Archive

Monthly Archives: May 2012

A different outlook towards European transfers from 2011-12 season.

For football fans the season of 2011-12 has been nothing less than iconic. If enthralling finish to the season finale was an icing on the cake, then it was the transfer activity that helped to bake such a delightful cake. The gossips and speculations which were started during the preseason were more than enough to last till midseason window, also some of them are still going on. In terms of player transfers, this season has been record-breaking.

Never before football world has seen so much of money being spent on the players transfers. Not only cumulative expenditure by European clubs on sheer acquiring players was astonishing, the sheer volume of player movement was higher than before.

Most of the clubs in the various leagues haven’t been able to balance between expenditure and income through the transfers. Very few clubs have actually registered a profit purely through buying and selling their players (not considering profits through any other source)

Have a look at the staggering figures above. English Premier League which is considered as one of the best football leagues has become a major attractive product even for the players. 518 players arriving and 479 players leaving in 20 Premier League clubs (albeit players going/returning from Loans are included) give the perfect testimony of how much cut throat competition is amongst the players willing to succeed and how little margin available for the players to establish themselves in the league. English clubs have shelled more money than any other club in Europe or probably in the world as well.

Rapid globalization of the sport and incredible money there’s on the offer though ever improving television deals, sponsorship deals and corporate tie ups means clubs must strive hard to elevate their performance on the pitch and bag more and more success.

Success at any COST has become mantra in football as even Dutch sides, usually famous for exporting their talent have signed in 259 players and let go of the same number. Although their selling power isn’t what it used to be, as they could muster only 111m £ from their sales, they’ve signed the players for far less average value than of any other league.

Billionaire’s Clubs

Much credit for this frenzied activity across European football can be given to changes in clubs’ ownership. Oligarchs and Petroleum tycoons have set their eyes on football as their muse and have gone on acquiring stakes in various clubs across Europe and pouring in their money in order to make these clubs the European powerhouses.

Being acquired by Sheikh Mansoor from Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, Manchester City have not taken a break from their last season’s spending spree and continued to pour in money in the transfer window. Chelsea hasn’t stopped doing so since 2004 by grace of their Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Well, both the clubs finally reaped some rewards though. Paris Saint-Germain in France, Málaga CF in Spain who have recently been acquired by Middle Eastern oil rich sheikhs, have started to flex their muscles and recent exploits of Russian “Goldmember” Suleyman Kerimov in war-torn town of Makhachkala meant all these went on to pour incredible money in the club and lure players by giving them ridiculously high salaries.

This money indeed opened the opportunity for minnow clubs to put their best players in the showcase and sell them to big clubs to earn a fortune and invest that money to improve their training facilities and youth setups. Not to say, money which has been earned by selling players isn’t always entirely poured into upgrades but sometimes that money can help club secure their survival and sometimes Chairman takes it in his pockets to pay is personal debts (Mr. Glazer)

Big Stats

Have a look at the clubs who topped the in their leagues in terms of spending money and earning money. Amongst all the big spenders, only Juventus could manage to win the league title where as in France it was PSG’s title to lose and they did exactly that. Chelsea’s spending did not buy them a league title but their old guard bought few years ago won them the Europe’s biggest trophy.

In Spain surprisingly Atlético de Madrid outspent traditional big spenders Real and Barça. Also they’ve been only club in Europe who topped their league in terms of spending and earning most money on transfers. Arsenal filled up their coffers by cashing in on Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri. Lille topped in Ligue 1 last season by selling Cabaye, Rami, Gervinho and Moussa Sow, and it is certain that they’ll earn more money this season from only 1 player, Hazard.

FC Utrecht in Holland sold their starlet Ricky van Wolfswinkel to Sporting Lisbon, Strootman and Mertens to PSV and spent that money to buy Alexander Gerndt from Helsingborgs of Sweden which turned out to be Holland’s most expensive import of the season.

The table below shows European leagues’ top imports, exports and top inland transfers.

Balázs Dzsudzsák was transferred from PSV to Anzhi in August for 12.5m £ but played in only 8 games before breaking a collar-bone during a match against Rostov. Although the injury was supposed to keep him out for remainder of the season, he was transferred to Dinamo Moscow in January for 16.5m £. He made his début in March for Dinamo and played in 9 games.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic had already moved to AC Milan from Barcelona in 2010-11. But this move was on loan with an option to make a move permanent at the end of the season. Having scored 21 goals and 13 assists in total 41 appearances in his first season for Milan, they wasted no time and purchased Zlatan for 21m £.

Out of these expensive imports from each league Only Kun Agüero managed to win a League title and ironically it was Kun himself who dramatically scored a winner in dying seconds in final game to win the title on goal difference.

Falcao on the other hand did not win league title as Atlético Madrid finished 5th (44 points behind Real Madrid). But he played an instrumental part during Atlético Madrid’s Europa League win over Athletic Bilbao where he scored a cracking brace in the final.

Following table shows how many players from these 7 leagues were transferred to foreign clubs.

Although England have relied on their neighbours Scotland for fringe players, they turned to Spain for their marquee signings, spending more than 7 times money than they paid for players coming from Scotland.

English teams signing players on high wages mean the chances of quality players leaving England is very remote as they really can’t be afforded anywhere else. English clubs sold only 8 players to Russia and managed 41.5m £. Out of these 8, Yuri Zhirkov and Christopher Samba were sold to heavy spenders Anzhi for 13m £ and 12.5m £ respectively.

After Russia, English clubs sold 27 players to Spain for cumulative 31.5m £. Well, out of these 27, Cesc Fàbregas’ transfer to Barcelona fetched 30m £.

Bundesliga players don’t really move to English Premier League. Out of 22 players sold to English clubs, only 7 players were fetched money. Dissecting further, out of these 7 players, 3 were signed by Arsenal for their youth team. Only Papiss Demba Cissé, Per Mertersacker and Pavel Pogrebnyak have made their mark as regular first team players.

German clubs have shown faith on their neighbours Austria, Holland, Switzerland, Poland and Czech Republic as out of 339 players signed from foreign clubs, 137 were signed from these 5 leagues. Only 35 players have been signed from France (17), Italy (10) and Spain (8).

Let’s have a look below on the season’s top 20 transfers and see how they fared.

1) Falcao: Having seen Kun Agüero and Diego Forlan in the summer Atlético Madrid spent 41.5m £ Falcao and were repaid every penny of it. In his first season in Spain, Falcao scored 24 League goals and 9 Europa League goals. He continued his lethal scoring in European games as he helped Atlético to win their second Europa Leaue title in 3 years. By achieving this feat, Falcao won back to back Europa League titles.

His lethal scoring means Atlético Madrid went on 9 matches’ unbeaten streak out of which 7 were victories. During this streak he scored found the net 8 times and provided 2 assists. His heroics in the League and Europe mean he has successfully put himself on the radar of major buying powerhouses. Chelsea might launch a bid for him.

