Q: “Have you ever heard of Christiano Ronaldo?”
A: “Yea, I saw him came to UCLA”

Q: “Can you name a team that plays in Liverpool that’s not Liverpool? They wear blue.
A: “Toaden-ham?”

Q: “Can you name a team that plays in England?”
A: “No”
Q: “Have you ever heard of Manchester United?”A: “Yes”

Yep, that just happened.

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This Arsenal fan was stopped for an interview as he left the Emirates soaking in the glow of a hard fought, late victory over Cardiff City.  Arsenal have much to celebrate this season and this latest triumph on New Year’s Day may prove to be another huge step for the Gunners’ title push.

Claude not only reveled in the victory, but also had a message to those fans that just can’t seem to stomach seeing out anything but a win.  “You are a disgrace.” And we wholeheartedly agree.  Those of you that leave early, change the channel, or walk away while your side is not producing the result you want, need to assess why you even follow sport.

We as a group sit to the final whistle of any and every match, no matter what.  You have to as a fan.  It’s all part of the growing process, and if you can’t lose with your team you shouldn’t be able to win with your team.  We have all had our fair share of 6-0 drubbings, but you will never see us walking out, or actually in our situation, changing the channel.

Thank you Claude for this rant (he might swear at first, but it’s hard to translate, so here’s fair warning):

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Romelu Lukaku

Could someone please help us solve the mystery of Romelu Lukaku? Another day passes and yet another rumor the Chelsea plans on dipping into the transfer market to land another “top-class” striker.  Yet they have one on a 5-year contract, correct? According to our amateur eyes, Lukaku fits the bill.

Yet with a last second summer loan, Lukaku found himself away from Stamford Bridge for yet another year, let go by yet another Chelsea manager.  Apparently falling behind the likes of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, and newly acquired Samuel Eto’o, Lukaku was shipped out to Everton at the transfer deadline. And again Lukaku is thriving where the Chelsea strike force is, well, not.

In 8 appearances Lukaku has already scored 7 times, where Torres has scored 1 in 8, Eto’o has scored 2 in 7, and Ba has 0 goals in 4 times out.

If you think this is a fluke, look at last years return.  In 35 appearances for West Brom, Lukaku netted 17 times, where Torres scored 8 in 36, and Ba notched 2 in 14.

Now do you see the mystery?  What are we missing?  With Jose Mourinho apparently green-lit to drop some more coin in the market for a striker, Chelsea look set to miss out on the services of one that may proved to be in the top 10 in Europe with Lukaku seemingly less likely to return.

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Becks

Want to hit a magical free kick like David Beckham?  Stock up on a few Care Bears for practice.  Apparently Beck’s secret recipe for free kicks was kicking the stuffing out of a few Care Bears every now and again.

“When my dad got home from work, we would go over to the goalposts together. He would stand between me and the goal, forcing me to bend the ball around him. People looking on must have thought we were mad. We kept going even when the sun had gone down, playing by the light coming out of the windows of the houses that surrounded the park.

I would carry on playing when I got home. I wasn’t allowed a football in the house so I would practice by kicking the Care Bears in my sister’s bedroom. My mum thought it was funny but is showed how much I loved football. I couldn’t get enough of it.”

After sitting back and having a good laugh at this topic, we began to reminisce about growing up in the early 80s watching the Care Bears on the tele.  Quickly the reminiscing turned from laughter to disgust. Seriously, a “Care Bear Stare” designed to create a “ray of love and good cheer”? No wonder why Beck’s kicked the s— out of those bears, but who knew it would be the best form of training in the world? While there is no word on how his sister felt about the abuse, Beckham went on to become lethal for both club and country from the set piece.

SAF

At least we have the decency to come back during one of the hottest topics of the year, Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiographical release.  Whether you loved, hated, or really hated the most prolific manager in England, one thing we all shared was wanting to really know what happened the behind the scenes.  Whether it was his interactions with Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez, the FA, or his opinions on some of the greatest players of this generation, we all knew that Fergie was on the end of some of the hottest topics in football.

Ferguson wasn’t one to prance around the limelight, so we never really got a chance to see him in typical sit-down interview since our view of him was mostly pre/post match interviews. Remember we’re in the States where there is not much clamoring for managerial interviews out here, so this little snip-it was really intriguing.  Here is a little clip of Sir Alex talking to Jon Snow of Channel 4 where the discussion goes quite far beyond soccer:

While the topics are coming out of the book hot and heavy, we are waiting for our copy to arrive via Amazon before just repeating what we’ve read.

Yohan Cabaye

Yohan Kabab made a public apology to Newcastle fans for refusing to play while he was being courted by Arsenal.  This lockout in the end didn’t work as Arsenal didn’t agree with Cabaye’s valuation and the midfielder was forced to wear the black and white stripes for at least four more months (insert prison joke here).

The Yanks had a round table discussion about it and were wondering what type of apology would you as a fan accept? We believe the tried and true statement that “no player is bigger than the club”, but we as fans still want results.  However, before we start fist pumping and sliding across the pub floor on our knees when a player scores, we do have to like them, right? Well maybe like is too strong of a word, but at least after you are done toweling yourself off from the Guinness you just threw all over in celebration, you would like to sing a song of celebration in their name.

