EPL Daily 1.29: Woody with Spurs, Sissoko, Baros, Guzan, coming down to the wire

JONATHAN WOODGATE: The former Real Madrid central defender has been stuck in the mediocrity of Middlesbrough. After a transfer bidding war between Newcastle and Tottenham, the Spurs have come out on top – addressing a big issue within their line-up. Michael Dawson can’t be trusted and who knows when Ledley King is ever going to be fully fit again. Only Pascal Chimbonda can say he’s doing anything worthwhile. Woodgate went to Real Madrid as a young 24 year old, but with one major problem, huge injury issues. He solidified himself as a first team central defender but then the injuries hit, limiting him to 9 games over 3 seasons. Tottenham apparently picked Woody up for $16 million, but guess what? – a hamstring injury should keep him from joining their starting line-up for another 2-3 weeks. The Hotspur also look to finish up a deal for Scottish international and Rangers fullback Alan Hutton soon. The figure seems to be around $18 million. Clearly, Juande Ramos is addressing their major weaknesses and not afraid to spend the cash for true talent…less so potential.

MO SISSOKO: The Mali international got his wish and hell of a wish come true at that. 22-year old Sissoko was pissed at not getting the chances he deserved at Anfield and wanted more playing time. Can’t really blame the kid as he was asked to wait behind the likes of Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, and Xabi Alonso. His time looks to increase two-fold at Juve with an aging Pavel Nedved, Cristiano Zanetti, and inexperienced Antonio Nocerino leading the way. Juventus’ midfield has provided only 7 of the 46 goals scored this year. Sissoko is generally considered a defensive midfielder but don’t count out the possibility of him getting a little more free reign at the Delle Alpi. The proceeds from Sissoko’s transfer looks to be the money Liverpool needs to pay for a permanent capture of Javier Mascherano.

MILAN BAROS: …………..is back!! The underperforming former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker has returned to the EPL from French juggernauts Olympique Lyonnais and this time with his scoring touch, hopefully, intact. This one flew under the radar as Baros will be moving on loan. His reasoning? What else but lack of playing time. Milan – if you scored more and bitched less, you’d be starting in Lyon. Regardless, he will get the playing time needed at Pompey under Redknapp cause they’re dealing with Kanu and Utaka gone at the AFC and David Nugent just picking up an injury. We’ll give him props for at least a year over at Stade de Gerland.

BRAD GUZAN: No need to recap this. You all read it on Soccer by ives.

RUMORS: Barcelona’s Eidur Gudjohnsen back to the EPL, this time with Bolton (still need that Anelka replacement); Afonso Alves to Middlesbrough is still in the works, getting closer apparently; Joleon Lescott to either Manchester United or Arsenal

OTHER COMPLETED MOVES: Dennis Wise (head coach at Leeds United) to Newcastle in the position of Executive Director (whatever that means); Aston Villa’s Olof Mellberg to Juventus (Bosman ruling, Summer 2008); Manchester City’s Giorgios Samaras to Celtic on loan; Racing Lens’ Jimmy Kebe to Reading

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EPL Weekend 1.12: ManYoo enjoys Arsenal and Liverpool’s bad day

Saturday, January 12th

Arsenal 1, Birmingham 1

The Gunners were held by a feisty Birmingham squad at the Emirates. Arsenal dominated but nothing was put by Maik Taylor after Emmanuel Adebayor’s penalty (controversial of course) was converted in the 21st minute (it was his 13th EPL goal of the year). The Blues then muffled Arsenal’s momentum the rest of the half, launching dodgy counter-attack after counter-attack. It didn’t pay dividends until the 48th minute, when a scrum in the box produced a Garry O’Connor header that clipped the foot of Cesc Fabregas and trickled by Almunia. Arsene Wenger has assured supporters that despite recent results and the loss of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, he is not going into ‘panic buy’ mode.

