Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


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Premier League Predictions – How the Table Will Look

After more than two months of posting at least once a day since this site’s inception, I am taking a week’s vacation with my family, and won’t have access to my computer. I’ll be back writing a week from Tuesday. Hopefully the brief break from the blog will keep me fresh heading into the fall. However, I will post my prediction for Saturday’s Arsenal-Crystal Palace game on Twitter (@MrMcGinnis94), so check for that.

Between now and next Tuesday, a pretty major event is happening. The Premier League opens play this weekend. We’ve all been patiently waiting for this since May. The World Cup helped shorten the summer, but it still feels like it has been ages since Arsenal finished up their season. And for that one brief moment as all the games kick off on Saturday, nearly every single fan across the globe will be smiling. Because Premier League football is back.

Once the games begin, anything and everything will happen between now and next May when the champion will be crowned. As Ian Darke says, there will be a few million talking points. It’s going to be fun.

Here are my predictions for how the table will look after all 38 games are played.

EPL Predictions

1. Chelsea – Chelsea are loaded this year. If Diego Costa is half of the player he was a year ago, the Blues should be scoring at a record pace. I think the pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill will be found out by Arsenal and City, but the absurd amount of talent Chelsea has in the midfield will see them dominate against everybody else. The title may come down to who drops the fewest points against the Stoke City’s of the world, and I think Jose Mourinho will have his team prepared week in and week out.

2. Arsenal – I am certainly optimistic this year, as I firmly believe that Arsenal has the talent and depth to lead a sustained charge for the title. Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott will be lethal in the final third, and there will be goals scored at will. Defensive issues late on will keep Arsenal from winning the title, but they’ll be right there until the final day.

3. Manchester City – City will see their throne taken from them this season, as I feel they’ll have much of their attention focused on a run in the Champions League – I think they might reach a semifinal in that competition. They’ll appear disinterested at times in the league, and they’ll drop key points against lower level opposition. They have the talent to win the title handily, but I think they’ll disappoint.

4. Manchester United – After a terrific preseason, Louis van Gaal’s men will top the table at the end of September, led by a revitalized Wayne Rooney. But once United starts playing top sides – don’t be fooled by any early success against inferior opposition – they will struggle, with the defense left exposed. They will be much improved from a year ago, but their goal should be reaching the top four, not winning the title.

5. Liverpool – Luis Suarez will be sorely missed, as the Reds are a Daniel Sturridge injury away from having a crisis up front. Rickie Lambert is not at the stage of his career when he can be productive twice a week, and he’ll struggle to adapt to the rigors of a Champions League campaign. Their journey in Europe will end up doing more harm than good. I think they’ll end up in a fight with United for fourth.

6. Everton – The Toffees have strengthened through retention this summer, and expect to improve on a wonderful campaign a year ago. Romelu Lukaku should be near the top of the goalscoring charts, and I think Ross Barkley is ready to take the next step. They are one piece away from the top four in my eyes, but they are capable of beating anyone on their day.

7. Newcastle – Newcastle will be a much improved team from a year ago. If Alan Pardew has his head in the right place, he could lead this side to a place in the Europa League. I think Emmanuel Riviere will find immediate success scoring goals, and Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote will form a fierce pairing in defensive midfield. They should be a fun side.

8. Tottenham – Count me as one unimpressed with what Mauricio Pochettino has done this summer. I can’t wait to see Spurs dismantled by Liverpool at the end of the month. Pochettino will have the team playing better by December, but I think they’ll struggle at the beginning of the year in defense. They won’t be anywhere near the top 4 come May.

9. Hull City – Hull is a team capable of making the leap this year. In keeping last year’s upstart team together, and bringing in a few new faces, Steve Bruce has had a very successful summer. They have an excellent midfield, and I expect Nikica Jelavic and Tom Ince to be scoring plenty of goals by the end of the year. They will be a team to watch.

