. Vermaelen in my opinion was the best purchase of the window, been very solid so far and was good value for 10m, especially after flogging Toure off to City for 5m more. Krankjar to Tottenham was great value for 2m as well.

    Also, do you think that Man City are going to keep Hughes? He hasn't done anything wrong, but I can't help but think that his history with United might count against him, or that the club's owners will want to bring in someone more internationally recognised, as a statement of intent.

  • Comment number 30.

    Arsenal are not, nor ever will be a One/two man team its not in AW ethic
    so although we might " miss " a few we wont " miss " them if you see my point.

    and on another topic concerning the Extra Time matter which has at last subsided I can confirm there is defo some sort of conspiracy;

    i cite as evidence the following;

    the Threads on 606 close at 11.00pm sharp right all? no further comments till 09.00hrs

    so how come at 11.06 plus a few seconds the Man U 606 was still in operation and persons were posting?

    hehe.

  • Comment number 31.

    All this 'long tail' of Liverpool's is a bit of misnomer, too.

    We've just suffered from a lot of injuries lately.

    When all fit, I would say the first XI should be: Reina, Aurelio, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Mascherano, Aquilani, Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera, Torres.

    That gives a bench of Cavalieri, Carragher, Insua, Lucas, Benayoun, Babel.

    Granted, it's not full of £20m+ money-grubbers, but it's hardly a disaster.

  • Comment number 32.

    On another note still don't write off the gunners. We only lossed two games as well, same as Phil's Prem Champion's pick liverpool. And we lost to two good teams, The Manchesters, even though those were two games i felt we shud have won. I think thats the biggest concern, throwing away games we shud win. If we can avoid doing that we will be right up there in contention cuz i know we can do battle with any of the big boys. Just hoping our injured players come back.

  • Comment number 33.

    20. BeyondThePale wrote:

    "Sticking with Liverpool for the title and suggesting that Manc Untidy are now a one-man team with a comedy keeper? I can't wait to follow this thread..."

    Manc Untidy... I see what you've done there, Genius!

    I've seen your name pop up a LOT on these blogs and was wondering, would you classify yourself as more of a Liverpool fan or a United hater? The reason I ask is that you rarely ever comment about anything else other than United (and that includes your own team). In fact, whenever your name flashes up for moderation I think 'here we go, United dig' and EVERY TIME I am proven right.

    As far as I'm concerned, people like you ruin these blogs. You have nothing intelligent to say and are just here to wind up others. I sense you've got a lot of pent-up anger... I bet your head nearly exploded when Owen scored on Saturday.

  • Comment number 34.

    Don Reemy - When you say Arsenal will be a championship side i take it you mean they will be a side challenging for the premiership title??

  • Comment number 35.

    "At 4:45pm on 24 Sep 2009, gingerboy99 wrote:

    I can't see Liverpool winning at all, the strength on the bench isn't there and it will only take a few games where SG or FT missing to end their challenge.

    As a Utd fan I am very happy about that!!!"

    Hmm, well Gerrard and Torres played a dozen times together last season and came second within four points of the leaders who had Ronaldo and Tevez in their ranks.

    Short memories, these McFans - perhaps you were one of those who were leaving the games 30 minutes in to queue for your prawn sandwich? Or perhaps you hung on until the 75th minute when the fourth goal went in?

  • Comment number 36.

    Some good points in an interesting read!

    I'm a United fan who disagrees that Liverpool are going to be good enough to challenge for the title. I'd even say they wouldn't have much chance of winning even with Alonso. Their squad lacks a lot of quality. Whoever believes Mascherano is good enough for a top 4 team really doesn't have a clue.

    For me, City won't break into the top 4 this season and are going to struggle for finishing above Spurs as well. While they have plenty of goals in the side, they are really lacking at the back and why they paid that much for Joleon Lescott is beyond me. Average at best.

    For United fans, I wouldn't worry too much about Carrick. He has never quite lived up to what we expected since we bought him and I think the writing was on the wall after the CL final against Barca when he put in what I would say was one of the worst performances I have ever seen from a United player. With Darren Fletcher now becoming pretty much one of the best central midfielders in the premiership and the continual evolving of Ryan Giggs' game, we should be OK for options in the middle of the park. The real missing piece would be complete if Hargreaves can return to fitness.

