Football

Should Chelsea have sacked Jose Mourinho?

The special one returns. On the 10th June 2013 Chelsea fans across the world celebrated like they had just won the Premier League. The special one was returning to Stamford Bridge. Two and a half years later and history has repeated itself. Mourinho and Chelsea have parted ways. But should Chelsea have stuck by Mourinho this time?

Based purely on the results of this season, Chelsea should have sacked Mourinho weeks ago. The club have gone from being Premier League champions to sitting 16th in six quick months. They have lost nine of their 16 games in the league, and sit only a precarious point away from the relegation places.

jose-mour_2584957iJose Mourinho smiling as he is announced as the Chelsea manager for the second time. Little did he or the fans know about how his second reign would end. Photo copyright Andrew Matthews/The Telegraph.

However, Jose Mourinho isn’t any old manager. Especially at Chelsea. He has been embraced by everyone at the club, especially the fans. His instant success in his first stint between 2004 and 2007 guaranteed him a place in Chelsea folklore. He led them towards back to back title triumphs and various domestic trophies.

Everywhere he has gone an increasing mystique has surround the Portugese manager. Initial success with Porto announced his name to the world, yet since then he has become the highest profile manager in football.

Successful stints at Inter Milan and Real Madrid have ensured he will always been known as one of the best managers there ever was in football. So when it was announced his was returning home to Chelsea in June 2013 the future seemed bright for the club and it’s fans.

He navigated through a trophy less first season in charge, before returning the Premier League trophy to Stamford Bridge in his second season. A new long term contract was signed and the club returned for a new season expecting plenty of the same success.

290b1e8c00000578-0-image-a-85_1432539502288Mourinho celebrating leading Chelsea to the Premier League title in 2014. This was his third league title whilst at Chelsea. The next six months would be a lot less successful for him and the club. Photo copyright Getty Images.

See, this is where the difficult reality set in. Chelsea started the season poorly. A bad start quickly snowballed into a bad first six, then eight games, ten games, fifteen games to the point that after their latest defeat to Leicester on Monday Night football 2-1 crisis meetings were held. The funny thing is, the roles of the two clubs on Monday night have been completely reversed this season.

Leicester have shocked everyone as they currently sit two points clear at the top of the table heading towards Christmas, whilst Chelsea have become the club fighting to stay in the Premier League this season.

It’s clear that if Jose Mourinho were any other manager Chelsea would of sacked him a long time ago. Yet his reputation and influence at the club kept him in the hot seat as he dug Chelsea into an even deeper hole every week.

There have been the usual outbursts against referee’s this season, yet on Monday he finally turned on his players. He publicly called out his players for not following the pre-match game plan. He claimed this was the reasons behind their defeat to Leicester.

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This expression sums up the season Chelsea and Mourinho have had so far. The search begins for the right man to rectify it. Photo copyright unknown sourced from Squawka.com .

With key players playing well under their best season it was becoming clear with every defeat that tensions were going to rise in the dressing room . The pressure simply became too much for the club and after holding a emergency meeting, agreed to part with Mourinho under “mutual terms”.

Now for Chelsea fans this must feel similar to his first departure in September 2007, but this time Chelsea are in a much bigger mess. They are in a very real fight for survival in the Premier League, and whoever they get in to replace Mourinho faces a very difficult task in recovering their season.

Their only bright spot this season has been their Champions League progression, although they face PSG and will be hoping the French club don’t knock them out of the tournament again. For now the club will have to find a decent replacement for Mourinho, whose future in unclear after his reputation has taken a hit with the struggles Chelsea have endured this season. The optimism shown by Mourinho’s appointment in June 2013 couldn’t seem further away this time.

Bristol Rovers one step away

Admittedly, this is not the start to the season some Rovers fans were expecting, after playing poorly and being relegated on the final day of last season, many were expecting a triumphant return to the football league this season as either champions or by easily going through the end of season play-off’s.

Whilst this is a small minority their unrealistic expectations have led to an almost toxic atmosphere at the football club at the moment, something I was reminded of in the early stages of our latest home game against Wrexham on Tuesday night. Wrexham were unbeaten in their last 3 away games and started brightly against us, creating several chances and looking far more convincing in the opponent’s final third. At this point some of the fans started to voice their frustration with the team, with little encouragement coming from the Blackthorn end at this point.

From here thankfully things improved for Rovers as they edged their way into the game and took the lead with an Andy Monkhouse header from a corner in the 34th minute. Once we took the lead, Rovers fans showed themselves at their best as they began heartily singing and supporting the team from here until the final 10 minutes, when a edgy Rovers just managed to hold of a threatening Wrexham team. For the majority of the game Rovers fans showed themselves to be one of the loudest supports in the lower leagues, from League 1 downwards.

If Rovers fans could consistently match they hype surrounding their support, the team would have a hugely positive presence at every game cheering them on. Granted, recently this sounds like wishful thinking after early losses to part time teams such as Altrincham and Braintree. It’s not simply the losses but the poor manner in which we played those games, which have led a select view to voice their opinion that Darrell Clarke should be sacked. Whilst the games have not been great I personally can’t see any positives to sacking Darrell Clarke so early in the season, especially since he came into the worst possible situation before the final run-in last season.

Clarke has proved he can cut it at this level with Salisbury City, and deserves a full season at Rovers at the very least to prove his worth at the club during this transition period for Bristol Rovers. By far the biggest issue at the moment with Bristol Rovers seems to be emanating from the boardroom. The lack of investment in any other area apart from the new UWE stadium is worrying at the very least, with the recent news that Rovers are now suing Memorial stadium buyers Sainsbury’s shows all is not well with the stadium also.

