Premiership Review Part 3 Season 2016 – 2017

11th to 14th Place

11th place. West Ham . 6 out of 10. The Hammers were all over the option for large parts of the season but came good at the end to command a respectable 11th place but nothing more. More was expected of the team at the start of the season but in truth they just weren’t good enough. Slaven Bilic’s troops were off the pace and although his position has come into question, the boardroom at West Ham has usually backed their managers and I see no reason why Bilic won’t be in charge for the beginning of next season. One defeat in their last 7 matches made the grass greener than it really was as West Ham struggled throughout their campaign and the 67 goals conceded was 11 more than relegated Middlesbrough! The defence needs strengthening and already Bilic is looking to bolster up the ramparts with the likelihood of Pablo Zabaleta coming in on a free transfer from Manchester City. It would be easy to say 1 down and 3 to go at the back but this summer transfer window is Bilic’s biggest and he has to make it work or he will be out on his ear. How can a team beat the indomitable Spurs at home 1-0 and then fall at home to Liverpool in a 4-0 thrashing just 9 days later beats me. Changes are required almost everywhere or next season could be a slippery slope for the Hammers.

 

12th place. Leicester City. 6 out of 10. The Foxes were Champions last year but only ended up safe from relegation this season towards the last couple of months. The thing is if comparing with last season it’s difficult to mark Leicester City. Last season they were that very rare bird that managed a 10 out of 10 and talking about Bournemouth punching about their weight Leicester were the ultimate David v Goliath story. If they were punching above their weight last year then it was Bonnie Langford versus Frank Bruno so this year it was hard to put into perspective. After a poor run left Leicester just a point above the relegation zone the owners sacked the manager who had brought them gold in Claudio Ranieri and so all respect for Leicester’s owners went flying out the window. Craig Shakespeare was promoted to try to steady the ship and did a good job in keeping the Foxes heads above water. They missed N’Golo Kante in the middle of the park tremendously and it goes without saying he was the engine room for the team but just like Chelsea the year before so many players of the current champions were off form. Mahrez was conspicuous by his absence, Vardy was left on the subs bench, Huth was starting to look a bit old and Drinkwater was injured for part of the campaign and with Kante gone they were not the side they were. Leicester got out of jail in the end but in truth Leicester in 12th place has a certain correct ring to it. Fortunately or unfortunately they just played on planet cloud 9 the previous season when they were simply out of this world. It remains to be seen if Shakespeare is in charge next season although I suspect not although I do believe Mahrez will be gone after making noises of wanting to leave this May and the dismantling of the most outlandish, unexpected title champions of all time may be in the offing. Shame really as they were brilliant in that one season.

 

13th place. Stoke City. 5 out of 10. Underachieved badly this season as the majority of new signings did not live up to expectations. Two wins in their last 10 games saw Stoke slip down the table to 13th but Mark Hughes must be disappointed in this seasons displays and overall finish. They looked a bit staid and boring if being honest and only a few Peter Crouch goals helped them to extra points when it was really needed. Giannelli Imbula, Stoke’s record signing from Porto for £18.3 million has been a major flop and it’s difficult to see where the club go from here to avoid being in a relegation scrap next season. Recouping half the Imbula money would be a help in the summer but things are looking so run of the mill down in Stoke that something needs to change and fast. They need goals and can’t rely on Peter Crouch coming off the bench to save them every single game.

 

14th place. Crystal Palace. 5 and a half out of 10. With the worst record of any team in the year 2016 Palace were looking at relegation big time when big Sam Allardyce came in to salvage something from their season in early January. What followed only Allardyce could do. Having been sacked by England in 2016 – resigned my foot – he started a dreadful run of 7 or 8 games without a win for the Eagles in January and then suddenly the fairy dust came out and Sam saved yet another team from relegation following his magic wand exploits at Sunderland the previous season. He keeps Crystal Palace in the division and of course wants to rebuild the team, doesn’t he? Nope, not Big Sam, he decides to quit Palace as manager, quit the football world and go travelling. Not that I can see Allardyce in Goa with backpack and a bandana but Palace have to start the search for a manager again. As I wrote in January the team on paper looks good but you don’t play football matches on paper. Benteke can still be exceptional and Palace haven’t seen the best of him yet. Zaha has signed a new 5 year deal and with two or three worthy acquisitions could be top 10 next season. Things are looking up, down in South London. Who is up for the job? Claudio Ranieri anyone?

Premiership Review Part 2 Season 2016 – 2017

6th to 10th Place

6th Place. Manchester United. 6.5 out of 10. United’s league mark warrants a six and a half although for an overall season they achieved more like a 9 with 3 trophies, the Community Shield, the League Cup and the Europa Cup. In the league Jose Mourinho built a wall from the goalkeeper forwards so that not too many goals went past De Gea in goal. Mourinho is slowly building a superb outfit here and the signings of Ibrahimovic and Pogba look like shrewd business in retrospect with Zlatan scoring like a ten year old in the playground before injury sadly destroyed his season. However Ibrahimovic was certainly bought for the short term, Pogba and Mikhataryan for the longer term. So why did it go wrong in the league where United missed out on a top 4 Champions League spot? Simple, they drew too many games over the season. They were adept at not losing with only 5 league defeats, exactly the same as Champions Chelsea but they drew a gigantic 15 matches in the 38 game campaign. Far too many.  Only Middlesbrough who were relegated came anywhere close on that score, drawing 13 of their matches. United conceded only 29 goals though which was four less than Chelsea so something is going right, but at the other end of the pitch they only scored 54 goals with Ibrahimovic leading the scoring. That was still less goals than… wait for it.. Bournemouth. So something needs to be adjusted from the midfield to the penalty area. Rooney was hung out to dry, Mikhitaryan was a bystander in the Premiership at least and Rashford spent the majority of the time on the bench. That may change next season if Ibrahimovic doesn’t come back from his horrific injury and Rooney sets off for pastures new. All in all a more than ok Premiership campaign and Jose let the brake off at the end of the season to allow for all his strengths to go into the Europa League which United won to guarantee Champions League football next season. Mourinho put all his egs in one basket but it worked. He is slowly building something very special here, after all he is The Special One.

