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Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United: Why have you not made a move for Nuri Sahin?

With the 2012-13 Premier League season less than a week away, the top six have strengthened their squads ahead of the new campaign. However, a number of the biggest sides, such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, still remain in the market for a creative central midfielder. Given the fact that Nuri Sahin is openly available, why have one of these teams not snapped him up?

The Turkey international moved to the Santiago Bernabeu last summer after a spectacular 2010-11 season in leading Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title. However, injuries and extreme competition in the centre of midfield in the Spanish capital have seen the talented 23-year-old only make a handful of appearances for Los Blancos to date.

Jose Mourinho has Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Kaka, Lassana Diarra and Esteban Granero fighting for a berth in the engine room, and continues to covet Luka Modric. Due to the dearth of talent the Portuguese trainer has admitted that he will not stand in Sahin’s way should an alternative offer of employment arrive.

The old adage that form is temporary whilst class is permanent remains true in this case. A year ago Sahin was one of the hottest transfer prospects in the European game and the star of a young Dortmund team that had dazzled in a scintillating domestic campaign. He was awarded the Bundesliga Player of the Year award for his guile, eye for a killer pass and energy around the park. These characteristics may have been out of the limelight but are still present.

At the time of writing Tottenham look destined to lose a wantaway Modric to Madrid; Spurs could take Sahin at an excellent price as a ready-made replacement, as the Spaniards struggle to meet the north London club’s exuberant financial demands.

Manchester United have missed out on Paris Saint-Germain-bound Lucas Moura and still cry out for a new deep-lying playmaker to take over the mantle from the evergreen Paul Scholes. Surely Sahin, who was linked with a move to Old Trafford 12 months ago, would fit the bill?

Finally, Brendan Rodgers is eager to instill a footballing ethos at Anfield; a midfield arsenal of Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Sahin would surely be one to rival any of the other top teams.

Sahin is currently being scouted by AC Milan, and is thought to be available on loan. Mourinho has admitted that he will not block a permanent move that offers the playmaker regular first-team football; so what’s the hold up?

Published – Bleacher Report

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Is Gylfi Sigurdsson the man to replace Luka Modric at Tottenham?

The protracted summer transfer saga surrounding Luka Modric has rumbled on, as Tottenham and Real Madrid continue negotiations over a possible switch to the Santiago Bernabeu for the Croatian playmaker. Despite a difference in valuation currently, with Modric eager to leave White Hart Lane a deal could well be completed ahead of the 2012-13 campaign.

One of Andre Villas-Boas’ new signings this summer has been Icelandic attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. With Modric looking like he is ready to leave north London, is Sigurdsson the man to replace the mercurial maestro?

Yes

Villas-Boas is likely to play three central midfielders in his new-look Spurs side, with Scott Parker and Sandro more than likely winning the other two positions in the engine room. With two enforcers alongside him, Sigurdsson would be responsible for directing Spurs’ attacking play and getting forward as a goal threat.

Although the new man does not have the same poise as his predecessor, Sigurdsson has a number of attributes that will give him the support of the White Hart Lane faithful.

The Scandinavian proved his eye for goal last season in his loan spell at Swansea, and should provide an outlet for goals from midfield, taking pressure slightly off the attackers. Sigurdsson’s dead-ball delivery is also exemplary, and will give Tottenham an added threat from free-kicks and corners. Also, Sigurdsson’s movement and willingness to get forward will certainly add a different dimension to the north London club’s attacking play.

No

Although Sigurdsson is a positive addition to Tottenham’s squad ahead of the new season, there is no doubting that his and Modric’s style of play is different. Should the diminutive eastern European leave the club, Spurs will lose an impressive array of passing, the ability to control the pace and tempo of the game and a creativity as good as any in the world game.

Sigurdsson is more dynamic and forward-thinking than Modric certainly, but Spurs will miss an orchestrator that can run the game from deep-lying positions. They will lose a player able to deliver a killer through-ball or who can put their foot on the ball and take control even under pressure.

