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Jon's Jan Feb 2009 Blog
A good day by England as they put up 300 and still have KP there.
OK Sky fetishise centuries but Cook's 94 is as near as damn it what is required. With these modern new balls if Cook can consistently be there in the 20th over with a median score of 25 plus I would be happy. The new balls that go off quickly surely make the opener as valuable as in the Great Man's day on pitches with more juice and fresh fast bowlers allowed to bounce you 5 times an over. I think if Cook has the same average padded with big hundreds he would well be less valuable. His 41ish average is low by modern world standards even for an opener. Maybe in a 5 man batting line up England should have one would like more runs but consistent 20+ is what I want from an opener. He also does not get out very very early which helps for me - the opener's role is not to be heading back in the first over he faces. Like a lead off hitter in baseball draw out what is in the pitch and the bowler's arsenal at least.
Strauss played well and was got out by a snorter. Impressive. If only all players could reward the over indulgence of the selectors (yes you Harmison, 'Stone, Vaughan, Collie, Belly, Prior, Monty).
Shah may not like being 3 but with England being a team who are likely to bat short to get enough variety in their bowling without a world class bowler there is nowhere else to play him. One can say KP should bat 3 but one can also demand that Maradona start training with everyone else, only if you want to look stupid. With a 5 man line up there is no room for someone who gets themselves out unless you are a superstar which Owais is not.
My only crib on England is this once again when one of the big cohones is missing they do not like for like replace but swap the bowler Flintoff for batter Bopara. As though they do not want a decision down the line. They have just failed to get 20 wickets on a seeming worse wicket and have lost their no 1 bowler and play a bits and pieces batter and one day bowler.
I think it is not too much "white noise" to say the best teams in Europe are in the Premier League. However there has been no domination of the Champion's League akin to the 6 year run of Liverpool, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest but that is one of those things.
This lack of Champions League wins, for me, is down to: choking, mostly by managers as it happens, see below: long league and cup season getting in the way: the extra pace of those extra games: managerial incompetence in specific tactical situations: inferiority which is finally lifting.
Indeed some of the failure of English clubs to win it can be laid at the feet of managers and owners: firstly Kenyon and Abramovich undermining Ranieri into the mistakes in Monaco in what must have been the most winnable year ever: 3 years of frankly buffoonery, often infantile, in the competition by a Jose Mourinho unable to play the Porto underdog anymore and seeing conspiracies at every turn (who wanted him for England manager?): Not to mention his [Jose's] fetish for an unfit Arjen Robben in 2 seasons - down to 10 men do you take off Joe Cole or a half fit Arjen Robben?: matched for 1 year by S'Alex settling petty scores with Beckham and playing an unfit Veron (a mistake Ranieri repeated in his master-class in own foot shooting in Monaco).
Amazingly of course the biggest act of managerial incompetence may have been with weeks to consider it. It also succeeded in the WTF manner of a bet against a seemingly winning easily "Little Nicky" Davydenko. It was of course the the naive 1 up 1 back in midfield 442 of Rafael Benitez in the final against Milan. Unless the plan was to lull the opposition into a false sense of security at 3-0 up and dominate 10 minutes before relying on a keeper the manager had no confidence in and bucket loads of luck. Better to be lucky than good eh?
Regardless one thing I can say about this year's competition is that it will give Roman Abramovich a scintilla of hope that ageing players can still lead teams. Juve turned up with Nedved and del Piero and Roma with Totti still a talisman. Maybe he will think Lampard, Terry, Drogba, Nelk, Balls, Cech, Deco, C'Ash et al can age as well. Of course Roma and Juventus lost.
The other downside is that Inter are once again dominating the league in Italy with Juve 9 points behind. Much like Chelsea are already behind Manchester United - all down of course to home form.
5 or 6 years it seems is not a long time in Italian football. 6 years ago Lampard was in the process of his last single figure goal league season and just seeing off de la Bona and Petit as the main anchor of the midfield - only an England reserve. Rooney had just played a friendly v Australia saying he was blue till he died. Leeds had a team! Alan Smith a career.
C Ronaldo was looking cute somewhere in his home land. Gerrard was obviously what he is but Torres was in Spain looking cute somewhere. Fabregas was barely a teenager. Beckham and Keane were the market leaders at Old Trafford. Rio was not a drug cheat.
No one here had heard of Drogba, Essien, Tevez, Berbatov, Vidic... Carrick was 2 clubs away. Sure some fringe players were in place but what are key players in key positions were mostly not at the top clubs then or not what they are now. Note also that Siddy aside a lack of behind the strikers poncery.
In terms of ageing certainly a Lampard whose only real physical strengths are decent height and end-less stamina might. I have doubts about the rest and having several of them at once as 90 minute players seems a dubious game plan - before considering the pace of the domestic league.
Plus in England teams are turning over players and buying the world's best even if the demise of sterling reduces that. Standing still is to decline even further and faster in England for me. Given that Chelsea are already reduced.
So maybe Abramovich had a vision today that his squad will age gracefully. I just don't see it unless they want to become a cup team aiming to finish 3rd to 7th. For me that is the half full version. Whilst the Premier League continues to hoover up the top talent without massive input from the youth system or more likely another orgy of money burning decline could happen very suddenly in the next few years.
Arsenal should have buried Roma. It was not actually that Arsenal played well it was just that Roma gifted them "turnover ball" and yet the Arsenal strikers either wanted too much time or wanted to pass rather than shoot or could not trap a ball 10 feet or frankly a lot of them could not pass wind around the box. They can be thankful for the soft penalty they got.
Arsenal have to hope the Roma beating of Chelsea was a mirage based on over rated opponents - my view mind.
Again the Eboue thing... He was confident and showed he could run at pace with the ball - so no excuses. The problem is that as soon as he has to kick the ball to shoot or pass he is rubbish. How can Wenger claim he is a valid starting player for a team who seemingly only Wenger can see as title contenders?
Bendtner can he trap a ball under 4 yards? No!
Other than that Arsenal's decried defense and defensive midfield again far outperformed their attackers. It did give lie to my man who claimed had van Persie put one away early the Mackems would have been drubbed on Saturday. The fact is Arsenal don't put the ball in the net enough and I should add Arshavin's record is 2 goals for 3 assists.... another small neat lightweight looking to make a last pass?
The popular fiction is to call Ferguson the master of mind games but for yet another big game he changed formation in a maddening example of his 90s tinkering that meant that United in the end won the tournament arguably BECAUSE their 2nd leg ties were away from home and Munich brain cramped. 0-0 away first leg is a poor result for English (and England] (Any?) teams who habitually, no matter how many furriners they have, retreat with a lead. Also one piece of luck or magic at 0-0 and you have a mountain to climb at home. Seriously how many times have United gone out to inferior teams off a 0-0 away?
For some reason in Europe against Italian teams Ferguson is playing the same game as the 90s and gets the extra man in midfield. However the comparison is not relevant as a) United are relatively better thanks to the Premier League spending power b) They are a much better defensive team even if the recent record flatters them c) They might actually have benefitted from Inter pushing them back and breaking with Ronaldo who is better than Giggs or Beckham ever were at that d) Now they don't play straight naive 442 anyway - indeed some have called it 4231 or even 460!
Even if Ferguson has a point and Rooney is not physically 100% and one suspect is viewed in big games as a liability surely he gives Rooney or Tevez longer than the 7 minutes Rooney got. I doubt that the Inter defenders wanted the movement Rooney brings. Indeed Rooney came pretty close to getting behind Inter twice in only 7 minutes. Rooney said on Saturday he can get goals close in and has been practising and scoring from the kind of balls that United slid across the goal untouched twice - albeit thanks to some wrestling moves on Berbatov.
Of course to balance it Rooney once again wrote liability and replace into Ferguson's notebook with a booking in that time (earned more by his obvious ferocity than anything he did to be fair).
One wonders if it is the dearth of world front players or the junk bonds or likely loss of Tevez or Rooney's marketing profile that prevents his sale. Solution for me is to buy Eto'o, or similar, who is potentially available, let Tevez go and use Rooney as little as Ferguson can get away with.
Or just talk to him and help him develop - I am sure just being told Wayne you do enough and less can be more would be enough. I really feel at times that what Rooney does naturally, compete and move, are enough. He has this chip on his shoulder that he is still a player people are looking to to win games on his own.
Ferguson lost Beckham over 3 years by not talking to him. All that happens in that situation is the player just gets more and more frustrated, alienated and angry - looks to play his best game for England which really winds up S'Alex!
I don't expect Spurs to go down and would not put it past them to finish the season strongly as they have a pretty powerful squad. After all Rafa, O'Neill, Moyes and Guus/Scolari would not half mind some of their benches. Indeed 6 points takes them from 16th to 11th and Johnny W just put them in front against Hull for 3 of them (honestly I started this piece in the first half when they were rank and likely to draw/lose).
As someone pointed out recent former managers are not exactly poor managers. Jol despite his fetishism for Paul Robinson is now doing very well with Hamburg. Juande Ramos mocked on his way out by incoming Harry Redknapp and the media has led Madrid to 9 straight wins.
Ah ha we should blame former Director of Football Daniel Comolli then? Well on joining wor 'Arry said what great players they had. Indeed few aside from myself would strongly question Comolli apart from undermining Jol and selling his 2 strikers for very very good fees, given their ages, without effective replacement. Indeed Keane lost 8 million in value in 3 months to illustrate what a good and early sell he was. Berba' was a great sale at the price but having no replacement meant they had to hand some back only getting back to 4 strikers in the new year when prices are ludicrous -> Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Keane = 41 million back.
I think Gus Poyet who bravely having just been given the bums rush summed up the problem. Spurs have lots of career millionaires with no love or care about football or their own career. Many of them are of course domestic players.
The real problem is what most people in clown speak, accepted wisdom expressed in cliched one liners, would say was their English back bone.
Dawson is not an oracle or a genius but is often dropped when Ledley King and his equally unfit and football embarrassment Johnny Woodgate are both fit together. This means that keepers and midfielders have a rotating duo where most teams who rotate stay consistent. Both [Wood' King] were probably once genuine prospects but for differing reasons have become immobile and injury prone.
On top of all this and 50 million spent in January alone they added a free lightweight ageing goalkeeper in my boy Cudicini who has barely played a game in years and was used to having a peak John Terry clear the box when he did in front of him. King and Woodgate are neither mobile nor dominating so another lightweight keeper was not exactly what they needed or what they did not already have. So now they rotate the back 3 regularly where no one sane, or even Rafa, would.
One wonders with the likes of Jenas and Lennon if they had come through the Brentford academy if they ever would have made it to the Championship. Sure Lennon is quick and has embarrassed top class players but then so did D J Campbell. Indeed many lower league sides use late game subs with speed to step it up. To be fair he is only 21 till April but his direction of travel is not up at present. He is also having a decent goal scoring game as I type against Hull. Whether he should start regularly for anyone is for me doubtful.
Jenas plays in the middle and like Lennon has a nice highlight reel, mainly free kicks, but can get through entire months without a performance that anyone can remember - positive or negative. Huddlestone is Jenas but with less movement and highlights but more lard.
Darren Bent had one or two good seasons at Charlton but the team was built for him and one wonders how good he is for any team with aspirations and the need for a focal point for good players to play off.
David Bentley forced his way out of Arsenal to sit on a different bench a few miles away.