 

7th place. Everton. 6 out of 10. Mmmm. It wasn’t quite a revolution for Everton this season as they were out on their own. Unfortunately they were in 7th place on their own. Miles away from 6th placed United they were 8 points behind the Old Trafford crew but a whopping great 15 points ahead of 8th placed Southampton. Inconsistent at times they at least have Romelu Lukaku scoring like Russell Brand at a nightclub. He finished as second place in the Golden Boot Awards with 25 goals and would have won it if it weren’t for Harry Kane scoring for fun with 7 goals in the last 4 days of the Premiership season. Everton need to keep hold of Lukaku. If they lose him in the summer then expect 7th place next season too. As for Ross Barkley who seems to want to go, well let him leave, take the money and spend it on two or three new acquisitions. Manager Ronald Koeman was at least blooding the youngsters at the end of Everton’s season and that can only bode well with Everton’s superb youth policy. Everton fans may be disappointed by Koeman’s first outing but give him time and Koeman could come up smelling of roses. Could Wayne Rooney come back into the fray too? Stranger things have happened.

 

8th place. Southampton. 6 out of 10. You know things aren’t going too badly for Southampton following a disappointing season when they still managed to finish in 8th place. Their transfer policy is second to none, they run a tight ship and the way they enter the transfer market via their superb computer program is beyond comparison. All in all though 2016/2017 was a bit of a party pooper. Only 12 wins from 38 games isn’t enough. The defence seem relatively stable but they need to score more goals. Gabbiadini was probably the best signing of the winter transfer season and he looks a fantastic buy but they require strength in depth behind the front man. They scored only four more goals than relegated Hull City and a goal difference of minus 7 will set alarm bells ringing. The fans don’t seem happy with the manager and only 1 win in the last 8 games of the campaign will have a few Saints fans twitching. There are more pluses than negatives and overall the future also looks bright for the Saints.

 

9th place. Bournemouth. 8 out of 10. This was a season in which Bournemouth really punched above their weight securing a super 9th place and almost overhauling their South Coast rivals Southampton in the process. Yes, ok the defence was a bit lardy conceding a huge total of 67 goals but at the other end Bournemouth defied the odds and upset the apple cart on more that one occasion with some glorious results in the process. They scored 55 goals which was more than Manchester United could manage over the season and that says it all. Joshua King was outstanding with 15 goals to his name and every game for Bournemouth must have been a treat for the fans with goals galore. Manager Eddie Howe is becoming hot property and for next season Bournemouth need to consolidate without Arsenal loanee Jack Wilshere. Can Bournemouth pull another rabbit out of the hat next season. Don’t put it past them.

 

10th place. West Bromwich Albion. 6 and a half out of 10. Seven defeats in the last eight games of the season will look dreadful but the truth was that manager Tony Pulis has performed miracles in the first half of the season and West Brom never looked in trouble of joining the relegation battle at any point over the year. Pulis brought solidity and strength to a team who have always lacked it in the premiership, in a way it was like he never left Stoke City. He’s a fantastic manager and will no doubt lay claim to the Wales national team at some duration. For now he is the Captain of a pretty steady ship although he needs to stop losing 7 games out of 8 at the end of a season. Still a pretty handy season all in all.

 

Wenger Makes History As Gunners Beat Blues

Arsenal beat favourites Chelsea in the FA Cup Final at Wembley by 2 goals to 1 as Arsene Wenger made history by lifting the coveted trophy for the seventh time.

 The Gunners were deserved winners and had a game plan that worked brilliantly as they closed down Premiership Champions Chelsea who appeared tired and looking forward to their holidays by the sea.

 This was the third time in four years that the North Londoners have lifted the FA Cup and makes the ideas of Arsene Wenger leaving this week after 21 years with the Gunners look absurd.

 Arsenal were out of the traps like a rat down a drainpipe as Chelsea struggled from the off with the red and white’s pace and excellent distribution of the ball.

 The Gunners had only last week missed out on the Champions League and Chelsea had been hot favourites with the bookies to complete a remarkable debut season for manager Antonio Conte but were not at their clinical best as Arsenal, who finished fifth in the league rained on their parade.

They have now won it a record 13 times while manager Arsene Wenger, who is yet to say whether he will be extending his 21-year reign, is now the most successful manager in the history of the competition with seven wins.

The Blues made a dreadful start and were behind after four minutes thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s controversial opener but when Diego Costa levelled in the 76th minute it seemed they would complete a memorable season.

However, Conte’s side had to play the last 20 minutes with 10 men after Victor Moses was red carded following a second yellow card for diving.

Ramsey’s header in the 79th minute knocked the stuffing out of Conte’s side and Arsenal could even have extended their lead in the closing stages as Chelsea finally buckled.

Wenger, who failed to finish in the top four for the first time since taking charge in 1996, celebrated with his players in front of the massed red ranks of Arsenal fans at the end.

Wenger said “We had an outstanding performance from the first minute onwards. This team has suffered. They’ve united and responded. I said last week this team will be in the championship with one or two good buys. They showed strength and unity and played spectacular football today.”

