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Will Jack Wilshere’s injuries threaten his World Cup place?

Jack Wilshere’s fledgling career has been full of ups and downs to date, with the Arsenal midfielder showing incredible ability, but not as often as Arsene Wenger would like.

The Emirates Stadium club youth graduate has been heralded as one the brightest prospects in the English game, and when fit and on form has been a great player for club and country.

However, despite the playmaker’s tender age of 21, Wilshere has had a number of serious injuries blight his career so far, which have held him back considerably.

This season Wilshere seems to have picked up innocuous ailments and has struggled to complete 90 minutes on regular occasion. Wenger has admitted that he wants to wrap the midfielder in cotton wool, and it is clear that the French coach is concerned that another serious injury could derail the player’s career.

Wilshere should consider new methods of conditioning, and the use of bcaas could boost his fitness and increase his physicality.

Jack Wilshere

With England qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil next summer, Wilshere is expected to be a key man for the Three Lions in the tournament.

With the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard ageing, the Arsenal man will be needed to provide stamina, energy and hard work to the English midfield.

However, in hot conditions, the games will come thick and fast over the space of the tournament. With Wilshere’s injury concerns at club level still apparent, whether he can play at his best every couple of days at international level remains to be seen.

There is no doubting the midfielder’s ability, and if he was fully fit and firing he could be the driving force in the England midfield for years to come. However, this looks far from assured at the moment.

Club team-mate Aaron Ramsey suffered a leg break earlier in his career, with the Welshman on the sidelines for a long period as a result. However, he has returned to action and looks as sharp, fit and able as ever. He never shirks a challenge and is one of the most-rounded midfielders in the British game.

Wilshere on the other hand has been held back by the physical nature of the English game and has struggled to show his best form consistently due to injuries.

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West Ham’s purchase of Liverpool’s Andy Carroll – inspired or mad?

Andy Carroll’s much-expected move to West Ham was finalised on Wednesday and is widely believed to end up costing the East Londoners £46m in total – a transfer fee of around £15m and a relatively staggering six-year, £100,000-a-week contract. The question on everybody’s lips is whether Carroll, who scored seven goals in 25 appearances during an injury-plagued loan spell at Upton Park last season, is worth this club-record fee. Just why are West Ham willing to spend so much on a player that Liverpool are prepared to lose £20m on?

The fee the Hammers have paid for the England forward pales in comparison to the £35m price tag Liverpool paid in 2011, yet will still be seen as a hefty fee and neutrals will question just what Carroll has to offer.

Since his move to Liverpool, the former Newcastle man has been much maligned by many, with that fee hanging around his neck like a millstone. Carroll will feel that such a consensus is unwarranted after an impressive run of form towards the end of last season, in which he netted the winner in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton and a consolation goal in the final. Just as Carroll was beginning to settle on Merseyside however, out went the man who had shown so much faith in him – Kenny Dalglish – and in came Brendan Rodgers, a man whose preferred style of play was never going to make provisions for a six-foot-three striker. Those hoping Carroll would be utilised as a Plan B were left disappointed – a regular place as a mere squad player was never going to be an option for someone who cost, and was continuing to cost, so much.

Andy Carroll

The predicament at Anfield was a typical one when the player in question is of Carroll’s ilk. At his best, Carroll terrorises even the most astute of defenders in the air and has a projectile left foot that is always a threat to opposing goalkeepers. At his worst; the pony-tailed Gateshead man is conspicuously left cantering around the final third leaping into defenders just to feel involved when games aren’t catering to his strengths.

At Newcastle, Carroll was at times unplayable – as Arsenal and indeed Liverpool will testify – and when the Anfield club came in for the striker it was to nobody’s surprise – after all, Tottenham and Chelsea were also known to be keeping a close eye on him. It was of course the astronomical fee that Liverpool paid that shocked the football world and, more than likely, the player himself.  As the disbelief began to fade however, there was a genuine belief that this was the step that this rising star needed in order to completely fulfil the potential he had shown. Of course, this wasn’t the case and those who have watched the striker closely from his impressive Championship days have been left with a residual sense of frustration and disappointment.

