EPL Review 8/27-9/2

int_130902_ESPN_FC_Arsenal_big_buyThe Dojo Premier League review comes a day late this week to cover the ending of the transfer window. Major headlines emerged with league changing consequences as a flurry of last minute transfers shifted power in the Premiership.

Fixture Review:

The league week was contained to just Saturday and Sunday this week, the former holding the less exciting but important nonetheless fixtures.

Manchester City rebounded after their disappointing loss to Cardiff, with a 2-0 win at home. Summer signing Alvaro Negredo found the net for his second goal in as many games. Yaya Toure put Hull City away with his second free kick goal in the 90th minute. While their defence looked better, the Sky Blues are certainly missing their skipper Vincent Kompany. Stoke City continued their fine start with another win over West Ham United. Three points on the road is no easy task, especially at the intimidating ground of Upton Park. Stoke face Man City and Arsenal in their next two games.Everton’s goal scoring problems continued with a 0-0 draw at Cardiff. Roberto Martinez is still waiting to record his first win as manager. These early points Cardiff are taking from Europe quality teams early in the season will help them late in the season. As Everton’s goal drought begins, Newcastle’s ended with a brilliant strike from Ben Arfa. The simple 1-0 scoring line did not give justice to the stat line as Newcastle hammered Fulham. However, the single goal proved enough. Crystal Palace beat Sunderland 3-1 at home. When Sunderland Captain John O’Shea was sent off for taking down Puncheon in the box, Gayle put away the game winning goal. Palace face Man Utd next game at Old Trafford. Norwich City earned their first win of the season beating Southampton at home. The deciding strike came midway through the second half with a driven ball from Nathan Redmond. Redmond’s performance was enough to land him on the Premier League’s team of the week.

Sunday’s matches held more interesting fixtures. Manchester United played Liverpool on the road while Tottenham and Arsenal clashed in the first North London Derby. Liverpool and Tottenham were playing to remain at a perfect 3-0-0 start. First, West Brom hosted Swansea. Both sides had a disappointing opening record, however Swansea had the tougher fixtures. Swansea handled West Brom with a controlling 2-0 win. Laudrup’s side had previously faced Tottenham and Manchester United and have Liverpool and Valencia to look forward to after the break. The first Derby of the day was Liverpool vs Manchester United. Brendan Rodgers beat Manchester United for his first time in his tenure at Anfield. Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring with a tidy flick in the third minute. The game was filled with the emotion one could come to expect from this derby. Robin Van Persie and Steven Gerrard had words more than once but Gerrard’s soccer is what ultimately did the talking. The early goal was enough to keep Liverpool on top for another week. The final match of the week was the North London Derby fought between Arsenal and Tottenham. Arsenal was the home side for the first leg of the year. Much more than three points were on the line this match. Record summer signings for the Spurs prompted many pundits to predict this to be the year that Tottenham finally overtake Arsenal in the table. Conversely, at the start of the game, Arsenal had still yet to spend any money in the transfer window. Arsenal had managed to grab former midfielder Flamini on a free transfer. Flamini played a pivotal role in the second half. The game was seemingly make or break for Arsene Wenger. Olivier Giroud continued his scoring streak with a crafty finish midway through the first half. However, this game was won in the midfield. As Jack Wilshere stepped off just before halftime, Flamini entered the game. Ramsey and Flamini’s box to box play disrupted play in the middle of the field. The Gunners held on for an important moral victory at 1-0.

Goals of the Week:

1. Real Sociedad vs Lyon

http://i.minus.com/iQ0hx9Opql9f0.gif

2. Newcastle vs Fulham

http://i.minus.com/ivmVn5rc99ci9.gif

3. Celtic vs Shaktar Karagandy

http://i.minus.com/i4G17FrMSAPUW.gif

4. Valencia vs Barcelona

http://i.minus.com/ibjcFPo4tLEHfj.gif

5. Barcelona vs Valencia (First Neymar and Messi link up. Complete hat trick)

http://i.minus.com/ilEraWpg0L1rb.gif

Transfer Market Closing Day:

While Real Madrid were busy debuting their all-time record transfer Gareth Bale, Arsenal moved quickly to be the talk of Europe. Earlier in transfer market a series of seemingly unrelated moves ended dramatically today. Gervinho headed to Roma from Arsenal. The arrival of a striker/winger alleviated the need for Roma’s Lamela. Lamela headed to Tottenham Hotspur for 30 million pounds presumably to fill the shoes of Gareth Bale. Gareth Bale left Tottenham to head to Real Madrid, becoming the most expensive transfer in history at 85 million pounds. To finance this deal, Real Madrid sold arguably their second best player Mesut Ozil to Arsenal for 42.5 million pounds. There was wide outrage at Real Madrid President Perez, so much so that they chanted “Ozil no se vende” at Gareth Bale’s unveiling. Ozil will be replaced by Isco in the middle of the park where the youngster has been Ancelotti’s first choice. Arsenal also reinforced at goalkeeper by acquiring Emiliano Viviano from Palermo on loan with an option to buy. However, Arsenal failed to reinforce at cb and striker, the club’s most pressing needs. Manchester United failed to seal the deal with Atletico Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera after a long, drawn out negotiation process. They finally ended Marouane Fellaini’s buyout clause to purchase him from Everton. Manchester United also failed to bring Fellaini’s teammate Baines with him. Everton received Lukaku on loan from Chelsea. With Everton’s scoring problems, Lukaku could potentially become their first choice striker.

Daniel Dicce is going to name his first born Mesut, regardless of gender. @DanielDicce

 

Daily Dojo: Morneau’s Value to the Pirates

How beneficial will the Pirates acquisition of Justin Morneau be as the MLB season rolls on? When I first heard of the trade, it sounded really good for the Pirates. I thought getting a former MVP, who’s having a decent year would really benefit them. Then, I took a look at the statistics of Pirates’ first baseman this year, and I am intrigued by the similarities in Morneau’s stats and the Pirates’ first basemen’s stats are.

Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez have been in a platoon split all year for the Pirates. Jones faces righties and Sanchez faces lefties. Combined, they have accounted for 20 home runs, 81 RBI’s and 65 runs scored while hitting .244. That does not sound great, but the counting stats (not batting average) are serviceable for a first baseman.

Justin Morneau (Photo Cred: Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Justin Morneau (Photo Cred: Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Enter Morneau. Morneau had been playing for the Twins and had been batting higher in the order. Playing for the Twins probably reduced his home run totals because of Target Fields pitcher-friendliness (3rd worse home run park for lefties), and his run and RBI totals were probably reduced because he was playing for a worse team. However, he was batting higher in the order than the Pirates’ first basemen, so I consider all of these factors a wash for RBI’s and run. It’s a wash because batting higher in the order gives you a better chance at RBI’s and runs. Home runs should be expected to be lower.

Morneau, so far this season (excluding last night), has batted .259 with 17 home runs, 74 RBI’s and 56 runs scored. The Pirates hitters have actually done better so far this year. More home runs, more RBI’s and more runs scored than Morneau.

The difference is that Morneau has batted 124 less times than the Pirates’ first basemen. They have been pretty similar on a per at bat basis. Morneau has hit home run every 29 at bats, while the Pirates’ first basemen have hit one every 31. It also took Morneau about 1 at bat less per each RBI and run scored than Jones and Sanchez combined.

I think that over a whole season, this could have made a HUGE difference for the Pirates. They would probably be leading the division by a couple extra games rather than be tied atop the standings as Labor Day rolls around (I say this like its a bad thing, but this is a huge deal for the Pirates. No winning seasons the past 20 years). I am just not so sure it will give them a huge edge during the stretch run. I think it will help, but we will see by how much. Also, I am not a believer that having postseason experience is a large part of postseason success, but I do think it helps. Morneau has only 7 games under his belt and 2 home runs, but the last time he was in the playoffs was 2006. Then again, the Pirates haven’t been there in 20 years so Morneau’s little experience could help out just enough during an October run. Ultimately, if the Pirates win a World Series with Morneau, they won’t care if he does provided a significant increase in production. If Alex Presely is able to revive his career in Minnesota, the Pirates may have wasted good talent on a poor upgrade

Greg Danchik

Daily Dojo: Big Weekend Series

Back to school, but the sports world rolls on.

