Betting On An Exciting Premier League Opener?

After a summer with European football sidelined and the World Cup taking centre stage, the Premier League is back and ready to kick off again. Opening weekend is only a few days away, beginning the roadmap of a season for every club in the Premier League.

For Manchester City, winners of the 2013-2014 season, opening weekend is all about setting the stage to improve their odds of defending their title. For every other team in the league, winning on opening weekend is the chance to show that trades and movements throughout the offseason were smart bets that will pay off throughout the year.

Premier League

Many teams spent the better part of the offseason arranging these transfers, betting on online news reported about big name players. Some of the players in transfer even played in the World Cup earlier this summer, and their performance on the global stage impacted their demand in the Premier League or other European football leagues.

In between signing players to or from different football teams, many clubs are also preparing for the next chapter in historic team rivalries. The Manchester rivalry could be very interesting, given that the Premier League trophy remained in the city over the last three seasons – Man City in 2012 and 2014, Manchester United in 2013.

Man Utd v Man City

Other teams will be betting on their chances of taking the trophy away from Manchester, with teams like Chelsea or Liverpool having the best odds of holding the two Manchester teams in check. The Champions League may also impact what’s in store for the Premier League this season. Teams that qualified for European competition will divide their focus between the two leagues, which could also affect which team finishes at the top of the Premier League standings.

The opening match kicks off on Saturday August 16 between Man U and Swansea City, with much more to come. By the end of the weekend, it could be clear which teams look like they made the right bets on players and which teams could be in trouble over the long run.

Resurrection of Robben

How it could have gone differently. You could say 2012 was Arjen Robben heading towards the twilight of his career.

Not only did he miss crucial penalties in the finals of the German Cup and the Champions League which Bayern Munich went on to lose but it only added to the disappointment of 2010 where Robben went missing in another Champions League final while he also missed a golden opportunity to help Holland win the World Cup in the final.


The scene of him moodily leaving the pitch during Germany’s eventual 2-1 win over Holland in Euro 2012 was symbolic as his own fans were wondering what had happened to the enigmatic Dutchman who simply couldn’t perform when it mattered the most. 1990 World Cup winner, Thomas Berthold even said at the time that he ‘feared for Robben’s state of mind, where things are decided in the subconscious.’

The 2012/2013 season saw Robben relegated to the Bayern bench, confined to cameo appearances. While Robben started games in the dugout, the likes of Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller were having outstanding seasons while Franck Ribery had his personal best season where he eventually got nominated in the top three for the Ballon d’Or. It had seemed the mentally frail Dutchman was only going to decline from here on out.

That was until opportunity knocked. In April 2013, Kroos suffered a season ending injury in the quarterfinals against Juventus. By that time, the Bundesliga was virtually wrapped up so the Bavarians were fully focused on the German Cup and the Champions League. Was Robben going to redeem himself? You bet.

Looking revitalized, it was Robben’s performances which played a key role in Bayern securing the treble in 2013. With a goal and two assists in the German Cup 6-1 semifinal win over Wolfsburg, Robben went on to score two goals in the semifinal legs over Barcelona – a resounding 7-0 win on aggregate.

But it was in the final of the Champions League where Robben would finally exorcise his demons. After providing the assist for Mario Mandzukic’s opener, Robben went on to score the winner in the 90th minute and with that, ecstasy and tears of joy followed.

“You don’t want the stamp of a loser. There was all the disappointment of last year but I personally also had the World Cup. That was three finals. Tonight I scored the goal. We did it and we can forget about the other things,” Robben said after the final.

Robben continued his fine form into the 2013/2014 season, scoring 21 goals in 45 games as Bayern went on to win the double as well as the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

It wasn’t going to end there – while the Dutchman couldn’t help his country win the 2014 World Cup, he certainly proved many people wrong as Holland finished 3rd in Brazil. Robben was a key man with 3 goals, an assist, 3 man of the match awards and scoring twice in two penalty shootouts.

