Wicked Pepe is someone you want on your team

Posted by Iain Macintosh

David Ramos/Getty ImagesPepe's a brute but he's a winner you'd want on your side.

Infuriated and frustrated in the Copa del Rey final, Neymar glared at Fabio Coentrao and then pushed his head into the Portuguese full-back's face. Neymar was bold. Neymar did not show fear. Not to Coentrao. Not to a man with tips in his hair. But then an ominous shadow loomed over them both, like an alien mothership breaking through the clouds. Pepe had entered their orbit. Neymar cringed like a whipped dog.

When I selected Pepe as one of my Ultimate Team centre-backs, my Twitter feed lit up like a beacon. Continue Reading...

How to pick an Ultimate XI

Posted by Iain Macintosh

ESPNPick your Ultimate XI now!

There are some people in this world who believe that the best way to pick a Best XI is to simply select the best players. These people are fools, trapped behind bars of their own idiocy. They are not to be trusted. A cat could pick the 11 “best” players. Only the finest among us, the bravest of the brave, could ever hope to pick the best team.

Choosing the best team is not an exercise in meritocracy. It is to gaze into an enchanted mirror and see your football soul staring back at you. Continue Reading...

Arsenal angst grows ahead of Wigan test

Posted by Iain Macintosh

AllsportThen-Wigan manager Roberto Martinez and match-winner Ben Watson after last year's FA Cup final.

When Wigan Athletic knocked Manchester City out of the FA Cup in March, Arsenal’s supporters rejoiced. Their long-suffering, silver-starved starlets would find themselves to be the only major power in the last four, and one of only two remaining Premier League outfits. Surely this would be the year they ended a trophy drought that dates back to 2005.

But in the weeks that have followed, the Gunners’ confidence has crashed. Since they powered past Everton in the quarterfinal, Arsene Wenger’s men have won only once in six games. Continue Reading...

Bright future for Martinez as Wenger looks trapped in the past

Posted by Iain Macintosh

Arsene WengerPA PhotosIs it time for the Arsene Wenger era to end at Arsenal?

Radiating satisfaction on the touchline, Roberto Martinez looked every inch the manager of the future: well-dressed, urbane, composed and comfortable at the helm of an attractive, intelligent and meticulously prepared football team.

The man in the away dugout, reeling from another critical defeat, his face contorted with frustration, could have been forgiven for telling him to make the most of it. Once upon a time, Arsene Wenger was that manager of the future. These days, he seems a man trapped in the past. Continue Reading...

Spurs shambles, Mou's tired act and a tightening race for fourth

Posted by Iain Macintosh

Tim SherwoodGettyImagesSherwood watches over another lamentable display by Tottenham.

Iain Macintosh takes a look back at the weekend that was in the Premier League.

Only Tottenham Hotspur could conclude that Liverpool were a side that needed help scoring goals. On a day when the world waited to see what real pressure would do to a team only just being taken seriously as title contenders, Spurs put up precisely 100 seconds of resistance before a cataclysmic series of errors gave their hosts a goal start and set them on their way to a 4-0 win. Brendan Rodgers couldn’t have asked for more accommodating opposition. Continue Reading...

Liverpool season a success even if Prem title run comes up short

Posted by Iain Macintosh

John Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty ImagesBrendan Rodgers has pulled all the right strings with Liverpool's high-octane attack.

It can't last ... can it? Liverpool's 2-1 win over Sunderland, tense and squeaky as it was, was their seventh consecutive victory. Only Manchester City have strung more wins together this season, and that was back in the winter. Brendan Rodgers' side have momentum, they have confidence and they have absolutely nothing to lose. They would be the most unlikely champions of the Premier League era.

There are seven games left to play, and Liverpool have already nearly achieved their primary objective of regaining a place in the Champions League. Continue Reading...

Picking the best XI of most likeable footballers

Posted by Iain Macintosh

Likeable footballers XI.GettyImagesThe top XI likeable footballers.

Football is a cynical game, riven with hatred. But who are the players everyone likes? Who are the heroes, unlikely and otherwise? We asked Iain Macintosh to name his favourites.