Conclusion

Gylfi Sigurdsson is set to play an important role for Tottenham in 2012-13, and his summer signing has been an exciting and positive one by Villas-Boas. However, despite his considerable abilities, one feels that Spurs must delve into the transfer market once more to bring in a deep-lying playmaker like Joao Moutinho to minimise the loss of a player of Modric’s standard.

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Published – Bleacher Report

Tottenham facing life without Modric: Who can they sign as his replacement?

With Harry Redknapp’s dismissal at Tottenham and Andre Villas Boas’ appointment, it is expected to be a busy summer in the transfer market for the White Hart Lane club. After painstakingly missing out on Champions League qualification due to Chelsea winning the tournament last term, despite finishing fourth, star playmaker Luka Modric is widely expected to leave north London for pastures new. A new creative spark will be needed in Spurs’ central midfield for the side to challenge for the top four next season if the Croatian leaves, but who will Villas Boas select as Modric’s replacement?

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Villas Boas’ first signing comes in the form of Icelandic attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who has put pen-to-paper on a switch from Hoffenheim. The Scandinavian impressed on loan at Swansea during the second-half of last season, and certainly looks to have the potential to replace Modric. Seven goals in 18 appearances for the Liberty Stadium outfit is an excellent return for a midfielder, whilst Sigurdsson has shown superb quality with the ball at his feet and from set pieces. A strong addition to the Spurs squad, but Villas Boas may well look to add another creative player this summer.

Joao Moutinho

Part of the Portugal side that made the Euro 2012 semifinals, Moutinho’s stock certainly rose in Ukraine and Poland. The diminutive midfielder showed excellent battling qualities alongside Miguel Veloso for the Iberian nation, and was a key creator of chances for the side. With Villas Boas having coached Moutinho at Porto, there is a good chance he will return to his old stomping ground for reinforcements.

Nuri Sahin

The Turkey international is another name been linked with a switch to White Hart Lane, after a poor debut season at Real Madrid in 2011-12. Sahin was the Bundesliga player of the season in 2010-11 and a key member of the title-winning Borussia Dortmund side, but has found opportunities limited at the Santiago Bernabeu. Tricky, sure on the ball, intelligent and with Madrid one of the interested parties in Modric, Sahin could find himself on his way to England.

Ganso

This Brazilian playmaker has been on leading European clubs’ radars for the last number of seasons, and rightly so. Ganso has impressed for Santos both in the Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores, inspiring the Vila Belmiro side to glory in 2011. A feature for the Brazil national side also for the last 12 months, Santos have recently admitted that they will part with their star midfielder if a sufficient offer arrives. Spurs have been linked with him in the past, and could well revisit if Modric leaves.

Oscar

Another Brazilian wonderkid, the Internacional man is not as well-known as Ganso, but certainly a talent. Oscar has recently been named in the Brazil squad for the Olympics and the player himself has admitted that Spurs have been in touch. At 20-years old the schemer would be an investment for the future, and if he gets a few outings at the London Games any work permit issues will be eradicated.

Moussa Dembele

Looking closer to home, this Fulham star has grown in stature over the last 12 months and as such is now being touted with a move to one of England’s top six. Dembele as shown versatility to play either in the centre of midfield or further forward as a second striker, but looks more adept in the engine room. Part of a talented generation of Belgian players coming through the ranks, Dembele’s range of passing and eye for a through-ball could be appreciated at White Hart Lane.

Adam Maher

Certainly an outside bet, however 18-year-old Maher has potential in droves. The AZ Alkmaar man has starred for the Eredivisie side over the last 12 months, showing great pace, skill and energy, and was recently voted Holland’s Young Player of the Year. Part of the provisional Netherlands squad for Euro 2012, the teenager has already made his international debut and has a bright future ahead of him. Despite this, Villas Boas may well opt for someone more experienced.

Published – Bleacher Report

Manchester United and Tottenham take note: Joao Moutinho is the man to transform your midfields

As with any international tournament, a raft of players impressed at Euro 2012 and are now subject to transfer attention. One such man is Portugal’s Joao Moutinho, who starred in the Iberian nation’s progression to the semi-finals in Ukraine and Poland. Both Manchester United and Tottenham have been credited with an interest, with a wrangle for the playmaker’s signature looking likely this summer.