Manchester United 6, Newcastle 0

Pure class. All goals scored in the second half and the catalyst was none other than the stupidly efficient Cristiano Ronaldo. It went Ronaldo 3, Tevez 2, and Rio Ferdinand 1 on the scoring tally as Newcastle plain broke down. I think I saw Nicky Butt cry. ManYoo posted a 31 shot day with 2/3 of them hitting frame and Shay Given could have almost been called the Man of the Match (at least in Wayne Rooney’s eyes) if it weren’t Ronaldo and Tevez. Given stopped every one of Rooney’s 7 shots and made some amazing saves, but in the end – 31 shots, some are bound to go in. Between Cacapa, Stephen Carr, and Jose Enrique – the marking was horrendous. The Red Devils must be given credit for their class though and it was nice to see a glimpse of the future in Danny Simpson, who almost scored his first EPL goal of the year late in the game. The win puts Manchester United level with Arsenal in points, but ahead on goal differential.

Chelsea 2, Tottenham 0

Nicolas Anelka came on and played a solid 30 minutes in Chelsea’s shutout and snuffing of the hot Hotspur. It was closer than the scoreline makes it out to be though. Shaun Wright-Phillips was again the difference, wreaking havoc on the right side and putting away the clincher. Belletti supplied the go-ahead goal, but it really SWP who is starting make those chances that people have talked about for years. He was the kid that people said, “Man, he’d be extremely dangerous if he actually could finish his chances” about. Well, much to Avram Grant’s approval, he has started that process – at a good time too, with Essien and Mikel out, the wingers needed to pick up their game. Tottenham’s new signing Chris Gunter dressed but didn’t play.

Aston Villa 3, Reading 1

Villa continued their EPL rise at the expense of Reading who fell victim to John Carew’s brace. No one was expecting anything different, however, as the Royals have yet to win away from home this campaign. Reading’s goal came in the 90th minute in the form of a James Harper consolation goal, while Carew’s goals sandwiched a Martin Laursen header (his second in January). Bobby Convey played the last 20 minutes for Reading.

Everton 1, Manchester City 0

Sven Goran-Eriksson had nothing happy to say about this loss to David Moyes’ Toffees which seem to have found their stride again. Even without Yobo, Pienaar, and Yakubu. Timmy Howard was great in goal yet again, but the true victor was Joleon Lescott who felt compelled to make up for his own goal against Chelsea in the first leg Carling Cup semifinals several days ago. How? Scored the gamewinner.

West Ham 2, Fulham 1

Good god Cottagers. Another loss, another squandered lead, and yet another step closer to relegation for Fulham USA. Simon Davies hit early for Roy Hodgson’s club, but it was countered a little over 10 minutes later by Dean Ashton. The man of the match was veteran Swede Freddie Ljungberg who picked out Ashton more than once, causing trouble on the flanks. Both Clint Dempsey (who came close several times to helping the Fulham cause) and Carlos Bocanegra played, but it was Boca who had to come off in the 14th minute after a losing tete-a-tete with Ljungberg. Not be shown up by his brother Rio, Anton Ferdinand provided the game winner in the 69th minute.

Liverpool 1, Middlesbrough 1

Both Arsenal and Liverpool took a step back this weekend and both certainly didn’t have to. At least Liverpool had the problem of being away from home, but it was all a matter of finishing their chances. Only Torres could do that as the Spaniard provided the game-tying goal that saved the Reds from embarrassment. Old-man George Boateng showed he still had the ability to find the net – scoring his first of the season. Stewart Downing and Sanli Tuncay worked real well together, but Liverpool’s defense held strong.

Wigan 1, Derby 0

The signings certainly made Derby a more formidable squad, but it didn’t matter as Wigan dealt with the new faces and actually put their chances away. Big French striker Antoine Sibierski put one in with 10 minutes to go, grabbing the three points for battlers Wigan.

Sunday, January 13th

Sunderland 2, Portsmouth 0

The Black Cats pounced on a wasteful Pompey as the lack of Papa Bouba Diop, Nwankwo Kanu, and Sulley Ali Muntari was extremely evident. Not to mention, Portsmouth didn’t have the services of Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson, who provided the scoring touch that put Pompey away. It was a brace for Richardson, all in the span of 10 minutes (one at 44 minutes, another 10 minutes after halftime). Harry Redknapp might have even had some “what ifs?” in regards to the Newcastle opening after this matchup.