What would get you to sing that song of celebration for a player that wanted to leave your beloved club? Here are some case studies that we discussed.

The Apology

After making his first appearance of the year against Aston Villa, Cabaye had this to say in response to his false start,

“If the fans were – or still are – mad at me for what happened then I understand and I apologise to them. I want to come back from what has happened. For Newcastle fans, football is their life and I want to say that I am going to give everything – as I have from my first day here – from today until the end of the season.

I want to forget what happened during the summer, I want to put it behind me and give everything for Newcastle every day, for the club and for my team mates”

Cabaye received a nicer than expected ovation as he was substituted, but time will tell if he will ever be considered a Magpie again.

The Rise in Form

Rooney’s perspective:

“I’ve tried to show the right attitude. I’ve always felt that’s a really important thing to do. That’s paying off for me on the pitch. I feel fit and ready to do well.”

Rooney is endearing himself to the United faithful by performing, but is he just playing for a move away?

Keeping Quiet, but Showing Up

How about just showing up at training like Luis Suarez did as Liverpool fans try to accept him back? Here is what his boss, Brendan Rodgers had to say,

“He is working his socks off. At the end of sessions, he is having extra work tagged on relative to him and his position. He is flushing himself out to the maximum to be as fit as he possibly can.”

Is doing well in practice and soon match good enough, or will Suarez have to break the silence?

Of these three, which tactic will work the best with the fans?  Which works best with you?

Steven-Gerrard

Steven Gerrard stated in a recent interview that he would be interested in managing Liverpool if the opportunity presented itself.

“The dream come true would be to manage Liverpool, when the Liverpool job becomes available. There are world-class managers there ready already, but we’ll have to wait and see, it would be the icing on the cake.

When you get to a certain age, my age, you need to start thinking seriously about a life after football. I am planning on doing my badges and qualifications over the next 12 months. I definitely see myself as a manager rather than a coach, but that could change.”

We think that this would be a natural fit, a Ryan Giggs at Manchester United sort of transition; player, legend, player coach, coach, manager, and so on.  Stevie G plays the part and would be a welcomed sight in management at any club.

We decided to take a look at the current list of managers, who they manage, and which clubs they spent the most of their playing career with based on appearances.  We know that there are certain situations where these managers had extensive playing careers, for example, Paul Lambert had a prolific career with Celtic as well, but we don’t do stats for a living, so you’ll just have to deal with our list.

EPL-Managers

For reference sake, Gerrard has has 444 appearances with Liverpool, Sir Alex Ferguson had 95 appearances with Falkirk.

While Gerrand looks the part, has played the part, and most likely will succeed, who are some other players you could see in management?

Tottenham AVB

Tottenham is the new Manchester United, selling big (almost) and using that cash to buy, buy, buy.  One small difference, they are doing it all in one fell swoop and doing the dealing in the same window.  As the Spurs are set to reveal a new trio of signings in Erik Lamela, Vlad Chiriches, and potentially, Christian Eriksen, along with the rumored reveal of a new third kit, Tottenham look to be the new destination.

With cross town rivals, Arsenal, boasting of a similar £100M kitty, they have only free transfers arriving and are now being linked with the “desperation” rumors such as, “Arsene’s £70m Madrid swoop: Race against time to land Benzema, Di Maria and Ozil” being splash across the papers.  What is making the difference between the rivals?  You tell us.

And can somebody please somebody tell us why nobody wants to go to Old Trafford, or deal with United?  Is it the new regime? Is it poor tactics by a new CEO and manager? Why in the world are the rumored bids always under the buyout clauses?  What is happening there?  Now you can add two more names to the list of rejections in the form of Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao and Daniele De Rossi from Roma.  Both inquires were well below either the valuation or the clause, so seemingly had no chance to begin with.  We know there are “behind the scenes” meetings, discussions, politics, smoke screens, and agreements, but the proof is in the pudding, no new signings at United.

Targets are hot and heavy at the moment. If you want live stuff, check this stream of consciousness out over at the Guardian.  A good mix of humor, tweets, and rumors.

Wayne Rooney

Rooney staying, Bale going, Chelsea hijacking? It’s worse than high school and has turned into a full fledged, old fashioned soap opera. This may be the most exciting transfer window we’ve seen yet as the EPL adds yet another huge spender in Tottenham, while leaving potential spenders Manchester United and Arsenal only a few days to figure out if Plan F is actually going to work.

Romance of the day: While Rooney has stated that he will not submit a transfer request, which sounds like he’s really excited to stay, Manchester United is linked with David Luiz.  Reports suggest that there are talks underway (we officially hate that phrase), but honestly, does this move make sense to anyone?

Time to let go: Andre Villas Boas finally concedes and publicly states that Gareth Bale’s transfer to Real Madrid is inevitable.  Looks like denial was working well for him as he was spending as if the £85M was already in the bank.  Looks like Tottenham are also trying to squeeze every penny out of Bale by fining him for not showing up for training.

