Monthly Archives: November 2012

No Go For Mario Gotze

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German sensation Mario Gotze may appear destined to play in either the Premier League or La Liga one day, however that day appears to be long into the future according to his agent Volker Struth. It was earlier confessed by the German Press that he had a clause in his contract, similar to Newcastle United’s Demba Ba in the summer. The contract states that Gotze will be allowed to talk to any clubs if a substantial bid of £30m or higher is made by a club before the month of April next year.

The news was shortly picked up by the English Press and immediately Mario Gotze was linked with a move to both Manchester United and Arsenal. Both clubs have been identified as keen admirers of Mario Gotze in the past, however the story appeared to have lacked some sort of credibility according to Struth.

A dream move for both sides would immediately bolster attacking options. The BVB crown jewel is typically versatile for a modern day attacking midfielder and despite his relatively young age has racked up a great deal of experience, aiding his side to consecutive Bundesliga titles during his short career thus far.

It will be interesting to see how the story surrounding the ‘German Messi’ develops going into 2013.

Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)

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NBA Opening Month

So, the opening month of the 2012-13 NBA season is over and I have been thoroughly entertained with some impressive basketball. Staying up till 6AM watching sport from a completely different time zone can get tiring but it’s definitely worth it.

Already, there’s been so much to report on the league. We’ve seen a reshuffle of the Los Angeles Lakers coaching staff. We’ve seen the new New York Rivalry take shape. And we’ve seen an emotional homecoming to Oklahoma City for James Harden.

Starting with the Los Angeles Lakers coaching reshuffle…

With one win in the opening five games, Lakers head coach Mike Brown received a boot comparable to that of Roman Abramovich’s to former Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo. Although, the Staples Center fans could be heard chanting “WE WANT PHIL”, the firing of Mike Brown came as a shock to most basketball pundits.

It seemed that the Lakers all-star line up just couldn’t get their heads around the ‘Princeton Offence’ style of play Mike Brown was endlessly striving to enforce. In Los Angeles, the franchise rests on the aging shoulders of future Hall Of Famer Kobe Bryant. With him already stating he will retire within the next two seasons executive vice president Jim Buss simply had very little time to waste as he’d like to get at least one more ring to close off Kobe’s fantastic career.

For me though, more than the firing of coach Mike Brown it was the fact that the Lakers failed to re-sign the fans favourite, the legendary Phil Jackson. Overlooking the Zen Master to hire Mike D’Antoni left me bewildered.

A man who is tried and tested with this very team. A man who has not only already won Championship rings in L.A. – five times including a ‘Three-peat’ – but a man who is capable of working with a culmination of talent on his roster. Evidently, from the 11-time NBA Championship coach’s era with, the greatest ever, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

Now onto this new New York Rivalry…

With Amar’e Stoudemire still out due to his knee injury, Carmelo Anthony has carried the New York Knicks almost single-handedly. In my NBA Opening Week post, I mentioned that rookie Anthony Davis had picked up where he left off from the Olympics but its seems Melo may have benefitted even more from his most recent trip to the podium to receive yet another gold medal. He has been in, dare I say it, MVP form.

In fact, Mike Woodson’s whole team has been in inspired form. Bringing back Raymond Felton and bringing in veteran Jason Kidd seem to have paid off. And without Amar’e, Carmelo and 2012 Defensive Player Of The Year Tyson Chandler seem to be able to find much more space on the floor.

Finally James Harden’s emotional return…

With James Harden as a fundamental building block to the reconstruction of this Houston Rockets dynasty, there is a lot of pressure riding on his broad shoulders. On the back of attending coach Kevin McHale’s daughter’s funeral, the entire Rockets roster was justifiably tired. So, 17 points and 3-for-16 shooting is understandable right?

No! Not when you want to prove to your old coach what he’s missing. Not when you want to beat your ex-teammates. And especially not when the man who has replaced you on your old team and in the fans hearts matches that coming off the bench. Scoring 6-for-14 to get his 17 points, Kevin Martin, has slipped into James Harden’s role as sixth man neatly so far.

As for Oklahoma City Thunder’s two young superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, they keep improving. ‘Hell Week 2’ has helped Durant become a better playmaker similar to his good friend LeBron James. Attacking defences and dishes out dimes (assists) while remaining in full attack mode. It’s evident that Durant has been working hard in the gym to get stronger, even slowing his game down.