    Nani has made an impressive start to the season, Rooney (who Phil is spot on about) just gets better and better and Owen is finding the spaces and will start to score goals. We need Valencia to get a good run in the team to build some confidence and then hopefully Rafael can get the chance to build on the considerable promise he showed last year.

    Perhaps the biggest worry for me is Berbatov. I for one think he is by a stretch the most gifted player United have. His touch and control are second to nobody in the premiership and when on form he is incredible to watch, but he is not sharp in front of goal. You would have to think that if Rooney wasn't fit, we would be relying on Owen for goals because Berba just doesn't have that killer touch. I feel if he doesn't get it right this season, he could be shown the door and I wouldn't be surprised to see Fergie buying during the transfer window.

    Chelsea look like they will be very hard to catch. United look like the only team that will be able to stay close, Liverpool, Arsenal will make up the top 4, Spurs will pip City, West Ham and maybe even Stoke the teams to watch out for!

  • Comment number 37.

    The way Benayoun has played this season, I would start him ahead of Riera, still Liverpool are a good side and will challenge again this season. Think Man U and Chelsea both have great squads as well, but as Phil says without Rooney they lose their edge. Berbatov, Owen et al will get goals given chances, but Rooney gives them something more than just goals, he sees and weights passes perfectly, such an influential player. I bet he still regrets turning down Newcastle though.

    What I would ask though is why do so few English players move abroad, in my opinion a move would be the making of Rooney and a few others, thought Lennon would have added polish to his game and that even peripheral players would really benefit from it. Rooney in particular I would love to see at a team like Juventus or Barcelona, see how he fares in a different environment and culture. Would greatly aid the national team in my opinion.

  • Comment number 38.

    Still think it's too early to say who will challenge for the title or not. Just look at United's slow start in 07/08 and ending up as champions, or Chelsea's excellent start under Scolari last season and finishing third. October/November will see the table shaping up and the title hopefuls.

  • Comment number 39.

    "I've seen your name pop up a LOT on these blogs and was wondering, would you classify yourself as more of a Liverpool fan or a United hater?"

    Very definitely both.

    "The reason I ask is that you rarely ever comment about anything else other than United (and that includes your own team). In fact, whenever your name flashes up for moderation I think 'here we go, United dig' and EVERY TIME I am proven right."

    Someone's got to add the balance against the sycophancy which revolves around that squalid conglomerate on these pages.

  • Comment number 40.

    These 'Rooney is over-rated' coments I see almost daily on 606 are getting a bit laughable - good to see your view on the matter . 90% of the time it is admittedly other sky4 fans who can't see past their blinkers. As a Leeds fan I shouldn't be finding myself sticking up for a Man U player, but the lad is absolute class, to suggest anything otherwise is plain rediculous. It seems like no matter what the lad does he gets slated. Of course he doesn't have the skill of Messi or Ronaldo; we don't make that type of player over here. He is a complete different entity, a very English player. I haven't seen an English player with so much raw natural talent since Gazza, he is almost the complete player at only 23.

    He is among the very best and deserves to be spoken about in the same context of the Messi's of this world (who may I controvercially point out has rarely hit his Barca form for Argentina).

  • Comment number 41.

    That Ben Foster can even be considered as one of the England goalkeepers to the world cup says a lot about the problem England face in that department.I have tried to watch him objectively and have come to the sad conclusion that he is a disaster waiting to happen.First of all he does not inspire confidence in his defense line.Secondly his sense of positioning between the goalposts is poor,he is jittery and above all he is prone to elementary mistakes.Sadly looking at the competition in Green and James I am not filled with much confidence either.
    Now why is it when I think of England goalkeepers what comes to mind is the words achilles heel?

  • Comment number 42.

    James Davis on Facebook: "How can Wenger turn Arsenal from a team of great potential into a Championship-winning side?"
    ........................................................

    LOL, they couldn't even win the championship title

  • Comment number 43.