Blackburn 1, Bolton 1

A ridiculous side volley by Kevin Nolan made a terrible game look presentable for a moment – and I mean A moment. But Bolton reared their ugly relegation heads late in the game as Blackburn equalized in 53rd minute thanks to Christopher Samba (who recently just re-upped his contract for 5 more years). Blackburn then relied on the speed and finishing of wantaway striker Jason Roberts, who has struggled for time this year behind Benni McCarthy, Matt Derbyshire, and Roque Santa Cruz in the pecking order. He had his day, however, and scored in injury time to seal the win for Brad Friedel and the Rovers.

EPL Daily 1.10: Sissoko, Big Al and a new Magpie Boss, Hunt, Lita, Alves, Chimby, Defoe, and Downing

SAM ALLARDYCE: Sacked – well actually, Big Sam left by mutual consent – but yea, sacked. Who’s next? There are reports out there that Newcastle immortal Alan Shearer will take the post but he has already distanced himself. Everton’s David Moyes – Lucius Vorenus look-alike – was also put out there, but that’s already been shot down. Harry Redknapp, known to be linked to everything out there – including criminal charges – was next in line but that’s been refuted as well. Back to square one Mike Ashley (I’m sure he’s got other targets). As for Allardyce, he’s already moving on and ready to continue his career as told in a very ‘I’m on Oprah’ response to BBC’s questions.

MOMO SISSOKO: Sissoko to Juventus is certainly heating up and according to SkySports, it is very close.

AFONSO ALVES: The Brazilian goalscorer is most likely headed to either Manchester City or Middlesbrough in a deal reportedly worth $20 million. Other clubs interested include Turkish giant Fenerbahce. Alves could be a great purchase, but due to the many pundits’ varying opinions of the quality of play in the Dutch Eredivise, we won’t know until he puts on a different shirt. Then again look at Dirk Kuijt and Ruud van Nistelrooy (who just extended his contract with Real Madrid, one year). Either way, Alves has played his last game at the Abe Lanestra for the Frisians.

MIDDLESBROUGH : Speaking of Gareth Southgate’s side, they are desperate to hold on to young winger and English international Stewart Downing, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to do so as Downing’s ambition is getting the best of him (not a bad thing). Tottenham and Everton are in driver’s seat, biding their time and deciding whether to bid for the winger now or wait until his contract runs out in 2010.

CHIMBONDA/DEFOE: Tottenham fullback is keen on a move to Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa. O’Neill is keen to bring in the back along with ostracized striker Jermain Defoe which instantly make them a Euro possibility for the second half of the year. Defoe could offset the loss of John Carew, sidelined in recent weeks with injuries. I wouldn’t expect either of the two to go for cheap though. Alan Hutton’s possible move from Rangers to Tottenham has put Chimbonda in fear for losing his right-back position and rightfully so.

MARLON KING: The Jamaican international is wanted badly by Roy Hodgson’s new-direction Fulham squad. An $8 million bid was rejected by Championship-side Watford making that move a bit more expensive. King has a strong track record for the Hornets having struck for 11 goals so far this year and Fulham are in dire need of a true striker (i.e. healthy Brian McBride) as David Healy, Shefqi Kuqi, and Diomansy Kamara haven’t done crap for the relegation battlers.

STEPHEN HUNT: Sunderland’s third try to sign the Irish winger, who has forced Bobby Convey into a different role at Reading, was met with a warning issued by manager Steve Coppell.

“It doesn’t matter. They can come calling every day – there is no positive response from us in that direction.”

That was Coppell turning down a $9 million bid for a guy consider marginal at the most last year. He has picked up his game becoming a clutch and go-to player for the Royals. Hunt has 5 goals and 3 assists this year. Coppell’s warning was a blanket statement as he doesn’t plan on parting with highly rated striker Leroy Lita either.

Slowly but surely, this transfer market is starting to pick-up!