As ever, Westbrook is a heavily critiqued. Criticized to the hilt when he has a subpar game but when he bounces back to score 30+ points he’s only doing what he’s supposed to. It will be that way until OKC manage to win the Championships.

From the deep disappointment of getting within a grasp of the highly coveted ring the Thunder will be motivated more than ever. Durant may work out with LeBron James and he may have been LBJ’s Olympic teammate but he wants what James now has.

On a more positive note, Kevin Durant earned his first triple double on the same night Kobe produced his 18th. That just demonstrates the level that KD’s aspiring to and Kobe’s legacy!

Now speaking of assists, the Boston Celtic’s Rajon Rondo has been on fire recently with a double-digit assist streak that ended against the Brooklyn Nets at 37 games. An assist streak that equals John Stockton’s and was just nine games short of Magic Johnson’s record of 46. Still only 26, Rondo’s effort – although marred by a violent scuffle that saw him ejected from the game – cements him as one of the elite point guards of his era.

An honorary mention has to go to the Memphis Grizzlies who are often overlooked but, right now, are honestly looking like the strongest contender in the West. With a full roster back compared to last year spending a majority of the, lockout shortened, 66 game season without key players.

At the summit of the Western Conference, I wonder if the Memphis Grizzlies can pull off a major Playoff upset and win the Championship, as they look the team to beat!

Kendrick Lamar Credited The Source’s Rookie Of The Year

The Source magazine said “it was a no brainer” to hand Kendrick Lamar the ‘Rookie Of The Year’ cover. What a big year this has turned out to be. Signing with Dr. Dre’s legendary Aftermath Records at the top of the year to winning Lyricist Of The Year at the 2012 BET Awards fending off Hip-Hop heavyweights like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Nas and J. Cole. Is it possible to have a better rookie year?

In 2012, Kendrick has established himself as a household name. He’s been almost everywhere this year, in the studio with a wide variety of artists from the likes of Birdman to Lady Gaga. His consistency has been a breath of fresh air in an industry where many give in to the pressures of major labels. Either being forced to release pop singles or just signing with the wrong label for the money it has happened to so many artists. Rappers like Lupe Fiasco or Papoose were both victims of failing to live up to their hype.

With arguably the best album of the year, well not unanimously as Shyne Po would argue, Kendrick has exceeded expectation. With the estranged Shyne extradited from the U.S., he’s been voicing his opinion over many topics he’s not too pleased with. Shyne’s been no stranger to rap beefs in the past with previous grievances with 50 Cent. Twitter seems to be Shyne’s chosen method of sharing his opinion lately and he let it be known that he was disappointed with what he heard on Kendrick Lamar’s album ‘Good Kid, m.A.A.d City’.

Many West Coast alumni have taken offence to this including Shyne’s once ally, Compton rapper Game. Game and Nipsey Hu$$le “revoked Shyne’s California pass” banning him from ever coming back to California when the US Government has already deported him from the country. Game even went as far as releasing an acapella freestyle in the New York snow but it seemed to me as if he just needed a way to promote his upcoming album.

To me it just seemed everyone reacted sensitively to Shyne’s opinion. All he tweeted was “Kendrick Lamar is talented with a lot of potential but his album is traaaaash!“, he’s entitled to have an opinion. Kendrick touched on the subject briefly when he rapped jokily on the J. Cole produced ‘The Jig Is Up (Dump’n)’ saying “I pray to God this beat is good enough for Shyne“.

Since then, Kendrick hasn’t spoken much on the issue but I have to wonder if his recent Twitter rant was aimed at Shyne.

 

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

Barcelona vs The Premier League

Something happened last night in the world of football. Shortly after Chelsea and Manchester City indulged in a bore draw and Atletico Madrid saw off an ill-disciplined Sevilla side. Barcelona – often described as the greatest club team of all time – made a substitution, Dani Alves came off and was replaced by Martin Montoya in their game against Levante. Whilst this substitution to many would have been a fairly trivial moment which had no real bearing on the result, it was actually a moment of great significance.

The substitution meant that all eleven players in the Barcelona away strip were from the famed La Masia Academy. Players like Lionel Messi, despite being Argentinian, was nurtured from the grassroots of the Johan Cruyff inspired academy. Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, although applying their trade elsewhere before making the move back to the Catalan Giants, were graduates of the Barcelona School of Excellence. It was truly a remarkable moment in the history of football development.