Underdogs Arsenal enjoyed a dream start although there was huge debate about whether Sanchez’s effort should have stood. Most pundits thought it shouldn’t. When Sanchez initial attempt to chip the ball into Chelsea’s area was blocked, he appeared to knock the rebound forward with his arms before running through and shooting past Thibaut Courtois despite Ramsey standing in an offside position.

Full confusion reigned as the goal was initially disallowed but after consulting with his assistant Gary Bewsick who had raised his flag, referee Anthony Taylor awarded the goal. Chelsea were hard done by and the goal in many senses killed the game,

Chelsea never really recovered from that duff decision and Arsenal could have been out of sight before half time as they fully exploited the referee’s weakness and Chelsea’s disillusionment.

Mesut Ozil had a shot brilliantly back-heeled off the line by Gary Cahill while Chelsea had an amazing escape when Danny Welbeck’s header thumped against the post and Ramsey bundled the ball back against the same upright.

Despite being all at sea Chelsea did threaten with Costa denied by a perfectly-timed tackle by Per Mertesacker who was making his first start for Arsenal for 13 months and was exceptional for the Gunners.

Arsenal keeper David Ospina also bravely denied Costa s Chelsea came into the game with Hazard more to the fore.

Chelsea started the second half with more tempo and Footballer of the Year N’Golo Kante warmed Ospina’s fingers with a deflected drive from distance before Moses brought a fine save from Ospina after Costa played him in.

Chelsea were required to play the last 20 minutes a man down after referee Taylor’s second big call of the day, deciding that Moses had thrown himself to the floor under no obvious contact from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Chelsea staff were furious as Chelsea fans sang ‘12 man Arsenal’ in obvious reference to the referee seemingly biased towards the Gunners.

Just when it seemed their double hopes were slipping away, Costa equalised when his weakly-hit shot brushed off the excellent Mertesacker and past the diving Ospina.

However almost immediately, Arsenal had the last laugh when Chelsea’s defence went absent again, allowing Ramsey the freedom of the box to head substitute Olivier Giroud’s astute cut-back past Courtois.

Ramsey’s second goal in a week and his only two of the year was enough to win it for Arsenal. So thanks to Ramsey, Arsene Wenger became the most successful manager in the history of the FA Cup on Saturday.

He moved one ahead of George Ramsay who won six FA Cups with Aston Villa.

Here is a list of Wenger’s seven FA Cup triumphs.

1997-98 – Arsenal 2 Newcastle United 0
2001-02 – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
2002-03 – Arsenal 1 Southampton 0
2004-05 – Arsenal 0 Manchester Utd 0 (Arsenal 5-4 on pen)
2013-14 – Arsenal 3 Hull City 2
2014-15 – Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 0
2016-17 – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1

Overall Arsenal deserved the victory but sadly the referee will be remembered for a couple of dicey decisions.

Well played Arsene Wenger, lets hope with his experience the man will be given the deserved plaudits and will still deservedly be at the Arsenal helm next season.

The Top Five

 We decided to review the Premiership which finished in a blaze of goals last week by giving marks out of ten to how each team did in the league over the course of the season. We’ll start off with the newly crowned champions Chelsea and review the top 5 to begin with.

 1st. Chelsea. 9 out of 10. Absolutely mesmerising at times and incredibly solid playing the 3-5-2 formation with the two wing backs. After a dreadful campaign in the previous season where they came 10th, new manager Antonio Conte, the former Italy manager decided after a tepid opening half dozen games of the season to revert from a 4-4-2 formation to 3-5-2 and Chelsea were outstanding. Players like Victor Moses came in from the cold and was rejuvenated as a right wing back. Marcus Alonso came in and was as solid as a rock while Pedro was a given a chance and took it with both hands. Eden Hazard in midfield was a revelation after a poor 2015/2016 season and defender David Luiz was phenomenal sweeping up anything that came his way. Gary Cahill was the rock at the back with Courtois brilliant in goal and up front Diego Costa was the goal scoring pantomime villain as ever. Some players had to make way for this system such as Oscar who was surplus to requirements for the Blues and was sold in the winter to join the Chinese league for silly money, about £50 million depending on where you read the story. John Terry was dropped but played a few games here and there and the fall guy sadly was Willian who had to make way and spent most of the season on the subs bench. Virtually unstoppable they only lost 2 matches after reverting to the new system at Manchester United and at home to Crystal Palace in what was probably just a bad day at the office. They don’t get a mark of ten as they had a poor start to the campaign but their consistency shone through.

 2nd. Spurs. 9 out of 10. A fantastic year in the Premiership Spurs ended it in the runners up spot demolishing previous Champions Leicester City 6-1 away at Leicester and then bettered that feat with a 7-1 thumping of Hull City again away at the King Power Stadium. The team looked cohesive, the team played exciting football with Golden Boot Winner Harry Kane smashing 29 goals in 30 games. Delle Ali was superb in the middle of the park ably assisted by Christian Eriksen while Son Heung-min was on fire in the second half of the season. The defence looked in good nick and there is little to take away from this Spurs team definitely on the up. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has moulded a Spurs team into winners and with the nucleus of Ali, Eriksen, Loris, Heung-min and Kane they should go far if a) they can handle Wembley next season while White Hart Lane is rebuilt, b) they sign one marquee signing and c) they can hang on to diamonds like Kane and Ali.

