Ferguson defeats himself as City win the Manchester Derby

When Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini blew up, it didn’t just display the sheer intensity of what has emerged as the greatest rivalry in the sport, but it signified the  balance of power shifting within Manchester. I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen Sir Alex display anger but never before have I witness Alex Ferguson show signs of desperation.

On Monday night inside the United  Etihad Arena, Ferguson was helpless, his team displayed no desire, no passion and when his team, who are defined by their ‘never say die’ (sorry for the cliche) attitude, for their sheer belief and ability to pull out a result, whatever the circumstances,  it’s shocking to see that same team, not even turn up in one of the biggest games in the club’s history.

Let me make one thing clear, Mancini didn’t out-manage Ferguson, City didn’t blow anybody away with their superiority, he simply defeated himself. That all started when Ferguson decided to adopt a completely different philosophy from that of any other point in the season. He didn’t stick with the duo of Welbeck and Rooney up front, he didn’t maintain the team’s core 4-4-2 formation that had got them into the situation in the first place, no, for the first time Alex Ferguson, the man that has played a massive part in Manchester United’s 19 Premier League titles, felt threatened. He adapted to compensate for Manchester City, he didn’t say ‘Hey this is how were going to play, now try and beat us’, he looked at the Manchester City team and thought, ‘they have a better team than us, I need to adjust my tactics.’

So he went with the 4-5-1 formation, a formation I wouldn’t of had a problem with under the circumstances, if he had chosen the right Personnel.

Park (Left Midfield) – Yes, playing Park in the big games has worked out in the past, but not after he hasn’t played in three months. I’m as big a fan of Park as any, I love his tenacity, his work rate, but when you have a guy in Antonio Valencia who is in the form of his life, you don’t overlook him for a player that’s been out for a three months in the BIGGEST GAME OF THE SEASON.

Giggs, Scholes, Carrick (Central Midfield) –  By playing the 4-5-1 you’re relying on dominance within the midfield, you’re expecting these guys to work their asses off, track back, get forward when needed and just generally dictate the play. Which one out of those three is going to serve as a Box-to-box midfielder? The guy that can stay disciplined in defence and have enough energy to sprint up the field and support the attack? None of them. That is the simple answer.  Three guys, not one renowned for their pace, well expect Giggs.. but he’s not in his 20s anymore, he’s 38. And that leads me on to my next player..

Wayne Rooney (Lone Striker) – I mentioned earlier that Alex Ferguson felt threatened, and yet, he possesses the best player on the pitch, and he’s in pretty good form too if you didn’t know. So WHYY have you surrounded him with players incapable of supporting the attack after the breakdown?

What you’re left with, is your best player (one of the best in the world) with no service, completely isolated, and a midfield trio that provide no energy, who are getting completely dominated despite the whole point of the 4-5-1 formation being so that you can dicate the play.

How would I have lined up? With the team that Ferguson has been utilising all year, when possible.

Midfield 4 – Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Nani.

Front 2 – Rooney and Welbeck.

In the 4-4-2 formation, Rooney serves as the 3rd midfielder anyway. His work rate allows him to sit on the defensive midfielder and come deep, whilst also being able to support the attack. His range of passing is such that he can stretch the defence, with two wingers that will actually frighten full backs. So now instead of two attacking players, you’ve got four. Instead of being dominated in the midfield, you now have all the defensive stability that a 4-5-1 formation would provide whilst also possessing the attacking fluidity of the 4-4-2 formation. So WHY DIDN’T FERGUSON JUST STICK WITH THE 4-4-2?!?!??

Look, this isn’t the sort of article, where I say I could have done a better job than Sir Alex, because this isn’t the sort of article that would have even existed, if Kompany hadn’t simply become unmarked on a set-piece. A SET-PIECE, that’s what this game was ultimately decided by. Not a wonderfully crafted Manchester City goal, it was a corner.

Let me re-iterate something, Manchester City were not Brilliant tonight, they lacked creativity just like United. Sure, they deserved to win and I can appreciate that the tension surrounding the game ultimately hindered it’s quality, but if you think Manchester City put in a dominant display then you’re mistaken. Because the fact is if you strip away the circumstances, the tension, the atmosphere then you’re left with a very very dull game with the spectacle of a Scottish Division 3 game between Clyde and East Fife.

Sir Alex knows what he’s doing, he has made his side the most dominant team in English football, winning 19Premier league titles but tactically, it just didn’t turn out how he had hoped. It makes sense to use experience in such a massive game, Scholes and Carrick have the range of passing capable of splitting apart a defence, Park should have provided the energy required to support the attack, as he so often has done but ultimately there were just not enough attacking options at Manchester United’s disposable, they were all sitting on the bench.

Ferguson set out playing for a draw and he was undone.

The blue half of Manchester can sleep easily tonight, but I have a feeling we might be in for one more twist yet.. Newcastle are pretty good right?

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NBA 2011-2012 Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference

Chicago Bulls (1) vs Philadelphia 76ers (8)

The 76ers were fantastic before the All-Star break. They looked certified to be division winners, and then..well everything collapsed. Luckily they still managed to scrape a playoff spot, and even luckier according to Evan Turner, is the fact that they’ve avoided the heat. Is the Bulls the better matchup for the 76ers? Absoloutely. They may lack size but let’s be honest, the Bulls are going to crash the boards and dominate in the post on any team in the league.

What they do possess however, is scorers. Iguodala (also one of the best defensive players in the league) can explode at any time, if James Harden didn’t exist (I know slightly harsh) then Lou Williams would of been 6th man of the year, they average 41 points per game off the bench, and let’s be serious here, if Derrick Rose isn’t healthy and these scorers get hot, which one of the Bulls players is going to be able to keep up with them? Noah? Nope. Boozer? Nope. Deng? More than likely, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on one player.

Prediction: This could be a lot closer than people are expecting, I’m quite excited about this series. Bulls in 7

Miami Heat (2) vs New York Knicks (7)

The marquee matchup of round 1. You may think this series will replicate that of the Celtics and Knicks last season when every game was close but Knicks just didn’t have enough to secure the victory, but it won’t be. Carmelo has returned to his superstar self, they have a lot more balance with Chandler anchoring the defence, and whilst Stoudemaire may be set to disrupt that, there’s a reason I have no problem with him starting this series… Lebron.

