Apostolos Lambrianides Talks… ‘Manchester Utd’ 28/8/2015


As much as United’s start to the season was dubbed as “easy” by the national press when the fixtures were announced in June our fourth game sees us try to beat a tricky Swansea team for the first time since the 2013/14 season. They too have started the season brightly, winning a respectable five out of a possible nine, with the opening day draw away to Chelsea being the most impressive. However in contrast to United’s goal-shy displays (two goals in three games…one of which is an own-goal) Gary Monk’s team has already netted five times.

In defence however we’re looking better than we have done in years – ironic seeing that our no.1, United’s best player for the past two seasons who has been involved in arguably the most drawn out and frankly boring transfer saga of all time, hasn’t played a minute of football this season. De Gea’s (current) replacement in goal however, Sergio Romero, has not had an awful lot to do and so cannot claim much of the credit, as the newly established defensive pairing of Smalling and Blind – protected by the brilliant Morgan Schneiderlin in midfield – have helped United have the joint-best defensive record in the league so far. Credit to Luke Shaw at LB as well who has been superb (a completely different player to the one that started his United career last summer), as has new boy and Fantasy Football favourite Darmian on the right.

Wednesday’s performance against FC Brugge in the Champions League qualifier 2nd leg was by far United’s best attacking display of the season that will hopefully inspire us to take our European form into the league. Depay, who has endured a slow, frustrating start to life in the Premier League, slid effortlessly through the Brugge defence all evening, while Mata was producing passes straight of his 2010 repertoire. Even Herrera, the forgotten man making his first start of the season, got involved with some sexy one-touch passing for United’s third as well as netting the fourth. However most encouraging of all was Wayne Rooney – lambasted by the media prior to the game for his poor form in front of goal – who bagged a hat-trick to emphatically end his 10-game run without a goal.

Still, one decent performance against Belgium’s 2nd best team is hardly anything to get too carried away with as in the league there is no denying we are very obviously struggling in attack – when “o.g” is your joint top scorer after three games you know something is wrong!

Depay has been poor, reminding me at times of a skilful yet wasteful Ronaldo circa 2005, while Mata has only enjoyed mere flashes of brilliance so far. All this has led to the delivery and support for lone-striker Rooney to be of a very poor standard. It is easy to use Rooney as the scapegoat and burden him with the blame as, of course, the only stat that will ever matter to a striker is number of times you put the ball in the back of the net, so zero out of three isn’t looking great. But that certainly doesn’t tell the full story.

It is in Rooney’s nature, both as a leader and a workhorse, to get involved and try and create opportunities for himself when no one else appears to be – it’s what sets him apart from Falcao and RVP, two players who in contrast to Rooney were deemed superfluous by the manager. His performance away to Villa a couple of weeks ago is a good example of this, where he was heavily criticised for not having a single touch in the Villa box until the 93rd minute. This stat however was rather naively used to highlight the Rooney struggling and being unable to play in this role, rather than indicate the lack of creativity and innovation from the players around him.

On Wednesday night however van Gaal’s master plan of playing Mata and Depay alongside Rooney finally made sense and worked a treat. The link-up play between the three at times was superb with Herrera, who looked far more comfortable in the no.10 role than Januzaj whom did in the first half, helped create an effective line of attack that Brugge had absolutely no answer for. Let’s hope that this is now the turning point that will spark our lethargic league displays into life.

Prediction: Swansea 1-2 United

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Arsenal vs Liverpool – 24/8/2015 – Binul Shah


First of all, that was the most entertaining match of the season so far, be it goalless, it had almost everything, end to end stuff, controversy, great phases of proper football. But a special mention has to go out to the keepers; Cech and Mignolet! Both put in an amazing performance and are the real reason it ended 0-0!

Anyway as Liverpool fan, I felt a draw was a decent result considering the fixture (Arsenal away). From losing 4-1 last season, I would have taken a draw before the game.

The big talking point of the game will be Arsenal’s disallowed goal…I will be the first to admit that I think it was a clear goal and it should have stood, but hey, this is football. The controversy makes the game alive! We all hate being on the wrong side of a rubbish decision, but sometimes you are on the right side…It all equals out at the end!

My stand out player for Liverpool was young Joe Gomez. For an 18 year old playing out of his natural position in the premier league for the first time, he was outstanding. The strength, pace and general positioning he showed was top class. He fought his own against the likes of Sanchez, Ozil and Co who are all top class players. He’s now earned his first England u21 call up, which I think is well deserved. Hoping his development continues as well as his performances, I’m confident to say I think Liverpool have real talent on their hands with this kid.