It seems in my opinion that owner Nick Higgs has sacrificed financial investment to improve the results on the pitch, in favour of pouring money into this new stadium. Whilst the stadium is a brilliant idea and will secure a lot of money for the club in the future, the investment needed at the present moment seems to have affected the club. In calling for Higgs to invest more into the squad I’m not asking for him to sign Messi, Ronaldo or Bale I simply feel we need a slight investment to strengthen our already decent squad. Investment in players would also appease the fans and keep them on side for a time until the row with Sainsbury’s is resolved.

In conclusion, whilst I want the new stadium as much as anyone else, I will not be able to fully believe it until I see it with my own eyes. The potential is huge but so is the risk, something we can ill afford right now with our current position in the Vanarama Conference. It’s unlikely my hopes of squad investment in the near future will come to fruition, though I can still dream. Whatever happens with Bristol Rovers you’ll be able to find me on match day supporting the team from the Blackthorn end terraces, something that will hopefully drown out the doomongers amongst us who seemingly want Rovers and Darrell Clarke to go downhill. That would be a tragedy for Bristol’s finest sporting club, I admit I have no evidence on that and am writing from a totally biast standpoint yet everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Liverpool title challenge needs more signings

Despite the fact it isn’t even August yet it’s already been a very busy Summer transfer window for Liverpool. Although they lost enigmatic talisman Luis Suarez to Barcelona, they’ve made a number of signings to hopefully compensate for his absence this season.

They seemed to have immediately spent the £75 million pound fee they received for The currently banned Suarez, with the Southampton duo of striker Rickie Lambert and attacking midfielder Adam Lallana being their first signings for £4 and £25 million respectively.

Next up was Bayer Leverkusen Central midfielder Emre Can who signed for £9.75 million, before Winger Lazar Markovic became their 4th Summer signing from Benfica for £19.8 million.

Their latest signing was only completed a few days ago as they finally completed the protracted transfer of Central defender Dejan Lovren from Southampton for £20 million.

Whilst all these signings are high quality players and will perform well in the Premier League for Liverpool, I can’t help but express my opinion that none of these players have the star quality Suarez possesses.

Whilst these players will be good I can’t yet see any of them developing into game changers as Suarez was at times last season.

Of course, this isn’t to say that under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers these players won’t be able to develop into game changer players. Yet I simply feel if Liverpool are to compete for Premier League again this season, they will need several more signings to compete. This is especially so as they will be competing in the Champions League this season also.

This point seems even more resonant once Liverpool look at the likes of rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and even Man Utd, who have all spent big to add quality and depth to their squads for the coming season.

Although I am not a Liverpool fan, I will be hoping a big club such as them will be able to compete for the Premier League title again, although for me they need a few more signings in August if they are to keep pace with the other title contenders such as Chelsea and Man City.

Why are Quarterbacks falling so far in the NFL Draft?

Going into the 2014 NFL Draft may were hailing the best Quarterback draft class in a long time with 4 consensus 1st round QB’s with plenty more following on in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Things initially started well as the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the nation by selecting Blake Bortles with the 3rd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, making him the first QB taken. From this point however the stock of the Quarterback has nosedived with the first warning signs being the fall of media darling and consensus top QB in the draft, Johnny Manziel. On draft night he fell from being a consensus top 5 pick to eventually be selected with the 22nd pick by the Cleveland Browns.

From the predicted four 1st round QB’s only one more was taken with the Minnesota Vikings trading back into the 1st round with the 32nd and last pick to select draft free faller Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville. At this point the fortunes of the Quarterback had been mixed in the 1st round with Bortles and Bridgewater being picked far before they were predicted to have been, yet fellow 1st round talent Derek Carr was forced to wait overnight for his time to be drafted.

Friday night saw the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft with plenty more QB’s expected to be drafted during the course of the night. The first off the board in the 2nd round was unsurprisingly Fresno State’s Derek Carr who took his cannon arm to Oakland where he can learn from Matt Schaub before eventually replacing him at the Raiders. With Carr off the board who was going to be next was open to debate. Some felt it was the pro ready Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois whilst others fancied LSU’s Zach Mettenberger.

After a long while and plenty of Quarterback needy teams passing on a new signal caller eventually it was a surprise selection as the New England Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo with the 62nd pick late in the 2nd round. This seemed a slightly strange selection at first as the team has future Hall of fame Quarterback Tom Brady as the starter with impressive backup Ryan Mallet behind him in the depth chart. It was soon worked out however that Garoppolo is an insurance policy against Mallet potentially leaving as this is the last year of his rookie contract and is highly regarded around the NFL.

Going into the 3rd round it was expected that we would see a flurry of QB’s taken in this round as the value on these falling draft prospect would surely be irresistible to the many Quarterback needy teams in this draft. What actually happened was quite the opposite as no QB’s were selected at all in the 3rd round meaning there are plenty of signal callers who have to wait until today before being drafted.

For many it appears injury and poor combine/pro day performances are the reasoning why they remain on the board going into the 4th round. For Zach Mettenberger this is definitely the case as he must be frustrated to fall from a 2nd round prediction to falling into the 4th round, although this may be because of recent revelation about a diluted drug test at the scouting combine in February. Indeed on draft expert Mike Mayock’s board Mettenberger is rated above Teddy Bridgewater who went in the 1st round.