Added to all this mix is a smorgas bord of lightweight components that do not fit many orthodox or most unorthodox formations. Luka Moderate (nee Modric) a sort of behind the strikers throw back to 352 where teams sacrificed a full back for a hole player - like these guys were all Zidane or something. Or Gareth Bale who is neither left winger nor left back. Indeed Bale may be worse than Glen Johnson at the day job part. Corluka being Modric's best friend it seems and a pretty ordinary player at 8.5 million. Pavlyuchenko what the hell is he? Lightweight? yes. Front striker? ummmhhh 2nd striker? aggghhh.
It's hard to believe Spurs are where they are but Redknapp has almost gone backwards re-adding the criminally lightweight Defoe, still bowing to King/Woodgate's ego and status, quite whether Wilson Palacios is a 12 million pound player is questionable - and at 24 how much he will improve is mute for me.
So it's back to being recurring crisis of confidence Keane and 10 others from 30. Which is not terrible until one considers the cost of this mess. I lampooned 12 million for Milner by O'Neill who got exactly what he expected, good and bad. Whereas Modric, Defoe, Bent, Bentley and Pavlyuchenko all cost more and would appear to be not what any team needs? Palacios and Keane buys and re-buys are not guaranteed to be successes either. It goes to show value in transfers is getting what you need even if you over pay.
Collecting players is expensive. Redknapp has added to an already expensive premier league squad another 5 or 6 players on top wages, good luck with that. That could be 15 million or more a year in wages to boot. Cost over 3 years circa 100 Million extra?
I will be surprised if they bounce back next season to much more than a fringe UEFA candidate even looking at a table where it is easier to go from 16th to 7th (10 points) than 6th to 4th (10 points) or even 3rd to 1st (11 points). For all their spending and finishing 5th there seems to be nothing being built - no ethos, limited player development, continual poor defending from even the Jol era and just player trading.
Stanford global ambassador Kevin Pietersen described his, one assumes, ex patron as a sleaze-bag and said he was an obvious one. I don't think the irony and depth of self servingness here needs any embellishment.
Just as loads of sleaze-bag tennis players will put the onion in the hankey over Shahar Peer being excluded from Dubai for no other reason than nationality before trying to get their grubby mitts on the Oil money.
This is why whatever his considerable faults the likes of Muhammad Ali are praised for taking some kind of stand. Anyone whose heroes are sports people should keep the praise for what they do on the pitch or ring or court.
Hey it's not like musicians or actors are any different right?
The ECB are thinking of not allowing the walking soap opera that is Andrew Flintoff to play the IPL. This would be a mistake. The thing they need to do is leave the decision to Flintoff himself. That way if he plays and gets injured even 'his' media would be forced to back off when his career is surely ended by sensible selectors with a horizon beyond tomorrow's back and unfortunately with this guy front pages - actually the saddest part is of course our selectors are too into his celebrity and think somehow he is a player to shape their whole side around.
Nonetheless the big lad should have a choice for most cricket lovers the Ashes or grabbing 750 large [USD] from the IPL. If the ECB stop him they are then honour bound to play him even when half fit as he would be seen to have been forced into a sacrifice. Better that we find out if he is really committed like even I accept he is once a match starts.
It normally takes a fair few series for an England captain to start becoming a broken man unable to make a positive and/or logical decision and teetering on the brink of clowndom. Yet in this test Strauss surpassed himself and moved well ahead of that schedule.
With nothing else changing he did make one good call from the abortive 2nd test and played Swann instead of Panesar, who is just no use on a slow wicket. Of course the change was made because they thought the wicket would bounce which of course should have meant picking Panesar - see hard and fast Perth and Old Trafford the two main places he built his faux record on. As it turned out mostly slow and low Swann was the correct solution - obviously for the wrong reason, Ok let's give Strauss credit for a long over due decision and not question the inane justification of it.
They brought back Harmison because of the wicket over our most recently successful bowler Sidebottom. This was meant to be an ideal wicket and he rewarded them with 2-98 in 34 overs You have to wonder at the cronyism that sees England pretending this would be a quick wicket for him, despite history that says otherwise. He has not bowled well in years and abroad since 2003.
Despite some high spots Anderson is surely another who is little use on foreign wickets where the ball does not swing. He was given the new ball but basically grabbed a couple of tail enders for the loss of 123 runs.
I've mentioned these two before and we left out our best bowler of 2007/08 for 4-221 (55 a piece) out of 19-655 (35 a piece - including dreck by Shah, Collie and Pietersen) - means the rest took 15-434 under 30 a piece. Match costing in the context of the game? Also utterly predictable on these low and slow wickets. I said neither should tour last year and not one test or even inning since contradicts that call.
However that stupid picking of the friends of Freddie is simply crushed by the lunacy of wasting over an hour yesterday to set a target of 500... The wicket whilst easy to dig in on was not one that batters could attack on. Plus losing a test now is not the be all and end all. If you cannot back yourself against this team needing 500 then that damns you more than any journalist or ex-Yorkshire opener can.
His other mistake was to bowl Flintoff, Harmison and Anderson at the death and not the hot hand Broad coming off a 5 for and 3 wickets in the inning inc the 2 best batters in the team. Hard to believe but in the 2nd inning Harmison bowled one more over than Broad. The clearly ailing 'Stone only 4 less and Anderson whose 2 tail ender wickets flatter him 4 more - madness.
With The positivity of KPs stint lost over a coach! Now that is true clowndom D- is my grade for Strauss.
Looks like the continual soap opera that is Andrew Flintoff (Flintstone or 'Stone) is injured again. Whilst he is probably a better bowler than his bare numbers and as ordinary a batter now as his batting average suggests by picking him the selectors at least use him as a decisive pick to go with 5 bowlers.
In the 2005 Ashes the England team had bowlers with very different skill sets that covered the whole of the lifecycle of the ball. In addition tests were played on pitches where 400 could be a big and decisive score - especially with that bowling. In batting Flintoff was at the end of a 2 year teaser where he threatened to be if not a genuine no 6 close to it. He also scored big when most needed. That is no longer true but batsmen don't grow on trees in England so his playing 6 is ummmmmh agggghhh from a batting PoV.
Now England will face Australia on slower wickets - Lords is now a draw wicket for a team that can bat and Old Trafford and Trest Bridge not on the agenda. They will also face them with less variety in the bowling. Whilst Australia have lost Warne after the first test last time it could be said they did not really have McGrath but a pale shadow of him. In addition the rest of their bowling was often poor. So whilst their attack will not be as potent it will equally not be so focussed on one bowler and may be better suited to English conditions than their seamers were last time.
For me what will be crucial is if England can get through a strong batting line up without a world class bowler. This analysis of the bowling assuming fitness of all bar 'Stone who I will get to later.
Sidebottom is a given for me on recent record and should have his fitness by summer and be better suited to English conditions.
Broad appears to have developed into a test bowler, or at least good enough to start for England, so far in the West Indies. He is also for me the strongest mentally of the side and the most determined. Indeed his reaction to a pathetic attempt at a catch by Harmless-son ('Less) reminded me of Sidebottom when Prior dropped 8 catches off his bowling - undisguised contempt. Which in a team of weak characters who all make nice and KP is much needed.
Unless a wicket has sharp bounce and pace there seems little point in considering an automatic out who is a butcher in the field like Panesar. So Swann is in. With our line up the more people who at least know which end of a bat to hold the better.
I will say who I rule out. Harmless-son just does not take enough wickets and added to that the he is easy to score off on a flat wicket. He is not someone who can bat out time either. I see no circumstances how he can be selected.
Anderson who abroad or when the ball is not swinging is at best a 4th seamer at worst a liability. His fielding and obdurateness with the bat stops me short of saying never. Also as with Monty and maybe still, albeit looking less and less likely, Harmison on the right conditions he is a match winner. Plus if we have 5 bowlers and Collie he can be less of a match loser. So not totally ruled out but I'd like to see other get a shot in the home series against the West Indies.
I am not sure who is emerging. There has to be a reason Tremlett who had the best series figures against the best opponents India 2 years ago was disregarded - 13 @ 30 better than all bar Siders career.
On the right wicket you can make a case for playing Monty as well as Swann albeit he does not bring the necessary control over the run rate for me. However it does not seem we are going to play on Monty friendly wickets.
The 'Stone question is hardest for me. Whatever anyone says he has been a divisive figure, maybe unintentionally. It is hard to argue England's results suffer without him. He will also likely, unless totally unfit, play in the IPL which hardly speaks of commitment on his part - not that anyone with his fitness record should be considered committed whatever the apologists say. Indeed today has shown the power of his celebrity as one wonders if a clearly ailing Flintoff has been bowled at the death for cricket reasons.
To be honest I am tempted to be bold. England already kow tow'd to the sulking big lad and made him captain - he rewarded them with drunkeness and cronyism. Given he cannot be guaranteed to be fit and cannot bat like a top order player anymore I'd consider ending his career. At least wait until he had 6 months of fitness to show. His name and presence is just too big to mess around with. Sure he is at his best the 2nd best seamer after Siders in recent years and arguably currently 2nd to Broad in this series - not hard.
So for me it is 5 batters, Prior at 6. At 7 pays your money and takes your choice on a Flintoff or a Bopara or another bowler? That would be a pretty strong tail. Given Flintoff's fitness I would disregard him now and take the media crap. If he gets fit and stays fit he'd make a strong 7 but let him force his way back. I'd prefer another bowler to a Bopara frankly if he cannot. Again we have plenty of cricket to try others out.
So without being a scout my team is 5 batters Prior, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Siders and 2 of Tremlett/Anderson/Panesar/Whoever. The reason is the 6th batter would most likely be Vaughan, Key or Bell and frankly I've seen enough of them. With 5 bowlers a chance can be taken on one and no more than one of Flintoff, Jones or someone who can reverse swing the ball in the middle overs - even if they are not players renowned for resiliance - you can't do that with 4 bowlers and 6 batters.
England will be weaker with bat and ball most likely than 2005. However arguably Swann > Giles. Batting wise Prior > Jones. Bell and Vaughan (1 inning aside) were not that strong last time so Shah and Collie could also be stronger than we were then. Also no Warne means batting wise we may be better relatively.
Therefore my worry we need to at least set out to get 20 wickets and will not do that with 4 bowlers for me. We may have a stronger spinner and indeed on the right wicket 2 stronger spinners than last time. We have to have 4 seamers even if none would have cracked the team in 2005 partly because they are not as good ironically enough.
The one liner or more accurately one word soundbyte society is currently being summed up by the govt and its seeming obsession with Olympic 'Legacy'. This piece of toilet costs more it seems than building a functional stadium and village and then bull-dozing the lot and building something else there.
If you want a horror story look at the Caribbean where new facilities out of town and expensive were built to stage the cricket world cup in front of less than a handful of people mostly - with vast bribes/loans/payments from Japanese whaling interests and Chinese spivs. The locals forsake these eye-sores and cricket itself now it seems. The result in Antigua if you add in the purpose built Stanford stadium is 2 terrible stadium's without a pitch you can play proper cricket on and a test match taking place back at the ramshackle unrenovated Antigua Recreation Ground. In front, today, of a similar handful of people as the English have gone home.
Quite why I expect sports to be exempt from our one liner/word society where talk of 'legacy' replaces sense and gives specious all purpose justification for every stupid decision. So warped is it that we will build a massive athletic stadium at the wrong end of London only to reduce it to a white elephant running track at the wrong end of London.
The running track apparently must remain as it is part of the Olympic 'legacy' - amazing, one word 'legacy' as analysis, credo, policy and justification without having to form a rational argument that would make any sense, as there is not one? What point there is to this legacy is never explained it is self contained and all important. No self respecting football club, or West Ham, wants to play in a voluminous atmosphere less obscenity of an Olympic stadium with its running track intact (see Espanyol, Roma and Lazio).
