Matchday 3- Gunners Finally Firing, Stuttering Spurs and van the Man in Manchester.

Moussa Dembele photo shootJim White of Sky Sports News may have presented the transfer deadline day signings, right up to its 11 O’clock deadline, in a rather flustered and stuttering fashion, but the signings themselves proved to be far from hesitant in proving themselves. Andy Carroll completely transformed West Ham attacking wise, until his untimely injury, and Moussa Dembele came off the bench to put Tottenham in front against Norwich.
Lukas Podolski scores for ArsenalWhile Arsenal’s two new signings in Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla impressed by setting each other up for a goal each, to beat Liverpool 2 nil, it was the forgotten man at the Emirates, a tall, gangly, powerful midfielder in Abou Diaby who earned himself the man of the match award. Diaby’s quick feet, surging runs forward and simple (yet effective) passing proved far too much for the aging Steven Gerrard, Premier League new boy Nuri Sahin and Brendan Rodgers favourite Joe Allen in Liverpool’s midfield three. Comparisons between Diaby and a young Patrick Vieira, or Man City’s Yaya Toure, may have more credence later in the season.
Arsenal are now the only team in the league yet to concede a goal thanks to the 2-2 draw between Sunderland and Swansea, the Premier League’s other two sides who had yet to concede before the match. Michael Laudrup’s side continued to play their football in style, but found it tough to break down a sturdy Sunderland defence. Wayne Routledge continued his scintillating form and Chico Flores, signed from Genoa, had a tough afternoon when he was sent off in the second half for a face high (yes, face high) challenge on Louis Saha. Sunderland’s new £14 million striker Steven Fletcher soon began to repay his hefty price tag with two clinically finished first half goals.
Morgan Schneiderlin
Van Persie repaid a chunk of his own price tag when he scored a hatrick against, yet again, a spirited Southampton side. The score finished 3-2 and the Saints were unlucky to not get anything out of the game, but as soon as the Dutchman failed an attempted a chip on his penalty to put United ahead, he responded with two largely fortuitous goals.  Rickie Lambert started the scroring, before van Persie responded five minutes later, and Morgan Schneiderlin who headed in after Patrice Evra had slipped over in the box.
Andy Carroll, a player who is often seen slipping up, certainly didn’t on his debut for West Ham as he was instrumental in the Hammers 3 nil win over a Fulham side whose confidence is slowly deflating. Carroll’s link-up play with Kevin Nolan and Ricardo Vaz Te gave West Ham a completely different dimension to their attack, which should see them survive the drop this season. That is assuming though he can stay fit as he hobbled off the pitch in the second half with a hamstring injury, ruling him out of the two upcoming World Cup qualifiers for England.
Carroll’s old club Newcastle struggled against a more organised Aston Villa as they finished 1-1 at St James’ Park. Ciaran Clark headed Villa in front in the first half and Hatem Ben Arfa scored a simply stunning goal that would put him in contention for goal of the season. He received the ball on the far left of the box, rolled the ball forward to the right to make space for himself to fire a rocket of a shot straight at the top corner.
Hatem Ben Arfa
Southampton 2 3 Manchester United
Newcastle 1 1 Aston Villa
Liverpool 0 2 Arsenal
Manchester City 3 1 QPR
West Brom 2 Everton 0
Tottenham 1 1 Norwich
Swansea 2 Sunderland
Wigan 2 2 Stoke City
West Ham 3 Fulham 0

Matchday 2- Highflying Swans, Manchester Throne Under Threat and Chelsea Dominant

