Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dateline Saturday: 'Nova basketball beats Slick Rick Patino and Louisville and Blackburn doubles up Sheffield United.

To quote Ice Cube: "Damn right it was a good day."

Transfer Deadline:

The end of January marks the end of transfers for teams in the top leagues of Europe. Who made moves? Were they good? Were they bad? Everyone has an opinion on this. I'd like to mention a few notables from January in the Premiership and possibly other leagues.

To start, several teams should be noted for not making any significant moves. By that, I'm talking about Chelsea and Arsenal. Both squads are full of good players. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? However, in Arsenal's case, with the uncertainty of the return of Robin van Persie, perhaps a bolstering of the attacking force might have been a good idea.

ManU made arguably one of the biggest loan moves of the Premiership. The loaning of Henrik Larsson, former Barcelona man, from Helsingborgs to ManU for the remainder of the season could well be the bump the Red Devils need to secure the Premiership trophy.

West Ham was another club that busily wheeled and dealed this January. The arrivals of former Fulham midfielder Luis Boa Morte and former West Brom man Nigel Quashie give the Hammers some good midfield help. Former Blackburn defender and Aussie international Lucas Neill and former Birmingham Blue Matthew Upson give some serious street cred to the defense.

Blackburn made some deals, which may turn out to have been more out of necessity. With the loss of Lucas Neill and Andre Ooijer's season-ending leg break, the Rovers had to bring in a little backfield help. Enter former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock and Swiss international Bruno Berler to give the Rovers a solid backfield (also with Aussie international Brett Emerton now playing right back). To offset the loss of Robbie Savage in the midfield, the Rovers pick up Birmingham's David Dunn. Aston Villa made a move I am particularly impressed with: getting Lyon's Norwegian attacker John Carew in a part-exchange for Milan Baros.

Carew is strong and impressive and will help Villa attain future glory. The Villans also picked up Ashley Young from Watford for a large fee (9.65 million). To quote the Pet Shop boys, "Was it worth it?" We shall see.

Ashley is, in fact, young, but that also means he is relatively unproven.

Fulham, alas, poached Clint Dempsey from the New England Revolution. The two free tickets I get to Foxboro every summer won't be nearly as good without Clint leading the charge of the Revs. One of the last Premiership moves I'll mention is Charlton's pickup on loan of Zheng Zhi, the Chinese international. If Zhi fits in with Charlton and with the Premiership, this loan could bear some serious fruit and keep Charlton from the drop by season's end.

Two notables from Serie A in Italy: First, Ronaldo is plaing in Milan. To many, this smacks of a very money-motivated deal, much like the Beckham-to-LA deal. How useful Ronaldo is to AC Milan remains to be seen. He doesn't have to help them with the Copa Italia, since Roma knocked off AC Milan quite handily on Wednesday. Speaking of Roma, their pickup of Christian Wilhelmsson from Anderlecht was understated. I think Wilhelmsson has a good future ahead of him, and can seriously help Roma compete with the two Milan clubs.

Difference-makers in the Premiership:

In no particular order, here are some footballers whom I think will make a big difference to their respective clubs' and their final standing in the Premiership at season's end:
1.) Petr Cech, Chelsea. If Cech comes back healthy, in game shape, and in good form, Chelsea could seriously unseat ManU and repeat as winners of the Premiership crown.
2.) Wayne Rooney, Man United. Rooney needs to be a consistent scorer, and a constant threat to the opposition's defence, if ManU is going to claim the Premiership title from Chelsea this year.
3.) Tim Howard, Everton. Howard's goalkeeping needs to be more consistent if the ManU loanee is going to help the Toffees attain a respectable position in the Prem table this season.
4.) Tim Cahill, Everton. Cahill gets healthy, then the Toffee's are a club with deadly attacking threats with the Aussie midfielder teaming up with Andy Johnson for scoring punch.
5.) Morten Gamst Pedersen, Blackburn. Pedersen is a true playmaker.
Evidenced as he provided all the scoring for Blackburn's latest victory over Sheffield United, if he is on his game, then the Rovers will be playing on the European stage next season.
6.) Obafemi Martins, Newcastle United. I had the pleasure of watching the recent Newcastle v. West Ham tie and Martins showed flashes of brilliance.
He also showed flashes of "am I on the right pitch?" He needs to show more of the former and less of the latter to keep the injury-plagued Newcastle club out of the bottom part of the table.
7.) Thierry Henry, Arsenal. Henry needs to make plays and score to keep Arsenal in contention for the Premiership to spot. This is especially true if the rest of his team goes silent in a match against an inferior opponent (Read: Arsenal v. Middlesbrough).
8.) Brad Friedel, Blackburn. Brad needs to be a rock in front of the net to keep the Rovers in games. This might end up being especially true since half the defense isn't used to working with each other (see above).
9.) Nicolas Anelka, Bolton. Anelka's attacking will keep opponent's wary of Bolton's threat to score. If only he can remain loyal to the club and not get restless feet.
10.) Marlon Harewood, West Ham. The big fella needs to score more to keep the Hammers in more games.

-Christopher J. Brigham

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