Rants and musings from the magazine team
1. Bolton should expect a tonking at Villa…and not just because Gary Cahill has joined Jussi Jaaskelainen on the naughty step. In their last 17 trips to the ‘big eight’ (Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton), the Trotters have lost all 17 and conceded 43 goals, an average of 2.53 a match. Their last three trips to Villa Park have brought 5-1, 4-2 and 4-0 hammerings. This follows a rather more impressive run of three draws and a win in Bolton's previous four league Villa visits, with the decline in fortunes coinciding with the departure of Sam Allardyce from the Reebok.
2. Here's one for your pools couponIf you're looking for a nailed-on draw this weekend, look no further than Coventry’s trip to Ashton Gate. Bristol City have yet to win a home match this season, while Coventry have yet to win in four away games so far this term, including a League Cup defeat at League Two Morecambe. In addition, both matches between the pair ended in 1-1 draws last season, and a massive seven of the last 11 meetings at Ashton Gate have ended all-square.
3. Saints will say "Oh no, not U's again"Tipped by many for the League One title, Southampton are in the drop zone with four points from their first six games. And now Nigel Adkins' new charges – winless at home this season – welcome Colchester, who have got seven points from three away league games but are also the Saints' bogey side. Since relegation from the top flight, Southampton have faced the Essex outfit six times, losing three, drawing three and winning a big fat zero.
4. Aldershot will be fearing ‘the law of the ex’...
All football fans worry about facing a former player or manager: they always seem to bite you on the backside. And this weekend, Aldershot 'welcome' back not just their former manager but also no fewer than four of their old players. Gary Waddock was Shots boss for two years before moving to Wycombe in October 2009; since then he has tempted away Nikki Bull, Dave Winfield and Andy Sandell, while also snapping up former Shots loanee Scott Davies.
5. …but Wolves won’t be scared of Robbie KeaneSpeaking of old boys, Robbie Keane excelled at scoring against former clubs. By the end of 2003/04, the bobble-headed striker had scored nine in seven games against ex-employers – for Leeds against Coventry, and for Spurs against Wolves (four times), Coventry (once) and Leeds (three times). Then his previous clubs were relegated and he didn't face old friends until he joined Liverpool. But the magic had gone: Keane has since played six matches against former sides, scoring just once – at Anfield on his first return with Spurs. And it's not down to a general deterioration in form: Keane has actually scored more goals per game (0.42) since joining Liverpool than he did beforehand (0.38).
Paul Simpson on Megson, Blanchflower & Presley in the Champions League
Richard Whittle: Milan already taking Ibra to their hearts
Richard Edwards: Debt set to end England's European 'golden era'
Mark Gilbey on the Beasts from the East: the ex-Soviets in Europe
African players at home in England
After an international break for the start of Africa Cup of Nations 2012 qualifying, it was back to the more familiar surroundings of domestic football for African players this week. One of the interesting paradoxes of the modern, globalised game, in which bright-eyed aspiring football players are plucked at ever-younger ages by eager scouts, clubs looking for bargain deals and paycheque-seeking agents, lies in the definition of home.
Case in point: the aftermath of the tragic bus attack on the Togo national team in Angola earlier this year. After the attacks, Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor, clearly absolutely distraught, repeatedly spoke about wanting to go back home – to familiar surroundings in England with family and friends. Adebayor uttered these words in Angola, roughly 2000 kilometres away from his birthplace of Lome, Togo. Lome to Manchester is 5000 kilometres.
Nine of the 29 goals scored in English football’s top flight last weekend were either scored or assisted by African players – a striking figure that highlights the growing African influence in England’s top flight. Steven Pienaar, Marouane Chamakh, Asamoah Gyan, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou and Alexandre Song get gold stars for goalscoring, with silver stars for the assists provided by Peter Odemwingie and Didier Drogba.
A good weekend for the Premier League’s African contingent then, the week after the stars came back to their home from home.– Jonathan Fadugba, writer, United States of AfricaRead the full feature >>
"I'd love to play in England" – Ahn-Young Hak, May 2010, Q&A
"My son knows more stats than me" – Jeff Stelling, Nov 2009, Web Exclusives
"I love eating bulls' ears"– David Beckham, Oct 2002, One on One
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