Carroll is certainly capable of reaching double figures next season under Sam Allardyce, who is sure to give his new striker the run of games, fitness permitting, he so desperately needs. A strike partner is yet to be shipped in at Upton Park after Allardyce’s failed attempt to audaciously land Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla, but whoever is brought in must play to and off Carroll’s strengths. The aerial strength of Carroll is such that he is more than capable of assisting as many goals as he can score – something he hinted at several times last season alongside Kevin Nolan. There are few defenders who can handle Carroll at his best and if Allardyce has the tools to tap into this rich source of goals then Upton Park may well have a new hero. The player himself must also play his part, as the coming season will be vital with the pressure very much eased on his still young shoulders. He will no longer have pound signs floating over his head whenever he fails to meet a cross or squanders a chance, and hopefully Carroll will eye this as an opportunity to remind us all of the player he is capable of being.

Ask any Liverpool, or even Newcastle, supporter about Andy Carroll and the majority will, perhaps reluctantly, speak fondly of the lummox that was their number 9. While others will scoff at the amount that has been spent on Carroll – his two transfers combined far outweighs the money that has ever been spent on Robin van Persie for instance – West Ham fans should be comforted by the lack of ill-feeling towards their new man from those around Anfield. One thing that Carroll is certain to provide fans is a mixed bag of frustration at his unfulfilled but palpable talent and resounding elation when the smiling Geordie wheels away after scoring. The Upton Park faithful will hope for more of the latter and you would suspect that so will those at Anfield and St James’ Park, where a frustrated soft spot for the big man well and truly remains.

Roy Hodgson – The master of lowering England’s expectations

“I thought we hung on well, all things considered we mustn’t be too disappointed; a point here gives a chance to build for the future,” said Roy Hodgson speaking after England’s 1-1 draw with Montenegro on Tuesday night.

Hodgson, the master of lowering expectations, was at it again in Podgorica.

There are people who claim that an away draw at international level should never be grumbled at, and of course, they have a point, but Hodgson’s reaction to a stalemate against a team with a national population of just over 600,000 was irritating at best, baffling at worst.

Roy Hodgson

Of course, Hodgson has previous for these sound bites that reveal an exasperating inferiority complex; regardless of what team he is managing.

After seeing his Liverpool side enter their most turgid performance of testing campaign in their 2-0 defeat to fierce local rivals Everton in October 2010, Hodgson did not quite see the fuss being made from the Anfield faithful:

“I watched the performance and the second half was as good as I saw a Liverpool team play under my management that is for sure,” opined Hodgson, to the incredulity of all who follow the five-time European Cup winners.

Hodgson had earlier that campaign gave an almost comical response to a question put to him after a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City.

Asked if his techniques still worked in the Premier League in 2010, Hodgson fumed: “What do you mean do my methods translate? They have translated from Halmstads to Malmo, to Orebo to Neuchatel Xamax, to the Swiss national team, so I find the question insulting.”

Neuchatel Xamax, Orebo and Halmstads? To use such sides as a reference point to defend his managerial record was beyond belief to many who sat at the Etihad Stadium, watching Roberto Mancini’s side dismantle the Reds.

Hodgson has also flourished with this kind of Basil Fawlty-esque take on media handling in the role of national manager, particularly when criticising Wayne Rooney immediately after a quarter-final penalty shootout exit at the hands of Italy at Euro 2012.

Asked if the Manchester United striker was struggling for fitness after missing the first two Group games through suspension, the former Fulham boss dismissed such suggestions and claimed that Rooney simply was playing far below his level.

“In the first game against Ukraine he didn’t show any particular signs of lacking fitness. He played 120 minutes [against Italy].

“What you might be saying is that you are a bit disappointed with his performance and maybe thought he could have played better. He didn’t have his best game – I’m sure he will admit that. That could be down to a number of factors but I don’t think the fitness itself was a particular factor.”