Why United need Moutinho

Sir Alex Ferguson has been in the market for a new innovative midfield general for a number of years now as a potential long-term replacement for the evergreen Paul Scholes. Despite the veteran agreeing to play for another year, surely now must be the time to sign his successor whilst Scholes is still present.

With Luka Modric too expensive, Lucas Moura too raw and interest in Wesley Sneijder cooled off, Moutinho looks like an excellent option. The Porto man will have been on most big European clubs’ radars for some time, but his quality was certainly evident and reconfirmed this summer. The ex-Sporting Lisbon man showed a tenacity and work-rate for his country that will have appealed to Red Devils fans, whilst also more often than not being the creator for Cristiano Ronaldo’s chances and goals.

At 25-years-old Moutinho is ready for the step up, and a gradual introduction to the United first-team with Scholes in attendance to guide him seems sensible.

Why Tottenham need Moutinho

It will certainly be a busy summer for Tottenham, with new faces and player sales expected. The exit of Harry Redknapp has led to Andre Villas Boas’ appointment, and Icelandic attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson has been added to the squad already also.

However, this summer may finally be the time that Spurs fans have to say goodbye to main man Luka Modric. With the north London outfit missing out on Champions League football for a second consecutive season the Croatian star looks likely to leave, with Real Madrid ready to pounce.

Modric’s exit would leave a sizeable creative hole in the centre of the park, with Moutinho the perfect player to fill it. The Portuguese midfielder’s qualities and stature are similar to that of the man he would be replacing, even if Modric does have a slight creative edge. However, if Villas Boas can convince his former Porto charge to swap the Estadio do Dragao for White Hart Lane, the blow of Modric’s departure would certainly be lessened.

At a more affordable price than equivalent players on the market, Sir Alex taking an interest and the Villas Boas link, the battle for Moutinho’s signature this summer could be an interesting one.

Tottenham’s Future: The usual 4-4-2 or an attacking 4-5-1?

Harry Redknapp has recently tweaked his tactics slightly to incorporate an extra defensive midfielder in his line-up against fellow top four contenders. Instead of the usual 4-4-2 system, an extra combative midfielder has been installed to change the format to a 4-5-1, that turns to a 4-3-3 when Spurs are on the attack. This I feel has added extra balance to the side, but it will be interesting to see if Redknapp continues this approach against Swansea at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

This change in tactics and personnel have changed the roles of a number of players. The old 4-4-2 system saw Scott Parker and Luka Modric in the centre of the park, two wingers and two strikers. Against the better teams Tottenham started to get over-run, with Parker’s workload at times unmanageable. However, with either Sandro or Jake Livermore both more than adept at fitting into a three-man central midfield, it makes Tottenham a more difficult team to break down. Additionally, the idea is that with two battlers in front of the backline will hopefully free Modric to get forward a bit more and free the creative player slightly of defensive duties.

Moving forward, Emmanuel Adebayor’s position of frontman does not change, but Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon once he is fit will have to alter their roles slightly. With a three-man central midfield a side can become vulnerable on the flanks, so former left-back Bale and Van der Vaart or Lennon on the right will have to help out their respective full backs. The Dutch forward has previously indicated that he is not keen to play wide and wants to play centrally, but this system may suit both him and the team if he is willing to track back when needed; he did this well against Chelsea.

Finally, the main losers out of the change in tactics however are Jermain Defoe and Louis Saha. With Bale and Van der Vaart certainties to play when fit, there is space for only one out-and-out striker, which for the time being will be Adebayor. An extra midfielder cuts down the second forward’s time on the pitch, with Defoe in particular sure to be frustrated with lack of opportunities.

There is a case for Spurs continuing their three-man central midfield against Swansea, as the Welsh side are fearless away from home and have shown sleek passing this season. Sandro and Scott Parker together would cut down space for the likes Gylfi Sigurdsson and Joe Allan, but with Tottenham in desperate need for three points Redknapp will be tempted to go back to 4-4-2 and play Saha instead.