 3rd. Manchester City. 7 out of 10. A very disappointing year for Pep Guardiola as for the first season as a manager he failed to win anything for the first time. In the league they will constantly inconsistent and missed Vincent Kompany more than ever through injury. In the summer Pep will make changes but his team let him down this season. At times Pep looked exceedingly unhappy throughout the campaign and gave more than one curt interview to the press. It is an ageing team but at no point did City look to be fighting for the title and they were eventually 15 points short of champions Chelsea. In fact they only qualified for the Champions League with the last game of the season demolishing Watford 5-0 in the process. There will be changes made with up to half a dozen players to be released but thy should try and keep hold of Sergio Aguero who is still one of the best strikers in the Premiership and was surprisingly underplayed this season but expect some new faces around next season.

 4th. Liverpool. 7 out of 10. Jurgen Klopp will be pleased to have achieved the final Champions League spot with the last game of the season however there wasn’t much else for him to shout about as Liverpool had a dreadful January and February to scupper any chance of a top two position. They need reinforcements in the form of a goalkeeper, a left back and a striker. James Milner did a sterling job as left back but it’s not his natural position. Like Manchester City, the Reds were really inconsistent this term and they need to shore up the defence. Having Sadio Mane back from injury will help up front but Liverpool lost too many games to the smaller clubs. Very much a frustrating season for the fans, Klopp will look at this season as a stepping stone to better things and attempt to find that strength and desire missing this year from players who just disappeared from games.

 5th. Arsenal. 6 out of 10. If it was a school report it would say ‘can do better’. Arsene Wenger’s troops missed out on the Champions League for the first time in 20 years so what went wrong? Giroud was left on the bench for too long in too many games and should have been a starter. Sanchez had a funny spell where he looked like he was going to cry when substituted and threw his toys out of the pram once too often. Bellerin at the back was diabolical at times and rather than drop him Wenger threw him a lifeline but he still wasn’t much cop. Ozil drifted in and out of games like a north sea trawler and went completely a.w.o.l. at times. Yes he did provide some great assists but the guy forgets to help his team mates and doesn’t give 100%. He is an expensive liability. Arsenal’s season was summed up by Aaron Ramsey in the last minute of Arsenal’s last game of the season. He scored a peach of a goal from outside the box against Everton. Believe it or not, it was his first goal of the season. All too little, all too late. The question is will Arsene Wenger stay or go? We shall find out this coming weekend.

Mid Table Position About Right For Inconsistent Villa

Aston Villa finished the 2016/17 season in 13th position in the Championship which it has to be said is about absolutely right for Steve Bruce’s man. The midlands club were fairly formidable at home with just 3 defeats in their 23 home matches in a mammoth 46 match season in their first season in the Championship following their relegation the previous year.

They scored 33 goals at home but the problem was away from the home turf of Villa Park. On their travels they were regularly sick as dogs with just 4 away wins to their credit all season. They couldn’t score particularly well away either with just 14 goals coming from their 23 matches.

They finished the season with 16 wins, 16 defeats and 14 draws and had a goal difference of minus one. Just two more goals would have seen Villa leapfrog both Cardiff City and Preston North End as all three teams finished on 62 points, four ahead of both Barnsley and fellow midland club Wolves.

Early in the season Villa looked in trouble as they managed just one win in their first 12 games under then new manager Steve Bruce who had left Hull City despite taking them into the Premiership the previous season.

Aston Villa were languishing in 20th place just one place off the relegation zone. They were drawing too many matches with 8 of those 12 games ending in stalemate with the opposition. Then a run of 7 victories in 11 games saw them up as high as 9th place and on the fringes of the play off spots. However a dreadful run of 7 defeats in 8 games saw them drop like a stone back into 17th position. In a topsy turvy see saw season they than 7 of the next 8 games to put them back up into 11th position but the chances of a play off spot were gone.

Steve Bruce lamented the long season of 46 games in the division but to be fair it is the same for the other 23 teams. A disappointing end to the campaign saw just one win in the last 6 games so Villa were like a Jeckle and Hyde team throughout the season and 13th place was exactly where Villa should have finished. With the season over Bruce can regroup, bring in new players, get rid of a sackful of underachieving stars and lower the wage bill. Steve Bruce is the right man for the job. He’s been there, seen it and done it and will overhaul the current squad without a doubt.

Villa lost the first game of the season to Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 but things looked up when they stuffed Rotherham 3-0 in the following match. Sadly for Villa this was a false dawn as everybody else also stuffed poor Rotherham at some point or other during the season. Villa took a bad defeat 3-1 away from Bristol City and then couldn’t stop drawing against Derby, Nottingham Forest, Ipswich and a decent draw albeit at home with eventual champions Newcastle United amongst other draws.

Successive wins in October over eventual play off teams Fulham and Reading put Villa back on track as they enjoyed a decent run which included draw at Wolves and a strong Brighton team down in Sussex before a 3-1 home win over Cardiff City.  A dreadful run at the start of the year until the end of February had the whole club rattled with a 3-0 defeat by Brentford probably the worst although a 3-1 home defeat by Barnsley took the biscuit as far as a lack of effort was concerned.

This awful period of the season was thankfully halted with a 1-0 home win over Derby and there followed 6 wins out of 7 with a solitary 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield. This was the only goal the Villa conceded in 8 games as the defence became miserly. Unfortunately this was not too last as the last 6 games saw only one win despite it being a 1-0 win over bitter rivals Birmingham City that potentially could have relegated City. Before this Villa had endured two successive 3-1 defeats at home to Reading and away at Fulham. On the last day of the league season Jack Grealish rescued a point for Villa in a 1-1 draw with Brighton which spoilt Brighton’s party. A win would have given the South Coast club the championship and not Newcastle.

In the cups Villa were defeated at the first hurdle going down 2-0 to Spurs in the FA Cup 3rd round in January and defeated in the EFL Cup by Luton Town in a dreadful 3-1 defeat as far back as August.

