EPL Daily 1.25: Shearer says ‘no-go’; Liverpool refinancing; Chelsea signing, etc.

ALAN SHEARER: The former Newcastle and Blackburn striker was widely seen as Kevin Keegan’s best candidate for top assistant coach at Tyneside. A meeting between the two end up with Shearer stating he would not like to be considered for the assistant coach positon. Apparently, a future meeting will determine if Alan Shearer could have a role within the new Newcastle regime.

LIVERPOOL: American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have firmly solidified their intentions at Liverpool amidst heavy scrutiny as well as a recent failed takeover bid from Dubai. A $700 million re-financing should ensure for all Liverpool supporters that a new stadium at Stanley Park will get done on time and in perfect order. In the same breath, both Hicks and Gillett have expressed that they are behind Rafa Benitez, even despite media reports otherwise.

MARLON KING: The Jamaican striker was angry to see a transfer to Fulham fail due to fee negotiations, but Wigan has come in to rescue King and offer him Premiership football. The fee was undisclosed but expected to be in the range of $ 6-8 million. Watford was quick to try and bring a replacement, securing 22-year old Dutch misfit Collins John from Fulham on a season’s-end loan.

FRANCO DI SANTO: One of the stars of the U-2o World Cup in Canada for champions Argentina, Di Santo has been snapped up by Chelsea, who continue to nurture their young stars rather effectively. Look at Jon Obi Mikel, Solomon Kalou, and Scott Sinclair – all have continued to progress and provide decent appearances for the Blues. Di Santo should be no different. Chelsea came out on top of the battle for Di Santo’s signature which has been wrestled for over the past 6 months. At 19 years old, nothing crazy is expected of the 6’4″ Audax Italiano (CHI) forward, but with comparisons to Diego Maradona abundant (but which Argentinan youth star isn’t compared with Diego), many Blues fans aren’t looking for him to wait in the reserves for long.

THEO WALCOTT: Signed at 16 and now only 18, some Arsenal supporters are already calling Walcott a dud. I’d give him until at least 22 before you decide that, especially considering you paid around $15 million for the kid. Regardless, there was speculation that Wenger might loan him out to see if he gain some much-needed experience (how’s a cap for England for experience?). Wenger has declared those claims untrue. The rumors put him going to Stoke City (the Championship squad whose owner recently secured a USL-Division 1 expansion squad in Austin, Texas – the Aztex).

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 1.10: 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 1.7: EPL Clubs Fall, Alves to Citeh?, Drogba to AC Milan?, and more…

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: Calls for David Beckham’s 100th cap. And apparently Sven is now after another Brazilian. This time it is Heereveen’s goalscorer Afonso Alves who reported could cost around $30 million. Alves would be a good candidate to replace and improve upon the wantaway Italian Rolando Bianchi as Alves hit for 35 goals in 321 appearances last year with Michael Bradley’s Eredivisie squad.

BEN TOZER: Newcastle won the race for the 17 year old Swindon Town defender. Tozer is nowhere near the class of a Gareth Bale but has shown remarkable promise as of late, finding a first-team spot with League One squad Swindon.

DIDER DROGBA: Could be on his way out of Stamford Bridge – recently being linked to a switch for AC Milan and possible reunion with Jose Mourinho.

MANCHESTER UNITED: The Red Devils are expected to trump Arsenal in their claims of being the richest squad in the EPL. ManYoo is set to announce a whopping $490 million turnover. This might actually do something to quell the anti-Glazer sentiment that has ‘glazed’ United’s faithful. Here’s more.

FA CUP: A host of 3rd Round games saw 6 Premiership bite the dust with another 8 being to held to replays. Major losses – Everton (everytime I talk them up, they come crashing down), Blackburn, Bolton, and Birmingham. Big replay: Luton vs. Liverpool. Dempsey’s Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers. Replays will take place on January 15th and 16th, 2008. Your fourth round match-ups look like this if you’re curious. Click below for quick match recaps…

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EPL: Arsenal falls to M’Boro…ew but Liverpool follows suit

STANDINGS 

Saturday, December 8th

Portsmouth 3, Aston Villa 1

Pompey is starting to look like the squad I had originally predicted at the beginning of the year. Both Sulley Muntari and Niko Kranjcar have almost full adapted to EPL play and are now driving that midfield to productivity. It was Muntari’s day though scoring two in the 40th and 61st minute and putting the game out of the Villans reach.

