Fortissimo is loaded with blogs

Just a quick reminder, while we are redoing our soccer blog, Fortissimo Productions has a ton of great blogs to check out. Adventures in the Deep and Dirty South has tons of content and the stories are always great. That’s what She Said has new posts on a regular basis and it represents the softer side of Fortissimo Productions, at least for the time being…we are always looking for more bloggers. Teoria Politica is, like this soccer blog, just starting out and it looks to be a fun one. Keep checking back for new content on a regular basis. Thanks for all of your support.

As it is,

Mr. Super Roll

Keanely In Command

Roy Keane’s Premiership managerial career starts in less then a week. Here is a low down on what Sunderland is going to look like in the coming season.

Sunderland Association Football Club
Manager: Roy Keane
Ground: Stadium of Light
Capacity: 49,000
Pitch size: 115yds x 75yds
Year formed: 1879
Previous grounds:* Blue House Field, Hendon
* The Grove, Ashbrooke
* Horatio Street, Roker
* Abbs Field, Fulwell
* Newcastle Road
* Roker Park, Sunderland
* Stadium Of Light

Nickname: The Black Cats

Team Grades

Midfield: C
Defense: C
Goal Keeping: B/B-

Coming in hard down the back stretch of the closed season, its Roy Keane making a move off the rail. There have been ups and downs and so far the season hasn’t even started. Roy Keane has landed a few decent players in the closed season, but he has missed on a few prime targets as well. With the recent addition of Craig Gordon though the tides could be turning…

Starting from the back end this team has a solid number one in Craig Gordon. Gordon has to prove himself in the Premier League, which by the way is a lame change from the Premiership to the Premier League weak. Gordon should be a good number one, not so sure he’d be a number one at Manchester United or Liverpool but he should help this team scrap through the relegation fight.

I think they are thin at the back line. They have enough starters but I don’t think they have the depth past that point. Maybe there is someone they can add before the window closes but we’ll have to hope its a solid starter in the middle. Keane knows defense and I am fairly sure he’ll have his team playing together with a cohesive focus. This is a team where the system is going to play as big a roll as the players. With the addition of Gordon behind them this defensive line should hold strong.

Carlos Edwards is a good player, I’m not willing to call him an out and out stud but he’s good. Kieran Richardson needs to prove himself and get his career back on track. Can Kavanagh be the calming factor that he needs to be? I am looking forward for someone, anyone to step-up and take control of the middle of the pitch for this team. I can see lots of overlapping from the outside backs to help add or bring width to the overall attack of the team. This is English football and I imagine we’ll see tons of long balls bypassing the mid-field completely.

At the front you need someone to turn to is that someone Chopra? I hope the rumors that Keane might sign Andy Cole are rubbish. Sunderland don’t need yet one more old striker. If they need something extra a month or two down the line, then sign him. Andy Cole isn’t going to kick start much of anything past his moped. Add someone here please Roy Keane this is the top flight in England and you need someone that can take all of the attention and the pressure. Right now Sunderland have Keane they don’t have a creative difference maker. There is still time in the transfer window for a Tevez like signing to come to Sunderland.

This is going to be a tough fight for Roy Keane. Keane hasn’t been able to land all of the targets he has wanted so far in the run up to the new term. I want Keane to do well and I want to see Sunderland stay up this season. Let’s see a few key acquisitions and if not we are going to need to see brilliant managing from Keane.

Come to Play or ‘CLEAR OUT’

The tone is set for Birmingham City’s coming campaign. I appreciate the stance that Steve Bruce has taken with Hossam Ghaly. If Ghaly wanted to talk down to his new teammates to be and didn’t want to work on his fitness, why not send him off. The Premiership is one of the most grueling seasons/tests in professional sports. Due to that its of the utmost importance that players come together as a team. With the team having spent the past season down in the Coca-Cola Championship, Birmingham’s first since the 2002/2003 season, Bruce needs to have his troops in line for the fight to stay up in the Premiership. That being said here are the vital stats on the team.

Birmingham City
Manager: Steve Bruce
Ground: St. Andrew’s
Capacity: 30,009
Pitch size: 110yds x 74yds
Year formed: 1875 (The Blues came to be under the name of Small Heath Alliance in 1875, formed by a group of cricketers from Holy Church in Bordesley Green.)
Previous grounds: 1875-1877 Arthur Street
1877-06 Muntz St, Small Heath
Nickname: The Blues

Team Grades
Strikers: B- (with the potential to improve greatly as the season progresses)
Midfield: B- (lack of proven/quality depth)
Defense: B (good mix of veteran leadership and youth)
Goal Keeping: C+/B- (too many unknowns)

After spending a season in the Championship the Blues are headed back to the Premiership with roughly ten new players in toe. Considering the recent news that Hossam Ghaly has been sent back to Tottenham I imagine Bruce will be looking for another experienced midfielder. Birmingham has a fair amount of Premiership experience which should parlay into success in the coming term. Having been in the Premiership since 2002 Birmingham are not short on talent. Their 2005/2006 season was mired by injury and early season poor form. They seem to have plenty of talent to draw from in the coming season.