Roy Hodgson

A masterclass in how to alienate your best player, minutes after a demoralising exit from a tournament that dominated two years of his international career.

The truth is, Hodgson had already worked his special brand of expectation-lowering before he had even picked a first XI for the Three Lions. Pipping red-hot favourite Harry Redknapp to the role of manager back in April 2012, many fans and pundits alike accepted that the forthcoming European Championships would be a write-off – a chance for Roy to experiment and blood some youngsters into the senior fold for experience, that may serve them well for future tournaments.

It was a majestic way of disarming a perpetually over-exuberant fanbase before a major tournament. Had Redknapp, who was forging a reputation as the darling of English football at the time, taken over as England chief, the nation would have been awash with optimism heading into the tournament, as the-then Tottenham Hotspur manager was riding high at White Hart Lane.

Of course, expectation levels would have risen unrealistically high, but would that have been any worse than accepting that a team comprised of players playing for some of the biggest teams in the Premier League every week will fail miserably?

We suspect that the truth is, Redknapp was not offered the job at Wembley due to the reported £10m compensation package that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wanted for the services of the-now Queens Park Rangers boss.

Hodgson was even playing down his chances before he first sat in front of the press as national manager.

“I would rather hope that, if I was ever going to be offered the England job, it would be with the backing of the important people. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very difficult job for anyone who takes it.”

“A difficult job” indeed, one that he is not making any easier for himself or his team.

Jack Wilshere: A victim of Arsenal mismanagement or just bad luck?

Jack Wilshere is injured again. And with that news, Arsenal fans everywhere hold their breath. Because hindsight says that a Wilshere injury is rarely as simple as the headline diagnosis. Arsene Wenger says “inflamed ankle”. He mentions three or four weeks. But with each fresh setback, and each extended absence, fans of both the Gunners and the England national team must start to wonder if we will ever see a fully-fit, consistently-played Jack Wilshere.

This isn’t an article intended to rile, or a headline eying a thousand clicks. It is one person wondering out loud what goes through the head of many when we hear “Wilshere” and “injured” in the same sentence.

Jack Wilshere

Arsenal fans may tell me I am overreacting. They may say I know nothing about the game or the boy who is now a man. But I do know he is exceptionally talented. He shows it in every game he plays, from being the only player who refused to give up against Bradford City in this season’s League Cup, to his man-of-the-match performance against Brazil in February. And perhaps most notably as a 19-year-old against Barcelona, his stats only bettered by Xavi and Iniesta, his performance on a par with those talked of as the very best.

His showings this season have suggested he is making up for lost time. After 14 months out with a persistent ankle and latterly knee problem, he was the player to pin hopes on, whether your allegiance was red or white. And if it was neither, you probably wondered what all the fuss was about…until you watched him play.

To blame mismanagement for an injury would be wrong. An injury is a chance occurrence. And yet, Wilshere could have been managed better. There is no doubt of that.

He could have been part of a team rather than its fulcrum. This season especially, after so long out, he could have played less. He wouldn’t have liked it. But his body may have said otherwise.

Having made 49 appearances in his breakthrough season there is a call, however easily dismissed, that he has played too much too young. As combative as he is, as box-to-box, with such a style comes risk.

The best managers, those hailed as knowing how to handle youth – they rarely throw a teenager in at the deep-end; not for the whole race. They give them experience, they manage them, and with it comes years of rewards.

Jack Wilshere has everything to be a true great. Perhaps most importantly, he has time.

In a sport where the here-and-now is crucial, where the next result is more important than the next five years, it is no surprise that Wilshere is overplayed.

But he is only 21. And his body is telling him something. Surely it is better to listen now, if we want any chance of replacing something that happened nearly 50 years ago with something that happens in our lifetime.

Pirlo’s poise exposes ordinary England

England were eliminated from Euro 2012 by Italy on Sunday night, with the Azzurri rightful winners. Despite a one-sided game it took penalties kicks to confirm Italian progression, with Ashley Young and Ashley Cole off-target.