In baseball this weekend, there are three series that, I think, will have a significant impact on the playoff picture. The Orioles go to New York for a weekend series, the Rays go into the shithole (literally) of the Oakland Coliseum, and the Cardinals continue their ridiculous stretch against the NL’s top teams in Pittsburgh.

Alfonso Soriano (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Alfonso Soriano (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Orioles have a chance to just drown the Yankees’ playoff hopes this weekend with a sweep. A sweep would give the Yankees 5 more losses than the Orioles, and that is a huge deficit to overcome in a month. Not to mention that the Orioles don’t even have a playoff spot yet so its 5 games back of 3rd place in the AL Wild Card with a month left. Yankees would be done, but I doubt that the O’s will be able to pull this off as the Yankees have suddenly become a lineup to fear. They can still come up with a dud game, but they can also explode like they did against the Blue Jays last series. I attribute most of this to Alfonso Soriano. Soriano has been ridiculous in the second half. He has 11 home runs and 33 RBI’s in 31 games with the Yankees. Thats ridiculous. Its a better pace than Miguel Cabrera, but Cabrera has done it over a whole season, 130 RBI’s in 126 games. Another incredible stat on how good Cabrera has been… Chris Davis has 47 home runs, 121 RBI’s, a .303 batting average and no shot to win the AL MVP. That is ridiculous.

The Rays in Oakland is a big deal for the AL Wild Card and the race for their respective division title. If Oakland gets swept, they will continue to fall behind the Rangers in the AL West and give the Orioles hope for a playoff spot. It would also mean the Rays get closer to where, I think, is their ultimate home at the top of the AL East. The Rays have everything. I wrote about this about a week ago, so I won’t repeat myself. Just link myself. If the Rays get swept, the AL East becomes a harder task than it was. The Red Sox could pull away and leave the Rays in the one game playoff. If Oakland gets the sweep, they will have a realistic shot at taking back the AL West. Then again, they did it last year after not leading all year so I don’t think they’ll be out for awhile. The series is also important for home field advantage in the Wild Card Round. The winner of this series will be in first place for the AL Wild Card and will be in place for a home game. However, that didn’t matter last year as both away teams won the one game playoff.

The Cardinals continue their ridiculous stretch against the NL’s top teams. It is 18 games against the Braves (Yes, they are a top team. I was wrong about that, but they are in the worst division in baseball and I still don’t think that is wrong), Reds and Pirates. They have gone 6-2 so far in the stretch failing to finish off sweeps in their first two series. Now they go to Pittsburgh and look to create even more separation in the NL Central. They have a 1 game lead right now and could have a 4 game lead come Monday. The Cardinals are the most complete team in baseball in my opinion. With Yadier Molina off the DL, the team is insane. They can hit from any place in the line up. Their rotation has one soft spot, Jake Westbrook, but he is on the DL now, so they get to use their young talent and see who will be useful in the playoffs. And their bullpen has an unbelievable ability to shut teams down with Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica. I think that they will go far in the playoffs.

Predictions for these series…

Orioles take 2 of 3

Rays sweep

Cardinals take 2 of 3

Greg Danchik

 