It really says to me that New Labour is running Britain like a banana republic (Antigua) and it may be a good idea if the 2018 Football World Cup goes elsewhere even if that is self financing and the legacy [sic] already being used by Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle United and others.
In the end one is left to reflect that maybe it is credible Olympic minister Jowell was naive about her husband's finances after all she's only a cabinet minister and her family finances are therefore unimportant. He probably said it was just his legacy and she believed him.
Well what a surprise the loud mouth clown turned out to be exactly what his behaviour and moronic remarks said he was. You wonder if the ECB and West Indian cricket could not be accused of handling stolen property and money laundering. Then again that would be a step up for them and world cricket at the moment - drug smugglers, dopers, money launderers, incompetent umpires, theives, brown envelopes, cronyism, racism etc etc.
They have effectively been playing cricket for other people's life savings. No wonder the brutal shallow spiv representing the ECB said he just wanted to look forward. That means we are just looking forward to our next cock up as we are a bunch of spineless toads who have wasted a year licking the butt of a likely criminal.
I bet Matt Prior's upset it's one thing for your wife to 'lap dance' a billionaire another a mere criminal.
The top rugby clubs in France are paying lots of money for English rugby players. Now this would seem a negative. However this is not football. As such the international game is what matters most.
This will have a lot of advantages for English rugby in that:-
Since international rugby is not the be all and end all but close to it I see no problem as long as the gaps are not filled by ageing antipodeans.
Here is the morality of UAE:
Foreigner with traces of drugs inc Codeine or Marijuana 4.5 years.
Pakistan cricketer smuggling opiates 0 years deported no penalty (from the ICC as well).
Israeli tennis player not welcome.
So if you are a well known Muslim you can do what you like in the UAE. If you are from Israel or a westerner you will be subject to arbitrary and summary fascistic judgement.
Often in sports you'll hear people talk of a change in momentum or look back and say that a certain point was a turning point in the season. This is airtime filler at its best but increasingly it is a jarring, now almost a constant, one word or two color commentator frame of reference and faux tool of analysis. The idea that games and moments in them have portents of something more meaningful than the context of one period of one game.
On momentum I would not mind if it was merely to signal to the audience that the commentator like most of the audience felt that player now seemed to be playing better. However they discuss it like a real feature of the game. They don't explain, as you'd expect from the color/expert guy, what is happening and why they just prattle on and on about the word momentum - which literally cannot shift of its own accord....
The other one they love is to look back on the millions of events in a season and denote something a turning point. Now some even try to predict them as though a single event short of death and injury to several players in one game could qualify. The worst try to pick that moment as it happens.
Unfortunately for the cosy simple phrase types when they try to call turning points they get it wrong. Who can forget the beautiful moment when Lampard ran over to Scolari after crushing Stoke in the last second? Or when Liverpool over came Manchester United?
The fact is that the same team doing the same things with the same ethos can win or lose as it is chance. Those that seek to increase the chances of being the team with the 'momentum' [sic] are the better team.
A lot of the team thinking and junk used here comes from the USA where their generally speaking play orientated sports (MLB, NBA, Grid Iron) are about static situations and bursts of activity (I know some NBA teams run the floor but mostly it is a game where the guard take the ball up to the defense when I watch it - international basketball far more so). Unlike in US movies which create their own world and relevance most of this stuff has no place in the analysis of sports especially team sports in the UK - cricket, football and rugby.
I guess it is just easier for commenatators to fetishise what appears to have happened than explain how it or why it happened or just say sometimes chance dictates this will happen in games without the need for some great mysterious momentum or force.
Chelsea's asylum was obviously in full swing indoctrinating the Goose last week telling him to vote for Christmas. "The Guus" was telling us Chelsea still had a great chance in all 3 competitions. That the policy of not making a decision and prioritising nothing would continue. That he had bought into the credo less decision to make no decision with consequences beyond the time frame of the next 90 minutes.
This may explain why in an act of senselessness matched by Mourinho, Grant and Scolari the lunatic in charge today, Butchy Wilkie, sent out a virtual first team bar one or two to bish the mighty Watford for the chance to play another pointless game. In a microcosm of the season Chelsea huffed and they puffed and when they could not blow the house down conceded the first goal.
The fact is if Chelsea do not break a team down unlike even Arsenal lately they become vulnerable to equalisers and break away goals. Mercifully they were facing a dire division 1 team who the moment they had something to defend they became tissue paper and no doubt just ran out of steam.
Still nice for the 'Nelk to get some meaningful goals albeit it in a meaningless game against meaningless opposition who had taken to defending on their goal line.
Watching Chelsea you can see their main problem they keep the ball and force the opposition back but from there they have little pace, movement and no width. That lack of width also makes them vulnerable if anyone breaks on them. That lack of movement is obviously not helped by managers throwing their ageing team into 3 cup games in a month. What is the point of playing The Drog and having no width?
To go back to midweek the reason England lost to Spain is they were outclassed. Capello tried 442 again, as Spain did, and the midfield was outclassed and again outnumbered. It was not the fault of the players just that we do not have enough players with the class to play 442 against a good side and arguably lesser sides.
In 442 midfielders get isolated and flank players and others have to offer credible outlets. The midfielders need good movement to make themselves available for the ball. They also need good technical ability to retain and pass the ball when outnumbered.
Most English defenders do not have the week in week out experience of a 442 either with most hid deep behind holding players in a 4321 or 451 week in week out. Plus to get the best out of either Lampard or Gerrard we surely play them as the 3rd Man there.
In the end it comes down to players and it is also no disgrace to lose to Spain - albeit not to be so dire. The fact is that players like Downing, Johnson, James, Agbonlahor, Wright Phillips and arguably Ashley Cole, Carrick and Barry are either not good enough at the basics or technically good enough, exacerbated by 442.
Beckham is not mobile enough especially when he is given a whole flank to defend in a 442. With the lousy Johnson frequently showing his self indulgence by getting beyond him to compound what looked an uncomfortable pairing.
I also think given England's lack of all round players a greater emphasis should placed on the basics of pace, height, movement, first touch, set pieces and positional discipline - yep if you have to be the Bolton of international football accept it, Bolton plus with meat heads and Lampard/Gerrard.
On the plus side it is good no English team now appears set to start without a real big man up front.
This week the drug smuggling unapologetic cheat Mo' Asif got a trivial year ban from the IPL for 2nd offence which means with Pakistan not playing cricket he is basically let off, again. You'd think international cricket would have struggled to look more inept and less like a major sport. Wrong.
3 months ago the ground staff at the hideous blood money sponsored white elephant (financed by the Chinese and Japanese whaling interests) said that it would not be possible to play a test at The Sir Vivian Richards stadium in Antigua - according to Sir Ian Botham. Today the test was abandoned after 10 balls. The thousands of travelling English fans were for a 2nd time crapped on by the ICC.
Whilst the TV money has been coming in off rising wealth in India and the growth of satellite TV in the UK those preposterous self important twits feel they can do anything whilst doing nothing in reality but preen their own egos.
However whilst vile cheating players backed by the immoral Pakistan and Indian boards are protected that is merely an annoyance. What the West Indian cricket board and the ICC came up with today in Antigua amounts to ruining expensive holidays of thousands of people and taking the sport into the realms of Fawlty Towers.
In these economic times with people maybe treating themselves for the last time in a few years it was far worse than the bullshit at the Oval a few years ago. I know I settled down for 8 hours of entertainment only to find my afternoon ruined.
Unfortunately all that will happen is that people will jump up and down and spray a few cracks of incompetence and the whole daft circus will resume on another day at another place.
If I was Sir Vivian I would ask my name was taken off the hideous out of town monstrosity that soils his name. At present I would not send a poor claiming horse over that outfield never mind a bowler.
A measure of how far down the road to having to appoint total clowns Chelsea are can be judged from the increasing ages of their managers. Additionally Chelsea for all their grand statements of wanting a manager to keep them competitive are now the spare time job of the Russian manager....
Chelsea's part time lover will probably get the usual next few match bounce although this is less likely as frankly Chelsea are not exactly suffering under achievement except in the eyes of their most mentally impaired fans and their increasingly stupid owner. The good news for the fans is that Guus will probably be man enough to tell Abramovich his team is old and dysfunctional and being reliant on the 'Nelk up front is an appalling state of affairs. That is of course if the painfully shy and confrontation avoiding owner gives him the chance.
If Chelsea's problems are not particularly affected by whoever's name is temporarily placed on the manager's office door Portsmouth's are surely not helped by suggestions of Eriksson and his ilk.
This could only mean that Portsmouth are about to spend lots of money in the summer and that the owners think the unsustainable buy and sell players and hope for the best model can ever work for a team with a 19th century stadium. Else some new fool with too much money wants to come in to turn make a small fortune out of a large one.
Adams was someone who tried to work on a budget in the long term interests of the club. Without injections of money or good luck buying and selling they are a natural championship side with a Div 1 Championship stadium. Quite what other illusions they have is beyond me.
It is hard to see anything in the Liverpool loss that should have resulted in a sacking after all would another manager really help Distin develop a set of balls? Or get him to forsake the need to keep his skirt clean?
Adams sacking is nonsensical in that he was given no time or money. Any new manager can only use the current squad so no advantage there. Although some of the defending was awful and the team nervous you'd be hard pushed to question Adams was not motivating the team. The fact is that they have ridden ageing defenders and referee's tolerance for foul play for a few years and that is coming to an end. Not a lot Adams can do about that without money or time.
For Adams personally this is terrible. It will be hard for a chairman to give him a chance after this and Wigan. Which is a shame as he has seemingly got a tune out of David Nugent and had Pennant working hard.
For Portsmouth one can only assume they have a new owner and money coming and he wanted a manager much better voiced in spending or else it make no sense.
First up credit to Brazil who do try to entertain in these friendlies. I saw Kaka beat 3 Argentinean's and score at the Emirates and whilst watching football from the clouds is not something I will repeat their players, for all their weaknesses, could teach the arrogant English who forsake friendlies a thing or two about getting a team ready for a tournament - no matter how dysfunctional it is on paper.
Could Brazil actually be worse than last time at the next world cup? OK that dysfunctional load of marketing picked ego driven toilet matched England's best run in 40 years - even that England run was the charmed chaotic clown led run of 1990 as a manager seemed to let everyone else pick the team.
Well the good news is that against Italy at the Emirates Brazil still had the sense defying 4222 formation with Adriano doing his block of concrete impersonation alongside Siddy reject Elano. Behind him was Siddy cream on topper Robinho with amazingly also still there Ronaldinho.
Gilberto Silva, age 93 and a half, aussi
I am tempted to really rip into this but a) they are 1 up on the world champions without Kaka b) they still went further than England last time c) they'll probably still get further than England this time d) they were only beaten by a Thierry Henry simulation of a fall that would result from foul play by an opponent.
You do just wonder if Nike marketing keeps team cancers like Robinho, Ronaldinho and Adriano around this squad long after they were, if they ever were, that good.
Robinho makes it 2 with a beauty as he skins the Italian defense. I'll get my coat. Adriano at least just ran 5 yards and is blowing like a hurricane. I moved more than Ronaldinho getting up to pour a coffee.
"Going Forward" in business is hated by workers as it is used by gaffe prone managers to say let's write off all our mistakes and now follow us on some other folly. Nonetheless were I at Chelsea I would be saying "Going Forward we need to retrench and come up with a strategy that is beyond trying to win the next game". The alternative is phrased "Going Backwards".
