Category Archives: soccer

Premier League Results 2018-2019

Well, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Aside from grossly underestimating Wolves and West Ham, and overestimating Burnley, I think I did pretty well.  While I nailed the top four, my only correct pick for relegation was Cardiff, perhaps due to my unfamiliarity with teams at the bottom half of the table.

Already looking forward to next season!

Premier League Predictions 2018-2019

Watford is sweeping all before them, and the only real question is which team will finish a distant second.

But seriously, I expect the usual suspects to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. To begin with, Manchester City’s record-breaking side have been enhanced by Riyad Mahrez. Even though they are missing their talisman in Kevin De Bruyne for a few months through injury, they should once again be champions by a comfortable margin.

Among their challengers, Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea are all in with a shout. As others have predicted, José Mourinho’s third-season antics threaten to derail their underrated consistency of last season, though individual performances and the overall quality of their play has been patchy for years. This is best represented by Paul Pogba, an outstanding player who looks diminished when playing for United, and Victor Lindelof, who everyone (including his manager) seems to agree is not very good, but is somehow starting at center back.

Arsenal and Chelsea have also been unable to recapture their swagger of previous years. Spurs have had another year to gel, but have not reinforced their squad. All of them should fall away well before May. Liverpool, on the other hand, are a team on the up, and have brought in a decent midfielder that suits their style in Naby Keïta. They’ve also replaced goalkeeper Loris Karius, the villain of last year’s Champions League final, with Allison, who has already been earning rave reviews through his first few games. They may make the run-in interesting, but ultimately don’t have the quality throughout the squad to take the title from Manchester City.

Beyond that group are teams hoping to push themselves into the European places (Burnley, Everton, and Leicester City). Others are dreaming about exceeding expectations, but nervously looking over their shoulders lest they become embroiled in a relegation scrap (Crystal Palace, Watford, Newcastle, Brighton, and Bournemouth). The rest will be hoping to steer clear of relegation. Fulham, Wolves, and Huddersfield should fancy their chances, while Cardiff City are likely resigned to going down. West Ham and Southampton will also be full of fear with big wage bills failing to return decent football.

Here’s to another season of the Premier League!

  1. Manchester City
  2. Liverpool
  3. Chelsea
  4. Spurs
  5. Manchester United
  6. Arsenal
  7. Everton
  8. Burnley
  9. Leicester City
  10. Watford
  11. Crystal Palace
  12. Brighton and Hove Albion
  13. Newcastle
  14. Bournemouth
  15. Fulham
  16. Southampton
  17. Huddersfield
  18. West Ham
  19. Wolves
  20. Cardiff City

La Liga: Barcelona
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich
Serie A: Juventus
Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain
Champions League: Manchester City

EPL 2017-2018

Premier League Predictions 2017/2018

The 2017-2018 EPL kicked off in anger on Friday, August 11 with an enthralling match between Leicester City and Arsenal. Ninety minutes and seven goals later, Arsenal came from behind three times to win, despite some truly comedic passing out of the back by Rob Holding. I enjoyed the match with my brother, Aaron, a Chelsea fan, and was reminded that I have yet to enshrine my predictions for this season. They are:

  1. Man City – Guardiola to come good in his second season in England. And really, how could he not with the likes of De Bruyne, Silva, Agüero, Jesus, Yaya, Gündoğan, Sané, etc? Their Achilles heel appears to be Ederson in the seemingly cursed goalkeeper position.
    Key Player: De Bruyne
  2. Chelsea – Too much quality in the Chelsea ranks to drop their standards, but I doubt the angel Morata will be as effective as the demon Costa.
    Key Player: Hazard
  3. Tottenham Hotspurs – A solid core with Kane, Alli, Eriksen, and Lloris, but failure to keep up with the spending of their rivals will see them stand still.
    Key Player: Eriksen
  4. Manchester United – Mourinho to drive a small improvement, with the help of wads of cash, but can’t fix the underlying issues this fallen giant.
    Key Player: Mkhitaryan
  5. Liverpool – An exciting side, but inconsistent and suicidal at the back.
    Key Player: Mané
  6. Arsenal – I admire Wenger for sticking to his principles in both sporting and financial terms, but that thrift simply can’t keep pace with the free spending of the rest.
    Key Player: Ramsey
  7. Everton – Despite some solid acquisitions, the Toffees aren’t able to keep pace with the first tier.
    Key Player: Siggurdson
  8. Southampton – Another season in the middle for Southampton.
    Key Player: Redmond
  9. Stoke City – The Potters will bounce back slightly after a difficult 2016/2017.
    Key Player: Shaqiri
  10. West Brom – Assembled of cast-offs from other teams, WBA will continue to punch their weight in the middle of the pack.
    Key Player: Rodriguez
  11. West Ham – Though somewhat haphazardly assembled, there is enough quality to keep the Hammers mid-table.
    Key Player: Noble
  12. Crystal Palace – A slight improvement over last season, but not much progress.
    Key Player: Zaha
  13. Bournemouth – Eddie Howe’s overachievers to sink more to their level.
    Key Player: Defoe
  14. Newcastle – With Benitez at the Helm, the Magpies can be confident in staying up.
    Key Player: Diamé
  15. Swansea – Another difficult season for the Swans.
    Key Player: Ki
  16. Leicester City – Champions of two seasons ago will flirt with relegation before just staying up.
    Key Player: Iheanacho
  17. Watford – The Hornets survive by the skin of their teeth.
    Key Player: Deeney
  18. Burnley – Brave Burnley to sink to the Championship.
    Key Player: Arfield
  19. Brighton – Fans to enjoy their season in the top tier, but it will be short-lived.
    Key Player: Bruno
  20. Huddersfield – A difficult season, but the parachute payments should help them bounce back up.
    Key Player: Ince

La Liga: Real Madrid
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich
Serie A: Juventus
Ligue 1: PSG
Champions League: Real Madrid

English Premier League Predictions 2016-2017

Last season, Leicester City washed away the ennui that had accumulated since 2004, the last time a club other than Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City were champions of England. It speaks volumes about the current state of the game that these rank outsiders, who narrowly avoided relegation the previous season, became every neutral’s second side and plucky underdog against England’s mega-rich clubs. Leicester City are, of course, only moderately rich, having been purchased in 2010 by Thai-led consortium, Asian Football Investments. That sleight of hand was made possible by their affable manager, Claudio Ranieri, and the fact that their team consisted of hidden gems (Mahrez, Kanté, Vardy) and players who failed to make the grade at more glamorous clubs (Drinkwater, Albrighton, Schmeichel, Simpson).

Their tremendous accomplishment should give every team the belief that they, too, can achieve the improbable. More likely, normal service will be resumed, though there are a number of intriguing subplots to this season. Foremost is the renewal of hostilities between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho at Manchesters City and United. Their rivalry comes against the backdrop of some obscene transfer fees, including United’s world record £89m for Paul Pogba, a player who left them on a free transfer four years ago. Pogba, in my view, lacks the consistency and frankly the quality to justify such a price tag. But this summer has also seen the good-but-not-great Gonzalo Higuaín move for £75.3m, and John Stones, who failed to even feature for a diabolical England side at Euro 2016, being bought for £47.5m.

Here are my predictions for how they will all finish, with key players in parenthesis.