With Carmelo playing the 4, the Knicks possessed a clear mismatch in every single game, he had enough size as to not be a defensive liabilty (he was more of a liability at the 3 last season when he didn’t give a crap) and the space created by only having one true Big, ensured he could run isolations at will, scoring jumpers, driving to the basket and putting up monster numbers every single night. Nobody could deal with him, apart from Lebron. Lebron, one of the rare players in the league who can literally defend 4 of the 5 positions on the court. So it doesn’t matter if Melo plays the 3 or the 4, he’s not going to be creating any mis-matches with Lebron defending him.

I loved the analogy from Bill Simmons as to why this could be a very close series. Melo is bound to explode and win atleast one game by himself, the 3 point shooters in Novak and JR Smith are bound to explode off the bench and provide another win. All of a sudden you need the Knicks to give 2 solid all-round performances and they’ve won the series.Can they do it? Sure. Will the Heat let them? I don’t think so.

This is Lebron’s time to shine. The MVP has proven he can stand among the elite with his regular season performances (one of only 7 men to have won 3 MVP’s), now it’s time to prove he can stand among Legends when it comes to crunch time. He already displayed some of that in the regular season, going 9-1 without Dwayne Wade, he’s now starting to carry this team on his back and that’s why I see the Heat not only winning this series but the finals too. This is the season that’s going to define Lebron’s legacy, he can either permenantly be labelled the “choker” or he can be considered one of the best ever, getting his first ring this year will go along way in establishing the latter.

Prediction: Heat in 6.

Indiana Pacers (3) vs Orlando Magic (6)

Do I really have to spend 200 or more words talking about how horrendous this series is going to be? In fact, no I don’t, the pacers are a serious threat to reach the finals, the Magic are a joke with Dwight Howard (and a joke with him too). Pacers in 4 NEXT!

Boston Celtics (4) vs Atlanta Hawks (5)

Josh Smith has finally matured enabling him to have an All NBA caliber season, Joe Johnson despite his riduclous contract forcing everybody to overlook him, is one of the better Shooting guards in the league and the Hawks clearly have superior depth. So make no mistake about it, this is not a comfortable series for the Celtics. Sure they possess more experience, they’re better balanced and are more physical but depth is still enough for the Hawks to negate all three of those inferiorities.

Prediction: Combine a lack of depth with a ton of injury prone players and the Celtics are suddenly in trouble. If they stay healthy, they win the series (probably) but that’s a big IF. But for the sake of assumptions sake, I’m not going to take the Hawks simply because I expect the Celtics to get injured. Celtics in 7

So there you have it, my predictions for both conferences are now a wrap. Yep I have just realised I’ve predicted the higher seed to win in every single series, yes I’m a pussy and Yes I don’t expect it to play out like that at all. But why I’ve done that, is I have a hard time predicting where that upset is going to come from. I would say the Hawks but that’s not really gonna be an upset, potentially the Knicks but I don’t see Lebron letting them win four games, I would choose Utah but for the simple fact that the Spurs aren’t going to lose to the  8 seed in consecutive years, so that leaves the Thunder vs Mavs. Screw it, that’s what I’m running with. DIRK WILL GET HOT AND BEAT THE THUNDER!

Finals Prediction – Heat vs Lakers – Heat in 6.

The Lakers making the finals is a shock right?? Yeah, I thought so too.

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Fringe – World’s Apart (4×20) Review + Fringe gets a Season 5!

Yep, Fringe is on a roll, the second half of this season has been fantastic. It started out slow but I think we can all appreciate that it was necessary to set up this fantastic conclusion. And if the news couldn’t get any better, Fox finally announced the news we had all been waiting for/hoping/not at all expecting, a season 5! Sure, it’s only 13 episodes long but that will probably just mean we get very few, if any Case of the week based episodes. It should mean a much more focused-plot, and if we had any concerns about the pace of the opening few episodes of Season 4, I have a hard time believing a shortened season will provide those same concerns.

So, back to normal then or as normal as an episode of Fringe could possibly be – hell what are we talking about, Fringe and normal just don’t go together. But yeah after the mind-blowingly amazing episode that was ‘Letters of transit’, ‘World’s apart’ certainly felt like a change of pace andI’m absoloutely fine with that, as it perfectly set up to the finale, whilst also serving as an episode of reflection, not just for the characters but the audience aswell.

Yes it’s desperate times for the major players in both universes, David Robert Jones has progressed from Amphilicite to influencing Cortexiphan patients, utilising them to cause a series of earthquakes in the hope of collapsing both universes, causing a big bang, whilst setting up a safe zone for him to survive the ‘new universe’, where he will able to manipulate the laws of physics. Yep, it’s complicated, it’s fringe, it’s incredibly ambitious. And whilst most shows would struggle to make this a) realistic and b) understandable, Fringe manages to do both because, well, they have Walter to explain it for us :)

But it’s not the physical consequences that make this such a rewarding episode, it’s the moral choices that allow us to have so many fantastic character interactions. The big question, should the Bridge be closed in  order to prevent Jones from collapsing the two universes? The consequences? The alternate-universe will no longer heal, the two sides will no longer be able to communicate with each other and that’s likely to cause some problems of it’s own, but let’s face it, they’re pretty screwed either way.

So yeah, we FINALLY got a walter/walternate scene and it was pretty awesome, just seeing these two characters sit on the floor, recognizing just how fucked up everything has become was truly amazing. The two olivia’s also shared a nice scene, as did Peter and Lincoln. I’ve come to like Lincoln this season so it was nice to see him finally find peace with the world, even if we ultimately don’t see him again (I personally think we will).

With those questions surrounding the entire episode, the audience is presented with a state of desperate of it’s own. We know that no matter what success the two universes have in ultimately defeating Jones, the observers are going to be invading shortly anyway. Will that make this season feel anti-climactic? I’m inclined to think so, but what it does serve to do is emphasise just how screwed these characters really are, even if they do manage to stop Jones.