EPL Daily 1.2.08: SAF Lashes Out; Eddie Johnson where?; Rumors; and a New Year’s Run-Down

I’ll have a quick breakdown of readers’ allegiances and what not coming up either later today or tomorrow…for now, however, let the January transfer window commence as the EPL starts to heat up. I will post every significant transaction along with analysis as they arise. EPL match capsules below…

SAF: Sir Alex Ferguson lashed out at Manchester United’s supporters for Glazer-bashing and the fact that Old Trafford sounded like a ‘funeral’ during Man Utd’s 1-0 win over Birmingham yesterday. Carlos Tevez provided something to cheer about, but the atmosphere didn’t last for long. Maybe we should ask for competitive parity in the EPL before we require that supporter’s groups actually get excited to play a Birmingham City! Ferguson also slammed supporters on the topic of Glazer-bashing.

EDDIE JOHNSON: The Times Online UK has listed the suitors for Kansas City Wizards forward Eddie Johnson while the Daily Mirror has thrown one into the mix at well. A combined list includes Fulham, Manchester City, Reading, Derby County again, Middlesbrough, and Benfica. Johnson’s addition to Fulham would give the Cottagers an American army consisting of Keller, Bocanegra, Dempsey, and McBride. It seems Fulham will only make the move if their attempt to sign Liverpool’s wantaway Harry Kewell.

STEVEN PIENAAR: The South African winger for Everton is a rising stock in the EPL and his club loyalty confirms that. Pienaar has asked for special leniency to delay his African Nations Cup call-up in order to play in the Carling Cup semifinal against Chelsea on January 8th. The first match of the  African Nations Cup is January 23rd, but South African national team players are expected to report January 5th in order to prepare. He should find out either today or tomorrow.

TRANSFER RUMORS: David Villa to Chelsea, David Bentley to Chelsea or Atletico Madrid, Emmanuel Villa from UAG Tecos to Derby County, Dean Ashton to a number of clubs, but it was Liverpool midfielder throwing out the ultimatum – saying Liverpool either signs him soon or he’s out and it wouldn’t be very hard for him to find a home. I bet Mohamed Sissoko would like that…

New Year’s Day Matches

Chelsea 2, Fulham 1

A Hodgson-led Fulham side looked much more engaged and ready to play, but the Cottagers – thanks to a botched PK call on Michael Ballack – still took the loss. Danny Murphy put away Fulham’s PK chance in the 10th minute, but it was Salomon Kalou who has become a fixture in Chelsea’s first team who powered home a close-range header to start a 10-minute double salvo that pushed Fulham deeper into the relegation zone. Both Americans – Dempsey and Bocanegra – played all 90-minutes, while Brian McBride is apparently on the hot trail to return by the end of the month.

Arsenal 2, West Ham United 0

First twenty minutes and the game was already put away as the rising duo of Adebayor and Eduardo da Silva each grabbed a goal to ensure Arsenal’s first place position. Both goals were equally ‘magical’ – to quote Ray Hudson. Adebayor’s was put away at the most acute angle possible and Eduardo’s was a half volley with a feint of sorts that threw Robert Green off his mark. Carlton Cole made Manuel Almunia’s life on the pitch a miserable and deceivingly tough one, but the Spanish goalkeeper prevailed. The win over Man Utd put a noticeable fatigue on West Ham’s midfield but it was the early goal that took the wind out of their sails.

Manchester United 1, Birmingham 0

United kept pace with the Gunners and the scoreline looks tighter than it probably should have been. The Devils wasted several chances – especially a three-yard miss from Cristiano Ronaldo that could put away the game. Carlos Tevez scored the game’s only goal early on though and Carlos Quieroz kept them attacking, but nothing would go in. Sir Alex Ferguson’s discontent was somewhat visible as he sat in the crowd serving the second of his two-game sideline suspension. Park Ji-Sung – though regaining match fitness – showed glimpses of his old self, while Michael Carrick had his worst day in a while – bad first touch, terrible vision, etc. Overall, it was clear the West Ham loss took a bit out of the Devils. Tevez paid for his goal as it looks like the forward will miss the FA-Cup match against Aston Villa coming up with severe brusing in the ankle.