Talk of strength in depth has been apparent for years now, it’s not only your first eleven that pre-determines success, just ask Alan Hansen. With just over a month left till the transfer window reopens teams will immediately look towards their owners to make reinforcements and neglect what they already have, players waiting to break into the first team.

The U21’s League is an indication as to how the FA and Premier League want to re-shape the development of the younger players in this country. However how many of these players will make the transition from U21’s to first teamers? Not many. It’s similar to the national side and their relationship with the U21’s.

Gradually there have been far more promotions from the U21’s to full internationals. Raheem Sterling, Steven Caulker and Wilfred Zaha are clear examples of this, however how long will this theme continue? The England national team has taken almost an eternity to discover that experience is not always the way forward especially in major tournaments.

You just have to look at the German side to see that. Mesut Ozil has become a world class player simply because of the exposure he received during the 2010 World Cup at the tender age of 21 and there are further players in the wings waiting to make that upgrade from wonderkids to global superstars from within the German set-up.

Since 2004 only one ‘Teenage Sensation’ has remained in the England set up until this very day and that is Wayne Rooney, yes Rooney has always been a talent, but surely there should be more Wayne Rooney’s from within English football. And that’s where the problem lies. Rooney’s exposure to first team football from a young age has only aided his development; he was a risk that to a certain extent paid off.

Manchester City has developed a brand of talented youngsters over the years yet Micah Richards is the only player from recent memory that has remained at the Etihad Stadium. The case of Michael Johnson sums up City and the majority of England’s elite sides perfectly over the years. A fairly unknown but homegrown player taking the league by storm with impressive displays and then a new signing is made in the transfer window, hindering ones footballing progression. I ask the question, why buy more food shopping if there is still enough in the fridge to keep you going?

This weekend Manchester United and Newcastle United fielded the most amount of home grown players, with a lonely figure of just four, compare this to the historic moment at the Estadio Ciudad de Valencia from Barcelona and use that as a reminder to examine why England are currently miles behind their European rivals.

Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)

11 Ways To Be Unremarkably Average

Master P’s New ‘Louie V Mob’

After years out of the game, Master P is back again with No Limit Forever. Trying to find a way to revamp his No Limit brand, Master P has recruited young rappers Alley Boy and Fat Trel. The New Orleans rapper, who vowed to change his image for the good and refrain from profanities in his music, has now created a new crew called the ‘Louie V Mob’. Master P is back to reclaim his spot as the self-proclaimed “best hustler in the game”.

Plans for his broadcast network ‘Better Black Television’ may be put on hold now, so he can get back to being a gangsta and release his new mixtape ‘Boss Of All Bosses’. I’m not sure whether this title is a dig at Cam’ron or Slim Thug but one thing is for certain, Master P doesn’t want Birdman taking all the shine.

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

And The Sack Race Winner Is…

The Premier League annual sack race has today seen its annual winner and in keeping with Roman’s tradition of shifting his manager in November, Roberto Di Matteo has bitten the bullet.

The popular former West Brom manager has seen his card marked and has been ushered through the revolving Stamford Bridge door following a loss at Turin giants Juve leaving the defending champions defence of Europe’s biggest prize hanging by a thread.

A poor run of results recently have forced Chelsea’s hand leaving a man who barely 36 hours ago was a long 33-1 to win the sack race.

Roberto’s tenure at Stamford Bridge will go down as a historic time for the West London giants, who with Robbie at the helm manage an implausible double by first winning the FA Cup and becoming London’s first kings of Europe.

It was always thought Roberto was merely a stop gap at the Bridge never seen as a big enough name for Abramovich. Chelsea have been quick to thank Di Matteo for his work. Now the hunt for a new gaffer has begun in earnest with an early favourite being seen as Rafa Benitez who one can only feel will again be only a temporary appointment as the Blues wait for Pep or Jose to become available following a sabbatical and Real Madrid, respectively.

Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)

 

Promotion Predictions, Championship Challengers #AidansFootyShouts

With a quarter of this seasons championship season already played, I feel that I am in a position to make some predictions as to who we are going to see eating at the top table next season, so without further fanfare here are #AidansFootyShouts.

The Championship for many is the most difficult league in the world, this is a claim that I agree with entirely. It’s a league where every club on their day can beat everyone else and week in week out we see this happen. It’s a tough league full of some massive clubs, huge sleeping giants; Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forrest, Wolves and Derby County all clubs who could grace the Premiership and in the past have done so. So who’s going to grace the Premier league in 2013/14?