Image of Torres and Hazard for ChelseaThe second weekend of the Premier League was more or less a follow up to last weekend in that Arsenal failed to score, Swansea continued their free-scoring form, Aston Villa are in serious trouble, the two Manchester clubs are leaking goals and Chelsea are the undisputed in form team.
However, Liverpool showed some of the old fighting spirit with Brendan Rodgers trademark swagger, Fulham couldn’t follow up their Norwich demolition with a win at Old Trafford and despite valiant efforts at the Etihad last week Southampton struggled against a resurgent Wigan.
Michael Laudrup’s Midas touch at the Liberty Stadium took new heights as Swansea showed impressive passing, assured possession and patience to win 3 nil. They even got recognition from Cesc Fabregas via Twitter, “I love the way Swansea plays … Respect.”, as they carved open a woeful West Ham time and time again. Michu showed that his performance last weekend wasn’t a one off, but it’ll be when Swansea starts conceding goals that we will see what this team is really made of.
Everton celebrating
David Moyes has for once got his team off and running straight away as Everton followed their win against Manchester United with a 3-1 win away to Aston Villa. Villa Park hasn’t seen a win in over nine months and Paul Lambert as done little so far to change the Birmingham club’s fortunes. He said after the game, “I will take the blame. We were disappointing.You cannot at any level give somebody a couple of goals’ start.” He was referring to Steven Pienaar’s fantastic curling strike from outside the box, after a superb lay off from Steven Naismith, to put Everton in front inside three minutes. Fellaini (31) and Jelavic (44) made sure that at half time Aston Villa were well and truly buried. Villa responded with a long range strike from El Ahmadi but that was after Ciaran Clarke was sent off early in the second period. Moyes summed up the performance after the game, “At times it was as good as I’ve seen us play.”
Another team that has hit the ground running is Chelsea, who followed up their 4-2 win against Reading with a 2 nil win against Newcastle. The Toon rarely threatened and they would have conceded more if it wasn’t for Coloccini and Taylor in the backline for Newcastle. Again, Chelsea have shown that the Torres/Hazard partnership is seamless, when the Belgian thumped in a penalty won by the Spaniard, and they combined on the edge of the box before halftime to produce a stunning goal. Hazard did a backheel pass for Torres to curl a first touch shot straight to the top corner. Alan Pardew was very praising of his opponents and said of Hazard, “He travels with the ball and bides time, he has that kind of nonchalance about him that marks him out as a great player.”
Olivier Giroud exasperated On Sunday, Arsenal yet again couldn’t find a way through a sturdy defence and finished with another goalless draw. Though Stoke rarely threatened, due to Arsenal’s own resolute backline, the Gunner’s found it tough to create clear cut chances. Cazorla again was the most productive player on the field and Giroud, who started up front, made some ingenious lay-offs to likes of Diaby, Gervinho and Podolski who struggled to get a shot on target. The game’s best chance came late on when Arsenal were on the counter. Giroud picked up the ball from the half way line and darted forward. Aaron Ramsey, who replaced Cazorla, much to the ire of Arsenal fans, made a run through the middle which Giroud spotted but, hilariously, chose to shoot from nearly 50 yards out. Sorenson panicked and back pedalled only to see the shot just fizz past the crossbar by a whisker.
Anfield saw a lot more drama when Liverpool finished with a 2-2 draw against Manchester City. Martin Skrtel turned from Kop hero to Kop clown when in the 80th minute he gifted Tevez with a carless back pass, after the defender opened the scoring with a bullet header in the 34thminute. Yaya Toure brought things level at the 63rd minute but Luis Suarez scored a wonderful free kick in the 66th. Raheem Sterling started for Liverpool on the left wing and immensely impressed. The 17 year old seems to have gone a long way from pre season where the video (above) shows Brendan Rodgers dressing him down. Roberto Mancini was flapping his arms around in anger every five minutes and has made no secret of his frustration at the lack any summer signings.
Swansea 3 0 West Ham
Aston Villa 1 3 Everton
Manchester United 3 2 Fulham
Norwich 1 1 QPR
Southampton 0 2 Wigan
Tottenham 1 1 West Brom
Chelsea 2 0 Newcastle
Stoke 0 0 Arsenal
Liverpool 2 2 Manchester City

Matchday 1: Thrills, Spills, Skills- the Premier League Announced its Return in Fine Style

