Game Of Thrones – Season 6 Review

*Spoiler Alert*

Another season of Game of Thrones seems to have swiftly come and gone and left us with lots to look forward to in 8 months time. Seasons 4 and 5 for me really disappointed so my expectations for this season weren’t particularly high and I don’t look forward to it as much anymore. Those low expectations though might have been what made this season seem so good. There were a few episodes in the middle of the season that as expected were a bit boring, but obviously storylines need to be set up and big events need to have anticipation. It’s all good writing really and that shows in the massive ratings that this show gets.

I always compare it to The Walking Dead because they’re the two biggest fantasy/action shows in the World right now and although very different I think that it’s fair to compare the two. Their target audience is somewhat similar, they’re both based on a different piece of fiction, and they both get massive ratings on a Sunday night in numerous countries. A few things that TWD has going for it is that the comic books are still being written, so it could be a seemingly endless program. That could prove a problem because it will be a struggle to keep it interesting for so long. TWD also has a lot more episodes per season, so the boring episodes in the middle that both programs have seem a lot less noticeable. GoT is a rare program with only the 10 episodes per season and per year. For a lot of people that adds to the anticipation and the excitement of the show and that’s understandable but at the same time out of those 10 episodes per season I feel like only 5 are really good and that’s not enough for me. There may also be 5 boring episodes per season of TWD but that’s 5 out of 20+.

Another comparison that can be made between the two are the vast amount of different storylines within the program. With the more episodes, TWD can get away with having a lot of different plots and can dedicate different episodes to one specific plot at a time. GoT has really struggled with that in the past and did so again at times this season. Towards the end of the season though a lot of the different storylines started to converge and we finally have a narrative we can actually follow without a lot of confusion. At the beginning of the season we had several different main characters in several different parts of the World with several minutes of the episode each and it was stupidly hard to follow.

The season did get progressively better though, with episode 9, ‘The battle of the Bastards’ being the best episode in the entire 6 series so far. With Ramsay Bolton dead though there needed to be a new villain we could truly hate and it seems like Cersei Lannister is yet again going to take up that mantle. She has been the main villain on more than one occasion but it certainly does not get boring. Lena Headey has been exceptionally since the first season and with The Mountain by her side she sits upon The Iron Throne once again. The ending saw a united Winterfell, led by Jon Snow with the backing of other armies and leaders of the North. Littlefinger is waiting in the shadows though, plotting something devious no doubt that involves his infatuation and obsession with Sansa. I’m not 100% sure if the next challenge Jon Snow and Winterfell face is from a different army, the Whitewalkers, or a threat from the inside.

Arya Stark is another one on a journey back to where she began. Her storyline since she was forced to flee has been very strange and all a bit pointless. It’s just really been a long-winded way of training her to be a clever killed and keeping her out of the way of the main characters so there can be a uniting of all the surviving Starks later on. I like Arya and I like Maisie Williams but I’d gotten really quite bored of her for about 3 seasons and I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

Obviously the biggest convergence in the storylines next season will be the appearance of Daenerys Targaryen and her massive army, along with Tyrion, and Theon and Yara Greyjoy. Lord Varys is also there with the woman and her daughters and that army. I keep forgetting about them so I have no recollection of any of their names. Let’s face it the only part they’ve played in anything remotely interesting is when Bronn and Jaime were there. I think I’m the only person who thinks this but other than Tyrion Lannister being by her side, the entire Daenerys storyline bores me. There’s sometimes good action in it and everybody likes a good dragon but I just don’t see the appeal in her. Most of that part of the story is all in subtitles that I can’t be bothered reading and it’s been pretty repetitive for the best part of the last 3 seasons. Sure she ends a few episodes in spectacular fashion but Tyrion has made it relevant and entertaining again.

A few other plots and characters that I don’t really know where are going or really where they ended this season there was so much to keep up with. Firstly and I think most importantly is Bran Stark, who’s now the three-eyed Raven. He has the ability now to manipulate the past and the future it seems but he completely disappeared in season 5 along with my interest level for him. Nobody seems to like his character but it seems he will have an important part to play in the next season or two. Secondly is Brienne: I don’t remember where she ended or what she’s doing next but I do like her. Thirdly The Hound, a very loveable character in my opinion. His return proved that unless you see the severed head of a character you think is dead, the chances are they’re not. He’s a brutal character that I can’t wait to see in the middle of a big battle again and I hope we do get to see that again next season. I have a sneaking feeling he’ll end up being killed (again) by The Mountain at some point. Although I’ve already mentioned her I’m not 100% sure where the Arya story is going next, she has plenty of people on her little list to kill but I’m sure she’ll run in to some more trouble on the way. Samwell Tarley is off to become a Maester in his own storyline and I assume at some point will end up back with Jon. Jorah has also disappeared on his own storyline but I’m not even sure he’ll return anywhere to be honest.