Manchester United 4, Derby County 1

Poor Derby. A thorough out-classing – even though the Rams kept Man Yoo from scoring for a good half. Ryan Giggs opened the can of whoop-ass right before half-time. Derby thought they would walk in at half with only a 1-0 deficit – but Tevez pounced in injury time, making it 2-0. Tevez got his second in the 60th and could have added a third at the end, but Ronaldo was so incensed with his upending in the box that he felt his pain deserved a PK conversion. There was an upside to Derby’s down-trodden day – Giles Barnes – the young 18 year old was the only thing remotely threatening to Man U’s backline of Vidic and Ferdinand.

Chelsea 2, Sunderland 0

The Black Cats never really woke up. Despite the two goals, no real action to this game. Shevchenko – thanks to the Drogba injury – got his chance on net and put it in but still looked well-off from old AC Milan days. Joe Cole did look pretty good though. He’s like a Michael Owen – you get excited that he’s on the field, start to follow him – and then he’s out for two months with a torn quad or something. Regardless, he was industrious and crafty as ever.

Everton 3, Fulham 0

This is an example of having the playmaker and target man in perfect synergy. Tim Cahill/Mikel Arteta powered the machine that is Yakubu to a classy hat-trick. Clint Dempsey was ineffective and taken off early in the second half, but by then, it seemed nothing was sparking the Cottagers to action. Timmy Howard had little to do but captain the back with Joseph Yobo back in the mix. Bocanegra never got on.

Reading 3, Liverpool 1

Stephen Hunt’s penalty in the 17th minute really hurt the pride of the Reds. Either that, or the Reds just figured the scoreline would take care of itself as missed chances and defensive lapses led to Reading’s inflated offensive talent. Steven Gerrard equalized less than 10 minutes later, but the Reds never connected. In the second half, it was Kevin Doyle and James Harper who converted their chances (Harper being fed by the improving Bobby Convey) making it 3-1. In Rafa Benitez’s defense, the game was a little suspect in the refereeing end but the Liverpool had PLENTY of chances that came close, but never snuck across Marcus Hahnemann’s goalline.

Newcastle 2, Birmingham 1

A much-needed win for the Magpies. Obafemi Martins’ converted a 37th minute penalty to snuff out an opening minutes lead grabbed by Birmingham’s Cameron Jerome. The Nigerian – normally a shoe-in for last minute heroics – took the backseat to Senegal-international Habib Beye who took home the glory and his first Newcastle goal in the 90th minute. Newcastle deserved the win, no doubt, but this underperformance curse really needs to end – it’s getting old.  

Sunday, December 9th

Middlesbrough 2, Arsenal 1

It all started with a 4th minute Stewart Downing PK conversion after a clumsy Kolo Toure challenge in the box on former Gunner Jeremie Aliadiere. Arsenal looked borderline lost without their midfield general Cesc Fabregas – oft-intercepted passes, possessional mishaps, positional confusion – it wasn’t the Arsenal team we’re used to. Sanli Tuncay wrapped it up with a 74th minute strike. Tomas Rosicky pulled one back in the waning moments, but nothing could spring the Gunners into urgent offensive mode. 

Bolton 4, Wigan 1

Certainly could be one of those games where Bolton wasted all of their offensive power on one game instead of spreading it out evenly over several matches (look for Bolton to be shut out their next couple games). Or maybe it was just the fact that Wigan looks god-awful right now and a firm candidate for relegation this season. The Wanderers made a statement on finishing even though Wigan outshot them. After going one-up on a Paul Scharner own goal, Wigan equalized, only to see three unanswered Bolton goals break the game wide open. From Kevin Nolan, Kevin Davies, and Nicolas Anelka respectively.

Tottenham 2, Manchester City 1

Like Fabregas with Arsenal, we’re starting to see who the driving force behind Sven’s Citeh is. Without Elano again and facing White Hart Lane, City fought valiantly but was overcome by Tottenham’s forgotten striker – Jermain Defoe. Defore scored in 83rd minute effectively snuffing out any worries that the Hotspur faithful had in their dispatching of Citeh. The Blues helped Tottenham’s cause though as Defoe’s game winner came right after Stephen Ireland’s sending off in the 82nd minute.

West Ham 1, Blackburn 0

Jonathan Spector played the last 15 minutes helping to secure a 1-0 win over Brad Friedel’s Blackburn. It was Dean Ashton who broke the seemingly endless deadlock. Friedel looked solid in goal yet again, with 6 saves but it was Benny McCarthy and Roque Santa Cruz who made West Ham’s life hell pouring on shot after shot. Robert Green – with his performance between the posts – will most likely boost his chances at England’s #1 spot.