Portsmouth 2, Reading 0

This game marked a great day for Marcus Hahnemann – despite the loss and two goals conceded. The American keeper triggered a clause in his deal that guaranteed him a new deal if he played in 20 EPL games on the season. Mission accomplished and Hahnemann stays a Royal. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that Pompey unravelled the Royals led by Sol Campbell. Reading didn’t do much for themselves though as three minutes in Ibrahima Sonko was sent off after levelling Benjani in the box. Niko Kranjcar missed the attempt, however. John Utaka added the clincher in the 66th minute as Reading fought against a potent offense that never once let up. For those of you worried about Bobby Convey leaving in the 7th minute, it was merely a tactical decision made by Coppell in reaction to Sonko’s ejection.

Everton 2, Middlesbrough 0

Finishing and a man known as Tim Howard set the tone for Everton’s 2-0 shutout of Middlesbrough. Howard made some remarkable saves allowing Everton’s offense the time to finally put one home. It took until the 67th minute but Andrew Johnson found net and opened the door for James McFadden to add another 5 minutes later. Other than that, the rainy day made it a scrappy affair but Everton corrected their form and seem ready to resume their challenge for Europe.

Aston Villa 2, Tottenham 1

A pair of defenders were the difference on both sides of the field as Villa shut down Berbatov and company. Heading into January, Juande Ramos’ biggest concern his holding onto the Bulgarian striker with Darren Bent most likely on his way out too. Olaf Mellberg powered home a header early on only for it to be snuffed out by Jermain Defoe’s late strike in the 79th minute. Martin Laursen – another central defender – albeit one with 5 goals! – put one home in the 82nd minute off yet another set piece. Michael Dawson was made to look like a lost little puppy by the defenders who scraped and clawed their way to freedom in the penalty box. At least, in post-game interviews, it was reiterated that Berbatov will, in fact, stay at White Hart Lane.

EPL Weekend: Boca scores, United falls, Arsenal pushes forward

Saturday, December 29th, 2007 

Tottenham 6, Reading 4

You almost HAVE to start out with this one as weird results such as this one don’t come around to often in the EPL. Dimitar Berbatov had 4 of the 6 Spurs’ goals and reiterated after the game that he was poised to leave come the New Year because he still thought Tottenham (even with the new coach) had no chance at trophies. His four put him at 8 for the year and right into the thick of the scoring leaderboard. It was Reading, however, that went up 2-1 with almost a half to go but then all went to hell. There were 7 goals in the last 40 minutes. Robbie Keane was kept quiet on the day despite a PK chance that was snuffed by Marcus Hahnemann. Dave Kitson scored two for the Royals pushing his total to 8 as well, but it was still Reading’s 2nd lopsided drubbing of the campaign (remember that 7-4 loss to Portsmouth). Not a good habit to get into…Khalifa Cisse and Ivar Ingimarsson scored the first two goals for Reading, while Tottenham got a rocket from Steed Malbranque and a PK miss follow-up from Jermain Defoe to go with Berbatov’s 4 goal performance.  

West Ham 2, Manchester United 1

The hiccup that no one expected would happen, especially with the recent form of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo showed up to play yet again, scoring in the 14th minute to put the Devils up 1-0 and things seemed dandy. It was the Hammers that took control though, creating more chances, and giving Tomasz Kusczak some trouble in goal. They didn’t break through Rio and Vidic until the 77th minute when guess who? ANTON Ferdinand (Rio’s brother and West Ham’s central defender) headed one home. Matthew Upson then provided the winner aerially about 5 minutes later, bringing ManYoo crashing back down to Earth. What’s worse is it was Cristiano Ronaldo who could have effectively put the game away in the 68th with a Jonathan Spector PK gift, but he missed wide right proving he’s not a soccer God yet.

Fulham 1, Birmingham 1

The Cottagers looked like the home team and both Americans – Bocanegra and Dempsey had good days. Boca found the net early on with a near post run as he nodded it past the sprawling Maik Taylor putting Fulham up 1-0 and making new boss Roy Hodgson jump a bit for joy in the stands. They pressed forward again and again, but it was Sebastian Larsson’s Omozusi-deflected (poor kid yet again) long range blast that tied the game up. Dempsey really did look effective, but nothing of worrisome proportions to Taylor in net. Fulham will have to gear up for a tough second half of the season and expect some personnel changes to prepare for that…Michael Parkhurst anyone?