    Phil - Begining to see why you are moving to Facebook and Twitter, this is too long and varied (all over the place) for a decent (time to read) blogg-some of us have work to do don't you know! So sorry to see you go( you do know that Facebook and Twitter are for 'Wimps'?) - by the way who's taking your place here?

  • Comment number 44.

    I would say Robinho has a better first touch than Berbatov but hey what do I know. Mascherano is the linchpin of the Argentinian national team, he has to be a decent player - sure he adds almost nothing going forward but I assume that's why they looked at Aquilani, who I rate as a better player than Alonso. Their seems to be a lot of Man U fans out there who seem unable to accept that their rivals are allowed to have better players than them? A good team always amounts to more than the sum of it's parts anyway.

    What the Leeds fan says is spot on, Rooney is top drawer, though as I said I feel he needs a move abroad - maybe after the World Cup - to improve his game even further. Trouble is without him Man U look decidedly uninspiring.

  • Comment number 45.

    Congratulations BeyondThePale, you can use a thesaurus.

  • Comment number 46.

    I strongly disagree with Liverpool winning the league. For years and years the saying of ‘this is their year’ has been on many pundits lips! 2 losses, to much reliance on Gerrard and Torres and a somewhat shaky defence. If the truth be told, Liverpool have for the past 20 odd years had the mentality to win the league, it’s a marathon not a sprint! They have not had the best of squads and certainly not a manager who can instil belief and a winning mentality. Ala, Fergie, Mourinho, Wenger – yes rafa won the league in Spain but it’s a different ball game in the Premier league! He tinkers way to much, maybe not so much over the last few years and some of his signings have been atrocious to say the least! My money is on Chelski to win it this time round!

  • Comment number 47.

    StretfordFaithful

    He can say that because they lost to Burnley (no disrespect intended) and they haven't looked too impressive at the back, especially the goalkeeper.

    In regards to Rooney although I agree with much of what you say I still believe he has failed to live up to his full potential and am a bit disappointed about that, obviuosly not as a Chelsea fan but as an England fan. He should be a lot better than he has been even if he has been pretty great, maybe playing where he wants to at last will change that.

    Phil - In respects to timekeeping you say you're against it but give no real reason why. It doesn't even have to to be taken away from the ref. It would be easy to for him just to stop his watch when he feels it is warranted and for this to be transmitted to the timer so the game ends on 45 and 90 minutes. There really would be no real difference other than it would be much easier for refs to justify it. As for your comment that it's only once in a blue moon there's an outcry I would argue it's far more often than that and even once in a blue moon is too often when there is such a simple solution that you haven't given a reason against apart from being a personal opinion.

  • Comment number 48.

    To MajorStom...can't agree that Javier Mascherano would be the player Liverpool would miss most. By the way, one question I did not get around to answering was one from a Liverpool fan that suggested Jay Spearing was a better option than Lucas. Can I leave Liverpool fans to answer that one for me?

    And Chelsea fans...I believe Drogba would be the biggest miss. An earlier poster says Frank Lampard. I'll go with Drogba.

    I also believe Manchester United's hopes would be hit, potentially fatally, if Wayne Rooney was absent for any length of time. Can Sir Alex Ferguson's side seriously cope without him?

    Let me know.

  • Comment number 49.

    phil when are you going to address something important.
    real madrid are being allowed to carry on despite a debt of 296 millon, acrington stanley will be wound up for a debt of 308,000.
    this is what is wrong with football today.
    discuss.

  • Comment number 50.

    Can't say I agree with those who think Rooney would be the biggest miss of any single player for United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal. If we're talking about his goals being missed I think there are plenty of other goal scorers in the team. If we're talking about the rest of his game I firmly believe SAF has the players in the squad with enough ability and imagination to cover in the event of Rooney's absence. Even without Ronaldo and Tevez I think United's squad is very strong.

    Personally I think if Gerrard was absent from Liverpool he would be missed the most - his understanding with Torres would be a big blow for them.


    Oh, and as for Beyond the Pale's always United-negative comments, he is the sort of poster who can never be taken seriously but brings shame on the respectable supporters of his club. Unfortunately these blogs are infested by this sort of poster.