Mladen Petric celebrating for FulhamFrom Fulham and Swansea’s 5 nil thumping’s of Norwich and QPR respectively, to Marouane Fellaini’s bullet header last night for Everton, to give Manchester United problems from the get-go, the Premier League returned in fine style.
Saturday afternoon saw Arsenal host Sunderland as they started life without Robin van Persie with a drab goalless draw. Of the three debutants for the Gunners, Santi Cazorla impressed the most with his vision and willingness to press forward whilst peppering Simon Mignolet with vicious shots. Lukas Podolski offered little in the game, despite valiant efforts, before he was replaced just past the hour mark by Olivier Giroud, who spurned the best chance of the game. The two strikers will have time to settle and adapt though.
Meanwhile, South East of the Emirates Stadium, Fulham were proving their worth in the absence of their star man at Craven Cottage. Clint Dempsey had made it clear that he would not play for Fulham again and Martin Jol’s squad responded emphatically. New striker Mladen Petric, from Jol’s former side Hamburger SV, scored two and set up another for fellow debutant Alex Kacaniklic whilst a Steve Sidwell penalty and Damien Duff shot compounded a dismal display from Norwich- we wait to see if the Canaries are diagnosed with second-season syndrome. By the final whistle the Fulham fans were screaming ‘Who needs Dempsey!?’ in defiant elation.
Dempsey’s potential suitors Liverpool could have done with the American’s talents on Saturday though, as they were completely outplayed by an invigorated West Bromwich Albion 3 nil. Zoltan Gera’s stunning volley, Peter Odemwingie’s penalty and Romelu Lukaku’s late strike, gave Brendan Rodgers a dose of reality as his team’s weaknesses were brutally exposed at the Hawthorns. £15 million man Joe Allen looked out of sorts at times while fellow midfielder for West Brom, Claudio Yacob, a free signing, achieved a 96% pass completion rate- but Liverpool fans should be used to expensive flops by now.
Michu celebrating for SwanseaPerhaps Rodgers should have taken note of his Swansea successor Michael Laudrup’s shrewd transfer policy. He bought Gylfi Sigurdsson’s replacement in Michu for £2 million, brought Villarreal midfielder Jonathon de Guzman on loan and Arsenal’s Kyle Bartley for £1 million. For a team who lost their manager and one of their best players from the last campaign, they started the new season emphatically under Laudrup. Michu scored twice, Nathan Dyer scored twice and an unsettled Scott Sinclair finished with a fifth.
Sunday picked up where Saturday left off, first at The DW Stadium where in less than six minutes, Champions League winners Chelsea found themselves 2 nil up against a shell shocked Wigan. Eden Hazard was the architect for both goals and vastly improved his performance in six minutes of League football, from his 90 last week in the Community Shield. Wigan collected themselves however and made a better showing in the second half, ultimately to no avail.
Rickie Lambert celebrating at the Etihad

In perhaps the most exciting game of the weekend, Manchester City stumbled to a 3-2 win against plucky Southampton at the Etihad. The Saints talisman Rickie Lambert started on the bench but came on after an hour to transform them into a genuine threat for the champions. Within four minutes he brought the score to 1-1, after a first half strike from Carlos Tevez. Saints manager Nigel Adkins second substitute, Steven Davis, scored almost straight away with an almost identical strike to Lambert’s. Panic had wavered across the Etihad. But City showed why they were champions when Samir Nasri pounced on a poor clearance to grab the three points.

The other half of Manchester had to wait until Monday night to see the Red Devils kick-start their 2012/13 campaign at Goodison Park. Fans had to wait even longer to see their latest signing Robin van Persie make his debut as Sir Alex Ferguson opted to partner Wayne Rooney with Danny Welbeck. Shinji Kagawa impressed but couldn’t prevent another Belgian international from winning the game. Fellaini, who had a busy game, secured three points after an hour when he smashed a header past David de Gea. Robin van Persie had just 29 minutes to make an impact when he replaced Welbeck. Boos rang through the entire stadium from all sections of the crowd, even the away support, every time the Dutchman touched the ball. Ferguson put the defeat down to the fact that van Persie wasn’t supplied enough to make an impression. The former Arsenal hero’s sunken expression throughout the game suggested he didn’t know how to play without Theo Walcott, Gervinho and Alex Song supporting him.
Robin van Persie for United

Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland
Fulham 5-0 Norwich
QPR 0-5 Swansea
Reading 1-1 Stoke City
West Brom 3-0 Liverpool
West Ham 1-0 Aston Villa
Newcastle 2-1 Tottenham
Wigan 0-2 Chelsea
Manchester City 3-2 Southampton
Everton 1-0 Manchester United

Old Story, New Adventure

Image of author Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton

Due to the fact that my dissertation is based on the late Michael Crichton, I thought I’d finally get round to doing another blog post and spread the word of this writer. Few realise that Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster hit started as a novel, with all of the film’s intricacies and heart pounding suspense penned by one man.