Score: 9/10

2) Kun Agüero: Manchester City’s 39.5m £ were paid in most sensational fashion as he scored a vital winner in the last seconds which ended City’s 44 year wait for the League title. Kun scored a brace on his début against Swansea and never looked back. Although initially taunted for scoring only at home games, his 9 out of 30 goals in the historic season have come away from home.

Somewhat failed to shine in Champions League, Agüero has a challenge in front of him to score against big guns playing away from home. 23 league goals, 8 assist and 5 MoM awards meant an incredible transfer hit.

Score: 9/10 

3) Javier Pastore: Initially linked with all the big European clubs, Pastore was sold to Nuevo (oil) rich PSG for 37m £. 22-year-old Javier Pastore scored 13 goals and provided 6 assists in the league.

Pastore’s performances have been inconsistent over the season but at least he seemed to have chosen the right club. Big money signing like him meant he got plenty of playing time in PSG. PSG’s ambition backed by Petro dollars from Sheikhs means more quality signings will be made over the summer.

Pastore too, hasn’t impressed in Europa League this season as PSG crashed out in the group stages. If Pastore manages to play in maximum games, he’ll continue to flourish.

Score: 8/10 

4) Cesc Fàbregas: Cesc’s transfer saga must’ve been like one of those never-ending daily soaps. When he put a pen to paper and officially wore Barça jersey, there were many doubts on how he will fit in Barca’s tiki taka system considering Iniesta – Xavi’s irreplaceable duo and emergence of Thiago Alacantara.

But he proved his doubters wrong as he slotted in very well in Barca’s system. Till February, he had scored all of his 15 goals and was Barca’s 2nd leading goal scorer behind Messi. But since his last league goal has come on 9th January against Espanyol.

Towards end of the season Cesc had been extremely wasteful as he squandered a lot of importannt chances. He has a lot to prove to Barça faithful and repay their faith.

Score 6.5/10

5) Fábio Coentrão: When Coentrão arrived in Real Madrid with a 26.5m £ price tag, he was seen as a complete solution to left-sided defensive problems. But after initially featuring in Real’s all the matches and playing complete matches, Mourinho seemed to have lost faith in his abilities as Coentrão was overlooked in the favour of Marcelo.

Coentrão only started 12 league games and 7 Champions League games during his first year in Spain. Clearly a case of lost confidence, unless he shines in Euro 2012, his place in Mourinho’s starting line up will still be in a limbo.

Score: 5/10

6) Samir Nasri: He went to City for winning the titles and that’s what he did after moving from Arsenal for 24m £. He played a vital role in City’s first ever Premier League title.

He scored 5 goals and provided 9 assists and started 26 games for City in his first season. Although his goal scoring record in City has not been more prolific than in Arsenal, but in City goal scoring was primarily taken care by their forwards. Whenever Nasri got to play in City’s star studded line up, he made sure that his performances didn’t go in vain.

Score: 8.5/10 

7) Samuel Eto’o: Check http://www.best-reviewers.com/how-much-money-does-samuel-eto-o-make-6285.htm. The website basically a great humiliation tool which shows you by how much money he’s earned since your’ve entered the website. You may close the website for your pleasure but he’ll still keep on earning that money for his prowess.

When unknown Anzhi Makhachkala appeared in the news and their plans to lure Eto’o to Russia, the world maybe laughed on them. But before everyone could realise, Eto’o was off to Russia in a 24m £ deal which’ll offer him 350k £-a week salary.

Since scoring on his début to salvage a draw for Anzhi, Eto’o scored 13 goals in 22 League matches. Anzhi’s inconsistent league form prevented them from mounting a serious challenge for European competitions.

Only few months in Russia’ Eto’o was linked with a loan move to Inter and a move to MLS. Although nothing like that happened, but he’s now linked with PSG.

With Guus Hiddink in charge of Anzhi for the coming season, it is yet to be seen whether Eto’o sticks around for pure footballing reasons or answer’s PSG’s call.

Score: 6.5/10

8) Juan Mata: Undoubtedly Chelsea’s best signing since few years. He’s been an absolute catalyst and a perfect bridge between Chelsea’s slow defence and quick counter attacks. It’ll be wrong to judge Mata’s contribution just in terms of stats.

His all-round game surely brought much more to Chelsea than just 6 goals and 13 assists. His vision, passing, through balls and finishing certainly makes him one of the scintillating player to watch.

Mata has surely justified his 23.5m £ price tag by playing key role in Chelsea’s historic Champions League winning season.

Score: 9.5/10 

9) Alexis Sánchez: Like Pastore, Udinese’s versatile striker Alexis Sánchez was coveted by almost all the major clubs who were trying to lure him into big money signing. But he finally he answered Barcelona’s 23m £ call.

Even after his move, there were lot of doubts on how much playing time he’ll get in the presence of Villa – Messi – Pedro. Injuries too did not help his cause much as he was sidelined twice for lengthy spells.

Due to injury to David Villa, Sánchez got to play more games than he might’ve anticipated. Messi’s sensational form meant Alexis’ good performances often went unnoticed. In his injury marred first season for Barça, he managed to pay 31 games and score 15 goals and provide 5 assists.

He’s young and can play everywhere in attack. If he can keep himself away from injuries, he can surely be one of the great talenst to watch.

Score: 7.5/10 

10) Zlatan Ibrahimovic: What to say about him? Moody, Maniac but Maverick nonetheless. He spearheaded AC Milan on his own and launched a serious title bid for consecutive Scudetto with AC Milan. Prior to finishing second in this season he holds a unique record of wining 7 league titles in last 7 years with different teams.

Although not his first season in Milan as he’d spent a previous season on Loan, he technically became Milan player this season when his loan deal was made permanent by Milan. He scored 28 goals in the league and 35 in total and finished as Serie A’s top scorer.

There are still question marks over his temperament. But surely ranks as one of the best strikers in the world football at the moment.

Score: 8/10

11) Stewart Downing: In 36 League games only thing he’s got to show is 72 shots and 19 of them on target and No goals or assists. Even for him it must be difficult to remember what he actually did in Liverpool.

He was the most expensive English player to be transferred this season for 20m £. But under his presence Liverpool broke their barren trophy spell and won the Carling Cup. Probably this is his biggest contribution. He can be used as a lucky charm in the coming season.

There’s nothing more to say.

Score: 4/10 

12) Romelu Lukaku: Top scorer in Belgian league at the age of 16, Lukaku was a hot prospect and when Chelsea signed him for 19.5m £, it was certain that he would go on to lighten up the Premier League.

But he was completely overlooked by AVB till he was in charge of Chelsea. Even after Roberto Di Matteo took over, Lukaku could not knock the doors of the first team.