And who knows, maybe it’s Jones that brings the observers over? So it’s not completely linear, this is by no means going to be a predictable finale, there are still tons of questions and now with the relief of a Season 5, I can’t wait to see how they transition into next season. Will the Observers invasion take place during the finale or will that be left for next year? What happens to Olivia? (4×19) Will Jones be defeated, or will he stick around for a season 5? How do our main characters, ultimately get preserved in amber, INCLUDING William Bell??!!? So I’ll leave you with that, quite a few things to ponder and it should be a hell of a ride as we move into the closing moments of Season 4, and the beginning of a season 5, yeah I think I mentioned it earlier on, WERE GETTING A SEASON 5!

What was everbody else’s thoughts on the episode?

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NBA 2011-2012 Playoff Preview – Western Conference

The Regular season is essentially finished and that can only mean one thing, Playoff basketball.  Yep, for some reason, despite any concerns that I may of had regarding the lockout-shortened season potentially affecting my enjoyment of this year, I find myself more excited than ever for the NBA Playoffs. So let’s take a look at what could be one of the best NBA Playoffs of the past decade (Yep Im being overly dramatic, were only 3 years in).

San Antonio Spurs (1) vs Utah Jazz (8)

Can the Jazz replicate the Grizzlies success from last years playoffs? That’s the main talking point from this matchup and there are certainly similarities between the two teams. Just like the Grizzlies, the Jazz are going to have to rely heavily on their front court, to pound the spurs inside. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap certainly provide the Jazz with the forwards capable of doing exactly that, but beyond that, I simply don’t percieve them having the same degree of depth that the Grizzlies possessed a year ago. And whilst I could certainly see them giving the spurs a scare,  this isn’t the same Spurs team from last year. They no longer run through Tim Duncan, Parker’s mvp like season emphasises that. And with Popovich’s masterful season, the Spurs should be fresh going into the playoffs.

Prediction: The only way Utah have a chance in this series is if Devin Harris can contain Tony Parker. I don’t see it. The Spurs are too deep and don’t have the same injury concerns from last year for them to make this a series. Spurs in 5.

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs Dallas Mavericks (7)

The youth and veterans collide in this very intriguing matchup. Depite this being 2 vs 7, this is about as close a series as you can get. The undisputed favourites for the conference against the defending champs, and would we really consider it an upset if the Mavs pulled off the win in the series? Probably, but there’s no denying that any Mavs team in the playoffs are a threat. We’ve all witnessed how dangerous the Mavericks are, Dirk can get hot at any time, and well.. If Jason terry hits one 3, you can sure as hell expect a few more to go in. But it’s ultimately not going to be Dirk, Terry or even Jason Kidd that decide the Mavs fate in this series, that honor lies with Brandon Haywood. If he can replicate Tyson Chandler’s season from last season as the anchor of the mavs defence, well then we’ve got ourselves a series.

Prediction: The Thunder’s form has been sketchy as of late, and who knows what Mavs team will show up in the playoffs. I’m so tempted to take the ‘Upset’ but ultimately, I see youth prevailing. Thunder in 7

Los Angeles Lakers (3) vs Denver Nuggets (6)

Discipline. That one word will ultimately define the Laker’s playoff success this season. World Peace has already been suspended, and Bynum’s immaturity which has tarnished what was an otherwise highly productive season are already causes for concern, and if that ill-discipline shows up in the playoffs, then this might be a lot closer than it should be. The Lakers simply cannot afford any more ‘World Peace moments’, they don’t have the depth to compensate for it. And that is the one area, where the Nuggets are a threat. Just like with the Pacers, this lockout-shortened season favours teams like the Nuggets who can go 8 deep.

Prediction: No matter how well he has performed in the regular season, The Lakers need the Super-fast Ramon Sessions more than ever in this series, especially considering he’s going up against the Super-Duper fast Point Guard in Ty Lawson. If sessions negates that threat and the lakers keep their discipline, there’s no reason why they can’t sweep. Lakers in 5

Memphis Grizzlies (4) vs Los Angeles Clippers (5)

This is the hardest series to predict, a team could be swept or it could go to a game 7, I have no idea. I have no idea how Blake Griffin is going to match up with the Grizzlies bigs. I have no idea if Chris Paul’s 4th quarter magic is going to be enough to rally the Clippers and I have no idea if the Clippers key bench players will be enough to compete with the Grizzlies depth. One thing I do know is everybody has the Grizzlies in this series. They’re the number 4 seed despite being without Z-Bo for half the season and they’re as deep as any team in the league. The key to this series is whether or not the likes of Nick Young and Mo Williams coming off the bench will be enough to contain that depth that the Grizzlies possess. Oj Mayo, Marreese Speights and Quincy Pondexter provide us with 3 pretty good reasons why that might not be the case.

Prediction: Ultimately, I think the Grizzlies just have too much depth. It’s been fun watching the Clippers this season, and I think the Clipper fans will be reasonably satisfied to have just reached the playoffs this year. This however, just isn’t a very good matchup for the Clippers, the Grizzles are too deep and too powerful to be out-done by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. If the Clippers bench performs, this is a completely different story but I like the Grizzlies not only in this series but for the entire conference. Grizzlies in 6

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2012 NFL Draft – Day 1 Recap

Day 1 of the 2012 NFL Draft was not defined by the unpredictability of the picks, it was the nature of the frequent trading that made this one of the most exciting Draft’s yet. Yes, we practically knew the first four picks before the draft had even started, yes that detracted from the experience but when our draft day experience was generally ruined in previous years due to the cameras in the green room, I think I can forgive that.

But it wasn’t necessarily the players who were getting drafted that was the interesting part, it was the teams that were manoeuvring up the draft to take those players. In total we had EIGHT trades in the first round, that’s unheard of and I have to think the rookie wage cap has played a massive part in that, the new rule even managed to lure the PATRIOTS into trading up.. TWICE. We witnessed the Rams doing some great business to collect even more picks after the haul they recieved for RGIII, and on the opposite side of that deal we see the Dallas Cowboys move up to draft Morris Claiborne and finally address that torrid secondary.

Here’s my pick by pick breakdown of the first round – the grades will take into account the picks that had to be given up in trades.