Defensively Liverpool were very good, keeping Arsenal at bay most of the time. Alot of fans have still got they’re jury out on Lovren and alot prefer Sakho. Lovren has started to show why we spent so much on him, 3 clean sheets and a good end to last season. He and Skrtel are starting to form a strong partnership which showed against Arsenal with their relentless attack in the second half. Clyne had also had a great game and is much more of an improvement the Johnson. Another Coup.

A rear appearance from Lucas it seems. Liverpool’s only out and out DM. He had a decent game, however I’m still baffed why he was replaced by Rossiter. Was that a goodbye? I hope not. Against the top premier league sides, Lucas could be key in nullifying the oppositions attacking play. In this case, Arsenal, his constant pressing in the first hour gave the likes of Cazorla a nightmare and provided us with the opportunity to attack. Can and milner were both good too, Can in his preferred position as a CM. He showed his power and drive to get forward aswell as his defensive attributes.

Coutinho and Benteke were awesome, I suppose having Koscielny and Mertersacker both out had something to do with that. Chambers was lost all evening and it showed clearly in the first half. We could have been up by 2/3 in the first half if wasn’t for the heroics of Cech. Mr. Wenger, I think you may need to strengthen your defence if Chambers is your cover. Goodluck with that.

Firmino’s debut, not impressed as of yet, defensively he was useless, leaving Clyne to defend on his own most of the game. He looked lost when we did not have the ball. I think Rodgers has some work to do in that area of Firmino’s development. When on the ball, he looked good, nifty touches and always looking to go forward which is positive. May be a little harsh seeing as it’s his first game in the premier league and he’s probably not fully fit. But he does need to step it up real soon.

Arsenal played well but lacked that killer instinct as we have come to now know is a normality for them. Alot of possession and alot of nice short attractive football, but fewer shots on target at home is not good enough for club of Arsenal’s stature. Giroud was marked out and defended the whole game, alot or responsibility was put on Sanchez and Ozil to provide and score the goals. Fair play with they’re reputation and ability. But I have one burning question for arsenal fans, why on earth did Ox not start? Against a makeshift left back in Gomez? Playing ramsey out wide? Really? I know all the attacking players or interlink and swap around, but I think that was Arsenal’s main issue. Their centre of the park was so conjested. It was crying out for an Ox or Theo on the wing…no goals at home for quite a few games is worrying for Arsenal. My opinion, stop favouring, the Ramseys, Ozils, Cazorlas and use what u have at your disposal; Ox and Theo.

To wrap it up, all in all a good game that could have gone either way. Early days yet, Anything can happen.

One last thing, Coutinho sent Bellerin back to Barcelona with his magical footwork. What a save by Cech!

Thank you for reading.


Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur – 22/8/2015 -Dan De Luca


Leicester City 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs’ winless start to the season continued at the KP Stadium, and the game contained all the hallmarks of a typical Tottenham display of as far back as you can remember, decent possession, nice football, no cutting edge, and soft underbelly.