One player stood out above the rest in the form of Andrea Pirlo. The veteran is certainly one of the best deep-lying playmakers in world football, and his ability on the ball, range of passing and ability to keep his side in possession shone through.

Pirlo’s poise on the ball was in contrast to the dogged but wasteful Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker, and shows the technical gulf between English football and some of their European rivals. The Three Lions simply did not have a midfield general to run the show this summer, which is unlike all other nations – Schweinsteiger, Xavi, Moutinho etc have shown the importance of this at Euro 2012.

And then, there was this…..

Masterful Andrea Pirlo, take a bow

England vs Italy, Spain vs France and the Euro 2012 quarter-finals

All 16 teams in Euro 2012 have now played their three group games, and as such half have progressed to the knockout rounds, whilst the other half have departed for home. The quarter-finals line-up has produced four interesting ties, with the room for error now miniscule. Betfair Euro Cup 2012 odds point towards the likes of Germany and Spain progressing towards the final, but there has been a number of shocks in the competition already. Here is a breakdown of the next round of Euro 2012 fixtures.

Czech Republic vs Portugal

Michal Bilek’s Czech Republic side topped Group A unexpectedly, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that they were thumped 4-1 by Russia in their competition opener; wins over Greece and Poland sees the eastern Europeans through to the last eight. Keyman Tomas Rosicky is carrying an injury and as such is a doubt for Thursday’s game, whilst the likes of Vaclav Pilar and Petr Jiracek have stepped up to score goals for the side.

Portugal also were beaten in their first game, but came back to finish as runners-up in Group B after wins over Denmark and Netherlands. Paulo Bento’s men rely heavily on skipper Cristiano Ronaldo, who bagged a brace in the 2-1 victory over Netherlands last time out, after initial mediocre form in the tournament. The Real Madrid superstar’s form will be critical in ascertaining just how far the Iberian nation can go in Ukraine and Poland.

Prediction – Czech Republic 0 Portugal 2

Germany vs Greece

One of the tournament favourites, Germany have lived up to their highly-fancied billing with three wins out of three games to top Group B. Joachim Low’s men have a blend of experience and youth, and have strength in every position – currently the team to beat in the competition.

Greece have shown extraordinary determination to overcome the odds this time round, and have a never-say-die attitude that Germany will find difficult to break down. A 1-0 win over Russia in their last game confirmed the side as Group A runners-up at their opponents’ expense.

Prediction – Germany 1 Greece 0

Spain vs France

Spain have not been their imperious selves in the tournament to date, but glimpses of brilliance show that the holders will still take some beating this summer. A last-gasp win over Croatia ensured that Vicente del Bosque’s men topped Group C, but they will now face a step up in the quality of opponent.

France were looking in line to top Group D, but an unexpected 2-0 defeat to Sweden in their last game ended a 23-match unbeaten streak and resulted in a runners-up finish. Laurent Blanc’s men have the players to cause an upset, but must be at their very best to stand a chance against the world champions.

Prediction – Spain 1 France 1 – Spain to win on penalties

England vs Italy

Arguably the most even and interesting of the four fixtures. England topped Group D with two wins and a draw, with a solitary Wayne Rooney strike ensuring a 1-0 win over Ukraine in their last pool game. Roy Hodgson’s men have been uninspiring, but will hope a dogged performance can send them through to the semis.

Italy are unbeaten in the tournament after two draws and a win saw the Azzurri finish second in Group C. Cesare Prandelli has played both 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 in the tournament, and must get his tactics and team selection right if his side are to progress past the Three Lions.

Prediction – England 2 Italy 1

England overlooked XI: How well would this bunch do at Euro 2012?

England put in a gutsy and relatively composed performance against France in their Euro 2012 opening fixture, with Roy Hodgson’s men recording a 1-1 draw against Les Bleus in their first game in Group D. Despite this, some of the new manager’s squad selections have been queried; here is an alternate England XI that was overlooked.

