Alex Chick

  • 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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  • Premier League predictions: 17th-20th

    All this week, Armchair Pundit will be counting down to the Premier League season with a set of totally arbitrary and wildly inaccurate predictions for each club.

    We will cover four teams each day, starting at the uncomfortable end of the table.

    Predicted line-ups are based on current squads - obviously these can and will change before the end of August.

    So without further ado, let's forecast a season of abject misery for...

    BLACKPOOL

    On winning promotion to the top flight, Tangerines boss Ian Holloway said he would not go crazy in the transfer market. He wasn't kidding. At the time of

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  • World Cup cheat sheet: Day 23

    Friday's action

    Netherlands 2-1 Brazil - Port Elizabeth

    The favourites are out after an inexplicable second-half meltdown against an appreciative Dutch side. On a sub-standard Port Elizabeth pitch, Dunga's Brazilian side were in control at half-time, albeit without playing their best stuff. Robinho had captialised on a parting Dutch back four, latching on to Felipe Melo's through ball and slotting a low shot past Maarten Stekelenburg from just outside the area. But it all went horribly wrong early in the second period. Michel Bastos was lucky not to see a second yellow card for a late

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  • Kleberson: A warning from history

    History tells us it is rarely a good idea to sign a player off the back of a good World Cup, yet that won't stop Premier League sides flashing their cash at the stars of South Africa 2010.

    French striker Stephane Guivarc'h won the World Cup in 1998, but once he arrived at Newcastle proved an unmitigated disaster.

    Likewise El Hadji Diouf (admittedly signed by Liverpool before the 2002 World Cup) looked dynamite as Senegal reached the last eight, but failed to justify his £10m price. He is best-known for his over-active saliva glands, and his stable of spectacularly tacky motors.

    Manchester

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  • World Cup cheat sheet: Day 20

    Tuesday's action gave us one goal in 210 minutes of action. Maybe it's for the best Wednesday is a rest day.

    - - -

    Paraguay 0-0 Japan (5-3 on penalties) - Pretoria
    Paraguay shaded one of the most boring World Cup matches in living memory, winning the tournament's first penalty shoot-out. Japan, so inventive and attacking against Denmark, looked stricken by caution and made no attempt to score from open play, relying entirely on set pieces. Paraguay were marginally better but still too a no-risk approach. To nobody's surprise it went the distance, and Yuichi Komano was the villain, striking the

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