EPL Review 8/20-8/26

Chelsea had two contests this week, the first being against Aston Villa. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho continued his line-up experiments by starting Demba Ba up top.  His performance was lack luster as Chelsea once again failed to score a goal from their front line. Benteke scored again with a clinical finish in the box. Lukaku entered the game in the 65th minute but also failed to produce chances. The Chelsea goals came from an early own goal and a late Ivanovic header. Aston Villa looked to steal a point away but a controversial no call robbed the Villan’s a penalty. The game ended 2-1. Villa had to forget the match quickly as they headed home to play Liverpool just three days later. Aston Villa were arguably the stronger side and the stats certainly favored them in terms of shots. However, it was Sturridge’s tricky finish that proved the difference to give Liverpool a 1-0 win. While Villa only saved 3 points from their first 3 games, they had 3 strong showings. Crystal Palace and Stoke City both looked to grab their first points of the season at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium. New signing Chamakh opened the scoring in the 31st minute with a brilliant settling touch and a terrific finish. Stoke answered with 2 quick goals to give Mark Hughes his first Stoke win. Giaccherini snagged a quick goal for Sunderland but Southampton evened the score late to tie 1-1. Newcastle drew West Ham in a goalless match. The pressure on Alan Pardew is growing. A ten man Hull City squad stunned Norwich with a 1-0 win. Despite dominating the game, the Canaries failed to score. Everton had an incredibly frustrating 0-0 draw against West Brom as they failed to score despite 22 shots with 8 on goal. Jelavic will need to do better to solidify a starting job. The Gunner faithful’s nerves were put to a brief rest with a 3-1 derby win against Fulham. Oliver Giroud finished his third goal in three games, all competition. Lukas Podolski made his first start to score two more goals before Fulham scored their first. Wenger is still very much under the gun as the transfer market heads into the last week. Tottenham Hotspur did a fair bit of traveling this week. Their European obligations brought them all the way to Georgia for a 5-0 win before heading back home to face Swansea. Spurs had a narrow 1-0 win on another penalty. Record signing Soldado put away his fourth goal in three games. Cardiff City stunned Manchester City at home 3-2. The high scoring line didn’t start until Dzeko fired home a fantastic strike in the 52nd minute. In the 60th minute, Joe Hart gave up a sitter for Cardiff midfielder Aron Gunnarsson, who dutifully put it home. Joe Hart’s goalkeeping was brought back into question when Campbell headed home two headers for Cardiff off corners. Negredo netted his first goal for City too little too late as Cardiff won their first Premier League game. This may confirm City fan’s fears of Pellegrini’s lackluster away record.  The premier bout of the week was Manchester United vs Chelsea at Old Trafford. David Moyes’ home debut could not have come against a tougher side. However, the two prospective champions clashed in an entirely underwhelming 0-0 draw. Had it not been for Wayne Rooney’s sheer determination and fantastic play, I would have been slightly more lulled to sleep. However, the match carried interesting headlines. Mourinho continued his line-up tinkering by not starting a striker. Schurlle filled the false nine role but failed to produce much offense. Chelsea’s best chances came by strikes from Oscar. The Premier League remains wide open early on in the Season.

Goals of the week:

1. Real Sociedad  vs Lyon (Griezmann)

http://i.minus.com/iV70W1Z71PzX4.gif

2. Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona (Villa)

http://i.minus.com/ibdC8a0qyYFbi7.gif

3. Real Sociedad vs Lyon (Seferovic)

http://i.minus.com/ikc19lGBsXhZg.gif

4. Tottenham vs Dinamo Tblisi (Rose)

http://i.minus.com/iu7EawmxuqWdf.gif

5. Man City vs Cardiff City (Dzeko)

http://i.minus.com/ibknmlmV6dKxvK.gif

Daniel Dicce can kick a ball over a quarter mile. You don’t believe me? Want to make a bet? Yeah… if coach put me in second half we woulda been state champs… No doubt. No doubt in my mind.

 

 

Daily Dojo: AL East Race

For the AL East and AL Wild Card, there were three big series this weekend.

First, the Orioles squared off against the Athletics at home. The O’s won the two games that were slugfests, but ended up losing the close game. This is very unlike last year. The Orioles defied all logical thought by going 29-9 in one run games last year. They are clearly returning to the norm this year, and it is making a huge difference in their record. They are 14-23 so far this year. They would be winning the AL East and have the best record in baseball if they had the same 1 run game record as last year. I think that this is good for the Orioles future. To me, this signifies that they are actually better than last year. One run games definitely have an element of luck, so I think they have just been a little less lucky. This loss of luck will cost them a playoff birth in my eyes.

The New York Yankees traveled up to Tamba Bay to take on the Rays this weekend in the second of the three big series that happened this weekend. The Rays were able to take 2 out of 3, and they lost the third game in extras after a Curtis Granderson sac fly in the 11th brought home the winning run. This series win brings Tamba closer to where I think they’ll inevitably end up, AL East Champs. They have phenomenal pitching, and with Wil Myers in the line up, it it one to be feared.

Boston went west and took on the Dodgers this weekend. The Dodgers have been the hottest team in baseball throughout the second half going 28-5 prior to the series. The Red Sox were able to take the series from the Dodgers by winning 2 out of 3 including a blow out last night. The Sox got lucky in their last two series actually. They didn’t have to face Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner against the Giants, and they didn’t have to face Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke. This West Coast trip may have gotten back on track, which will help them hold off the Rays and possibly Orioles.

Greg Danchik