English Football – Premiership Midseason Review – A to M

With all of the Premiership clubs having played either 19 or 20 games out of 38, it’s time to check in with how each team has performed thus far and their expectations and hopes for the second half of the season. This post covers the clubs from Arsenal to Manchester United – for Newcastle to Wolverhampton Wanderers, click HERE

Arsenal

Current position: 5th – 36pts; Best result: Chelsea 3 – 5 Arsenal Oct 29th; Worst result: Blackburn 4 – 3 Arsenal Sep 17th

The 8-2 loss away to Manchester United may be considered to be the low point of the early season struggles of Arsene Wenger’s men, but that came at a time their squad was depleted through injury and straight after Samir Nasri had fled to City. In contrast, the defeat at Blackburn was

Friends reunited - Wenger and Henry

with an almost full-strength team and was down to poor defending, indeed two of Rovers’ goals were put into their own net by Arsenal defenders. A loss in the North London derby two weeks later was the catalyst for a nine game unbeaten run in the league – of which they won eight – before a narrow 1-0 reverse away to Manchester City. That good form had propelled the Gunners into 4th place prior to Monday’s defeat to Fulham – a game they had been leading with just five minutes remaining – and they now sit a point behind Chelsea in the race for a Champions League berth. The priority will be qualifying for Europe’s top club competition again next year and Arsenal will be hoping to overtake London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham in the second half of the season. Club legend Thierry Henry is back with the team, on loan from New York Red Bulls, and Arsenal will be hoping he takes some of the pressure off Robin Van Persie – who has been a goalscoring machine this year with 17 Premiership goals already. The FA Cup remains Arsene Wenger’s best hope of ending a silverware drought that goes back to 2005 – the last time they won that trophy – but his focus will be on the League and their upcoming Champions League tie with A.C. Milan. Season rating so far: 6/10

Aston Villa

Current position: 13th – 23pts; Best result: Chelsea 1 – 3 Aston Villa Dec 31st; Worst Result: Aston Villa 1 – 2 West Brom Oct 22nd Continue reading

English Football – Premiership Midseason Review – N-W

With all of the Premiership clubs having played either 19 or 20 games out of 38, it’s time to check in with how each team has performed thus far and their expectations and hopes for the second half of the season. This post covers the clubs from Newcastle to Wolverhampton Wanderers – for Arsenal to Manchester United, click HERE

Newcastle United

Current position: 7th – 33pts; Best result: Newcastle 3 – 0 Man Utd Jan 4th; Worst result: Newcastle 2 – 3 West Brom Dec 21st

Newcastle had a fantastic start to the season – in fact they were unbeaten, until I wrote this piece praising the impact of Alan Pardew on the team. Since then, they have taken just 8 points from 9 games – although incredibly four of those points were gained at the expense of Manchester United. An injury to Steven Taylor was a major cause for the decline in form, shaking up a previously stable back four unit, but they had also

Demba Ba - worth every penny - and a lot more

enjoyed an easier run of games to start the season, than they have had in recent weeks. Demba Ba has proven to be a fantastic signing – and one that did not cost anything as he arrived on a free transfer – the Senegalese striker already has 15 goals to his name. Unfortunately for Newcastle, he will be missing several games later this month as he will be representing his country at the Africa Cup of Nations – a big loss for Pardew’s side. While they are highly unlikely to break into the top four this season, there is an outside chance they could qualify for Europe next year if more places go to the league (which happens if teams already qualified win the Carling Cup and FA Cup, plus the losing finalists of the FA Cup – it’s complicated but if things go their way, 7th place can mean Europa League football). Season rating so far: 8/10

Norwich City

Current position: 9th – 25pts; Best result: Norwich 4 – 2 Newcastle Dec 10th; Norwich 0 – 1 West Brom Sep 11th

Continue reading

The Iowa Caucuses and Green Eggs & Mitt

The first electoral event in the Republican Presidential Nomination race, which happens on January 3rd with the Iowa caucuses, got me thinking that Mitt Romney is the “Green Eggs and Ham” of the Republican Party – their voters are resistant to even try him as their candidate for President.  With apologies to Dr. Seuss…

That Mitt Romney, That Mitt Romney

I do not like that Mitt Romney

He isn’t really G.O.P.

 

Could you ever vote for Mitt?

Would you ever think of it?

I could not, would not vote for Mitt

I would not ever dream of it

 

Could you, would you, vote for Cain?

Would you get on the Herman Train?

I would not, could not vote for Cain

His 9-9-9 plan was just insane.

 

Would you, could you, vote Ron Paul?

He wants no government at all.

I could not, would not vote Ron Paul

He doesn’t believe in war at all.

 

Could you ever go with Bachmann?

Would you ever pick John Huntsman?

To us they have faults a-plenty

We would rather Tim Pawlenty

 

Would you ever for Perry?

In New Hampshire he got so merry.

Perry won’t get my vote – you’ll see

He can’t remember lists of three.

 

What of Rick Santorum or historian Newt?

Would either of these candidates suit?