For other QB’s such as Alabama’s AJ McCarron it appears many NFL teams doubt he can be a regular winning QB in the NFL despite have an exemplary record of success whilst in college at Alabama.He will be a huge value pick if he falls below the 4th round today. The next rated QB is Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage who appears to have one of the biggest arm’s in the QB class with many tipping him to sneak into the 2nd round and expect him alongside McCarron to be selected in the 4th round.

For the likes of Aaron Murray of Georgia injury has curtailed his draft stock, expect him to be selected late in the 4th round/early 5th round . From the other Quarterback’s in this draft the likes of Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech, Tajh Boyd from Clemson and Stephen Morris from Miami expect these guys to be drafted in the later rounds or might even go undrafted as they are purely developmental Quarterback’s who need several years of development before they could be challenging for starting QB slots in the NFL. It should be very interesting to see where these young signal callers are all selected today in the final day of the 2014 NFL Draft.

NFL Draft: Who’s going where? Round 2

After the surprises and excitement of last night’s 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft tonight see’s the 2nd and 3rd rounds take place as many 1st round talents hope to be taken off the board early in the 2nd round. Here are my prediction for the 2nd round picks although like my 1st round mock draft potential trades will automatically render most of my predictions incorrect as teams jostle to take the best available players for their organization. Without further ado, the Houston Texans are on the clock.

33rd Pick: Houston Texans – With the opening pick of the 2nd round I predict the Texans will finally address their weakness at Quarterback by selecting a consensus 1st round talent who amazingly slipped out of the 1st round in what was a tough night for the QB class. I’m of course talking about Fresno State’s Derek Carr, a big physical pocket passer with a cannon arm who could immediately come in to training camp and become the game 1 starter for the Texans.

34th Pick: Washington Redskins – The Washington Redskins enter the 2014 NFL Draft after the last of their blockbuster trade in 2012 to grab RG3 meant St Louis used their 2nd overall pick. Nevertheless, the team is in a rebuilding stage with a new head coach and a QB out to prove the critics wrong after a disappointing 2013 season. Their biggest need appear in protection for RG3, which is why I think they’ll be thrilled that Alabama Offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, someone who is ranked 24th on Mike Mayock’s top 100 board. Therefore he represents a steal for the Redskins early in the 2nd round.

35th Pick: Cleveland Browns – The Browns made a splash in the 1st round by addressing two big needs with top quality players, their 22nd overall pick of QB Johnny Manziel that affects this 2nd round pick however as I predict the Browns will immediately add protection for Manziel. The best available Offensive line prospect is UCLA Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo. He’s a 1st round talent and would immediately give Manziel the added protection he’ll need to make plays.

36th Pick: Oakland Raiders – After they managed to grab a steal in selecting Khalil Mack in the 1st round like the Texans I see the Raiders addressing their Quarterback situation with this pick. Of the QB’s still available I predict they’ll go with rising draft prospect Jimmy Garoppolo. Although he went to a small school in Eastern Illinois he’s wowed draft scouts during the draft process and could be a serious challenge to Matt Schaub from day 1.

37th Pick: Atlanta Falcons – After selecting an Offensive tackle in the 1st round the 2nd round will see the Falcons again address a big need for them in a pass rushing edge player. Of the remaining Defensive end class I predict the Falcons will select Kony Ealy from Missouri. He’s a really good player whilst simultaneously filling a need for the Falcons in what is a beneficial selection for both parties.

38th Pick: Tampa bay Buccaneers – After the selection of Mike Evans in round 1 the Buccaneers I predict they’ll swap and select a defensive player with their 2nd round pick. The player in question I sense will be Linebacker Demarcus Lawrence from Boise state. He’s a real good player and also helps fill a need at linebacker.

39th Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars – With the shock selection of Blake Bortles at the 3rd pick the team still need to give him some offensive weapons to throw too if he’s to stand a chance of success. Therefore the Jags will be ecstatic to find a Wide receiver in the calibre of USC’s Marquise Lee still available. Although he has injury concerns if he stays healthy watch out for the Jags offense this year.

40th Pick:Seattle Seahawks – After trading out of the 1st round last night the Seahawks will finally make their 1st selection with the 40th pick. The team lost a lot of players during free agency and therefore go into the draft with more needs than they would have liked. One of the top needs is on the Offensive line which is why it makes sense for them to select Joel Bitonio from Nevada. He can immediately start for the team and will add brilliant depth on the line.

41st Pick: Buffalo Bills – The Bills provided a shock last night as no one predicted they would trade up to select Wide receiver Sammy Watkins. That doesn’t appear to be the end of their offensive selections as it seems most likely they will upgrade their offensive line by selecting draft faller Morgan Moses from Virginia. Many mock drafts had him late in the 1st round so it would be a steal for the Bills to select him in the middle of the 2nd round.

42st Pick: Tennessee Titans – The selection of Taylor Lewan was no surprise as the team needed an instant upgrade on their offensive line. With this upgrade the team have given Jake Locker even more protection going into a crucial year for him . Many have raised doubts however as to his long term potential with the Titans and it appears the Titans will select a QB in this draft. I sense they’ll go early and select Zack Mettenberger from LSU. He has injury concerns however he’s a very talented QB who can learn from Locker this year before challenging for the starting job in the next few years.

43rd Pick: New York Giants – Wide receiver Odell Beckham was their 1st round selection and it appears their offensive selections won’t stop there. One of their biggest needs is at Tight end and is something that can be easily upgraded with this selection. The Giants will select the second best Tight end in this class with Jace Amaro of Texas Tech. He can start from game one and will be another weapon for Eli Manning to throw too.