10. Swansea City – I think it will take the Swans a little while to adapt to their new style under Garry Monk. But ultimately, they have the talent up front to comfortably finish mid-table. Between Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bafetimbi Gomis and Wilfried Bony, they have an awful lot of options in the final third.

11. Crystal Palace – A candidate for most to go down in their second season back with the big boys, I think Palace will continue to make strides under Tony Pulis. The defense should be solid once again, and Frazier Campbell has been added to bolster a static attack. It will be up to him and Marouane Chamakh to determine just how far up the table Palace can go, but they’ll be well above the drop zone.

12. Stoke City – Mark Hughes began to turn Stoke into a watchable side last year, and he finally was able to bring in players to fit his system this year. Ex-Barca man Bojan Krkic will represent a new era of Stoke football. They won’t be as near to the relegation zone as some expect.

13. West Ham – Sam Allardyce will have his side comfortably above the relegation zone, but improvement over last season will be hard to see at times. He has made moves to make the side a little more dynamic going forward, but don’t be surprised if Big Sam reverts to old ways come February.

14. Sunderland – The Black Cats were sensational towards the end of last season, but I don’t see that form carrying over to this campaign. The aging defense will be leaky. And while Jack Rodwell is an improvement in midfield, Steven Fletcher will struggle to produce goals as a lone striker this year. Connor Wickham’s involvement could be crucial to survival.

15. QPR – ‘Arry is back in the Premiership – I really dislike that man. But QPR has more talent than both of the other promoted clubs, and should stay up. The back three with Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker should be strong enough to get the necessary points for survival. However, Charlie Austin won’t cut it as an EPL frontman, and Redknapp will need to buy a striker in January.

16. Southampton – The Saints have lost an awful lot from a side that made the leap to the top half of the Premiership a year ago. They’ll struggle this year. But don’t be surprised when the next wave of youngsters start making a positive impact. They will be in the relegation zone on Boxing Day, but they’ll finish in safety.

17. Aston Villa – It is worrying how little Paul Lambert has done to improve the team. He brought in a few experienced squad players, but Villa will still be lacking in many areas. They are another Christian Benteke injury away from relegation.

18. Leicester City – Despite a strong preseason, the going won’t be easy for the newly promoted side. They might hang around until the final day, but they’ll be back in the Championship next year.

19. West Bromwich Albion – After flirting with disaster a year ago, West Brom will be right back in the thick of the survival fight from the start. They may have strengthened their defense, but I just don’t think they have the talent up front to score enough goals.

20. Burnley – When your strengths going into a season are fitness and teamwork, it could be a long year. Their high press style will be pleasing for neutrals, but the lack of talent will see the Clarets down by April. Danny Ings is a name to watch though.

Who do you think is going to win the title this year? Are you worried about your team getting relegated? Please comment below.

 


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Arsenal Roundup – Man City, Arteta, Vermaelen and More

With the triumph in the FA Community Shield against Manchester City yesterday (see player ratings from the match here) and with the Premier League season kicking off in under a week, there is an abundance of Arsenal news to discuss this morning.

Let’s start with yesterday. And what an awesome day it was. Anybody and everybody wants to point out that the FA Community Shield is only a preseason match, or that Manchester City wasn’t really trying. While both of those things might be true on some level, it was still meaningful that Arsenal won another trophy so convincingly. My favorite quote I’ve read comes from Arsene Wenger, who said, “If you lose it, they say you lost a trophy. If you win it, they say it’s only the Community Shield.”

But even if you don’t believe the trophy is meaningful in and of itself, consider this victory as important in other ways. For me, beating another top-4 side at the start of the season should boost Arsenal’s confidence levels tremendously. A year ago, when playing top opposition, Wenger’s men often played on the back foot, looking at times like they lacked belief. But yesterday’s result will bring that belief back into the squad. No team can win a title without believing. And no team will believe until it can beat the top sides. And Arsenal ran a top side off the field yesterday. It can only be a good thing.

