Wednesday, 27 April 2011

English Premier League: Clint Dempsey Makes History, Keeps Fulham in EPL

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
In what has been a landmark season for Clint Dempsey, the American forward continues to make a name for himself in the English Premier League.

Following a 2010 appearance in the UEFA Europa League, Fulham had high hopes for success this EPL season. However, the departure of Manager Roy Hodgson for Liverpool during the summer slammed the doors on many of those hopes.

Former manager Mark Hughes was appointed to take his place, and after what was believed to be a season doomed for relegation the London club have risen from the brink thanks to stand-out performer Clint Dempsey.

The Texan and USA Men's National Team member has been on a run of fabulous form since the United States' run in the 2009 Confederations Cup, in which the Americans nearly took the trophy from Brazil.

Dempsey was key to Fulham's success in their run to the Europa League final, and took center stage at the 2010 World Cup for the United States alongside Landon Donovan.

He became only the second American ever to tally a double-digit goal total in the English Premier League on March 19, 2011 in a loss to Everton. Brian McBride, during his own time at Fulham, was the first.

The loss to Everton is the only game Dempsey has scored in that the Cottagers have failed to take points from.

His meteoric rise to fame in the Premier League and the halls of American internationals abroad continued to take off today. Behind the bells and whistles of "El Clasico," the UEFA Champion's League first leg of Real Madrid vs Barcelona, the former Furman Paladin put two into the back of the net in Fulham's 3-0 victory over Bolton.

With those two goals, Dempsey takes his total to 12 on the season, with an additional three assists.

He now sits in eighth place on the EPL scoring list, tied with Newcastle United Captain Kevin Nolan, Javier Hernandez of Manchester United and Tottenham's Rafael Van Der Vaart.

Not only did his performance propel Dempsey above any American in the history of the Premier League, it also made him Fulham's leading scorer in the Premier League era. The 33rd strike of his Fulham career lifted him past Steed Malbranque and Brian McBride.

The Cottagers have taken 19 of 21 points in their last seven home games, and with four games remaining they sit in ninth place on 42 points with a spot in next season's top flight all but guaranteed.

Much of that is thanks to their American hit-man.

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Royal Wedding Special: Football Clubs of Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report

Michael Regan/Getty Images
With the hubbub of the Royal Wedding taking the Internet by storm, it seems only right to talk about the favorite past time of England, Football.

In honor of the pending nuptials, I thought a look into the favorite football clubs of the royal family seemed like a great piece of gossip for all those obsessed with Kate and William. Admit it, we all watched or read at least on piece of news regarding this event today.

In hopes of kicking off a great debate, if you have further information on the footballing fanaticism of any of the royal family, please chip in with comments below......Click Here to View the Slideshow.

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Friday, 22 April 2011

Liverpool FC: Would Michael Owen Be Welcomed Back?

Will The Boy Wonder Be Welcomed Back if Kenny Signed Him?

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 20, 2011

Alex Livesey/Getty Image
In what could be a rumor of outlandish proportions in the last few months of the season, there have been whispers that Kenny Dalglish could attempt to bring back a fallen hero of the Kop in hopes of letting him set things right before the end of his career. That fallen hero is former Liverpool wonder boy, Michael Owen.

A recent article contemplating the same question tempted me to dig a bit further and really ask myself and the rest of the Liverpool fans out there the same question. Would we welcome him back with open arms after his time at Manchester United?

To figure out how to even answer that you have to look at all the numbers, both past and present.

At 31, Owen would seem like a gamble, especially considering his injury problems since leaving Liverpool to join Real Madrid in 2004. During his spell with the Reds first team from 1997 till 2004 he scored 118 League goals in 216 appearances, not including his goals in domestic cup ties or European competition.

Though he had a nagging hamstring injury throughout that time he still averaged at least 30 appearances per season during that time. Despite the injury, when your strike rate in league games is a goal every 1.8 games, you are valuable.

His contribution was unparalleled when the 2000-01 Reds won a unique treble of the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup, and for his efforts, Owen won the Ballon d'Or.

News that probably shook the banks of the Mersey River was Owen's move to Real Madrid in 2004. It stunned the Liverpool fans, and he was dubbed a traitor in many ways but couldn't help but be revered for the contributions he had given the team.

