By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment
When Bolton boss Owen Coyle grandly declared himself to be the biblical character Moses two years ago, he should have been aware that he was muscling in on someone’s territory.
Days after Coyle preached to the media asking them to shun his ‘Judas’ tag in favour of the Moses moniker, Victor Moses was joining Wigan.
He may not possess the wave-parting abilities of Coyle but his surname puts him one up in the claim to be the North West’s answer to the Red Sea-splitter.
The Nigerian-born striker was tutored at Crystal Palace, the club which nurtured prolific goalscorer Ian Wright. The Eagles knew that Moses was always likely to fly from the nest as his stock grew and he moved to Wigan in 2010, a move which initially surprised.
He was touted by many but opted for what could be construed as one of the least attractive options in Wigan. But in the long run, Moses may reap the rewards. Former team-mate John Bostock has toiled away in Spurs’ reserves and on loan spells since his high-profile exit from Selhurst Park whilst Moses has slowly honed his skills at the Latics. Now, he could be ready to explode onto the Premier League scene.
Roberto Martinez decided to stay at the DW Stadium this season despite perceived interest from Aston Villa. He claimed his stay was an act of loyalty, something which Burnley fans would claim Coyle was adverse too.
But the departure of Charles N’Zogbia, the shining light of Wigan Pier, will test Martinez’s allegiance further. N’Zogbia was their match-winner, in the end, the difference between them suckling on the Premier League teat for another year rather than protecting themselves with parachute payments in the Championship.
In his place, Wigan must find a new star and with limited funds, he must come from within. Step forward, Victor Moses.
“He’s a special talent,” said Roberto Martinez.
“’It’s a real shock to any player to move up to the Premier League, but since he’s been here he’s added maturity and experience to his undoubted ability.
“’Charlie has left a big hole in our team but that vacancy is a big opportunity for Victor and maybe a couple of other players to step up.
“Victor is a different kind of player to Charlie but has the same quality that sets players like that apart from the rest.”
Martinez believes the time is now for Moses and he’s certainly backed that up with some impressive performances as a warm-up act, netting five times in pre-season.
There is plenty to like about him. He is quick and powerful, capable of scoring goals and turning provider for others. He has all the match-winning attributes that made N’Zogbia such a valuable commodity.
In fantasy football, that value is severely underappreciated. Moses is valued at a meagre £5m, the same as Lucas and Nigel De Jong. Whilst those two are regular fixtures for their respective clubs, they’re also prone to allergic reactions and nose bleeds should they venture as far as the opposition’s box. Moses, therefore, is a snip considering his ability to weigh in with goals from midfield.
If you needed further evidence, consider Wigan’s first three fixtures, the three promoted clubs, Norwich Swansea and QPR, two of which are at home. The opportunity is there for Moses to make an instant impact.
Owen Coyle believed he was like the prophet Moses because he led Burnley from the wilderness to the Premier League. Wigan frequently cling onto their place in the latter and the real Moses may go some way to ensuring they don’t find themselves in the wilderness any time soon.
You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn
“A New Years resolution goes in one year and out the other”
Many New Year’s resolutions may already be broken but it’s a bit different when it comes to Premier League footballers. They don’t need to hit the gym to bulk up or (Benni McCarthy aside) get on a diet. So what should some of the Premier League’s men be looking to learn in 2011?
Rory Delap – Learn…a new trick
As all the girls will tell you Rory, long throws are so 2010.
Nobody is talking about “The Delapinator” anymore because his long throws have lost a lot of their potency. For everyone has wised up to Stoke’s fabled gadget and without it, Delap has faded from the spotlight. `
When a dog rolls over for the first time, it’s impressive but he needs an array of trickery to stay ahead of the pack. Does Delap have a fetch? Can he pull out a bark if the long throw is bombing? I have my doubts.
It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant like a step over or a dummy. This is stereotypically English central midfielder Rory Delap we are talking about. So I suggest he works on a way to develop his long throw. Perhaps doing it backwards or blindfolded? Just a thought Rory, just a thought.
Owen Cole – Learn…where the nearest JJB is and find some tracksuit bottoms!
I like Owen Coyle and lately it appears so does the majority of the country. I just have one major quam with the Bolton boss. His insistence on continuing to wear shorts even in sub zero conditions.
Everyone’s complaining about snoods and gloves but Coyle’s short shorts are even more worrying. Allow me to elaborate. Coyle may be a “tracksuit” manager and that’s fine. If he wants to keep his Sunday best for well, Sundays, so be it.
But what happens when a bigger job opportunity comes alone? Let’s say for arguments sake, at Chelsea.
It’s a Champions League night at The Bridge and José or Pep roll up in their suave, sophisticated suits which perfectly reflect their marvellous tactics.