  • Comment number 51.

    "Congratulations BeyondThePale, you can use a thesaurus."

    Yes I can - it's called A BOOK.

    Although having been a top-100 magazine editor, I have little need for one.

  • Comment number 52.

    Thanks for answering my question Phil...and great to see my real name up in lights for once!

  • Comment number 53.

    "one question I did not get around to answering was one from a Liverpool fan that suggested Jay Spearing was a better option than Lucas. Can I leave Liverpool fans to answer that one for me?"

    That'll be from a local who would rather have one of their own than a better player.

    Probably the same type who is kidding himself that Carra is looking seriously iffy (look, no thesaurus!)

    Spearing is progressing, but so is Lucas, who is a much more accomplished player anyway and is getting better and better.

  • Comment number 54.

    Phil - would be interested to know why you rate Cole as the best left back in the Premier League. He, Evra and Clichy are all top class full backs. What puts Cole above the two Frenchmen for you?

  • Comment number 55.

    Rooney for me hasn't developed into the player he could have been, at the Euro 2004 he was brilliant and had that explosiveness. He's also lost his long range shot, when was the last time he scored a 30 yarder?

  • Comment number 56.

    True enough about the debt issue, and even that is nothing compared to the debt of Man U, and maybe Liverpool - their chairman recently outlined a plan to reduce their gearing.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'll be surprised if Man Utd win anything this season. We are very much in transition, letting the youngsters like Macheda, Welbeck, Gibson, the twins, King, Eikrem etc etc grow into the aquad; allowing Valencia ans Anderson find their feet. Not sure about Tosic, even less about Nani.

    The repeated "United can't cope without Criatiano" is possibly true - for this season only. The comment is normally voiced by fans who can only think in terms of 'here and now', 'this season' etc. That was/is never the United way under either Busby or SAF. We plan long term.

    Having said that, it would be sooooooo grand to win the PL again !

  • Comment number 58.

    " James Davis on Facebook: "How can Wenger turn Arsenal from a team of great potential into a Championship-winning side?"
    .......


    Boom_Boom replies:



    LOL, they couldn't even win the championship title "

    Well seeing as Arsenal have never in thier history needed to win the
    Championship Title you who ever you are are talking a croc of ****

    however seeing as Man U have been relegated I think they needed to win a Championship Title in order to regain promotion to the erm TOP FLIGHT?

    so along with all the hype about winning this and that Man U can add to their illustrious History....

    Been Relegated

  • Comment number 59.

    "Oh, and as for Beyond the Pale's always United-negative comments, he is the sort of poster who can never be taken seriously but brings shame on the respectable supporters of his club. Unfortunately these blogs are infested by this sort of poste"

    What, the sort of supporters who leave in droves after 65 minutes of a game, or get out of their seats 30 minutes after a match has started to queue for their half-time sarnies?

    Don't make me laugh.

  • Comment number 60.

    chelsea fan here, I think you're spot on in your assesment that Drogba is the player we would miss the most, when he's on fire he's almost unplayable.

    Excellent blog, though you're wrong about liverpool winning the title - that'll be Chelsea (who, me, biased?)

  • Comment number 61.

    Still trying to shed your anti-liverpool reputation phil?

    They won't win the league, simple as. They always seem to comeback from losing positions, but other clubs would not be in those positions to begin with. Jamie Carraghers 'dip in form' has been going on for 2 seasons now, liverpool have to play 10 yards deeper when he plays to cover his lack of pace.

    For me, if chelsea can get through the ACN without dropping too many points then they will win.

  • Comment number 62.

    7. At 3:36pm on 24 Sep 2009, StretfordFaithful wrote:

    "Chelsea are at the summit after a flawless start and Manchester United and Liverpool are making up ground after an uncertain opening."

    =======================================================================


    How can you say united have had an uncertain opening, with only 1 loss and the rest victorys?

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    yes - 5 wins (or 15 points) per 6 games adds upto about 95 points in a season, equalling the record I believe.

  • Comment number 63.

    36. At 5:31pm on 24 Sep 2009, presoulnation wrote:

    Some good points in an interesting read!