  1. Manchester City (De Bruyne)
  2. Manchester United (De Gea)
  3. Arsenal (Sanchez)
  4. Chelsea (Hazard)
  5. Tottenham Hotspur (Eriksen)
  6. Everton (Williams)
  7. Liverpool (Firmino)
  8. West Ham (Noble)
  9. Southampton (Tadic)
  10. Stoke City (Arnautović)
  11. Bournemouth (Ibe)
  12. Watford (Deeney)
  13. Leicester City (Mahrez)
  14. West Brom (Rondón)
  15. Crystal Palace (Cabaye)
  16. Burnley (Arfield)
  17. Swansea City (Sigurðsson)
  18. Middlesbrough (Negredo)
  19. Sunderland (Defoe)
  20. Hull (Huddlestone)

FA Cup: Arsenal
Europa League: Napoli
Champions League: Barcelona
La Liga: Barcelona
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich
Ligue 1: PSG
Serie A: Juventus

Mid-Euro 2016

Growing up in 80s and 90s America, I was starved for televised soccer. The only reliable source was Dutch football at 6am, featuring exotic sides like Willem II, Go Ahead Eagles, and NEC Breda. That was immediately followed by Gaelic football, an intriguing chimera of soccer and rugby, which I’ve never seen or heard of since. On very special occasions, I stumbled across a European Cup match, most often involving Manchester United against a classic club from the mainland. I cursed as Nicky Butt shot high over the bar into a sea of ominous red flares. I swooned as Lee Sharpe used his heel to drag in a cross behind his standing leg against Barcelona. Given a binary choice between English and Dutch football, I chose to bear the cross of St George.

My first real memory of a major tournament was the England-less World Cup in 1994. I drank in even unappealing fixtures like Saudi Arabia vs Morocco and South Korea vs Bolivia. I watched Oleg Salenko put five goals past Cameroon and Diego Maradona enjoy his last, cocaine-addled swansong in the colors of Argentina. My heart sank as Ray Houghton scored to beat Italy in the group stage, while Arrigo Sachi sacrificed my hero, Roberto Baggio, following a Gianluca Pagliuca handball. I was in Foxboro later in the tournament to see Baggio drag Italy through against Nigeria, equalizing in the 88th minute before scoring the winner in extra time. My heart sank again as Baggio’s missed penalty in the final kept rising over the bar, high into the crowd at the Rose Bowl. None of this prevented me from declaring myself Buddhist and seeking my own “divine ponytail.” I’ve never loved another player in the same way.

Technology and television is scarcely recognizable in 2016 America, where I routinely ignore even moderately glamorous ties like Germany vs Slovakia. Having two kids under age two doesn’t help, but the fact is that I’m spoiled for soccer on TV. Still, I try to watch England whenever possible, because the national team continues to feel like an enigma with which I can entirely relate.

The English media, and by extension, English fans, must admit complicity in their team’s pathological failure. Familiar explanations are wheeled out in the post-mortem of each major tournament:

  1. The players just aren’t good enough, and the European successes of Premier League teams can be explained by a combination of foreign talent and successful marketing.
  2. The players are technically good enough, but haven’t the mental strength to handle the pressure of expectations.

The solutions are equally predictable:

  1. England must invest in grassroots football and coaching.
  2. England must embrace its historical strengths of athleticism, power, and directness.
  3. England must copy the style and structure of Spain/France/Iceland/latest winner.
  4. England must drastically reduce the proportion of foreign players in the Premier League.
  5. England must lower its expectations.

Each of these theories contains some element of the truth, but all are born of the obsession of England’s press and public with the national team. Given the talent at the disposal of so many managers from Erikkson to Capello to Hodgson, I’d conclude that the true barriers to success are psychological.

Monday’s defeat to Iceland gives credence to this theory. Clearly, England have hugely experienced players in Joe Hart (two Premier League titles), Gary Cahill (one Premier League title, 1 Champions League title), and Wayne Rooney (5 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League title). They have talent and dynamism in young players like Raheem Sterling, Eric Dier, Delle Alli, and Harry Kane. And yet they not only failed to perform against inferior opponents, they were absolutely embarrassed by them. Pity is the greatest form of contempt, and it was indeed pitiful to watch Kane blooter a free kick several yards wide. Rooney consistently sprayed passes into touch. Sterling couldn’t beat 31-year-old Birkir Sævarsson in a footrace. It was an astonishing collective collapse.