He’s still 19 and with a monstrous physic and power, the future is still bright for him, provided he gets the opportunities.

Score: Hate to do this, but an absolutely zero impact in his season, 4/10

13) Manuel Neuer: His first season in Bayern colors has been poor for Bayern in terms of results. Not to say Neuer has been fantastic in the season. At 19.5m £ transfer fee, he became world’s 2nd expensive goalkeeper behind Buffon.

After his mistake on 1st day cost Bayern a home defeat, he went on to keep clean sheets in next 12 consecutive games, beating Bayern’s record.

An excellent shot stopper and great distributor of the ball, Neuer’s vulnerabilities in coming off his line were exposed at times. Bayern’s penalty shoot out hero in the Semi Final, scored a penalty in Final’s shootout but he was let down by rest of his team mates who couldn’t convert their penalties.

By keeping 17 clean sheets in the league he ensured Bayern conceded least goals in the Bundesliga.

Score: 7.5/10

 14) Santi Cazorla: Has to be Málaga’s player of the season. Santi Cazorla sealed an 18.5m £ move from Villarreal in the summer. He figured in Málaga’s all 38 league games.

Santi being a versatile midfielder played in every position in the Málaga’s midfield. Having a squad built around him, Cazorla fulfilled the role of playmaker to the best.

He scored 9 goals and provided 5 assists and ensured Málaga finish 4th and qualifies for next season’s Champions League qualifiers. Week in- week out, he produced consistent performances on the pitch regardless of Málaga’s inconsistent form. Santi probably is an only Non Barca-Madrid player who can claim his place in La Liga’s team of the season.

Score: 9/10 

15) David de Gea: When Sir Alex Ferguson signed this lanky 20-year-old goalkeeper from Atlético Madrid for staggering 17.5m £, he was convinced that David de Gea will successfully replace Van Der Saar. But De Gea took a long time to adjust with physical style of English football and his vulnerability against long shots was exposed in his first ever game.

He made a lot of mistakes early in the season which resulted in letting in lot of goals and even United’s untimely exit from the Champions League. De Gea improved with every passing game. He showed tremendous shot stopping abilities and good concentration and helped United to mount a serious title challenge for the League.

But he still needs to improve tremendously to be considered as one of the best goal keepers in England and Spain.

Score: 7.5/10

16) Phil Jones: Jones is another youngster bought by United with a long-term vision to replace Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. United splashed 17m £ for this versatile 20-year-old player from Blackburn. Jones’ versatility might’ve counted against him as he played in Central defence, Right back and Centre midfield positions.

After showing scintillating form early in the season, Jones suffered recurrent injuries which hampered his growth in the 1st year at Old Trafford. Later on in the season, Jones showed the signs of lacking confidence in him own abilities.

Jones is very comfortable on the ball and is good likes to dribble in the opponent’s box every time he can. Although he’s one for the future, his first season has been of mixed performances

Score: 7/10

17) Balázs Dzsudzsák: Hungarian marksman Dzsudzsák  has been double transferred from PSV to Anzhi to Dinamo Moscow in the same season costing Anzhi a 12.5m £ and Dinamo a 16.5m £. Due to his injury he missed most of the season at Dinamo.

Despite getting 630 minutes in 9 matches after his injury, Dzsudzsák is yet to open his goal scoring account.

Unfortunate lad, but he’s got to justify his price tag in coming season.

Score: 4/10

18)   Ashley Young: 3rd of United’s summer signing, Young too suffered lot of injuries in his début season at Old Trafford. Young has been excellent on wings but at times he’s been very ordinary.

Although he could play in only 25 matches (19 starts), Young scored 6 league goals and provided 7 assists.

With Valencia cementing his spot on the right-wing, Young has to fight Nani for the permanent berth on the left-wing. To succeed at United, Young has to show consistency in his performances.

Score: 6/10

19) Jordan Henderson: Liverpool spent 16m £ for this youngster from Sunderland. Although it appeared that he’s been played out of position far too often, he actually has started 20 out of 31 games in his favoured Central midfield position.

Another failed signing from Liverpool’s “Moneyball” experiment, Henderson can compete with Downing for ‘Wasted Resources of the Year’ award.

Henderson’s previous season in Sunderland was really good and he successfully orchestrated their midfield.  He couldn’t find any rhythm what so ever in Liverpool jersey.

Score: 5/10

20) Gökhan Inler: Inler’s acquisition for 15.5m £ from Udinese was final piece in Napoli’s jigsaw. They needed a midfield dynamo to back their attacking trio of Cavani, Lavezzi and Hamsik. Inler provided just that.

From Centre Midfield position, Inler averaged 2.8 tackles and 2 interceptions per game. He also averaged about 50 passes per game with 86.5% success rate. Considering Napoli’s counter attacking style these stats shows Inler has proven to be good initiator of attacks.

His both goals came in the Champions League and at the crucial moments. Inler gave consistent performances despite Napoli’s mixed results.

Score: 7/10


Real Madrid finally won League title after 4 years, Manchester City won it after 44 years. Montpellier won their first ever Ligue 1 title and Borussia Dortmund won League and Cup double. In Holland Ajax won their 30th League title.

All these teams will be looking to freshen up their squads by bringing in few new faces where as Barcelona, Manchester United, PSG, Bayern will be looking to avenge their league defeats by revamping their squads.

New season is certain to break more transfer records. We just have to see how many of them rise up to the occasion and deliver; else we’ll still be singing “Oh Caroll!”.

Advertisements

The jury is still out on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer


“And Solskjaer has won it.”

Clive Tyldesley immortalized these words on that fateful night of 26th May 1999 in Barcelona, after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had just scored a dramatic injury time goal in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.

This goal certainly cemented Solskjaer into the folklore of Republic of Mancunia. Many people still will say that the goal was a fluke and before his flick was more of a natural reaction than aimed. It could be.

But the crucial chances always fall to the man who’s best prepared to take them.

This goal can’t be categorized as a mere fluke, but it rather the one that epitomized Solskjaer’s professional attitude, tremendous work ethic and a terrific tactical awareness.

The term often associated with him is a “Super Sub” that is because number of important goals he has scored after coming off the bench. Out of his 366 appearances for Manchester United, he came off the bench for 150 times and out of 126 goals, 28 were as substitute. Believe me none of those goals were meaningless.

Shortly after signing a fairly unknown forward from a Norwegian club Molde FK for £1.5m in 1996, he came off the bench on Aug 25 1996, equalising against Blackburn Rovers and maintaining United’s unbeaten home run (stretching it to 32).

On Jan 24 1999, he arguably triggered the momentum which climaxed in the Treble. Taking the ball from Paul Scholes, Solskjaer pounced with a late goal to knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup. A fortnight later against Nottingham Forest, he came off the bench to strike four times in 12 minutes. Then came the magical flick in the Champions League final. He scored his final goal for United on Mar 31, 2007 against Blackburn as well, that too as a substitute.