No one at Chelsea seems to have a realistic view of their playing staff. They have the wrong age profile. They refuse to use the cups to bring players on. Their old players have arguably not been capable of a 4 trophy challenge for 3 years now. Name 1 major player still progressing there?
Arguably Drogba, Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Essien are physically diminished by first Mourinho then Grant by trying to win every game in the 2 prior seasons. Scolari's one mistake if he wanted to punish Drogba he sends him and 15 kids to Southend instead he loses Joe Cole his last sort of wide player (suggestions of Malouda and Kalou are considered laughable).
How long they can ride Lampard for must be a question.
So were I a Chelsea fan I would hope that Chelsea were really looking to bed in a manager with a longer term view, an Arsene Wenger but younger and hungrier. They aren't. Judged on their reasoning instead of using what remains of this season positively they want someone to try and use this blunter and blunter knife to try to cut through bone.
With Drogba seemingly gone physically and mentally they are left with 'Nelk who is defined by his craven mentality. They have no wingers worth 2p. The midfield that is not Lampard is pedestrian. Cech is diminished. The centre halves not what they were. The full backs over rated and vulnerable defensively.
I'd argue strongly Scolari had not done a bad job to keep them up there. Ditto Grant.
The real damage was done in the nether world of Mourinho's last year as his sanity was open to question (smuggling dogs, blaming ambulancemen and no doubt sitting in a tree saying "I am an Owl") and the squad shrank as he wore people out and insisted on trying to play the same 8 or 9 players for 60 odd games. Despite none of that being particularly controversial some Chelsea fans think Mourinho would have corrected this... I think it safer to say he'd be jumping out of the tree saying "I can Fly". Memo to Chelsea fans he can't, it took him a year before he was able to take a coaching job again.
Wow I watched Tony McCoy's 300th and expected some lengthy news items on the great man. 10 minutes later turned onto a sports new channel and lo Chelsea in a fit of sheer stupidity had sacked their manager.
Not as many Britons are world leaders as you'd expect from the attention and money spent. However this one is and battles away in near obscurity and is clearly the greatest jump jockey ever.
I hope someone at Chelsea has a vendetta against Tony McCoy as Chelsea decided to wipe McCoy off the back pages by sacking their manager. Why do I hope that? At least it would be a logical reason and no one can accuse Roman and Kenyon's Chelsea of not being a bitter vehicle for that kind of ego. Otherwise sacking Scolari makes no sense.
The Timing after the transfer window leaves a new manager with an ageing tired squad with no winger unless Quaresma works out - he may have come as Felipe's boy so do not bet on it.
Indeed given their goal difference one could argue Chelsea are unlucky not to have more points. After all they are not doing bad for a team starting without genuine width, a top class defender and a decent centre forward.
They only have 1 world 23 player (no other world 100 players bar maybe Joe Cole) and lots of players who Mourinho's ego driven last full season and Grant's folly in trying to win all competitions precipitated the decline of - Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Drogba, Essien (injured). Added to that Joe Cole broke down and Cech is much reduced since Berkshire Hunt's reducer.
So given he has a poor squad, moribund youth system and has inherited ageing players worn down by 4 competition lunacy for the last 2 years he has not done a bad job. Indeed one assumes his own moronic pursuit of 4 trophies was an attempt to placate the board and owner who seem unable to grasp their 800 million has bought an abortion of a modern football club - devoid of pace, youth and without Drogba height at either end. Outside of midfield with Lampard and when Essien comes back they have relatively poor players in most positions compared to Manchester United and arguably Liverpool.
Scolari did make one mistake and that was the investment in Deco but by Chelsea standards peeing 16 million down the toilet is good business. Maybe he had something to do with the prior Bosingwa 'investment' but we cannot give him the bad mark for something that happened before he arrived.
Sacking him now makes no sense unless the club realise they need a new plan and a re-focus.. Chelsea's key players are going nowhere (only Lampard and Essien you'd keep). Even if you wanted to bring sanity the kind of people available mid-season who can do that are limited. Besides as no one sane is running this leaky vessel one knows that this is not the plan - it is far more likely more of the same. It is not as though being outside the top 4 has the downside for Chelsea it has for Arsenal say.
Quite what or where Chelsea turn is beyond me. This sacking makes as much sense as losing Grant after a good season or wasting a year waiting for Mourinho to finally quit having used that year to obviously destroy his own creation. When the insane rule themselves out (Guus) you are left with the money grabbers like Svennis or a host of broken garbage.
If the plan is to keep trying to win everything with a squad in terminal decline and no more money available they need an alchemist not the kind of dogs with fleas they can now get.
The current minion detailed to keep Arsene Wenger happy was saying he was still as hungry as ever. Well I am unsure of that but I think we can guarantee that he is more stubborn than ever.
However even he must soon be coming to a point where he realises that the dreamy stuff of last season may have been an illusion born of a run of form by Adebayor and let's be honest luck. So far there has not been an inkling the football will be repeated or even close to it.
For a team with supposed great quality players it seems unable to score and retain the ball. Indeed it's maligned defence has recently held a lot of teams to nil only to see a pop gun offence struggle.
Arshavin is another little nice on the ball type and will take playing time off who? van Persie? A host of other nice on the ball players? Further reduce Fabregas to a slow moderate tackling central midfielder with a nice touch? Push the once future of the team even deeper to play not to his strengths but his weaknesses.
Make no mistake Villa are flattered but they could easily be growing and improving into a top 4 team regardless - they are young and powerful which Wenger seems to have stripped from his Arsenal teams. At present goal difference, a more nuetral guide than points, only has them a Rizla in front of Arsenal but the gap in the table is opening. The problem it will create for Arsenal to be 5th is that it might give Fabregas and van Persie the excuse to press for the exit.
The last year led even the likes of Walcott, who has had at most 3 good games for Arsenal, to talking like a star player even before his flattering hat trick against 10 men in Croatia. He might fancy Man City with their fetish for lightweights, no salary cap and failure to get Kaka. They might want to upgrade Phillips for a marginally more promising and marketable player.
The other worry is that Wenger's hanging on to fringe players like Eboue, Cliche, Bendtner, the injury prone van Persie and the increasingly white elephant Fabregas is that they will be less valuable when he is forced to sell them. Fringe players even as poor as Eboue could easily have fetched 5 million or more once - even Kieron Richardson went for 5.5 million as a similar poor player on the fringes of a top team.
It is also hard to see where the illusion of last year and the sublime football we thought we were seeing has gone. Maybe Wenger is right to hang on and wonder if the same players can find that again. However a great team does not have the Eboues and Clichys in. Clichy could find some backbone but Eboue brings too many negatives for such a poor player in a cream on top position.
Once when Arsenal went down to 10 men it was not a problem. When that player is Eboue, not a Vieira, one cannot see how they should be so reduced against a relegation candidate. In the past their pace and power meant 10 men just helped bring the opposition forward where Arsenal could break on them. The classic Arsenal side had so much size, pace and power it would be like Rugby using turnover ball, especially opposition corners, as a spring board to attack. This team without Walcott, even with him, rarely seems able to break like that.
Maybe it will all click again, maybe Arshavin can spark them, maybe. They also have 3 teams above them who could easily drop past them in: the brittle flat track bullies Chelsea: a Villa side who got through 24 games with only 15 different starters: and a Liverpool side who seem to have worn themselves out winning nothing before the turn of the year. The question will still be are Arsenal likely to challenge for a title in the next few years? To parallel with the Harmison thing England have waited 4 years in vain for him to be the bowler of the first Ashes test in 2005.
I've said before, and their record bares me out, that picking Harmison and Panesar on slow wickets is tantamount to playing 3 bowlers and giving up 3 or 4 an over for 40 to 60 overs with little extra chance of a top order wicket i.e. this is not after timing.
My point on the last test is that England were put under pressure by conceding a first innings lead. Harmison and Panesar gave away 150 runs to the top order without a wicket. Both cannot field important positions as say Swann and Anderson could and the other two are better with the willow. With 200 more runs and the lead (128 lead instead of 72 deficit) do England collapse to 51? Probably not.
Other than batsmen out of form or giving up (Flintoff) the West Indies generally speaking bowled well. KPs decision to flash the bat first innings given he averages 50 and was not out can be said to have cost England what 50 and maybe 20 at the other end? Since one cannot be KP and not flash the bat it is asinine blame assignment and a secondary cause to selection of the bowling.
I have made the point for a while that England's batting is weak and we tend to lose every game where batting for 2 days is required as our batters cannot bat out time on a good wicket. Selectors and public have to understand that a 40 average that eluded all bar Stewart and Thorpe in the 90s is the start average now not even a good one - pitches are slower and the balls last 20 overs now unless you can reverse them or spin them. England have only 1 batsman who has shown he is standard test class the others are all droppable for me.
Indeed KPs 50 is not as world class as it sounds but given when we declare or are way ahead he does not pad it it understates how good he is.
The irony of our approach is we will leave out Panesar and Harmison on a fast bouncy one where they are world beating! Given the amount of cricket and our current squad best eleven is not just a mistake it's stupid.
I wrote last year that we needed to learn from Australia about the way to manage and pick a cricket team. That analysis still stands. OK even if England do come back from 39-7 this still holds and as in 1981 unlikely triumphs do not alter the basics.
There is no point in the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth. Those people tut tutting will be obsessed with a collapse not the reality that this method of picking, coaching and managing a cricket team is crack pot. They will talk about batting mistakes and technique.
Yet the deeper truth is England have not advanced in nearly 5 years now - 5 years where a clique has been over indulged and given lots of chances. 5 years when mantras about consistency of selection or best XI have been adhered to like they would be in a successful team. 5 years in which youth and the academy has been discouraged and all but switched off.
English cricket has not been no 1 in my lifetime. All its great triumphs merely underdog rallies. That really is not good enough and indeed it has arguably not even tried to be no 1 but for a brief period in the early noughties when the academy started. Instead of carrying on with that England settled for trying to win with the same 11 who got a lucky win over the Australia no matter how they behaved or played.
In short the team needs: selection divorced from the captain and team: coaches the team can use with no power or say: a team manager for strategy and tactics: to select bowlers on wicket i.e. no Panesar or Harmlessson on slow wickets: players responsible for their own performance and development: To rotate more due to the amount of cricket - prioritise even.
The key change has to be that selection is divorced from the team.
Secondary to that, down grade the captain to a player with responsibility not the be all and end all. The muddle and delusion we hear from ex-England captains like Pietersen, Hussein, Vaughan and Atherton has to stop.
The Captaincy has turned into something that has visibly reduced the the job holders: Pietersen humiliated: Flintoff exposed as a drunken crony favouring clown: Vaughan delusional and broken: Hussein quit on his stool.
Added to that the last 2 coaches also left under sedation: Fletcher left bitter and broken allowing his drunken cliche spouting captain to destroy the team on a tour of Australia: Moores was rejected by the over blown captain figure and reduced to patsy.
51 all out no come-backs just ignominy.
The West Indies were able to get up to England's total with considerable help from Panesar and Harmison whose first wickets came after the cost of the thick end of 150. Imagine the West Indies 150 behind with 5 left rather than matching England Once again I would argue it was utterly predictable on a slow wicket where neither has any weapons to hurt a competent batter consistently. Now the pitch may crumble and give them some help later but it would surely be a case of after the Lord Mayor's show playing a good team.