GK: ABU’s ("Anyone but (Man) Uniteds") will heartily disagree, but there’s something profoundly endearing about the way David De Gea has progressed since signing for Manchester United in 2011. Ridiculed and written off by his critics after a series of early mistakes, he never lost heart even when he was repeatedly dropped for Anders Lindegaard, an indignity that would break most men. Continue Reading...

Should Manchester United sell Robin van Persie?

Posted by Iain Macintosh

Matthew Peters/Man Utd/Getty ImagesIt's been a difficult season for Robin van Persie at Man United. Might it be his last with the club?

Robin van Persie has angrily denounced rumours that he is unsettled at Old Trafford, claiming, not only that he wants to stay at Manchester United, but that he is happy with his teammates, his coaches and his manager.

Van Persie told United Review: "The last time I checked my head was still attached to my body. So I'm the only one who knows exactly what I'm feeling and that is not what I or the fans have been reading."

It's about time. Van Persie may have scored the goals that won United their last title, but he will be 31 when the next season starts and he has hardly distinguished himself in this difficult campaign. Continue Reading...

Mel vs. Moyes: loser gets the sack?

Posted by Iain Macintosh

Stu Forster/Getty ImagesSince taking charge of West Brom, Mel has collected just four points from six league games.

Manager David Moyes hasn’t had much to smile about in 2014, but the prospect of putting Manchester United’s season back on the rails at the Hawthorns must have lifted his mood.

West Bromwich Albion are one of the few clubs in the Premier League to have suffered a more dramatic deterioration in their fortunes -- despite replacing Steve Clarke with Pepe Mel -- and, as cruel as it sounds, neither manager would be certain to survive defeat here.

League defeats at the hands of the Baggies have been partly responsible for the demise of two Chelsea managers -- Andre Villas-Boas and Robert Di Matteo -- in the past two seasons, but, if they’re going to add Moyes’ scalp to their belt, then never mind throwing the form book out of the window. Continue Reading...

Mourinho's master plan?

Posted by Iain Macintosh

Fernando Torres alternative goal Galatasaray vs ChelseaAllsportFernando Torres has nine goals in all competitions this season.

In the days that followed Jose Mourinho’s unfortunately public assessment of his strikers, the eyebrows of the cynical arched slightly.

Really? Would a man that savvy and that experienced really be daft enough to forget the golden rule of broadcasting: “Treat every mike like a live mike”?

Could this perhaps have been the old reverse sting? Only Mourinho, master of the dark arts, could pull it off. But is he really audacious enough to be so deliberately indiscreet to actively set in place a narrative that would convince Roman Abramovich to spend in the summer, safe in the knowledge that he could play the wounded lamb the next day? Continue Reading...

Pep's next step has made Bayern better

Posted by Iain Macintosh

Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesHas Guardiola made an already-great team even better?

Poor Hannover. Indeed, poor Arsenal, poor Freiburg, poor Hamburg, poor Nuremberg and poor Eintracht Frankfurt. Bayern Munich have played six games in February and have won all of them, scoring 22 times and without conceding a single goal.

Whatever it is that happens to Arsenal in February, the opposite has happened at FC Hollywood. But then it seems to happen every month. And to think, some people doubted Pep Guardiola.

Those doubters, and there were many, fell into two camps. Continue Reading...

Newcastle, football and WWE are perfect for one another

Posted by James Tyler

Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesUnlike Mike Ashley, Vince McMahon and WWE would do a fine job selling the illusion at St. James's Park.

One of the truly great things about the English Premier League is that there's rarely a dull moment. Even when the moment might be, say, Wayne Rooney's increasingly absurd wealth or the latest dive/bite/headbutt/punch/naughty word, there's seldom an entertainment gap.

This season has already seen Arsenal over-achieving, Jose Mourinho's typically droll quips, Man United in mid-table and the arrival of Felix Magath's medicine balls, yet the latest nugget of madness involves Vince McMahon and WWE. Continue Reading...