The pick of the players for me was midfielder Conor Hourihane, striker Jonathan Kodija signed from Bristol City and goalkeeper Sam Johnstone on loan from Manchester United and a keeper with a great future ahead of him wherever he goes.

As upside down seasons go this was it for Villa but I have no doubt with Steve Bruce at the helm that Villa will come back stronger next season and fight for promotion. This was our final season of sponsoring Aston Villa football club and it has been a privilege to report on their games this season and it only leaves the whole crew here at Energy Bet Casino to wish Aston Villa all the very best for the future!

Man City And Liverpool Make It As Arsenal Miss Out On Champions League

There were goals aplenty on the final games of the domestic league season as Arsenal missed out on  the Champions League qualification as Manchester City and Liverpool qualified instead.

A whopping 37 goals were hammered in, in what was to prove to be a super Sunday for some Premier League teams but not for others.

With the three relegation places secured for want of a better expression and the title and runners up spots already filled by Chelsea and Spurs then all that was to be played for were 3 teams Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City chasing two Champions League places.

There had to be a loser and this time it was Arsenal who miss the Champions League for the first time in donkey’s years.

The Gunners put in a good performance and their 3-1 win over Everton was not enough to secure Champions League qualification and, to make matters worse, Arsene Wenger faces a potential selection crisis ahead of the FA Cup final.

Gabriel, Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny could all miss Saturday’s Wembley clash with Premier League champions Chelsea following a desperately disappointing day for the Gunners at Emirates Stadium, despite their victory.

Following Hector Bellerin’s early opener, Koscielny was shown a straight red card for a wild lunge on Enner Valencia and, after Sanchez had doubled the lead, Gabriel was taken off on a stretcher with a left knee injury after an awkward fall.

Sanchez then hobbled off midway through the second half, in what may yet prove a further blow to Arsenal’s hopes of salvaging something from their season.

It took to the last minute of the last game of the season for Aaron Ramsey to get his first goal of the campaign but the Welshman’s sublime 91st-minute strike at least enabled Wenger’s men to finish their league campaign on a stylish note. Earlier Romelu Lukaku had halved Everton’s two-goal deficit with another well taken penalty. This was the Belgian forwards 25th Premier League strike of the season but it was still not enough to win him the Golden Boot award as Harry Kane was causing pain elsewhere.

However, after taking their place at European club football’s top table in each of the past 19 seasons, Arsenal end 2016-17 in fifth place. Everton finish seventh in Ronald Koeman’s first campaign in charge miles away from Manchester United in 6th and miles ahead of the clambering pack from 8th place downwards.

Arsenal were hanging on prior to their third goal, but began the match brightly and were ahead as Mesut Ozil combined with Ramsey and found space on the left byline, where he squared for Danny Welbeck.

Welbeck took an age to control and pass the ball as it fell perfectly for Bellerin to rifle home into the unguarded net.

The Gunners suffered a setback just six minutes later, though, with Koscielny dismissed for his reckless challenge as Valencia raced away down the right.

Ronald Koeman introduced Ross Barkley in place of Tom Davies to exploit the extra space available, but within two minutes Arsenal doubled their advantage with another touch of fortune.

Sanchez’s shot from outside the box struck Welbeck and, as the Everton defence appeared to stop, the forward had time to tee up Sanchez to tap home with Joel Robles stranded.

Ramsey’s deft chip in the 91st minute finished the match beautifully but despite missing on Champions League football Arsene Wenger will hope his team don’t get too down in the doldrums with Saturday’s final with Chelsea looming.

Instead it was Liverpool who secured a Champions League return with a 3-0 final-day win over already relegated Middlesbrough to claim the vital fourth place in the Premier League.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will regain a seat at Europe’s top table although initially in the qualifying play-off round after sitting out the competition this season, Sunday’s ultimately convincing triumph ensuring Arsenal’s result against Everton proved immaterial in the race for a top-four spot.

Liverpool were nervous in the first half though and fingers were crossed they could make a breakthrough against an absolutely dire Middlesbrough outfit.

The Reds’ only two home league losses this term came against lowly Swansea City and Crystal Palace, but despite Boro frustrating them for most of the first half, the north-east side succumbed to Georginio Wijnaldum’s thunderbolt on the brink of half-time and boy was it needed as Wijnaldum’s strike took the roof off the net and the roof of the stadium.

Little did Middlesbrough have in the tank though and Philippe Coutinho curled home a superb set-piece strike early in the second half to give Liverpool breathing space that was increased by Adam Lallana against a visiting side who are now winless in 22 top flight trips to Anfield.

With an instant return to the Championship already assured, Steve Agnew’s men offered nothing in response to Liverpool’s onslaught as their dismal campaign concluded with a league low of just five wins to their name with a team who wouldn’t know how to find the net if they went fishing.

Only a complete mess up by Manchester City and other results going against them would see City not make the Champions League and they were in no mood to miss out as they stuffed a dismal Watford team that were dreadful beyond belief.

City cantered home at Vicarage Road by 5 goals to nil and it was as easy as apple pie for the sky blues as Manchester City emphatically made sure of their place in the group stages of the Champions League next season by thrashing Watford 5-0 at Vicarage Road.

Pep Guardiola’s side made the most of an abject showing from their hosts, with the home crowd making it clear that departing head coach Walter Mazzarri will not be missed.

Looking to tighten their grip on 3rd place City did it in style after captain Vincent Kompany headed a fifth-minute opener and Sergio Aguero’s first-half brace took him to 33 goals in all competitions this term.