Although being taunted as a bench warmer, Ole never sat in dugout listening to music on iPod or playing games on iPad. He always sat watching the game with a hawk’s eye, analyzing the trends, understanding the balance shifts. His tactical insight gave him an edge over other substitutes. Due to such a strong study of the game, he was always mentally prepared to come on and do exactly what was required. He never sulked about being named as a substitute.

That’s not all.

Solskjaer also maintained notes of every game he played and every training session he took part in. That reflects his dedication to learn the game and also his attention to meticulous detail. He did not do this just because it was fun, he did it because he knew, this dedication and sacrifice will be turn out to be a major aid in the dream he had as a 10-year old kid, “To be a manager”.

These notes were not just stats and formations from the games or diagrams on how to run around the cones, these were notes of players around him, his own insecurities and what Sir Alex Ferguson said at various tactical meetings. Direct from the horse’s mouth.

Big 20 Seconds for OLE20GEND

A dreadful knee injury at the start of 2003-04 season meant he could play in only 24 games till the start of 2006-07. He signed a one year deal with United in 2006, which would allow him to develop his coaching skills and earn the required UEFA badges after he hangs his boots.

After failing to recover from another surgery, on 26th Aug 2007 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally surrendered to his damaged knee and informed Sir Alex Ferguson: “I can’t play anymore.”

It took just 20 seconds for Fergie to decide his fate. “Don’t worry,” Ferguson told Solskjaer. “You were fantastic, you had a great career, why don’t you join my coaching staff?”

Following his retirement, Solskjaer worked for Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, coaching the strikers on the first team for the remainder of the 2007–08 season.

Reserved

At the beginning of 2008-09 season, Solskjaer was confirmed as a full-time coach of Manchester United’s reserve side. It was a perfect step for his managerial career. Ambitious boys of age 18-19, bubbling to burst into the first team were pitted with an equally ambitious coach who was ready to launch himself on the big stage.

Although first league campaign ended in a disappointment as United reserves finished 7 points behind Sunderland in Premier Reserve League North. But he guided them to win Lancashire Senior Cup by beating old foes Liverpool.

In his first season he nurtured fantastic youngsters like Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverly, Rafael, Fabio, Ben Amos and Magnus Eikrem (who went on to play a key role for Solskjaer later on).

Solskjaer’s second season for the reserves was historic. He made a winning start to the 2009-10 season by winning Lancashire Senior Cup again. His reserves side went on to win Premier Reserve League North comfortably. Biggest prize was sealed in the Premier Reserve League playoff final when they beat Aston Villa reserves on penalties.

Ole’s success and potential was rewarded when he was offered a role as a head coach of Norway. Without showing any greed, he made a rational decision to turn down the offer as he realised that this prestigious job was offered to him too soon.

Somewhere in the middle of October 2010, Molde FK where he began his professional career approached him to take over as a manager.

Under him Manchester United Reserves’ performance in the league was pretty impressive.

New Beginning

The year 2011 was Molde’s centenary year. Seven times in the preceding 99 years, Molde had been runners-up in Norway’s top flight. They had been runners-up in 2009 but slumped to 11th in 2010, prompting a change of coach for a new season when temporary coach Uwe Rösler left for Brentford after steering the club away from relegation.

According to the managerial path plotted by Sir Alex Ferguson, it was important to choose a club with an owner and people around are trustworthy. Solskjaer too thought it was a right time to move back to Norway, accepted the offer form Molde after lengthy discussion with Ferguson.

Solskjaer took former Manchester United coaches Richard Hartis and Mark Dempsey as his assistants. Reinforcing the United connection is one of Molde’s star players, attacking midfielder Magnus Eikrem, the Molde-born player who spent five years at Old Trafford before returning home with him.

The difference in being at Manchester United for 14 years and managing Molde must’ve been huge. At United you are protected from the media by the Manager who backs his players and you get accustomed to winning in front of 75,000 almost every week. To go from that to a small town whose population is 1/3rd of Old Trafford’s capacity and where the team have an average crowd of 8,000 is a big change, but Solskjaer was well equipped to handle the pressure.

Unlike other managers, Solskjaer did not overhaul his first team. He took over the same squad from previous year but made a decent investment on young players from the futuristic perspective.  He was very shrewd in the transfer market. Through his transfer dealings the club made 2.024.000 £

Although he didn’t bring in hoards of new players, what he brought in was a direct learning from the master Sir Alex Ferguson himself and maximum professionalism. From his 14 year experience at United, Solskjaer realized that if he wants to bring success to the club, he needs to make it a better place to work for the players. As a player, every little irritating thing in the dressing room or in the training facilities can take away your motivation and they can be easily fixed.

He focussed on smallest things like changing the dressing room design and office layout to the big things like changing the formation. With the available resources, Solskjaer adopted an attacking 4-3-3 formation. He also stressed on better training facilities, resources. In introduced better diets for the players and importantly, a dress code to unify them.

Molde’s Aker Stadion is situated on the riverfront and certainly is world’s one of the picturesque sight. It has a capacity of 11,800 people. When the news of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment as a manager broke out, the season ticket sales rapidly went up. Apart from the season tickets, average matchday attendance increased by 17.5% from 8355 in 2010 to 9817 in 2011.

The Season began on a shaky note. In Solskjaer’s first game in charge, Molde went down 3-0 to Sarpsborg 08 FF, a club which was merely 3-year old and was newly promoted to Tippeligaen. By 3rd weeks, Molde were 14th in the league and the clouds had started to hover above Solskjaer’s future.

There was already talk in the public that Solskjaer’s methods were better suited to the high-calibre professionals at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground than in Norway’s top flight.

But 4 victories and a defeat in their next 5 games saw Molde up to 4th place but only 2 points off the leaders.

Notes to the rescue

Molde next travelled to bottom placed FK Haugesund and were hammered 5-0. Morals were low morals in the gloomy dressing room when Solskjaer walked in. There he delivered a masterpiece straight from notes he’d taken Sir Alex Ferguson’s team talk.

‘If there’s anything about you now lads, I would take all your money, your mortgage, and put it on us winning the league because we will. You’ll never get better odds than now.’

He knew those words off by heart. They were said 15 years earlier during his first season at Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson tried to lift his players after an equally demoralising 5-0 defeat to Newcastle and 6-3 upset at Southampton.

United bounced back and went on to win the league by 7 points, and Solskjaer wanted Molde players to respond in the same manner.

Well, the words did hit the bull’s eye as Molde thumped IK Start Kristiansand 5:1 at home in a typical Manchester United style backlash. When Strömsgodset IF were beaten in the next week, Molde gained a top spot which they never relinquished.

