Friday, September 30, 2011

The Arc 2011 - History beckons for So You Think

The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is the greatest and most prestigious of all races, in my opinion. For others, it is the Epsom Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Dubai World Cup, the Breeders Cup Classic, or the Melbourne Cup, but the Arc is my favourite, from a pure racing point of view. The best horse of the race almost always wins. And it's usually the best horse in the world at the classic mile and a half distance.

This year's Arc is one of the most open in recent years, with no clear front-runner in the betting market. My opinion is if So You Think runs to his true ability, it will be a one-horse show. Here's my lowdown on the main contestants.

Sarafina is deservingly among the favourites. She came out third in last year's race the winner after being checked entering the straight. With a clear run, she would have been closer than the 2 lengths she finished off the winner. This year, she has been drawn in the 13th stall, which is a very bad draw, but since she comes from off the pace, that disadvantage will be negligible. She's in top form according to her trainer and I see her being among the strong finishers although seeing her winning it looks to be a stretch.

Workforce is the defending champion and he certainly would have a good chance of repeating if he's on his best form. One negative is that his jockey Ryan Moore has just returned to the saddle yesterday Friday after an injury layoff and will not be at 100% of his powers. The King Best colt is not to be dismissed but he would need some luck in running to beat the opposition this year.

Snow Fairy can mix it up with the colts no problem. I consider her as one of the 3 best middle-distance distaffers in the world. Her light race schedule this year will see her being in top form on Sunday. On her last race, she gave So You Think a scare and finished a lot closer to him than I thought she would. She will be ridden by Dettori which is a plus. She looks to be a very good Place prospect.

Treasure Beach is one of the best 3 year-olds at the distance and would have won 2 Derbies were it not for the exploits of Pour Moi. The Galileo colt also won a Grade 1 in the U.S and looks an uncomplicated sort who should find no problem adapting to the Longchamp track. He must have an outside chance and if race conditions are favourable to him, he could spring an upset.

So You Think has won 4 out of 5 in his European outings and his only loss has been well documented as a self-confessed trainer error. It is striking that the same trainer is insisting that SYT is a 10-furlong horse. How can a horse that very nearly won the Melbourne Cup be treated as a 10-furlong specialist? If that's the way the horse has been trained since joining the Ballydoyle stable, most possibly due for breeding purposes, then he will not have a chance against the other seasoned stayers. Speed being the attraction nowadays, O'Brien might have gotten directives from the Coolmore brass to make SYT as the best 10f horse around. But his pedigree screams 12f, just like his sire High Chapparal. The only other question mark is the assignment of Heffernan as jockey. The Irishman is far from proven on the French track and when chips are as big as this. My take on SYT is clear; if he's not been messed about by his genius-like, yet flawed trainer, and he's not subject to a pilot error, he's going to win because he's a notch above every single horse in the race.

Of the rest of the field, Galikova is going to be great next year, but has not yet attained the level required to win this year's edition. Saint Nicholas Abbey has been mostly hype and is just not good enough. The Japanese horses are the big question mark and it would not be entirely surprising if one of them came out the winner.

My trifecta selection is So You Think, Snow Fairy, Sarafina. This is the grandest stage of all for the Australasian superstar to cement his status as one of the all-time greats.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Friday Ascot

Tottenham scraped through Shamrock while Rubin Kazan could only manage a draw against Saloniki for a voided punt. The Greeks were lucky to survive the Russian onslaught.

On Friday, the 14:55 Classified Stakes at Ascot looks to go to Mundana from the Luca Cumani stable. She's a progressive King Best filly who will be well suited to the mile distance. She's bagged 2 wins out of 3 outings and will receive weight from a group of older horses with exposed form. I definitely see her finishing in the first 3 and I recommend her as a Place.

Place: Mundana

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Europa League preview

Barcelona easily won but I don't think anyone would have thought otherwise. The Catalan offence is really in good form, and Messi is just unplayable at the moment.

On Thursday, I have my eyes set on the Group A matches of the Europa League. Tottenham host Shamrock Rovers and I cannot see Spurs losing that one even if they are expected to field a second-tier team. The hosts have admitted to being focused on the week-end match against arch-enemies Arsenal but their reserve team should have too much class for the Irish champions. Tottenham to win it is my recommendation.

In the same group, I like Rubin Kazan's chances as it hosts the Greek team Saloniki. The Russians are a strong team and have gathered considerable experience in Europe in the past few years. I expect them to win or draw this match, so I recommend them as a good draw-no-bet.