Fernandinho made it 4-0 before half time as Watford were booed off the pitch and Gabriel Jesus – the latter making it seven goals in eight Premier League starts rammed home the 5th.

It meant City answered their manager’s call to be more clinical in front of goal as he contemplates the first campaign of his coaching career without a major honour.

At least the win ensures that City have Champions League footie for next season, something Arsenal couldn’t quite manage.

Could these three results make Arsene Wenger pack his bags and wave goodbye to the Emirates faithful? We shall see.

 

 

United Win As Ajax Put In A Poor Show

 Manchester United beat Ajax 2-0 in Stockholm to win the Europa League and thereby automatically qualifying for the Champions League in a mainly one sided game.

Ajax didn’t really turn up for the game as United won the match with ease with goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mikahitaryan to give United their third trophy of the season following their EFL Cup win over Southampton at Wembley a couple of months ago and their Community Shield victory in August.

 So Jose Mourinho’s dicey decision to give up the league to gain automatic entry to the Champions League via the Europa League worked effectively and he can be applauded for taking such a brave decision that could easily have backfired in his face. Instead United fans will be in raptures with three trophies in the season and Champions League football next season, something they missed out on this season.

 This was a Manchester United season filled for long spells with frustration and has ended with three trophies being added to the already-bursting Old Trafford cabinet. The shape, size and value of the prizes might have some questioning whether Jose Mourinho would have been better doing things a different way, but there can be no suggesting 2016-17 has been a failure.

“We knew exactly how to win,” said the United boss after an evening dripping with emotion on Wednesday, his side beating Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League final against the backdrop of Manchester’s pain following Monday’s terror attack.

It wasn’t the most thrilling of matches, a bit dour at times as the Dutch team never really got going and United simply did enough to win. It wasn’t majestic, it wasn’t pretty but it was a job well done in front of almost 47,000 fans in Sweden at the Friends Arena. For the mourning people of Manchester this was secondary in their minds but at least for 90 minutes there was something in Manchester to celebrate and for those that had made the journey to Sweden in what was an understandable sombre mood something to cling onto in a very emotional stadium.

 Paul Pogba, who was playing less than two weeks after the death of his father, almost rewarded those travelling supporters inside the first minute, but shot narrowly wide from distance.

But the world’s most expensive player only had to wait until the 18th minute for the breakthrough, which followed a terrible throw-in from Jairo Riedewald, presenting the ball to Juan Mata in a dangerous area.

The ball was worked to Pogba, via Marouane Fellaini, and the Frenchman’s 20-yard shot took a wicked deflection off the knee of Davinson Sanchez giving wrong-footed goalkeeper Andre Onana absolutely no chance of keeping it out.

It was a cruel moment for Ajax, but the goal was a just reward for a dominant, controlled first-half display from United and they might have doubled their advantage when captain Antonio Valencia’s fine run and shot from a tight angle forced Onana to beat the ball away.

Ajax provided nothing of note and were probably fortunate to go in at the break only 1-0 down. United came out smartly for the second half though and the second goal arrived just three minutes into the second half and it came from another of Mourinho’s summer signings following a Mata corner.

Chris Smalling nodded the ball down for Mkhitaryan inside the six-yard box and the Armenian leapt to hook the ball past Onana, sparking vigorous celebrations and more ‘Manchester’ chants.

The former Dutch masters never really looked like getting into the game and they did not. The second goal was a bitter blow for an Ajax team with an average age of just over 22 who rarely threatened Sergio Romero, and things might have gotten worse when Fellaini headed Pogba’s cross straight at the goalkeeper or when substitute Jesse Lingard was denied by a last-ditch Sanchez tackle in the closing minutes.

Then club captain Wayne Rooney was introduced from the bench in the 89th minute for what might prove to be a farewell appearance. The man received generous applause around the stadium and it looks a distinct possibility that Rooney may be heading for either the USA or China next season.

The success means United become the fifth club in history to have won all three major European trophies, but more importantly, could bring a smile to some supporters in a heartbreaking week for their city.

Manchester, our thoughts are with you.

O’s Goal Machine Of The 1970’s

Mention the 1970’s or 1980’s to any Leyton Orient fan and one of the first names they will mention playing for the O’s is the great centre forward Peter Kitchen.

A prolific goalscorer throughout his career, Peter was born in Mexborough and not only was he a legend for the O’s but also for his local team Doncaster Rovers. He was spotted by the great Lawrie McMenemy, the man who led Southampton to great heights in the seventies.

Kitchen was a man who put hard graft into his game and supporters never forgot him for that.

At his local home team Doncaster Rovers he went on to spend seven years there as a first team player making his debut at the age of 18 and incredibly Peter scored after just two minutes during a 3–0 win over Shrewsbury. It wasn’t a one off either as he scored again in his second game, a 2–1 defeat to Swansea. Despite Doncaster struggling in the old Division Four for several years, Kitchen made a name for himself at Rovers.

Kitchen scored 89 goals in 228 games for Donny making himself a legend in Yorkshire. He formed striking partnerships with Brendan O’Callagham and Michael Elwiss.  He played alongside Elwiss in one of the biggest games for the club at the time when they drew 2–2 with the mighty Liverpool at Anfield on 5 January 1974, with Kitchen scoring one of the goals, before losing 2–0 in the replay. Kitchen went on to attract attention from higher divisions for several years, including spending time on trial at Ipswich Town with Bobby Robson at the helm before signing for the O’s in the summer of 1977 for £40,000. It was probably the best forty grand ever spent by Leyton Orient football club.

