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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stop Overreacting, Ronaldo Leaving Doesn't Change United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 16:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on May 16, 2009 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
an article i wrote for

It is apt that United have finally chosen to sell Ronaldo on the back of a season which was based on defensive solidity and depth of squad.

Sure, much has been made of Ronaldo's 42 goal haul which won him the Ballon d'Or, where he single-handedly carried United through matches against the weaker teams in the EPL, during a period where Tevez and Rooney were misfiring.

Ronaldo has been a consistent source of goals. Scoring 18 goals in the EPL when he missed out on pre-season and was out for 12 weeks shows his quality.

However, if anything, season 08/09 was proof that even with the Portugese star misfiring, United's squad depth and defensive solidity carried them through, and that the formula on relying on Ronaldo does not always work.

Before anyone jumps onto my back, do know that I am a fan of CR7. He's magical on the ball and seems to have cut out his diving tendencies. I have often argued against people saying that he doesn't turn up in big matches, and always defended his whining on the field as a sign of passion and perfectionist mentality. I am sad to see him go, and I think he will be a massive loss to both the EPL and United, but I don't see that United will be considerably weakened with his departure.

It makes perfect economical sense that Ronaldo goes now. You have a global economic crisis, large debts in the club and suddenly there is an option to cash in on a £12 million buy, netting a £68 million profit. Assume wages of £120,000/week for his entire stay in United, that's only a cost of £38 million. You see an overall £30 million profit that Ronaldo has brought to United, not including the money won from competitions.

People often say that it is stupid to sell your best player; that Ronaldo is an irreplaceable talent; that we should look past his diving antics and judge him by what he brings onto the field. I know, I was a strong advocate for that, but this season has shown that he isn't the most irreplaceable person.

After all, United have always recovered from losing their best players. Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy, David Beckham, Eric Cantona, the list could go on.

Thus, an £80 million deal is a great price, and for the first time I agree that it is Ronaldo's time to go. He has won everything to be won in the English league, now it is time for him to live his dream.

United will definitely miss him, but quality will be added. Many signings can be made with £80 million pounds. Tevez can finally have a home (although he wants to leave), and names like Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery are touted as the incoming talents.

Whoever the replacement, do keep in mind that United have such a great squad, and his leaving won't have too much of an impact. It will just mean that other players take more shots, and not leaving the bulk of the shooting to Ronaldo. The goals won't dry up.

Owen Hargreaves' return in the next season will feel like a new signing. The £80 million pounds will be put to good use. The future is bright, with our upcoming talents in Anderson, Tosic, Fabio, Rafael, Macheda, Welbeck, and Gibson. United will collectively move on and go to greater heights.

And we shall applaud Ronaldo for his 6 great years of service and his many goals.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Stoke City

another article i wrote on bleacher report

In the 12th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I will be looking at Stoke City—a team widely expected to go straight back down to the Championship, but ended up finishing in mid-table.

Their form at the Britannia Stadium was fantastic as they were only beaten four times there. It was also at home that they saw off the likes of Arsenal, Aston Villa, and Manchester City.

And while they were not so good away from home, they did manage crucial victories over fellow relegation rivals like West Bromwich Albion and Hull City.

Perhaps the most enduring image of Stoke's season would be that of Rory Delap wiping the ball with his sleeves before launching a missile right into the six-yard box. That has won them a fair few points this season, getting them the goal that allowed them to defend stoutly for the rest of the game to grab a point or three.

If they are to succeed this season, they will need to strengthen their team, (especially in the attacking department) so that they can get a few more goals from alternative sources.

Here's a look at who I think Stoke should, and realistically, could sign.


Currently, Liam Lawrence takes up the right midfield spot for Stoke. He has had a decent season for them, and should definitely be kept at Stoke for next season.

However, beyond Lawrence, there is no established right-winger at Stoke City.

This could be dangerous in case of injuries or suspensions, which would force them to field someone who does not favour playing on the right.

Leaving aside injuries and suspensions, my opinion is that Lawrence is better suited to playing in the middle as he has considerable play-making ability, and possesses a good long shot.

He is also not exactly fast or tricky, so a good left-back would be able to clamp down on him pretty easily.

To allow him to play through the middle, Stoke should sign a right-winger, and I think they should go after the signature of Kris Commons.

A tricky little winger who brings the ball up with pace, he has a good long shot on him, making him very difficult to mark as defenders don't know whether to back off him to avoid getting beaten, or to close him down to prevent the long shot.

Once linked with the likes of Newcastle and Wigan in January, Commons has disappeared off the radar a little in recent months, but he remains a quality player.

He would definitely add another dimension to Stoke's play.