1. Colts – Andrew Luck

Analysis: None really needed, he’s the best Quarterback prospect in a decade, the colts need a new Quarterback. Grade A+

2. Redskins – Robert Griffin III

Analysis: Once again, the Redskins didn’t trade up to draft Riley Reiff. They need a franchise ‘Savior’, I’m not as enamoured with Griffin as most but I can still appreciate that with the need for a quarterback in this era, that they had to go and get their guy. Grade A-

3. Browns – Trent Richardson

Analysis: I don’t really see the need to give up so many draft picks to move up one spot, but if the Browns thought the Buccaneers were a threat to move up then I can see why they did it. The NFL Network crew made a good point with this pick, The AFC north is defined by it’s tough defence, so when you draft Trent Richardson, you can control the clock, play defence, keep it close and your in with a shout in all 6 games. That’s how much of a difference Richardson makes to the Browns who desperately need an offensive identity. Grade A

4. Vikings – Matt Kalil

I can’t say enough about how well the Vikings did with this pick. They basically managed to gain four extra picks by moving down ONE SPOT and still drafting the guy that they wanted all along. This pick makes a ton of sense, Ponder needs protection and there’s no reason why Kalil can’t be a Top 5 tackle in this league. Grade A+

5. Jaguars – Justin Blackmon

This is a great pick, there was really not one pick that made sense and was good value for the Jags at 7. So they moved up and got their reciever to go along with a very solid run game. The only problem… He has Henne and Gabbert to get him the ball. Grade A+

6. Cowboys – Morris Claiborne

I really don’t think anybody predicted this trade. The cowboys have an AWFUL secondary so they really need this pick. I’m not totally sold on them giving up a 2nd round pick to get him, as the Cowboys are far from one player away from the super bowl, but it’s hard to argue with an Elite prospect that fills a huge need. Grade A-

7. Buccaneers – Mark Barron

Wow, what are the Buccaneers doing. They were sitting at 5, in the prime spot to draft an ELITE prospect that helps out their secondary in Morris Claiborne, but they then move down to spots get a few inconsequential draft picks later on in the draft, and THEN they draft a guy that would usually be a 2nd round pick if there was any semblance of a good safety prospect in this draft. Grade F

8. Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill

It’s a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. The dolphins have passed on Quarterbacks in the first round on far too many occasions so it was about time they pulled the trigger. They also get the added advantage of having his former head coach as his new Offensive co-ordinator so if there’s one team that knows whether he has the potential to be a franchise guy, it’s the Dolphins. Grade B+

9. Panthers – Luke Kuechly

Yep, this was a good pick. Could have gone with Fletcher Cox, both would have been very good. Grade A

10. Bills – Stephen Gilmore

This guy has been slightly overrated because of his athleticism, but the Bills do need secondary help and there really isn’t anyone available at this pick that would of filled a need. Grade C

Other Notable Stories

Yep, the Patriots actually did something meaningful in the draft. Whilst typically the media would gush over a patriots draft because of how many awesome trade downs they executed whilst drafting awesome players like Stephen Ridley and Shane Vereen in the 2nd round, they actually have a reason that makes sense to gush over their draft this year. Yep, the patriots actually traded up, and they did it TWICE, addressing two major needs along the front 7. Grade A+

The seahawks were their typically retarded self on draft day. I mean seriously.. Bruce Irvin at 15? Give me a break, this guy is a 3rd round pick who can literally only rush the passer. You’re not gonna get any sort of run support from him, which is quite important if he’s gonna be your starter (which he should be if you’re picking him at 15), and oh,one more thing, he was the FIRST pass rusher off the board. Coples, Ingram, Chandler Jones were all on the board at the time, and they chose to draft Bruce Irvin? Ugh, what a horrible pick. Grade F F F F F F F F F F F F 

The Browns also got their quarterback at 22. Now i’m going to base this off the fact that the Browns are going to start him from Day 1, as it would be ridiculous to bench a 29 year old rookie. So if that’s the case, this is a good pick. I’m very high on Weeden who has literally just been moved down draft boards because of his age, he’s a top 10 pick if hes 22 or whatever. So why doesn’t the age bother me? Well if he does indeed turn out to be an elite quarterback, and you get 10 years of elite production out of him, why does it matter how old he was when he was drafted? The only reason this is not an A is because the Browns could of probably got Weeden in the 2nd round and taken a reciever with this pick, as there really is no other team that I can see being in play for him Grade B+

So yeah, it was a pretty great draft. The teams in the late 20s did their typical, ‘Were a great team and yet we still manage to draft players better than people in the top 10’ with the steelers somehow managing to get David DeCastro, putting him alongside Pouncey is going to be unstoppable (put Mendenhall in your fantasy teams right now). So looking ahead to Day 2, there is a hell of a lot of great value, with Courtney Upshaw somehow slipping into the 2nd round, and that’s mainly down to some truly retarded picks early on in the draft.. ehem, SEAHAWKS.

A pretty hectic day one, no doubt – a draft so hectic I didn’t even get to mention the 49ers reaching for AJ Jenkins who I have as a 3rd round pick. But for now, I leave you in peace, before the 2nd round begins and we are graced with yet more trades, shocks and unbelievably stupid draft picks.

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NBA 2011-2012 Season Awards Predictions

Whilst this year’s NBA Lockout may have presented us with a shortened season, it didn’t suffer from providing us some great storylines.  So whilst we have a great playoffs to look forward to, just bear with me for one second as I take a look back at some of the more notable performances of the regular season, in my end of season award predictions.

COACH OF THE YEAR

WINNER : Gregg Popovich

This was probably the most difficult award to predict.

A case can be made for Doc Rivers inspiring a resurgence from the Celtics after the All-Star break or Tom Thibodeau who led his Chicago bulls without his ‘Superstar’ (as Derrick Rose constantly loves to refer to himself as) for practically half of the season, to the best record in the league.

So why have I given it to ol’ pop then? Well for simply proving once again that his ‘AGING’ spurs team, that we continue to discount every off-season, are once again playing at an elite level. No matter if he needed to give Tim Duncan or any of his other key players a rest, he continually managed to extract every ounce of effort and production out of all of his players, be it Tony Parker who is having an MVP esque season or role players such as Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard.