Ever present in his first year at Orient he finished as the club’s top scorer with 21 goals, as well as scoring seven times in the FA Cup as the club reached the semi-finals beating Chelsea and Middlesbough along the way. Orient at this time were plying their trade in the old Division Two but Kitchen was a revelation and I personally remember listening to the commentary on BBC Radio Two as Orient dumped the Blues out of the FA Cup with Rob Jones and I believe Alan Parry commentating.

His initial 65 games for the O’s netted 29 goals. The following year Kitchen moved across London to join Fulham for a fee of £150,000, a whacking great wad of money at the time. The move did not work out for him as he struggled to find form and a series of injuries in his second year at Fulham saw him miss most of the season as the club were relegated and he moved to Cardiff City for a cut price £100,000.

He made his debut for Cardiff in a 4–2 win against one of his former clubs in yup a match against Leyton Orient and, although he didn’t score in that game, he ended the season as the club’s top scorer with 13 League goals and, mainly thanks to scoring 5 times in a 6–0 win over Cardiff Corinthians in the Welsh Cup, 19 goals in all competitions as Cardiff just avoided relegation. However his form at the club did not continue into his second season at the old Ninian Park ground as the club failed to avoid relegation for the second year running and fell to Division Three.

After leaving Cardiff he strangely had a short spell with Hong Kong side Happy Valley, before returning to play for Leyton Orient in 1982–83. He made another 49 league appearances in his second spell with the London club hitting the back of the net another 21 times, and then went abroad again.

This time to the USA to play major indoor Super League football with Las Vegas Americans probably after Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior failed to have their contracts renewed. He returned to play for Dagenham in non league football, then finished his Football League career with a short stint at Chester City in 1984/85 before returning to Dagenham for the remainder of that season before being released. Kitchen retired at the age of 33, though made a short come back for another non league club in Margate in 1991. During the 1990s he made 228 appearances for Corinthian Casuals Veterans, scoring 280 goals.

His post-football career included coaching on the youth development programme at Wimbledon. However it was probably after his retirement from the game that he was viewed as a legend in many quarters.

In December 1999, Peter Kitchen was voted by fans of both Doncaster Rovers and Leyton Orient  as one of their greatest ever players. In more recent polls conducted by BBC Football Focus, FourFourTwo magazine and other popular fanzines, he was voted as one of their best players, with some of those polls taking place more than 20 years after he had finished playing. He is still considered a ‘Cult Hero’ amongst both sets of fans.

When he signed for Rovers in June 1970, they beat Leeds United for his signature by just a few hours. He made his Football League debut at Shrewsbury Town on  November 27, 1970, scoring after just 90 seconds and he repeated the feat by scoring after 95 seconds of his home debut the following week against Swansea City.

It’s those kind of stats that made him such a hero with both sets of supporters.

Peter Kitchen, a real Orient legend.

2017 Birkirkara Tennis Open Review

EnergyBet is pleased to say that 2017’s inaugural Birkirkara Tennis Open (sanctioned by the Malta Tennis Federation) was a huge success, easily being the biggest tennis event of the year in Malta, with 36 players taking part.

The men’s final was won by Matthew Asciak, who beat Denzil Agius 61 61, whilst the women’s final saw a final result of Elaine Genovese vs Krysta Dimech 60 60. EnergyBet’s very own Pawel Rybak put in a great performance, making it to the third round – so well done to him! Matthew has impressive tennis lineage, with his parents also being Maltese tennis champions, and running a tennis academy, where he coaches. It seems a real sporting dynasty is emerging here in Malta!

It was great to see the tournament so well received by the Maltese sporting community, with many spectators courtside and Dr David Farrugia Sacco, the President of the Malta Tennis Federation, being in attendance. Not only did EnergyBet put up a nice €600 for the winner, but we also helped keep the tournament fuelled and cool with hundreds of cans of our very own energy drink, and 90 branded towels!

Once again, EnergyBet is very proud to support local sports, and we are looking forward to the 2018 Birkirkara Tennis Open. If you would like to find out more about tennis in Malta, and how to get involved, check out the Birkirkara Tennis Club website here.

EnergyBet Scoops Another Award

On the 5th May, EnergyBet received the Excellence in Customer Service award at the inaugural Malta’s iGaming Excellence Awards, held at the Corinthia Palace, San Anton. The glamorous event saw the very best of Malta’s burgeoning iGaming industry come together to recognize the achievements made over the last exciting year.

For EnergyBet it was a fantastic milestone, coming just months after winning the SBC Rising Star in Sports Betting award in London. It further underlines the incredible progress towards delivery a world-beating service made at EnergyBet – a sportsbook that still hasn’t reached its first birthday!

At EnergyBet we know that our product is of paramount importance, but we also believe that customers deserve the very best service and support. To be recognised by our local industry peers, who set a very high standard, really emphasises just how well regarded the EnergyBet customer service team is, and should give potential new customers a great deal of confidence when choosing to use our service.

All that remains to be said is another huge “congratulations and well done” to the entire EnergyBet customer service team, and a big “thank you” to all of our customers and those who helped make the award possible.

We’re going to need a bigger trophy shelf soon…

The Monte Carlo of the Orient

Macau, or officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China is a tiny, 30.5 km2 former Portuguese territory, located about 64km west of Hong Kong, across the Pearl River Delta. It’s often known as the ‘Monte Carlo of the Orient’ due to its dependency on casinos and gambling. In fact, around 50% of Macau’s government income comes from gambling taxes alone. Currently there are no fewer than 33 casinos operating in Macau – impressive for an area the size of an average British town (it’s rather crowded too, with a population of over 650,000)!