GK – Ben Foster – Opted to retire from international football due to past disappointments, the Birmingham man proved a consistent performer for West Brom last term.
LB – Kieran Gibbs – Potential in spades, Gibbs is one of Arsene Wenger’s youth projects and could well play a role in the national set-up after Ashley Cole’s days are done.

RB – Micah Richards – Despite being an important player at the Etihad Stadium, Richards seems to have done something to annoy the powers that be at the FA.

CB – Rio Ferdinand – Omitted for ‘football reasons’, Ferdinand apparently was too good to call up after Gary Cahill’s injury. Hmmm

CB – Ledley King – In this fantasy team lets pretend King is fully fit and functioning. Rolls Royce of a football player.

LW – Adam Johnson – A victim of Roberto Mancini’s star-studded squad, the former Middlesbrough winger has the ability to deliver if he is in the mood.

RW – Aaron Lennon – One of the surprise omissions, Lennon’s blistering pace and penetration is vital at White Hart Lane, and could have been for the Three Lions too.

CM – Paul Scholes – Mercurial, masterful, magic but getting old, Paul Scholes is one of the best players to play in the Premier League over the last 10 years. Fact.

CM – Michael Carrick – Has been overlooked once more even though he starts most weeks for Manchester United. In England’s little black book alongside Richards.

ST – Grant Holt – The Norwich targetman proved a right handful for Premier League defences in 2011-12, and he netted 15 goals. The Italians or Spanish in the knockout stages wouldn’t have enjoyed encountering him for the first time.

ST – Daniel Sturridge – Was an important player for Chelsea under AVB, but lost his way in the second half of 2011-12; still a talented player and one for the future for England.

Ferdinand’s leadership, Richards’ physicality, Scholes’ guile, Lennon’s pace, Carrick’s passing range and Holt’s bullying tactics; I think this team would have done ok……

England squad for Euro 2012: Hodgson makes his mark

When Roy Hodgson was named England manager many pundits commented that he was a conservative manager, who would play it safe in his squad selections. His 23-man squad for Euro 2012 has blown this theory out of the water though, with some big decisions made and a couple of surprise selections.

Goalkeepers
The selections of Joe Hart and Robert Green are no surprise. Hart has firmly established himself as one of the best and most confident keepers in Europe, whilst Green has had another consistent season at West Ham and is a very able back-up. The inclusion of John Ruddy, ahead of Scott Carson and David Stockdale, has come as a surprise though. Loaned out by Everton to nine clubs, he has finally found a home at Norwich City and has come into his own.

Defenders

A number of the defenders picked themselves. At right-back Glen Johnson has been a regular member of the squad for a number of years, whilst Hodgson is also blessed with two fantastic left-backs in Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines. Gary Cahill has earned his place with solid performances over the last year for club and country while Joleon Lescott has been one of the unsung heroes in Manchester City’s title winning campaign. Phil Jones has had an up-and-down season for Manchester United, but continues to show great promise and also has the versatility to play at right-back as well as centre-back.

The major talking point though has been the inclusion of John Terry and the omission of Rio Ferdinand. The Manchester United man has only made one England appearance in the last year and his form and constant fitness issues have clearly had a major impact on what Hodgson describes as a “footballing decision”. Many people will also wonder whether having Terry in the squad will cause problems in the dressing room. The fact is though, Terry has performed better than Ferdinand this season and if it was a straight choice between the two, Terry was always going to be the winner – Hodgson has made the correct choice.

Midfielders

In midfield Hodgson has gone for a blend of youth and experience. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have the drive to lead from midfield  and also are consistent performers for their clubs. With being named captain as well, the Anfield talisman can provide great inspiration and leadership as he does for Liverpool. Gareth Barry and Scott Parker will provide a solid base for the midfield whilst James Milner can play any of the four midfield positions and even right back if need be.

Theo Walcott has improved considerably for Arsenal in the second half of this season both in front of goal and in terms of his composure with his final pass or cross. Ashley Young has had a good first season with Manchester United and his willingness to run at his opponent and his excellent set piece delivery made him an easy selection.