44th Pick: St Louis Rams – After a pretty conservative 1st round with the selections of Offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Defensive end Aaron Donald which will improve both sides of the ball for the Rams, now it appears the teams will make the more eye catching selections as I sense they’ll go after a Wide receiver in the 2nd round. Indiana’s Cody Latimer will be a good selection for the team as Sam Bradford will get a new offensive weapon to throw too in a crucial year for both him and the Rams.

45th Pick: Detroit Lions – With the 45 pick my prediction is that the Lions will go after highly rated linebacker Kyle Van Noy from BYU. He’s a draft sleeper and can be considered a steal for the Lions at this spot in the middle of the 2nd round.

46th Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers – After the defensive selection of Outside linebacker Ryan Shazier with their 1st round selection last night with the 2nd round choice I predict the Steelers will again stay on the defensive side of the ball by selecting Cornerback Anotone Exum from Virginia Tech. He’s someone who will immediately improve what was the biggest positional need for the Steelers and makes great sense for them to address this need in the 2nd round.

47th Pick: Dallas Cowboys – With so many defensive needs for the Cowboys it was a slight surprise they selected Offensive tackle Zack martin in the 1st round last night. Therefore the team will surely address their defense with this pick. One of their biggest needs is at Defensive tackle which is why I see them selecting Minnesota’s Ra’shede Hageman. A very good Defensive tackle, he will most likely immediately start and therefore upgrade the Cowboys defensive.

48th Pick: Baltimore Ravens- The Ravens pulled their classic pick the best player routine last night by selecting Inside Linebacker C.J Mosley from Alabama. Their 2nd round selection I feel will simply go for their draft needs now of which Tight end is the one with the best value at this pick. The Ravens can select the third best Tight end of this draft class is Austin-Seferian- Jenkins from Washington. He might not get much game time in the first year but can learn from Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels before eventually getting his chance in the next few years.

49th Pick: New York Jets- After addressing their need at Safety by selecting Calvin Pryor in the 1st round it would therefore seem logical the Jets will use their 2nd round pick to address another big need for them at Wide receiver. From the receiver class still available one of the top talents is Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, who was once in the 1st round discussion before settling in most mock drafts to the middle of the 2nd round. Alongside Eric Decker Geno Smith will be very happy with his new offensive weapons to throw too.

50th Pick: Miami Dolphins – For the Miami Dolphins their draft needs are glaringly obvious. After a bruising 2013 the team has a serious lack of depth on the offensive line therefore it was no surprise they selecting O-lineman Ja’Wuan James in the 1st round. Also it shouldn’t be a huge shock to see them select another O-lineman in the 2nd round with another Tennessee man Antonio Richardson. Both selections will bring much needed depth and talent to a struggling Offensive line going into the 2014 season.

51st Pick: Chicago Bears – The Bears played the 1st round smart last night by selecting a player to address their biggest overall need at Cornerback in Kyle Fuller. The Bears organization I believe will play their 2nd round selection smart too by getting the best value whilst simultaneously filling a need also by selecting Florida State Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. The fact he would have fallen this far will be viewed as a complete steal by the Bears as they will get an upgrade at a key position whilst simultaneously nabbing a player who is a late 1st round talent.

52nd Pick: Arizona Cardinals – After moving back in a trade with the Green Bay Packers the Cardinals still managed to fill a need for their team at Safety by selecting Deone Bucannon. Many were slightly surprised they did not select a Quarterback as Carson Palmer is nearing 35 and will need to be replaced in the next few seasons. The fans I sense will get their way as the Cardinals will select a young QB to develop and learn from Palmer before replacing him. Tom Savage is a QB who will be hard to pass up on at this point as he is a stocky pocket passer who could effortlessly take over from Palmer after a few years of development.

53rd Pick: Green Bay Packers – The Packers made the brave move of trading up from 27 to the 20th pick to select Safety Ha Ha-Clinton Dix in the 1st round. This was a clever move from the Packers as they managed to select one of the top Safeties in the draft, whilst also filling their biggest need going into the draft. The Packers will therefore play it sensible and use their 2nd round pick on the team’s second biggest need which is at Tight end. The team will therefore select Notre Dame Tight end Troy Niklas. The team will get a top 5 rated Tight end and for their position in the draft this pick has to be viewed as a steal.

54th Pick: Philadelphia Eagles – To the surprise of many the Eagles did not select a Wide receiver with their 1st round pick, instead trading back to select Defensive end Marcus Smith. Whilst he’s a top quality player he didn’t fill any of the Eagles top needs therefore I would be very surprised if they didn’t address one of these needs with this 2nd round pick. The Eagles biggest need is at Cornerback and I feel the team will make a reach and select the best available corner in Clemson’s Bashaud Breeland.

55th Pick: Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals were quick to select Safety Darqueze Dennard with their 24th pick, as the team looked to improve their Cornerback position by selecting an immediate starter in Dennard. With their 2nd round pick I sense the team will improve their biggest need which is at the Defensive end position. By far the best available Defensive end is Oregon State’s Scott Crichton. He could immediately challenge for a starting role and is rated as the 46th best player on Mike Mayock’s big board, representing how this pick is a steal for the Bengals.

56th Pick: San Francisco 49ers – Last night’s 1st round selection for the 49ers was Safety Jimmie Ward, yet it appears for their 2nd round selection the team will improve their offense. The team seems to be one speedy receiver away from the Super bowl and with this selection they have the perfect opportunity to rectify this. I predict the team will select LSU Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, someone’s who’s highly rated and will be an immediate for the 49ers offense.

