December 13, 2010
Looking back to the 2006 Champions League final Arsenal can lament two things. Firstly, their cruel defeat at the hands of a stunning Barcelona side and, secondly, the sign of things to come from Manuel Almunia. Although this may seem a fairly harsh statement to make, it seems clear that even in that game all those years ago, Almunia was starting to show precisely why he would never quite be capable of making the grade at a top level football club after he failed to defend his front post adequately and was at fault for at least one of the two goals Arsenal conceded.
Following that game, Almunia found himself producing erratic performances in the Arsenal goal as the club struggled season after season to solve a defensive crisis that has caused the club to make a mockery of its former defensive ability that led to clean sheets galore. However, with Almunia all set to leave the Gunners, he may well now get a chance to show himself for what he is, a decent keeper for a mid-level club in the Premier League.
With the Gunners all too aware that they need an excellent shot stopper who is also able to organise the defence confidently so that the side can quickly turn defence into attack, something that can only be achieved through excellent distribution, it seems clear that the future for Almunia does not lie at the Emirates. Arsenal are now preparing to decide whether or not these qualities are present to a consistent enough extent in either of the other two young goalkeepers at their disposal.
If either does begin to demonstrate these badly needed qualities, Arsenal could yet look like great football bets for the title, with Almunia hopefully in the process joining a club elsewhere where he won’t come under anything like the same level of pressure as he seems to experience in North London. With Gunners fans still holding their keeper in high regard for a man who has always stayed loyal to the club, there is no doubt that they will wish him well as he looks to resurrect his career away from the Emirates.
Meanwhile, the Notts Forest betting suggests the side are in for another season of disappointment.
They currently sit in mid-table in the Championship and will have to up their game if they want to challenge for promotion.
December 10, 2010
Despite the poor run of form Chelsea find themselves in, they still have the best goalkeeper in the Premier League as far as Tottenham stopper Heurelho Gomes is concerned.
Chelsea have gone four games without a win in the league and they travel to White Hart Lane this weekend without too much confidence. In fact, many have Spurs down as favourites for the game.
The recent run would have no doubt affected Cech’s mindset and self-belief, but Gomes doesn’t believe the Chelsea No.1 is to blame for his team’s recent slump.
The Spurs man said: “There are a lot of good goalkeepers around, but for me the best is still Petr Cech. After a long time, he is back to his best form again.”
This might not do too much for Cech himself, but it will be good to hear that he is still very highly-rated by his peers in the Premier League.
Rightly so too, he has been a revelation for the Blues since joining the club in 2004 and always worn his Chelsea shirt with pride. Something he will continue to do as he potentially finishes his career at Stamford Bridge.
As for the game this weekend, it is likely that both Cech and Gomes will be kept busy by two attacking teams in what should be a cracking game of football.
December 8, 2010
Aston Villa haven’t enjoyed the best of spells in the Premier League recently. Struggling to adapt under the guidance of new boss Gerard Houllier, Villa have slipped to 16th in the league table and now possess a pretty unexpected goal difference of -10. Whilst there have been a number of problems affecting Villa and leading to their dramatic decline since the start of the season, weaknesses in defence and between the sticks haven’t helped matters.
It would seem that, rather than sit back and wait for things to improve at the club and risk the side slipping down into the dreaded relegation zone (an event that would prove intriguing for those following their progress on odds comparison sites), Houllier has taken matters into his own hands by instigating a search for a new goalkeeper. With the club keen to get a new goalkeeper established in the side sooner rather than later so that they’re not left in a sticky spot if current number one Brad Friedel decides to seek a new challenge elsewhere when the current campaign draws to a close, the January transfer window could be an interesting one for Villa fans.
With the 39-year-old linked to a move to the MLS several times already this season, and the prospect of a role as a player-coach at Columbus Crew thought to be high on the player’s agenda at the moment, speculation over his future is likely only to become more intense if Villa don’t have a quality replacement lined up for the start of the next campaign.
Bookies seem to think that Bolton Wanderers’ Ali Al Habsi, highly rated among Premier League managers, could be one option for Villa, who have managed to attract some high-profile names between the sticks throughout their famous history.
December 8, 2010
For a club that has found it extremely difficult to find a goalkeeper to rely upon over recent seasons, with many pundits stating that the side will be unable to upset the fixed odds and taste Premier League glory until they settle upon a consistent number one between the sticks, Arsenal have taken the brave step of telling one of their existing goalkeepers that they can leave the club when the January transfer window opens.