On an individual level, lifting a trophy of any sort is good for morale in the dressing room. Winning not only will keep players around and attract new ones, but it will inspire those on the fringes of the team. Trophies boost the spirits of the entire squad, not just those on the field. And from yesterday’s game, a lot of players can be happy with how they played. The new boys especially should be pleased with how they fit directly into the team. That Calum Chambers was voted man of the match by the fans is a deserving welcome that should hopefully inspire him to continue on the way to great things.

And who doesn’t feel better about the team after yesterday? Chambers definitely looked like a player capable of playing center back, and playing it quite well at that. Even Nacho Monreal played well at that position in the second half. And in the midfield, Mikel Arteta’s performance should do a lot to alleviate any worries about the defensive midfield position. Going up against the power of the City midfield, Arteta held his ground, and distributed the ball as accurately as ever going forward. He may not be a flashy international, but he does the little things right. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger leaves that position alone in the transfer market the rest of the way.

The biggest indication that Wenger has no desire to spend big on William Carvalho or Sami Khedira was given yesterday when Arteta was officially appointed Arsenal’s next captain after the match. Had Arteta not been a big part of Wenger’s plans going forward, he would not have made that choice. I’m sure nearly every Arsenal fan will have wanted a splashier choice for the captainship, be it Per Mertesacker or Aaron Ramsey, but none of us should be surprised at Arteta’s appointment. He is a thorough professional and a good leader on the field. He won’t be burdened by the job, and unlike many others, he doesn’t play internationally, meaning he spends more time around the club than almost anyone else. Arteta won’t be captain forever. But he’ll do the job admirably.

At vice captain, Mertesacker was the obvious choice. A year ago, he wore the band often, and I think that will happen again this year. He is a fantastic leader, and has the respect of everyone in the dressing room. Areteta has a terrific right hand man in Mertesacker.

I’ve yet to address the confirmed departure of Thomas Vermaelen. The now former Arsenal captain left this weekend for Barcelona on a £15m deal. This move was a long time coming, and it should satisfy all involved. Vermaelen gets a fresh start on his career and a chance to reestablish himself as a top class defender. Arsenal gets their wish of moving him abroad, and for a substantial fee at that. And Barcelona gets an experienced center back capable of playing their style.

There are no hard feelings on this one. Unlike the other high profile departures in recent years, Vermaelen stuck around even when it wasn’t in his best interest. He doesn’t leave for Barcelona seeking more money or more trophies. He goes seeking playing time. And we can’t fault him for that after he spent more than a full year quietly accepting his role behind Mertesacker and Koscielny. It can’t have been easy to have had to give pre-game captain’s notes every week knowing he wasn’t going to play, but Vermaelen was extremely professional throughout.

I really liked the Belgian. His marauding style of play was always fun to watch, and you could tell how much the games meant to him. When he scored a goal, he had an infectious smile. And his celebrations were always displays of pure joy. It was hard for me to watch him waste his career on the bench, and I’m glad he’s getting a chance elsewhere. My lasting Vermaelen memory won’t be of a defensive lapse or of him sitting on the pitch – it will be of him sprinting to the corner flag with the biggest grin on his face after scoring a 95th minute winner against Newcastle. Best of luck in Barcelona, Thomas.

Today also has brought the return of our World Cup winning trio to training. Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Özil were all smiles on their arrival this morning, and they while they are a ways off from being match fit, their presence at training is most welcome. It’s always nice to have winners around.

The Premier League season is so close I can feel it. While yesterday was great, it will be an even better feeling waking up on Saturday knowing there is an entire year of Arsenal ahead of us. I am full of cautious optimism right now. It is going to be a great season.

