EPL Daily 2.27: Real Salt Lake finds themselves a doctor, don’t mess with the Spurs and Ledley King, Thaksin facing the music

KENNY DEUCHAR: Not many of you have probably heard of the 6’3″ Scotsman (and it took me a while to remember the name), but he could be Real Salt Lake’s younger version of Toronto FC’s Danny Dichio without the fiery rep. Deuchar is most well known for being the key man in Gretna’s rise from the depths to mediocrity. The “Good Doctor” was responsible for an unparalleled feat in Scottish football history – 41 goals in 41 games, 6 hat-tricks in a season, and he lived up to his stats by treating RSL GM Garth Lagerwey to a two-goal performance in a losing cause against Glasgow Rangers. Gretna hasn’t been able to pay their striker due to financial troubles and that led to Deuchar’s disenchantment with the club but loan spells with Northampton Town and St. Johnstone proved only marginally fulfilling. With RSL he’ll get his pay day (gasp!). Deuchar adds a target man, power and depth to a pacy, skillful set of forwards – Robbie Findley,  Fabian Espindola, and Yura Movsisyan. Oh, and the ‘Good Doctor’ bit? One of the perks of his signing with Real Salt Lake was that he would be able to practice (yep, he’s a practising physician) in a nearby medical clinic.

THAKSIN SHINAWATRA: The ex-Thai Prime Minister and Manchester City owner is set to return to Thailand tomorrow to face the corruption charges still outstanding. Shinawatra has been in some sort of a mid-life crisis – leaving the country for almost a year and a half, buying one of the most storied English football clubs, playing with it, and now realizing these corruption charges aren’t just going to go away.

Other tidbits:

George Gillett and Tom Hicks are reportedly close to selling Liverpool (almost a year after when they first bought the club) to the Dubai International Capital group. Both Gillett and Hicks continue to deny any intention to sell.

Sniffing the Touchline has all the photos of Tottenham’s post-Carling Cup Victory bash. Always knew Ledley King was a belligerent and crazy S.O.B. The best of it all is the fact that Juande Ramos gave his approval, allowing the guys to unwind after watching their team transform this year from disastrous to beyond passable.

David Beckham admits he isn’t ready to play for Fabio Capello’s national squad and is willing to wait. In better news, however, Fox Soccer Channel is rumored to have bought the English language broadcast rights to the LA Galaxy’s Asian Tour (3 games in South Korea, Hong Kong, and China).

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Yakubu out to prove he’s no Craig Bellamy: Everton 2, Manchester City 0

The big Nigerian striker provided the first goal in a 2-0 shutout of Sven’s sliding Citeh (and his 16th of the still young season). Last month’s CHI Best XI pick Joleon Lescott added another less than 10 minutes later as the Toffees rode their first half efforts into fourth place, surpassing Liverpool no less. Now they stand within a stone’s throw of Chelsea and their momentum is dangerous. Everyone keeps waiting for this team to have a terrible year, but David Moyes has them extremely consistent and that’s with long bouts with injury over the past season for their talisman Tim Cahill and the African Nations Cup absence and subsequent late return of Yakubu. Lee Carsley was the man of the match and is often neglected for many of his performances, which are never particularly pretty. Regardless, his efforts led to the second goal. The bald headed maniac kept his eye on a ball much of the Man City defense thought to be dead. His resulting cross led to Lescott’s nod-in, catching Richard Dunne on the backpedal.

Is it safe to say yet that Tim Howard is the best keeper in the English Premier League right now? Who’s better? Edwin Van der Sar? Brad Friedel? Fabio Capello’s possible pick for new English goalkeeper – Joe Hart – didn’t exactly have the greatest showing but is certainly showing greater upside than an aged David James, errant Paul Robinson, and equally as inconsistent Robert Green.

EPL Daily 2.6.08: Friedel inks new deal, FC Dallas trialist, WCQ/International Friendlies

FRIEDEL: Brad Friedel – which many have overlooked – has the most appearances in Blackburn’s long and storied history. It’s just a shame he wasn’t there when Alan Shearer and the Rovers hoisted the EPL trophy in 1994-95. The 36 year old, internationally retired keeper has signed on until 2010 as Blackburn continues to improve year in and year out.

