Henry Jackson

I'm a 27 year old freelance football writer, with a huge passion and knowledge for the game around the world. I am a feature writer at This Is Anfield.

Allardyce furious with United equalizer

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West Ham coach Sam Allardyce was very unhappy with the officials in his side’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United on Wednesday, after Robin Van Persie’s equalizer was not given as offside.

The Hammers were on their way to registering a famous victory against the soon-to-be champions only for Van Persie, standing in an offside position, to score in the 77th minute to level the contest.

The 58-year-old was less than complimentary about the performance of the match officials.

“We had a fabulous win taken away from us,” Allardyce ranted to reporters.

“It was blatantly offside, as we can all see.

“It’s their job to give the offside decisions that appear in front of them,” he added.

Sir Alex Ferguson was also unamused by the display of the officials, after Andy Carroll’s dangerous challenge on goalkeeper David De Gea in the first half.

“It was a red card. There is not a doubt about that,” he said.

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“The referee did see it but didn’t see it as a red card. He saw that incident and chose not to give him a red card.”

On a typically feisty night between the two sides, who have had some great games over the years, Allardyce disagreed with Ferguson’s opinion about Carroll, stating that it was not a sending off offence in his opinion.

“I think it is a yellow card at most because Andy has committed to try for the header and you can’t stop dead,” he said.

“When you commit on a corner and you start off running, you can’t stop dead even though you aren’t going to get it.”

United’s point moves them another step closer to a 13th Premier League title, while West Ham should now be safe from relegation after the entertaining draw.

Falcao plays down Manchester United transfer

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Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, one of the hottest properties in world soccer at the moment, has cooled talk of him moving to Manchester United at the end of the season.

The 27-year-old Colombian international has been linked with many of Europe’s top clubs of late, with his goalscoring exploits gaining worldwide attention. United are the latest to be rumoured to making a huge bid for his services.

Falcao has been quick to play down the speculation, however.

“In recent weeks I have tried to isolate myself and not think about the rumours about my future,” said Falcao, in an interview with Colombian radio station RCN.

“I don’t really know where this information come from (joining Manchester United), that is part of the press.

“I’m focused only on Atletico Madrid. I do not let the market rumours affect my performance,” he added.

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The Colombian joined Atletico in the summer of 2011, after an equally prolific spell at Portuguese giants Porto between 2009 and 2011. Many believe that in terms of out-and-out strikers at the moment, Falcao is as good as anyone in the world. The likes of Luis Suarez, Robin Van Persie and Edinson Cavani may have something to say about that, but he’s certainly in the mix. He is quick, strong, works hard for the team and is lethal in front of goal.

Falcao scored 30 goals in 34 appearances for Atletico this season, and is only behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano in the La Liga goalscorer rankings.

Huge weekend for Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham

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The battle for a place in the Premier League top four is sure to take another twist this weekend, with Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham all facing tricky games.

Everton’s draw at The Emirates on Tuesday has probably ended their hopes of Champions League qualification, turning it into a three-way battle for third and fourth place.

Arsenal will be the first under the spotlight when they travel across London to face Fulham on Saturday. Although Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Martin Jol’s side on Wednesday would make you think it will be an easy victory for Arsenal, it will be far from it. Craven Cottage is usually a tough place to visit, with the crowd very close to the action and one of the smaller, and therefore tighter, pitches in the league. It will be an excellent win for Arsene Wenger’s men, and will crank up the pressure on their rivals.

First up on Sunday are Tottenham, who host an in-form Manchester City side. With the title race realistically over, City are playing with a real freedom at the moment, and the return to form of star players Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure has made a big difference. In many ways it’s the last game Andre Villas-Boas and his side want at such an important time in the season. They are lacking momentum hugely at the moment, and failure to beat the current champions would be another nail in the coffin in terms of their Champions League aspirations.

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Later on Sunday Chelsea face Liverpool at Anfield, which is sure to be a feisty affair. Liverpool are impossible to predict at the moment, but they invariably play very well against the big sides at Anfield. With Chelsea’s heavy fixture schedule it could be a tough game to win. Benitez would probably take a draw.

By Monday morning the top four will have a new look to it, one way or the other, but who out of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham will be the most disappointed?

Kagawa improving by the game

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When Manchester United signed Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund last summer, great things were expected of the Japanese star.

The 24-year-old had won the Bundesliga Player of the Year for the 2011/12 season, and he was arguably the star player in a Dortmund side that is showing everyone how good it is in the Champions League this year.

Although his first season in English soccer has not been a particularly impressive one, he is just beginning to show signs that next season he will have adjusted to the Premier League, and will be a far more influential player at Old Trafford.

United’s 2-2 draw with West Ham on Wednesday was a tight game, but Kagawa had a big say in the result. He assisted both goals, for Antonio Valencia and Robin Van Persie, the first after a classy piece of skill and the second after his shot rebounded off both posts. It wasn’t an awesome performance from him by any means, but it was another sign that he is steadily improving.

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Part of his lack of effectiveness this season must be put down to the fact that he hasn’t always played in his best position, which is in a central role behind the striker. That position has invariably been occupied by Wayne Rooney, which means Kagawa has been pushed out to the left, where his lack of pace has made him ineffective. Dropping Rooney deeper into midfield, with Kagawa behind Van Persie is certainly an option for Sir Alex Ferguson next season.

Many top foreign players often struggle in their first season in the Premier League. Just look at the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, a trio who ended up becoming legends at Arsenal are disappointing debut campaigns.

The signs are that the Japanese international has struggled in a similar way, but his current form makes you believe you will see a very different Shinji Kagawa next season.

Rafa Benitez awaits heroes reception

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When Rafa Benitez takes his Chelsea side to Anfield on Sunday, he will actually get a better reception from the Liverpool fans than his own.

Benitez’s lack of popularity at Stamford Bridge stems from his Liverpool days, and while he has slowly won the Chelsea fans over after a decent run of form, there is still plenty of animosity towards him from some unforgiving supporters.

At Liverpool, however, the 53-year-old is held is very high regard, after a largely excellent spell as coach between 2004 and 2010. He inherited a side that was struggling to make the top four, and turned them into near Premier League champions in 2008-09.

He also unforgettably won the Champions League in his first season at Anfield, after one of the greatest European Cup finals in history, and in the following few years his team became one of the most respected in Europe. He reached another final in 2007, which they lost to Milan, and reached three semi-finals too. He also won the FA Cup in 2006.

Admittedly his last season was disastrous, and his decision to sell Xabi Alonso was a baffling moment, but the club was being run terribly by Tom Hicks and George Gillett and Rafa’s influence decreased. Many wanted him to stay, but his exit was inevitable.

You just have to look at the signings he made to appreciate what a good job he did at Anfield:

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Alonso, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt, Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva, Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, among others.

 

Of course he made some poor buys too but every coach does. Many of the above are now either world-class players or key men at Liverpool.

Sunday will be an emotional occasion for Benitez, and his love for Liverpool is still obvious. He recently said he believes he will definitely return to the club one day, and the reception he will get from his former fans will only make him want to return more.