I think that covers about everyone. Again there’s so many to keep up with that it’s hard to know really. Overall I thought this season was much improved from the previous 2 or 3. It slowed down in the middle again but nowhere near as much as it has done previously, but the opening 2 episodes and the final 2 episodes were all amazing and it sets it up perfectly for season 7. The last 2 years haven’t left much to be desired or much anticipation for me personally but I’m definitely looking forward to the next season now. As much as this season has improved though it’s still definitely behind The Walking Dead for me. It just lacks in every department compared to that. It’s still better than TWD spin-off show Fear The Walking Dead but it has dropped down to my third favourite action-based fantasy show behind Netflix’s Daredevil which has been phenomenal for both its seasons now.


French Open Review

From football back to tennis now and a late review of how the French Open panned out. There has always been speculation about Djokovic’s game on clay and every tennis player in the last 10 years has been unfortunate that they’ve had to come up against Nadal but it was inevitable that at some point, a player as great as him was going to win the career Grand Slam. As if he wasn’t good enough on his own the luck seemed to be with him when it came to the draw. Federer withdrew before the tournament started and Nadal withdrew halfway through the tournament. That meant Djokovic had a reasonably easy run to the final, he still had to beat some good players, but he didn’t have a real challenge and never looked in trouble until the final. The luck was not with him when it came to the weather though, which was unfortunate not just for him but the audience as well. He was getting made the priority as the World No. 1 but that didn’t work to his advantage. He was on and off the court all the time and then often not only playing against his opponent but also playing against time.

His final opponent Andy Murray had a much more grueling time getting to the final, starting out with 2 five-set matches before becoming a bit more comfortable beating big servers in Karlovic and Isner before overcoming the crowd to dispatch French favourite Gasquet. For the most part he also dominated Stan Wawrinka in the semi-final. The defending champion had a good tournament but came up against a superb Murray and couldn’t replicate his perfection of the previous year. Wawrinka put up a valiant display to get the third set after being 2-0 down but Murray rallied superbly to get the job done in 4. Djokovic’s semi-final paled in comparison as he dominated in 3 quick sets, but you can’t take anything away from Dominic Thiem. The Austrian benefited from from the kindness of the draw but he played his best tennis and beat some very good players. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the coming months and years, as he rescued two match points against Federer in Stuttgart to win his first grass tournament of the year. He’ll definitely be someone to look out for at Wimbledon.

The final itself was of the highest quality between the two best players in the World at the moment. Unlike Stan last year though, Murray plays a very similar game to Djokovic, both pride themselves on service return and impenetrable defense. Wawrinka beat Djokovic last year with pure aggression. His power and accuracy was ridiculous for most of that match and is one of the few people to really win the battle of the mind games against Novak. For a while it looked as if Murray might be able to do it. The notoriously slow starter did the opposite and came out firing on all cylinders and took Djokovic by surprise. He forced him into mistakes we don’t usually see from Novak’s racket and took the first set with some comfort.

Murray though is always in a mental battle of his own and when Djokovic stepped up his game in the 2nd set Murray seemed to go to pieces. The overhead camera was yet again the source and target of his frustration as it had been throughout the tournament. What I don’t understand is how it manages to annoy him but nobody else. It’s there for every player yet he’s the only one who it ever bothers. Then a reporter trying to do an interview with someone in one of the players camps during the match set him off, shouting at both him and the umpire to “get him out”. All the while Djokovic was just phasing it out, improving his game all the time, getting Murray more and more frustrated. Every rally was long and it favoured Djokovic massively. Murray was trying other tactics but nothing worked. Novak both comfortably and emphatically won the 2nd and 3rd sets and despite a little bit of pressure, more from himself than Murray I feel, he won the final set and match, completing the career Grand Slam and etching his name in history.