Chelsea 2, Newcastle 1

The Magpies falter yet again. Salomon Kalou’s 87th minute put-away amongst offside controversy put the death grip on Sam Allardyce’s job status. Either way, Newcastle managed only 2 shots on net, 1 of which hit its target. Michael Essien put away the first goal of the day in a penalty box-scrum, but ultimately he had one of his more forgetful performances of the season. Nicky Butt equalized on a well-executed counter attack that saw him start the play and end it, but after that, Newcastle went limp. Nothing to report except that Chelsea’s class took over and Allardyce was relegated to admitting defeat.

Arsenal 4, Everton 1

Tim Howard looked particularly helpless in goal but it certainly wasn’t as if received any real help from his back four. Eduardo – Arsenal’s Croatian Brazilian – picked apart Lescott and Yobo repeatedly for two goals cancelling out Tim Cahill’s opener at 19 minutes. Adebayor added his 11th of the year and Tomas Rosicky hit for a near-post screamer to add insult to injury. There were two sent off in this fixture and for about ten minutes, Everton had the upper hand as Nicklas Bendtner was ejected for a childish tackle. Mikel Arteta – a great deal older – threw a brutal looking elbow on Fabregas minutes later and was given his marching orders as well. A 4-1 win puts Wenger’s boys on top by two points and proved me stupid as only a couple days ago I had announced Everton’s “arrival”. Oh well.

Middlesbrough 1, Portsmouth 0

Southgate’s Boro grabbed a shock away win against an impotent Portsmouth squad. It was Pompey that provided most of the attacking flair but they were repeatedly tempered by a Woodgate-led back four. Pompey manager turned felon Harry Redknapp cited fatigue as the biggest factor in the loss, but whether it was fatigue-induced or not, the finishing was pretty much piss-poor. Why the Kranjcar/Muntari set-up was given a rest, with the African Nations Cup coming up and Muntari leaving, is beyond me…

Aston Villa 2, Wigan 1

Another hard fought Aston Villa win. Two late goals from Curtis Davies and Gabriel Agbonlahor sealed the deal at Wigan, ruining Titus Bramble’s first-ever goal celebration with the Latics. All-in-all, the game produced few real attacking efforts and if it came down to a defensive stand-off, I would bet my life on the Villans. The man of the day was Curtis Davies though as he looked like a guy worth keeping, something Martin O’Neill has been waiting for all season. Wigan still sits in the relegation zone with Liverpool looming and not making matters any easier.

Sunderland 3, Bolton 1

Roy Keane’s boys continued Bolton’s downward spiral, putting a three-spot on the lowly Wanderers. Former Man Utd winger Kieran Richardson hit first in the 13th with hot prospect Kenwyne Jones following suit twenty minutes later. It was a finishing clinic as there weren’t many chances in this one, nor were there expected to be many. El-Hadji Diouf tried to take matters in his own hands, pulling one back before half-time but the Black Cats held strong. Darryl Murphy provided the icing on the cake in injury time, but the real question after this result was: is Nicolas Anelka moving on?? Without Anelka, I can only see relegation for the Wanderers unless someone learns how to spend money over at Reebok Stadium. Sunderland aren’t in a great way either and sit – along with Bolton – right above the relegation zone.  

Sunday, December 30th 

Blackburn 2, Derby 1

Roque Santa Cruz scored his third goal in 2 games and this one ensured at least a point with lowly Derby County. The Paraguayan striker now has 10 on the year and is rapidly closing in on Cristiano Ronaldo at the top. It was David Bentley however, who also has had a great past couple games, that provided the gamewinner and the heroics for the Rovers. Matt Oakley opened the scoring for the Rams as they converted on their first real offensive drive but fizzled after that. The Rovers poured on shot after shot (a whopping 18 on goal), but the true turning point was Steve Howard’s botched penalty attempt. Brad Friedel guessed the right direction and kept Derby’s lead at only one. Then Santa Cruz and Bentley took over.