Rebound time: AVB’s pursuit of Erik Lamela looks set to conclude with a £24M deal with Roma.  While Roma are playing musical strikers with Fiorentina, there may be a few more poundages heading to Roma to make it happen.

Break up time: With Willian agreeing to terms with Chelsea, it has lead to quite the surplus of midfield talent at Chelsea.  Who will get the dreaded text, “We need to talk”? Odds are on Juan Mata.

Baines & Fellaini

The shame you say! Everton responds to Manchester United’s bid for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini as “derisory and insulting” and appear to have rejected it as fast as it came in.  Apparently the offer came in on Thursday, but as to not upset the first fixtures of the season, Everton decided it was best to keep the details quiet over the weekend.

“Everton can confirm that it has received bids from Manchester United for two players. Those bids were immediately rejected out of hand as derisory and insulting. The club did not make public these details as it was vital Roberto Martínez’s preparations for the opening game of the Premier League season were not disrupted in any way.”

The rumors all seem to agree on a joint bid of £28M for the pair leaving all of us to speculate on who was valued at what.  Either way, it was way too shy of what Everton would even consider.  Actually, we all seem to agree on one thing here, we’re a bit confused.

First, we are confused with the timing of the offer. The Thursday night before the first fixtures of the year is hardly the time to lodge a bid, right?  This would, as Everton rightly point out, would ruffle a few feathers as preparations for the first match is in full swing.

Second, again has to do with the timing of the offer.  Both Baines and Fellaini are integral parts of the Everton machine and are not pieces that Roberto Martinez is going to willing part with unless he has time to do some shopping himself.  Submitting an offer there could have forced the pair out of the next match rendering Everton without two of its key players.  Also, it is a bit late for Everton to accept anything considering they probably weren’t doing a lot of window shopping considering these “imminent” bids never fully materialized until now.

Third is the price. £23M was the buyout clause for Fellaini and Manchester United’s valuation of £16M puts them a ways off considering Martinez said that he wouldn’t be willing to go below that number, especially now that the buyout clause has expired.  Having a bid of £9M already rejected for Baines, it seems that the two clubs may be £10M apart.  The question is what exactly could be used to bridge the gap (more money, player exchange)?

So was this another misstep in Moyes first summer at United, or is it a well laid plan as he looks to raid his former club?

Arsenal Banner

As time ticked down at the Emirates, the frustration grew amongst the fans.  Chants of “spend some f—— money” rang down from the stands while the Arsenal dugout was surrounded by signs asking Wenger to “spend”. A frustrating summer window so far had Gunner’s fans biggest fear played out right in front of them.  Without strengthening the side, they are vulnerable.  While we joked that Arsene should invest in some new suits as well, it’s not only his wardrobe that hasn’t changed, but also his money management.

With a huge transfer kitty, war chest, bag of notes, whatever you want to call it, Wenger still has yet to purchase anything.  With claims that his transfer business is a 24 hour operation makes this even more concerning.  Wenger has seemingly put all of his collective eggs into the basket of Luis Suarez, and with Liverpool unwilling to sell, it looks like Arsenal will either panic buy, or not buy at all.

So what say you Arsenal fans, do you agree with Wenger here, or does this scare you?

“Could we have won the game with the players on the pitch today? For me, that is the real question. I say, yes. We didn’t lose today because of that. After that, if we do not spend the money, it is because we do not find the players. We are ready to buy the players if we find the players who are good enough for us. People say buy players, buy players, buy players. But tell me who. Then it becomes much more problematic.”

What exactly is he doing during those 24 hours?

Darren Bent

We’ll come up with a better title, but for now just try to follow our logic.

Doesn’t the transfer window feel like dating was in high school?  Targets identified, constant flirting, notes being passed around, calls not returned, weighing the competition, hitting on the other guys’ girl, etc.  Minus the medical, it’s sports version of Beverly Hills 90210 (circa 1992, when Luke Perry had hair).

Well since most of us act like high school girls when we get together to discuss the EPL (some more than others), we decided that it’s best to join the party rather than be the guy in the corner with the Ray Bans, or Arsenal fans.  I can tell you are sensing a theme, so here we go:

Eye Contact Made: ESPN was reporting that Old Trafford sources have stated that contact between Manchester United and Real Mardrid about Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric. Old Trafford must have many eyes considering all the contact made this summer.  Moyes definitely has eyes for the most attractive targets, but has yet to get a bite on any of them.  Just like me in high school, you play the odds and eventually you’ll score.

He Said, She Said: Luis Suarez has claimed that he never said that he was ready to return to Liverpool and actually sign an extension.  So apparently the papers in Uruguay hate him too.

That’s My Man!: Barcelona’s hopes of landing David Luiz on a £35 transfer (+£5 for his hair, yes there are two separate deals) were dashed when Jose Mourinho said he is not for sale at any price.  Sounds like Jose has heard that one enough this summer that he wanted to use it for a change.

First Date: Darren Bent is set to have his medical at Fulham today.  This will be a rigorous test of sitting down and standing up quickly over and over again.  Sources have assured us that Bent will pass with flying colors.