A 2-0 win at Tromso at the beginning of October put Molde in the driving seat, but they made it difficult for themselves, drawing their last three games and conceding a last-minute equaliser at home to Stromsgodset when the title was more or less in the bag.

Molde FK were confirmed as Norwegian champions for the first time in their history after SK Brann’s 6-3 victory at Rosenborg BK left Molde eight points clear with two fixtures remaining.

Down to earth approach

Humility has always been a core DNA of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He’d always maintained that rather than him, quality shown during training and several players consistently surpassing their own standards has been a main reason for their success.

Strenght, determination and skills of Goalkeeper Espen Bugge Pettersen, defender Vegard Forren, midfielder Makhtar Thioune and forward Davy Claude Angan found a perfect match with the flair of Magne Hoset and Magnus Eikrem to ensure that Molde were the most consistent team as they grabbed 8 out of 15 away wins in the top flight.

In an Interview given to Norwegian TV station NRK he said, ‘The players have won the league for the first time in a hundred years and when I see my skipper lifting the trophy it will be amazing, I used to play with him here at Molde. He’s always been at this club and he’s never won the league so, for me, that’s fulfilment.’

Return to England?

Ole has kept no secret of the fact that he would love to manage a top team and despite few offers from England, Ole is content to wait at Molde for some time till he feels he’s ready for the big step. He did not guide them to their first ever League title in their centenary year, Molde now have the opportunity to play in the Champions League, joining the competition at the second qualifying round next season.

Not only this, but already Mancunians are predicting and wishing for the super sub to take his place in the United’s dugout only as a Manager.

United defender Rio Ferdinand seemed to think so, writing on Twitter that: “He will be a premier league manager very soon + a top 1 too.”

Former team-mate David Beckham also got in on the act, telling Norwegian media that Solskjaer was “a great player and an even better person. Maybe he’ll be Manchester United manager one day,”

In truth, it has been an inconsistent season for the new champions, and Solskjaer knows that patchy form by the other frontrunners have contributed majorly towards this feat. If Solskjaer is to be seriously considered as a long-term replacement for Ferguson, he’ll need to learn the fine art of picking up points even when his side is not playing well.

Parting Shot:

Winning title for the first time but to win it again is a massive challenge.

It was a case of “Under Promise – Over Deliver”. Nobody had predicted Solskjaer to win a league title in his first year. But now there are new expectations to repeat the title and do well in Europe.

To do it all over again is a classic trait of his mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, and that’s what he has to achieve, till then the jury’s verdict will still be pending.


The above article has been published in May issue of ‘90 Minutes‘, India’s first and finest Football magazine.

Here’s my weekly blog on Swansea City FC. I’ll be writing this for www.premiershipflavour.com


Elvis HASN’T left the building

In this third edition of the blog, a quick look at Swansea’s failure to sign Gylfi Sigurdsoon, Positives from the trip to OT, and why ELVIS hasn’t left the building

The Swans for Europe?

How far Swans have come from that fateful day 9 years ago? Swans struggling for their existence on the Pitch and off it, had to beat Hull City to maintain their Football League status.

Fast forward to 2012. Swansea had not only ensured a stay in the top flight for another year, they were actually hoping to sneak their way in Europe.

The Swans are currently on top of the Premier League Fair Play Rankings. As Dutch Eredivisie, Norwegian Tippeligaen and Finland’s Veikkausliiga have been granted an additional place in Europa League, Swans too, were hoping for an additional place in Europa League. However, due to the Premier League sitting low in 13th in the overall rankings, the Swans won’t get a chance to play European football.

In my opinion that this is a blessing in disguise – as there will be no extra distraction to possibly hinder their League progress. Of course, it would have been wonderful experience to travel across Europe and belt out ‘Swansea o Swansea.

#GetGylfi

The Swans board has acted wisely and swiftly to bid for Premier League March Player of the Month Gylfi Sigurdsson’s lone move from Hoffenheim to be made permanent. Gylfi’s performance for the Swans since his arrival in January has certainly upped his price. 7 goals and 3 assists in 16 appearances for the club meant this 22-year old Icelandic was no longer available for his January market value of £5.3million.

It is well understood that Swansea’s initial bid has been turned down by the Germans who want £8.2million him. It is becomes a problem with one of your Loaned in players delivers success and at the end of his loan term has to return to the old club. There’s nothing much other club can do about it. The call lies with the parent club.

Although Hoffenheim have promised Swans that they’ll be the first to know about any developments related to Gylfi’s future, it is believed that they are waiting for other clubs to bid him with more money.

Brendan Rodgers knows this well and has already met the Chairman to discuss summer targets. He was quoted, ‘ We have got a number of targets, we want to retain our hunger and at this level you have to always be striving to improve and we will be looking to bring in a number of players in order to do that.’

‘We want to keep developing; our work is continual on and off the field. We want to prepare as quickly as we can and in order to do that we want to bring in hungry players for next season.’

At the Theatre of Dreams

Away stand at the Old Trafford was packed on Sunday as thousands of Swans had headed north, much like Birds migrating from places to places.

With City winning 0-2 against Newcastle and almost but had sealed the title, United were playing with pretty depleted spirits. United had to score 9 goals to go ahead of City on goal difference and that was mere impossible task.

United squandered numerous chances before the half time and finally managed to lead with only 2-0 at the break. But Rodger’s side showed incredible resilience to keep United at the bay.

Considering it was their first ever visit to Old Trafford and many of the players stepping in the Theatre of Dreams for the first time in their lives, you can’t take anything away from the spirited performance.

Swansea didn’t budge from their style or play nor did they get intimidated. 81% passing accuracy and 6 shots on target at OT is certainly incredible.

It was wonderful gesture by Brendan Rodgers to introduce Alan Tate with moments of the match remaining. A decade long Swans stalwart defender who had captained at both youth and reserve level of United could make a comeback at the venue which surely had been his Theatre of Dreams.

Elvis HASN’T left the building.

If you look at the signings at the club this season, Only Danny Graham and Gyfil Sigurdsson do not belong to the bunch that has got Swansea promoted to the Premier League.

Huge credit goes to Brendan Rodgers to reward those heroics by sticking by them throughout the season.

Nothing can be more deserving for these hardworking players, support staff and everybody else involved with the club that final game of season to be played at Liberty Stadium. From Vetch Field on 3rd May 2003 to the Liberty Stadium on 13th May 2012, the journey has been incredible.

Believe you me; this is going to be one hell of a party place.

At the start of the season bookies had said ‘There was more chance of seeing Elvis Presley than Swansea staying at this level.’ And we will see thousands of Elvis flocking in at Season’s finale as Brendan Rodgers has appealed to the fans if as many fans can wear Elvis Presley costumes to the final home game.

Town of Swansea has been ‘Presleyd’ since all the costume shops are being bombarded with Elvis clothes and accessories. Most people are queuing up for Wigs and Glasses, many of them are asking for renting and buying costumes too.