 

 

 


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Another Match, Another Trophy – Player Ratings for Arsenal’s FA Community Shield Triumph

There wasn’t nine years of waiting this time. Arsenal dominated from the opening minutes in the FA Community Shield against City, and rightfully lifted the trophy at the end of the match, winning 3-0. While it may not be the most important silverware, it is still a trophy nonetheless. This game should be yet another lift for the entire club, boosting the morale even more in a wonderful summer. When the Premier League opens next weekend, Arsenal supporters can feel rightfully confident.

I don’t have much time to write today, so I’ll save most of my analysis tomorrow morning. But I have to say it was a terrific day to be a Gooner. Arsenal look a devastating side going forward, and all day, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey were creating chances and finding space. Manchester City were missing a lot, especially in defense, but Arsenal certainly look a side on par with the reigning Premier League champions. It could be a fun year.

Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scored three good goals, and Arsenal were comfortably on the front foot for much of the game. With the German players arriving back on Monday, Arsenal are in a great place as the season begins.

Here are my player ratings for Arsenal’s FA Community Shield winning side.

Plater Ratings (1-10)

Yaya Sanogo – 7/10 – The young Frenchman didn’t look out of place in the starting XI in the first half, doing a little bit of everything up top. As always, his movement was quite impressive, and while his tendency to stray offside needs to change, his pace was a nuisance for Manchester City. His assist for Ramsey might have been a tad fortunate, but it was Sanogo’s run that put Arsenal in that positive position.

Alexis Sanchez – 7/10 – Sanchez looks like he’s going to fit in seamlessly. Some of his ideas didn’t always work out, but whenever he got on the ball, Arsenal looked threatening. He may have only played a half, but he put in a great debut performance. You have to think as he gets more comfortable with his teammates, he’ll only get more dangerous.

Santi Cazorla – 7.5/10 – It was rather fitting that Cazorla scored the opening goal after a summer in which he’d been generally overlooked. The little Spaniard put in a great shift on the wing, as his movement and passing was excellent. His goal was superbly taken after cleverly letting the ball run across his body. Cazorla’s got a lot more to give this year, and his willingness to track back could make him an attractive option on the left wing.

Aaron Ramsey – 9/10 – Ramsey’s late first half goal was emblematic of his performance on the day. He made it look easy, scoring from only a few yards out, but so much more went into the goal. He made a run from half field to get into position to receive the ball from Sanogo, and deftly chipped the ball past the first defender before firing it into the far corner. Ramsey was everywhere on the pitch, always choosing the right runs to make and finding the right balls. It looks like it will be another banner year from the Welshman.

Jack Wilshere – 7/10 – Wilshere didn’t have a standout game, but he was quite effective in the midfield, linking up well with everyone around him. Whether it was releasing pace down the flanks, or simply keeping possession, Wilshere had a good day. Defensively, he did well in his own right, putting in a couple of decent challenges.

Mikel Arteta – 7/10 – Arteta put in an admirable shift in his usual defensive midfield role. He was composed on the ball, linking up well with his fellow midfielders, and never strayed too far out of position. Against Yaya Toure, Arteta held his ground this time out. Many don’t think he can be on the field if Arsenal want to win a title, but Arteta could well prove everyone wrong.

Kieran Gibbs – 6.5/10 – Gibbs had a lot of success getting forward in the first half, and combined well with Cazorla all day. He struggled a little bit with Jesus Navas on the wing, but there were no disastrous moments. At this point in his career. Gibbs will be counted on as a consistent, top of the line left back.

Laurent Koscielny – 6.5/10 – In only one half of action, Koscielny put in a decent shift, tracking City’s runners nicely. With Chambers pushed a bit forward, Koscielny was always there to clean up anything in behind. His one on one defending was also impressive. Let’s hope it wasn’t an injury that forced him off at the half.

Calum Chambers – 7.5/10 – Chambers seemed a lot more comfortable intercepting passes and stepping higher up the pitch rather than defending one on one closer to goal. He is clearly still learning the center back position, but overall, he made a bright start to his Arsenal career. He made a couple of clearances with his head, and was quite effective picking off any loose passes from City in the final third.