    I'm a United fan who disagrees that Liverpool are going to be good enough to challenge for the title. I'd even say they wouldn't have much chance of winning even with Alonso. Their squad lacks a lot of quality. Whoever believes Mascherano is good enough for a top 4 team really doesn't have a clue.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Mascherano is top class. No doubt about it. Definitely worthy of a top 4 team.

  • Comment number 64.

    i correct myself:

    I was referring to pre Premier League etc

    a minor error haha.

  • Comment number 65.

    58. At 6:45pm on 24 Sep 2009, davidgilmourthe3rd wrote:

    " James Davis on Facebook: "How can Wenger turn Arsenal from a team of great potential into a Championship-winning side?"
    .......


    Boom_Boom replies:



    LOL, they couldn't even win the championship title "

    Well seeing as Arsenal have never in thier history needed to win the
    Championship Title you who ever you are are talking a croc of ****

    however seeing as Man U have been relegated I think they needed to win a Championship Title in order to regain promotion to the erm TOP FLIGHT?

    so along with all the hype about winning this and that Man U can add to their illustrious History....

    Been Relegated

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Your grandad might remember Arsenal finishing in the relegation places one season? The Spurs fans might like to enlighten you on how they got around this.

  • Comment number 66.

    Difference between Citeh and Chelski is Chelski were a legitimately good team with class players when Abramovich took over, Citeh had one of the worst squads i've seen in the top league when they were taken over.

    Now given that everyone hates Chelsea for their success through money is it in anyway suprising that Citeh are more hated for (somehow) oneupping Chelsea?

    Rooneys pretty good yeah, the best left back in the league changes from game to game, Arsenal will do pretty good this season and everyone will ignore the diving and talk about the kids, Citeh and Man Utd will get the most face time in the papers for at least 3 seasons to come, teams liek Bolton and Blackburn will drift on forever, Phil Brown will be maligned untill hes sacked in the middle of October (after international break If I had to guess), Wigan will be the most up and down side this season, everyone will hate Spurs for reasons that arent entirely clear, but they wont really do anything, maybe 6th.

    (sorry for the commas).

  • Comment number 67.

    Liverpool to win the Prem title? In which parallel universe? I think Wales have a better chance of qualifying for the World Cup!

  • Comment number 68.

    Hi Phil, who do you think will succeed Sir Alex if he desires to leave old trafford?

  • Comment number 69.

    davidgilmourthe3rd

    AFC were relegated in 1913 & only were promoted a few years later by taking Spurs' rightful placee in the top tier.
    INO: Arsenal have been relegated but were never good enough on the field to win promotion.

  • Comment number 70.

    Very good point about extra time being available to BOTH teams. I can imagine Mark Hughes reacting very differently had Man City scored.

    I agree with your head on the subject of Rangers & Celtic. They should stay in the Scottish league, for obvious reasons. But then, shouldn't the same rules apply for Cardiff, Swansea, Newport et al?

  • Comment number 71.

    Re:At 6:45pm on 24 Sep 2009, davidgilmourthe3rd

    If you look back to the First Division league table in 1912/13, you might get a nasty surprise.

    Plus Arsenal's promotion for "history over merit" at the end of the 1918/19 is extremely controversial and has always been clouded by allegations of bribery by Sir Henry Norris, Arsenal's owner

  • Comment number 72.

    Actually, it says more about this website than anything else that Liverpool fans have dropped it like a stone.

  • Comment number 73.

    At 5:23pm on 24 Sep 2009, BeyondThePale wrote:
    "At 4:45pm on 24 Sep 2009, gingerboy99 wrote:

    I can't see Liverpool winning at all, the strength on the bench isn't there and it will only take a few games where SG or FT missing to end their challenge.

    As a Utd fan I am very happy about that!!!"

    Hmm, well Gerrard and Torres played a dozen times together last season and came second within four points of the leaders who had Ronaldo and Tevez in their ranks.

    Short memories, these McFans - perhaps you were one of those who were leaving the games 30 minutes in to queue for your prawn sandwich? Or perhaps you hung on until the 75th minute when the fourth goal went in?