Then out comes Coyle dressed like an overly enthusiastic substitute to greet them with a handshake. It just doesn’t work. Bigger things may await Mr Coyle in 2011 so let’s hope he dresses accordingly.
Bolo Zenden – Learn…how to dance
The day Asamoah Gyan rocked up in Wearside a warning should have been sounded out to all in the near vicinity. Prepare to party like it’s 1999.
The burning question was who would be the first to join Gyan on the dance floor, Anton Ferdinand? Danny Welbeck? Jordan Henderson? Yet it was 34-year-old Bolo Zenden who joined the Ghanaian in celebration when he scored against Chelsea.
The Dutchman fell into that awkward trap dads do when trying to act “cool” in front of their kids’ friends. Gyan’s moves looked all the more slick when accompanied by his fellow Ghanaians but Zenden’s “booty wiggle” left a lot to be desired.
Still when it comes to Zenden, the will is certainly there and where there’s a will, there’s a way.
With the wide variety of reality based dance shows on television at the moment, Bolo has no excuse. If Vince Cable can master the Foxtrot I see no reason why Zenden can’t bust out the sprinkler or a dice roll for all those at the Stadium of Light. Stay strong Asamoah, we’ll get you some backing dancers yet.
Gary Neville – Learn…how to say “retire”
It’s not as if Father Time has just called for Neville. He’s been waiting outside the door with lager, some chicken and a fishing rod for quite a while.
Last year didn’t end well for the Manchester United right back. He was taken off at half-time after being abused by Matthew Etherington against Stoke and then should have been sent off after he felled Graham Dorrans at West Brom.
A magnificent long-term servant for both club and country, it is sad to see Neville withering away like he has been. The passion is undoubtedly still there in one of the most ardent footballers the league has ever seen but the legs clearly don’t correspond with the brain anymore.
Sir Alex Ferguson is too proud and has too much respect to sit Neville in that rocking chair so it has to be down to the man himself to call it a day.
If I was Phil, Tracey or Neville I think I’d have worked hard to drop a few hints in my Christmas presents. I imagine him now owning a pipe, slippers and a commemorative engraved watch with “thank you for your services”.
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”
On the eve of the forthcoming Premier League season I have, like many others, foolishly left myself open to mockery and abuse by predicting this season’s big winners and losers. Still given the dominance of the ‘Big Four’ and the belief that it’ll be the usual names in the usual places, it should be easy, right? Maybe I should have used this quote to open instead:
“The groundhog is like most prophets; it delivers its prediction then disappears”
If you don’t hear from me come May you’ll know why…
CHAMPIONS = CHELSEA
Last time around the pitfalls appeared greater. January’s African Cup of Nations was supposed to upset the applecart and if that didn’t Michael Essien’s injury looked set to. But they soldiered on and when the title race really got going, Carlo Ancelotti’s men found the extra gear first. Their form at the end of the season was sublime and it bodes well for this season too. Ricardo Carvalho’s loss won’t be felt particularly hard with the excellent Branislav Ivanović a more than adequate replacement. Essien’s return only strengthens the league’s best midfield which won’t lose its aura even with Joe Cole and Michael Ballack’s departures. Ballack’s performances were steadily declining and Ancelotti has never taken a shine to Cole. Ramires will surely be an upgrade on Jon Obi Mikel and look for Daniel Strurridge to push on this year too; he has all the raw attributes to be a great player.The interesting situation will arise at right back. Ancelotti’s diamond formation does hinge on the production of his two full backs and José Bosingwa’s return from a serious injury will be something to monitor. Question marks remain about his defensive capabilties but Ivanović has proved adept in that slot too should Bosingwa fail to make an impression.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACES = MANCHESTER UNITED, ARSENAL, MANCHESTER CITY
Chelsea’s challengers remain strong but are still half a step behind. It is United who look likely to be their closest threat once more. For all their positives they did look frail and toothless when Wayne Rooney was out of the side last year. The hype around Chicarito is intoxicating but Dimitar Berbatov needs to finally justify his hefty price tag. Sir Alex Ferguson has done little to strength the midfield which may be their downfall. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes cannot play every week and Owen Hargreaves’ continued absence meant Ferguson really needed to purchase an attacking midfielder and/or a strong anchorman. I expect Nani to really excel this year and some predictions indicating that they will fall outside of the top four are wide of the mark.
Arsène Wenger has addressed a glaring weakness by getting Marouane Chamakh and IF Robin van Persie can stay fit, they could be Chelsea’s biggest contenders. However I still have question marks about their ability to beat the big sides. They can’t win games ugly, they are susceptible to counter-attacking football and the naivety which has haunted them in the past shows no signs of leaving just yet. United, Chelsea and Barcelona all tore them to shreds last year. They remain a young, inexperienced team and even though they have kept hold of Cesc Fàbregas they still lack the leadership and know-how of Wenger’s previous title winning teams. The purists would love them to be crowned champions but they lack a steely resolve to beat the very best.