Before I look into the novel itself, here’s a quick run-down of the information you really need to know about Crichton;

  • Died of leukaemia in 2008 while finishing two books published posthumously.
  • He remains the only person in history to have a number one film (Jurassic Park) a number one book (Disclosure) and a number one television series (E.R) all at the same time.
  • Of the 18 fiction novels he has published, 11 of them have been adapted to the big screen, including Jurassic Park’s sequel The Lost World, Rising Sun, Sphere, The Great Train Robbery, Disclosure and Timeline. It will soon be 12 as Steven Spielberg has bought the filming rights to his posthumous novel Pirate latitudes.
  • He is considered the father of the techno-thriller who meticulously researched his novels. Jurassic Park took 8 years to finish.
  • He is responsible for the films Twister and Westworld, with the latter being the first film in history to use CGI, using it as a viewpoint for a robot. This is no doubt where the Terminator franchise got the idea of using a robot POV from.

A quick summary of the plot, for the rare few that don’t know, is that philanthropist John Hammond (Sir David Attenborough) has come up with a way of using dinosaur DNA, found in mosquitoes set in amber resin, to clone and reproduce real life dinosaurs. He breeds them all on an island off the coast of Costa Rica to build a theme park around them to profit on his discovery. A routine inspection made by archaeologists, businessman and investors soon turns into a disaster when the park’s defences shut down and the dinosaurs run amok.

Sam Neil looking up at a T-Rex

Sam Neil vs T-Rex

Upon picking up the book of Jurassic Park, my thoughts were that I’d find it boring and uninteresting since I had watched the film over a dozen times since it was released. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The pace at which Crichton wrote the book was electrifying. Even though I knew the outcome of the story, I still found myself turning the pages until four in the morning. Crichton had said in an interview that he only used 20% of the book when writing the screenplay for Spielberg, so the book has plenty to offer in terms of a new adventure in an old story. Unfortunately, readers still have to put up with John Hammond’s screaming grandchild, who is just as grating in the book as she is the film.

The book’s stand out character though is Dr Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, whose constant belittling of the park and Hammonds vision with dry humoured remarks offer an insight into the writer himself. In the years before his death, Crichton was a politically outspoken critic of global warming and the extent to which scientists and media have portrayed its disastrous consequences for future generations. It’s easy to see a comparison of sorts between Malcolm’s scepticism of the park and Crichton’s criticism of global warming. Malcolm was right about the park, is Crichton right about global warming?

Is It Me Or Are Spain’s Big Two Lauded Too Much?

Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid

Ronaldo for Madrid

Following FIFA’s announcement of their team of the year, a sense of unjust and scepticism soon set in. The team sheet is as follows;



Iniesta—-Xabi Alonso—-Xavi—Messi


Four Real Madrid players, five Barcelona players and two Manchester United players comprise this unimaginative list of footballers who have ruled 2011. Don’t get me wrong, these players have all contributed to the year in fine style with their sublime goals, incisive passing and will to win. That is not the issue. The issue is the heavy one sided nature of the selection. Three different clubs make up the entire XI, only two different leagues are represented with the split being nine from La Liga and only two for the Premier League. This seems very unfair for other players who have had an excellent year for their clubs, who have not been selected.