Liverpool 0, Manchester City 0

An exciting deadlock to say the least. Big men of the day were Man City’s Vedran Corluka and Irish veteran Richard Dunne. Not that Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher had a bad day or anything, but it was pretty quiet on Pepe Reina’s side of the field. Sven’s Citeh fought off a rather tame barrage and centre-back Dunne probably blocked at least 5 of those attempts himself and kept Torres at bay. Carragher on the other hand kept Elano quiet, snuffing any chance Man City had to move up in the standings. Dunne took the cake for best performance of the day with his acrobatic clearance off the line after a nifty Joe Hart save almost trickled into Man City’s goal.

EPL Daily 12.12: Maurice Edu abroad!?; Capello done…; Gerrard burgled

Fabio Capello – England’s next skipper. Eurosport says it’s as close as you can get to done. BBC Sport is saying the talks are just beginning. Even Ruud Gullit has thrown in his two cents, saying that the Italian could really make a big impact on English football as long as you don’t expect “sexy football”. The English playing “sexy football”, Ruud? HAH!

No real proof as of yet, but the Maurice Edu to Aston Villa rumors are back!! First, the Daily Mirror (crap). Second, Vital Football. It’s picking up steam, but Martin O’Neill has yet to confirm.

Steven Gerrard joins the list of 6 other Liverpool footballers that have been burgled in the past 18 months. His house was hit while he was in France destroying Marseille. Others? Crouch, Dudek, Agger, Kuyt, Reina. Scary part is, Gerrard’s wife was home at the time – first time someone has been in the house. Lucky no confrontation was involved.

Aston Villa defensive stalwart Olaf Mellberg is ready to snub Martin O’Neill and join Juventus. His contract is up in the summer and pre-contract talks can happen in the January transfer window. His thoughts? “Juventus? I can’t deny it.” Well put. Mellberg’s loss could present some sort of mass defensive exodus as Wilfried Bouma, keeper Thomas Sorensen, and Martin Laursen all are awaiting contract talks but could certainly opt for other opportunities as many will be in line to snatch them up.

EPL Sunday: Chelsea bows to Villa, 10-man Gunners beat Pompey, Friedel frustrates Man City

Aston Villa 2, Chelsea 0

Is it Liverpool’s season? According to this result, Chelsea’s ‘dominate-but-still-lose-and/or-tie-the-game’ mentality is still fresh in their mind. Villa converted their chances behind $7 million dollar man Zatyiah Knight and rising young’un Gabriel Agbonlahor. Knight provided his strike in the opening minutes of the second half, while Agbonlahor caused a riot with his clincher 2-3 minutes before time. If we had taken a look at the pre-game capsules and what not, one figure would have been quite substantial – Chelsea has not beaten the Villans at Villa Park in eight full seasons. Pretty incredible. Former Barca boy Belletti got his first start for the Blues, but failed to help the Villans out of the back of the net.

Blackburn 1, Manchester City 0

After a whirlwind start to the season, Citeh has come crashing back to earth. This time it was Benedict McCarthy who acted as gravity – slotting home a sitter to extend a remarkable 14-game unbeaten streak that the Rovers started all the way back during last season. It was Benni’s first strike of the season as he is already off his pace to best his tally of 24 in 2006. The game saw a Rover and a Blue sent off – Turkish general Tugay and Man City skipper Richard Dunne were shown the showers as physical was the name of the game and it seems the Rovers came out on top. Brad Friedel worked all ninety minutes as he grabbed his first shutout of the new Premiership season.

Arsenal 3, Portsmouth 1

The Gunners played almost a half without the services of Phillippe Senderos after he was ejected for obstruction. Fortunately, Adebayor had converted an 8th minute penalty given to him ever so graciously by David James. Cesc Fabregas added another in the 35th, only to see Senderos sent off abruptly in the right after the halftime whistle. From then on, Pompey pressured but never converted. Tomas Rosicky added the last nail to the coffin only 10 minutes later netting his first Premiership goal of the season (coming after a midweek Champions League goal as well). Kanu pulled one back a minute later and Pompey continued to pressure, but nothing clicked leaving Emirates, Wenger, and the Gunners themselves breathing a sigh of relief as they try and keep pace with the leaders.