Murray does have Grand Slams to his name and is in an unfortunate era to have to compete with Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal, but he is becoming known as the nearly man now, getting to a lot of finals but falling to the better player every time on the biggest stage. He plays the same style of Djokovic and it beats most people, but he’s just not as good a player in every aspect of the game. It’s small margins but small margins that count in every single point and match of their rivalry. Djokovic is getting close to Federer’s Grand Slam record and the calendar Grand Slam this year, and although I will always prefer Federer, Djokovic could become the greatest of all time in the next few years.

To a continuing giant of the sport to a falling one, Serena Williams yet again failed in her quest to overtake Steffi Graf and become the woman with the most amount of Grand Slam singles titles. She fell at the last hurdle at the Australian Open to Kerber, and she fell at the last hurdle again on the clay, this time to Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza is another powerhouse making a name for herself over the last couple of years. Similar to Serena, she is used to bullying her opponents off the court with consistently big hitting. She won the tournament in the best way, struggling at times but getting better as the tournament progressed. Williams did her usual, acted really odd and complained about a lot while playing like it was her first time on the court until she remembered she could play tennis and is better than everyone else. Credit to Muguruza though she didn’t let her get to that stage. She dominated on the important points, took her chances, and was ultimately the better player on the day.

A joyish occasion for Spain as they also won the doubles with Feliciano and Marc Lopez edging out the legendary Bryan Brothers. All in all it was a dismal French Open for the people in Paris when it came to the weather and organisation, but there was a lot of high quality tennis played and a lot of home grown talent on display from their point of view.

Ronald Koeman as the new Everton Manager

Although there has been no actual announcement from the club, it seems almost certain that the Southampton manager is ending his tenure on the south coast for a trip up to Merseyside. For some reason I seem to be among the small minority that just don’t see this as a big step forward for Everton. It doesn’t seem like a good match and here’s a few reasons why I’m not all that excited for the announcement of Koeman as the next Everton manager.

Firstly it’s a real low move to be poaching another Premier League manager from a rival club when he’s on the verge of signing a new contract. He seemed happy at Southampton and luring him away in the way that they have makes him look really bad. The Southampton fans aren’t happy with him and I can understand why. Don’t say you’re going to commit to a team and then trade that in for a team who has a much worse season than you. A lot of the Southampton fans are making the point that if he can do it to them he will probably do it to us if he does well with us in the first year or two and bigger clubs come sniffing around him. You can’t disagree with that point with the way this appointment is being made.

Everton fans are making the point that he’s simply moving because Everton are a ‘bigger’ club, something you can’t disagree with. Southampton don’t have a history that includes League titles, cups, and European success. We have a bigger global fanbase but more importantly from a managerial point of view we’re not a selling club, something we have proved in the last couple of years. We invested big money to bring Lukaku to the club and made sure no amount of money was going to lure our talented young players away. Southampton on the other hand have done the complete opposite over the last few years. Although they have an excellent youth system and do re-invest some of the money they make from selling players, it seems inevitable that their best players get sold eventually. They sold 3 players in one sitting to Liverpool for over 50 million, as well as both of their first choice full backs to Arsenal and Manchester United. They re-invested well and under Pochettino and Koeman achieved consistently high finishes including 2 consecutive seasons qualifying for the Europa League. So with a good squad and European football next season, why would Koeman leave Southampton for a team that finished 5 places and 16 points below them this season?

Well most people just seem to think it’s because of the money. It’s no secret that our new owner/investor Farhad Moshiri isn’t afraid to splash out a bit of money to get what he wants and that’s what he’s done to get Koeman away from The Saints. It’s far too early to say whether it’s worth it or not but there’s far too many Everton fans who seem to be proud of the fact that we’re trying to become a team that buys our way to success. For a long time our team has made us proud by having players that aren’t worth a lot of money but play with passion and that’s what has made us a good team. What makes it worse is that we’ve just finished a season where Leicester have proved that money doesn’t buy you the title. They had players that were desperate to prove themselves week in week out and loved playing for their team and that’s what won them the title. Yet now Everton have money, our supporters are acting that it’s a given that we’ll buy all these World class players and become an instant threat to the top 4 and challenge for the title overnight.