From a British perspective, journalists love to wax lyrical about Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sky Sports show La Liga games with Barca and Madrid too regularly, accompanied by programmes dedicated to analysing and discussing the Spanish League. Even airing ‘The Cesc Fabregas Show’ revolving around the ex-Arsenal midfielder and his progress with the Catalans, guarantee no Arsenal fan will be interested in that and given the long saga over whether he would leave or not boring the public to death, neither will many neutrals. ITV are the worst culprits for me when it comes to lauding these two teams. Their commentary on, arguably Arsenal’s finest game of 2011, their first leg 2-1 win against Barcelona in the Champions league, was bordering sickening every time they talked about the Spanish side. Jim Beglin and David Pleat unnecessarily glorified every single pass, shot, tackle, save and run Barca made, whilst Arsenal’s efforts to try and win the game were described as being futile. Commentators are meant to be impartial to who they are watching but surely their allegiances would be with the English team, in a European tie if any?

FIFA’s selections reflect this over exuberance.

To me the choices should highlight to the world a selection of players who have consistently performed at a high level for their club and country, stayed out of controversy in the press and have exuded an all round professional attitude to the game, whilst heavily contributing to their sides success.

The selections of Messi and Ronaldo are a no brainer in that respect. They are both on another planet in terms of football ability. I more have an issue with who was not picked.

As a replacement for Rooney I would have chosen Robin van Persie. Arsenal had a year to forget but van Persie has had a sensational year, just one goal shy of taking Alan Shearer’s record of most goals scored in a calendar year (35) in the premier league. This is something which is worthy of recognition. Rooney’s achievements in 2011 compared to van Persie’s are far inferior.

The Bundesliga saw the emergence of Borrusia Dortmund’s creative midfielder Mario Goetze, who at just 19 years old has made himself the first name on the team sheet for the German club. I would omit Xabi Alonso from FIFA’s XI and put Goetze in his place. Similarly to Jack Wilshere, before the 2010/11 season, Goetze had made just 5 appearances for his club but then went on to be an ever-present in his side. His age makes his exploits even more remarkable to, being named FIFA’s Golden Boy of 2011, ahead of Wilshere, Eden Hazard and Christian Eriksen and winning the Bundesliga.

Sticking with the Germans, I believe Philipp Lahm deserves a place in the full back position instead of Dani Alves. Captain of German giants Bayern Munich, the 5ft 7 left back has been irreplaceable in not only the Bavarians first XI but for his country as well. His consistency, professionalism, decisive tackling and surging runs make him Bayern’s ideal choice as captain. He would be ahead of Dani Alves purely because of Alves’ tendency to go to ground on soft challenges and subsequently nurse a fake injury. This is something FIFA will surely want to stamp out of the game.

Eden Hazard for Lille

Eden Hazard for Lille

Other players worthy of note are Mario Gomez’s scintillating form for Bayern, Neymar’s goal haul for Santos and his Goal of the Year effort alone, Eden Hazard’s participation in Lille’s title winning side of 2010/11 and his current form of nine goals and six assists this season show he is continuing to grow and Edinson Cavani’s superb form for Napoli continues from 33 goals last season to 14 so far this season.

There is an argument to suggest that the selection does not mean anything and that it’s another pointless accolade for players. I would not disagree with that argument. The selection represents FIFA’s way of thinking in that they promote and award those who have already been awarded heavily. Other players around the world, who have done just as much, if not more, deserve the credit that their performances have merited.

The Manchester Derby Preview 23/10/2011

Crowd at Old Trafford with Man City and Man United fans

Passionate fans

Encounters between these two sides in recent seasons have on the whole not disappointed in terms of world class football and quality goals. City’s last win against their rivals, in all competitions, came in last season’s FA cup semi final where Yaya Toure’s second half strike was enough to settle the tie. Despite just the one goal, the game was played at a fast and exhilarating pace.

The community shield on the 7th August was their first meeting this season. The red devils won 3-2 but the contest was hotly contested by City, who were 2-0 up at half time. Nani was able to create a winner in the 93rd minute, after a defensive mix up from Kompany.

Wayne Rooney’s fantastic Bicycle kick was the deciding goal in another even encounter in the two side’s last league meeting. In fact, City fans have to look back as far as February 2008 for their team’s last league win in the derby. So why might their meeting tomorrow be one to watch?

So far this season, both halves of Manchester have lit up the premier league with their lightening quick football and goals. Great individual performances have been aplenty for both sides with Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Nani, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones for united and Edin Dzeko, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero have all sparkled for City.