57th Pick: San Diego Chargers – With the Chargers filling their biggest need at Cornerback by selecting Jason Verrett in the 1st round the team will follow a similarly sensible path by filling their second biggest need at Wide receiver with this 2nd round pick. The Wide receiver class is deep this year therefore I sense the team will take a chance and select a slightly unpolished receiver is Clemson’s Martavis Bryant. He has tremendous upside yet needs a year or two to develop before he becomes an NFL starter.

58th Pick: New Orleans Saints – The New Orleans Saints gave Drew Brees a new receiver to throw too with Brandin Cooks from Oregon State. Therefore it seems logical the team will use their 2nd round pick on a defensive player now with a big need on that side of the ball being at Cornerback. A deep class at the position means the team can select a player of the calibre of Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner who will arrive at a winning program and can become the future starting corner for the Saints.

59th Pick: Indianapolis Colts – After trading away their 1st round pick to Cleveland for Trent Richardson early in the season the team finally arrives at the NFL Draft with the 59th pick. The team have a lot of defensive needs yet a lack of available talent at this spot seemingly will force the team into selecting the best available player in Mississippi State’s Guard Gabe Jackson. He’s a consensus top 4 at his position and will add some extra depth in the protection of Andrew Luck going into the 2014 season.

60th Pick: Carolina Panthers – After seemingly disabling most of their offense this off-season the Panthers finally gave Cam Newton another weapon to throw too in Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin in the 1st round. With the 60th pick it seems the team will address a big need on offense at Offensive tackle by selecting the best available in Clemson’s Brandon Thomas.

61st Pick: San Francisco 49ers – With their second pick in quick succession late in the 2nd round the 49ers having nothing to lose by drafting another Wide receiver to create some early competition for a future starting job. With such a deep class there seems little risk in selecting someone like Fresno State’s Davante Adams as a perfect challenge to Landry for the future.

62nd Pick: New England Patriots – With a late 2nd round pick like this a well set team like the Patriots have the flexibility to draft someone out of the ordinary which is why I sense they’ll be the first team to select a Running back in this draft by selecting Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde to help fill a positional need whilst also receiving a great talent from a low 2nd round pick.

63rd Pick: Denver Broncos – With the penultimate pick in the 2nd round I sense the Broncos will attempt to fill the best potential need available at the Offensive line position by selecting Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort. Whilst he’s not likely to be an immediate starter he can develop over the next few years before becoming a future starter for the Broncos.

64th pick: Seattle Seahawks – The final pick of the 2nd round goes to the defending Super bowl champions with their second pick of the 2nd round I sense the team will look to select a positional need at Defensive tackle as the team lost a number of starters during the free agency period. Therefore I predict the team will select Defensive tackle Will Sutton from Arizona State. The team can use him in certain schemes whilst allowing him to grow and develop before taking the starting reign’s himself in the next few seasons.

2014 NFL Draft: Who’s going where? Part 1

With the 2014 NFL Draft taking place today it seems an appropriate time for a last minute prediction on who’s going to be selected by which team in the first round. We’ve had the first wave of free agency therefore most teams biggest needs are well known going into the draft. On the other hand no draft expert, of which I am far from, can confidently predict every first round pick as many teams will throw logic out the window and draft a completely different player come draft night. Also it’s inevitable the current draft order will not play out on draft night as some teams will be moving around to select the must have player they need. Whilst this is not a definitive mock draft and will be far from accurate this is simply my prediction on who all 32 NFL teams should draft come next Thursday.

1st Pick: Houston Texans – The Houston Texans have been through a lot of turmoil this off-season with their appointment of new head coach Bill O’Brien and their current search for a new Quarterback after Matt Schaub was traded to the Oakland Raiders after a poor season. With such a glaring need at Quarterback many thought initially the Texans would draft a QB with this pick. However, the recent crop of QB’s appear to be sliding down the draft boards I predict they’ll use the first pick to select once in a decade prospect DE Jadeveon Clowney. A defensive line with Clowney and J.J Watt will strike fear into every NFL team for years to come.

2nd Pick: St Louis Rams (From Washington Redskins) – The St Louis Rams have two first round selections, which is handy for them as they have a lot of needs going into the 2014 season. First of all they will want to protect Quarterback Sam Bradford, especially as they have recently given him a bumper new contract. Therefore the best upgrade through the draft to protect Bradford will be to select Offensive tackle Greg Robinson from Auburn. His talent is significant and he can easily develop into a Pro Bowl Offensive tackle in the next few seasons.

3rd Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of significant needs going into the 2014 draft, with their biggest needs being a pass rusher, a quarterback and at running back. With the third pick I predict they will fill their biggest need at pass rusher and select standout Outside linebacker Khalil Mack from Buffalo. Although he’s a relatively small school guy he’s proved he can be a dominant NFL player during a standout college career.

4th Pick: Cleveland Browns – Much like the Jaguars the Cleveland Browns are perennial under-achievers. Yet unlike the Jaguars the Browns are making a resurgence behind Wide Receiver Josh Gordon and Tight end Jordon Cameron. Similarly to a lot of teams near the top of the draft order however the Browns need a Quarterback. Therefore I predict they’ll pull the trigger and take the first QB off the board in the much hyped Texas A&M man Johnny Manziel. He’s the kind of talent that could either be the next Colin Kaepernick or the next Tim Tebow.