With ‘Falling in Love with You’ being already a major hit in the stands, Final whistle will have the Liberty Stadium ‘ALL SHOOK UP’ with a guarantee.

I just hope fans don’t invade the pitch after the final whistle as everybody who has been associated with the club in this fantastic journey deserved a lap of honor.

Don’t rob them of that.

A look at Hellas Verona’s miraculous maiden and only Scudetto season and woes


Ever since William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet somewhere between 1591 and 1595, City of Verona was put on the world map. Yearly thousands of tourists and lovers visited Via Cappello 23 which is supposedly known as Juliet’s house and her famous balcony.

Sports lovers did not care about it much. It took approximately 392 years when city of Verona gave buzz to the citizens as another pair Hans-Peter and Preben who made the Italy bow in front of Verona and certainly shook up the world.

Italian football needed something special in that season of 1984-85.

If not qualifying for summer’s European Championship came as a shock, finishing in the group behind Romania, Sweden and Czechoslovakia served as a salt in the wounds. Also in the European Cup, Italy’s only contestant AS Roma suffered penalty shootout defeat against Liverpool’s Bruce “WOBBELAAR”.

This season was supposed to be the one in which Serie A cleaned its wounds inflicted by the infamous ‘Calcioscommesse’ scandal. It was the only season when referees were assigned to matches by way of a random draw instead of being assigned to a specific match by a special commission of referees (‘designatori arbitrali’)

‘Hellas’, a small club in the city of Verona stunned the world by winning its first and only Scudetto.

Calcio had called for a Spark and they got a Bolt in return.

History of Hellas

Gialloblu or Mastini as they were called, were founded in 1903 and spent 52 years in lower divisions till they were promoted to Serie A for the first time in 1956-57 season only to go down immediately. Their next promotion to Serie A came in 1967-68 and although they had finished 13th in 1973-74, they were demoted to Serie B due to rigging a match against Napoli. Hellas straightaway bounced back in Serie A after 1 season in Serie B, but went down again in 1978-89.

After escaping relegation from Serie B on the last day in 1980-81 season, Hellas quickly appointed 46 year old ex-Hellas midfielder Osvaldo Bagnoli as their coach who did not have any top flight management experience.

It was a great risk but it proved to be the totally worth.

Bagnoli completely reversed their performances on the pitch. In his first season at the helm, Hellas finished Serie B as Champions and earned their promotion to Serie A.

If this 180 degree turnaround from last to 1st was a mammoth task, something impossible was to take place in the next season.

Hellas’ first season back in Serie A under Bagnoli was no less than sensational. By working with close knit players, Bagnoli’s Mastiffs finished 4th in the league and were beaten in Coppa Italia by Juventus (Hellas did take 2-0 lead from the 1st leg to Turin in which they lost 3-0). In 1982-83, The Mastini did repeat their first season miracles by finishing 6th in Serie A and again finished Runner up in Coppa Italia.

According to the experts, by large and far Hellas had overachieved and according to Bela Guttmann’s theory of three seasons, it was time for crash landing to the ground. Little they knew what was to happen in Hellas’ third Serie A season.


Serie A 1984-85

Pre Season

Italian clubs got busy in the transfer market and saw influx of foreign players. In fact this was one of the most frantic transfer seasons for the clubs in terms of buying superstars.

AC Milan Signed Mark Hateley and Ray “MY WORD” Wilkins, Fiorentina bought Socrates from Corinthians, Inter signed Liam Brady and superstar Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Sampdoria brought in Souness from Liverpool whereas Hellas brought in defender Hans-Peter Briegel from Kaiserslauern and striker Preben Elkjær Larsen came in from Lokeren.

And biggest of them all, Diego Armando Maradona arrived in Naples after a long saga of complicated negotiations. Stadio San Paolo was packed with more than 70000 fans to see Maradona arriving in the helicopter.

Compared to Napoli’s Maradona and Bertoni, Milan’s Hateley and My Word Wilkins, the duo of Briegel and Elkjær was less fashionable but they certainly appeared to be the final pieces of the jigsaw of Bagnoli’s Hellas which was assembled of hard working team players rather than individuals.

Hellas Squad:

Osvaldo Bagnoli’s squad had already made their mark as an extremely cohesive and competitive unit. Results in the last three years were a great testimony to the unity and talents of the squad.

Four of the 84-85 squad were part of the squad who had earned promotion four years earlier. Bagnoli’s philosophy was to keep their starling line up consistent for as much as possible. He only worked with 18 players in the squad out of which 3 players did not even play 4 games in total. 11 players out of remaining 15 played in more than 75% of their matches in the season.

Bagnoli usually played 3-5-2 with two markers and a libero behind and wide midfielders dropping back while not in possession to start the attacks, Verona’s defence was as fast, versatile and adaptable. Hellas’ used Preben Elkjaer as a focal point in attack with fast box-to-box midfielders and a playmaker behind him.

Certainly the additions of Hans-Peter Briegel in midfield and of Danish striker Preben Elkjær Larsen to an attack that already featured the wing play of Pietro Fanna, the creative abilities of Antonio Di Gennaro and the scoring touch of Giuseppe Galderisi were to prove crucial.


Season’s unfolding:

Matchday 1

Not just a sparring Bot:

Season opener created lot of buzz in the town and the country. All eyes were on Bagnoli’s Hellas who were playing their first home game. Supporters and Media flocked in Stadio Bentegodi not to watch Hellas but travelling Napoli as Maradona was making his debut in Italian football.

Everybody was expecting Hellas to just be a sparring partner to magical El Diego and surrender to his skill and trickery. Script was written and everybody but Hellas’ squad had read it.

Briegel kept Maradona quiet during the game by marking him extremely tight. In the battle of the foreigners, it was Briegel who popped up to open the scoring early on before Galderisi scored a quickfire second. Napoli’s another Argentine new signing Daniel Bertoni pulled one back in the second half before Di Gennaro who had helped Hellas to win promotion, completed the goal scoring rout and put the Hellas Verona top of the table, the position they did not surrender for the rest of the season.

Matchday 2-4

Hellas travelled to Ascoli next where Di Gennaro and Briegel were joined by the new boy Preben Elkjær as they completed another 1-3 victory. Next, Galderisi’s 33rd minute penalty was enough to beat Udinese 1-0 at home. Hellas then drew 0-0 against Inter at San Siro.

After 4 matches, Mastini were still undefeated and on top of the league.

Matchday 5

Man with the single shoe:

Champions Juventus visited Gialloblu in the Matchday 5. This was by far Hellas’ sterner test and they passed it in a most remarkable fashion too.

The deadlock was broken in 62nd minute when Juve goalkeeper Tacconi misjudged a cross by Fanna, leaving Galderisi a simple header.