After a dreadful 2012, Robben has now won the elusive Champions League and is an undisputed starter for club and country – the story of his redemption is a remarkable one.

Top 3 dark horses in World Cup 2014

With the World Cup soon to kick off in just over two months, rather than looking at the favourites, let’s take a look at three of the dark horses in the competition who could end up surprising everyone and going far in the tournament, maybe even winning the whole thing in Brazil if things go their way.



Without doubt, the most popular dark horses, Belgium are seen as one of the genuine teams who could shock some of the favourites this summer. Taking part in the World Cup in what is seen as their golden era with the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel, Kevin Mirallas, Jan Vertonghen and more, expectations are high for manager, Marc Wilmots’ team. With that said though, this is their first tournament since 2002 and their squad is pretty inexperienced and young, despite the depth they have.

Captain Vincent Kompany believes they will need more than just talent to do well – “There are teams that have more talent than Belgium. Based solely on our talent, I do not think that we will win the World Cup. That can only be done with some luck, if everyone plays very strongly and if we have a strong team spirit.”



Colombia, like Belgium, are playing in their first World Cup in a while, with their last appearance being in 1998, and are also going through a golden era boasting the likes of Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado, Luis Muriel, Fredy Guarin, Jackson Martinez, James Rodriguez and more.

Star striker, Falcao – regarded as the best #9 in the world – was seen as a doubt after an injury sustained playing for Monaco, but with reports stating that he could be back in time for Brazil, the Colombians really do have a good chance of upsetting the odds. Unbeaten in their last 5 games – both competitive and non-competitive – including opposition such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Chile and Paraguay, Los Cafeteros could be a match for any side.



The first team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Japan have made a lot of progress ever since qualifying for their first World Cup in 1998. A team filled with quick and technical players with bundles of energy, Japan will be looking to the likes of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Yuto Nagatomo and company if they stand any chance of reaching the quarterfinals – which would be their best performance in World Cup history.

Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger who used to manage in Japan, believes they can go a step further – “I don’t think they are a candidate to win the World Cup today, but when you look at their youth teams, Japan are dominant forces in the international tournaments. That means that their next step is to reach the semi-finals or final of the World Cup.”

Do you think any of these teams can surprise in Brazil?

Role of the Attackers: 1st/ 2nd/ 3rd Attackers

Role of the First, Second and Third Attackers

A team in possession can always be referred to in terms of who has the ball and who is in near proximity to the ball. The player in possession is the first attacker. The players one pass away are the second attackers and the players more than one pass away are the third attackers.

Therefore, for the attacking team, there is always one first attacker, at least one second attacker, and the rest of the players are considered the third attackers.

A team that understands the attack and thinks in terms of these roles can think clearly about where to be on the field. This un-complicates a complex attacking scheme making it easier for the players to be effective on the field.

Role of the First Attacker: Maintain possession, attack space

The first attacker must maintain possession of the ball. The first thought on the first attackers mind is getting to open space by moving forward. This can be done by taking on a defender or by dribbling to space where the defenders are not. The role of the first attacker then is simple; maintain possession and attack space going forward. The training on the technical side of dribbling on the attack, dribbling for possession, and short and long passing are the skills required of the first attacker. At any time any player can be the first attacker so the entire team should possess the skills of attacking and possessing with the dribble.

If a player does go at a player, their next thought should be “how can I engage the defender”? Usually by going at the defender (on a diagonal) forces the defender to commit to the ball. By going on diagonals the attacker has the option of going right or left. Now the attacker has engaged the defender and he is forced to make a decision. The attacker then has the option of beating him with the dribble, turning away from the defender or playing a pass into the seam previously created and now further exploited by the stepping of the defender to the ball. When attacking a defender with the dribble, attack the heel of the front foot, get past him quick by changing speed and then keep him behind you.

Role of the Attackers

Role of the Second Attacker: Support

The role of the second attacker can be summed up in one word: support, meaning support of the ball by the team in possession. This is done in many ways and not simply from the front. The more options the first attacker has the more dangerous he is therefore there should be support from different angles at different positions.