The time he spent in Spain was not as he had imagined as he was reduced to primarily a sub and only started 13 games in La Liga. However, his 13 goals for Los Blancos in his total of 36 appearances remains the highest total scored when compared to minutes played in La Liga history.

After his jaunt in Spain he returned to England, this time for Newcastle United and after a great start to his time on Tyneside, he was sidelined for nearly 18 months with injury after injury following the 2006 World Cup for England.

Upon his return to fitness he was granted the captaincy for Newcastle and would lead the team in scoring before their relegation at the end of the 2009 season at which time he truly became almost, if not completely, hated by Liverpool fans.

The summer of 2009 saw Owen complete a move to Manchester United on a free transfer signing a two-year contract. That was the ultimate insult to his long time Liverpool fans as it was the one team that the Anfield faithful hate above all others. How could their once Kop Hero ever think of putting on a Red Devils jersey?

His time in Manchester hasn't been all roses and riches. He has spent a large portion of time injured there as well and only returned to the United bench on March 19th when they took on Bolton. With the club's addition of Javier Hernandez in the past summer, Owen is likely out of a job.
949839_crop_340x234 Ben Radford/Getty Images

So now comes the true question. With the needs of another striker to play backup to Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt, would Owen be a long shot, and would he even be welcomed back?

David N'Gog needs to go out on loan, and Daniel Pacheco is close but needs more time to develop as do the rest of the Youngsters. With that in mind, even if Owen wasn't always on the pitch, he has the kind of scoring mentality that the youth could learn from in training.

Also, if there is a manager that he would listen to it has to be Kenny Dalglish. His No. 10 jersey is likely to be available as Joe Cole will more than likely be on his way in the summer, and a free transfer for a former legend might not be too bad of an idea.

In all likelihood, it is 50/50 that he comes. The youth policy of the new owners under John W. Henry is not designed for sensational returns, but Owen might not be as bad of a gamble. His age gives him a few years left if the injuries can remain in check.

That time could be spent as a filler for the likes of Pacheco, Adam Morgan and Jesus Fernandez Saez "Suso," to come of age. All the while, he could maybe roll back the clock and reignite the Kop on a few occasions and bring back some found memories.

It would only be fitting for Owen to have a last shot at glory and retire as a Red with his name remembered for the right reasons. John W. Henry and Fenway Sports Group let Nomar Garciaparra retire a Red Sox, why not let Owen retire a Red and use the money saved from his free transfer to continue injecting youth into the core of the squad and on the wings?

Liverpool FC: Charlie Adam and the Reds Top 20 Realistic Summer Transfer Targets

Who Will Fill the future Ranks of Liverpool following the Summer Window?

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 18, 2011

Alex Livesey/Getty Image
The summer transfer window is quickly approaching, and with so many names in the press over the past few months as possible targets for the Reds, it seems like it would be prudent to try and weed out the ones that are actually feasible.

It has been an up and down year, but the ups have come more often in the last few months. The ship seems to have been set right with Kenny Dalglish back in the driver's seat for the club, and his influence continues to be seen more and more each and every week.

With so many injuries, and an ever shrinking chance at European Football next season, the Merseysiders are constantly being linked with the next group of stars to head their way since the arrival of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

The defense is the most suspect area as it has been decimated by injury time and time again over the last few seasons. However, the Reds' need for one or two natural wide players is ever more pronounced now that they have Andy Carroll up front.

David N'Gog also has played a great part for the club, but he needs time on loan to truly develop and the Reds are short on a reliable striker to step in behind Suarez, Carroll and Dirk Kuyt to alleviate the pressure on the three and also to push for a place in training to cause the team to work harder and progress even higher.

It is truly hard to determine which of these is the most important area. There is also growing concern that Steven Gerrard needs a replacement in the wings to learn from him before his legs and body run out.

So, in no particular order, here is a list of the players that seem the top 20 most likely to don the Red of Liverpool and come out to the Anfield Kop's full voice ringing out the verse's and chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone."


Power Ranking the Past 50 English League Champions 1961-2010

The Teams of Old Square off against the Teams of Yesterday

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 17, 2011

Alex Livesey/Getty Image
The Past 50 years of England's top flight, whether it was the English Premier League since 1993 or the years prior as the English League, have captivated audiences worldwide. Arguably the most powerful league in the world, it has seen some of the greatest highlights, triumphs, defeats and tragedies in the world of Football.