Stewart Downing however is a baffling selection. Whilst he is the only natural left-footed winger in the squad, his record of no Premier League goals or assists all season is a major cause for concern. Another shock inclusion is Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but it would be unfair to compare this selection to that of Walcott for the 2006 World Cup. Chamberlain has proven his ability in the Champions League this season, and his performance in the centre of midfield against AC Milan at home was hugely impressive.

Forwards

Of the forwards, Wayne Rooney is an easy choice despite the fact he misses the first two games. Danny Welbeck has impressed in partnership with Rooney this season and is skilful, quick and has shown absolutely no fear of any centre-back pairing. Jermain Defoe remains one of the most natural goalscorers in the country and with Darren Bent unfit he had to be in the squad. The shock choice in the attackers is Andy Carroll. Despite impressive performances in the final few games, Carroll only scored six goals in his first 40 games of this season and despite three in his last seven he needs too many chances to score a goal and you do not get these at international level.

Notable omissions

Apart from the obvious omission of Rio Ferdinand there are a few other players who will feel they are unfortunate to miss out. Micah Richards has been very consistent this season and a big part of Manchester City’s success. Michael Carrick has been impressive in the second half of the season and England may well miss his range of passing and ability to control the pace of the game. Aaron Lennon and Daniel Sturridge will feel unfortunate to lose out to Stewart Downing as both have provided more goals, assists and better performances than the Liverpool man. Paul Scholes meanwhile was thought to be interested in coming out of international retirement, but the 37-year-old was not deemed worthy of a place.

By Chris Newman

England vs France: The key battles in this Euro 2012 grudge-match

England have been drawn against old enemies France in Group D of Euro 2012, and the clash on June 11th will have a major bearing on each side’s chances of progression in the tournament. With a month to go before the nations do battle the Three Lions are slight favourites, but it should be a close encounter. With Sweden and Ukraine in the pool also, both teams will look to get an early advantage in the competition.

With the domestic campaigns drawing to a close in the Premier League and Ligue 1, Laurent Blanc and Roy Hodgson will have their squads for the tournament all but decided, with a few decisions potentially still to be made. Les Bleus coach has named a strong looking provisional squad, with a raft of English-based players included, whilst the West Brom man has revealed that he will name his contingent on Wednesday.

Despite the full tournament squads yet to be announced, the main players for both sides are known and will play a key role in deciding the outcome of the encounter. France have a good blend of young talent and experienced heads, and their strength lies in central midfield and in a couple of talented individual attackers. The battle for possession in the centre of the park will be a key element to deciding the outcome, with Blanc able to choose from Yohan Cabaye, Yann M’Vila, Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano in the heart of his midfield. Scott Parker will have a role to play in breaking up the French passing game, whilst the likes of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard will look to mix it with their opponents.

French matchwinners include skilful wingers Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa, whilst the goalt-hreat will be provided by Karim Benzema. England’s full-backs must monitor the widemen carefully, with a big responsibility falling on Kyle Walker, Micah Richards or Glen Johnson’s shoulders to shackle Bayern Munich superstar Ribery. The centre of the English defence will also be wary of giving Benzema space, as the Real Madrid man is one of Europe’s form strikers currently.

Going the other way, new boss Hodgson will be without his talismanic forward Wayne Rooney due to suspension, and has key decisions to make in attack. With Darren Bent still on the sidelines with injury and on the borderline of missing out, no other centre forwards shout out as sure things. Hodgson will consider the likes of Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe, Andy Carroll and maybe even Peter Crouch to lead his line, but the English attack will be limited due to Rooney’s absence.

The eventual England squad should have pace to burn however, with widemen Ashley Young, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon all with the necessary speed to harry the French defenders. There is also a case for Paul Scholes’ inclusion to add a bit of creativity to the side, but Hodgson will look to his wingers to provide the necessary penetration.

The game is sure to full of natural pride and passion, but England must compete with the technical abilities of the France side to get a result. The odd goal may well decide this game, but it should be an exciting and enthralling match.