If that move does not work out, then Stoke could try going for Commons's international teammate, James Morrison.

Also a winger capable of operating on both flanks, James Morrison has the added advantage of having played in the Premier League for a few seasons with Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion.

A slight problem with this is that West Brom does not need to sell, and, with their plans to bounce straight back up, would be unwilling to let go of one of their prized assets.


Andy Griffin and Andy Wilkinson have been played in this position this season, but for me, neither cuts it at Premiership level.

Both of them aren't terrific defenders and are terrible going forward as well.

Certainly this is an area that Stoke could improve in, and I suggest that they look to bring in Chris Gunter.

The Welsh international was touted as the next big thing in Welsh football, and performances on the pitch seemed to justify it as he was an integral part of the Cardiff side at such a young age.

A decent defender who can bring the ball up into attack, he will definitely be a good addition to Stoke City.

Tottenham has a little collection of right-backs down at White Hart Lane, and should be willing to let him go if the price is right.

If they regard him as part of the future, then Stoke would still do well to bring him in on loan for the season.

Alternatively, Stoke could target Lauren from Portsmouth. His uncompromising style and tough tackling should go down well with the Britannia faithful, while he also has the technical ability to provide some threat from the flanks.

Age is not on Lauren's side though, as he is 32 this year. However, he is still definitely more athletic than Andy Griffin and would be a good addition.

With Portsmouth being the latest club to be taken over by people with insane amounts of money, it can be assumed that players like Lauren will be allowed to leave for a relatively low price as they will look to sign more exciting talents.


Currently, the club has James Beattie, Mamady Sidibe, Richard Cresswell, Ricardo Fuller, and Dave Kitson as their striking options.

Of the four, only James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller can qualify as successes.

Dave Kitson was the club's record signing at the start of the season, but after failing to score a single goal he was shipped out on loan to Reading in January.

Stoke then moved to sign James Beattie, a move that was hugely successful. Kitson is not a bad player, but he just seemed unsuitable for the Stoke system, and I think his long-term future will not be at the Britannia Stadium.

Mamady Sidibe is a giant target-man for his teammates to punt long aimless balls to, but aside from that, he is really not good enough at Premiership level. Now that James Beattie has been brought in and used as a target-man, Sidibe is probably going to find his playing time reduced even more.

Richard Cresswell, like Sidibe, does not belong in the Premiership. And, if Stoke wants to guarantee safety next season, they definitely need someone better than Cresswell.

However, any recruitment in this department would need to be cheap and also of sufficient quality, as Stoke does not have loads of cash to squander on another Kitson-like signing.

As such, I would suggest they pick up Daniel Sturridge from Manchester City.

From his performances this season, it is clear that he is good enough to play in the Premiership as he combines pace with a good eye for goals.

Sturridge is a free agent, having rejected a new contract from Manchester City—probably because he will not be seeing much first-team action if he stays at the City of Manchester Stadium, which could hinder his development.

If Stoke does offer him the chance of guaranteed first-team football, then there is a chance that Sturridge would be persuaded to call Britannia Stadium his home for the next few years.

Alternatively, if Stoke has enough money, they could try bidding for Benjani Mwaruwari of Manchester City.

Strong and hardworking, he would be a good addition to the Stoke frontline.

He will probably be allowed to leave the City of Manchester Stadium as well, seeing that there are 436 strikers currently on their books.

So, that's my take on who Stoke City should go for in the summer.

And, if they somehow manage to secure the signatures of all the players mentioned above, they might even make it into the top half of the table next season!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Wigan Athletic

another article i wrote on bleacher report

In the eleventh edition of the "Three Transfers" series, the club under the spotlight is manager-less Wigan Athletic.

Having enjoyed a consistent season, Wigan has now lost Steve Bruce to Sunderland, and look like they might lose even more over the summer.

Paul Scharner has publicly stated that he would like a move in the summer. Antonio Valencia has not expressed interest in a move, but seems certain to go with many bigger clubs targetting him.

When the two of them leave there will be gaping holes in the Wigan team, which has already lost Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey in January.

The gaps within the team will definitely have to be filled with quality players, and the only positive that can come out of this is that they are likely to get good money for Scharner and Valencia, which can then be re-invested into the side.

Who should they sign though?

Here's my take...


A bit of a no-brainer.

If Antonio Valencia somehow ends up staying, then this will be an irrelevant suggestion.

However, I really do not see how the Ecuadorian will still be at the JJB Stadium come August and, for the purposes of this discussion, I will assume that he has been snapped up for a substantial amount of money.

Valencia is one of the best right-wingers in the English Premier League, and his successor will have some huge boots to fill. Looking internally, Wigan does have Daniel De Ridder.