5th Pick: Oakland Raiders – The storied Oakland Raiders franchise are a tough team to predict in terms of their draft strategy this year. After the Matt Schaub trade they no longer need a QB however they do need some weapons to help him out which is why I feel they will be unable to pass on Clemson Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins. He’s the consensus No1 receiver in this draft and if the Raiders select him will feel like they got a steal at No5.

6th Pick: Atlanta Falcons – The Atlanta Falcons suffered a strange 2013 season as they went from a heavily tipped play-off team to one who finished 3rd in the NFC South. Therefore the team does not have that many needs going into the draft. Their biggest need is at Offensive tackle and this is where I see them going with their 6th pick. I sense they’ll select the second best Offensive tackle prospect in Texas A&M man Jake Matthews. He’s a plug and play starting tackle in the NFL for the next 5-10 years with Pro bowl potential.

7th Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers are coming off a turbulent off season which has seen them lose a head coach and their star Cornerback yet gain a new Quarterback in Josh McCown. The Buccaneers could use with giving McCown some weapons to throw too and I sense they’ll add a Wide Receiver with this pick. With top receiver Watkins already off the board they’ll go for the next best receiver Mike Evans. He’s a athletically strong receiver with a big future in the NFL.

8th Pick: Minnesota Vikings – For the Vikings it’s clear by far their biggest off-season need is to dramatically improve their passing game. On the other hand I feel it would be a major reach for them to grab a QB at this spot in the 1st round. Therefore I feel they’ll upgrade their defence with this pick. Specifically I see them going with UCLA Outside Linebacker Anthony Barr. He’s the second best outside linebacker on most boards and would instantly improve a defence in need of significant improvement.

9th Pick: Buffalo Bills – For the Bills this year’s biggest need to address at the No9 pick has to be on their Offensive line. More specifically they need help at their Right tackle position therefore I predict they’ll select Notre Dame Offensive tackle Zack Martin. Whilst Taylor Lewan ranks above him his off-field issues mean his stock is falling which is why I see them picking Martin instead.

10th Pick: Detroit Lions – Detroit wilted as the 2013 season went on therefore the draft is the perfect place for the organisation to rectify this going into the 2014 regular season. It appears the Lions which select a defensive player at No10 with their defensive secondary receiving particular attention with this pick. In my opinion they’ll add a Cornerback in Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert. His impressive speed and ball hawking skills may him well in line for a hugely productive career in the NFL.

11th Pick: Tennessee Titans – The Titans are another team re-building going into the 2014 season with a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt. It seems fairly apparent the team are looking to improve their defensive unit with this first round pick. Their biggest defensive need is at Outside Linebacker however it would be a major reach for them to select the best available player at this position in Ryan Shazier. Therefore I see back to back Cornerback being picked as they select standout Michigan State Corner Darqueze Dennard, someone rated by many to be the top Cornerback in this draft class.

12th Pick: New York Giants – For a long time this off-season the Giants have been pencilled in to pick dynamic Tight End Eric Ebron as it appeared such a glaring need for them in this draft. On the other hand recently the momentum is building that the Giants will instead draft an Offensive Linemen, another area they need to improve on. Therefore I’m going to follow the momentum and predict they’ll take a chance on selecting Lineman Taylor Lewan. Although he has legal issues off the field his production is undoubted and will immediately energise the Offensive line .

13th Pick: St Louis Rams – With their second pick in the 1st round I suspect that considering who is likely to still be available with the 13th pick that the Rams will use this pick to upgrade their Safety position in the Defensive backfield. With free reign over the Safety class I suspect they’ll select No1 ranked Safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix from Alabama with the 13th pick. He’s had a stellar college career which looks set to continue in the pro’s.

14th Pick: Chicago Bears – After their defensive unit let down the Bears in 2013 it seems likely they’ll want to improve the unit early on in the draft. Therefore expect Chicago to select a Defensive back with the most likely occurrence being that they go with No2 ranked Safety Calvin Pryor of Louisville. He’s an intelligent Safety who has the potential to be a superstar in the NFL over the next few seasons.

15th Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers – The Pittsburgh Steelers go into the draft with a lot of needs for their team. It seems their most important area for improvement is on the defensive side of the ball which is where I believe they’ll go after drafting an offensive player last year. Specifically I see them continuing the run on Defensive Back’s by selecting Cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech. Mike Mayock has him as his top rated Corner and he would be by far the best corner left on the board at No15.

16th Pick: Dallas Cowboys – After winning a coin toss at the scouting combine the Cowboys are on the clock at 16. After a season where the Cowboys defence let them down therefore it seems they’ll continue the current run on defensive picks by improving the Defensive tackle position with this pick. With free reign over Defensive tackle’s I predict they’ll select Aaron Donald from Pitt. He seems to be the consensus top Defensive tackle in this draft and would vastly improve the woeful Cowboys Defensive tackle position.

David Moyes: Doomed from the start

Just less than a year ago the future appeared very rosy for David Moyes. After 11 successful years he was leaving Everton a club legend to take over as the hallowed Manchester United manager after being hand picked by Sir Alex Ferguson. When he was announced as the new Man Utd manager on the 9th May 2013 the press conference contained lots of talk from both sides about the succession plan Man Utd put in place with this appointment. After being personally chosen by Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes seemed the perfect man to carry on the vast achievements of Manchester United into a new era. A 6 year deal with the opportunity to earn £5 million a year with bonuses was a perfect validation to their succession talk. Yet as of yesterday David Moyes is unemployed and Man Utd are facing having to pay him off £5 million until he finds himself a new job. What went so wrong for Moyes in only 10 months?