Hell he even managed to rest Duncan, Parker and Ginobbli on the same night and still came out with the victory with the team riding on the backs of a bunch of bench players. It’s really quite remarkable, so while the award will probably end up going to Thibodeau, I think it’s time to appreciate Popovich who has only taken the award home ONCE before, can you believe that? And heck, Thibodeau got it last year, there’s no need to be greedy about it..

2. Thibodeau

3. Doc Rivers

6TH MAN OF THE YEAR

WINNER : James Harden

From the hardest to the easiest pick. James Harden is pretty much the consensus for this award. The Thunder can sometimes be lacking in offensive options with their very defensive minded front court, and whenever Durant or Westbrook are in a shooting slump, so Harden’s instant injection of Offense is crucial. The only argument you can make against him is the fact he plays 32 minutes anyway, more than anybody coming off the bench in the league and more than practically all of the Spurs starters, suggesting that he’s probably not your typical ‘6th man’.

But quite frankly, James Harden would be starting on pretty much every other team in the NBA anyway. No other 6th man or role player can come off the bench and just hit you with 30 points. Lou Williams, Mo Williams, Jason Terry and OJ Mayo would be worthy candidates any other year (well probably not as Harden would more than likely dominate that list too) but the sheer numbers that Harden provides makes it impossible for him to be overlooked.

2. Jason Terry

3. Lou Williams

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

WINNER : Tyson Chandler

If the coach of the year is the hardest choice, then the defensive player of the year certainly has the most viable candidates. And whilst Lebron James is like no other defender in the league with his ability to cover practically every position on the court and Serge Ibaka’s frequent highlight plays, this really came down to two players (three before Howard became a coach killer), Kevin Garnett and Tyson Chandler.

What sets them both apart is their ability to anchor a defence. Kevin Garnett was practically the only big on his roster and has been playing for half a season at the the 5 next to Brandon Bass who measures up at roughly 6″8. Tyson Chandler has not only had to anchor a team with not one single trace of a good defender on, (before Shumpert’s emergence and Melo actually starting to give a shit) and transforming them into the 5th ranked team in defensive efficency, but he also had to be incredibly adaptable with Linsanity, then Lin getting injured, melo taking over, d’antoni getting fired and woodson taking over etc etc – the point is, he’s had to deal with a LOT. At times hes had to be on the court with Baron Davis, Carmelo and Amare AT THE SAME TIME, there’s really no comparison to any other defender in the league so for that reason, hes my defensive player of the year.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Kyrie Irving

I don’t really need to make a case for this one, Irving shocked many with his performances this season and any challenge he may have been presented was muted when Rubio was sidelined for the rest of the season. So, easy pick – It’s Irving.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

WINNER: Lebron James

This is simply a no contest, some people may hate Lebron but you can’t deny this is one of the most statistically impressive seasons of the last decade. So I’m going to quickly dismiss any case you may be able to make for Kevin Durant taking the award.

1) The one element of Durant’s game that is supposed to be superior to Lebron’s is scoring. Lebron is far superior in distribution, rebounding and his all round defensive contribution, so you’d expect Durant to pretty much dominate Lebron in the scoring statistic… RIGHT!!???! Well he only averages 0.9 ppg more than Lebron, so I guess that argument is dismissed.

2) Durant has a better supporting cast. The Thunder are the deepest team in the league, and are practically the only team that can afford to have a player as talented as James Harden be the 6th man. Yes Lebron has Dwayne Wade, but he’s 9-1 without him.. That would suggest he’s pretty valuable to the Heat right?

3) That performance against the Nets. Yes it’s only the nets, but in an MVP race that needed somebody to get ‘hot’ with the remaining 2 weeks of the season, to substantiate his claim for the MVP, Lebron effectively carried the Heat, and that was none more evident than in his ‘clutch’ (yes Lebron was indeed ‘clutch’)  performance against the Nets where he scored the Heat’s last 18 points.

4) During that same time period, Kevin Durant hit a slump, de-stabilising any momemtum he may of had beforehand, with the Thunder going a very average 6-5.

5) There is no better evaluator than when the 2 mvp candidates literally go ‘head to head’, playing the same position, and who came out on top? Well Lebron. The one time the Heat needed to send a message before the playoffs and Lebron produced one of his better performances of the regular season (34-10-7) as his Heat team secured a 98-93 victory over the Thunder.

The only detraction from Lebron’s MVP case, is the fact his team didn’t produce the best record in the East, the Chicago Bulls (who played the majority of their season without Derrick Rose) did. There is no doubt the Heat underperformed, so for me to crown the leading player on that under-achieving team, the MVP is a concern. But for me to choose anybody else, they have to emerge as a legitimate candidate and Durant’s Thunder didn’t achieve much better, only winning one more game with a lot deeper roster, whilst also finishing (like the heat) 2nd in their respective conferences.

And as nice as winning an MVP will surely be for Lebron, that is ultimately not what his season is going to be defined by. The ‘big 3’ project has reached the end of its 2nd year and it needs to start producing results. For Lebron to negate all the nay-sayers, he needs a Ring. So Yes, stastically, Lebron has proven he was the best player in the NBA during the regular season, now it’s time to look forward, and prove he can produce the same results in the playoffs.

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Chelsea stun the Nou Camp as the Champions League offers up another Classic

Yep Gary Neville’s hilarious attempt at replicating the south american commentators pretty much epitomised my reaction to the ending of that game. It was unbelievable, stunning, shocking, whatever you want to call it, Chelsea over two legs set out with a gameplan aiming to contain possibly the greatest team of all time  a very good team and exacted that gameplan to perfection even when faced with red cards, penalties and even when being behind in the tie.

First off, this has surely got to assure Di Matteo of the managerial role for next season right? He’s been presented with a team lacking any semblance of discipline and transformed them into the best defensive force in the world. Yes that’s no exaggeration, when you can contain Barcelona for 180 minutes, whilst adopting ultra-defensive tactics, you’re pretty assured defensively. And in the process of that transformation, De Matteo has managed to provide Roman Abromovich with the unobtainable, the one competition he has yet to conquer and would establish immediate recognition from within Europe – the Champions league.