My shout for champions of this notoriously difficult league has to be Middlesbrough.

Tony Mowbary has been quietly transforming Middlesbrough since taking the reigns from Gordon Strachan in 2010. The Boro legend set about steadying the ship, he did so by guiding the side to safety and finishing his first season mid-table at a respectable 12th. Mowbary’s second season saw greater progress with Boro starting the season in great form before falling off the pace slightly thanks to a bad spell around the turn of the year, Mowbary’s men had to settle for 7th place just a point off the Playoffs.

Mowbary’s one and a half seasons at the Riverside thus far have been a great success, improving the Teesiders fortunes by moving the club up the league and also renovating the clubs playing staff moving on high earners such as Kris Boyd and brought in a crop of solid players turning Boro into an exciting team. I feel it is the season for Boro to better last years near miss and win the title.

On the occasions that I have seen Boro so far this season they have, to me, looked like Championship champion contenders. This was particularly illustrated by their performance last Friday against Sheffield Wednesday where they eased to a 3-1 victory extending an unbeaten run to 8 games and making this officially their best start to a season in 8 years. Boro have a solid spine which will be the catalyst to any run to the title, you’ll have to look hard to find a better spine in any team at this level than Steele, Woodgate, McEachran and McDonald. Alongside a strong spine, Boro’s biggest asset is the fact that the goals have been shared throughout the side with 17 players already finding the back of the net. Crowds are up at the riverside but are the good times here to stay?

The second automatic place for me is the hardest to call, in a division where 1st and 15th is separated by just 11 points a good run of form for any side could see their club playing in the Premier League, so this is a spot extremely difficult to call. I am going to stick my neck out and say that the ‘Blue Birds’ Cardiff City will take the second automatic spot.

Cardiff have for many seasons been on the cusp of joining England’s elite, most betting men would have backed Cardiff to be the first Welsh side to join the Premier League. 3 seasons in a row Cardiff have been on the verge of being promoted via the Playoff each year and have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Year after year Cardiff have started the season like a house on fire and time after time ‘The Dragons’ (makes me feel sick calling them that) have fallen away. This year I think it will be different the nearly men’s luck simply has to change at some point doesn’t it?

Currently, 3rd in the league and just 2 points from the summit I really do believe this could be their season. A strong team that includes Hudson, Wittingham, Gunnarsson, Maynard and of course Bellamy managed by the excellent Malkay MacKay must surely mean Cardiff wont ‘do a Cardiff’ again will they?

Now to predict the impossible who will firstly be in the Playoffs and who will negotiate them to gain the right to play the elite of English football?

The four in the Playoffs I predict will be;
Leicester City,
Crystal Palace,
Hull City and
Blackburn Rovers.

Crystal Palace have had a fantastic start to the season but I feel the decision of Dougie Freedman to leave for The Reebok have made Palace’s chances even slimmer particularly when one notes their small but spirited squad which will of course struggle when the inevitable happens and Wilfred Zaha bows to the temptation of the Premier League. I do though feel Palace will be strong enough to finish in the Playoffs.

My tip for Playoff glory is Leicester City, managed by a man I’ve long admired Nigel Pearson who has managed to get the Foxes playing the best football the club have produced in some years. The squad has enough about it with a run of form to solidify a Playoff place and hit form at the right time during the Playoffs to be a match for anyone in the division. Schmeichel and an on fire David Nugent are a match for anyone at this level and should be enough in May to get the Foxes up!

These are only predictions and I will make a prediction here, none of these predictions will be right! The Championship is such a competitive league which makes it such a joy to watch! Anyone could be promoted come May from Birmingham in 19th to Palace leading the pack, everyone is in with a shout of getting to the promised land.

Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)

GTA 5 New Trailer

With a year since the release of the first trailer of Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games has finally released a second instalment. For the first time since San Andreas GTA is back in the settings of Los Santos. This trailer reveals some of GTA V’s tone, which suggests it will be more of an action film as opposed to the intense dramatics of previous games in the series.

For the first time in the franchise, players will be able to take on the role of three separate characters and switch between each of them. Michael, Trevor and Franklin each possesses a different skill set and will need to work together to pull off what Rockstar is calling “a series of heists.” When not involved in a specific mission, players will have the option to assume each of their identities at will.