The other problem I have is also with fans more than Koeman at the moment because there’s no actual signs that he will try and do this but I keep seeing all these ‘Dream Teams’ full of current Southampton players like they’re all amazing. Firstly Fraser Forster in goal. Personally I don’t rate him all that highly. He had a good season and he’s big and commands his box well but I just don’t think he’s that good. He’s also on a 6-year contract and getting him away from Southampton is not going to be cheap. If we’re going to splash out big money on a goalkeeper, why go for the England number 3 when the England number 2 is a much better goalkeeper and an equally attainable player. Also do we really need a new number one? Robles is young and impressed on a number of occasions last season. He needs to work on his consistency and his commanding presence but replacing him won’t help that, a coach will. Secondly is Virgil Van Dijk, the big dutch centre back. We have some good centre backs in our youth academy including Pennington who impressed massively towards the end of the season so we’re not lacking in numbers in that department. However if Stones does end up leaving we will need a replacement and Van Dijk has certainly impressed since joining the Premier League. James Ward Prowse is another name frequently mentioned. Again he’s very young and has a lot of potential but he’s not close to being a World class player and I really don’t see him fitting into the Everton team at all. Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle are two more names mentioned and the two I actually welcome. If Lukaku leaves which looks more and more likely every week we’ll need one or two players to replace him and these two scored and created a lot of goals for Southampton last year and have brilliant chemistry. With Deulofeu on the right crossing balls in and Mane on the left cutting inside with Barkley behind Pelle we’d have two very strong ways of attacking, something we lacked last year. If Lukaku ends up staying I would still very much like Mane at the club. I think he’s an exceptional footballer with bags of talent and a lot of goals to contribute and would fit in nicely. The only other name I’ve seen was Shane Long but that must have been a joke because he’s more the type of player a newly promoted team would buy for a few million to get them important goals to stay in the league.

Non-Southampton players I’ve seen mentioned include Yarmolenko and Juan Mata. If Mourinho doesn’t want Mata at United I would happily take him, I can even see him in some sort of swap deal with Stones or Lukaku. I feel like if Yarmolenko was going to come to Everton he would have done so last season. He’s obviously a class player but do I really want him at Everton? Not particularly.

Finally regarding Koeman’s appointment I just think there were better options, especially for the money. If we were going to lure a manager away who’s contracted to another club why not Benitez? He has more Premier League experience and more European experience than Koeman and quite frankly is just a better manager even if he has managed Liverpool before. Manuel Pellegrini was also an option. Not contracted to any club at the moment and won the Premier League only 2 years ago. Also more European experience than Koeman and loves to play attacking football. He’d definitely be able to bring good players to the club because he’s a massive name and I think he’d do wonders with our squad. I do like Koeman as a manager. Tactically he’s brilliant and he has an eye for talent and hopefully will continue the brilliant work that’s being done in our under 21’s. He’ll definitely have the plan B that we lacked so much last year and will make our team better, I just think there’s better choices out there.

I’m sorry I don’t share the enthusiasm most of Evertonians have for Koeman I’m just massively happy about the way its been done and think we could have done better. Do we really want to become another Liverpool, United, City, or Chelsea and just pump money into the club until we have a stadium we can’t fill cheering a group of individuals who don’t care about the team and have ridiculous delusions of winning everything every year? I wish I could get behind this decision but I don’t want the club to go in that direction so Mr Moshiri hasn’t made the best impression on me I’m afraid.

Also a quick mention to Ossie, Hibbert, and Pienaar who have all been released this week. I understand Pienaar wants to end his career in South Africa so best of luck to him, I hope Osman still gets to play football at a high level until he feels like he can’t anymore, but I think it was the right time for him to be let go. Hibbert will always be loved at Everton and I thought he was excellent in the few games he played this past season. He’s not fast and won’t ever be a world class full-back in modern football but I would have liked to see him stay at Everton. Hopefully he returns in a coaching capacity when he’s done playing, but for now I wish him the best of luck recovering from his injury and finding a club to play for if he decides to continue playing.

Uefa Euro’s 2016 Predictions

The Euros started last night and really I couldn’t care less. TV is so bad that it’s good to have 3 games of football to watch every day for a week but I don’t care who wins. The best thing about football being back on is that I have something to gamble on again. International football may be boring, but you can always spice it up by having money riding on it. So although I’m not excited for the football, I am excited that PaddyPower get to take some more of my money.

I’ll start with England as technically I’m ‘supposed’ to be supporting them. They’re not being quite as hyped as much as they were 2 years ago when they flopped in the World Cup although most bookies in this country do have them down as the 3rd favourites to win the tournament for some reason. As an Evertonian I find it ludicrous that Roy has taken Stones over Jagielka after the season he has had and Bertrand over Baines. If there’s one thing England lack it’s a left footed set piece specialist and neither Rose or Bertrand can provide that.