Mathieu Debuchy – 7/10 – Right from the start, Arsneal’s new right back was bombing forward and sending in crosses towards Sanogo. He and Sanchez seem to have formed a quick understanding. Defensively, Debuchy made an excellent block from a Samir Nasri shot in the first half. He should have done better with a header early in the second half, as he was caught a bit flat footed, but Szczesny was there to save Stevan Jovetic’s effort in the end.

Wojciech Szczesny – 7/10 – The Arsenal keeper put in an assured display at the back for the most part. He had a quiet first half, but when called upon the the second half, he was there to stop shots and claim any crosses. He was quick off his line and confident in the air. He made one questionable decision on Jovetic’s header, and didn’t reach a corner late on, but overall, Szczesny looked good. He seems inspired to play the sweeper role this year, and hopefully he didn’t concuss himself late on.

Substitutes

Olivier Giroud (46th) – 7.5/10 – A wonderfully taken, albeit slightly deflected goal highlighted a great performance from the Frenchman. Still lacking ffitness, Giroud only played the second half, but it was a successful afternoon. He held up play nicely, and showed off his strength on the ball. He should be fully fit soon.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (46th) – 5.5/10 – The winger came on at half but didn’t make much of an impact in his time on the field. Much of his work was on the defensive end, and while he let his men get by him a few times, he was usually quick enough to get back in position. He’ll be disappointed not to have gotten on the ball more.

Nacho Monreal (46th) – 6.5/10 Back at center back, Monreal was solid in the back next to Chambers. He handled the strength of City’s frontmen admirably. Who would have expected Monreal to be confidently taking the ball off Yaya Toure in the box? It was a much better performance from the converted left back.

Mathieu Flamini (67th) – 6/10 – Flamini will have wanted to start the game over Arteta, so it was notable that he started the match on the bench. And when he came on, he was pushed ahead of Arteta, showing that there is a clear pecking order at defensive midfielder right now. He got in one good position going forward, but overall, it was a pretty quiet appearance from Flamini.

Tomas Rosicky (70th) – N/A – Rosicky made a 20 minute cameo in place of Santi Cazorla, and looked confident on the ball. By that point though, Arsenal weren’t sending many men forward, so there wasn’t much for Rosicky to do.

Joel Campbell (85th) – N/A – Campbell made a late run out at Wembley, but didn’t do much more than run. He nearly got on a ball in the final third , but wasn’t quite quick enough. He’ll be happy enough just to see the field.


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FA Community Shield Preview and Prediction – Arsenal vs. Manchester City

It’s going to be a busy 24 hours for me so I thought I’d write my preview of tomorrow’s FA Community Shield match between Arsenal and Manchester City now. I’ve talked about why the match is and isn’t a big deal, but count me as one who’s incredibly excited for any kind of real games to start. The idea that Arsenal could soon be lifting another trophy makes me smile even thinking about it. Watching the Gunners take the field at Wembley again will be a delight.

This match is an interesting one tactically, as both Arsene Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini are still without many of their key players who were at the World Cup. They also will likely want to conceal some of their more innovative ideas going into their Premier League openers next weekend. As a result, the tactics might be more experimental than normal or they could be simplified. With a similar team to what they had a year ago, I expect Manchester City to play close to the style they operated a year ago. But I think Wenger might get creative with some of his tactics.

For instance, I don’t think Olivier Giroud will start the game. He didn’t look fit last weekend, and between Yaya Sanogo and Alexis Sanchez, Wenger has two wildcards at his disposal up front that Manchester City haven’t seen before. So right from the start, I think Arsenal will look much different than they did a year ago, as either option will provide pace and creativity up front rather than hold up play and power. And with Mesut Özil out, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey might get a shot at playing together in the midfield, which has been a rarity in recent years.