Published – Bleacher Report

Five playmakers Manchester United should target as Paul Scholes’ replacement

Paul Scholes took the option to retire at the end of last season, but Manchester United missed the playmaker’s creativity and guile so much that the 37-year-old came out of retirement to aid the Red Devils in their title charge.

Sir Alex Ferguson chased Wesley Sneijder as a potential replacement last summer, but with the Dutchman out of form and sure to be an expensive option, here are five alternatives that the Scottish manager has witnessed first hand, and who will be in his thoughts once the transfer window reopens.

Eden Hazard

By now, the talent and ability of the Belgium international is evident for all to see, and Hazard is one of the hottest prospects in European football. The 21-year-old’s attacking abilities helped Lille to the Ligue 1 Championship last term, and he has matured with the chance to play Champions League football this campaign.

With Hazard already admitting that he will leave the Stade Lille-Metropole this summer, suitors such as Manchester City, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Tottenham are all in the hunt for the starlet, but Sir Alex has also made it across the channel to watch him in action.

 

Iker Muniain

Given Athletic Bilbao’s excellent performances over two legs to dump United out of the Europa League, the English champions are more than aware of this Spanish prodigy’s talent.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men have evolved into an excellent side this season, with the 19-year-old schemer catching the eye in the process. With the ability to be the future of Spain’s creative midfield once the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta retire, the bigger boys of European football are sure to be circling San Mames in the near future.

Christian Eriksen

A product of the fabled Ajax youth academy, Eriksen has technical ability and poise in possession in spades. The 20-year-old has won the Eredivisie, experienced Champions League football and also faced United this term in the Europa League.

As one of Denmark’s shining lights, Eriksen will be given a chance to star at Euro 2012 this summer, which may make it difficult for the Amsterdam Arena outfit to hold onto their superstar.

Nicolas Gaitan

Benfica’s exciting attacking midfielder has been linked with a move to Old Trafford since he proved a thorn in the English team’s side in the Champions League earlier this term.

The Argentine has skill and pace in bundles, but whether he has the passing range and guile of some of the other candidates remains to be seen. Sir Alex may still try to sign the South American, but as more of a winger or second striker.

 

Luka Modric

The Tottenham talisman is the life and soul of a much-applauded Spurs side; the Croatian is also the White Hart Lane club’s most prized possession. Another excellent season under his belt, Modric will more than likely be the subject of attention this summer.

Spurs fought off advances from Chelsea a year ago, rejecting a £40 million offer, but the eastern European playmaker’s future depends on where Tottenham finish in the Premier League this term. The most expensive of the five options but arguably the most gifted, Sir Alex budget will play a part in any potential move for Modric.

Honourable mentions must also go to Adam Mayer of AZ and Younes Belhanda of Montpellier. The duo have been pivotal in their team’s current campaigns, with the underdog sides both fighting for their respective titles. The pair may be a bit inexperienced to step straight into the United first team, but have the potential to make a move to the Premier League this summer.

Published – Bleacher Report

The balance of power has shifted between Tottenham and Arsenal

Tottenham’s rise to prominence has been a gradual process, with the white side of north London steadily evolving into a team that can challenge for top four inclusion. However this season, like no other in the club’s recent past, Spurs have looked like a real contender for honours. Meanwhile, Arsenal, who have seemingly been perennial challengers for the Premier League title since Arsene Wenger took over at the club back in 1996, have looked their most vulnerable in years. With the status quo in north London set to be turned on its head, The Gunners may well have to accept that their local rivals are now the dominant force between the two.

Arsenal have had a terrible last ten days, with capitulation in Italy all but ensuring their elimination from the Champions League. Despite the extent of the 4-0 defeat to AC Milan, the most disappointing thing for the club’s supporters was the lack of passion, determination or fight put up by the English side; the days of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit are seemingly long gone. Add to this a 2-0 loss at the Stadium of Light against Sunderland to facilitate an FA Cup exit and there is a gloom hanging over the Emirates Stadium. Bad luck comes in threes, and Tottenham are eager to put the final nail in their adversary’s coffin and compound their misery further come Sunday by denting their rivals’ top four ambitions.