BENJANI: Even with the transfer window all locked up, one deal was finally brought to a conclusion. Manchester City cited concerns for a knee problem that Portsmouth’s leading scorer Benjani had on surgery to correct 18 long months ago. Their nit-picking – if you want to call it that – allowed Citeh to squeeze out an installment payment plan for the in-form striker. Manchester will pay $7.5 million up front with installments totalling another $7.5 million will follow at Benjani’s 25, 50, and 75 start mark.

SAM STOCKLEY: Although not EPL related and not even really that exciting. FC Dallas will be trialing Stockley – a former Colchester and now Wycombe fullback. At the ripe old age of 30, he has been forced out of the Wycombe line-up and is looking at his options. His contract doesn’t run out until late June of 2008.

INTERNATIONALS: Everton’s Tim Cahill scored the second goal in their first ever Asian World Cup qualifying win. A 3-0 blowout of Qatar. Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung and Fulham’s Seol Ki-Hyeon scored three of South Korea’s 4 goals in a 4-0 drubbing of Turkimenistan. Charlton’s Chinese striker Zheng Zhi scored the equalizer in a 1-1 tie with Iraq to start off their WCQ campaign and kept China from following to a 10-man Iraq side after midfielder Neshat Akram was sent off.

A crap load of international friendlies take place today, featuring all sorts of EPL players – the most notable being: France vs. Spain (17 year old Barca starlet Bojan Krkic was hoping to make his debut but might not due to injury), England vs. Switzerland (England will play its first match under Fabio Capello), USA vs. Mexico, Croatia vs. Netherlands (Holland will be operating with out Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Dirk Kuyt, and Robin Van Persie), Turkey vs. Sweden, Austria vs. Germany, Czech Republic vs. Poland, Italy vs. Portugal, Brazil vs. Ireland (the Irish hope for some luck without a manager on the sideline against the Brazilians, Alexandre Pato will NOT make his debut due to a sprained ankle), Jamaica vs. Costa Rica, and Honduras vs. Paraguay.

EPL Window Shut – A Recap, Winners, Losers, Spenders…

Most EPL followers are sitting here bummed that there were no real high-profile moves in the January transfer window. No Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. No David Villa to Liverpool. Hell, Manchester United didn’t even make one single move. But why should they?

Somehow, $300 million were spent on new players by EPL clubs, breaking the previous January record set last year of $130 million. Most of the spending was done rather harmlessly. There was no $100 million spent by Chelsea (about $50 million) and ManYoo, Arsenal, and Liverpool kept themselves from overspending. Who are the big spenders, winners, and losers then?

TOP 5 TRANSFER WINNERS (January 2008)

1. TOTTENHAM – New boss, new money and a team that started the season dismally is now on its way up the ranks. Jonathan Woodgate was brought in from Middlesbrough for a believed $15 million, while right fullback Alan Hutton came from Rangers for $16 million. Young Chris Gunter arrived for $4 million early in January and has already made several appearances, while Gilberto (Hertha Berlin) was a truly ‘deadline’ deal. The long and short of it is that weaknesses were addressed. Gilberto, a strong Brazilian left back, will fill the gaps until Gareth Bale returns to health. Hutton could push Chimbonda into the middle or replace him all together. Both have the attacking prowess that suits Juande Ramos’ style of play too. Going out was a good amount of the dead weight that has only been hurting the wage bill as of late – Hossam Ghaly to Derby on loan, Paul Stalteri on loan to Fulham, the $25 million departure of Jermain Defoe to Portsmouth, underplayed winger Wayne Routledge to Aston Villa, and last but not least Anthony Gardner on loan to Everton. Spent – around $40 million.