To start off Steven Bruce has proved himself in the past. Having had a poor 2005/2006 season Bruce got the boys to bounce back their first season in the Championship. However, if Bruce’s boys falter in the coming season he could see a short leash and a possible early exit. Reading between the lines of his comments in the press in the off-season I get the feeling he knows he needs a decent finish.

The striking core at Birmingham seems to be a bursting at the seams. There are a fair number of players on the Birmingham rolls that have the ability to play in the middle of the pitch or up top as strikers. I always have the feeling that a striker playing in the midfield is just a striker waiting to move forward to score goals. If I see a possible weakness in Bruce’s team set-up for the coming season it would be the overabundance of hybrid striker/mid-fielders.

Sone Aluko and Cameron Jerome are both young, pacey forwards who have yet to see their promise completely play out. Aluko is short with blistering pace, his finishing has yet to completely develop but he is only eighteen. Aluko will be an interesting bench player in the coming season and I don’t really see him finding the starting eleven on a regular basis. Jerome on the other hand should be eying a breakout season. Since his four million pound transfer in the summer of 2006 Jerome has found the net ten times. Considering he is the fastest man at Birmingham supports and Bruce undoubtedly had been expecting more this past season. Pace means little more then amazing attempts on goal without clinical finishing. Jerome’s touch might deceive him from time to time but with all of this amazing pace on this team I can’t believe he won’t see himself with a number of one v. one opportunities in the coming season. Jerome also has decent height coming in at six feet one inch.

Birmingham’s starters up top figure to be Mikael Forssell, if healthy, and Garry O’Connor. Forsell joined Birmingham from Chelsea on loan originally in 2003 but has since joined Birmingham permanently. Forsell has the ability to score goals as he showed in the 2003/2004 bagging 17 for Birmingham. Forsell has been oft injured over the past two seasons. Forsell is currently coming into form and needs to deliver over the coming season. Garry O’Connor is a big tall out and out striker who should add a back to the goal presence on the Birmingham side. I could see O’Connor playing well holding the ball up in the middle for the quick shorter strikers/wings that Birmingham seem to have in surplus. I think with O’Connor on the pitch Bruce might be tempted to play in a four five one formation like Chelsea used to capture back to back league titles. I look at O’Connor as an “x” factor for Birmingham in the season to come. Birmingham have several players to cycle through at striker but I feel they need to find at least one striker to rely on week in and week out. I’ll be watching over the first couple of weeks to see who’s name being called most often.

The midfield at Birmingham is going to be of some question. They have several players to call upon but I don’t feel they have enough true midfield depth. Birmingham do have some solid mid-fielders in captain Damien Johnson they a true field general. Johnson is coming off of a broken jaw this past season but he should be back in form and at the top of his game. Medhi Nafti is another solid midfielder with plenty of experience both in the Premiership and at an international level. Fabrice Muamba represents the future of the Birmingham midfield. Muamba is a strong presence in the central midfield and at a bare minimum should add depth if not push for a starting spot himself. Olivier Kapo brings an attacking punch from the left side of the midfield. Wing and attacking midfield options seem to be everywhere for Bruce’s side. I’d love to see Kapo establish himself in the Premiership after leaving Juve after this past season. Players like Sebastian Larsson and Mikael Forsell could see time coming on the attack either from the ten position or from the outside wing. With the bulk of mid-field/striker hybrids Bruce is going to need to find a rotational system that allows for his players pace, creativity and attack minded abilities shine.

The Birmingham rearguard has seen some powerful additions in the closed season. Stuart Parnaby should see himself inserted to the starting eleven as should: Frank Queudrue, Liam Ridgewell, and Rafael Schmitz. I wonder if Martin Taylor and Radhi Jaidi will get to see extended playing time in the coming season. The four big additions during the closed season could just be more of a look at the future as well. There are a number of capable defenders on this Birmingham club. I wouldn’t be too surprised if one or two of Bruce’s defenders find themselves in a holding midfield role in the coming season.

Bruce seems to have no fear of over stocking his cupboards and looks to be going into the 2007/2008 season with three keepers worthy of starting for the club. Long time Blues starter Maik Taylor has seen the prime of his career come and go but he was still capable of holding down the starting spot for most of this past season and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he was rejuvenated by the return to the Premiership. Colin Doyle is a massive keep looking to stake his own claim to the number one spot at Birmingham. While Kingson is also capable of the spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed Kingson’s performances during the World Cup in 2006, but Kingson does have the African Nations to worry about during the coming campaign. One can only imagine Bruce will ride whomever is in the best of form at any given time. A strategy that I feel can only turn sour. It is my opinion that soccer is such a mentally difficult sport with keepers having the most difficult time finding themselves on the field, due to lack of touches, that not choosing one keep and sticking to him only hurts the team on a whole. All three keepers on this team could get hot at any moment and thusly lead Birmingham to glory. I just don’t know if I would be willing to stake my future to any of these three. Kingson can be all over the place. Doyle is still not completely proven. Taylor may have already see his best days. I look to Bruce to give Doyle as many chances as he can to find himself. If Doyle proves unsteady I’d love to see Kingson take to the pitch. All of these keeps are serviceable and if one of them can rise to the call they’ll be plenty of depth should injury strike.