In order to rank the top 50 teams to win the league over the years of 1961 to 2010, I had to devise a way to rank them without any form of bias. So in doing that, I developed a formula to do so. The formula also had to be able to take into account the changes in the league throughout those 50 years.

The first part of the formula is made up of three numbers. I add the number of points the team had when they won and then add the team's goal differential and the number of points they one the league by.

The second part is made up of bonus points. These are awarded for additional silver ware. 20 points for a Champions League, 15 Points for a UEFA Cup or Europa League, 12 Points for FA Cup, 10 Points for a League Cup, eight points for a Community Shield and some teams from the 21 and 20 team leagues have three to six bonus points added because of not having as many games as teams in the past.

The main changes that had to be addressed were the change over from 22 teams and 42 games down to 20 teams and 38 games during 1986-87 (21 teams) and 1987-88 (20 teams). To do so, I added two wins or six points to the end total

The other main challenge was to align the teams with the same level of points totals. Until 1981, teams earned two points for a win and one point for a draw. After that time, teams were awarded three points for a win. So to keep stats as close to possible to uniform, all teams had their records held to today’s standard. This means the point totals that will be shown are based on today’s scale and will be different than necessarily what they were at the time of winning.

The other main challenge was to align the teams with the same level of point totals. Until the 1981-1982 season, teams earned two points for a win and one point for a draw. After that time, teams were awarded three points for a win. So to keep stats as close to possible to uniform, all teams had their records held to today's standard. This means that the point totals shown will be based on today's scales and will be different than necessarily what they were at the time of winning.

So without further delay, let's get started with a head butt in the right direction courtesy from a current Championship side.....CLICK HERE TO READ MORE AND START THE SLIDESHOW

Liverpool FC Ratings: Andy Carroll and Dirk Kuyt Boot City Back to Manchester

Carroll and Kuyt, Please Stand Up

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 12, 2011

Michael Regan/Getty Images
On a night that held so much remembrance of life and loss for Liverpool it was an inspired performance by the Reds.

A minute of silence before the game remembered the 96 fans that were crushed at Hillsborough 22 years ago this coming Friday. It also held thoughts and prayers for a fallen Merseyside hero, Soldier Lance Sargent Mark Burgan killed recently in Afghanistan, and the tragic loss of Jan Fairclough the wife of former Kop Hero David Fairclough.

Monday night saw Anfield come alive as the Reds thoroughly demolished a Manchester City side that looked like they left their boots at home. In one of their most impressive displays of the season, Liverpool made a statement that despite the constant criticism that they don't have enough quality players, they can still get the job done as a team.

Reading Joe Hart's lips and James Milner's body language was all you had to do to see the frustration mounting for the Blues. The loss of their captain Carlos Tevez in the opening half just after Carroll's long-range belter signified the end for the Manchurians, as they never got off the ground without their engine to drive them forward.

Mario Balotelli replaced the Argentine and continued to show no signs of being a success in England and was truly shown the door as he was subbed off at the 83rd minute for midfielder Nigel De Jong.

Though it was thought that the Blues fielded a weaker side than faced Sunderland, I don't believe that was the case. David Silva, De Jong and Balotelli were not involved, but in their place were Eden Dzeko, James Milner and Gareth Barry. If that is a weakened side, trade them and give me City's millions.

With both teams' European desires tossing about in the balance, it showed that Liverpool still is fighting for Europe and respect, while Manchester City's 5-0 victory at Sunderland might not be all it was cracked up to be.

All of that in mind, let's give some credit where it is due to a Liverpool side that put in a great team effort and earned a deserved 3-0 victory in front of the Kop.............CLICK HERE TO START THE SLIDESHOW AND READ MORE

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Arsenal FC: 10 Things to Know About Possible New Owner Stan Kroenke

Another American Owner in the EPL

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 11, 2011

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
London based Arsenal have become the latest English Premier League club to come under the control of American Owners. Long-time shareholder Stan Kroenke, Owner of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, secured a deal with the Gunners board of Directors to take majority control of the side.

He is not the first American to have earned ownership of a team through gradual acquirement of shares, and some have compared him to Manchester United's Glazer family which took over the northern giants in 2005.

Kroenke seems to have been a little more respected by the English supporters and has led a straight forward plan for Arsenal despite no silverware being brought to the Emirates since 2005.