The real culprit is the team selection ethos of having a best XI for all wickets and circumstances. The credo point of view was summed up by Nasser Hussein who said that Panesar had basically earned the right to bowl junk, really Nas?
The problem for me with the best XI thing is when 2 guys are such obvious platoon splits. I just don't see how they can be selected if you want to use the same 11 fits all approach as you are picking people likely to fail which is surely a mistake. Neither has any extras and intangibles like controlling the run rate, fielding or batting they are just a liability if not helped by luck and the pitch.
Harmison took 7-12 here 5 years ago for instance and could not do that now without lottery winning style luck so changed is the pitch - arguably still being picked because of it. In addition with Flintoff and Broad Harmsion is a 3rd 6 ft 5" right arm seamer. He is also one who does not swing the ball.
In baseball the top managers will match batter and pitchers to situation. In cricket the wicket is generally speaking a known quantity. In cricket the pitch is the one given situation you can adjust to and you can only do it before the game. As I have pointed out before from an Ashes 2009 best XI point of view there are not obvious helpful wickets for these two players.
In many ways this is unfair on both as they can be devasting in the right circumstances. I find it hard that cricket experts refuse to recognise their weaknesses and still stick to this best XI ideal AND defend their selection. It is bizarre that those who want to select the same team over and over again want to pick players whose record show they should have no part of such a team.
Today at least showed the selectors were right to favour Broad who bowled well and hard. His complete refusal to countenance the IPL shows he is aware of what he needs to do to become a top cricketer - hard work.
Gerrard may walk on water with referees unless his habit of blatently diving forces their hand. However as usual he is unable once again, it seems, to last a whole season at a high level. Last year and this had seen Gerrard play at a high level before the turn of the year for the first time and yet it has not propelled Liverpool into being credible title contenders.
Rafa who has traditionally tried to sneak through the early months and then run from Xmas and look to pick up a trophy would appear to have wasted his team early and raised the white flag with the Keane sale. Quite where that leaves his team now is open to question? Tired?
Although Keane was clearly not the player for Liverpool's first eleven he surely covered Gerrard and Torres to a degree as no one else they have can. Given both were recently subbed for tiredness this season then that sale makes no sense from any perspective but debt relief.
As they have sent their first team out for 3 FA cup games within a month one assumes that it is a target, as was the Carling Cup. Thus arguably Liverpool have tried to win all 4 trophies. Yet they don't appear much stronger, before losing Keane, than when they picked and chose their moments and competitions.
Arguably they might still be in the championship race if they had started slowly and built rather than run into a hole in late December and January - when they bizarrely have thrown their best available players into the FA Cup.
The baffling conclusion is that after all Rafa really does not know what he is doing. That like Scolari, Grant and Mourinho he does not have the necessary intellect to step back and realistically appraise his squad and realise his best and most committed players need resting for their own good - he has to pick his competition. Even a non power player with a diesel engine like Lampard breaks down if run all out all season never mind petrol engines like Torres and Gerrard.
Rafa will no doubt be one of the clowns who protests at a friendly next week yet it is his deployment of his 2 best players, more precious and important to his team than any other pair at any other club, that makes no sense.
International friendlies are in the book and managers can plan around them, these self important managers just refuse to do so. Torres, Lampard and Gerrard the 3 best players behind Ronaldo in the league, yet will any line up in Sevilla next week?
Anyway S'Alex must be laughing having watched Chelsea send their best player into battle 3 times in under a month for the FA Cup. Then watching Liverpool unravel. If he, with his huge squad, moans at next week's friendly one can be sure it is tongue in cheek. Whilst opponents refuse to make a decision on their 4 and 5 million a year he will win 3 consecutive titles for the 2nd time and be pretty confident of a 4th next year as things stand.
My exasperation with Brian Ashton was that here was the top English coach seemingly morphed into a basics first as Vickery and co played the little man to a World Cup Final. Even afterwards when there was no excuse Ashton was reduced to muttering about loyalty and experience as he confused the World Cup run with it being a good rugby team with a future.
Within a year of taking over Martin Johnson even without a world cup adjacent or recent success is picking a team for the next match only muttering, literally, about experience.
To me experience is a one word excuse not to pick your best players - better than loyalty not as good as form, ability, talent, achievement, success, mentality and winning. If the players are better, then say they are better. Not this modern fetish for individual words that are meaningless without context as explanation, excuse and reasoning. As it is his selections just mean a continuation of damage control - risking and learning nothing for the future, hoping to win 3 or 4 games out of 5.
Quite why they ditched Ashton for someone who is not a top class coach, or even a coach, but someone admired for being stoic on the field. As someone for whom the the 2001 Ashes failure still grates his on field persona may have been admirable but it did not necessarily mean he won everything even when he led the better team talent wise.
Even if you buy the story of Johnson the greatest leader in the end that does not mean he is a coach or manager as he tries to style himself. Indeed for someone who rattles about experience that is the one thing he lacks, does that make him a hypocrite?
In the end Spurs swapped Bent, Defoe, Berbatov and Keane for Bent, Defoe, Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko. They swapped 2 ageing players with 1 contract left for arguably 2 of the same and Defoe who now at 26 is not far off that. Bent was also just slaughtered N'Zogbia standard by 'Arry a week ago - way to go he is now worth tupppence. They swapped pace, height, sublime touch and movement for pace, some height and movement - being generous to the Russian on 2 counts.
Fees in and out and wages paid will be more of a wash than raw figures suggest as stated fees out are a minimum and fees into a club a maximum. Plus unless someone else brainstorms only Bent or Defoe will be worth any fee next time they move and those fees somewhat below current fee paid.
Rafa must be the most grateful manager since Sir Alex got over half his fee back for Veron - a deal described by Hugh McIlvanney the doyen of UK sports writers as "he couldn’t be seen as a bargain at £15m". At the end of the season if it had continued as it has Keane would have been worth a token fee given his age and a bad year or two so to buy now is irrational.
Indeed buying back Defoe and Keane allegedly for more then they sold for [combined] is an act of near vandalism. They are not what the team needs if nothing else. I have been a fan of Keane's but 2nd strikers are generally speaking a waste of a large fee. Just as small strikers who do not get abnormally large numbers of goals and lack any physicality are.
Albeit Liverpool now have one striker with a poor record of keeping himself fit in Torres and earnest but limited meat head Dirk Kuyt. The back story here is shocking did Rafa gets his cash strapped owners to pay 20 million for a player he had no position for and no idea how to deploy? Was he leaving and decided to kick them on the way out? He should not be employed again if that is the case.
Equally baffling was, assuming it happens, the near cretinous purchase of behind the strikers ponce Arshavin by Arsenal. Wow just what Arsenal need another 2nd striker when they may soon have, breathe in now, van Persie, Walcott, Arshavin, Eboue, Nasri, Rosicky, Eduardo, Vela and many more to play light weight ball wasting not get back and help the defense 2nd strikers and wingers.
Like Spain Arsenal should surely deploy Fabregas there or ala Lampard and Gerrard in a 4321. Aragones swapped Torres and Fab' behind David Villa in a 4411 if Wenger prefers that formation and wants to continue to ignore the opponents flooding of midfield and putting 9 behind the ball on him. He's stubborn is Arsene Wenger and one can only assume he was pushed into buying a player instead of choosing one who could help the team - seriously replacing Clichy and Eboue is surely a much more pressing need - even if anyone else could replace them from within the current squad. So he picked the kind of delicate flower he normally builds rather than some nasty hard arse his midfield or defense could do with.
I know Wenger is stubborn about his 442 but really of all the teams who did not need Arshavin Arsenal's lack of need was only topped by Man City. Indeed Man City even lightened their bench of a 18 million pound behind the strikers import from Russia, Jo, by loaning him to Everton who rightly probably would buy anyone who played anywhere near the striking position. This costs Everton nothing and if they get a UEFA place off it looks great business provided they let Jo go back to a rival.
One wonders if Wenger unlike everyone else has been bullied into buying a player no one needs at a price no one should pay for a standard 2nd striker. Never mind he will be 28 at the end of the season and frankly a few good games at Euro 2008 cannot disguise his anonymity when faced with a proper team like Spain. Quite what Rafa's, 'Arry's and Hughesie's excuse/reason is for taking 2nd striker cast offs at silly prices is beyond me.
Never mind the baby talk and childish whining Frank Lampard showed up the rest of the Premiership on Sunday. He got a poor red card and just walked. Wow. The good news for Scolari was that Terry whined and complained his way out of the pointless cup game with Watford. 'Shabby' Alonso got his revenge with some Oscar rated acting for the broken leg he suffered a few years ago under a heavy Lampard challenge.
I know that my friendship with Mark Hughes was strained by his losing Clown of the Week to ex-Soton gaffer Jan Poor-vliet and Wayne Rooney. It was further rocked when I allowed Rafa to collect last week's.
Anyway today my fellow Welshman in an effort to appease me decided to pick a team with no striker. Indeed he decided to add no height to a front line of arguably 3 hole players (Phillips is hardly your get to the byline crossing winger of yore). Mark knows how I rattle on about teams needing pace, height and hardwork and picked the antithesis of that. A sort of up yours Martin O'Neill team.
The result was that against 10 man Stoke they did not manage more than a deflected shot on target in the whole 2nd half. They had no weapons to break Stoke down and indeed lost the lead to the height of Beattie when Stoke were down a player.
It further makes one wonder why their transfer target was yet another hole player when this team needs a centre forward like yesterday. They could always get Kaka in the summer and offer a smorgasbord of make weight replacements to Milan.
Seriously if he puts one of his front 3 on the bench then a bench of Jo, Elano and Bellamy or Phillips is a real expensive mix. As none of them can come on and help you in a battle but all will look good if you are 2 up.
Rafa's decision to save Stevie Gerrard from 7 minutes of action as he was tired really sums up some themes I've put up on here. One assumes that the stated reason is not the real reason.
I have to ask though if it is true why are Gerrard (and Lampard, Joe Cole, uncle Tom Cobley et al) playing full parts in the 2 domestic cups? Indeed I used to comment how cynical and correct Stevie and Rafa were to target the CL and domestic cups late season with a fresher squad than others - given they would be lucky to get within 10 points of Chelsea and United until this year. Gerrard has never, IMO, played hard for a whole season until last year and this year and given that a smart manager would look to only use him in the 2 competitions that mean anything.
Indeed this is being done by Rafa the man who spent 2 years never picking the same team twice and now has like Mourinho morphed into his polar opposite. Unlike Mourinho who had the rotation balance right for his first 2 years Rafa really needs to find a middle way. Maybe at the root of this and the attempted signing of Barry is the fact that Steven Gerrard and his massive Flintoff like ego has more say than is let on.
Equally Chelsea's management has since Mourinho disappeared into a hole of his own making after winning 2 titles just worn down the key squad members till Terry, Drogba, Joe Cole and Essien are either visibly reduced or absent. Even Lampard has shown signs that he wears down nowadays and missed games last year. Losing Joe Cole in the win over Southend was worse than losing the game for instance.
In February we will see a depleted England squad play a friendly in Sevilla and what is the betting that our top managers all whinge about meaningless friendlies in February? Yet when given the choice and an open goal invitation to rest them what do they do? Of course then there is a friendly in March against Slovakia as a warm up for a qualifier 4 days later.
I guess I am just tired of the bitter senseless and partial comments of the Liverpool boss. Ditto when S'Alex piped up about the need for a mid season break so his team could play lucrative friendlies! Memo to these managers with big squads there are a maximum of 51 games (plus CL qualifiers for some) that need your best players IF you make the CL final and have meaningful games in late April. Give the kids a chance I say.
