Alex Chick

  • Let Mascherano rot

    Roy Hodgson
    has done English football many services.

    He has
    restored the reputation of the nation's managers, proved that a small club
    playing attractive football can achieve staggering feats, and shown the world
    that some English people can speak foreign languages.

    But it
    would be his greatest achievement yet if he banished Javier Mascherano to the
    reserves and left him there for the rest of the season.

    The
    Argentine apparently refused to play for Liverpool at Manchester
    City as he tried to force through a
    move to Barcelona.

    Hodgson is
    playing hardball, and hauled Mascherano into training

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  • Premier League predictions: 9th-12th

    The mid-table slog continues on day three of Armchair Pundit's week-long festival of guesswork.

    It is probably no surprise to see which teams have been reserved for the top eight - but eyebrows may be raised by the prospect of a top-half finish for Newcastle and a much-improved season for West Ham.

    Note: Predicted teams are based on squads at time of writing.

    12th - BLACKBURN ROVERS (Last season: 10th)

    The fruitless search for a striker has dominated Blackburn's summer, but there is no need for panic at Ewood Park. Nikola Kalinic is an improving youngster with real potential, while the club's

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  • Was this a great World Cup?

    Like those who awarded Zinedine Zidane the Golden Ball before he nutted Marco Materazzi, I am running the risk of reviewing the World Cup before it has finished.

    Overall it has been a good tournament, if not a great one. But that's not much of a blog post. Let's go into more details in 10 categories below.

    GOALS

    Unlike the 2006 World Cup, the goal flow has increased throughout the tournament. The first week was, if we are honest, a bit tough going, and for a long time matches were averaging less than two goals a game. But Sami Khedira's header last night was the 144th goal - even if tonight's

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  • Premier League predictions: 5th-8th

    They all want a place in the top four. And they're all going to be disappointed. It's part four of the pre-season predictions game.

    It's largely a tale of stability among the European hopefuls. Three of the four clubs here will be featuring almost exactly the same side as last season. The other is Manchester City.

    Tottenham and City are both ranked a couple of places below where the bookies would have them. In Spurs' case, it's down to the juggling act between Premier and Champions Leagues. For City, I'm just not sure they have added much more than numbers to their squad.

    8th - TOTTENHAM

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  • Hughes taking on impossible job

    At first glance, Fulham looks like a terrific job for Mark Hughes.

    They are a stable club with a sensible chairman, appreciative fans and an atmospheric ground. There is a positive vibe about the place, and they go into the new season with much the same squad that reached last season's Europa League final.

    A far cry from the madness at Manchester City, who sacked Hughes last December when they were just a handful of points off the fourth place their owners craved - by the time the whistle blew in his final game, Roberto Mancini had already been given the key to the stationery cupboard.

    Hughes

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  • Europe 3, South America 0

    Last Sunday the Observer published a column by Paul Wilson describing South America's vast superiority over Europe at this World Cup.

    The piece, backed up by a raft of statistics, contained the following quotes:

    "The story of this World Cup is turning out to be that few teams, even central American ones, are capable of overcoming South American opponents."

    "Maradona looks born to the role (of Argentina coach)."

    "Some of the grandest names in Europe, Spain apart, are responsible for some of the most constipated football."

    "A South American team will win the World Cup by the end of next month."

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  • Why City must go all-out for Torres

    Manchester City could field the following team this season:

    Joe Hart; Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha, Vincent Kompany, Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Gareth Barry, Adam Johnson, Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy

    In the reserves.

    If City sign Mario Balotelli and James Milner before the season starts, all of the above could find themselves outside a first XI comprising: Given; Boateng, Lescott, K Toure, Kolarov; Milner, Y Toure, De Jong, Silva, Tevez, Balotelli.

    It would almost certainly be the strongest second-string in club football history, a team well capable of achieving a

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  • Premier League predictions: 1st-4th

    Oh, very daring. The Big Four in the top four.

    But before you throw accusations of a chronic imagination deficiency, remember that according to the bookies, Manchester City are third favourites to win the title. The oddsmakers have Liverpool finishing outside the top four again, and City bettering Arsenal.

    The lack of change at the top is logical. After a summer in which the transfer market (City aside) pulled the shutters down and went on a three-month lunch break, why would anyone expect the established order to be disrupted?

    You only have to look at the top four's very familiar predicted

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  • Xavi wasn’t tapping Fabregas up

    Transfer
    sagas are often said to have 'twists and turns' but normally they follow a simple,
    boring storyline:

    Club B
    wants Club A's player.

    Club B make a
    tentative offer while simultaneously making its interest very public.

    Club A
    tells Club B to rack off, prompting more public stirring from presidents,
    managers, future team-mates and finally the player himself.

    Eventually
    Club A gives in, lets the player go and gets a big wad of cash.

    The whole
    process can take years, and it almost always plays out the same way.

    Everybody
    knows Cesc Fabregas will join Barcelona.
    Whether he does it this

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  • Vuvuzelas: Mad, bad and dangerous?

    The crackdown has begun in earnest. Yesterday Tottenham
    Hotspur became the first Premier League club to ban vuvuzelas, and this morning
    Arsenal followed suit.

    The Gunners made the announcement via an article on their
    website cheerily entitled: 'Vuvuzelas not welcome
    at Emirates Stadium!'

    'This decision
    has been taken to ensure the enjoyment and safety of supporters on matchdays,
    which is of paramount importance to the club,' intoned a club statement.

    They illustrated the edict with a picture of a South
    African fan tooting away on the offending horn. No fun for you, Sir!

    This despite the fact

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