Rating Fulham’s Signings this season so far

This summer was one of the most active transfer windows of all time for FFC bringing pretty much a whole new squad and with that an exciting new play style. Slavisa Jokanovic is quickly becoming a hero at Craven Cottage as he has us playing our best football since the days of Mark Hughes and for the first time since 2012 I am looking forward to seeing us play at the weekend. With 14 arrivals this summer FFC were one of the most active sides in England here are my thoughts and ratings of each new man.

Floyd Ayite: The arrival of Ayite brought something that Fulham haven’t seen in years, pace on the wings. Since Kerim Frei’s sporadic appearances Fulham have struggled with their lack of pace however Ayite has changed all of that. Scoring 3 times this week he has been a vital part of this team and it is no coincidence that we went through our worst run of form when he was sidelined with injury.

My Rating 9/10

Scott Malone: A man who has partnered Ayite on the left flank Scott Malone has been my surprise of the season. Many of the Fulham faithful rejoiced the day that we got rid of Jazz Richards however Cardiff fans on twitter were quick to tell me that Malone was a terrible player. What has followed has been some of the best left back performances I have seen from a man at Craven Cottage since Paul Konchesky. I would like to point out in particular the Brentford game and the Barnsley game where Malone ran that wing all game. To make it all better Jazz Richards went the other way
My Rating 9/10

Sone Aluko: If stats ever didn’t tell the full story about a player Sone Aluko is that man. 4 goals in 20 games is not a great return but he offers so much more than that. Getting the ball forward quickly, winning set pieces, setting up goals and the ability to beat a man Sone Aluko has been one of the best signings we have made in years.

My Rating 10/10

Jozabed: “@FulhamFC Announce Jozabed.” For about a month that would be the only tweet I would see on my timeline from Fulham fans. Probably our most eagerly anticipated signing of the summer people were really looking forward to seeing the Spanish man in action however he seems to have a case of Mitroglouitis in the fact that we have made a big signing and he hasn’t played. 184 minutes in 4 months Jozabed has not been able to even get in the match day squad recently and with no known injuries it is obvious that Jozabed was a Craig Kline signing and not a Jokanovic signing.

My Rating N/A Not played enough games

Dennis Odoi: Other than the greatest piece of skill I have ever seen at Craven Cottage Dennis Odoi hasn’t blown me away but he hasn’t been awful. Two man of the match awards early in the season however he hasn’t maintained that form and has subsequently lost his place in the starting 11 to Ryan Fredericks.

My Rating: 6/10

Ragnar Sigurdsson: Came in after a great Euros with Iceland which unfortunately included a goal and a man of the match performance against England I thought Sigurdsson could be a very good signing. He has been disappointing considering the high expectations I had when he came in. Not as dominant in the air as I thought he would be and a shocking performance against Bristol the jury is still out on Sigurdsson but I think he has been an improvement on all our centre half options from last season barring Madl.

My Rating 6/10

Tomas Kalas: By a mile the best defender we have had since Brede Hangeland Kalas was briliant last year at Boro and has carried it on this year. The only complaint I have about this signing is that it is only a loan deal. When Kalas doesn’t play we are not the same team and our results without him go to show that with him missing 6 games and us picking up only 5 points in that time conceding a dreadful 12 goals during that period as well.

My Rating 9/10

Lucas Piazon: Another Chelsea loanee Piazon’s life in SW6 has started quite well notching up 3 goals in 12 games and adding some flair to the squad. A surprise transfer that wasn’t even speculated on deadline day, I wouldn’t mind seeing Piazon’s loan being extended past January and into the end of the season however with his position having a lot of competition I could see why Jokanovic would send him back down the road to Chelsea.

My Rating 7/10

Kevin Macdonald: This man runs the midfield every game I see him play. The 1.5 million pound pricetag is the bargain of the century as I Kev Mac has been one of the best 5 players on the pitch in the majority of his games this season. A blip would obviously be his red card against Bristol however you can’t hold that against him as he has been one of our best players this season.

My Rating 9/10

Chris Martin: Striker is still our weakest position and I hope that that doesn’t show this weekend when we can’t play Martin against his parent club Derby County. Martin struggled to find his feet at first failing to score in his first 6 games in a white shirt. However with 6 in his last 10 and some outstanding hold up play Martin has been a good acquisition for Fulham so far and is another player who’s loan I would like seen turned permanent.

My Rating 7/10

Stefan Johansen: Watching Johansen and Cairney link up these past few weeks has been nothing short of majestic. Johansen’s first few games had me very worried that Celtic fans comments about his laziness were true as he didn’t look like anything spectacular. However with 3 goals in his past 3 games and impressive performances coming weekly I have to call him our signing of the season if he can keep this up. Johansen has got an unbelievable amount of talent and can find a pass perfectly. His performances in the past few weeks have completely changed my opinion of him and I hope more of the same is to come.