Rooney's overhead kick against City

Rooney’s wonder goal

A glance at the table, and you will see that City lead with 22 points, with United trailing by just two points. A win for United will not only put them top, it would also bring City closer to the other teams close behind.A win for City would put them five points ahead and would give them great momentum to increase that lead.

How they might line up:

Manchester United- They will most likely play Nani and Young on the wings, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are sure to take the CB roles. If Sir Alex Ferguson opts to use Park Ji Sung, as he often does in the big games, then Rooney will most likely be up front with Park supporting. If Park does not play, Hernandez could be used up front with Rooney dropping just behind.

Manchester City- Mancini has a plethora of multi-million pound attacking talent at his disposal. Balotelli, Silva and Aguero are the ones he will most likely line up front leaving a disgruntled Edin Dzeko and frustrated Samir Nasri on the bench. Gareth Barry is sure to hold the midfield and Yaya Toure is most likely to be in front of him. Mancini though must be careful as Adam Johnson, Pablo Zabaleta and James Milner have all impressed when used, so they will want to start to.

Queens of the Stone Age (Self Titled)- Album Review

Image of Josh Homme

Josh Homme

Queens of the Stone Age- Queens of the Stone Age

Rekords Rekords, 1998

The album is an amalgamation of sorts between Josh Homme’s first band Kyuss and his new creation (QOTSA) after Kyuss split up in the early 90’s. Kyuss’s reputation, and success, was largely down to Homme’s guitar creating catchy head swaying riffs which stick in your head months after the first listen.This largelyunknown, and hard to find, debut album, from the Californian desert rockers, in 1998 contains many QOTSA fans festival favourites and shows the birth of their signature sound of electrifying fuzz riffs, deep bluesy bass lines and catchy lyrics.

Opening the album is ‘Regular John’, a song with drumming which you just cannot help but stomp your foot to. A mix of rock groove, with the bands trademark fuzz guitar, and delicate squeals make the song one of the best on the album. Homme’s unmistakable leering voice glides across the song, which fans more familiar with QOTSA will know and love.

‘Avon’ is a previous Desert Session’s recording, where Homme and twenty or so likeminded rock musicians gather at Homme’s ranch in Palm Desert to jam, and is also a mainstay on their tours to this day. It’s rolling guitar and steady drum beats repeat incessantly throughout, with a solo which grooves steadily with the march like beats.

‘If Only’ is perhaps one of the more pop like songs on the album with an opening riff that remains their most catchiest to date. The swinging harmony of the track is the perfect backdrop to Homme’s heartfelt lyrics like ‘those long long days with no escaping’.

The song which would epitomise Homme’s own assessment of QOTSA’s style as ‘robotic rock’ is ‘You Would Know’. The short and snappy riff repeated behind Homme’s melodic squeaks on top of his robotic voice. The heaviest sound of the album comes from ‘How to Handle a Rope’, a mix of deep fuzz infused guitar and a primitive drum beat which erupts into a chaotic solo at the end.

But there is no song on the album quite like the majestic ‘You Can’t Quit Me Baby’. From the opening infectiously catchy wavering bass line, to Homme’s iconic melodic croon ‘ahhing’ after every verse with contagious passion , to the song’s instrumental type break where the words, ‘your solid gold, I’ll see you in hell’ is harmonised perfectly with more subtle guitar overtones. The track doesn’t give in there though; the undeniable brilliance of the soaring solo, bouncing off the hazy bass line will stick in your head for years. Live renditions of this song have never failed to let fans down, and it remains the longest onstage jam session to date at fifteen minutes.

Queens of the Stone Age performing live

Rocking a lucky crowd

There are just a couple of songs however which don’t quite hit the mark. The final song ‘I Was a Teenage Hand Model’ plods along aimlessly without any signature QOTSA riffs or bluesy bass lines. The ending is just a mess of loud beeping noises. ‘Hispanic Impressions’ is a strange track which doesn’t seem to have a consistent beat throughout, making the odd time signature unsettling.

From a band which offers something different, yet always satisfying, in every album they make, this glorious debut is an absolute must listen. Due to be re released on March 7th with bonus tracks and a revamped sound, the album will most definitely not disappoint.

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