2. CHELSEA – It’s too early to tell but the Blues seem to have gotten their man in Nicolas Anelka. $30 million was what it cost to pry him away from Reebok Stadium, but he has already shown – in 2 appearances – what kind of attention is drawn to him on field. If Anelka doesn’t work out, wait a year or two, and new $7 million striker Franco di Santo will gladly take his place. Highly coveted after the U-20 World Cup, this guy has a really promising future. On the defensive side, realizing their mistake with Tal Ben-Haim was the biggest reason Serbian Branoslav Ivanovic was brought in from Lokomotiv Moscow. Depth at defense is a big problem for Chelsea and Ivanovic (with the hope that the 23-year old will be Chelsea’s Nemanja Vidic) will help address that – more so with his versatility at right back, centreback, and in a defensive midfielder role. Spent – $48 million.

3. MANCHESTER CITY – Doing next to nothing was good for a City team that has become a bit erratic but generally has stuck to the course. A big coup for Sven’s men was the arrival of winger Nery Castillo from Shakhtar. Castillo gives them a viable winger option that will draw the pressure and attention away from Elano, whose form has dropped as he struggles to deal with the physical nature of the EPL. City then were in an inch away from grabbing Benjani from Portsmouth for about $24 million, but it fell through at the deadline. Instead, Felipe Caicedo – a 19-year old Ecuadorian from Basel in Switzerland – has come in to help replace the losses of wantaways Giorgios Samaras to Celtic and Rolando Bianchi on loan to Lazio. His prospects are huge as Juventus and AC Milan have both been tracking the youngster at Basel for the past several years. The price tag was a cool $10.5 million. Overall, two big upgrades for a rather tame price. Not bad on Eriksson’s part. Spent – around $15 million.

Biggest Busts

1. NEWCASTLE – Kevin Keegan promised high-profile, new faces. Magpie fans got Ben Tozer, Wesley Ngo Baheng, and Tomas Kadar. Heard of’em?

2. MIDDLESBROUGH – A great signing in Afonso Alves, but with it they might have brought themselves legal problems. Not to mention, WHY would you not address your biggest weakness…defense. Still Alves and Tuncay (as I’ve said before), can make something happen up front.

3. LIVERPOOL – Got a decent centerback in Slovakian Martin Skrtel (who debuted with an own goal), but they lost Momo Sissoko to Juventus and failed to sign Javier Mascherano permanently. All the while Ryan Babel has come out and said he’s not cut out for EPL style play. Recent form doesn’t help either. Hopefully, they can rebound but it looks like it’s a three way horse race for the title and Liverpool are once again left behind. Now the fans are hoping to oust Hicks and Gillett by pooling their money together and buying the club!

MOST ACTIVE

1. DERBY – Brought in no less than 7 players, none of which have helped the cause so far. Key arrivals – Hossam Ghaly from Tottenham, Emmanuel Villa from Tecos, Alan Stubbs from Everton, Mile Sterjovski from Gencerbiligi, Danny Mills from Man City, etc.

2. FULHAM – See a pattern? Cellar dwellars = most active, Fulham opted for 7 new players as well. Key arrivals – Eddie Johnson from the Kansas City Wizards, Brede Hangeland from Copenhagen, Leon Andreason from Werder Bremen, Toni Kallio from Young Boys, Jari Litmanen, Erik Nevland from Groningen, and Canadian Paul Stalteri on loan from Tottenham.

3. WIGAN ATHLETIC – I can’t see Wigan staying up, but there doing their damnedest to try. Three CONCACAF stars in Maynor Figueroa, Wilson Palacios (remember him from CD Olimpia vs. DC United?) and Marlon King have arrived. One on loan, one finally permanently, the other costing $10 million. Seasoned left back Erik Edman came in from Rennes and Norwegian Erik Hagen from Zenit St. Petersburg come in to shore up the defense. Lastly, young Ecuadorian Antonio Valencia arrives from Villareal and is a great grab by the Latics.

Shock Deadline Moves: Benjani, Guzan’s Work Permit status

Benjani to Manchester City (very close at least)! Portsmouth’s best forward move has made Harry Redknapp’s life a living hell now, unless he’s got transfers lined up today. Benjani’s exit, Utaka and Kanu at the ANC, and Dave Nugent out with an injury leaves Portsmouth rather thin at the forward line. Milan Baros has arrived and Jermain Defoe is apparently VERY close to a $26 million move from Tottenham.