Win: Tottenham
Draw-no-bet: Rubin Kazan

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Champions League Wednesday

Darn United. With 2 goals up, it was time to park the bus, but I suppose it is not in the DNA of the club to preserve the result. A very exciting game that ended 3-3 and that saved the blushes of the draw-no-bet punt I had on them. Got to give it to this young United team that fights till the end, were it not for their defensive frailties, they are almost a complete team. They are certainly getting there.

On Wednesday, the only certain punt looks to be Barcelona traveling to Borisov. Clearly, the gulf in class should ensure that the European champions get all 3 points even without playing some first-team members. They are recommended as a safe draw-no-bet. In the same group, Milan host the Czech team Viktoria. While on paper, this would appear to be a formality for the Italians, I would not be surprised if they fail to win this match. They have a depleted team and Viktoria is not a team of push-overs. There might be an offset in the offing, and it might pay to lay the heavily-favored hosts. No recommendation there, but the Italians look very exposed value-wise, in my opinion.

Draw-no-bet: Barcelona

Monday, September 26, 2011

Champions League Tuesday

Very good week-end with Yasir being placed, Man City, Newcastle, Arsenal and Real Madrid all winning. Man Utd drew with Stoke for a voided punt.

Nothing extraordinary from the world of sports from this week-end to really comment on. The European big guns are firing on all cylinders atop the tables. Man Utd got a good point at La Brittania, a very difficult venue for even the big teams. Man City showed some mental toughness in wearing down Everton. A few years ago, they wouldn't have had that quality to get the 3 points out of such tough games.

In La Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid treated themselves to goal-fests after dropping points in their last outings. I still think Mourinho has problems to solve in his Madrid squad, and Barcelona definitely need a top defender if they are to challenge on all fronts this season.

Bayern is just trouncing the opposition in the Bundesliga but the league is not a measure of the team's real strength. A more appropriate benchmark will be when they meet Man City on Tuesday's Champions League match.

In Italy, it will be interesting to see how Ranieri fares with Inter. They certainly got off to a good start by winning at Bologna. Ranieri is a very decent coach who gets good results. Unfortunately, he has shown that he can makes the odd silly mistakes that can cost his team dearly. That's what makes him not-so great.

On Tuesday, the Champions League rightfully takes centre-stage. I like Man Utd's chances at home to Basel. It will be folly for the Red Devils to under-estimate the Swiss team, particularly with the absence of Rooney. The absence of the England striker and his front partner Chicharito, certainly weaken the attacking prowess of the English champions. They should be on top at the end though, and a draw-no-bet looks safe. That's my recommendation.

Draw-no-bet: Man Utd

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week-end Preview

It was far from being Really Lovely as the daughter of Galileo could only manage a 4th-place finish, out of placings. I hope this week-end gets me back on track with my selections.

The 17:25 race at Ripon looks a great spot for Yasir from the Godolphin blue to score his first win. He looks a very progressive sort who should be suited by the mile and a half distance. On his last outing, he was a fast finisher at Folkestone over the same distance and given his room for improvement, he should be tough to beat in this race. He should easily be in the first 3 in my opinion, and I recommend him as a Place. He should probably be winning this as well, but with my rotten form, I'll stick to a safe Place.

In football, there are bound to be a few surprises in the EPL although my inclination is that most of the favorites should either win or draw their games. I see Newcastle, Man Utd, Man City and Arsenal as having the best chances to bag 3 points, and are my draw-no-bet recommendations.

The Red Devils' travel to Stoke is bound to be a difficult one as proven in recent years, but they thrive in such circumstances and I think Stoke will find it difficult to cope with their speed. If Rooney and co play with the same fluidity of the past few weeks, they will be a tough team to beat. Man City looks strong on paper against Everton although I'm a little concerned that they might have an eye on the upcoming Champions League match against Bayern. A draw-no-bet should provide a safety net in case Mancini's men lack the focus to beat the Toffees.

Call me crazy but I will stick to Real Madrid for another week although they've totally did me wrong in their last 2 outings. I recommend a heavyweight recommendation on them as draw-no-bet as I cannot see them being beaten at the Bernabeu no matter what slump they are in. If they find their goalscoring touch, it might be a goal-galore game for them. They should be winning this game and have the newly-promoted pay for their last 2 uncharacteristic outings. Barcelona face an in-form Athletico Madrid team and with their defensive problems, the hosts are no certainties to have an easy night by any measure. Sure they will dominate possession and will score, but they'll have to make sure they don't leak any goals as well. I'll abstain on speculating on this one.