The role of the second attacker is to move into dangerous space previously made by creating good shape. As the first attacker is engaging the defender the second attackers need to be moving towards the ball in the seams. Examples of this are forwards showing to the ball from fullback, center midfielders showing to outside midfielders closing pace on a defender and creating a wall pass, and the left and right fullback positioning themselves outside and wide of the center fullback in possession of the ball to support from behind so the center fullback can turn away from pressure and play a back ball.

The key to being the second attacker is filling empty space in a manner which gives the first attacker options that are dangerous and threaten the defense. Read more »

Attacking: An Overview

Attacking is the term used to describe the movement of the team in possession of the ball. It is not simply the act of shooting on goal or the play of the team in front of the net; it is more complex than that; it is the movement of the players and the ball for the team who has possession. Therefore, any time a team is in possession they are in the attacking phase.

Before a team can properly attack in the attacking phase there must first be an understanding of shape, possession and combination play. The collection of these concepts will form a teams patterns and principles of play. Shape describes the position of the players in relation to the ball and their movement within that shape.. A team that understands shape has the ability to possess the ball and as the concept of shape is understood possession will then follow. Usually, the team that has the possession advantage will find itself in a much better situation to win the game. Therefore training a team in basic attacking shape directly leads into training a team to possess which ultimately puts a team in a position to be win the game.

Shape can best be described as the position that the players take on the field and movement they make in relation to the ball. Good attacking shape as three distinct qualities: Length, width and depth. The goal is to make the playing area as long (length) and as wide (width) as possible while giving as many options of support (depth) to the player on the ball. A team that instinctively attacks with great shape will open the field by spreading the defense apart creating seams to play into. These seams can be used for the attacking team to exploit the defense. As this shape is used properly the team can then possess and attack efficiently.

Possession is the ability of a team to keep control of the ball thru accurate passing and dribbling; the quicker the better. Good team shape is the key to possession as a team that spreads the field creates the space needed to possess the ball. An effective way to train players to play quickly and effectively is by training them to use principles of play. The principles of play will be easy for the players to remember during the game. Soccer is a game that flows and moves quickly so there are no set plays. Instead there are patterns of play and organized movement which comes from the shape of the team. A team that understands principles of play will play organized, quickly and efficiently. Furthermore they will be able to quickly adapt and react during the match as they will have a set thought process of how to attack and how their teammates will be attacking.

Once the team understands possession and shape it is time to progress to the roles of the first, second and third attackers in relation to the ball.. A team that understands how to use shape and possession will create attacking opportunities. As opportunities present themselves it is important for players to understand the different roles in attacking. This refers to the players roles in relation to the ball. Naturally, the first, second and third attackers have different roles and responsibilities. The first attacker refers to the player who is on the ball and his main purpose is to maintain possession while attacking space.The second attackers are the players in immediate support, meaning one pass away from the ball. Finally the third attackers consist of the rest of the team; players who are more than one pass from the ball. Their role is to unbalance the defense making room for their teammates while at the same time presenting dangerous options to the first and second attackers. Their role is to make runs, working off the ball, to create dangerous opportunities either for themselves or for their teammates by placing themselves in the most dangerous space.

More advanced tactical training focuses on the difference attacking patterns in the various thirds of the field. The thirds are the attacking third, the middle third and the defending third. Within in these thirds exists different roles and responsibilities for different players. Training in thirds moves into very position specific patterns and movements of the players attacking in these thirds. Attacking in the attacking third is far different from attacking in the defensive third. When attacking in the defensive third success is defined by getting out of the back and finding the open space, while success in the attacking third is defined by putting the ball in the back of the net. So, before training a team in the six different types of play in thirds, it is essential to understand what the six are and how success is defined in each third. After this is understood a focused detailed practice plan is essential for a successful session. A successful session leads to understanding. When this happens the team will understand how to move in different thirds of the field. When this is combined with basic tactics and technical skill they will have the ability to be a truly dangerous team.