Alan Hutton finally completed his move to Tottenham, giving the Spurs a viable right back option and possibly spelling Pascal Chimbonda’s end at White Hart Lane. He can definitely move to the center, but if there’s one person it spells the end for…it’s Canadian Paul Stalteri. Walter Smith is going to like the $16 million that came from this transfer…wonder what he’ll do with it.
Apparently, Brad Guzan’s move to Aston Villa is on the verge of collapsing. The initial reuqest for a work permit has been denied – a subsequent appeal will tell the tale.
Afonso Alves has secured a work permit to play for Middlesbrough. Deal should be completed very soon. With Alves and Tuncay up front, Boro’s front line finally rivals their past pairing of Mark Viduka and Yakubu. Inter starlet Goran Slavkovski might be on his way to Boro which further improves their striker situation. Now what about that defense?

Fulham have signed not one, but THREE strikers in January. Finnish legend Jari Litmanen just arrived and at the age of 36, the former Liverpool, Ajax, Barcelona striker will vie for a starting role with Eddie Johnson and FC Groningen’s Erik Nevland. Does this mean Dempsey will move back to his true position?

Manucho, the Angolan and Manchester United striker who has been making waves at the ANC, is set to move on loan to Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. He looks to have a very bright future at Old Trafford but will have to wait his turn.

Last but not least, David Beckham – no not transfer news – has to wait for his chance at an 100th cap as Fabio Capello is afraid that celebrity friendlies don’t constitute being “fit”. Hasn’t Capello learned his lesson about leaving Beckham on the sidelines??? No worries as Capello’s roster picks have some people thinking he’s completely insane. Emile Heskey, Curtis Davies (7 total EPL appearances this year, maybe 8), and Michael Owen (who has looked like shit recently), Peter Crouch in. Who deserved the call-up?

FA Cup Replays: Havant and Waterwho?-ville

Two big upsets and an EPL squad gone.

Havant and Waterlooville – a Non-League squad of part-timers – stormed out to a 3-0 lead over League One and heavy-favorites Swansea. Jason Scotland was part of the mini-comeback for Swansea as they replied with two, but it was Leon Britton’s 42nd minute penalty-miss that set the tone for the game and had Havant and Waterlooville thinking victory. The game was sealed in the 65th minute and a date with one of the biggest clubs in English football was confirmed. Havant and W. vs. Liverpool – January 26th.

Hereford – League Two – turned in a convincing upset of the League One Tranmere Rovers. A late 72nd minute goal from Simon Johnson helped Hereford grab its first spot in the FA Cup’s Fourth Round in 16 years.

Newcastle had everything set up for either dramatic failure or resurgence. A replay against a stiffly-defensive Stoke. A new boss in Kevin Keegan – one who had some success at the Toon in the 1990’s. A rough crowd not ready to be plunged deeper into the underperformance curse. And lastly, a 29th minute red card for Turkish international Emre. Didn’t matter though – Michael Owen scored himself a goal in the 8th minute and Cacapa calmed the worried crowd after Emre’s ejection with a quick goal as well. It’s Keegan’s third time at Newcastle, but you could tell his philosophy for the Stoke game was simply, “go out and play”. James Milner and Damien Duff added the two clinchers to make it 4-1. With St. James Park ecstatic at the refreshed (too soon?) Magpies, the only thing that could make this resurgence much better is the return of Alan Shearer to be Keegan’s (his former manager) right-hand man. Newcastle is going to need all the help it can get as Arsenal is next up in the FA Cup 4th Round.

Manchester City owes Elano quite a bit this year. Regardless of whether or not he’s at full tilt, the Brazilian playmaker seems to influence games by sheer presence. A goal with 20 minutes to go was the decider and even crazier yet – the former Shakhtar man found the net with his head. Another former Shakhtar player had a less agreeable day, however. Loan-signee Nery Castillo dislocated his shoulder about 30 minutes in and will miss up to a month or so before he steps back on the field. No Jonathan Spector, dressed but didn’t play.