First lets look at purely his results over the 10 months. After starting well with comfortable Community Shield and opening day premier league wins things got progressively worse from here. He led United to their worst ever league start with defeats to bitter local rivals Manchester City 4-1 and a 2-1 home defeat to lowly West Brom heaped the pressure on Moyes early on. After a relatively stable few months December saw them suffer successive home defeats to Everton and Newcastle, the first time Man Utd had lost consecutive home premier league games since the 2001 season. This left the team languishing at this point in 9th, yet after only 15 games the team were 13 points behind leaders Arsenal. Here’s a picture of Moyes in happier times with the Community shield trophy.

Compounding their awful league form were exits from the F.A Cup in the third round at home to Swansea 2-1, defeat in the Capital One Cup semi-final to Premier League dwellers Sunderland and finally comfortably being outclassed in the Champions League Quarter- Final to Bayern Munich. The tension reached fever pitch as fans responded to successive 3-0 home defeats to hated rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, by flying a banner over Old Trafford before the next home game against Aston Villa calling for Moyes to leave the club. Here’s a link to a Youtube video report on the banner incident. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQZ77mPMdCA

After a slight recent turn around Sunday’s comprehensive trouncing by Everton 2-0 brought the tension back around Moyes. He believed however that despite the poor results to this point he would receive the board’s backing until at least the summer transfer window. On the other hand, the board seemed to want swift action as over the course of the following Bank Holiday Monday rumors became increasingly persistent that Moyes would be imminently sacked. The rumors were proved true early yesterday morning as it was finally announced Moyes had been sacked after only 10 months in charge.

Now we’ve established the results that got him sacked let’s now try to explain firstly why these individual results happened and secondly how the end result of his sacking came about so soon. Firstly let’s look at the task he actually took on becoming Manchester United manager. He faced the unenviable task of being the Man Utd manager after Sir Alex Ferguson. After Ferguson’s mammoth 26 and a half year reign which yielded an astonishing 38 trophies in 26 years, including 13 Premier League titles and 2 Champions League’s. Therefore with United fans accustomed to so much recent success Moyes was coming into a job with probably one of the highest levels of expectation in world football.

This would be something new for Moyes to deal with as he had arrived from Everton, a club who had rather more modest expectations to which Moyes would regularly over achieve. Inadvertently Sir Alex had also heaped even more pressure on Moyes by being so public with his view that Moyes was the perfect man to succeed him as part of the succession plan.

Another factor behind the downfall in results for United has to be the relative weakness of the current squad in comparison with other top 4 sides. This may seem a slightly ridiculous statement considering the squad possesses quality players such as Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic, David De Gea and Patrice Evra. Yet around these players the rest of the squad seems slightly lower on all round quality in comparison with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool. Part of the problem seems to be the fact Man Utd have an ageing squad yet the younger players coming through seem to struggle slightly to take over from the older players. Examples of this are surely the likes of Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Alex Buttner. Whilst all of them are good players they have under performed this season and appear unlikely to play to the level of those their taking over from such as Vidic,Giggs and and Evra respectively.

The point about under performing players above doesn’t only apply to some of the younger players this season. Another factor behind the downfall of Manchester United this season appears to be a combination of Moyes not being able to get the best out of his squad alongside a reluctance on the players part to play under Moyes. Rumors are circling in the aftermath of his sacking that Moyes was never able to get the respect and influence over some of the high profile players such as Wayne Rooney.

Whilst all of the recent points have been based around the actions of Moyes or the players themselves the club does not come out of this sacking blameless. Indeed it was their big talk of a succession plan that set expectations that were too high for Moyes as I explained above. Also the lack of overall quality in the squad could have been addressed in the summer transfer window before the nightmare season even started.Over the summer Moyes and the club made ham fisted attempts to sign Cesc Fabregas, Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, of which they only signed Fellaini in a deadline day deal worth £27.5 million pounds.

Again in the January window they only made the one signing splashing out on Juan Mata from Chelsea for £37.1 million pounds. Whilst these are both great players their first season can only be described as a disappointment as they have failed to produce much as they struggled to fit into the Moyes system Manchester United were playing. So although it’s early on it seems these two transfers are going the way of failed expectations there were plenty more signings the club failed to complete for a number of players undisclosed to the public.

Whilst many will try to pin the reasoning why Moyes failed at Manchester United down to one thing it appears there were several factors which meant he was doomed from the start. First the increased pressure and expectation as the club made sure the world knew Moyes was pre-approved by the legend Sir Alex Ferguson as the right man for the succession plan carrying on his reign. Whilst they backed him here they didn’t complete the deals he wanted in the transfer windows leaving him with an ageing squad and a fan base with high expectations.

It should therefore no surprise that Moyes was unable to carry on the success of Ferguson, yet everyone around the club appeared to be completely shocked by this. Whether this was delusional or simply not with the times doesn’t really matter, either in a damning indictment of those around the club. Once things began to tail off the players appeared to lose respect for Moyes and didn’t want to give 100% for a manager they questioned. Also the club didn’t cover itself in glory by dithering with his sacking with Moyes appearing to find out the news he was going to be sacked first from social media on Monday afternoon. Therefore it was all of these factors that contributed to the demise of Moyes with the chain of events being set in motion the day he was announced as the successor to Sir Alex Ferguson. Indeed, both sides have come out of this looking rather less respectable than when they started and for sure it will take a number of years at least for both sides to move past this nightmare.

What’s happening to Bristol Rovers?

