Reuters Soccer Blog

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Arsenal’s Wenger has a lot to shout about

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Arsene Wenger is known as the The Professor but the halftime ear-bashing he inflicted on his Arsenal team at Anfield on Sunday had more in keeping with the “hairdryer” technique often used by his great rival Alex Ferguson.
 
It was out of character for the Frenchman but it certainly had the desired effect as his team overturned a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 with a much-improved second half performance.

But why was he so animated?

Perhaps the reason was because he realised that Arsenal may never have a better opportunity to break the Manchester United/Chelsea domination of the Premier League.
 
Both of the top two appear vulnerable at the moment and Arsenal, despite losing to both of them already this season, are the best-equipped to muscle in on the title race.
 
Earlier this season Wenger stated that the Premier League could be won with a relatively low points total this season.  Judging by recent results he looks like being proved right.
 
Chelsea are suddenly leaking goals at an alarming rate, United’s defeat at home to Aston Villa illustrated just how much they are missing the departed Cristiano Ronaldo, Liverpool are going backwards and Manchester City are yet to maximise the huge amount of money spent on their team.
 
With a couple of good signings in January, Wenger and Arsenal may have plenty to shout about in 2010.

PHOTO: Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger gestures during their English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool in Liverpool, northern England December 13, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

UPDATE: Quantum theories of score prediction won’t help you now, Mr Bond

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torres.jpgMONDAY UPDATE: A truly appalling week for the panel. Admittedly, it was hard to predict Manchester United losing 1-0 at home to Aston Villa and Chelsea’s 3-3 home draw with Everton but nevertheless it was dreadful.

Some serious soul searching must go on in the coming weeks whilst eating our mincepies and finding yet another pair of socks when opening our Christmas presents.

Arsenal need to bulk up to avoid blowout

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It used to be said that rugby was a sport for all shapes and sizes yet the modern professional game is so dominated by massive, athletic gym monkeys that diminutive wingers such as Shane Williams are as rare as England tries.

And, if Sunday’s game at the Emirates, where Chelsea completely bullied Arsenal into submission is anything to go by, soccer could be following a similar path.

UPDATE: Derby fever hits the predictions league

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Monday update: You would think 14 games into the season we would have learnt who was likely to beat who in the Premier League. Sadly not. I did OK for a change but only Martyn Herman really covered himself in glory with two five pointers for Villa 1-1 Spurs and Manchester City collecting yet another draw against Hull City.

But I wouldn’t celebrate like Jimmy Bullard just yet, Martyn, you’re still third bottom.

Arsenal emerge as shining light in Champions League

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Out of eight Spanish and English teams playing in the Champions League this week, only Arsenal were victorious.

Was this a blip for the two powerhouses, or is it another indication that Europe’s top club competition is becoming more balanced?

North London derby offers little hope to prediction paupers (UPDATE)