 

I could not vote for Newt the speaker

He’s a blowhard and a preacher.

Of Santorum you could say the same

Just never ever Google his name.

 

They say that Mitt leads a national poll

Over Obama, whom you like least of all.

 

That Mitt Romney!  That Mitt Romney!

I do so like that Mitt Romney!

He’ll now get my vote, you’ll see

He’s the candidate for me!

Winning in Iowa can help a candidate gain momentum going into the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire (this year on January 10th), but success does not actually accrue the winner any delegates at the Republican National Convention (RNC), which is what this contest is all about.  Every precinct in the state will have meetings where registered voters will gather and give campaign speeches to try and convince their neighbours to choose their candidate.  This is where it gets tricky – a ballot is then taken, electing delegates from each precinct for the district

Could you, would you, vote for Mitt?

conventions, where delegates are chosen for the Iowa State Convention, ultimately, the RNC delegates will be determined there.  Even though the caucuses are on January 3rd, this State Convention is not until June 16th and none of the three levels of delegates are bound by the results of the ballots in the precints.  So, while tomorrow may have the perception of being an important stepping stone en route to the nomination, practically speaking, it will have little impact on the primary process.

As caucuses are designed to promote debate and rely on the powers of persuasion of the citizens who partake in the process, candidates who have passionate supporters are more likely to succeed over a contender who is being selected in the absence of any other choice.  Thus, Ron Paul, who has fervent, if minority, support amongst young people in the GOP, has a good chance of winning tomorrow.  Rick Santorum, who has been polling in the single digits for most of his campaign, has received a boost by being endorsed by Christian Evangelical leaders, whose members make up around half of the registered Republicans in Iowa – which could result in a top 3 position finish.  In contrast, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have little in the way of ardent followers and have been polling well without anyone seeming to actually like them, making success tomorrow unlikely.

 

This week in: American Football – Week 17 – Giants vs Cowboys Live

11:30pm

A Romo fumble gives the ball back to the Giants and they are able to run the clock down.  The Giants head for the playoffs while the Cowboys must go home and think about the game they lost in Dallas in Week 14, when they were up by 12 points with just six minutes remaining.  They will actually end up third in the division, behind the Eagles on a tie-breaker.  End of the game: Giants 31, Cowboys 14

11:25pm

With this game settled, the NFC playoff picture is now set.  Next week, the Lions will travel to New Orleans to play the Saints; while the Falcons will come to New York to face the Giants.  Apart from a wobble in the third quarter, Tom Coughlin’s men have looked impressive tonight and looked good in their narrow loss to the Packers a few weeks ago.  In their 2007 Superbowl run, the Giants caught fire late on and rode that all the way to the title, they will definitely be a tough out for anyone who faces them this January too.  If they do end up going to Green Bay in the divisional round, it will be a repeat of the NFC Championship game from that 2007 season – Brett Favre’s last game for the Packers, which ended with an interception and the Giants winning with a field goal in overtime.  The running-back tandem of Jacobs and Bradshaw may expose Green Bay’s defensive frailties, especially in a snowy game.  But I get ahead of myself, the Falcons and the Lions will be trying to prevent that particular matchup from ever occurring.

In tonight’s game, the clock reaches the two minute warning with the Cowboys still inside their own half.

11:20pm

Cowboys drive: With less than 6 minutes left in the game and down by two scores, time is definitely running out on Dallas’ season.  They don’t get the job done, however, and on third down Felix Jones drops a Romo pass and forces the Cowboys to punt the ball away.

Giants drive: After two rush attempts, Manning lets loose on third and 5 and finds Hakeen Nicks downfield for a 36 yard gain and a first down from the Dallas 4 yard line.  Another touchdown here and this game is over – and that’s exactly what happens – Manning to Nicks again and the Giants are going to the playoffs.  Extra point is good: Giants 31, Cowboys 14

Victor Cruz celebrates his 43 yard reception

11:10pm

Giants drive: New york starts from its own 25 and the first play is batted down by Ratliff, then a Jacobs run gains a couple but no more.  On third down, Manning is under immense pressure then spins around and hits Victor Cruz for 43 yards – unbelievable play by the Giants QB.  Two plays later, Manning again connects with Cruz to get New York inside the 10 yard line.  After an incompletion, DeMarcus Ware sacks Manning, and then the QB has to scramble on third down – bringing out the field goal unit to make it a 10 point game.  Tynes’ kick is good. Giants 24, Cowboys 14

11:00pm

Giants drive: The Cowboys really need a three-and-out and that’s exactly what they get – forcing the Giants to put the ball straight back to them.  The return goes to the Giants 41 yard line, but a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty on New York gives Dallas the opportunity to start their drive just 26 yards from the end zone.

Cowboys drive: A screen pass to Dez Bryant gains 17 yards for Dallas and moves them to first and goal.  Two plays later and Romo finds Laurent Robinson again in the end zone for a TOUCHDOWN! Extra point is good.  Giants 21, Cowboys 14 – game on. Continue reading