Spurs meanwhile have recovered from their last-gasp defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium a couple of weeks ago, and a comprehensive 5-0 win over Newcastle shows that the White Hart Lane outfit are still confident and flying high. Harry Redknapp has been heavily linked with the vacant England job, but with the seasoned manager appearing reluctant to leave the club before the end of the campaign, the side’s progress and plans should stay on track. Injuries may however improve Arsenal’s chances at the Emirates Stadium, as Rafael van der Vaart, Emmanuel Adebayor, Luka Modric and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are all battling to overcome knocks to play at the weekend.

Pressure is starting to mount on Arsene Wenger, as the north London tide is turning. Football has no room for sentimentality, and despite the French coach’s hero status at the Emirates Stadium, question marks are being asked over his future. With The Gunners in no way guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League, losing twice to Tottenham in the process of missing out on Europe’s top club tournament may well see the end of one of the Premier League’s coaching mainstays. Add to this Robin van Persie’s reluctance to sign a new contract, and this north London derby has the ability to massively impact Arsenal’s immediate future in a positive or negative way.

Published – The Oval Log

Frustration in the transfer market for Tottenham, as there is still no new striker at White Hart Lane

Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy have not made secret their wishes to bring a centre forward to White Hart Lane this summer, but with no arrival of a new number nine, time is working against Tottenham. With transfer attempts for a number of forwards crashing on the rocks, and a list of targets not interested due to the lack of Champions League football, who will be starting up front for Spurs against Everton come the Premier League opening day on August 13th?

Much was made of the side’s inability to beat some of the lesser teams towards the end of last season, with disappointing results in the last third of the campaign meaning no top four finish. Peter Crouch was effective in Europe but struggled domestically, whilst Jermain Defoe had what he calls the worst season of his career. With Roman Pavlyuchenko not clinical enough when it mattered and Robbie Keane low on confidence and fitness, all four have been linked with a summer departure.

As yet the only attacking arrival has been that of Souleymane Coulibaly, a 16-year-old Ivory Coast youth striker. As bright a prospect as the sprightly African is, he will need time to adapt to his new surroundings, and is not yet ready for the big stage.

Leandro Damaio looked like a player Redknapp would move for, but the Internacional and Brazil forward has decided to sign a new contract with his current employers. Giuseppe Rossi has been linked with a move, but with Barcelona and Juventus circling, and Villarreal in the Champions League, this simply is not going to happen. Espanyol have slapped a £20 million price-tag on Pablo Osvaldo, a £9 million bid for Abel Hernandez of Napoli has been rejected and Dimitar Berbatov’s return has had no clear signs of occurring.

With the effort to keep the likes of Gareth Bale and more-so Luka Modric at the club, Spurs have become distracted from the efforts in attaining a goalgetter. But who should they be targeting?

1 – Lukas Podolski – The 26-year-old has recently been stripped of the FC Koln captain’s armband, and the opportunity to play in Europe would be appealing. 42 international goals for Germany is a record that speaks for itself.

2 – Alvaro Negredo – A Spanish international with a real eye for goal, the former Real Madrid youth player is the main man at Sevilla. With the Andalusians rumoured to be interested in Giovani Dos Santos, a player-plus-cash deal could tempt the 25-year-old to England.

3 – Antonio Cassano – The AC Milan forward is well down the attacking pecking order at the Giuseppe Meazza and needs first team football to have a chance of playing for Italy at Euro 2012. At times has a questionable attitude, but would prosper under the adoration of Tottenham support.

With a couple of weeks and counting to the end of the transfer window, Harry Redknapp needs to assess which of the four strikers at his disposal he will keep, and which realistic targets he can bring to White Hart Lane to fire Spurs back into top four contention, but the club needs to act quickly to start the season with a bang.

Chelsea to look to McEachran in the absence of the injured Michael Essien?

Chelsea received a setback recently with the news that Michael Essien is likely to face up to six months on the sidelines with another knee injury, with rehabilitation from an operation in full swing. With the latest ailment the third of it’s kind during the Ghanian’s tenure at Stamford Bridge, it may well be wise for Andre Villas Boas to formulate a long-term midfield plan without the 28-year-old in his thoughts.