Di Matteo employed what was a relatively simple tactic – defend the edge of the Box, and executed it perfectly against a manager credited with the ‘Manager of the year’ award for 3 consecutive seasons. But what may go unrecognized, is that he has effectively laid out a Blueprint for the entire world, on how to beat Barcelona. It’s clear that this is a team that has been constructed to essentially pass the ball into the net and what became abundantly clear on Tuesday night was that there is no backup plan.

I would compare Barca to Sebastian Vettel, yes strange as it may seem, it does actually makes perfect sense. Both are the best in the world at their trade when they’re in the lead. With vettel, whenever he’s in pole position, he’s pretty much guaranteed to  win the race. However what happens when he qualifies in the pack? Are you going to feel as confident that he can execute four or five overtakes and still win the race? No your not, because he’s not that sort of driver.

And it’s exactly the same with Barcelona. If you’re a goal or two behind, you’re finished, it’s simply impossible to break that team down, and hey have fun trying to get the ball off the likes of Xavi and Iniesta. But when their behind and are forced to chase the game? Well that’s a completely different story. As Chelsea displayed last night, if you stay compact and crowd the edge of the box, Barca have no answer. They’ll simply try and consistently pound the ball through the heart of the defence, hoping that their technical superiority will allow them to penetrate that line on at least one occasion. That didn’t happen. Chelsea kept their focus (we’ll ignore John Terry for the sake of this argument), and ultimately invited the pressure that Barca were providing. They gave them the opportunity to get off shots from long range, Barca didn’t take it, they allowed the ball to be played out wide, and on the odd occasion that Barca accepted this invitation, Cuenca would be crossing the ball into an area filled with Chelsea defenders and the likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. Now i’m pretty sure there’s a slight height discrepancy there… I wonder who came out on top… Hmmmmm….

As soon as the starting lineups were announced, with Barcelona potentially lining up in a ludicrous 3-3-4 formation, I realised that this was not the same Barcelona team that has dominated the game for the past two seasons. Look I can appreciate confidence, I can appreciate it’s very unlikely a team will be able to dominate the possession or be able to create numerous chances against them, but that formation? A formation replicating that of the 1960s is not Guardiola asserting confidence, it’s a display of tactical suicide.

What was wrong with the 4-3-3 formation that was capable of picking apart any defence in the world, and putting 4 or 5 past them? Sure they’ve made notable additions with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas undoubtedly adding to the quality of the squad, but what that has forced Guardiola to do, is accommodate those additions, altering what was an unbeatable tactic and destroying any semblance of balance the team possessed before hand in the process.

I also have to quickly mention Ramires’ performance last night, no I am not just jumping on the bandwagon because of his fantastic goal, he was simply the best player on the pitch last night and for him to miss the final, is a massive blow for Chelsea. I’m not going to go into much depth on the suspensions (which is a quite frankly a ridiculous rule that needs to be ABOLISHED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE) likely effect on Chelsea’s chance of success in the final, as it’s fairly obvious that it’s going to be a big hindrance, but there’s no reason why Chelsea can’t replicate their performance against Barcelona.

The spanish media may want to refer to that performance as luck but then again, I can refer to them as ignorant fools. This was not a game about who who dominated the stats sheet, this was a game defined by pure hard work. Chelsea displayed more than enough of that and combined with Di Matteo employing tactics with which Guardiola had no answer for, you’ve got two pretty explicit reasons  as to why Chelsea not only won the game, but DESERVED to win.

“His dream is the Champions League. They want recognition as a team in Europe.” 

Those were the words of former chelsea manager Avram Grant on Roman Abromovich, and with the Champions League Final in sight, there’s no reason why Di Matteo can’t fulfil those ambitions.

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Fifa 12 Euro 2012 DLC Review – Is it Worth it?

Typically when I’m reviewing a video game sequel or an annual series, I’ll give a rating not only based on the quality of the product but also on how many enhancements have been made from the previous iteration. It’s why games like Call of duty will receive low scores from me, they’re all undoubtedly fun but the extent to which improvements have been made is limited. I simply find it hard to justify the $60 price tag on a game with some new ‘tweaks’. This was essentially the problem with the Fifa series’ World cup and European championships editions which were practically the same game, with slight improvements to presentation, gameplay and graphics.

So when it was announced that the Euro 2012 edition would not be released as a stand-alone copy, with EA finally acknowledging it as DLC, with a price tag of $20 to support that claim, It’s fair to say I was pleasantly surprised. So imagine my disappointment when I was presented with a game in which it was just as hard to justify the $20 price.

Yes the game is a disappointment. One of the major allures of the FIFA franchise  for the past 5 or 6 years has been its complete licensing, that is not the case in this version. Only major nations have fully licensed kits, teams don’t have real names, there are no options to select your 23 man squad that compete in the tournament and oh yeah.. you would think there would be an edit option, allowing you to edit the players names.. that’s not the case either, no happy medium, you’re simply stuck with the crap that you’ve been given.

The game modes have also been restricted, as qualifying has been removed along with the ability to play as every team in the tournament which was one of the better features of the world cup game. As for Online, well.. there isn’t any. No tournaments, no online European championships like there was for the world cup game, you only get head to head games which you can essentially play in the original Fifa 12 version, you’re better off setting up a tournament on the original fifa with the international teams as it serves the same purpose. Ultimately, there is simply no value in paying $20 for this.

And if you were hoping gameplay improvements would help legitimize the game, then unfortunately you will once more be let down. There are essentially no improvements except slightly improved shooting and I would argue that gameplay has actually declined with it feeling slower and clunkier than the original game.

For once, I thought EA were rewarding their loyal fan base but yet again they have managed to turn it into a money-making scam, essentially removing any trace of the FIFA series that we have come to know and love. FIFA was the one EA sports franchise that we could rely on to provide consistent and valuable improvements with each passing year, and now that reputation has been tarnished with this poor excuse for a DLC.

Gameplay – Still fun but really no major improvements. 7/10

Presentation – Yeah you get a bit of confetti before the game, but there’s no licencing and every game appears to take place during the night. 3/10

Total Value – A game that charges you $20 for a worse version than the one you already own? 3/10

OVERALL : 4/10

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Game of Thrones – ‘Garden of Bones’ (2×04) Review

In a show that is heavily defined through it’s plot-driven story-telling, there has been one consistent theme that has been showing up throughout the entire series – not seeing the bigger picture, and that is none more evident than in ‘Garden of Bones’.

