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Arsenal v Liverpool Preview 30-01-2013

January 30th, 2013 by Paul Wilson

arsenal v liverpool previewTheo Walcott is making it really difficult for Arsène Wenger to deny him that strikers role he so much desires. The 23-year-old came off the bench at the weekend to spare The Gunners’ blushes of another Cup exit to a lower league side.

Since signing his new deal, which will keep him at the Emirates for a further three and a half years, Walcott’s started to payback that rumoured six-figure weekly wage with three goals in Arsenal’s last three games.

Walcott looks likely to start tonight and Stan James offer odds of 7/1 that he’ll score first at the Emirates.

Rumours were abound earlier in the week that we’d see the likes of David Beckham and David Villa strutting their stuff on the pitch wearing Arsenal colours but Arsène Wenger was quick to rubbish those claims and it looks like another January transfer window will shut with the North London club only willing to move players on than bring them in.

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Top 10 Premier League Goalscoring Defenders

January 30th, 2013 by Michael Cox

With old-fashioned number nines becoming increasingly rare, managers are particularly keen for players to share the goalscoring responsibility across the side. Defenders have scored 15% of the total Premier League goals this season, a considerable proportion – and with that in mind, here are ten of the most consistently dangerous defensive players:

Glen Johnson, Liverpool

glen johnsonPerhaps a unique talent in the Premier League – from right-back Johnson became a surprisingly consistent threat when cutting inside to shoot with his left foot, but after injury problems saw him deputising on the opposite flank, the England international has successfully ‘mirrored’ his game from left-back.

Genuinely two-footed English players are incredibly rare, and Johnson’s unusual threat causes opposition wingers problems defensively, unsure of which foot to force him onto. Never afraid to pull the trigger, Johnson shoots more often per game than the likes of Lukas Podolski, Grant Holt and Stephane Sessegnon this season.

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10 January Transfers That Could Alter the Course of this Season

January 23rd, 2013 by Michael Cox

wilfried zaha january transfer targetZonal Marking’s Michael Cox looks at 10 January window transfers that could alter the course of this Premier League season, and how rumoured and acquired targets will fit in at their new clubs…

Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace to Manchester United

The most-discussed transfer of the January transfer window is unlikely to have a significant impact on the 2012/13 Premier League season, with current rumours suggesting the winger will be loaned back to Crystal Palace for the remainder of the campaign. With Antonio Valencia out of form, Nani out of favour and Ashley Young often out of the side, United certainly need another wide option – but it’s difficult to believe Sir Alex Ferguson will find much immediate use for Zaha if he does move to Manchester this January.

Mario Balotelli, Manchester City to Milan

Manchester City are supposedly holding out for £31m from Silvio Berlusconi’s back pocket, which seems an outrageously large amount for a wayward and inconsistent, if talented, forward. Balotelli has not added £10m to his value since his move from city rivals Inter in 2010, and Milan have been conservative with their spending over the last 18 months. Balotelli will be missed more by journalists than by City – he’s been underwhelming as frequently as he’s been brilliant, and finds himself City’s fourth-choice forward. Milan, meanwhile, haven’t been in the Serie A title battle this season, and Balotelli wouldn’t change their fortunes significantly.

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The Importance of Being Mikel Arteta

January 16th, 2013 by Michael Cox

mikel arteta arsenalAmongst new arrivals, big-name departures, frequent injuries and inconsistent attackers, Arsenal’s most consistent player over the past 18 months has been obvious. Mikel Arteta seemed like a panic buy when purchased from Everton on the final day of 2011’s summer transfer window, maybe a desperate attempt to compensate for the loss of Cesc Fabregas, but he’s become a vital part of Arsene Wenger’s side.

Arteta’s current injury lay-off because of a calf problem (initially expected to be three weeks, although now Wenger says it’s only a ‘grade one’ strain, and might be less serious than first feared) is a significant problem for Arsenal. Perhaps this is a sign of their fragility – Arteta, after all, has only been playing in his current position for half a season. In his debut campaign, although Alex Song charged forward and created goals for Robin van Persie, his starting position was deeper, directly in front of the defence. When Song wanted to venture forward, Arteta was happy to drop deeper and protect the back four. Now, he’s forced to do that permanently.

I’m playing in a deeper role this year, now that Alex has left,” he told Arsenal Magazine in October. “It’s a very important job, balancing the team between attack and defence, and that’s what I’ve been attempting to do. I’ve had to change my mentality a little bit – I know that I can’t go forward as much as I used to, and I need to sacrifice more in attack.” Although Arteta’s positioning isn’t that of a natural holding midfielder, there’s little question about his defensive commitment and his readiness for ball-winning – after all, this is a player who served his footballing apprenticeship with Rangers, as well as in Spain.

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Swansea City: The Laudrup Effect

January 9th, 2013 by Michael Cox

Replacing a particularly successful manager is widely regarded as an extremely difficult task – Jose Mourinho’s successors have always struggled, for example, and the next managers of both Manchester United and Arsenal will have extremely tough jobs when replacing club legends.

But while Brendan Rodgers enjoyed great success at Swansea, he was actually a decent manager to follow. As Swansea fans were keen to point out even before his departure, the Northern Irishman simply embraced and furthered the identity and the style of the club, rather than being an ideologue who dramatically imposed his short passing football against fierce opposition. He, in turn, had inherited a steady ship from Roberto Martinez. Kenny Jackett and Paulo Sousa also played their part.

Rodgers’ Swansea were relentless ball hoarders – their pass completion rate was the second best in the league behind Champions Manchester City, their average possession was third behind City and Arsenal. But while the football was attractive, and Swansea’s comfortable mid-table finish justified the approach, they weren’t very efficient with the ball. They recorded fewer shots than their possession would normally dictate – and also conceded a high number of shots considering their dominance of games.

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