No doubt, when Essien is fit and raring to go he is one of the most dynamic and explosive players in his position in the country. Despite this, long layoffs and a drop in confidence and form mean that the ex-Lyon midfielder has a lot of work to do to rediscover his former self.

The Portuguese manager has stated that The Blues will play 4-3-3 in 2011-12, with a trio of Frank Lampard, Ramires and Essien most likely in mind. With the African not available, Jon Obi Mikel may step in and play in the middle, but what are the other  options without Essien in the team?

Much has been made of the lack of activity in the transfer window to date, but it is likely that the Chelsea faithful will see arrivals to the club before August 31st. The high profile pursuit of Luka Modric has yet to reach a conclusion, whilst AVB is thought to be keen to add Porto’s Joao Moutinho to the squad. Both, as good players as they are, are more attacking minded and would complement a midfield with Lampard and Essien, with the new man being the playmaker. Without the Accra born man, a box-to-box player is needed; someone who can win the ball as well as distribute it.

Enter Josh McEachran. The 18-year-old impressed in his fleeting first team appearances in 2010-11, and the Young Player of the Year is likely to feature in more than the nine games he appeared in last term. The England under-21 international has great vision and passing abilities, maybe not yet up to the standard of Modric or Moutinho, but the promise is there.

Ideally the Oxford born man would prefer to play in a more attacking role, looking to supply the forwards and get into the opposition box. However Carlo Ancelotti seemed to use the youngster as a replacement for Essien or Mikel last season, and he looked more than comfortable in a deeper role. With enthusiasm and energy to burn, McEacran will not be scared to go toe-to-toe with opponents on a weekly basis, and although still maturing, can read the game well, allowing him to break up opposition play.

Chelsea do need another established central midfielder at the club, and it is likely that Roman Abramovich’s money will be spent to achieve this. However expect to see Josh McEachran playing a more important role in the team in 2011-12, as his talents continue to blossom at the Cobham training grounds.

Published – http://thechelseablog.org/2011/08/01/chelsea-to-look-to-mceachran-in-the-absence-of-the-injured-michael-essien/

Football’s Great Chokes

Football is a funny old game. One minute your team looks like they have a match or a league title in the bag, the next it can escape their grasp. The term ‘choke’ is synonymous in sporting circles with people or teams that are in a commanding position but suffer a meltdown mentally, losing their composure and consequently the match or competition. With the United States choke against Panama in the Gold Cup fresh in the memory, I have decided to look at some of the famous footballing chokes over the years.

AC Milan, Champions League Final 2005
The Champions League final is the biggest stage in world club football and AC Milan and Liverpool contested the 2005 final in Istanbul, Turkey. The game was a story of two choking sides, firstly Liverpool were the team to freeze up as they were overawed by the occasion and let in a soft goal in the first minute to veteran Italian defender Paolo Maldini. From there Rafa Benitez’s team conceded two more in the first half, with Kaka the architect and Argentine striker Hernan Crespo the executioner. Half time; Liverpool 0 Milan 3, it looked like it could get embarrassing for the English side. However choking can be infectious and the Rossoneri caught the bug in the second half, as Steven Gerrard inspired his side to fight back and the Italian side capitulated under the pressure of being 45 minutes away from European glory. Goals from Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso saw the match finish 3-3, go to penalties and it was Milan’s darling Andriy Shevchenko who eventually crumbled under the pressure and missed the decisive penalty, giving Liverpool the Champions League title.

Bayern Munich, Champions League Final 1999
Manchester United and Bayern Munich contested the 1999 Champions League final in the Nou Camp, Barcelona, in what would be a prime example of the footballing choke. In an end to end match the German side started the brighter, and deservedly took the lead through a Mario Basler effort after only six minutes. United attacked well but the German side had key chances to win the game by getting the decisive second goal; firstly Mehmet Scholl hit the post and then Carsten Jancker struck the crossbar with an overhead kick. With time almost up, Die Roten started to defend and retreat, looking to protect their precious goal advantage. Enter substitutes Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. In injury time Peter Schmeichel came forward to attack a United corner, and in a me-lay in the German box Sheringham managed to convert a poor clearance and give The Reds parity. However the best was yet to come as less than thirty seconds later Solskjaer toe poked home the winner following a Sheringham headed effort. Totally capitulation and a great football choke achieved by Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team in three minutes of injury time.