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    I stayed until the final whistle as it happened. It was a rather odd 1-4 but still Utd won the title despite Liverpool doing the double.

    Yes Torres missed a lot of games and he seems to be that type of player who picks up those injuries.

    And we will miss CR, not sure about Tevez. He always works hard and gives a 100% but he should have stuck the ball in the net on Sunday but failed. I wasn't sorry to see him go.

    If you are a Liverpool fan then you will know that there is a lack of strength in depth and that will not be addressed in January.

    As for short memories I do remember that you were acceptable in the 80's and the Cream Suits were not acceptable in the 90's.

    Ginger.

  • Comment number 74.

    "What, the sort of supporters who leave in droves after 65 minutes of a game, or get out of their seats 30 minutes after a match has started to queue for their half-time sarnies?

    Don't make me laugh"


    Oh I see, you go to Old Trafford a lot do you? Or do you just pick up on the inaccuracies in other poster's posts and twist them to your own ends?

    Sad, very sad.

  • Comment number 75.

    http://goal.com/en/news/1717/editorial/2009/09/22/1516516/spanish-inquisition-xabi-alonso-the-crux-of-real-madrids

    Interesting article on Goal.com on why Xabi Alonsos is very important for Real this season

  • Comment number 76.

    with all this talk about teams dependant on certain players it just goes to show that you do indeed need a lot of luck nowadays to get that title not just on the pitch either.

    as for Arsenal well we tend not to rely on one or two individuals though in our case of course it would help tremendously if the players we do have do not keep taking 6 weeks out here and there to go to the treatment room. so instead of missing one or two key players we have on far to many occasions been missing a whole group of 1st choicers.

  • Comment number 77.

    Well Phil, sorry to say but Rooney is the most over-rated footballer after David Beckham and its a shame that came from you...

  • Comment number 78.

    Has anyone else on here had problems with posts disappearing without warning?

  • Comment number 79.

    I get the feeling that Phil McNulty is just an armchair journalist, who pontificates with the written word just to fill space. Perhaps the name 'Phil Space' would be more appropriate.

  • Comment number 80.

    Oh, I see - I'm now called "you" am I. It's much easier if I seem my user name, thanks BBC.

  • Comment number 81.

    er, not a 'new member', actually, but given this site's track record for censoring anything that seems like criticism of its jounalists, irrespective of its validity, I expect my comment to be wiped

  • Comment number 82.


    unouwan2

    The Point i was attempting to make reads as follows:


    Football League resumes in 1919, Arsenal has not been relegated since, thus holding the record for unbroken tenure in the top division of English football.

    The record therefore speaks for itself i feel.

  • Comment number 83.

    Good blog and credit to you Phil for sticking with your Liverpool prediction. Rooney, though I can't bear the sight of him, is an outstanding and unique talent and would start for any side in the world except maybe not Barcelona. How he runs with the pace and energy he does for 90 minutes with his somewhat pudgy build boggles the mind. As for the race so far, Chelsea has looked by far the strongest, United probably shade second, Citeh third, and Liverpool/Arsenal next, which is pretty much reflected in the table (Citeh have a game in hand). Liverpool haven't got going yet and have several influential players coming back into the fold, most notably Aurelio (who will be good for many goals with crosses, set-pieces) and Daniel Agger. Carra has been awful, even the most died-in-wool Scouser would have to admit that, and he needs a rest or just to be replaced for a stretch to earn his place back. I think the Liverpool season will hinge on whether Aquilani is the real deal and whether he can keep up with the pace of the English game. If he becomes a starter and others stay healthy our bench starts too look not so bad.

  • Comment number 84.

    as for the history concerning Norris.

    the word is alledged, nothing was proven.

    And i have to laugh at words like shady goings on, blimey look at the Shadyness in todays game, the game is now so steeped in controversy its a wonder its still survived.

    but soon i fear the cat will be out the bag and the shadyness will be rightfully exposed.

  • Comment number 85.