Barney Ronay’s excellent piece in the Guardian apportions the blame properly:

In the end the players are us and we are them. Like ill-mannered parents enraged by their ill-mannered kids, we stand there wondering why these normal, receptive human beings – not the best, but not the worst – play with such fear and angst in a knife-edge fine‑detail knockout game ringed by hostile faces.

This angst makes the English national team more complicated and compelling than any other, a subtext that in turn makes their matches more fascinating. At least for me, the day they break free from those shackles and win a tournament or even make a final, will be, at best, bittersweet.

The SAS Dream Team

This morning, I got to bask in the warm glow of my long-past high school soccer career.

Back in the late ’90s, I was a goalkeeper for the Singapore American School, and captained the side during in my junior and senior years, which were also the first two years at the school for Coach Zitur. He recently selected his Dream XI, covering the 18 years he’s managed the team. It’s an honor to be the goalkeeper for this side, and reminds me of the fine players and men who were my teammates: Chris Carroll, Tim Lonergan, Yosuke Yamamoto, Jeremy Chang, Ben Regan, Drew Calvert, Kevin Scott, and Collin White.

Not included, but fondly remembered is Jason Peck, a solid fullback and good friend who recently passed away.

English Premier League Predictions 2014-2015

Another season of association football is upon us, which calls for another helping of painfully naive predictions. Like many others, I struggle to look past Chelsea for this year’s title, who have strengthened well enough that even Jose Mourinho claims to have no excuse for failure, an unprecedented occurrence that should strike fear into the hearts of rivals. In Cesc Fabregas, they have a wonderful player who Barcelona fans mysteriously failed to embrace, despite scoring better than a goal every three games and providing plenty of ammunition to Messi & co. Manchester United still look lightweight compared to their rivals, while Arsenal are buoyed by their capture of the aforementioned Sanchez, a fine player who nevertheless won’t make quite as much of an impact as Gunners fans hope. Read on for a look into the future of the final standings and key players come May 2015.

  1. Chelsea (Fabregas)
  2. Manchester City (Toure)
  3. Arsenal (Ramsey)
  4. Liverpool (Sterling)
  5. Manchester United (Rooney)
  6. Tottenham Hotspur (Eriksen)
  7. Everton (Baines)
  8. Newcastle (Siem de Jong)
  9. Southampton (Tadic)
  10. Stoke City (Moses)
  11. Swansea City (Williams)
  12. Aston Villa (Weimann)
  13. Queens Park Rangers (Rémy)
  14. Sunderland (Larsson)
  15. West Ham (Nolan)
  16. West Bromwich Albion (Foster)
  17. Crystal Palace (Campbell)
  18. Hull City (Ince)
  19. Leicester City (Ulloa)
  20. Burnley (Ings)

Bonus predictions:

  • Champions League: Real Madrid
  • Spain: Barcelona
  • Germany: Bayern Munich
  • Italy: Juventus
  • France: PSG


A Best XI of Footballers Left at Home

The provisional squads for World Cup 2014 have been announced, and there are some notable absentees. Not surprisingly, it’s the best nations that can afford to leave behind high-profile players oozing with both quality and pedigree. Featuring Carlos Tevez, Isco, and Ashley Cole, this admittedly unbalanced and potentially volatile side would surely qualify from the group stage, and has enough goals throughout to worry any defense.


Diego Lopez

Rafael da Silva       Eric Abidal       Alvaro Arbeloa       Ashley Cole

Javier Pastore       Philippe Coutinho       Isco       Samir Nasri


Carlos Tevez

English Premier League Predictions 2013-2014

The English Premier League has seemed static for several years. Manchester United could always be counted among the favorites, with moneybags Chelsea & Manchester City posing the biggest challenge to that hegemony, and Arsenal certain to be thereabouts without ever really getting there. Spurs would always be fashionable outsiders, followed by an overachieving Everton, a cast of comfortably mid-table sides and newly promoted surprise packages. And after all of that, the dross: comedy clubs (Newcastle, QPR), plucky strugglers (Wigan, Reading), and desperately poor clubs (Wolves, Birmingham).