My Rating 9/10

David Button: David Button has all the makings of  fantastic keeper and on his day can win you 3 points on his own. However all to often he is making stupid mistakes and his distribution just isn’t good enough. The Aston Villa game soured a lot of fans on Button and poor performances against Brighton and Wolves didn’t help matters either. For me it is time to give Bettinelli another chance between the sticks however all in all Button has not been a woeful signing.

My Rating 5/10

Michael Madl: Signed permanently after a successful loan spell last season Madl hasn’t been in the side as much as I anticipated making only 9 appearances this season. Started brilliantly forming a great pairing with Kalas however he has fallen out of favour in recent weeks and I would like to see him in the starting 11 more consistently as I think he is a fantastic player.

My Rating 6/10

Neeskens Kebano: I’ll be honest with you the only reason Kebano is the last player I am writing about is because I almost forgot about him. Playing a couple of minutes at the end of games here and there I am really not sure how good of a player he is. He hasn’t played much for us at all and his debut against Blackburn is still the best match he has played for us in my opinion. Still looking for his first goal Kebano is getting nowhere near his strike rate at Genk and Charleloi.

My Rating 4/10

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Saturday English Football Preview and predictions

If you would have read through my Blog so far you wouldn’t have thought that Football is my favourite sport, but it is. I am probably the most unconventional fan in the world a Fulham Fan from Manchester I know it’s ridiculous isn’t it? Anyway here are my highlighted games for this weekends action, my previews and predictions.

Arsenal Vs Middlesborough

This patch of form is the best I have seen Arsenal play in 4 years since Feb- March 2012. They seem to have finally gotten past all the things that football fans call “Typical Arsenal” and have managed to pick up results where they previously may not have done. As much as I hate this cliche they are showing a lot more character and backbone picking up points against big and small sides for example a couple of years ago I would have put my house on Arsenal blowing a 3-2 lead with 10 men against Swansea with 20 minutes to go.

Boro on the other hand are having a hard time having lost 3 home games on the bounce for the first time since 2009 and have almost equalled the number of goals they conceded at home all of last season in only 8 games. New arrivals haven’t been anywhere near up to standard most notably Alvaro Negredo scoring only 1 goal since he came to the Riverside over the summer.

My prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Middlesbrough

Bournemouth vs Tottenham Hotspur

Could be a tricky one for Spurs in my opinion especially if Danny Rose isn’t fit in time as Toby Aldeweireld will not be available for selection as well. After a frustrating game against West Brom last week and Bournemouth riding a high after Hammering Hull 6-1 there could be an upset waiting to happen.

My Prediction Spurs 1-1 Bournemouth

Burnley vs Everton

Similarly to Arsenal, Everton seem to have shaken off their inability to grind out results as they have been very impressive so far this season picking up a point at the Etihad last weekend with ex-Fulham man Maarten Stekelenburg taking all the plaudits in that one however with no wins in their last 3 has this good start started to fade? I don’t think so and I think Everton will walk away from Turf Moor with all 3 points. However don’t write off Burnley. Ask Evertons Merseyside neighbours and they will tell you Turf Moor is a tough ground to go to as Liverpool were beaten 2-0 earlier this season. Burnley unfortunately are not good enough to get results like that consistently therefore I predict they will lose this one

My prediction Burnley 0-2 Everton

Hull Vs Stoke.

Is there 2 teams in the league that have had seasons that have started more differently? Stoke started poorly and Mark Hughes looked set to lose his job however a recent resurrection led by the so called “Welsh Jesus” Joe Allen has led to them being unbeated in 3 including an impressive point at Old Trafford. Hull on the other hand started out as everyones prediction to finish bottom of the league however they started brilliantly beating the Champions on the opening day and following that up with a win against Swansea and a good performance in a loss against Manchester United. However that has all changed at Hull having shipped in 17 goals in their last 4 Premier League games more goals could be on the menu this weekend.

My prediction Hull 1-3 Stoke

Leicester vs Crystal Palace

Astonishingly after their midweek in against Copenhagen Leicester now have more points in the Champions League than they do in the Premier League. Leicester come into this game with no wins in their last 3 games and the champions are looking back to their old selves after being thumped by United and Chelsea.

Palace are doing much better than I expected at the start of the season sitting in 9th place however they have had quite an easy run so far so I still expect them to falter later on in the season. This game will hopefully see Leicester come good and return to the results they were picking up last season as every football fan in the country wants to see them do well.

My prediction Leicester 2-0 Crystal Palace

Swansea vs Watford

The Swans come into their second game under Bob Bradley looking to pick up their first win since the opening day. I think Swansea could do a job on Watford today as they looked impressive in Bradleys first game even though they lost to Arsenal. To be honest Swansea have one of the weakest squads in the league and Bob Bradley will have a huge job on his hands if he wants to get them to mid table however I’m predicting them to win today against Watford as a new manager often bring a change in form.