Place: Yasir
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Man City, Newcastle, Arsenal, Madrid

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pontefract Thursday

Genius Step won cosily for a nice race and the Godolphin colt looks a nice sort. It will be interesting to see how he fares when step up in trip. On the other hand, Real Madrid provided more disappointment and failed to win at Santander. I would have been better inspired to have gone draw-no-bet on that one since they cannot even score against mediocre opponents. What is there to say about Madrid after these 2 lacklustre matches? Could Mourinho be losing it? We'll see.

There is a cracking card at Newmarket today but the value punt to me seems at Pontefract. In the 16.50 race, Really Lovely looks the pick of the fillies. This daughter of Galileo was a staying-on third on her last race and the mile distance will suit. Probably her main opponents will be nicely-bred debutantes Jarrah from Godolphin and El Lail from Mark Johnston's stable. I cannot see Really Lovely out of the placings, so I recommend her as a Place.

Place: Really Lovely

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Real Payback

Pretty busy football week on the old continent.

In the Spanish games on Wednesday, it looks hard to see Real Madrid losing 2 games in a row. They are facing a Santander team struggling in the relegation area and it's a golden opportunity for them to bag the 3 points and renew their winning ways. I recommend them as a Win. Barcelona face a trickier game at Valencia, possibly the best team in La Liga besides the 2 powerhouses. If the Blaugrana can win this match, it will be a massive 3 points. This game can go any way, so no certainties there, although Barcelona will be massive favorites particularly with Lionel Messi finding his scoring touch again.

In racing, I like Genius Step in the first race at Goodwood. The Al Zarooni team is on fire currently and this Dubawi colt makes his return to competition after a 116-day layoff. His debut was highly encouraging after a staying-on third at Newmarket. He looks the class of the race and provided the ground isn't too soft at Goodwood and he is fit enough, he should be in the first 3. My racing Place recommendation for Wednesday.

Win: Real Madrid
Place: Genius Step

Monday, September 19, 2011


I'm misfiring in football at the moment. Barcelona crushed Osasuna, but Arsenal, Bolton and Madrid lost, while Villa and Inter drew their matches for voided punts.

Backing the Gunners at this time is a mistake. Their defence is such a shambles that punters playing the "over 1.5 goals" in their matches must be having a field day. Their back four is as permissible as their offence is potent. But yet another loss this week-end means that Wenger's position at the helm looks really in danger. There is no doubt that popular support for the Frenchman is waning by the day, and unless the club can forge out a few good results in the coming weeks, the calls for him to resign or be fired will not dampen. This is all reminiscent of his last days at Monaco years ago where the results never improved whenever he was put under that kind of pressure.

Man Utd won the week-end battle against Chelsea and are definitely on the upward curve. Sure, they got the breaks in the match and the score could be somewhat flattering, but this young team is already finding a way to win. They will only get better and better, which isn't good news for the rest of the league. While Chelsea put in a decent performance, I still think this team needs an overhaul to be considered as title challengers. This is clearly a team that is in expiry time. And the sitter missed by Torres was just unbelievable. Clear fodder for his critics and something that will certainly not boost his low confidence. Well-taken goal though.

In Spain, it was oh Madrid! Gone were their chances when Khadeira was sent off during the first half. I mentioned in my preview that the Zagreb travel could take something out of them, but I I still expected them to put a decent show and score at least one goal. Knowing that Barcelona put in 8 the previous day should have given them enough drive against Levante. It didn't, and far from it, they came up very poorly. Maybe they are not as good as I thought.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week-end football

Wakhan finished second for a winning recommendation.

I have quite a few selections for this week-end's football. In the EPL, I like Arsenal's chances as they travel to Blackburn. The Gunners are certainly a re-building team but they still have lots of quality. Rovers are one of my early picks for the drop and I cannot disagree with fans that are staging protests against their current manager. I see Arsenal taking at least a point from this travel, so I recommend them as draw-no-bet.

The best value bet of the week-end looks to be Aston Villa as they host Newcastle. I think Newcastle's excellent defensive record does not actually mirror its frailties at the back. Just looking at their last away game at QPR where they were nearly run out of the pitch and were lucky to come away with a goal-less draw. I can see Villa scoring at least one or two goals in this game. I recommend Villa as a draw-no-bet.

Bolton hosts Norwich and it's a great opportunity for the hosts to get the 3 points. Norwich is another that looks a good early candidate for the drop. Bolton as draw-no-bet is the recommendation.