Manuel Almunia, who lost his place in the Gunners’ starting line-up after a spell of errors earlier this season, with Lukasz Fabianski upping his game between the sticks ever since to keep the Spaniard on the substitute bench, has been told that he’s free to look for a new club so that he can continue to play first-team football in the years left before his retirement from the game. With the 33-year-old likely to make the next club he plays for the one he sticks at for the rest of his career, it’s important that Arsenal accept not only the best offer for them financially, but the best offer for the goalkeeper himself.
Looking at the best odds surrounding his transfer, it currently seems that Atletico Madrid are the likeliest option for Almunia, with the Spanish side reportedly lining up a £1.5 million transfer. However, such a relatively cheap valuation of the Spaniard may not provide Arsenal with the funds they need if they want to bring in another goalkeeper to provide stiff and consistent competition in the long-term for Fabianski.
If this transfer is, as expected in some quarters, pushed through in January, it will be interesting to see what Atletico decide to do with David de Gea, who is rated highly across Europe. If they decide to sell him to raise funds, whilst bringing in the undoubtedly cheap option of Almunia, there will be more than a few Premier League clubs, perhaps including Arsenal, ready to pounce.
December 8, 2010
To date, Liverpool haven’t enjoyed most successful of seasons, but they have at least been able to rely upon one man for the majority of the campaign to provide them with a solid and reliable base from which they can build, and that is Pepe Reina.
Although pundits have tended to focus mainly upon goalkeeping disasters, of which there have been plenty so far this year already in the Premier League, or on England’s number one Joe Hart and his continuing development at Manchester City, Pepe Reina has been kept largely out of the limelight with his solid if not headline-grabbing performances, but the Andy Gray betting picks suggest he’s one of the best keepers around.
With Roy Hodgson all too aware that he owes a real debt of gratitude to his keeper, he was quick to praise the influence that Reina has had on Liverpool so far this season, despite the fact that he had little to do throughout Liverpool’s 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa last night, a match that saw Reina become the quickest Liverpool goalkeeper ever to reach one hundred clean sheets in the league and the footballbetting shows just how much he has helped his side.
If Hodgson is to continue to avoid hearing doubts raised about his future at the club, of which there have been many over the past few months, he knows that Reina will need to add to his clean sheet tally on an almost weekly basis. However, with the goalkeeper still not certain to stay at Anfield despite only recently being offered a new deal, the immediate future of Liverpool FC may rest on the club’s ability to persuade their talented keeper to stick around at the club.
Should the club fail to do just that, then all of the good work that Hodgson and the club’s new owners have done is likely to fall by the wayside as the club seek desperately to replace the man who is arguably the best keeper in the league.
December 6, 2010
In football, a lack of confidence can be the very worst thing for a player to suffer from and this is double true for the men between the sticks.
Goalkeepers can go from looking like Sunday league players to world-class individuals within the space of just a few weeks if they can improve their confidence levels and truly believe in themselves.
However, the reverse can happen just as easily and Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce must have been anxious that this fate was set to befall his goalkeeper, the often criticised Paul Robinson, after last week’s mauling at the hands of Manchester United. The football betting tips suggested United would win, but not by such a huge margin.
Robinson conceded seven at Old Trafford last week as United ran riot in style against a poor Blackburn side that offered little in the way of competition for the favourites to win the league. All goalkeepers hate to concede just one goal, so you can imagine the sort of emotions Robinson would have experienced after letting in seven.
However, Robinson bounced back from this by pulling off one of the Premier League goalkeeping performances of the season in Blackburn’s 3-0 win over Wolves.
The former England goalkeeper pulled off a string of world-class saves to deny a Wolves side that should nevertheless be admired for their attacking intent. Wolves could have scored at least the same number of goals as Blackburn but Robinson stood firm and put on the kind of display that must have proved a hammer blow for the visitors, who did all they could to break the barrier created by the in-form keeper. The Wolves betting suggests the loss has hurt them greatly.
Fabio Capello must be wondering if it will be possible to coax the player out of international retirement.
December 2, 2010
After plenty of speculation over the last year or so regarding his future, Mark Schwarzer has signed a new contract at Fulham to keep him at the club until 2012.
The former Middlesbrough keeper had been linked with a move to Arsenal in the last transfer window, but a move never materialised and Mark Hughes has now managed to convince him to commit his future to Fulham. Read more
November 27, 2010
With the January transfer window drawing ever closer, there is bound to be plenty of rumours flying around about where the future of certain players lies.