Watford got there first clean sheet in 13 games last week against Middlesbrough and that stat could be very telling as the season progresses. With goals coming in different places than you would expect so far for Watford this season with Ettiene Capoue surprisingly leading the charts with 4 goals, you have to question how long can this continue? Ighalo and Deeney scored 28 goals between them last season but have only gotten 4 as a partnership this season with one of those being a penalty. Capoue and Holebas surely will stop scoring soon and if Deeney, Ighalo and new boy Isaac Success don’t find their shooting boots Watford could be in trouble with a very shaky defence that was highlighted in their 2-0 loss to Burnley earlier this season.

West Ham vs Sunderland

Two teams that have been terrible this season with lack of a better word. West Ham were tipped by many as top 4 contenders after Dimitri Payet was one of the best players in the league last year and carried his form on into the Euros. However life at the London Stadium hasn’t started well at all for the Hammers finding themselves in 15th after 8 games with an abysmal -8 goal difference and embarrassingly being knocked out of the Europa League by FC Astra for the second year in a row. Injuries to Ayew and Carroll early on in the season hasn’t helped but that is no excuse for conceding 4 goals to both Watford and West Brom. The return of Aaron Cresswell may improve their defence but Angelo Ogbonna looks like more of a liability every time I watch him.

The good news for West Ham fans is that they are coming up against Sunderland. Their start is one of the worst in football history not just Premier League history picking up 2 points from 8 games. Relying on players who are past it or players who never even had it Sunderland’s squad is weak to say the least with minimal movement in the transfer market in the summer The Black Cats look destined for relegation. But how many times have we all said that in the past 5 years? Sunderland always seem to dig themselves out of these holes but for me this year may be the year they finally go down.

My Prediction West Ham 3-2 Sunderland

Liverpool Vs West Brom

1 year after Jurgen Klopp took charge at Liverpool and their fans are the most optimistic I have seen them in a long time. People questioned the signing of Sadio Mane for £34 million however he has been one of the players of the season so far. Players proving doubters wrong is going on throughout the Liverpool squad, with Henderson, Milner and Mane all being very impressive so far it has everyone asking how far can they go this season? Personally I reckon they will be battling with Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea for the 3rd and 4th place spots. But you never know If Sturridge can hit top form the sky is the limit for this side and with no European obligations Klopp could lead them to some silverware this season.

West Brom are never going to make waves in the League especially under Tony Pulis they will happily be a team that finishes 10-15th every year with the occasional 1-0 win against a big club to keep the fans happy. To be fair to West Brom they do have some good players such as Nacer Chadli and Matt Phillips as well as having quite a strong defence for a lower mid table side. As every Premier League fan knows whenever you come up against a Tony Pulis team it always has the potential to be “One of those days.” Averaging 40% posession so far this season is very telling they don’t need a lot of the ball to cause you problems. As shown by them drawing 1-1 with Spurs last week, if they get a 1-0 lead you are going to struggle to win the game from that point.

My Prediction Liverpool 2-0 West Brom

 

Thistlecrack to make debut over fences.

For me in this past 12 months you would struggle to find a horse better than Thistlecrack over hurdles winning 5/5 in the past 12 months including big wins at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree. He will make a step in his career this Tuesday however running his first ever race over fences at Chepstow. The entire world of Horse Racing will have eyes on Thistlecrack on his first time over fences and I’m sure that a lot of people will have a bet on him whether that be to win or laying him on one of the numerous betting exchanges. Depending on what odds he goes off at. Trainer Colin Tizzard has made it no secret that he want’s his 8 year old thoroughbred to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year which is my favourite race of the year alongside the Grand National of course. It is a testament to Thistlecrack’s ability over fences that he is already 7/1 favourite for the Gold Cup despite never being seen jumping fences however if he can jump well and run the way he does over hurdles you may very well be looking at the next Gold Cup winner. 7/1 for the Gold Cup could be the bet of the century depending on how well he looks after Tuesday as i suspect he will drop to around 3/1 if he wins comfortably on Tuesday and may even go off as an odds on favourite by the time the race comes around depending on the field. If I were to back Thistlecrack on Tuesday though the odds would have to be above even money as I can never bring myself to bet on an unknown quantity however I think he will win easily as trainer Colin Tizzard has said that he jumps fences very well behind closed doors but nobody knows what will happen but by Tuesday afternoon we may have seen the Gold Cup winner.

My top 10 contenders for the 2016 Darts World Grand Prix

My top 10 contenders for the Grand Prix title:

1. Michael Van Gerwen.

Even though I said that this won’t be as clear cut as other competitions in my previous post you still can’t look past Mighty Mike. This year he played the greatest darts match that the world has ever seen beating Michael Smith 7-1 in the premier league on his way to a world record 123.4 3 dart average the likes of which has never been seen before. Looking to bounce back from his Champions League defeat MVG is my pick to win this competition.