“You’re fighting to overthrow a king, and yet you have no plan for what comes after.” Those were the words of Talisa, a nurse tending to the injured after another succesful attack on the Lannisters by the Stark’s army. Rob may have proven himself to be a master tactician but what became abundantly clear through that scene is that he doesn’t have a plan for what comes after. He may think that things will align perfectly after he and his army have overthrown Joffrey, but If we’ve learnt anything from this show so far, that is very unlikely and if he himself does not want the Iron Throne, then what is to become of it? As evil and twisted as Joffrey was in this episode (more of that later), his successor may be even more sceptical towards Rob’s plans to segregate the North.

The Baratheon brother’s also appear to be mis-guided in their plans for the long game. Both are undoubtedly confident about the likelikhood of success but their erroneous beliefs about how they plan on achieving that success is what hinders them. Stannis has placed his complete trust in Mellisandre and her magic despite having no idea of what that magic entails, and this is emphasised through the cliffhanger of the episode when she appears to have given birth to a shadow servant. Renly’s views however are much more implicit, he simply believes that the sheer numbers of his army are enough to ensure his victory, unbenownst to him, the actions preceeding the beginning of his fight for power, imply that your going to need a lot more than that.

Whilst were on the topic of Mellisandre and the birth of what looked like the dam Smoke Monster, which was quite frankly disturbing, combined with Rob’s use of his Dyre Wolf in the attack on another Lannister camp (who  looks awesome now by the way), Dany’s dragons and the re-emergence of the white walkers due to Night Watch’s quest beyond the wall, does this episode signify the moment this show ‘jumped the shark’? Don’t get me wrong there have been brief hints towards the magic that encompasses this world from as early as the first episode, but we have never had it to this degree. And if it is Stannis’ intentions to lead an army of shadow servants and whatever other ghastly creatures that Mellisandre can give birth to, are we seeing the balance of power being altered? Are we witnessing the moment magic takes control? and the de-valuation of the Human’s importance and their interactions which have been so essential in defining this show? At this moment It is a cause for concern, but I’m willing to see how things play out.

This was also probably the most disturbing episode of the entire series to date. Not only did we get that ridiculous final scene, but we are also further reminded about how much of a loathsome douche, King Joffrey really is. He really is the perfect villain, no traceable element of remorse, and even when presented with a name-day gift, he manages to turn it into one of his sick and twisted games. And how refreshing is it for the writers to have designed him in this way ON PURPOSE? We don’t simply hate him and want him to die in the most gruesome way possible because of how poorly-written a character he is, he was created by the writers to extrapolate this hatred from within the audience, and that kind of character design is seen very rarely in television these days.

Back to the main talking point about the episode, and if there is one character who is able to see things 3 steps ahead, it’s Tyrion. And we are graced with another fantastic performance from Peter Dinklage with Lancel Lannister being his latest victim, who he succesfully turns into his mole, using his knowledge of his little fling with Cersei. But even if Tyrion is the only character that can plan for the future, is even he going to be able to deal with the twisted nature of his King? I’m not sure, but it’s going to be great to see how events unfold.

This was possibly my favourite episode of the season so far, as whilst in other episodes the introduction of even more players into the game made the episodes feel slightly rushed, this episode seemed to balance all of the key events perfectly, and we were even introduced to a new place on our map during the opening credits, Qarth, along with a potentially key player in Xaro. So if this is a sign of things to come, then the future is bright. Also, on a side note.. Does that make Smokey the heir to the King, if so.. ALL HAIL KING SMOKEY!

Can I also remind everybody that all comments should contain NO SPOILERS from the books, it’s a tv show and I’ll be reviewing it as that.

So what were your thoughts on the episode?

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2012 NFL Draft Big Board – Top 100 Prospects (1-50)

Before I provide you with the list – I need to give you a bit of insight into how my grading system works. I don’t grade prospects based on where I expect them to go in this year’s draft. For example if a guy is expected to go in the top 10 but I view him as only a top 20 player, he’s getting a top 20 grade. Now breaking down the star system.

5 Stars – These guys are the “safe” picks, the “can’t miss” prospects, the “sure-things” whatever you want to call them, when you draft these guys your expecting elite production for the next 10+ years.

4 1/2 Stars – Elite prospects that have slight risks or potential downsides.

4 Stars – Top 10 Picks.

3 1/2 Stars – Solid 1st round prospect – Top 20 Pick.

3 Stars – Late 1st round – early 2nd round prospect.

2 1/2 Stars – 2nd Round Prospects.

2 Stars – Solid 3rd Round Prospects – Players with potential red flags but huge potential may fit in here.

1 1/2 Stars – 4th Round Prospects – Upside picks – talent, effort, motivation, health risks may come into play here.

1 Star – Developmental Prospects – Later round players that could contribute in the nfl with the correct development.

So here are my Top 100 prospects for the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft.

1. Andrew Luck – The best quarterback prospect since peyton manning, the safest pick in the draft, the most complete quarterback in over a decade – blah blah blah, yep this guy is good, he’s going to go Number 1 overall, and quite frankly I dont see a draft from the past 10 years where he wouldn’t have gone number 1 either.

2. Morris Claiborne – The best defensive player in the draft. A physical presence on the outside that is a potential shut down corner.

3. Matt Kalil – There is a reason Tyron Smith (the best left tackle prospect from last year’s draft) was only playing Right tackle for the trojans, Matt kalil is that reason. Throughout the season Barkley’s blindside was protected superbly and has been compared to names from previous drafts such as Joe Thomas and Jake Long.

4. Justin Blackmon – Any doubts or concerns about his speed were put to rest at his pro days. Even through illness Blackmon managed to dominate the fiesta bowl against Stanford. He provides great physicality at the line of scrimmage whilst also making a habit of gaining yards after the catch. The best wide reciever prospect since megatron and a sure-fire number 1 reciever.

5. Trent Richardson – These four prospects after Andrew Luck are completely inter-changeable. The only reason I don’t have Richardson as my number 2 prospect is because he’s a running back. Previous history has shown it’s a lot easier to just draft one with a late-round pick but don’t get me wrong, this guy is a beast, who doesn’t shy away from contact. Very few Running backs are taken in the top 10 these days, and the only way for General managers to justify doing just that, is if you have either elite speed or elite talent, Richardson fits into that second category.