EPL: Derby drubbed again (still no Benny) and Dempsey gets number two

Two of the lesser news pieces (in the headline) that were extracted out of a goal-filled EPL Saturday…

Liverpool 6, Derby County 0

A complete ass-whooping. Not just in the score-line. There is no silver-lining here…it is certain to me that the Rams will be heading down. The only thing to watch out for now is whether or not Benny Feilhaber can make a big enough impact to warrant him a contract with a different EPL team come next season. The Reds came off a late but certain 4-0 beating of Toulouse mid-week to put another 6 past Derby – humbly provided by a plethora of Reds. Those being: Ryan Babel (1), Xabi Alonso (2), Fernando Torres (2), and Andrei Voronin (1). Rafa Benitez’s signings are continuing to impress and produce, but the real star of this game didn’t score. It was Jermaine Pennant who flirted with the Derby defense producing plenty of dangerous passes and opportunities.

Fulham 3, Tottenham 3

The Hotspur are giving out points like crazy and Fulham took hold of one after a late 2-goal surge in the last 15 minutes capped by Alexei Smertin and Diomansy Kamara saw the Cottagers rescue themselves after going up early in the game on Clint Dempsey’s 2nd strike of the season. Only one of Lawrie Sanchez’s deadline signings participated, that being former Pompey defender Dejan Stefanovic. For Tottenham, Berbatov got his first goal and so did both youngster defenders – Gareth Bale and former Auxerre defender Younes Kaboul.

Manchester United 1, Sunderland 0 

The day’s late game lacked skill and grace (cue the return of Cristiano Ronaldo). The perfect person to remedy a game like that would be the industrious Louis Saha and he did so…scoring late in the 72nd minute to continue Man Utd’s narrow win streak. Saha this week, Nani last week although Nani is slowly solidifying an important spot on the Red Devil roster as he provided the service for Saha’s game-winner. Ronaldo returns tomorrow as Man Utd looks to dig themselves slowly but surely out of a decent-sized hole.

Everton 2, Bolton 1 

Tim Howard held strong in goal yet again, only allowing the 55th minute equalizer to Nicolas Anelka. Fortunately, Joleon Lescott – a real possibility for significant international time someday soon – provided the 90th minute stroke after new signing and former Boro striker Yakubu struck for his first Toffee goal only 10 minutes into the game. Bolton’s form wavered as it normally does and I certainly don’t foresee that fact changing anytime soon.

Other Results

Newcastle 1, Wigan 0

Michael Owen helped the Magpies overcome a 10-man Wigan side that saw Kevin Kilbane collect two cards and sent off at the start of the second half. Owen scored in the 87th minute as it seems his touch is slowly returning.

West Ham United 3, Reading 0

Matthew Etherington hit for a brace, but it was Craig Bellamy who fired the Hammers ahead first in the 6th minute demoralizing a predictable Reading squad. Jonathan Spector worked the last 10 minutes, while Bobby Convey came on in the 75th. Steve Coppell can’t be happy with this as they sit unmotivated in the danger zone.

Middlesbrough 2, Birmingham 0

Southgate’s boys outplayed City and quelled supporters’ fears after losing the last piece of  2006’s most dependable strike force, Yakubu and Viduka. Boro received a goal from youngster defender David Wheater and in-form Stewart Downing added the sweetener in before the halftime whistle. Out of the three that Southgate had hoped to hang onto during the summer, only Downing remains as Chelsea and Liverpool gave up after finding their wing midfielders in Florent Malouda and Yossi Benayoun/Ryan Babel.

Sunday’s Matchups

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

Arsenal vs. Portsmouth

Blackburn vs. Manchester City    

Kieron Dyer: from Magpie to Hammer.

The ‘as some would see it’ under-achieving, English international midfielder had moved on mainly to be geographically closer to his family (a little Landon Donovan-ish, even in the same country). Still fetched a firm $16 million and his exit was imminent especially when Dyer was left out of Newcastle’s recent 3-1 win over Bolton.

Good move for Allardyce to rid himself of Dyer, who seemed to exude the very ‘underperformance curse of the Magpies’ that many argue exists. A month ago, the deal seemed done but hit a snag when Newcastle asked for more money. After the Hammers lost their opening match 2-0 against Man City, however, the money became a non-issue and neither did Dyer’s tumultuous history with Newcastle and the injury bug. Instead, Curbishley saw the fact he was, when healthy, a very effective player – not to mention an England international. Only time will tell if this deal pans out – what you think of this move? Who wins?