In the Serie A, I like Inter Milan's chances at home to Roma. The Romans are clearly a team out of sorts and will be good fodder for Sneijder and co. The hosts are in bad need of victory after losses on opening week and in the Champions League. I recommend Inter as a draw-no-bet as well.

In Spain, it's the same boring (but rewarding) story. Barcelona will resume winning ways at home to Osasuna and are selected as Win. Real Madrid face an arguably tougher test going to Levante where they lost 2 points last season. I certainly don't see them losing this game and chances are that they will win it. Since they are coming back from a difficult away game in Zagreb, the safest option is a draw-no-bet on the Los Blancos.No surprise if they end up winning this game in the last minutes.

Win: Barcelona
Draw-no-bet: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bolton, Inter, Real Madrid.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Listowel Preview

Following Real Madrid proved rewarding again while Man Utd came up with a draw for a voided punt. I am waiting for the week-end to back those teams again, but I'll get there in due course.

On Friday, I like Wakhan in the 15:50 race at Listowel. This Dalakhani gelding makes his return to the racetrack after a 124-day absence after two encouraging seconds early this year. The mile and a half distance shouldn't be a problem, the only worry being the soft/heavy conditions that could expose any lack of fitness on his part. The opposition looks to be headed by Mutasharef and Smithfield which are both rated at 78. If fully wound-up, Wakhan should take this, but because of his 4 month lay-off and ground conditions, I would go for the safer option and recommend him as a Place.

Place: Wakhan

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Champions League Wednesday

Draw-no-bets are great as they can save the wallet whenever a certain win gets smashed into a draw, just like in the case of the Barcelona v/s Milan match. Amazing that a team like Barcelona does not have proper backups to centre-halfs Puyol and Pique. If these are missing from their upcoming visit to Madrid in a few weeks time, the result will only go one way, as defensive midfielders Mascherano and Busquets clearly form a porous defensive pair at best.

I was mentioning that yesterday's CL games would be mouth-watering for draw purists. Four out of the 8 matches ended up drawn, so the 0.5 ratio means that was a fantastic night for picking draws.

I see Real Madrid and Man Utd winning their respective matches against Dynamo Zagreb and Benfica tonight. Mourinho's men should be too strong for the Croatians and I recommend them as outright win. It will probably be tougher for the Red Devils during their visit to Portugal. Still, they have an impressive away record in the Champions League in the past few years and they are in great form, so I find it hard for them to get beat. I recommend them as a strong draw-no-bet.

Win: Real Madrid
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Champions League start

Djokovic is just a monster. I cannot think of a more dominant athlete in a sport today than Nole. Arguably his 3 slam victories this year typifies an even greater domination than Tiger's 3 slams a few years back since he's only lost 2 matches the whole year! It's back to the drawing board for Rafa. Nole owns him right now.

Today is the start of a new Champions League season, which seems to grow in bounds of significance from year to year. It seems every player's dream every year is not to win the domestic title but to win the European Cup. Today's matches look to be very close and there could be a flurry of drawn matches. I don't think Barcelona is assured of a win against visiting Milan since it's still got a depleted defence which the Italians could exploit; a draw-no-bet on the Blaugrana looks the safer option and is recommended. Arsenal and Chelsea will have difficult nights against German opponents Dortmund and Leverkusen respectively and those matches can go either way in my opinion. Draw purists will love tonight's fixtures.

Draw-no-bet: Barcelona.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nadal is worth a look

Possibly the worst week-end of selections since I started this blog with 4 of the 9 recommendations biting the dust. In football, Arsenal, Madrid, Bayern and Man City won, but Barcelona failed to beat Sociedad in a farcical second-half and Dortmund were stunned at home to Hertha. Fulham drew at home against Blackburn for a void punt. Blue Bunting and Fame and Glory were disappointing in their St Leger races and it looks that they deserve a good rest after a long season.

It was business as usual in the Premier League where the Manchester teams are setting up a torrid pace at the back. Rooney and Aguero are arguably the best 2 strikers in the world at the moment and each bagged a hat-trick. Arsenal beat Swansea by the minimum of margins as they work on integrating the new players that have come during the transfer deadline. Chelsea won as well but one cannot help but feel it's not all harmony among the players. Torres is making the headlines for the wrong reasons again today as the club is publicly acknowledging that an internal investigation is under-way to verify his non-flattering comments about his "old" and "slow" team-mates in a Spanish interview. Quite unprecedented really! Usually, it's a "we do not comment" statement that emanates from clubs in such circumstances, and this openness in singling out the player means that the failed Spaniard striker is quite in trouble.