There were some more odd decisions from Roy that could prove to be fatal, none more stupid than taking Jack Wilshere over Danny Drinkwater. Wilshere having played next to no football for the entire season while Drinkwater helped Leicester to the league title with consistency throughout the season. Jordan Henderson is another one, injured a lot this season and been poor when he’s played, not at all liked by Klopp and I feel like he could be handing the captaincy over to Milner at Liverpool next season. Also Marcus Rashford and Dele Ali. There’s no doubt that these two are amazing talents but they should still be playing for the under 21’s. Ali has a lot to learn and I think it’ll be a miracle if he doesn’t get a red card in this tournament and that could ruin a big game for England. Rashford I don’t think will actually get on the pitch because of the abundance of better strikers at Roy’s disposal, and with all those strikers, just get Rashford more experience with the under 21’s and add a centre back, a position in which they definitely don’t have an abundance of players. Suffice to say I don’t have high hopes for England this year, could be another early exit.

France are most people’s favourites, not only for their vast array of talent but also because of the home advantage. Their first game last night was underwhelming and Romania almost spoilt the party but Dmitri Payet silenced any doubters with an absolute screamer. As for me I won £28 and £10 worth of free bets so France started off the tournament well for them and for me. They’re a good team and have an easy group. If they get anything less than the Semi-Final it’ll be a real disappointment because they certainly have a winning squad, just a bit suspect at the back.

World Cup winners Germany are always my pick for the big tournaments and this year is no difference. They don’t have the experience they once did with the youngest average squad but they always have the best team chemistry and have a lot of goal-scorers and game-winners. It might not always be crowd-pleasing football but I think Germany will win.

Belgium and Italy are the other names being mentioned as potential winners. Belgium have a very desirable attacking squad with Lukaku, Benteke, and Origi all vying for the centre forward role. They’ll be supported by a vast array of talent behind them including Eden Hazard who may not have had the best of seasons but finished it strongly and always has the potential to light up a team and the tournament. At the back they have one of the best goalkeepers in the World in Courtois but without Vincent Kompany there will be a lack of leadership and that team can definitely leak goals. Italy are a bit like Germany in the way that they don’t play like a group of individuals from different clubs they play as a team. Their communication is always good and that makes them good at the back and good in possession. Whether they have the goals in them I don’t know but they could scrape through a lot of games with 1-0 wins against the poor teams and the strong teams.

Spain I think are the dark horses of the competition. Forgotten about a bit in recent years and had an awful World Cup but they’ll be eager to make up for that and certainly have the team to do well. They have a seemingly easy group and if they get their confidence up and top the group they could be well on their way to winning. If David De Gea can continue his form he could make up for any gaps in the back 4 like he did all season for Man Utd and although you don’t think of goalkeepers as being match winners, he certainly is. At the other end of the pitch they’ll have Morata, my tip for the highest goalscorer in the tournament. He’s been excellent all season but this is his real chance to shine and I think he will.

Every team seems to have one big name; Portugal with Ronaldo, Wales with Bale, Poland with Lewendowski, but whether or not any of those teams can do anything with that one player as inspiration is another story. They’re definitely all game-changing players so one bit of magic from any of them against one of the big teams could provide the tournament with a big upset. I’ve also heard a few things about Iceland, Austria, and Croatia, all teams that pundits think could be the one to provide the shock and knock out one of the big teams.

Of the other home nations I don’t think Ireland or Northern Ireland will be much of a threat to anyone, but Wales have a reasonably strong squad. As much as they will be reliant on Bale, a lot of teams would love Ashley Williams at the heart of their defense. He’ll organise them at the back and is capable of making goal-saving tackles. They’ll also have Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen in the midfield. Ramsey hasn’t had the season he did last year but he’s a good player and pops up with important goals. Joe Allen has been an under-rated game changer this year for Liverpool and thrived when he got the chance due to Henderson’s injury. I can be him being a big part of Wales success.

I do like watching football but I feel like most of this tournament will only be worth watching when I have money on the line. The most important thing though is that I hope there are no terrorism or violence issues that overshadow the whole competition and that everyone who’s in France for the tournament stays safe while they’re there.