The largest casino in Macau is The Venetian Macao, a luxury hotel and casino resort, owned by the Las Vegas Sands company, boasting 39 stories and a floor space of 980,000 m2 – making it the seventh largest building (by floor space), and absolute biggest casino in the world! The Venetian-themed resort itself has a cool 3,000 suites, a huge 110,000 m2 of convention space, 150,000 m2 of shops and retail, and 51,000 m2 of casino floor. What’s all that casino space used for? Well, try 3,400 slot machines and 800 gaming tables! Oh, and then there’s also a 15,000-seat area for sporting and entertainment events!


Macau is the only part of China where casinos as legal, so how did it all start? Way back in 1557, the Portuguese started to build a small settlement, mainly consisting of warehouse to dry goods that had been drenched during the long oceanic voyages. They paid a rent of 18.9 kilograms of silver to the Chinese for the territory – something that continued as late as 1863. In the late 1840’s the Portuguese population of Macau had grown to the point where they were able to secure a degree of self-administration – though ultimate power remained with the Chinese authorities. But, following the First Opium War, in 1887 the Chinese handed over sovereignty of Macau to the Portuguese government.

Shipping and opium was all very well and good, but the fledgling Portuguese authorities in Macau realized they needed to raise some serious cash, if they were going to turn the tiny scrap of land into a realistic long-term success. It didn’t take them long to figure they could make money from gambling so, around 1850, the authorities created a licensing system for the local Chinese gambling dens (fantan houses). With over two hundred fantans swelling the tax man’s coffers, they knew they were onto a good thing! In in 1937 another casino monopoly concession was awarded to the Tai Heng Company, but it wasn’t until 1962, when a monopoly on gaming was acquired by the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau – a syndicate formed by Hong Kong and Macau business interests – that things started really moving!

Introducing western-style games for the first time (previously gambling in Macau had focused on traditional Chinese games), and investing in the transport infrastructure between Macau and Hong Kong, the STDM managed to lure millions of gamblers across the water from British Hong Kong annually. Hong Kong was returned to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, and Macau followed in 1999 – causing many people to doubt the future of the casino and gambling industries in the area. They needn’t have worried though. Communist the PRC may be on paper, but they couldn’t resist the incredible revenues generated by the operations in Macau, and made no changes!

In 2002 Macau ended the system of regulated gambling monopolies, and started granting concessions to several operators, including Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Galaxy Entertainment Group, MGM Mirage – Pansy Ho Chiu-king, and Melco – PBL. Today Macau is home to some of the world’s most impressive casino resorts, and gambling is the bedrock of the region – not bad considering it started as a cluster of warehouses in which Portuguese traders dried their soggy imports!

Life on the Ocean Waves

There’s something deep within us all that’s fascinated by the sea. Maybe it’s because that’s where life began, and we all have a primal desire to crawl back into the antediluvian depths? Or maybe it’s nothing to do with the call of Cthulhu, and just because so much exciting stuff takes place on, and below, the waves! Either way, slot developers certainly seem to be drawn to the ocean, judging by the number of nautical themed games available! At EnergyCasino there’s a shipshape selection of maritime marvels to play, so let’s take a look at a few.

First off, it’s time to man the cannons in Riches from the Deep (BF Games), as a creepy ghost ship approaches off the starboard bow! Become one of a rather attractive lady pirate’s crew, but don’t be lured overboard by the mermaids – there are some pretty big sharks in these waters! With atmospheric graphics and plenty of free spins, this slot is sure to get you in the seafaring mood! Sailing the same waters, Ghost Pirates (NetEnt), is a lavishly produced slot with more than a hint of Pirates of the Caribbean about it. Play with a disturbing looking parrot named Polly, the ghoulish One-eyed Ed, and the positively terrifying Mad Monkey, as you collect treasure on the high seas.

If you’re a fan of pirates and the kind of feature-rich slots produced by NetEnt, then you’ll want to give Hook’s Heroes a spin! With the type of highly polished toon graphics you’ve come to love from this developer, it’s loaded with no fewer than three different free spins features; Mermaid, Pirate and Fairy. With a child-like cartoon feel, pirates, fairies, young boys and girls, and references to crocodiles – something tells us this may have been inspired by the classic tale of Peter Pan!


So, you’d rather conquer nations than hijack merchant ships? No problem, EnergyCasino has you covered! Check out Golden New World (BF Games), and join the Spanish conquistadors as they sail across the Atlantic to the Americas, plundering the Aztec and Inca empires in search of treasure and gold! If you’re more of an explorer than a conqueror, you can join Christopher Columbus on board the Santa Maria, for his historic voyages of discovery in Columbus deluxe, from Novomatic.

Flood the tanks and descend to fifty fathoms, as we dive under the waves with a Captain Nemo lookalike, in Subtopia (NetEnt)! Having a touch of steampunk to the visuals, and loaded with a potentially very rewarding multiplier feature, Subtopia can deliver some huge wins – even 100x your bet! Keeping with NetEnt submarine games brings us to Silent Run, though this is of an altogether different tone! In Silent Run, you’ll be braving heavily mined waters, and trying to avoid enemy destroyers and depth charges, as you wait to fire your torpedoes in the bonus game.


If natural submersibles are more your thing, you can pay Captain Shark (Wazdan) a visit. With bright, cartoon graphics, this slot is sure to chill you out – heck, even the great white himself looks relaxed, bobbing about on his life ring, and smoking a cigar! Talking of sharks, Sharky (Novomatic), is a more traditional looking video slot, with a pirate theme, but it does have an interesting free spins feature, in which the pirate sails across the reels, moving from one reel to the next – make sure you keep your hands and arms inside the boat at all times!



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