For me Capello has to get tough. As much as I admire Lampard and concede Gerrard is a good player one cannot say they are indispensible to England based on what has happened on the pitch for the last 3 years. If they will not play and help build the team sorry, goodbye. Friendlies should have meaning and compare our record internationally with France who take them seriously over the last 10 years.
Ten years ago it seemed that the crafty super star hole player who created everything and worked behind 1 or even 2 strikers would take over the world as Zidane off 2 titles with Juve and a world cup win started to get rave reviews. Since then we saw England lose its senses and judgement over Wayne Rooney's early promise in what the jingoistic in England called the 'Wayne Rooney' position. Kaka was recently bid 100 million for as well as Man City's owners took their behind the strikers fetish to its logical conclusion.
Yet mostly these types of players have increasingly disappeared from top teams. Sure Liverpool paid 20 million for Keane to play behind Torres but Rafa has decided that, surprise surprise, it is better to deploy 4321 with Gerrard in the 'Lampard' role....
Indeed Wayne Rooney is now a hard worker terrier front striker to set the game up for better players like Ronaldo. Indeed Berbatov has sort of played there but with him it is still more 442 than 4411.
Whilst Zidane won a title with Real and France did go on to advance in tournaments including winning the 2000 Euros to add to the 98 world cup it would take a leap of faith to credit Zidane and the offense. Indeed his principal contributions were headers and free kicks on highlights - things he was not exactly renowned for overall as at Madrid he was 3rd or 4th choice at free kicks. Indeed when I saw him in the declining Galactico side behind 2 strikers he seemed to be the kind of self indulgent child who took the ball deep and frequently passed it away. Whether rep is entirely warranted is hard for me to agree with before considering his brain cramp at the world cup. 505 top league games 96 goals not exactly Lampard was he?
In 2006 France with Henry, Ribery and Malouda in a front diamond with Zidane had as blunt a cutting edge as one could think of with that much talent. The problem was Zidane took the ball deep leaving 3 isolated players. The midfield 2 behind him could hardly chance charging up in support and France were amazingly palsied.
Arguably even worse was Brazil's 4222 with no width to annoint the massive egoes of Adriano and Ronaldo up front and Kaka and Ronaldinho behind. 2 movement less strikers and 2 work shy glory boys, terrific.
Indeed the rarest and most prized commodity is increasingly the tall striker who can play football ala Drogba (when he was trying), Torres and Ibrahimovic or the pace of Villa and Eto'o. Look at England after 5 fruitless years of de facto 4411 no pace no height Heskey is back in vogue - and wanted by many clubs.
Football now, especially in the premier league and away from international football is back to pace, size, power and stamina. Look at Aston Villa who for all their technical limitations compete. Whereas Man City have spent what on 2nd strikers? Jo 19 million, Bellamy 14? million, Elano 11 million and Robinho 32 million. Wow I doubt Martin O'Neill would take them at half the price of a hard working runner with occasional quality like Milner or even the ageing Heskey.
Part of the problem with that kind of player as their role is self indulgent they tend develop an inflated view of themselves and how hard they need to work. Rooney when deployed deep used to have far more shots than Lampard for similar goals total even though he played far more forward. Like Zidane his passing and being caught in possession was hardly encouraging to the rest of the team.
You could argue that 4321 actually has 2 wingers behind the striker types but that extra man in midfield and the fact wingers push full backs back even if they do not always track back is enough.
The exception? Maradona, of course.
People think we should worship the top managers that they somehow are better than their cousins further down. I would argue they obviously have to have more self esteem to deal with big name players and to handle the higher profile - although as Phil Brown, Tony 'Bitter' Pulis, Sam Allardyce and others show they don't have any problem with microphone avoidance themselves.
I would argue overall the consistency of their tenure and table position is more to do with their positions are less risky. They tend to only lose players who they want to leave. They also buy a lot of players at vast expense and seem able to keep doing this no matter how poor their judgement.
I'll leave out Chelsea as I am not convinced they let their manager pick his nose never mind players. Arsenal as they are not primarly and uniquely "Player Traders Inc".
I was going to write a pithy piece about S'Alex's last 100 million largely wasted (Nani, Anderson, Hargreaves and Berbatov) and how he could buy a player like Hargreaves without knowing that he was not a modern corporate type... Seriously he used to boast about how he looked for character.
The only trouble is that when I googled I found a 2005 Kevin McCarra piece saying the same thing, although the sums are smaller, because of the money about then, much the same was said of Alan Smith, David Bellion, Diego Forlan, Louis Saha, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson and best of all Juan Sebastian Veron.
So whilst clubs have all but given up on developing players as the money comes in one wonders if this indiscriminate buying is a strategy beyond this year and the next TV deal in a shrinking economy without loans being handed out like sweets?
Indeed Ferguson's make weights like The Cheatmeister van der Saar, N-MAN-ja Vidic, Patrice Evra and even Park have had more positive impact. Carrick is sort of successful big signing at least in the last 5 years since Rooney was grabbed - whilst Wayne will not be our Maradona he has been value as a starting striker for United for 5 years is worth even 20 million then.
So I'd argue that much is made of the top managers but they live in penthouses relatively. A manager at the bottom with his good players leaving every year and having to replace them could not afford to make the number or percentage of mistakes that Ferguson and Rafa make. They do not lose players fundamental to the way they play all the time. I cannot remember the last time outside Arsenal when that happened at a top club - even then Vieira and Henry were no longer capable of the game in game out demands of the Premier League.
I am sure no one has a bad word to say about Shay Given overall. I am sure if we had any actual analysis in football as a goal keeper he would in baseball parlance save well in his zone, make few errors but have very limited range - he is vastly over rated.
For Manchester City with Joe Hart and the Dane Kasper Schmeichel to buy an ageing player smacks of either panic or a belief they cannot develop their young goal keepers. Or worse that given no top flight players will go there they will just buy what they can.
It also shows the ludicrous position whereby rather than drop Richards or Capt'n Dunne surely the poorest pairing in the division they would rather take out a young player with a future than established players.
Hopefully one benefit of an economic down turn is that the next decade produces more players than this one. All we have seen is clubs buy players without any effort to develop their own - or often any meaningful analysis of need and capability.
Can Man United of all clubs only develop a Portuguese full back when they once got 2 from one English family once? (at least the da Silva brothers uphold one tradition). Why has Liverpool not produced even a full back in 10 years since Stevie emerged? Did Chelsea have to spend 58 million on 3 players to sit and cover a defence?
None of this makes sense and further fuels the view that managers either spend the money whether they have a need or not or worse that they demand to spend money for no reason or even worse they spend it for the kick backs. There is no positive reason to buy a Shay Given or Wayne Bridge other than a condemnation of the current manager and the youth system - something that given City have arguably the best academy is a devastating inditement of the premier league and loadsamoney culture.
Capello may just get to ice their careers but Sven and Boring had Lampard and Gerrard. Now Beckham got close to world player of the year and Owen was European Player of the Year but the other 2 stand out as genuine world XI players which, given continentals never dug one dimensional forwards like Shearer, Lineker and Owen, makes them what the first English World XI players since Keegan? (That is arguable I am not sure anyone in actual England rated the game Kevin that highly)
Then you are back to Moore, Matthews and Finney - fans of Banks, Clemence and Shilton are right apologies for the omission. Arguably what Hungary did to Finney and Matthews' England means that their world standing is hard to assess (although both were old by then). The point is that the pantheon of great post war English players is not stacked and whilst the queue forms behind Moore, Banks and Shilton they [Stevie Frank] were/are that good. You have to choose Shilton over Clemence as they both may have been England keepers for years but one has to be best and world XI.
Some might add Charlton although you get the impression his back story is more media friendly than his actual achievements - Munich 58 to Wembley 66 to León 70. Greaves was probably for a few years the most amazing finisher but it is hard to assess him in hindsight - except to say he was probably higher regarded at the time than anyone in the forward role for England 66 - every country has players like that, he is to England what Robin Friday was to Reading!
Less of a footballing legacy than you might think from the English. Indeed if you add the Ginger Prince and we have managed to win squat with the 3 best English midfielders ever? Well done Glenn, Sven, Keggsie and Boring.
I often comment on the England under 21s as a place talented kids go to learn to be ungracious bad mouthed salary comparing self important twerps. Here is the thing how many players have the academies so expensively founded and touted produced in the noughties? Rooney and Walcott who barely skirted the under 21s.
Now consider before all this academy garbage what Man United and West Ham produced in the last century.
For United Beckham, Scholes and Giggs were all world class: both Nevilles and Butt good enough for lots of England caps and with lenient referees and lousy team cohesion Butt was our player of the 2002 world cup: Lee Sharpe looked a player at one stage as well: Wesley Brown has been right back and centre half as well.
Even West Ham produced: Lampard probably in sober reflection the best English player of the noughties: Ferdinand the most expensive defender even if it is hard to like him. Joe Cole was England player of the year in 2006 and our best at the World Cup: Carrick whilst the least capped is a regular selection for Manchester United and was a victim of the moronic 1 up 1 back midfield in a 442 favored by the public, media and Sven and Boring Steve - as he is neither holder nor attacker. Plus as mentioned he faced competition from the 2 best English players of many eras in Lampard and Gerrard (seriously I don't think people realise how good they are historically - especially Lampard - see above).
Not to mention other clubs produced Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, (OK I don't rate them but this is not about me), John Terry, Mickey Owen and Steven Gerrard (Shearer is 80s just). Since then Rooney and maybe if I am drunk Walcott aside not a lot. Mentions of Stewart Downing are not being taken seriously.
Arsenal hold out hope of producing Wilshere and others being a class like the West Ham and Man United ones, not sure I do at present.
The Chief Spiv at Manchester City accused Milan of "Bottling" the sale of Kaka. Even though the truth as he said it came out as these morons turned up with a fee agreed and spoke to Kaka on the phone and when he found out they had no offer ready he realised that you can put expensive lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig.
What did they do for the last week stand in front of a mirror saying "I am a BIG BIG Man" or more probably sat by a phone waiting for a minion of the Sheikh to tell them what to do. They were sent as minion's minions are to find out what was wanted not to make an offer as genuine big men would be.
Kaka no doubt seeing a weak manager with no say, little men without an offer even in mind, another municipal stadium but not exactly the San Siro and a struggling team must have realised it was not the move for him.
The 'bottled' comment comes from the usual teflon spiv types who attach themselves to rich men in football. I know a lot of lesser men at Chelsea thought nothing of treating Ranieri as a rent boy. They all sound so big and blustery when the money is flowing and hope is high. Yet they end up as discredited, marginalised figures of fun and worse pity as Buck and Kenyon at Chelsea when the gloss wears off. Or Gill acting as the editor of his manager's rants in the club program - seriously if Rafa's calm expression of views was ranting what was that from Sir Ferg-lie?
If the media was interested in football it would deflate these buffoons by ignoring them and finding someone somewhat closer to the owner to talk to.
The lies don't end with Siddy. If Kaka was truly 'loyal' and staying the deal would have died last week. Expect his love of Milan to not outlast Rooney and Alan "nowhere" Smith's hatred of Man United. Madrid beckons.
Flintoff's PR company plainly insisted this weekend the giant clown express some opinion as it might be seen he was saying one thing to one person and another to another person. What is true I do not know. However far too much that happens in the England team is about Flintoff and his personality or ego.
Today Publicly he tries today to carry off the trick of backing both KP and Moores! If you still want to believe he is just a giant loveable teddy bear with human weaknesses and no ego then fine. However the behaviour and importance of his views seems to point to the ECB being very aware of him and what he thinks and the need to do so.