While I would like to see Sanogo start the game, I think Wenger will go with Sanchez up top, alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla on the wings. Afraid of what City’s sheer power can do in the midfield, I think Wenger will start Ramsey, Wilshere and Mikel Arteta in hopes that all three of them will be willing to put in serious defensive work all match. And in defense, I expect we’ll see Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy in front of Wojciech Szczesny. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nacho Monreal in there at either left back or center back.

The key to this game for Arsenal will be keeping David Silva and Samir Nasri at bay. The two creative forces have had lengthy summer breaks and will be well prepared for this match. With Arsenal’s defense still learning how to play with one another, this duo might have their way in the final third, picking out passes for those around them. And the problem with facing City is that Yaya Toure can be such a threat from his deep lying spot in the midfield. If too much attention is focused on Silva and Nasri, Toure will get on the ball and do serious damage. Arteta will have his hands full.

This is a particularly big match for Mikel Arteta, assuming he starts in his usual defensive midfield role. There has been increasingly loud clamoring for a new defensive midfielder at Arsenal, with many suggesting that this is the one area the club needs to improve should they want to challenge for the title. Arteta has seen all of the rumors, and he’ll be eager to prove all his doubters wrong. A strong performance against one of the most physically imposing midfields in the world might very well earn Arteta another year as the starter. But should he struggle, Wenger may be left with no choice but to buy a big name in that spot.

Many eyes will be planted firmly on big money arrival Sanchez, but this match will also likely be the competitive debuts at Arsenal for Chambers and Debuchy as well. The three of them will no doubt be looking to start off on the right foot, and there will be no better way to endear themselves to the fans than an impressive debut at Wembley. A goal for Sanchez, an assist from Debuchy, or a series of tackles from Chambers tomorrow could set them on the fast track towards becoming fan favorites. They’ve already brought so much optimism to the club without even playing a game, and now they have the chance to boost morale even more. I think Sanchez will put in a man of the match performance.

I’ve thought a lot about how I want to do predictions for the coming season. For the World Cup, I did elaborate predictions, giving a lot more than just a score. It was fun to write, and while I was semi-successful with some of my more random predictions about how and when goals would be scored, it wasn’t entirely conventional. I think for Arsenal games, I will switch to a more reserved prediction style, naming only a score. I might suggest a player or two who will have good games, but I won’t predict which players will score the goals.

I have a personal philosophy that I don’t want to root for any one player above another to score goals or points on my favorite teams. I want to root for the team as a whole, not individuals. Obviously, I have favorite players, and there are certain players I like to see score than others, but I don’t want to have any conflict of interest when watching my team play. It’s why I try to avoid selecting players from my teams on any of my Fantasy Sports teams (speaking of which, make sure to join the Fantasy Premier League league I’ve formed – see the paragraph at the bottom of this link here for details). So in short, I won’t overdo my prediction sections for Arsenal games.

I expect a high-scoring games given the absence of key names defensively for both sides. Per Mertesacker and Vincent Kompany are badly needed in the middle of their teams’ defenses and both Arsenal and Manchester City will miss their experienced defender. And both teams certainly are not lacking talent in the final third even with players still gone. My final prediction is Arsenal 3 Manchester City 2. It should be a good one.

Check back after tomorrow’s match for postgame coverage and player ratings. Enjoy the first taste of real soccer we’ve had in a while.


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Grazing In the Sports World Grass

I wanted to follow in the footsteps of one of my favorite sports writers with this piece, using the style of Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy’s “Picking Up the Pieces” articles. In it, I will hit on many topics with only a single paragraph. My current title is a work in progress for this segment going forward. If you have a better idea, put the name in the comments or tell me on Twitter (@MrMcGinnis94).

The Patriots begin their preseason tonight against the Washington Redskins. In what is pretty much his only action of the entire year, Ryan Mallett will see the majority of the snaps tonight at quarterback. The former Razorback deserves a shot in the NFL due to his physical tools, and I think his time is running out to earn a trade to start games somewhere else. Not much else happens in the preseason opener, so make sure to keep your eye on Mallett.