6. Luke Kuechly – Linebackers don’t get taken in the top 10, but if you were to do just that, this would be the guy do it with. For the year, he collated 191 tackles, displaying great instincts and field vision, and can also sit in coverage with his tally of 3 interceptions emphasising this. A sure-thing that would go in the top 10 any other year, I’m unsure of his potential suitors however so he could slip providing someone doesn’t trade up for him.

7. David DeCastro – Guards are becoming more and more pivotal in today’s NFL. DeCastro is a better prospect than last year’s Mike Pouncey who went to Miami at number 15, so don’t be shocked if this guy goes as high as number 11 to the Chiefs.

8. Robert Griffin III – But this guy is going to go 2nd overall???!?? He’s the 2nd best prospect in the draft!!! Nope, he’s not. This guy has been unfairly compared to Cam Newton and Michael vick when in fact, he’s a gentle compromise between the two. He’s got a great arm, great accuracy, great athleticism he has all the intangibles to be a franchise quarterback. So what concerns me? His pocket vision is extremely limited. His offense pre-dominantly asks him to go to the 2nd read at most, and his athleticism sometimes overshadows his poor presence within the pocket. I personally think what the Redskins have done is incredibly risky, but he has the upside to replicate what Newton did last season so I can understand why they did it.

9. Quinton Coples – Supposed ‘motor’ concerns are completely ridiculous. Coples is the only ‘elite’ defensive end prospect in this years draft, his physical tools replicate that of Julius Peppers and whilst he may not amount to that sort of production over his career, I have no problem making the comparison. His college production is also something that comes into question when in fact what I see on tape is a guy that consistently pressures the quarterback despite consistent double teams. He’s not going to have to deal with that in the NFL and I fully expect him to prosper because of it.

10. Fletcher Cox – The best defensive tackle prospect in this year’s draft. Some people have him going as high as Number 6 to the rams in this years draft, I personally have him down to go to the Panthers at 9. Cox provides a disruptive presence at the heart of the defensive line with his great first step, technique and motor hopefully providing a team with the tools needed to develop a force in the middle of the defence.

11. Michael Floyd – Some have this kid higher than Blackmon on their boards but in my opinion he lacks the speed and quickness getting out of his cuts to be that. What he is, is a physical deep-ball threat who’s going to provide mis-matches for any defence in the nfl.

12. Stephen Gilmore – Oooohh shocker. Yep this guy is rising up draft boards, including mine. Gilmore has the perfect combination of height and speed, has great playmaking ability due to his athleticism in this all amounts to a kid that has tremendous upside. Could be a potential pick for the Jaguars at number 7.

13. Melvin Ingram – Ingram has tremendous speed and power at the line of the scrimmage. I myself am concerned about whether or not he can set the edge in the nfl, and his short arms are also a concern but his versatility is intriguing for nfl teams, and his ability to play both the 4-3 and the 3-4 should move him up draft boards.

14. Riley Reiff – Seem people are put off by his short arms and lack of power but he makes up for it with his athleticism and quick feet which allow him to deal with speed rushers incredibly efficiently.

15. Dre Kirkpatrick – At 6″3 192 pounds, Kirkpatrick is a very physical corner who isn’t afraid to make a tackle in the open field. He did a fantastic job in both crucial games against LSU, practically shutting down the highly-touted Reuben Randle. Any concerns regarding his marijuana problems were brought to an end when the charges were dropped so there really should be no concern when taking this guy with a top 20 pick.

After the top 15, there are a heck of a lot of players, predominantly pass rushers in the late 1st Round-2nd round range and this has led to a lot of players moving up draft boards, probably being higher than they should be, whilst some have been pushed into the 2nd round. Here is a breakdown of those players.

16. Michael Brockers

17. Kendall Wright

18. Coby Fleener

19. Jonathan Martin

20. Ryan Tannehill – Some people are saying Tannehill is a reach for Miami at 8, and whilst he certainly is, it’s not as dramatic as you would think. After the top 6-8 prospects, there is a massive drop-off, Miami are on the cusp of that limit. They need a quarterback, Tannehill has tremendous upside, and when you evaluate last years prospects, there is no reason why he can’t go that high when players like Christian ponder were off the board at number 12.

21. Dont’a Hightower

22. Nick Perry

23. Courtney Upshaw

24. Mark Barron – The guy is simply not the top 15 pick people are making him out to be. He has quite blatantly been moved up because of this weak safety class. He does have great physicality, but too often on tape I see lapses in coverage leading to big plays, so I just can’t justify him being that highly touted a prospect.

25. Dontari Poe – Once again, a guy rated much higher than he should be but this time it’s simply because of his combine performance. His tape is far too inconsistent for me to even consider him going in the top 10, but the potential is there for him to be exactly that. I expect a team like the Chiefs with very few holes to take a chance on him.

26. Shea Mclelin

27. Peter Konz

28. Janoris Jenkins

29. Reuben Randle – Due to the Wide reciever class being so deep, a sure-fire 1st round pick in randle will probably be pushed to the start of the 1st.

30. Doug Martin

31. Brandon Weeden – Yep this guy is a legitimate first rounder. Discount his age and he’s a sure-fire top 10 pick. And if you get 7-8 years of quality production out of him, who is honestly going to be complaining that he is 36?

32. Stephen Hill – Like Poe, his combine performance has sky-rocketed his draft status. However I can’t comment on his route running ability because he simply wasn’t asked to at Georgia Tech. It’s what makes prospects like this so hard to evaluate, and he could well turn out to be like Demaryius Thomas who also came out of GT.

33. Chandler Jones

34. Mike Adams

35. Whitney Mercilus

36. Cordy Glenn

37. Jerel Worthy

38. Devon Still

39. Alshon Jeffrey

40. Lavonte David

41. Kendall Reyes

42. David Wilson

43. Ronnell Lewis

44. Bobbie Massie

45. Andre Branch

46. Zach Brown

47. Mohammed Sanu

48. Lamar Miller

49. Amini Silatolu

50. Dwayne Allen

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