What is sad is that whilst it is clear Flintoff is a Titan on the field, when his fitness allows, off the field he is a ludicrous figure.
According to Fletcher we apparently picked teams and him as captain to placate his and Harmison's whining and miserable behaviour. Hardly backing a view he is the the big daft as a brush ego-less friendly clown personality he tries to exhibit.
Arguably he is as responsible for England's malaise as Moores as the selectors bizarrely sucked up to him as he was picked for games he was not fit for to placate his ego. It was like we were in stasis for 2 years with the will he won't he play and the weakness of selection and management as they would rather pick an unfit player 99% certain to drop out than in any way dent this man's ego.
Whilst when he is on the field his commitment is beyond question you have to wonder if his problems with fitness stem from poor personal behaviour and an unwillingness to change routines or even think about doing things that would extend his career.
I am left after seeing the way he would debase himself on Sky TV with the view this is a weak populist man with a large ego who will do and say what he thinks others want to hear.
England's best result of recent years the win over Pakistan was achieved without him. His batting is not really good enough to be a 6 < 33 a knock and his bowling looks better than his figures suggest > 30 a piece. I really wonder if he gets another injury if we should move on from what is clearly a divisive and unintentionally duplicious figure in the dressing room.
It is childish that people talk in sport of momentum and turning points. So Chelsea's late winner will be seen as that until they maybe lose the next game. Just as a goal or two either way United's win over Chelsea means nothing without the subsequent 1-0s over Wigan and Bolton.
Surely far more important this week has been the loss of Joe Cole their last remaining senior player who can play wide to any level? That and John Terry's back.
BTW think how much praise over what Lampard gets does Gerrard get for that?
As someone who tends to hate the time the media want to give to the small minded ranting of the likes of Tony Pulis yesterday's heart breakers for indulged whiners like Pulis was magnificent.
Quite how Lawro and others could praise Stoke for a performance that only those who fetishise the score could do. The truth was that Stoke on any other day would have got beaten 10 had Chelsea been able to maintain that commitment and sustained assault on the Stole goal in a blow out.
Indeed yesterday reflected the continuing troubles of the top sides to consistently break down the rest of the division. Whether this is as I surmised the fact that the top sides have bought fancy 2nd strikers and gone light in midfield or that the Stokes of this world play 10 behind the ball home and away and we will see what used to be the title winning runs of 10 or more straight wins late season again as they wear down - before Mourinho's Chelsea turned the title race into a season long contest (Wenger might mention his team did it first!).
What annoys me about Pulis, Brown, Kinnear et al and the macho culture they try and push is that when they come off the pitch they think their partial focusing on isolated incidents that could have gone their way is of any value - they never point out the other incidents in a game that went the other way! Surely constant re-enforcement people are against you might be an idea when you are top but at the bottom it surely merely re-enforces the facts of life?
Memo to Phil Brown yes they want a higher standard of proof in the box. When the penalty is higher we demand criminal levels of proof not civil. Plus we want people to jump into people trying to head the ball it's called defending. Gees when Berskhire based Hunt and Sonko did far worse on Cech and Cudicini apparently according to the same whiners on Brown's behalf it was OK. More small minded white noise I am afraid.
Memo To Phil Brown quoting a silly little man like Brian Horton who was as usual behaving like a twit on the sidelines does not strengthen your argument. A long career without dignity in football does not make him a sage. Listening to clowns who tell you what you want to hear is like KP getting advise from Flintoff - it gets you the sack.
Memo to Joey Barton as a poor midfielder who misses games for reasons other than fitness and who plays poncy behind the strikers midfield with few goals I'd keep quiet about others commitment - What a Clown.
Chelsea won another massive point-less victory in the manner of their court win over Mutu. They beat Southend with their first team on display whilst still looking utterly brittle and fragile to any kind of crossed ball. All this to win a meaningless game in a meaningless tournament that top clubs should use to blood young players and only at the loss of another 90 minutes from Lampard's legs and however long their only credible wide player Joe Cole is out. What a statement game.
This was a historically pyrrhic victory likely to rank with Hannibal and Carthage riling the Romans enough to remove almost all trace of them. Or even King Pyrrhus of Epirus win over the Romans not long before that (from where pyrrhic originates). Personally I think it may rank with the Kasserine Pass which was Rommel's last victory which riled the Americans and saw the arrival of George S Patton into the 2nd world war.
No doubt Deco and The Drog are grateful at being spared this exercise in ego mania.
Surely if anyone sane wanted to punish Didier Drogba for his woeful effort on Sunday it would have been to substitute him and pointedly turn your back on him coming off and then select him, Cuuds and 9 kids to play Southend?
Dropping him from a trip to Roots Hall is the equivalent to giving him the 40 virgins promised to Jihadists.
Seriously are Chelsea mental? After Sunday does anyone sane think sending the big boys to massacre the other Blues is worse than an impotent display of pettiness by Chelsea? Worse what if they don't? That would be another triumph of macho short term ignorance over sense that Chelsea should get a trade mark on.
Why are they trying to get extra matches when they clearly lack the fringe players and squad for extra games?
I love Kaka. I went to the Emirates when Brazil played Argentina and he set the place alight as he ran past 3 players to score. I could watch a team with Kaka, Messi and Ronaldo play off a fast or big striker every day as for every bad game you'd get 1 or 2 greats. Of course I would not count on that team winning anything but cups year in year out - or indeed lasting a long time given quality players are more variable than cogs and more likely to get led astray.
As a critic I'd put his record in focus and say 1 goal in 3 (86 gls in 244 gms) for a behind the strikers player who: adds no effective offensive or defensive height even if he is 6 ft 1": works best in broken play: lacks physicality: does not track back: is not the kind of player a top team looking for more than cup wins needs: is 27 soon (April) and that is a dangerous age for quality players (Ron is 23 Messi 21) - arguably Zidane, Beckham, Figo, Ronaldinho all started a decline as game in game out players at just past that age. He does not have the Ronaldo 07-08 (42gls in 49 gms) type of year (has anyone in recent times?), in his locker for me (19 gls in 41gms his best) - he does have 1 Scudetto to be fair but in his first year at Milan and not since he has become the fulcrum of the side.
He'd be an upgrade on Robinho but no doubt they'd both be selected and the team would be a basket case. In a relegation dog fight the kind of silly wages two non workers like those two would divide a team. I'd love to see their games but as a fan where is that heading? Trying to run before you can walk?
At 100 million to a team like Chelsea he would put bums on seats and be marketable. You could even keep him fresh and try to win the European Champion's League by using him late season as other teams wear down. I just don't see him and the type of player he is as an essential or a benefit especially in the physically demanding all action Premier League.
For Man City this really is in footballing terms, not monetary, buying a Ferrari when you cannot afford the fuel and insurance. They leak goals and already have a list of lightweight behind the striker/winger types in Elano, Robinho, Wright Phillips and Petrov. Sure they will beat some team 8 but....
I assume Siddy can buy Kaka and just shower him with so much money he almost feels ignorant to say yes. However to buy him now mid season and add to a team all ready lightweight and divided would be worse than when Juninho (a very light version of Kaka) delighted nuetrals taking Boro from 5th to relegated.
Honestly Man City's owners should consider Keegan as manager as he just lists fantasy players as targets and the two would marry perfectly even if they never win anything by god they'd knock Coronation Street into a cocked hat as Manchester's most watched soap.
Remember when Harry came in and Juande Ramos looked like a clown and Gus Poyet seemed like Canute trying to explain how the players who then could not lose a game and kept coming from behind were savants who had no love or understanding of the game. Harry looked a genius but....
Now Redknapp is still in the bottom 3 and has a bench of expensive young English players.
Now Harry torches his players and demanded new ones despite a bench that would currently put Arsenal and Chelsea to shame in terms of expenses and rep.
Now he is reduced to a 352 and paid 15/19 million for a small lightweight striker yet goes to Wigan hoping for 0-0 and a point.
Comolli for all his faults actually did what the media wanted and loaded up on the best not at top clubs of "Thug Academy" - my name for the England under 21s. He even built teams with 2 strikers in the media preferred 442.
The bad news for Levy is Redknapp does not have the excuse of his pre-season being wrecked by Berba's late sale and the rushed poor purchase of a lightweight striker. As Kevin Pullein the country's top football writer said changing managers gets you a few matches push and then the team returns to at or below mean. Now the only way Harry will see forward is to buy and buy again. That gets expensive as he just reduced the transfer value of Bent, Jenas et al to nothing and the cost of those in is massive, judged on doubling Pompey's money for Defoe in under a year.
The moral of the story is to bring through a core of your own players and build their hunger. Buying on nationality or because players had a good future behind them is a mistake.
Know your place could be the watch words for the British media. Frankly after 5 years Rafa, in the most unranting rant I have heard, sounding suspiciously like his telescope had been focused a little too much on Man United finally made a stand for his team. It was a good sign in that he finally feels he has the squad and team to challenge United.
To criticise Benitez for this is infantile and based on an unflattering and clearly inaccurate view of S'Alex that bizarrely he and the media like to hold. It always shocks me how Man United fans wish to belittle someone that great who is clearly able to motivate and feed the hunger of his players as some moody teenager playing games with people. For instance Keggsie's rant was with the title lost not the result of anything but his own failing.
Too much is made of Ferguson's so called mind games which judged on the United fans I know and their view of how many Euros they could have won compared to the 2 they were in the end lucky to win would seem the most potentially self wounding part of his management after the hair dryer - as Sharpie, the waster player not pens Becks sells, said the senior pros used to have a good laugh behind your back and you had to keep a straight face while it was happening.
If Benitez and Ferguson play any silly games whilst hiding in the dunes at the seaside they are aimed at their own team and players. I suspect Rafa is using the oldest Ferguson trick in the book - everyone is against us. Plus ala Mourinho better to have everyone debating your sanity than putting pressure on your team. Have them ask if you can handle it not your players as happens with Arsene Wenger, who we know has the resilience to say left when everyone else says right.
BTW footnote added later but it seems it is Ferguson who cracked up and ranted at the FA which had to be toned down by his Chief Executive. As usual with the so called master of mind games he ignores obvious that because every United witness was found to be deceitful one wonders if Evra had that strong a case.
I know there is something up with the title race when me and my mate disagree on everything. I talk about what I see on the pitch and he talks of experience and leadership - intangibles are intangibles for me I guess. Thus I see no reason Liverpool cannot win in a bad year and give Chelsea some hope, no hope. He sees it as a bash between Chelsea and Man United.
This season may be, or at least should be, the death of the hole player. Someone who makes their career playing behind another striker, or 2 strikers even, is not necessarily as good as they look. Today we saw Luka Modric and Deco both show the amazing ability to disappear like a spiv when the bill arrives. Worse with Deco the ability to give the ball away continually when not hidden from view.
Frankly look at the wastes of money on 2nd strikers: Rooney is now a front striker where his movement has found some value: Robbie Keane warms wood already: Berbatov just does not do enough - he and Roon scoring some cream on top stuff today more a function of the best players on the team not being them and Chelsea's sad decline as a defensive unit when attacked with crosses.
The 2nd half was unedifying as Drogba looked like an doppleganger who had perfected the part except the dominant centre forward bits. The Nelk came on and was almost static for the half. Indeed with Joe Cole picking his moments in the game a man looking at his proZone screen would only have seen the 8 blue dot moving at times in the opposition half.