The game was a lively an exciting encounter between two sides who both like to play good football with the ball on the floor and was exactly the type of away game that Spurs would have prevailed in last season. Saturday though, Tottenham took to the field without talisman Christian Eriksen, the guy who dug Spurs out of so many holes last campaign and ultimately that may have proved the difference between 1 point & 3 for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
Tottenham as you might expect enjoyed the lions’ share of the possession playing some cultured football in the middle of the park, and Leicester broke regularly with pace & directness. Jamie Vardy often stretching the Spurs back line and the impressive livewire Riyad Mahrez constantly causing problems, particularly for Ben Davies at Left back who has rarely impressed since joining the club last summer and should be making way for Danny Rose as soon as the latter has returned to full fitness.
Leicester felt rightly aggrieved to have a strong penalty appeal turned down before half time when Mahrez jinked his way across the box only to be hauled down by the sluggish Jan Vertonghen. Atkinson waved the appeals away from less than 5 yards away, even the most rose tinted spurs fan would struggle to argue that the spot kick should have been given.
Harry Kane was instrumental in spurs taking the lead dropping deep to pick up the ball and driving at the Leicester defence, freeing Chadli to pick Dele Alli unmarked at the back post to head in his first Premier League goal. At just 19, he looks a real talent and at Tottenham should get the chance to flourish the season. Harry Kane has worked well this season so far and despite extending his goalless start to the campaign, put in another good performance. His tendency to drop deeper and wider to pick up the ball in the gaps vacated by the injured Eriksen highlights the lack of depth the Tottenham squad is suffering from this season. With Kane having to provide creativity, his presence in the box has been more infrequent than last season, and left him yet to get off the mark. The mumblings already about his goalless start are only going to add to the pressure, and despite some good displays, the unfair question marks over his start to the season will only become more prominent until that elusive first goal comes.
Having taken the lead though, most top sides would see the game out for the remaining 9 minutes. Tottenham lasted 20 seconds. Straight from kick off a high ball found its way to the feet of Mahrez who jinked into the box before curling a lovely left footed finish beyond Lloris into the far corner. A Spurs fan could be critical of the defending but in fairness it was a well taken goal and no less than Mahrez’ display deserved. Leicester could even have stolen all the points at the end when a point blank header hit Lloris when either side of him meant zero points coming back to White Hart Lane. Leicester were well worth their point in the end, and have been impressive so far this season, picking up from where they left off after their ‘great escape’ with Ranieri proving a few sections of the media wrong. Early days of course.
The situation of the team collectively conceding straight from kick off will be of bigger concern for Tottenham than the individual defensive failings in the build up to the equaliser. A strong character needs to be found in the next 7 days of transfer activity, if such a player exists within Tottenham’s tight budget. There is one game to be played between now and then though, a home evening kick off against an Everton side who performed impressively on their most recent away trip, dismantling Southampton 0-3. Last season at home to Everton was one of Spurs’ most impressive displays of the season in a 2-1. Even Roberto Soldado scored in open play which goes to show anything is possible, no matter how bad the form may appear
It’s sure to be another tight encounter which will be settled I’m sure by the odd goal. Spurs dare not lose this as confidence will sink even more and the season will threaten to run away from them before it’s even begun. Spurs will need to play better in that final 3rd to start turning some of their good performances into all important wins.

Prediction for next week
: Tottenham 1-1 Everton


Everton vs Man City 23/8/15 – Sapha Alavi

Man City vs Everton


Nine wins on the trot for City (three this season) mean that City are now the shortest priced favourites at this stage of the season in Premier League history. When you take into account that two of the games so far have been Everton and Chelsea, the task is already becoming daunting for the other title contenders. This begs the question; where are the weaknesses in their side? Where are the areas you can exploit? Kompany and Mangala have started the season as they mean to go on, with strength and a ferociousness to their play. And that’s before £32 million Nicolas Otamedi provides cover.

Yaya Toure displayed why he is still rated as one of Europe’s finest Midfielders. A player that came under criticism last season recently gave Pellegrini plenty to smile about. Additionally, Fernandinho is slowly but surely justifying his price tag. I’m not sure whether I’m more impressed with their ability to regain possession or their enthusiasm to marauder forward. The fact that they seem happy doing either provides a stark contrast to other holding Midfielders in the league. How often do you see Matic doing this? Would you swap any of Chelsea’s spine for City’s?

Everton just couldn’t cope with City on Sunday, and you sense that not too many will over the coming 35 games. Of course, any Martinez managed team will create the odd good chance at the very least. Everton had the ball in the back of the net before referee Anthony Taylor correctly called offside. If it hadn’t been for Everton Shot Stopper Tim Howard, City would have been several up before the break. A shocking moment came when Sterling could have scored, if only he had the confidence to use his left foot from 5 yards out. Always amazes me when Premier League footballers don’t have the confidence to use either foot. Moments later Sterling cut inside before forcing Howard, stretched at full length, to save the home side.

The first goal came as Silva started the move deep inside his own half, and Sterling carried it on as City moved the ball down the left hand side. Admittedly Howard went to ground too early and gave Kolarov the near post as exposed as you can expect at this level to take aim. You could argue Howard didn’t deserve to concede, but you couldn’t argue the goal was coming. Nasri came on for Sterling and looked dangerous before adding a second with a lob from close range. I like Navas as a player but I’m surprised he’s got the nod ahead of Nasri for all three games so far.

Man of the match is an obvious one, but the Spanish magician was at it again. A constant source of danger from the first whistle with his brilliant close control and superb vision.One commentator aptly suggested that he hired a body double because he was everywhere and anywhere. The majority of his touches come in wide positions, constantly giving the opposition full backs an extra player to worry about. No surprise then that both goals came from one of Silva’s wide colleagues. The best player in the league. For me, yes. Title favourites at the bookies? Yes. Title favourites for me? Maybe, just.