In fact, most football news stories will consist of transfer speculation over the next couple of months. Some of it will be complete rubbish, some will become reality. That’s probably why football fans are always so hooked on transfer gossip.
What has to happen a lot, of course, is the player in question has to come out and clarify his future. This has been the case with Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who has revealed that he is happy at The Potters.
It was said that he became unsettled in August after the club dismissed an approach from Chelsea for his signature.
Things have gone well for him since then though as he has been playing regularly and managed to hold the No.1 shirt ahead of Thomas Sorenson.
This doesn’t mean his future is certain though as there are still rumours he could walk away from the club in January.
When asked about the possibility of him moving on, Begovic said: You’ll have to ask God, I’m very bad at predicting these things.
“I’m just going to enjoy the current games. I’m not even going to think about January now.”
This wasn’t exactly committing himself to Stoke, but he did admit that he is enjoying his football at the moment, so perhaps that will be the deciding factor for him.
However, it has to be said that if a club like Chelsea comes calling once more, the player’s head is bound to be turned.
There will be many Premier League players wearing new kits from January onwards, but will Begovic be one of them? I guess we will have to wait and see.
For now, he will be concentrating on keeping a clean sheet against Manchester City this afternoon.
November 15, 2010
Although the news that Wojciech Szczesny has signed a new contract with Arsenal may have been met with uninterested dismissal by rival teams’ fans, it could well turn out to be a pivotal step in the long-term development of Arsenal Football Club.
Previous attempts to build a squad at Arsenal have failed to earn the club a piece of silverware and at times have even left the club struggling to earn a place in the Champions League. However, the main reason for this has arguably been the club’s inability to hold on to players who were previously playing a key role in the success of the club, with the obvious examples being Mathieu Flamini and Alex Hleb.
Both players left the club before the team and its fans would have liked, and both arguably left because Wenger and the Gunners board failed to act quickly enough to thrash out a contract that suited all parties.
However, with the club now showing that it is prepared to act early, as well as making sure that it is offering a competitive rate to its players to ensure that they are not attracted by larger wages elsewhere, Arsenal may finally be showing that they know what it takes to get to the top in English football. The football betting suggests they could win something this season, but they face a long, hard fight.
Should the Gunners hold on to the likes of Nasri as well as Szczesny, then they may well find themselves earning their first piece of silverware in what will seem to fans to be far too long a time. The Arsenal betting tips indicate they have every chance of doing so.
However, if the club fails to do so, despite the fact that they have managed to hold their squad together, then Wenger may be forced to change course and look instead to buying players rather than developing them.
November 12, 2010
Goalkeepers love nothing more than making save after save in a game and truly proving to onlookers that they’re worth the millions of pounds sent in their direction with each passing year. However, the sad reality is that all too often goalkeepers only make the headlines when they make a mistake. Solid performances often go unnoticed and unacknowledged, with the press always keen to send the plaudits the way of the strikers in English football.
It doesn’t however, have to be that way. Step forward Petr Cech. Most of the press surrounding the Chelsea game last night has focused upon Michael Essien’s mixed night, with the midfielder scoring and being sent off upon his return from injury. However, the fact remains that Chelsea had Cech to thank for keeping Fulham at bay in an onslaught during the last quarter of an hour or so that could, and perhaps should, have seen Carlo Ancelotti’s men finish the fixture with the single point, or in fact a rare home defeat put down in the history books. Anyone who placed a football bet on Chelsea that night will have been very pleased with his performance.
Cech, so quiet for much of the game and a mere bystander for the duration of the first half, should be praised for his alertness as the second half progressed, with long-range shots from Clint Dempsey and Zoltan Gera forcing the Czech into world-class saves that owed much to his consistently decent positional awareness and the manner in which he retains concentration even when Chelsea are lighting up the stage in attack.
The 1-0 scoreline represented Chelsea’s ninth consecutive clean sheet at Stamford Bridge, a truly astounding stat that is a real testament to Cech. He has had his critics since fracturing his skull all those years ago but it’s difficult to argue with a statistic like that one.
If Chelsea do win the league this season, no doubt much of the attention will fall on the likes of Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda, but Chelsea fans know the identity of the man who has earned them many more points than the other players would care to admit.
Meanwhile, the Birmingham betting suggests they could be in for a tough season.
The side slipped to a 3-2 defeat against Stoke in midweek to leave them close to the relegation zone.