The match will forever be remembered for the second goal (Why always 2nd goals stand out in the memory? Maradona’s 2nd, Solskjaer’s 2nd, Ronaldo’s 2nd). The Danish striker Elkjær picked up the ball outside the box and, while running at the Juve defence, he lost his boot in a tackle but stormed ahead before slotting the ball in the far bottom corner with his foot without the boot.

Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9_ddhlScBA

This defeat gave Hellas one more week at the summit, one point behind another undefeated team Souness’ Sampdoria.

Matchday 6-9

Hellas travelled to Stadio Olimpico in Rome to face AS Roma and came home unscathed with a 0-0 draw. Galderisi was again on the score sheet as Fiorentina were defeated 2-1 at Stadio Bentegodi. In the next match Galderisi slotted a penalty in 74th minute before Claudio Garella saved a penalty at the other end. Then it was left to Hans-Peter Briegel to score a wonderful solo goal to complete 0-2 away win against Cremonese.

Hellas played out another 0-0 draw against Sampdoria at home. Hellas were had to travel to Turin for the match against Torino as League leaders with a single point lead.

Matchday 10

Torino was breathing down the neck of Hellas and victory at home would have put Torino at the summit. Breigel lashed a thunder shot from outside the box and outside of his left foot to put Hellas ahead and Luciano Marangon finished a wonderful move which he had started to give Hellas an important 1-2 victory.

After Matchday 10, Hellas had established a small but important 3 point lead over Torino.

Matchday 11-15

Hellas drew 0-0 against Milan and Torino defeated Avellino to reduce the gap to 2 points. But Hellas and Torino matched each other’s results in the next 4 rounds as Torino failed to gain any advantage from Mastini’s slip up.

When Hellas beat Lazio, Torino beat Como. In the next match Hellas were held 0-0 by Como whereas Atalanta too drew 0-0 against Torino. Next Hellas were held 1-1 by Atalanta and Torino drew 2-2 against Fiorentina.

In the last game before the reverse fixtures started, Hellas travelled to Avellino without injured Elkjær and suspended Galderisi, Hellas went down to a 2-1 defeat courtesy of Angelo Colombo’s late goal. This was their 1st defeat of the season but Torino also suffered the same fate by the hands of AS Roma. Meanwhile Inter drew with Ascoli and were breathing down the neck of Hellas, who were ahead by just 1 point.

Hellas had conceded just 7 goals which were lesser than anyone in the league and had kept incredible 9 clean sheets. Suddenly Hellas’ defence made up of Caludio Garella in the goal and Roberto Tircella, Domenico Volpati, Luciano Marangon and Mauro Ferroni was looking impregnable. And it turned out to be exactly like that.

Matchday 16-17

Swapping Crown:

Hellas drew their next game 0-0 against Napoli and Inter saw off Atalanta by a solitary goal. Inter were tied at the top with Hellas on the points and goal difference, but had scored 3 goals more than Hellas.

In the next fixture, Inter travelled to the season’s banana skin team Avellino as League leaders with all the confidence but were held to 0-0. On the other hand two first half goals by Galderisi and Sacchetti saw Hellas beating Ascoli and regain the top spot.

Matchday 18

Game of the Season:

Having taken a 1 point lead at the top, Hellas travelled to Udinese in Matchday 18. Trio of Briegel, Galderisi and Elkjær put them 0-3 ahead within 20 minutes before conceding a goal on the stroke of half time. Udinese scored two quick fire goals in the 2nd half to make it 3-3 with 30 minutes to go. But immediately within 2 minutes Briegel and Elkjær scored two goals to take 3-5 lead and see off any Udinese challenge.

Unfazed Inter, won their game against Lazio 1-0 to maintain the gap of 1 point. Torino were beaten by Napoli which put them 4 points behind Hellas.

Watch it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMP9aj0HkaM

Matchday 19

Hellas hosted Inter in this top of the table clash. A defeat would definitely dent their title aspirations as Inter could’ve been 2 points ahead.

Inter took the lead through Alessandro Altobelli on 39th minute and were looking comfortable. But Briegel headed the ball home from the corner to draw level.

Matchday 20

Hellas travelled to Turin for the huge game against Juventus as Inter hosted Torino. Defeat to any of them would have had serious implication on the table. But Hellas drew level against Juventus, by courtesy of Di Gennaro’s 76th minute equaliser.

At San Siro, Altobelli missed a penalty but Inter managed to salvage 1-1 draw to maintain slender deficit with Hellas.

Matchday 21-25

On the 75th minute Elkjær Larsen pounced on the ball spilled by Roma’s goalkeeper from a powerful shot by Fanna to give Hellas 1-0 victory.

In the next game, Silvano Fontolan’s goal and brace by Gladerisi helped Hellas come from going behind against The Viola. Cremonese too, was seen off 3-0 by the trio of Di Gennaro, Elkjær Larsen and Briegel.

Sampdoria held Hellas to a 1-1 draw with Gladerisi on the scoring sheet.

Inter had drawn their two and lost two games. This Inter’s slump meant Hellas had now opened up 6 point lead with 6 games to go. Below Hellas, there was a incredible pile up of Juve, Torino, Sampdoria, Inter and Milan on 30 points.

In Matchday 25 Hellas hosted Torino but went down 1-2, which was their 2nd loss of the season in 25 matches. Simultaneously Juve, Inter and Sampdoria all won their fixtures to bring down the gap to 4 points.

Matchday 26-28

Crawling towards the line:

Hellas drew 0-0 against Milan at San Siro but Torino and Sampdoria won their games against Avellino and Lazio respectively. Thus gap to the summit was again reduced to 3 points.

Next up was Lazio at home. In a cagey game the deadlock was broken by trickery in the box by Pietro Fanna on 78th minute. Torino drew and Sampdoria lost their game expanding the gap to 4 points between summit and the 2nd place.

Only 3 games to go after the Lazio victory, Citizens of Verona had kept their fingers crossed and started to believe in their dream.

Hellas drew the next home game against Como but Torino’s draw meant the gap was maintained at 4 points with just 2 games to go.

Matchday 29

Nervous Mastini:

Needing only a draw in their penultimate game against Atalanta to clinch their maiden Scudetto, Hellas started nervously and were duly punished by Perico’s opener but just 6 minutes after the restart Elkjær scored an all-important equaliser. The Hellas fans had to endure an agonising second half after that but eventually the referee blew for full time and finally city of Romeo and Juliet had their moment of ecstasy.

Matchday 30

Coronation Day

Having already been declared as winners, Hellas’ final game of the season was a home game at Stadio Bentegodi which had become a giant party place.

In front of a full house, thousands of flags and flares, Hellas emphatically crushed Avellino 4-2 to clinch their maiden Scudetto.