Next Match Prediction- Manchester City 3 Watford 0


Arsenal vs Liverpool 24/8/2015 – Harry Symeou


Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool,

Well what can I say about Monday nights game… Liverpool had their chances & I thought at times in the first half looked the far stronger team. Benteke dominated our two centre backs and Coutinho’s movement was too much to handle. I thought at times in the beginning of the game the likes of Emre Can & Lucas physically dominated in the middle of the park with Santi not having any time and space on the ball to get us ticking. That was evident in the first half by the amount of times our defenders gave the ball away due to lack of options.

The performance was far from perfect from the Arsenal but let’s not forget the fact there was a perfectly good goal ruled out by the incompetent officials.

Have seen on social media people claiming that it’s a poor excuse – but the fact is the officials got it wrong. Liverpool 3 games into the season have gained 4 points from bad offside decisions. So where do you draw the line and say technology has to come in? The details of how you would implement it would need some discussion but that’s what the football big wigs get paid for.

Putting aside officials and decisions though, there’s something still not right with the Arsenal side. There’s an in-balance in Wenger’s preferred line up.
My thoughts on it are this…

Arsene has a huge decision to make because in my opinion there is no room for Ozil, Ramsey & Santi in that midfield… Franny Coq is the only one that can sit & protect the defence and that for me makes him undroppable at this moment in time. I do understand AW’s dilemma though because it’s a tough question…

Do you drop Mesut Ozil? Who is capable of creating opportunities at will & I thought was fantastic in the second half yesterday and really got involved in the game. He’s often criticised for going missing in games but yesterday he was involved in everything good arsenal did. He found a bit of room out on the left and him, Santi and Sanchez worked that area very well and created a couple of chances.

Do you drop Aaron Ramsey? A real work horse in the arsenal side, always involved in the game, even when he’s not having his best days he always wants the ball and never hides. The engine in the team if you like as well as always carrying a goal threat.

Do you drop Santi Cazorla? Who has really found himself in that deeper role. It was evident vs West Ham that Le Coq needs a ball player like Santi next to him. He has all the qualities to get the moves going. Composed, skillfull, great vision, contributes to our attacking play well & works a lot harder than people give him credit for.

Playing this system with Ramsey as a wide man (or any of the 3 mentioned) just doesn’t work in my view… It causes us to be so narrow and makes defending so easy against us. Our opponents can sit with two banks of four & soak up pressure.
Ramsey wide right will naturally drift infield & so will our left-sided player whether it’s Sanchez, Ozil, Santi or even Welbeck.

Unless you get wide and stretch them, create that room between LB/RB & CB or pull the 2 CB’s apart you’ve got no chance.
I specifically remember one instance vs Liverpool when the Ox took on the fullback on the outside and whipped a low hard cross in that forced a clearance from Skrtel.

Mr Wenger you have a big decision to make because I personally don’t believe you can play all 3 without affecting the balance of the team.

Then who plays on the right? I guess at the moment you have to say the Ox – he’s direct, hard-working but in my opinion doesn’t score enough goals. 37 appearances last season he got 3 goals. Not a good enough return for me. I’m not convinced he’s the finished article people say he is… YET.

Theo as a striker?! Not for me… And I’d argue this one until I’m blue in the face. He should occupy that right wing position in my opinion. Carries a goal threat whenever he is on the pitch but just looks so isolated in that centre forward role. I believe he hasn’t got the presence to be a lone striker but can terrorise full backs on that right side. That for me is and always has been his best position.

But then it poses the question, are we as fans missing something? AW supposedly made him the highest paid player and going by Theo’s interviews he seems like he’s been told he’s a centre forward. He played most of pre season as the lead striker, got a lot of praise (not that you can judge on pre-season) and then Wenger still started the season with Giroud. So what exactly is our highest paid players role at the club?

My final point this week is in regards to Petr Cech – fantastic performance and deserves a lot of credit bouncing back after a difficult start. He joined AFC with so much expectation and it didn’t quite go to plan vs WHU. You could see the confidence come flowing back after those two saves vs the scousers & I look forward to him kicking on from here. ??

Feel free to comment positive & negative! Give us your opinions! That’s what we’re here for, love a good debate??

Harry Symeou