In Spain, it's first blood to Real Madrid as they take 2 precious points ahead of Barcelona during week 2. The dropped points might come back to haunt the Blaugrana at the end. The season is a long, but I sense that Madrid are the hungrier team among the two. It's hard to see Mourinho's men losing points against second-tier teams like Barcelona on Saturday. The fact that they have the lead will certainly steer them in good stead mentally as well.

In a few hours will be the US Open final between Djokovic and Nadal. I cannot help but feel that Nadal will find a way to win this. Sure he's been beaten by the Serb so many times this year. Clearly, these are the 2 best players in the world. The fact that Nole faced 2 match points against the regressive Federer seems to signal that he can be made vulnerable by the stronger Spaniard. Djokovic is the deserving favourite because of what he's achieved throughout the year, but Nadal looks great value at 1.5/1. To value punters, I recommend him. No guarantees, but with Nadal, you very rarely can go wrong.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week-end Preview

Opinion Poll justified the Place recommendation and was a game second in the Doncaster Cup. Saddler's Rock from John Oxx's stable was just too good but the Godolphin colt gave it his best, as usual.

Inqdah, who I had mentioned had a great pedigree, came up 6th on his debut, some 3 lengths off the winner. Not too bad for a debutant who ran very green. Definitely one to watch out on his next outing.

On Saturday, Sea Moon and Blue Bunting are justifiably the market leaders for this year's St Leger. I think it will go to either one of the two. Blue Bunting looks to be the value Place bet, so that's my recommendation.

I think Fame and Glory has a really great chance in the Irish version. Although he was last beaten by Fictional Account, whom he's facing again, he's clearly the class of the race and should have no problem with the trip. An each-way looks to be a safe recommendation on him, while those fancying some risk could go for the outright win as well.

Football-wise, the players resume their club activities this week-end after their national duties. Arsenal is prime to finally kick-start its season as it hosts Swansea. This should be a straight win for the Gunners and I recommend them as an outright win. Manchester City look to have an easy game against Wigan on paper but the Latics are proving to be a tough team to break down. Still, I can't see City losing this game, so Mancini's men are recommended as a sure draw-no-bet.

In my opinion, Blackburn look set to fighting in the relegation zone this season and they will struggle during their visit to Fulham. Fulham as draw-no-bet looks good value to me and is recommended.

In Spain, I expect a big win from Real Madrid as it hosts Getafe. Straight win recommended for Mourinho's men. Same for Barcelona as it travels to Real Sociedad. They might leave it late, but Messi and his teammates always find a way to breach any stubborn opponents and they are recommended to win.

In Germany, Bayern Munich are recommended to win at home to Freiburg. Borussia Dortmund are deserved favourites against Hertha Berlin but it's probably safer to have them as draw-no-bet in case they can't breach the Berlin defensive wall.

The Serie A starts this week-end but it's probably better to wait on the results of the initial weeks to have an idea of the relative strength of the teams. The best and worst teams in this League are much closer quality-wise, compared to those in La Liga and Premiership.

Win: Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich.
Draw-no-bet: Man City, Fulham, Borussia Dortmund.
Place: Blue Bunting
Each-way: Fame and Glory

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Godolphin in good form

It was a case of 2-3-4 with Fa'iz coming out 2nd, Lady Percy 3rd for a good Place and Special Boy finishing a disappointing 4th after having been hampered. All close results but in the end, no much of a difference on the balance sheet.

There are a few runners on Friday that caught my interest. Opinion Poll looks to have a good chance in the 14:25 Doncaster Cup. This son of Halling always seems to give his best and he's beaten a few of the same opponents on his last outing. Al Zarooni, the Godolphin trainer mentions that his horse should be in the thereabouts and this generally means he's confident of a good race. I see Opinion Poll in the first 3, so I recommend him as a Place.

It will be interesting to see how Inqadh, again from Godolphin, performs on his debut in the Wolverhampton 19:10. He's a son of Argentinian superstar Invasor, whose progenies have hit the board lately in England. He looks a promising sire. Inqadh's dam is Saywaan who was so impressive in winning the only race she ran. Inqadh looks to be the stable's second string as Ajtebi has chosen Echo of Dream. Obviously, there's nothing certain whenever new debutants are concerned, but for those looking for a potentially rewarding outcome with some risk, Inqadh could be one to look at. Certainly the best of the lot on pedigree.