Rockstar Games has provided some more in-depth character descriptions of each playable character in the game:

Michael: Michael is a veteran bank robber, an expert, with the kind of knowledge that only comes from years as a successful career criminal. He’s now retired, living comfortably in an unofficial sort of witness protection program.

Trevor: Trevor’s a career criminal and extremely volatile individual, prone to destructive outbursts and violent rampages. He’s easily the most psychopathic criminal to ever share the lead in a Grand Theft Auto game, but he’s not without some charm. Trevor is also ex-military and an experienced pilot.

Franklin: Franklin works as a repo man for an Armenian luxury car dealership that runs scams on ambitious young hot shots with new money, selling them expensive cars they can’t afford. When they can’t make their payments but want to keep their cars, it’s Franklin’s job to get them back. Franklin lives in South Los Santos.

GTA V should be in stores for Spring 2013.

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

A Rise Too Fast For The Game?

I read an article recently and one of the words stated that Neymar is the third best player in the world after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. A sentiment heard before in world football or from maybe just the Brazilian region, as they seek a player looking to challenge the global dominance of the El Classico pair. Neymar at the age of 20 has dazzled, created headlines and became a YouTube sensation, you can YouTube Neymar and witness skills and tricks performed by very few, goals that would leave you in utter amazement.

His development at Santos has been steady and fairly rapid, already clocking up 121 goals in 199 appearances, a truly impressive feat. Since his breakthrough season in 2010, Neymar has taken it upon himself to become the talisman for his country as well as his club; another impressive record has seen him score 16 goals in 25 appearances. But and I will say a huge but, he has yet to embrace the big stage. 121 goals in South America although hugely impressive would look even better on European soil. 16 goals in 25 appearances for country would take your breath away if it was backed up by goals being scored against the likes of Spain and Italy.

The general consensus amongst South American journalists is that the Santos forward is just as good as Lionel Messi or just strides behind, which is fairly inaccurate. In Neymar’s argument I’d much rather compare him to his peers of a similar age and even then I would say that Neymar is on a par or slightly inferior. Names like Eden Hazard, although a year older than Neymar, Gotze, Isco, El Shaarawy, Wilshere and Iker Muniain have all been hugely impressive during their early stages of what appears to be a long and healthy career at the top of the footballing world.

What all players mentioned share in common is a breakthrough season which has guided their side to the summit of their domestic leagues or displayed an impressive individual performance against a tougher opposition. Mario Gotze and Eden Hazard both enjoyed great seasons in 2010-2011 as they became key figures to their sides domestic triumphs in the German and French league, despite not being the favourites, with the latter enjoying a more than inspiring start to his Premier League career. Isco has shun in his sides first Champions League outing, El Shaarawy has taken it upon himself to become the main man at Milan, Muniain showcased his incredible talent at Old Trafford earlier this year and let’s not forget about Wilshere’s mature display against Xavi and Iniesta at Barcelona.

Neymar has yet to have a performance or performances of this magnitude whilst playing with a team like Santos. Despite his greatest attempts throughout this seasons Serie A campaign, Santos are consigned to a mid-table finish this season and have been a mid table side since Neymar’s emergence on the world stage. This is not a criticism of Neymar I have seen him play a great number of times and get a thrill of seeing him play football given the hype surrounding someone so young. His performance for Brazil in both Copa America and the Olympics were both snippets of how great Neymar can become. But even then was he really that amazing?

I am only questioning this because of the last great import from Brazil was none other than a former Santos icon Robinho and yet we look at him now and still talk of his potential, or contemplate how good he could have become. Remember prior to his move to Real Madrid the then young Brazilian was being dubbed as the new Pele, the next best player in the world, even whilst at Madrid fans of Los Bloncos would say you have Messi we have Robinho. Look how that turned out, the team that spoke less of their talent ended up producing the greatest player of our generation and to some of all time, whilst Robinho is still showing glimpses of his quality at AC Milan after a disappointing tenure in the Premier League.

This is not a rant, this is merely an observation of mine that we should not always listen to the subjective views of past legends and icons in the game to dictate how good a player is or can become. In other words Pele’s words and glorifications of Neymar are just that until he produces it on the big stage whether that be in Brazil 2014 or for Barcelona when his protracted deal is indeed completed. In the mean time we’ll just have to sit and wonder whether we are witnessing the progression of the next great thing in world football or the next Robinho.

Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)