    Well Lionrajo for two players that are supposed to be so overated David Beckham and Wayne Rooney seem to have helped Manchester United win a lot of silverware.They each have one for winning the Champions League and don't forget that David Beckham was an integral part of the Manchester United team that won the treble.Everyone raves over the goal scored by Ryan Giggs against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi final,and quite rightly so but the equally good goal scored by Beckham during the same match never seems to get mentioned.I wonder why?

  • Comment number 86.

    Phil your logic in defense of your Liverpool/Chelsea posts is dubious at best.

    You say that Liverpool would miss Gerrard the most and not Tores, how long have Liverpool been "title contenders" in most pundits (ignoring the bbc ex liverpool players) view? Since Tores arrived! Are you the only person in the country who thinks that is a conincidence? Most Utd fans I know if they could have one other PL player it would be Tores (last year it would have been Alonso), the same actually goes for a lot of Chelsea fans I know!

    And speaking of chelsea, you think Drogba would be their biggest loss, yet Lampard does for them what Gerrard does for 'pool. If you cut the midfield link it doesn't matter how good your striker is! That is how many "lesser" teams beat/drew with 'pool last season, obviously though you only remember the last 2 months of it! And you have obviously forgotton that 2 season ago Frank Lampard was actually Chelseas top Scorer, Drogba often goes missing, especially against the smaller teams, so him being out wouldn't be that big of an issue IMO as they have Anelka (who outscored Drogba last year despite playing less games) who can cover. My view is backed by the chelsea fans I know who'd much rather have Drogba out than Lamps.

    I'll ignore most of your points about UTD as I'd only end up getting annoyed (and my posting banned) except two, one is Manchester Utd "uncertain Opening" I take it you've never watch Utd before christmas in the past? Do I need to remind you that 2 seasons ago we got off to our worst ever start to a PL(with Ronaldo fit) and still won the League and last years start wasn't much better, if I remember by this time last year a lot of pundits were writing us off.

    The other point is about us in relation to Liverpool, They played great at the end of last season, they lost one key player and you still think they can win the league, Utd were poor for the last 2 months of last season, and still won, united have also lost a key player, but Uniteds start to the season has been better than liverpools, and we've had tougher games, yet you still think they will win the league? We are actually playing better now than the end of last season! You seem to stick to your Liverpool prediction simply because you don't want to change it, what will it take for you to do that? Your prediction involved them playing like the last month of last season the WHOLE year, always completly unrealistic, and proven wrong already, yet you persit in your belief, like the other BBC pundits, like I've heard every year for the last 20 that this year is "Liverpools year"

    If all the key players stay fit, it'll be between United and Chelsea, if 1 key player from each team is out, it'll still be between Utd and chelsea, the only way liverpool will be in it will be if UTD and Chelsea both loose a key player and Aqualini turns out to be a World Beater, and THAT Phil, is what your doggedly persistant is based on! Ludicrous!

  • Comment number 87.

    Was laughing inside when you predicted Liverpool to win the Premier Leauge (I didn't laugh out loud, it takes quality journalism for that). You clearly think Arsenal (my team) are the weak link in the top 4 (you're very biased and show that in subtle ways) but I cannot fathom why you think Liverpool are so strong. Taking into account that it is a clubs squad that wins a league not the starting XI, I would surely think injuries and off form would be the biggest detriment to Liverpools Premier League season.

    Benitez for me is certainly a master of prioritising matches and getting the best out of his players and tactics for the big matches. You can see this in the early group stages of the Champions league every season when his teams get sketchy results and surprising losses. However, this season especially I think the ante has been upped yet again in the Premier League. As a result of this, his starting XI will be even more strained; Increasing the pressure, tempo and the ante results in more injuries, fatigue and stress IF you are over reliant on your core (and best) 11 players. This is the case with Liverpool. This is why Liverpool are nowhere near contention for the League. In reality they will do well to compete convincingly in 3 competitions. In reality, they will do well not to be the weak link of the top 4 next season.

  • Comment number 88.

    Lionrajo - Quite simply Beckham in his prime was trully world class and one of the best on the planet, he was nothing other than successfull everywher he went, and Rooney currently is one of the best on the planet and is only going to get better. Do I sense anti English feeling here? We do produce world class players, but in an entirely different vein to the South American/Southern European type. We play a different brand of football.