With his partnership alongside Danny Fiszman, a man who commands enormous respect among Arsenal fans, coming to an end, the American stepped up his interest in the club. Fiszman's ill health has been the catalyst for the Kroenke takeover.

Fiszman's family have little interest in their father's club, and Fiszman has been unable to create a dynasty of his own. So he has sought to manage an orderly succession to a man he views as capable of continuing his own legacy of careful husbandry.

With Kroenke now firmly in the drivers seat after an estimated £500 million deal, here is a list of facts that might interest you about the Gunners new leading man in the shareholders meeting........READ MORE AND START SLIDESHOW

Liverpool FC Injury Update: Steven Gerrard Ruled Out for Remainder of Season

Talisman Down

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 8, 2011

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
In just a little over a month, the Reds have lost nearly half of their best starting 11 to injury.

This morning reports were made through Liverpool's official website,, that team Captain Steven Gerrard, whom was expected to be back in the next week or so, has re-injured his groin in practice this morning and will be out for the rest of the season.

This comes at the worst time for the Reds. With so many already out and with the past game at West Brom seeing both Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson sidelined for the rest of the season as well.

This has made any hopes of winning out the last seven games an even more herculean task than was thought.

It was already set to be an uphill battle for the Reds to have any chance of clipping the fifth place spot out from under Tottenham Hotspur as they continue to sputter both in Europe and domestically. The loss to West Brom meant the Reds failed to make up two points in their desperate battle to achieve European Football next season.......READ MORE ON THE BLEACHER REPORT

Liverpool FC: Can the Reds Win Seven Straight With So Many Defensive Injuries?

Is it Possible To Win Out With all the Injuries

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 6, 2011

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Another weekend for the Reds, and another group of injuries to deal with at the back. The defensive ranks are left tattered once again as four top-choice defenders are all out. Even though he has experienced so much criticism and belief that he just was not good enough to be at Liverpool, it sure would be nice to have Emiliano Insua back from Galatasaray as cover for left back.

There is always the option of recalling Paul Konchesky from loan to Nottingham Forest, but I don't see that happening, either.

With their loss to former manager Roy Hodgson and West Brom, the Reds suffered a major setback in their already outside chances of European competition next season. Two penalties awarded in the last 30 minutes were put away by Baggies captain Chris Brunt to seal the deal at the Hawthorns.........READ MORE ON BLEACHER REPORT

Liverpool FC: Downing, Honda and Perotti as Transfer Rumors Continue

Transfer Rumors Continue to Swirl Around Anfield

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 6, 2011

Michael Regan/Getty Images
With two of their biggest signings in years, Liverpool made a splash in the January transfer market. However, given that they are still languishing outside the top five and will be completely out of contention for European competition if Tottenham hold their margin, it has not been enough.

Lack of creativity has been the thorn in the side of Liverpool's past two seasons since the departure of Xabi Alonso. Even former Red Jermaine Pennant could be considered missed for his crosses at this point, as he has provided form and excellent service from the wide areas for Stoke City in a resurgent season for himself after leaving the Reds several years ago.

The transfer rumors and gossip continue to fly, and with that in mind, I thought once again to bring many of those rumors out and into the open for discussion. As Kenny Dalglish is looking more and more like he will be permanently installed once the summer rolls around, he and Damion Comolli will have to get their heads right to steer the club in the right direction under their very supportive new owners........READ MORE AND START SLIDESHOW

Friday, 1 April 2011

Liverpool FC: The Alberto Aquilani Question, Use Him or Sell Him?

Italian Playmaker's Future is Remains Undecided

by Thomas Atzenhoffer on The Bleacher Report
April 1, 2011

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Alberto Aquilani was purchased for Liverpool in August of 2009 by Rafael Benitez, believed to be the replacement for Real Madrid bound midfield maestro Xabi Alonso. The Roma born and bred 25-year-old was thought to be more than adequate to fill the boots of their beloved Spanish engineer.

However, the Italian arrived with an ankle injury that would keep him out for months. After a previous season in which the Reds have just nearly missed the Premier League Title in Second Place behind Manchester United with their best finish in years a lot of belief and expectations were placed on his shoulders.

With a £20 Million price tag, "Il Principino," was expected to be the second coming. But this to many proved not to be the case. Brought it to be a deep setting playmaker, the Italian was more keen to get forward and in many matches he proved to be quite effective for the Reds.....READ MORE ON THE BLEACHER REPORT