However, it is unlikely that he will step up to Valencia's level, considering he was never a first-teamer in Birmingham or Wigan.

As such, the search for the right-winger must be taken out of the club. While I did mention that they would have substantial funds, convincing a player of a suitable quality to come to Wigan is not an easy task.

For example, David Bentley would probably be an awesome signing for them, and Wigan would be able to afford it with the funds from the sale of Valencia, but persuading him to come will be a real difficulty.

I think Wigan will end up having to set their sights lower, and I would recommend they go for Gary O'Neil.

One of the better performers in Middlesbrough's terrible season, O'Neil is a hardworking player who always gives his all for the club. This would tie in well with the rest of the Wigan squad who work hard for each other and never stop running.

Also, as Mario Melchiot is getting older, O'Neil's work-rate will also be useful in tracking back to help Melchiot with defensive duties.

With Middlesbrough getting relegated, Wigan will have no problems meeting any asking price, and I think O'Neil will have no problems joining Wigan.

If that deal doesn't materialise, Wigan could opt to sign Jermaine Pennant. Once a bright prospect, Pennant has lost his way somewhat, stumbling from one club to another.

Despite his misbehaviour and supposedly poor attitude, there is no doubting his quality.

A pacey right-winger who whips in delicious crosses for the strikers, his technical ability will be much appreciated in Wigan, and he is a more like-for-like replacement for Valencia than O'Neil is.

Liverpool does not need Pennant anymore and would be keen to release him, so the Latics could find themselves picking up a bargain. If they can get Pennant to concentrate on football, then they will not miss Valencia that much.


Hugo Rodallega, Henri Camara, and Marlon King are the only recognised forwards left in Wigan. Henri Camara and Marlon King are not good enough currently to hold down a first-team spot, which is why they were allowed to go on loan in the first place.

With Rodallega impressing, Wigan still needs to sign one more established striker, and I think that their first priority should be to tie Mido down to a permanent deal.

He has impressed for them and was particularly effective against Arsenal as he proved to be a real bully in the air.

On the floor, his technique also serves him well, so he cannot be accused of being a one-dimensional footballer. Just like Jermaine Pennant, if Wigan can make him concentrate on playing football, then they have themselves a good player.

He would also be another cheap signing as Middlesbrough will definitely let him go to reduce wage bills now that they are in the Championship.

Another possible signing who would fit at Wigan is Bafetimbi Gomis.

Once the subject of much transfer speculation regarding the top clubs of Europe, the goals have dried up a little in the previous season, (nine goals as opposed to 16 in 07/08) and his name hasn't been bandied around as frequently recently.

He is still a quality striker and his physical attributes should make him a good fit in the Premier League. Wigan could stand to benefit if none of the top clubs show an interest as they will have enough money to prise him away.

Gomis has also publicly declared that he needs to be playing in a better league, and he might be persuaded to come to England where his idol, Didier Drogba, plies his trade.


Titus Bramble and Emmerson Boyce have forged a terrific partnership in the centre of the Wigan defence. In particular, Titus Bramble has been outstanding and his performances this season should have convinced anyone, who still isn't convinced, that he is a very good defender.

Deservedly, he was voted the club's player of the season by the fans and the media, and Wigan can look forward to another good season from him.

However, with Paul Scharner insisting on leaving, there is no cover beyond Bramble and Boyce and surely that is unacceptable for any Premier League club.

There are two options that Wigan can take.

They can bring in a better defender to replace Boyce and then use Boyce as cover for both centre-back and right-back, or they could bring in someone of a lower quality to act as cover.

For the first option, I would suggest they buy Sebastien Bassong.

A quick and solid defender, Bassong would be an improvement over Boyce who is also solid, but is probably made to look good by Bramble.

Bassong has expressed his desire to play for a Premier League club and certainly will not stay at Newcastle following their relegation.

Wigan has got a good chance of signing him, and they should.

If Wigan looks to bring in cover, they could try signing Alexander Diamond from Aberdeen. A defender who plays with his heart on his sleeve, Diamond would be a good addition to Wigan.

He is strong in the air and, while not the fastest on the deck, his determination pushes him to make an extra effort to get to the ball before the strikers.

He is a good defender and is definitely near or at Premiership quality already, despite his young age.

However, it remains to be seen if he is good enough to displace Boyce from the side and, should he be signed, would remain as cover at first.

So, those are my suggestions for Wigan to sign in the summer.

Should Roberto Martinez really take over Wigan, he will have to turn on the charm to persuade quality players to ply their trade at the JJB.

A few of the above players would certainly help!