A sentence I’ve uttered many a time since I started supporting Rovers. Yet for the first time I seriously ask myself this question as we face the very real possibility of dropping out of the Football League. What’s happening at Bristol Rovers?

Every season since we were relegated back into League 2 has started with not so quiet optimism and a bold prediction of a decent run this season.

Almost exclusively the players performances have not matched the lofty expectations of the fans, often leading to frustration at times. Whether this is the fault of the players not working hard enough or if this is simply the fans having far too high expectations is difficult to judge,yet something always appears slightly awry with Rovers since they’ve been in League 2.

One factor contributing to the current situation is surely the managerial merry-go round in the past few seasons, as we’ve hired and soon after jettisoned previous play off finalists in Paul Buckle, European and Scottish prem experience with Mark McGhee,old club favourite John Ward before the latest incumbent Darrell Clarke took the job a few weeks ago.

With all of these managers save from Buckle Rovers fans have seen renewed optimism as the new manager would come in and immediately there would be an upturn in fortunes, no doubt helping fuel the lofty expectations before every season.

Yet every new season see’s the same old Rovers as they struggle their way through the year until eventually the manager is sacked and someone else plugged in.

Another factor is the consistently small amount of money being set aside for transfers. Granted, Rovers are not struggling financially as our wage bill has always been near the top by League 2 standards. It does Appear frustrating for fans however as our only signings are loans and free agent players.

Whilst loan players are vital to a club like Rovers and can add depth to the squad it’s slightly frustrating personally to have one major signing in the past 2 seasons for an undisclosed fee.

The only major success for Rovers in the past few seasons has been our new UWE stadium being approved by the local council after a protracted battle with protestors. This is a major coup for the club as it will move it into the 21st century.

The stadium approval is not a complete bed of roses however as the protestors have forced a delay in the build which won’t start now until this summer.

Also if the unthinkable happens and Rovers are relegated to the Conference that will make it very hard to justify building a new 21,700 all seater stadium when attendances won’t get close to 7000 on average .

Whilst things may appear all doom and gloom at Rovers right now the team still has 4 games to save the season, plus our fate is still in our hands therefore it’s solely up to the team now. It’s in their hands, they just need to grasp it now.

For any further information on Bristol Rovers here’s a link to their website.

www.bristolrovers.co.uk

Arsenal exposed again

Heading into last weekend’s Premier League fixtures the biggest talking point was centered around Arsenal and it’s manager Arsene Wenger. That weekend’s title crunch match with Chelsea would be his 1000th game in charge of Arsenal. The omen’s appeared good for Arsenal to stake their claim to the title. Yet it only took 20 minutes to show Arsenal are fatally flawed as title contenders. Where does this leave Arsenal fans?

This season many Arsenal fans expected different. After last season’s final day heroics the fans were promised a summer of transfer activity, to ensure the team would be challenging for the title from now on and not simply 4th place. Indeed, Arsenal were linked with a number of high profile players last summer such as Stefan Jovetic and Wayne Rooney. The biggest saga however centered around Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. Despite all the hype and rumor the only signing’s Arsenal had made by the time the new Premier League season started in August was a free transfer of young French Ligue 2 prospect Yaya Sanogo.

For the majority of fans this season has promised a lot in comparison to previous seasons yet as I type this on March 25th Arsenal currently sit in their almost customary position of 4th place in the Premier League. Whilst in previous season being 4th at this point of the season, 6 points ahead of Tottenham in 5th with a game in hand, would leave the club feeling content. This season the fans were led to believe things were going to be different as we sat atop the Premier League table for the majority of this season, backed up by the statement of intent by the club that was the record £42.5 million pound signing of German international Mesut Ozil.

The only constant therefore between this and the previous seasons is the fact that when it comes down to the high pressured games against fellow title contenders Arsenal have been woefully exposed. False hope was provided on this front after the team beat Liverpool comfortably 2-0 at the Emirates in November, yet in reality Luis Suarez didn’t play and at this point the Liverpool team had yet to gather the belief they currently possess.

Since that point Arsenal have played the current top 3 Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City 4 times and the stats have been ugly to say the least. December 14th saw Man City demolish Arsenal at the Etihad 6-3, with their only point against these teams coming soon after on the 23rd December, a 0-0 draw at home with Chelsea. Liverpool exacted their revenge with a 5-1 win at Anfield whilst things got worse last Saturday as Chelsea ran out 6-0 winners in a demoralizing display from Arsenal.

Whilst reasons behind the results and promises of a big response have been trotted out from club staff after all these defeats the simple fact appears in the trend carried over into this season; Arsenal looked second best against title opposition. This is a fact that massively saddens me as an Arsenal fan myself. I grew up being spoilt by previous Arsenal teams such as the famous “Invincible’s” side consisting of world class players such as Thierry Hnery, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. Here’s a link to some highlights of the great Invincible’s season

Whilst now it seems Arsenal are the team everyone loves to mock and hate this season has shown the team is making the right progress to someday soon challenge for the title. The new Financial Fair Play rules coming into force in the next few seasons can only help a club traditionally prudent in it’s spending, whilst the fact the team has led the Premier League for such a long stretch until now does show significant improvement in comparison with the last few seasons. However, in the past Arsenal have had these seasons before slipping back into the mire of the 4th place battle after this. Therefore a summer of spending is needed to ensure we remain competitive going into next season as arguable all areas of the team need improvement if were to displace big spending teams like Chelsea and Manchester City as Premier League champions, bringing back previous memories of Arsene Wenger and players proudly raising the Premiership trophy aloft, of which we were so accustomed too.