2. Phil Taylor

What more can you say? This countries most decorated sportsman 16 time world champion, 11 time winner of this competition. In recent times I have always been against Taylor as I want to see some new blood picking up the trophies, however last weekend I was firmly behind him as he deserved to be the inaugural Champions League winner as he is the undisputed greatest of all time.

3. Gary Anderson.

This man has completely changed his game in the past couple of years having become one of the most prolific double hitters in the game having previously struggled on them. The back to back world champions has a massive chance here and should easily make it to the semi final.

4. James Wade

A two time winner of this competition and for good reason. James Wade is an incredible player at this format as his doubling is better than his scoring so if his opponent stumbles at hitting the double to get started he will punish them heavily.

5. Raymond Van Barneveld

Similarly to Wade, Barney is a fantastic double hitter so if he can consistently get his first dart in he should progress to at least the quarter finals where he should meet The Machine himself in a game that could be a stormer.

6. Peter Wright.

My favourite player doesn’t have the best of chances in this tournament he needs to book up his ideas when it comes to hitting the doubles especially in this format but the draw has been kind to him giving him Brendan Dolan then either Robbie Green or Dave Chisnall. But i predict he will be eliminated in the QF by Phil Taylor.

7. Robert Thornton

Kind of strange to see the defending champion at odds of 66/1 Thornton has been looking forward to defending his crown all year long and I think he will produce his best at this tournament. As he showed in the Premier League when he is at his best he can take legs from anybody after getting a shock 6-6 draw with World number 1 Michael Van Gerwen.

8. Adrian Lewis

Why so low down? To say Lewis’ year has had a downward trajectory would be an understatement after reaching the World Championship final and the Premier League semis I had tipped Lewis to win a major this year. However as of late Lewis has been awful. As much as he will argue that he is doing well with people on twitter the fact of the matter is that he is bang out of form, being beaten in minor tournaments by relative nobodies such  as Steve West and Ricky Williams he seriously needs to improve if he wants to win this tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him eliminated in the first round by Jelle Klaassen.

9. Jelle Klaasen

Impressed me massively at the World Championships but has endured a huge dip in form since. Being beaten by Steve Beaton at the Matchplay being one of the worst performances I have ever seen from Jelle Klaassen would be a huge contender if he gets past Lewis in the first round and regains his form.

10. Joe Cullen

Realistically Joe Cullen is not the 10th most likely player to win this competition it is probably Michael Smith or Dave Chisnall. However I have included Cullen because I have been very impressed with his performances this year including a whitewash of Gary Anderson, beating Stephen Bunting and taking Peter Wright very close. Cullen has a bright future in my opinion and if he can find his best darts this weekend he could reach the Quarter Finals

 

My 2016 Darts World Grand Prix preview and predictions

The World Grand Prix is the PDC event that can produce the biggest shock due to its Double In, Double out format. Meaning that there are so many more contenders for this crown than there is during any other tournament which means that for once this won’t just be contested between Van Gerwen, Taylor and Anderson as most PDC events are. Last year produced a shock winner in Robert Thornton a man who rarely challenges for major trophies with his best ever World Championship finish being the quarter finals in 2015.

However if there is one thing I would say about this tournament is that you can write off the 180 merchants of the darting world players like; Michael Smith, Dave Chisnall and Simon Whitlock who are in my opinion great players in an ordinary format however with the Grand Prix you have to hit a double to start and these boys aren’t the best at consistently hitting doubles. As highlighted by Smith and Chisnall’s disappointing Premier League campaigns with both being eliminated on judgement night despite being incredibly good scorers throughout the competition. These men will struggle as their opponent may already be down to a sub 300 score by the time they get started.

The Grand Prix in previous years has allowed players who usually wouldn’t get a sniff at a major final to progress incredibly far. For example Brendan Dolan who reached the 2011 final has never reached another major final as well as the current champion Robert Thornton who only has a UK Open title to his name.

The player who could be the dark horse this year in my opinion is Joe Cullen a man who I watched beat world champion Gary Anderson 6-0 in the German Darts Masters in a very impressive display is a newcomer to the Grand Prix however his draw has been quite kind to him meeting Simon Whitlock in the first round a player who has been on a decline and doesn’t perform brilliantly in the Grand Prix format then in the second round should he progress he will meet either Alan Norris or Michael Smith two men who are in a similar vein as Whitlock where they don’t play at there best in the format. In the quarter finals if all goes to plan Cullen would meet MVG where he would probably be beaten but do not write him off completely. Personally I believe that Van Gerwen will go on to win the entire tournament however I will fully write up my top 10 contenders in a future blog post.