Published – Ghana Soccernet

Manchester City, Newcastle and the biggest Premier League winners of 2011-12

A fantastic last day of the season capped off one of the most memorable Premier League seasons in the recent memory. 2011/12 has had it all; a topsy-turvy title race that literally went down to the wire, a bitter battle for the top four, heroics in the Champions League and a breathtaking relegation battle. Now that the dust has settled, here are Ninety Minutes Online’s top five winners of 2011/12.

Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City mindgames

An incredible title race has been consisted of champions and perennial favourites Manchester United being confronted by cross-town rivals Manchester City, with the noisy neighbours claiming victory on a captivating last day. The Etihad Stadium outfit looks almost unstoppable at the start of the season, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men struggling to keep up at times, before the Red Devils recaptured the advantage and found themselves eight points clear at the summit. After a derby victory for City, the battle went down to the last day, with two goals in stoppage time by Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero against QPR unbelievably giving the Citizens their first top-flight title since 1968.

Ferguson is usually the king of managerial mindgames, but on this occasion the imperious Italian has seemingly got into the United players’ thoughts, and City provide worthy winners of the 2011/12 Premier League.

Alan Pardew and his Newcastle team

Despite missing out on the top four with a last-day defeat by Everton, Newcastle have been exceptional under Alan Pardew this season, and have defied the odds to be in the race for Champions League qualification. The likes of Cheik Tiote, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye have proved to be astute signings, whilst the January acquisition of Papiss Cisse has resulted in a new number nine hero for the Tyneside club.

Pardew and his side must be given credit for finishing above the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool this season and providing some exceptional football at times.

Newly-promoted sides

Norwich, Swansea and QPR faced an uphill battle to stay in the Premier League this season, and many prophesised a speedy return to the Championship for the trio. However, all three sides have proved that they are good enough to cut it in the top-tier, and will look to push on next term. Swansea have been one of the teams of the season, and an 11th place finish, with a stylish brand of football to boot, is an exceptional achievement. Norwich, led by talisman Grant Holt, were not far behind in 12th and also claimed some scalps this term.

Meanwhile, although QPR escaped the drop on the last day, the Loftus Road club have beaten Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool to show their worth. All three will provide motivation to Southampton, Reading and either West Ham or Blackpool for next season.

Roy Hodgson

With Fabio Capello’s decision to walk away from the England manager’s post, a media frenzy has brewed over who the man to lead the Three Lions to Euro 2012 would be. With Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp the frontrunner and favourite, the press had us believing that it would be a matter of when and not if the White Hart Lane supremo took charge.

However, Roy Hodgson’s excellent achievement of lifting West Brom to 10th in the table has been recognised, and the Hawthorns man will now lead England to Ukraine and Poland.

Football

Football has been a massive winner this term, as the 2011/12 Premier League season has been the most competitive, spell-bounding and enthralling campaign for many a year. Whether it was the race for the title, five teams slugging it out to stay in the division, the heroics of the new boys or the quality of the sides in the top six, 2011/12 will take some beating next season.

Honourable Mentions

  • Roberto Di Matteo – The Italian has completely rejuvenated Chelsea since taking over from Andre Villas Boas, and after winning the FA Cup is 90 minutes away from lifting the Champions League crown.
  • Paul Scholes – The ageing veteran came out of retirement to show that he still has what it takes to compete at the top level despite his age. Rumours are circulating that Roy Hodgson will take Scholes to Euro 2012.
  • Arsene Wenger – Many had lost faith in the French manager at the start of the campaign when the Gunners lost four of their first seven games, but Wenger has led the club to a third-placed finish despite the criticism.
  • The FA Cup – With the emergence of the Champions League, over recent seasons the FA Cup has had to take a back seat, but some enthralling games between the nation’s best teams have been a joy to watch this season.
  • David Moyes – The Scottish coach continues to overachieve despite a shoestring transfer budget at Goodison Park, and leading the Toffees to seventh place is an excellent return.

Published – Soccerlens

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