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******Monday morning update, by Kevin Fylan: This was the weekend that the Reuters Soccer Blog panel struck back. Mark Meadows managed a stonking 22 points from the 10 games, the first time we’ve really had a score to shout about. Can anyone beat that? Leader Patrick Johnston got a solid 13, while Neil Maidment has made a great leap forward with 18. In any other week, Neil…******Remember, you bag five points for getting the score spot on, and just one if you got the result right but the wrong score. Here’s our updated league table. Where do you stand?******Reuters Soccer Blog panel: Patrick Johnston 105, Mitch Phillips 89, Paul Radford 87, Mike Collett 76, Simon Evans 74, Mark Meadows 72, Kevin Fylan 71, Miles Evans 70, Julien Pretot 69, Neil Maidment 62, Asia Sports Desk 53, Justin Palmer 38, Martyn Herman 20, Sonia Oxley 10 (plus belated bonus from last week, =15)******Original post from Friday: It’s that time of the week again. Yes time to humiliate ourselves by hopelessly trying to guess which Liverpool side will turn up, how many players will be out with swine flu and whether Dimitar Berbatov will actually resemble the good player he is supposed to be.******Apart from Mitch Phillips, who downright cheated, last weekend’s Premier League predictions contest was a sad tale of woe for all and this time it looks just as tricky.******Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur is always a feisty affair, just ask any North Londoner (not that there will be many on the pitch). ******Even avid Spurs fans (you know who you are) would be hard pressed to deny that Arsenal play the most beautiful football in England but Tottenham are seriously threatening to break into that top four this term and what better way to show your worth that to win away at the Gunners.******The derby will be our double pointer for this week. Remember one point for the correct result and a massive five for the correct score.******Below are the running scores for our not-so-expert panel at Reuters Soccer Blog Heights followed by this weekend’s fixtures and our predictions. Please play along in the comments and see if you can rival our top contributors like Chipking, Sean and maid.******Playing Saturday:******Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur: Patrick Johnston 5-2, Mitch Phillips 2-2, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 2-3, Kevin Fylan 2-4, Miles Evans 3-1, Julien Pretot 3-1, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 3-1, Neil Maidment 2-1, Justin Palmer 2-2, Martyn Herman 3-1, Soxley 2-2******Bolton Wanderers v Chelsea: Patrick Johnston 1-2, Mitch Phillips 1-1, Paul Radford 0-3, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 0-2, Kevin Fylan 1-2, Miles Evans 2-2, Julien Pretot 0-2, Mark Meadows 1-2, Asia Sports Desk 1-3, Neil Maidment 0-2, Justin Palmer 1-1, Martyn Herman 0-2, Soxley 0-2******Burnley v Hull City: Patrick Johnston 2-0, Mitch Phillips 2-1, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 3-2, Mike Collett 4-1, Kevin Fylan 2-1, Miles Evans 1-1, Julien Pretot 1-1, Mark Meadows 2-0, Asia Sports Desk 1-2, Neil Maidment 2-0, Justin Palmer 1-1, Martyn Herman 2-1, Soxley 1-1 ******Everton v Aston Villa: Patrick Johnston 1-1, Mitch Phillips 1-1, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 1-2, Kevin Fylan 1-0, Miles Evans 2-2, Julien Pretot 1-1, Mark Meadows1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-2, Neil Maidment 1-1, Justin Palmer 2-0, Martyn Herman 2-2, Soxley 1-1            ******Fulham v Liverpool: Patrick Johnston 1-0, Mitch Phillips 2-2, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 0-1, Mike Collett 1-2, Kevin Fylan 2-1, Miles Evans 0-1, Julien Pretot 1-2, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-4, Neil Maidment 1-2, Justin Palmer 2-3, Martyn Herman 2-1, Soxley 0-2            ******Portsmouth v Wigan Athletic: Patrick Johnston 1-1, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 2-2, Mike Collett 2-1, Kevin Fylan 0-1, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 1-0, Mark Meadows 0-0, Asia Sports Desk 0-1, Neil Maidment 1-2, Justin Palmer 0-0, Martyn Herman 1-1, Soxley 0-1         ******Stoke City v Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patrick Johnston 3-0, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 2-1, Mike Collett 1-1, Kevin Fylan 2-0, Miles Evans 4-1, Julien Pretot 2-1, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-1, Neil Maidment 3-1, Justin Palmer 3-1, Martyn Herman 0-0, Soxley 0-0******Sunderland v West Ham United: Patrick Johnston 2-1, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 3-1, Simon Evans 2-1, Mike Collett 3-1, Kevin Fylan 0-0, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 2-0, Mark Meadows 2-2, Asia Sports Desk 1-1, Neil Maidment 2-2, Justin Palmer 0-1, Martyn Herman 1-2, Soxley 3-2******Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers: Patrick Johnston 2-1, Mitch Phillips 3-1, Paul Radford 1-0, Simon Evans 5-0, Mike Collett 3-0, Kevin Fylan 4-0, Miles Evans 2-0, Julien Pretot 4-0, Mark Meadows 2-0, Asia Sports Desk 3-0, Neil Maidment 3-0, Justin Palmer 3-0, Martyn Herman 1-0, Soxley 2-1          ******Playing on Sunday:*** Birmingham City v Manchester City: Patrick Johnston 0-1, Mitch Phillips 2-1, Paul Radford 0-3, Simon Evans 0-2, Mike Collett 1-1, Kevin Fylan 1-2, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 2-2, Mark Meadows 1-2, Asia Sports Desk 0-3, Neil Maidment 1-3, Justin Palmer 1-2, Martyn Herman 0-3, Soxley 1-2******PHOTO: Robbie Keane (L) of Tottenham Hotspur is tackled by Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London February 8, 2009. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

from Left field:

The importance of keeping talent in reserve

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Maintaining the strength in depth to cope with injury crises is as crucial for the management of a top-class team as it is difficult to master, writes William James.

The recent experience of England's rugby team is testament to this after being forced to pick a squad without twelve regular members.

UPDATE – The painful art of score prediction — round 10

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So it was an even worse week than usual. Ok, there were some surprise results but generally it was pitiful, some panelists only picked up one point and even most of our outside contributors struggled despite showing us up in recent weeks.

On behalf of all of us, I’d like to point out that the Premier League is more evenly balanced than it has been for a while (see Kevin’s blog) so we have a slight excuse….

Best. Premier League. Ever… ?

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The Ballon d’Or shortlist was announced on Sunday, but what about the Ballon de Plage? Liverpool’s inflatable nemesis must surely get a category of its own in the end-of-season awards.

Sunderland’s absurd winning goal at the Stadium of Light was symbolic not just of Liverpool’s woes but of a season that just keeps rattling along in ever more gloriously unpredictable style.

Wenger deserves to stand with Fergie after reaching landmark

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Arsene Wenger has not collected trophies quite as greedily as his Manchester United counterpart Alex Ferguson but in terms of his impact on English football he has no equal.

Ferguson transformed an under-achieving United into the most succesful club in English football but Wenger has set the benchmark for modern-day club football in terms of style.

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