  • Comment number 89.

    Phil, love how you are all for "technology" but against the simple and accurate time keeping device called a "clock"! A stop-clock is a piece of technology! And football could do worse than follow rugbys example and stop the clock when the ball is out of play, and unlike having a "4th offical" watching 20 tv angles, it doesn't actully affect the run of play! As far as I can see there are no loosers, execpt of course, for some reason you don't like it, could it be the controvosy it causes? Surely not!

  • Comment number 90.

    #55 - Rooney for me hasn't developed into the player he could have been, at the Euro 2004 he was brilliant and had that explosiveness. He's also lost his long range shot, when was the last time he scored a 30 yarder?
    ----------------------
    I'd rather Rooney get 30 goals a season than 3 scorchers from 30 yards!

  • Comment number 91.

    And i have to laugh at words like shady goings on, blimey look at the Shadyness in todays game, the game is now so steeped in controversy its a wonder its still survived.
    .........................................................................

    it's only controversial if you get taken in by all the bitter WUM's on here.

  • Comment number 92.

    I live in Italy and can promise Mr. Sole-Leris that Rooney is regarded as one of the most feared players in Europe.

    Darren Bent - "signing of the summer" (still chuckling, McNulty, good one!)

  • Comment number 93.

    I have to disagree with the Rooney comment. Is he over rated? Massively. He's a decent second striker, he may well have been great, but over hyped since he was 16 means he believes his own press a little too much.

    He tries ridiculous things and gets credit for trying it when others would get slammed. When one in ten comes of he's a genius

    His temperament is suspect, and you’ll here “He needs that in his game”

    He seriously disrupts the balance of team running round like a headless chicken “He just loves the game and want to be involved all the time”

    The media coverage and television commentating is largely laughable. Can’t wait till you all change your mind and bring him down to earth with bump.

  • Comment number 94.

    @davidgilmourthe3rd

    Can you concentrate on the football, just this once. Perhaps comment on your own team's chances, just as I have done in #57.

    I know you can rise above tribal postings.

  • Comment number 95.

    "...every club in the world would be interested..."

    No, they wouldn't. Only about...what, four clubs would turn their heads at the fact Rooney is available. The other clubs won't care. Their either too poor or of low repute.

    :D

  • Comment number 96.

    I'd say Vermaelen is the best signing (from what i've seen so far this season). Fitted into the Arsenal team perfectly.

  • Comment number 97.

    I think its a tad fancifull to suggest that those who percieve there to be considerable controversy in the game are all WUM's

    I would draw a sorta analogy with the N Lottery which we all know is fixed? or do some still really believe its a game of chance, if so a reality check is indeed warrented.

    I do not dare to suggest that Football games are " fixed " but to say the game has not become embroiled in controversy is a tad blinkered.

    as for the reason for this Blogg,

    Arsenal are doing very well thank you , chelsea are doing somewhat better though, but things will soon change,as if the pensioners will emulate yet another Arsenal record which of course is a whole term unbeaten.

    as for wayne rooney: he plays football no need to go overboard


    Up the Gunners.

  • Comment number 98.

    Totally off subject but watching a craking Genoa vs. Juve match. Better than most Serie A.

  • Comment number 99.

    Good to see that there is no such thing as an objective opinion! I agree with most of what you said though Phil- which surprised me a little.

    I have a couple of questions, which I hope you will take a stab at.
    1. Do you think that the premier league clubs chances of winning the CL are significantly reduced by the loss of players to Real Madrid?
    2. Will the performance of International players who are destined for South Africa next summer, improve as they push for places in their respective teams, or tail off as they seek to protect themselvesf rom injury?

  • Comment number 100.

    Just a note to ceiling_fan,owen scored on sunday not saturday,in your haste to have a go at a liverpool fan for having a go at united (hypocritical id say) to sound intelligent you actually forgot when the manchester derby was played,im a liverpool fan and it was an awesome game,im guessing you didnt watch it or you just seen that post and had to say something to make yourself feel better.tut tut

 

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