This summer’s managerial shakeup could change all of that. The catalyst, of course, was Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement after 26 years and 38 trophies. A few years ago, during a night out in London, I argued with an Aberdonian that Fergie was a poor tactician, and that his real strength lay in man-management. Certainly, he commanded absolute loyalty from every player he wanted to keep, knew how to eke years of fine service from players like Giggs, Scholes and Ferdinand, and knew when to get rid. All of this compares favorably to other managers, even excellent ones like Arsene Wenger, who was only able to build one dominant side at Arsenal. By all counts, Ferguson built at least four.

Though a fine manager, David Moyes will struggle to fill his predecessors shoes, and even if he should eventually settle into the role, there is almost certain to be a rebuilding period as he stamps his own authority on the club. There are also ramifications for Everton, who Moyes managed for over a decade. With Jose Mourinho back at Chelsea and Manuel Pellegrini newly installed at Manchester City, each of the top 3 finishers from last year have a new coach. In addition to an influx of new players, this is one of the more unpredictable seasons in recent memory. Nonetheless, here are my guesses for the final league table, with key player in parenthesis:

  1. Chelsea (Juan Mata)
  2. Manchester City (Sergio Aguero)
  3. Arsenal (Santi Cazorla)
  4. Manchester United (Robin Van Persie)
  5. Tottenham (Gareth Bale)
  6. Liverpool (Philippe Coutinho)
  7. West Ham (Kevin Nolan)
  8. Southampton (Adam Lallana)
  9. Everton (Leighton Baines)
  10. Swansea (Jonathan de Guzman)
  11. West Brom (James Morrison)
  12. Stoke (Robert Huth)
  13. Aston Villa (Gabriel Agbonlahor)
  14. Norwich (Ricky van Wolfswinkel)
  15. Newcastle United (Hatem Ben Arfa)
  16. Sunderland (Jozy Altidore)
  17. Cardiff (Kim Bo-Kyung)
  18. Fulham (Dimitar Berbatov)
  19. Crystal Palace (Marouane Chamakh)
  20. Hull (Tom Huddlestone)

English Premier League Predictions 2011/2012

After subsisting on a meager diet of Copa America, U-20 and international friendly fare, I’m ready for the full English breakfast that starts this weekend. Well, not quite full. The Everton v Spurs match has already been called off in light of the yobbish rioting in London this week. It’s a shame for the country and a shame for the league, as those two clubs are perennial competitors for the “best of the rest” Champions League spot. Hopefully, David Moyes will use the extra week to get somebody new into the squad. With Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City and Moneyball at Liverpool, Everton might be fighting at the wrong half of the table this year.

Now that I’m living in Washington DC and have no television, I’ll likely be taking in most of my games at Fado’s pub in Chinatown. On one hand, I’ll miss the comfort and convenience of watching the game at home. On the other, I might find some folks willing to exchange a bit of banter about the games. For now, here are my predictions for the coming season for league order and most influential player, where I can look back with embarrassment in about 9 months.

  1. Chelsea (Drogba)
  2. Man Utd (Rooney)
  3. Arsenal (Gervinho)
  4. Man City (Kompany)
  5. Liverpool (Suarez)
  6. Tottenham (Defoe)
  7. Newcastle (Ben Arfa)
  8. Bolton (Davies)
  9. Everton (Cahill)
  10. Sunderland (Larsson)
  11. Stoke (Jones)
  12. Aston Villa (Agbonlahor)
  13. West Brom (Hargreaves)
  14. Fulham (Dembélé)
  15. Norwich (Naughton)
  16. Wigan (Rodellega)
  17. Wolves (Johnson)
  18. Blackburn  (Pedersen)
  19. Swansea (Sinclair)
  20. QPR (Taraabt)

FA Cup: Arsenal

League Cup: Manchester City

Champions League: Barcelona

Spain: Real Madrid

Italy: AC Milan

Germany: Bayern Munich

France: PSG