I have faith that Birmingham will play a fast paced attack minded style of football in the coming season and use their excellent team speed to draw-out their technically superior opponents along the way. Bruce understands the defensive side of the ball having been a solid defender himself. Thusly, I look forward to direct up and down football. Birmingham will more then likely need to be willing to commit their outside backs to the attack and rely on their central defenders and their overall team pace to help defend counter attacks. I look for Birmingham to stay up in the coming season and I won’t be surprised if they finish near the top ten.

As it is,

Mr. Super Roll

And it begins with the EPL

Derby County

Manager: Billy Davies

Ground: Pride Park Stadium, Pride Park, Derby, DE24 8XL

Capacity: 33,597

Pitch size: 110 yards x 72 yards

Year formed: 1884 (founder members of the Football League in 1888)

Previous grounds: 1884 – Racecourse Ground; 1895 – Baseball Ground; 1997 – Pride Park Stadium

Nickname: The Rams

Team Grades

Strikers: C-

Midfield: C

Defense: C+

Goal Keeping: C+

Derby is where I’m starting. They are a newly promoted club, which is usually a bit of a hurdle. As Reading showed last season teams can do well in their first season in the top flight. Derby is going to be an interesting player in the coming season. With their Manager Billy Davies at the helm Derby should be able to match-up with the rest of the league on a tactical level. The way that the economy of the EPL is structured, which I know will be a great topic to get into later at some point in this blog, I think Derby is going to have a difficult time making a top ten finish. That having been said I think Derby should be able to stay up in the coming season.

Derby has some interesting players on their current roster. Its going to be exciting to see if they decided to add any more depth. With Davies attempted addition of Eddie Johnson this past week one has to wonder if the manager has requisite faith in his striking core. With the addition of Robert Earnshaw, current striker Steve Howard and a few other younger strikers the addition of Johnson would have been a huge move. While Johnson has been up and down over the past few seasons, he still has the ability to change the course of a match with his blistering pace. Johnson is lighting up the MLS this season, he’s had a few strong showings for the national team and would have been great depth for Derby if not an excellent option in the starting eleven. One has to question why Johnson turned down a chance to a) make Premiership money b) he could have taken his game to the next level playing in a much larger league then the MLS and c) Johnson is at a cross roads of his career and he needs to take his chances seriously and turning down a chance to play at such a large stage might be foolish-who knows maybe Johnson’s agent is talking to other clubs with a larger profile then Derby. That being said I think that Derby has two strong strikers and a handful of unknown strikers that have the potential to shine. I won’t be surprised if Derby looks to add another pacy striker before the transfer window closes.

Derby has some strong midfielders most notably Giles Barnes. Barnes is only 18 and this past season he was voted young player of the year by the Derby supporters club. Barnes signed a four year deal this past year and he figures to be a star on this Derby team. Derby also has some decent depth with solid veteran leadership in the midfield. Matthew Oakley is back to captain the team through the 2007/2008 season. Oakley and Barnes are both skilled passers and possess the ability to move forward to link up with the strikers. I look for Derby to rely on both of these two players extensively over the coming season.

The back line at Derby might be the most interesting aspect of the team. They have strong veteran presences in Marc Edworthy, Michael Johnson and Mohammed Camara. Plus Derby has a wild card in Dean Leacock who was once tagged the “new Rio Ferdinand”. I am really excited to see how Derby defends against all of the pace they are bound to see in the coming season. Add in Derby’s recent addition of Andy Todd and the back line could be one of the stronger aspects of Derby’s starting eleven.

Steven Bywater figures to be the starter in the nets. Bywater is only 26 and has looked fairly promising over the past three seasons. He is tall and possess the ability to cover all four corners of the net. Along with a veteran presence in front of him I think Bywater could help Derby pose a strong defense.

With Derby’s defense looking to be of decent strength I think it seems important for Derby to find some outside attack in the coming season. Not having watched any of Derby’s pre-season scrimmages it will be interesting to see how Davies lines the boys up. I am looking forward to some competitive matches out of Derby in the coming season. With a lack of striking depth I look for Derby to land around twelve to fifteen in the coming season. If Derby falters in the coming season it won’t be for a lack of trying seeing as Derby have already added seven new faces to the rolls. I still question whether or not all of the players on Derby’s roster are of Premier ship caliber. There are a number of players who should be hungry to prove that they and Derby County belong in the top flight.

More to come during the week as I profile the rest of the EPL until then…

Mr. Super Roll

Things to Come…the new season is upon us.

The Closed season for football fans world wide is coming to a close sooner then I can actually believe. With the transfer window closing August 31st there have already been some huge moves this summer with more to come over the next month. Right now I’m working on analyzing the moves. I’m going to start with the EPL, move to Spain, then Germany, followed by Italy, France and then all of the lesser leagues. I really think this next season in the EPL could be really tight at the top. Usually the big four sit alone but now there could be six possibly seven teams that would via for a top four finish. In the coming week I plan to start releasing my thoughts on the moves of the coming season.

As it is,

Mr. Super Roll