Tottenham, vs Manchester United, September 2001 and April 2009
Tottenham took on English Champions Manchester United at White Hart Lane on Saturday September 29th 2001, with much anticipation around the London club. In a barnstorming first half performance by the home side, goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege gave Spurs a 3-0 lead at the break. North London was full of energy. This could be the start of something big for Glenn Hoddle’s men. Sir Alex Ferguson and United had other ideas as five second half goals from Andy Cole, Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistlerooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and David Beckham broke Spurs hearts and the game ended 5-3.

Almost eight years later and Harry Redknapp took his talented Tottenham side to Old Trafford to lock horns with The Reds, and in an attacking performance in the first half the London club found themselves 2-0 up at half time with goals from Darren Bent and Luka Modric. Redknapp will have urged his team not to solely sit back and defend, to have belief in themselves and to go and win the game in his half time teamtalk, but instead his team choked and again conceded five second half goals to Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Wayne Rooney (2) and ex-striker Dimitar Berbatov, with the game finishing 5-2 to United.

Chelsea, vs Arsenal, October 1999
Fourth placed Chelsea hosted second placed Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in a highly charged match on 23rd October 1999, with local bragging rights and the Premiership title up for grabs. Arsene Wenger had started to mould the Gunners team into his own, an had signed Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu from Inter Milan in February 1999. In the match Chelsea took the lead through Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo on 39 minutes and Dan Petrescu gave The Blues a 2-0 advantage on 51 minutes. The chant of “we want five” rang around The Bridge from a euphoric Chelsea support. In a wet and windy day, Kanu stepped up and got one back for Arsenal on 75 minutes, slotting home a miscued Marc Overmars shot, and the home side, and their fans, became slightly edgy. Kanu shocked the home faithful with seven minutes remaining as he drove home an Overmars cross, but the African striker still had more to come. In the last minute of the game, Kanu closed down a clearance and found himself close to the cornerflag, confronted by home keeper Ed de Goey, who had rushed out of his goal. The lanky striker avoided de Goey’s sliding tackle and converted from the tightest and most impossible angle to give the Gunners the match 3-2, with Chelsea in despair.
Real Madrid, 2003-2004 La Liga Season
In the 2003-04 La Liga season, Real Madrid had a star studded team full of world beaters, were champions from the previous season and followers at the Bernabeu had Ronaldo, Beckham, Figo, Roberto Carlos and Zidane to surely lead them to a second consecutive title. This looked very likely, as by the end of February Los Blancos were eight points ahead at the top of the standings and looking for the treble. However a four month choke by Carlos Quieroz’s side saw them lose the Copa del Rey final to Real Zaragoza, get kicked out of Europe at the hands of Monaco and lose their grip on the domestic title. A loss in El Classico and a 4-1 home defeat to Real Sociedad on the last day of the season saw Valenica lift the title, and the Galacticos finish fourth behind Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna.

Newcastle United, 1995-96 Premier League Season
Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle side of 1995-96 were labelled ‘The Entertainers’, as the Toon amassed a quality side with the likes of Les Ferdinand and David Ginola in their ranks. Keegan’s men dispatched all in front of them and rushed into a 12 point lead at the top of the Premier League. The Geordies had finished second a couple of years earlier, but for the St James Park faithful this would be the season of glory. However Keegan’s men fell victim to a run of inconsistent form and perennial strong finishers Manchester United caught Newcastle up, and won the league from under their noses. Newcastle have fallen from grace since, and the choke of 1996 has significantly impacted upon the team’s fortunes.

The old cliches of ‘it’s not over til it’s over’ and ‘it’s a game of two halves’ spring to mind when reminiscing about some of the great footballing chokes, and it shows that a team must be mentally prepared as well as physically and tactically to succeed at the highest level.

Published – http://www.footballfancast.com/2011/06/football-blogs/footballs-great-chokers-part-one

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