Fourth Round Draw (Jan 26/27)

Arsenal v Newcastle
Coventry v Millwall
Oldham v Huddersfield Town
Swindon/Barnet v Fulham/Bristol Rovers
Wigan v Chelsea
Liverpool v Havant & Waterlooville
Southend v Barnsley
Southampton v Bury
Man Utd v Tottenham
Portsmouth v Plymouth
Derby/Sheff Wed v Preston
Watford v Wolves
Peterborough v West Brom
Sheff Utd v Man City
Mansfield v Middlesbrough
Hereford v Cardiff

EPL Daily 1.8.08: A Carling Cup of Rumors – Anelka, Cisse and Rafa’s found a back

DERBY TRIO: The Derby Rams are going for a complete makeover. After having already captured UAG Tecos striker Emmanuel Villa for $4 million and Manchester City wantaway Danny Mills, Paul Jewell will not be stopping there. Laurent Robert – the wing midfielder who cost Newcastle around $20 million back in 2001 with decent returns – is expected to sign today barring international clearance. At 32-years old, it looks like Jewell is going for the veteran leadership aspect, confirmed through the apparent courting of Blackburn’s out-of-favour midfielder Robbie Savage (33yo). This certainly doesn’t bode well for Benny Feilhaber who sits uncomfortably far down in the pecking order right now. Not done there though as reports have linked Tottenham misfit midfielder Hossam Ghaly with Derby as well. It isn’t likely all three would sign, but Ghaly looks to be a viable option as a loanee.

FRED CHAVES: The still-young 24 year old Brazilian striker has seen better days at Lyon. Once put on the transfer list, plenty of interest has already been shown – predominantly from Brazil, but some English clubs have thrown their wallets into the mix. Tottenham and West Ham are the latest to have shown some interest, but the likely destination seems to be Ligue One rivals Paris St-Germain. The asking price is a cool $20 million. Fred’s descent at Stade Gerland has been countered by the rise of starlets Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema as well as the formation which puts the young Benzema at the lone striker positon. Worst of it is, it’s been working…(Benzema has 12 goals, Lyon is in 1st). Regardless, over three years and 55 appearances, Fred still managed 25 goals. It’d be a hell of capture for either West Ham and Tottenham, if they’re willing to part with the cash (which has never been a problem).

LIVERPOOL: Ready to go Eastern European in the back. Hard not to after watching the success of Serbian Nemanja Vidic in the center of defense for champions Manchester United. The cat is out of the bag on Eastern European defenders in general as there will be no more lenient price tags. Rafa’s target is Martin Skrtel – a 23-year old Slovakian centreback, capable of playing on the left as well. As he has passed his medical, all that’s left is formalities and Skrtel will become Liverpool’s most expensive defender at $13 million. Defense has become somewhat of urgency at Liverpool as Sami Hyppia has been hit with injury to add to the already injured Daniel Agger. Skrtel, playing for Zenit St. Petersburg now and used to European competition, will fit the bill. Read up on Skrtel here.

FRENCH STRIKERS: Nicolas Anelka wants to be at Stamford Bridge. Bolton says no, but Chelsea is still hopeful they can get a deal done. The bid was apparently laughable to Bolton at $24 million and with Manchester United also actively searching for a striker, should Chelsea be biding their time with a bid like that? Djibril Cisse, the former Liverpool strikeman, is ready for a Premiership return but his stock has taken a hit following two major injuries over the past several years. Marseille’s President Pape Diouf has already followed an apparent bid for Cisse from Manchester City with a resounding no.

OTHER RUMORS: Lassana Diarra to Newcastle; Jermain Defoe open for the bidding even after scoring 5 in his last 7 appearances – destination: Manchester United?;  

CARLING CUP: 1st Leg of the Semifinals today and tomorrow – Chelsea vs. Everton (Tues.) and Arsenal vs. Tottenham (Wed.). Here’s a quick preview of this week’s games from the Carling Cup site. Predictions – Everton comes out of Stamford Bridge even, while Arsenal outclasses Tottenham at home. Especially if the in-form Eduardo is on the field.