Preseason predictions and Premier League discussions never seem to veer far away from Manchester City. Few seem to be tipping them for the title but there are plenty predicting they can break into the top four and cause serious problems for the very best. I am among the believers. They have surpassed Aston Villa and Everton (taking some of their best players in the process) and now they have bigger fish to fry. City simply have too much money and too much talent to miss out on the Champions League again. After missing out on Kaka, Roberto Mancini has rightly targeted the next tier of quality players. Jérôme Boateng, Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov are all young talents with blossoming reputations. Yaya Touré and David Silva, along with Balotelli, have been around extremely successful teams and know what it takes to win trophies. Time will be the biggest obstacle in Mancini’s path because it is a luxury he isn’t afforded. The owners have proved they are willing to pull the trigger quickly and Mancini needs to make sure he’s in prime position by Christmas or he could endure the same fate as Mark Hughes.
EUROPA LEAGUE = LIVERPOOL, TOTTENHAM, EVERTON
Liverpool will be better under Roy Hodgson but this may be more of a rebuilding year as Hodgson clears the deadwood. Spurs have done little to improve on last year’s team and you have to think City will overtake them particularly with Tottenham enjoying Champions League football and all its trimmings. Everton could do even better than 7th with Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka back this year. Goals may be a problem though, Louis Saha has persistent injury problems, Yakubu blows hot and cold and I’m not sure Jermaine Beckford is Premier League quality. The uncertainty of both player personnel and the next managerial appointment at Aston Villa should result in a drop in performance.
SURPRISE PACKAGE = BOLTON WANDERERS
Bolton are always a tricky team to beat and they have a good nucleus. Jussi Jääskeläinen, Gary Cahill, Fabrice Muamba and Kevin Davies represent a strong core and manager Owen Coyle looks destined for big things. Matthew Taylor had a superb season last year and the free signing of Martin Petrov adds some real creativity and an attacking threat. There’s little chance Bolton can achieve European qualification but a top half finish looks very achievable. Of the group of those who dodged relegation last season they look most likely to make the next step up. Coyle is certainly a shrewd operator and I believe Petrov could well go on to be the best bit of business a Premier League side did this summer.
RELEGATION = BLACKPOOL, WEST BROM, WIGAN
The critics are unanimous in their belief that Blackpool are merely on a sight-seeing tour of the top tier. Some sides, like Hull and Wigan, have stayed up and defied the odds but Blackpool’s squad possesses no Premier League experience (excluding Jason Euell) and their manager is a novice here too. Ian Holloway will ensure they are plucky and fight in each game but I don’t expect them to spring any surprises.
Playing great football and earning all the plaudits, West Brom will lure us all into a sense of déjà vu as they head straight back down again. Roberto Di Matteo’s squad is packed full of players who look like world beaters in the Championship but fail to make the step up. It would be nice to see them buck the trend but they are still miles behind West Ham, Fulham and Birmingham and Mick McCarthy has enough knowledge of relegation dog fights to ensure Wolves don’t get dragged under again this time around. Once again West Brom will live up to their yo-yo tag and cash in those all too familiar parachute payments. Of course they’ll be back in 12 months with the same crop of players, the same style and the same results.
Wigan really look like relegation fodder this time around. I stated last year that I believed they would be one of the more fascinating teams to watch due to Roberto Martínez’s arrival. Wigan over-performed under Steve Bruce and without Amr Zaki, Antonio Valencia, Emily Heskey and Wilson Palacios; I thought Martínez faced an uphill struggle. He did well to keep the team up but they were wildly unpredictable. They lost 9-1 to Spurs, 8-0 to Chelsea and 5-0 to United despite beating Arsenal and Chelsea at home. They also had the worst defensive record of a team ever to stay up in the Premier League. Had it not been for Portsmouth’s financial issues they may well have joined Burnley and Hull City in the Championship this year. Only Liverpool and Manchester City have more foreigners in their squad than Wigan right now, an issue they must resolve before September swings around. Titus Bramble and Paul Scharner, both regulars last term, are gone. Meanwhile Charles N’Zogbia has applied the stamp and is licking the envelope which contains his transfer request. Even if they manage to keep hold of Hugo Rodallega and Maynor Figueroa, they look likely to drop out of the league.
So there you have it, my tips for the top, the bottom and the surprising package in-between. It’s always interesting to see just how wrong you are when May comes around and these predictions make you look rather foolish. So I’m off to put money on Wigan sneaking a Europa League place and Bolton imploding on their way to the Championship. There’s nothing quite like hedging your bets.