Place: Opinion Poll

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thursday preview

England beat Wales, as expected and should go ahead and book its ticket to the Euro Finals by snatching at least a point in Montenegro in their next game. I thought Capello's men were in control of the game although they could have lost 2 points had Earnshaw not missed that open net opportunity.Definitely one of the misses of all time, although I've seen a few worse.

I have a few value picks from Thursday's racing cards. In the Wolverhampton 18:10 maiden race, I like Fa'iz from the Godolphin stable. The latter seems to be on a good current vein of form particularly with its juveniles. On form, there does not seem to be any major contender for Fa'iz and I strongly fancy the Dansili colt to be in the first 3. With some course luck, it should win it as well. I recommend it as each-way.

In the 14:35 race at Chepstow, I like another 2-year old from the Godolphin crew in Special Boy. This Invincible Spirit colt has shown nothing in his first 2 outings but is coming back from a 90-day layoff. Provided the trainer has sorted out any wrong with this expensive yearling, he should be playing a major role among this average field. His main opponent looks to be Lady Percy, a Sir Percy filly who had a good debut when coming home 4th around 3 weeks ago at Salisbury. I recommend Special Boy as an each-way and Lady Percy as a Place.

Each-way: Fa'iz, Special Boy
Place: Lady Percy

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

No way for Wales

A few races of note over the week-end as well as the European qualifiers, but nothing to really crow about in the world of racing or football.

So You Think won the Champion stakes race at Leopardstown beating the good filly Snow Fairy by half a length. After this race, it's hard to have a gauge of the real ability of SYT. If he had won by much more, as was expected, he would have possibly confirmed being the best in the world from the 10-12 furlong distance. The fact that he struggled to win more convincingly could be attributed to his 2 month lay-off, or that Snow Fairy was at the top of her game, which is not far from the truth after 2 conditional outings. Still, deep down, SYT connections and supporters, like myself, will no doubt have been disappointed with the manner of the win.

England is expected to beat Wales today for the Euro qualifiers and I certainly think they will. Wales is a sad sight in international football and I wish it was otherwise. Sad because over the years, they have produced world-class players of the likes of Neville Southall, Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale along with decent players like Hartson, Speed, Bellamy, but never been able to make them work as a team. The closest that they came to being competitive were a few years ago when Mark Hughes was at the helm. He produced wondrous results such as beating Italy but came just short at the end. Had he continued and not gone back to club football, maybe the success of the Welsh team would have continued. But I don't see much hope of them being a premier team for now or years to come. To become that, they would need a first-class manager, not a newcomer who's learning the ropes of management. But again, which first-rate manager would want to manage the team, one has to ask. It's too bad because a talent like Gareth Bale would benefit heaps playing European Championships and World Cups. England to win is the recommendation.

Win: England

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Transfer dealings

The Summer deadline day has gone and Arsenal was very active in snatching at least 4 new players. The club had to really, after the trauma of the opening weeks of the season! It reminded me of the case where the crowd (fans) wanted blood and the king (Wenger) could only try to appease it, albeit unwillingly. The backbone of the Gunners team is getting major revamp and it will be interesting if that has any incidence on the beautiful football preached by the Gunners maestro

Arteta leaving Everton is a major blow to the Toffees in my opinion. The club or the manager understandably did not want to let their major playmaker leave. I already mentioned that this Everton team will struggle this season and without Arteta, the situation has gone from bad to worse. I won't go as far as point to relegation fears as some analysts have, but there will be many cases during the season where Everton will be a big lay; at least until they can reinforce during the winter transfer window. Such opportunities for backing against them will hopefully be not missed.

Hargreaves switching allegiance to the blue side of Manchester is interesting. There is no doubt that if he's fully fit, he's a very good player. Mancini has no money problems so it is logical for him to take the gamble on Hargreaves. It's a case of if he can play, he will be a great asset to a star-studded squad; if he can't play, so goes the Sheikh's money. Fireworks will be expected if he plays against the Red Devils.

Talking of Man Utd, the fact that they did not move for Sneijder could come back to haunt them. The Dutchman revealed there were talks but nothing concluded out of them. Tom Cleverley has shown glimpses of brilliance but the question is whether he can maintain his progression, his fitness, his high level of play during the whole season. Any failure to do so will extinguish any hopes of the Red Devils topping Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid for the European title.

There's always the January transfer window for clubs to turn their season around in case some transfers did not pan out. But overall, besides the Everton impression, teams in the EPL and in Europe look more or less at the level they have been at in the past weeks.