Following that, I am getting excited quickly for the coming Arkansas football season. I fully understand that the degree of difficulty of the schedule (many say the Hogs have the toughest schedule in the country) could make progress hard to see this year, but I fully believe in what Bret Bielema is doing to rebuild the program. I really like the way the offensive line is shaping up, and it makes me giddy to think about the trio of highly regarded running backs hitting the holes. This team will begin to resemble the Houston Nutt Razorback teams from the Darren McFadden era, and in my mind that’s a good thing. If Casey Dick was good enough to ride his running backs to successful seasons, why can’t Brandon Allen? I’ll have a lot more to say in the coming weeks, but the August 30 opener at Auburn can’t get here soon enough.

Moving to baseball, I was really impressed with Joe Kelly on the mound for the first time with the Red Sox last night. There hasn’t been a good sinkerballer in Boston in a while, and last night the new arrival showed he has top notch stuff on the hill. He isn’t a number one starter by any means, but he could be a solid number two or three on a great team. It was also fun to see him beat out a ground ball base hit – I hope other Red Sox players were taking notes. And it was also good to see Xander Bogaerts turning it around at the plate. His struggles have gone on far too long for a player as talented as he is.

To basketball, news has broken this morning that the Kevin Love to Cleveland trade we’ve all been waiting for has been all but confirmed. Minnesota should be happy enough with the return – two number one overall picks plus a first rounder for a player who would have left for nothing in a year is a good deal. I can’t wait to watch Love play with LeBron James. Think about all of the fast break dunks LeBron will get from Love’s outlet passes. It is a match made in heaven. With perimeter threats on the roster, Love will also be able to play in the post more than he ever could in Minnesota, and I expect him to reach new heights this year on the block. He is one of my favorite two or three players to watch in the NBA, and I’m glad he will get a shot to play for a championship. I don’t think this puts Cleveland above San Antonio, but they are certainly the favorites in the East.

All is quiet on the Celtics front these days. Looking at the roster, there is a lot of redundancy as it currently stands. Shooting guard in particular is full of talented individuals who won’t be happy with sitting on the bench. Marcus Thornton is the name that makes the least sense on the this roster given his age and ability. I think he’s gone before December. And with Vitor Faverani making the news for the wrong reasons, he too could find himself looking for a new job before long. When there isn’t any other news, getting arrested for drunk driving is not a smart move for a player on the fringe of the team.

To Arsenal, there isn’t much in the news this morning other than that Theo Walcott’s return to training is scheduled for the end of the month. As I’ll say in a post in the near future about Walcott, I think he has a key role to play in the coming season, and getting him on the field as soon as possible will be vital for Arsenal’s success. And there is also the confirmation from Arsene Wenger that Manchester United have officially lodged a bid for Thomas Vermaelen, but that’s hardly news at this point. I’m ready for transfer rumors to stop so that the talk can be about the play on the field again. Is it Sunday yet?

And yesterday brought about the retirement of Howard Webb, the high profile Premier League referee who was in charge of the 2010 World Cup Final. He is a tremendous referee and his authority on the field will be missed. I was trying to think about Arsenal matches he had done recently, but none came to mind. I picture him doing Manchester United matches. But apparently after United, Arsenal has done the second best of any team with him in charge. I guess we’ll miss him in more ways than one.

Lastly, I have formed a Fantasy Premier League league for all to join. I’m not a big fan of fantasy sports in general, but the Premier League does it excellently – for all who don’t know, the league’s official website hosts the game which features a FA Cup style cup among all the millions of participants in the second half of the year – and it’s a wonderful way to keep up with players across the entire league. The league is under this blog’s name on fantasy.premierleague.com. Click join private league – the passcode to join is 1154525-274716. I’ll be trying to get as many people as I can to play, so please join even if you’re only slightly interested. Tell your friends as well.

That’s all for now. Have a great day and thanks for reading.