For the first time in 15 years the Italian championship had gone outside the cities Turin, Milan and Rome. It was an amazing achievement from the side from Verona made all the more impressive by the fact that they had been promoted to Serie A just 3 years before.

Also a league which featured the stars like Platini, Zico, Maradona, Sócrates, Rummenigge and Falcão, Hellas’ 15 minnows had clearly stunned the world.

It seemed a perfect present to the City of Eternal lovers.

Curse after the Miracle.

Bagnoli’s perfect man management, heroics by Briegel and Elkjær surely gave hope to Verona citizens of a new horizon. But what followed was rather a cruel heart break. The moment they lifted Scudetto, was the moment they’d embarked on a deadly Spinal Tap.

Hellas finished 10th in the next season and were knocked out early in the European Cup by compatriot Juventus. Many of their important players began to leave the club after that. Hellas recovered to finish a respectable 4th in 86-87.

Garella joined Napoli and went on to win the title with them as did Pietro Fanna at Inter. Briegel left to join Sampdoria in 1986 and Elkjaer left two years after that. Gialloblu’s slump continued as they finished 10th and 11th in next seasons and 1990 they were relegated to Serie B.

Although they were promoted to Serie A in 1990-91 season, troubled finances meant Hellas were declared bankrupt and finally ceased to exist in 1991 and were refounded as Verona FC. Verona’s couldn’t stay up in the top flight and got relegated to Serie B again.

In 1994-95 Verona FC changed their name to Hellas Verona and got promoted to Serie A in 96-97 season but got relegated again. Eventually after getting one more promotion in 1998-99, Hellas lasted in top flight for 3 more years before going down in 2001-02 season. Hellas slipped further down and were dropped to Serie C1 in 2006-07.

Hellas Verona were promoted to Serie B in 2010-11 season and have finished in 4th position in the current season. They will play in the promotion playoff semi final against Varese and winner of this game will play the winner of Sassuolo and Sampdoria.

If anybody has to take only one shot at Scudetto, Hellas had certainly taken theirs.

Maybe we’ll see Hellas in Serie A again and hope that against all odds they can bring the Scudetto to the City of eternal lovers.

The land of Romeo and Juliet can’t find the eternal happiness just yet.

Here’s my weekly blog on Swansea City FC. I’ll be writing this for www.premiershipflavour.com


All New Things

In this second edition of the blog, a quick look at what new things have happened at Swansea since the last week.

Having ensured another season in the Premier League, Swans have embarked on a new journey where they are trying everything new. New Formation, New score line and New away Kit.

The Prophecy:

I remember, on 1st April a day before my birthday I was sitting in a Bar in Mumbai on a hot afternoon with a friend having a few beers and watching Newcastle battering Liverpool. Swansea were to play next vs Spurs at the Lane.

We were discussing Swansea and how their season had been a brilliant one and all that. Swansea had been on 39 points from 33 matches. Well, 5 games to go and just one point to get. Easy.

I told my friend, this one point will be most difficult to get as there are chances of complacency to creep in and you take that 1 point for granted (look at Villa’s Spinal Tap). It turned out to be exactly that way and Swans lost 3 games in a row before beating Blackburn 3-0 with a brilliant performance.

With 90% passing accuracy and 73% ball possession on that day, they fired 8 shots on target that day, one of their highest in PL season. But it was against Blackburn and this shouldn’t be forgotten. For Swansea, this game came in at a right time as they were on a 4 match losing streak.

Next game against spirited Bolton ended 1-1. This game should have dead and buried after Sinclair’s opener on 6th Minute.

New Formation, New Result:

Last week’s 4-4 draw against Wolves was a great spectacle for the football lovers but letting in 3 goals after a 4-1 lead was so unSwansea like.

Brendan Rodgers said the new 3-4(diamond)-3 formation worked. We all thought the new setup was working wonders after 15 minutes, as Swans were 3-0 up by then after goals from Orlandi, Dyer and Graham.

However, when they changed back to 4-3-3 with 10 minutes to go in the first half and for the second half and that’s when it all started to go wrong. Wolves got one back near the half hour mark and from then on, the Swans lost all of their shape and confidence.

Swansea ripped through Wolves by scintillating display in the opening 30 minutes. It was a first time when they hit 4 goals in the Premier League.

Fullback Andrea Orlandi brought in the place of Neil Taylor was making his only 3rd appearance. He was very impressive in the first half scoring a fastest goal of PL this season and setting up one for Dyer, before being substituted at half time due to injury.

Not that only Wolves conceded soft goals, but Swansea were culprit for leaking in 4. Ashley Williams had an astonishingly poor game. He completely dozed off allowing Steven Fletcher to loop a simple header above him in the top corner. In fact whole back like of Monk, Williams, Caulker and Taylor (substituted Orlandi) had made school boyish errors for 2 goals in the 2nd half.

Despite excellent first half, midfield duo of Leon Britton and Joe Allen were ineffective in the 2nd half as both got bullied by Wolves in the middle.

It seemed like Swanselona became Wolves in the second half whereas it was Wolves were transformed into Wolveselona. Reminded me of a scene in Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen where Jetfire offers his parts to Optimus Prime, gives him that super power which enables him to slay The Fallen. Ah! A bit too much mix of Movies and Football, but the point is Wolves were super charged and successfully disrupted the rhythm of Swansea’s fluid passing.

Results in the last 6 games can be taken as a serious warning. Games like Wolves will come in every season but Swansea were lucky that this one came after they had secured their survival and Wolves had already been relegated to Championship next season.


Swansea to decide title?

Who would’ve ever thought that Swansea would be playing a key part in deciding the title? Although Manchester United’s Title hopes lies in Newcastle’s performance against City, United have to win this game and that too with a good goal margin and the whole world knows that. Swansea had giving a tough time to United in the earlier fixture at the Liberty Stadium.

With Newcastle vs City having an early kick off and United taking on Swansea later at night, if City beat Newcastle, then the game at Old Trafford will be a mere formality and that depleted morale of United players will give Swans a sniff at the blood. But if Newcastle manages to get a positive result against City, then United be raring to go. United will be cautious in this game and will be keen to avoid any mistakes and not to concede needless possession away.

Ex-United reserve’s captain Alan Tate is looking forward to returning to Old Trafford and hoping to hurt the Red Devils.

New Season, New Kits

Oh, by the way new ‘Red’ away kit for the next season has been unveiled. Red shirts, white shorts and green socks definitely epitomize Welsh flag. Also ‘The Jacks’ will be embroidered in gold on the back.

Also the Swans crest for the new season has been changed. Swan in the new crest has his wings upwards and will be white in colour compared to the downwards wings of the Black Swan. The crest too, will be in the Welsh colours of Red, Green and White. The Crest on Michel Vorm’s kit will be in Gold (gold crest to the golden man?).

Hope the new formation, new crest and new colours inspire Swans to tread the difficult path lay ahead with much success.