Ditto Terry and Carvalho who are normally protected as Chelsea have the ability to retain possession and hence they generally only get shown up at set pieces where Terry is now a shirt grabber not the dominant player he was - all goals coming from crossed balls he used to make his own. United learned their lesson from the Bridge (of Sighs) and like Roma kept attacking the brittle Blues. If more teams would just attack Chelsea they would surely have Arsenal's rep.
Of course the player who stood out on both sides was English and called Frank Lampard. Up and down with seemingly hours to pick a pass where some had only scrambled moments. As usual with Lampard you don't see blistering pace or the child like self serving obvious moments of effort of others, all you get is consistent quality. If you don't get it then you never will.
Howard Webb deserves credit for allowing an open game without Riley's stopping everything every minute. He also did not allow Chelsea to do a Madrid on Messi on Ronaldo by giving Lamps the yellow without warning for what amounted to a shin kick to the other world class player on the field.
I definitely waited too long to lay Chelsea. It is not getting any better looking at their bench. Indeed I'd rather the Spurs bench that 'Arry hates so much. Scolari must now bite the bullet and leave Deco out. Drop Anelka or Drog to the bench and send the other to the half time Karaoke and entertainment. Find a front man whether it is di Santo or Kalou. Also get someone else who can play wide. So for me he has to pick:-
Cech, Belletti/Bosingwa, Alex, Ricardo Carvalho, Belletti/Cash as Terry is a wasted selection if he cannot defend crosses - cannot help feel a break to the end of the season will help Terry get back his power and some flexibility. Then he needs Essien when back AND Mikel. Lampard and 2 wide even if that is Scott Sinclair, Kalou, Joe Cole and anyone not called Florent. Up front The Drog as half time hero and di Santo or Kalou as the starter. Really they are winning nothing as they are and if for the 3rd year on the trot they will not accept that the future is even cloudier as they have blooded almost no youth in 5 years.
United like Wigan played OK not that they had much to beat but hey blogging is not about lauding positive stuff!
Give a student of English football since 1995 the Spurs team sheet and you'd think that 'Mad' Glenn was in charge. An odd 352 formation to fit in Luka Moderate and ensure that King or Woodgate did not have to make way for Dawson. A left wing back who is talented but not a wing back. The whole team built on the artisan talents of O'Hara and Zokora to support a vanity project for lightweight one dimensional players - Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Moderate, Corluka and Bale.
The sight of Woodgate one on one in open field against any kind of player tells you this is not based on anything but keeping some people happy - after all one of him or King is unfit next week so why annoy someone you want to keep and cannot sell anyways?
In the end the inability of 3 centre halves to defend a corner is what lost them a game in which they created nothing with the lightest weight front 3 since Roger Moore wore a third nipple in "The Man With The Golden Gun".
You realise that over a season playing odd formations and having too many poncy types would probably cost you 5/10 points which for a team of Spurs talent is really the difference between 5th and 8th in a normal year. You also realise even a manager doing this is better than one that has lost the dressing room so much that the English players are telling opponents where to hit the goalkeeper as he is carrying an injury - lucky for them Gomez is made of sterner stuff than Jenas, Defoe, Bentley, Modric, Ledley, Baley, Lennon, Dawsey, Bent, Huddleburger, Corluka and Woody.
The risks for Spurs with Redknapp is not that he does not find the odd bargain nor that so much more goes out than in in transfers but that the sheer cost of doing that much transfer business is what kills teams. Pavlyuchenko, Bent and Bentley will earn their 3 or 4 million a year whether they are reserves or not. Remember transfer fees out are Net and in are Gross - it means 12 million out is less than 10 million, often a lot less, to the receiving club.
Indeed Redknapp's bench with Jenas, Huddlestone, Bentley, Bent and Lennon hardly spoke loudly of the need for 3 or 4 more players. Indeed all Spurs have to do is to not try so hard to win pointless cups and they probably then have too many players and could save lots of money. I view a cup as pointless to a club when the winning managers are toast in short order - Graham lasted 2 years and Ramos a matter of less than 8 months.
Of course had said game student been asked to pick the 'Arry side he would have stumped for Wigan with its 442 and multi national make up combined with English cast offs like Kirkland, Titus and Heskey.
Whilst as someone with a Taff side I may be biased but Gareth Bale is not a left back baked, boiled or shampooed. He in a lesser team would get the chance at central midfield. The problem is if you have a left foot you get pushed back to left back which is fine if you are C'Ash as people start to mistake you for a good footballer. However a talented player like Bale is just utterly wasted and fish out of water as he tries to do more in a game than the position has scope for. He is now in a limbo where no one will buy him as a left back and he will be held back as his manager does not waste money at left back even when it is an open sore - especially when playing 352.
There is no value to a player trader in having on loan Frazer Campbell so if I was United I'd want him back.
Anyone else but Harry and I would be corruscating of what he is did today and is likely to do. I would say he is wasting talent and reducing the value of the previous regimes signings. David Bentley might reflect on this when he is shuffled out as a reclamation project for someone like Harry used to be - that was so career enhancing to push your way out of Arsenal and Blackburn - polish your your Ferraris son they are all you will have to show for your talent.
As a Spurs fan you can hope that Redknapp wants this huge squad for something more than to waste effort in unrewarding competitions like the UEFA, Carling and appropriately named FA Cups. Personally I wonder on joining if he saw the 50 million pot of Keane and Berbatov and saw the chance to use a bad run to justify the spending as he joined. Is there any end other than to shore up his own ego and rep? The only shame is can't he make the best of what he has got then decide what he needs.
Seriously at 15/19 million (depends if 4 million sell on clause was waived and is in or not in the fee) I think Capt'n Lightweight Defoe was still available at the end of January - do you really spend that much now? Jermain's been rejected by 3 of his last 4 managers as a starter as Adams was moving to a 451 - with Crouch not Jermain. He might have been worth half that with a month on the bench chewing his nails as some people did not like him.
Anyway looks like with his best player, Gomez, injured Harry may have a good reason to spend money.
Watching Villa today it is all about the art of the probable. Indeed as debt and basically weariness takes over other sides O'Neill must fancy the top 4. Indeed for me his team of young hard working physical players is a not so mini me version of Liverpool without Gerrard and Torres but maybe more consistent relative to their best.
In the inconvenient truth column here is one for Arsenal fans. Most seem to blame their defence yet they have conceded the same number of goals as Villa. Indeed but for 5 silly minutes against Spurs they would have a better record.
They have scored 1 less goal. Indeed they are coming off 2 1-0s. So the argument would be that since Arsenal probably have the ball more the defense is weak. That the attack is stopped by teams massing behind the ball. However given Wenger sets them up 442 with little wide defensive cover to say Arsenal are weak defensively is to say Villa are, for me. Indeed their weakness is surely out wide and up front where they often have 2 strikers and 2 poor tracking back players. Given their lack of size in the middle of the park one could also argue their defense does a decent job denuded of cover and asked to defend with little height to help out at set pieces. Defending is about retaining the ball in your own half, set-up and team play.
The point being relative to reputation and cost a defense of cast offs and converts like Gallas, Toure and Silvestre does not do too badly - especially when one considers that Cliche has been an open sore at times. So if Wenger was more decisive and less blinded by his boys like Cliche arguably Arsenal would be a better defensive team than Villa.
The point is that Arsenal's problems are forward not back given that they set-up to be an attacking team. Sure you would not want their defense but for the cost of them and the way they set up they are not doing a bad job.
Richard Keyes for once nailed something as Dion Dublin asserted the cliche that Mowbray and WBA were sticking to their beliefs and playing the game in the right way. Keyes said "...but is it the right way?".
Benitez is a pragmatist and made, for me, the Wenger mistake of playing Stoke at their own game - opting to play meat head Kuyt rather than Keane - we assume Torres is not yet fit. Wenger opted for Bendtner and Adebayor and they still conceded 2 - albeit with 3 shocking leg breakers allowed by the so called referee on Arsenal players.
Mowbray may have method to his madness in that 442 play it about is surely less physically taxing than 451 run down every ball and hold teams to 0. After all 4 wins > 11 draws. Plus no matter how ordinary a defence I believe the statistically most likely amount of conceded goals is 1 or 0. So if WBA can start finding some goals they may like recent survival merchants be fresher and come with a later season rush to survive. The big doubt is where the goals will come from but who could predict Bobby Zamora's outburst 2 years ago.
For Rafa to critique Ferguson as teflon seemingly ignores the way Gerrard has more success with telling referees what to do than, allegedly, getting DJs to play his favourite Phil Collins records. Indeed Carragher must get away with more fouls for less yellows never mind his limpet properties at set pieces where he indulges in the manly arts of cheating by hugging opponents.
Now England will continue with their broken system that in my opinion has never in my life time (43 years) produced a world no 1 nor a consistently successful side and is anachronous in an era of 3 England teams and 4 or 5 series of Test cricket a year, ODI and twenty20 cricket - not to mention World Cups and Champion's Trophies.
Indeed there are parallel's here for Barack Obama who seems to want to start with the old system and move forward. He is also endorsing a candidate that was un-endorsable last week because of his skin pigment this week, allegedly.
If I was Strauss aside from insisting on the changes below I would excuse myself from one day cricket and twenty20 as I am barely in Middlesex's team. I would want the whole Flintoff cancer removed 'stone, 'derson and 'lessson gone. I would want a coach who is my poodle not some de facto team manager. I would want a non cricketing team manager to handle everything non cricket.
As Obama will find like Strauss his power peaks now and pandering to race issues and what seems easiest now is a mistake.
Mercifully for England it is merely disappointing that this sad circus continues for as many years as the revenue holds up. For the USA it is actually important Obama breaks with history.
The saddest episode of last year for all England cricket fans was surely the interviews with Michael Vaughan where despite never taking England anywhere near no 1 in any form of the game he claimed to have effectively final say over selection. He admitted being responsible for the team, selection and everything had worn him down but would not change a thing about it - that was the eye twitching Dreyfus moment Chelsea fans will be familiar with as their manager is led away with a fat cheque in his back pocket. Indeed the real revelation was that had Vaughan not resigned they would not have sacked him! This despite him becoming an automatic out in a 5 man batting line up.
Quite where this power and cult of the Captain comes from is probably the divide between Gentlemen (amateurs) and Players (paid). It took until after the war to finally get rid of what was surely an anachronism long before. The exaggerated importance of the captain was further compounded in 1981 when Brearley a virtual automatic out, avg 22.88 would not even retain the wicket keeper slot now, led England to a lucky victory over an extremely divided Australia (whose senior pros both tried to undermine the captain and made a lot of money, for cricketers of the era, betting on England). Brearley led a preposterously talented England team to 2 narrow wins that owed more to the fractured opposition, failing to score 150 odd twice in 4th inning, than great play in a 3-1 series win. Not sure in a world of say 5 serious test playing nations it was not for positions 4 and 5 either.
Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith, who have achieved far more than Vaughan and Brearley, have never had a final say over selection or arguably any say. Certainly Ponting is de fatco appointed on a match by match basis as the Australian captain first has to keep his place.
Added to England's dysfunction has been the addition since Duncan Fletcher of the coach as more than someone who lays out the cones. Indeed the coach mutated into a selector, team manager and coach maybe with more say than some captains.
Putting so much power in the hands of 2 people, coach and captain, close to the current team who in any other country only really have an influence within the selected team has been a backward step and led to the increasing scope for minor personality clashes to be back and front page news. This kind of excessive importance to captain and coach has led to the last 4 holders being dragged away tired or bitter or broken or humiliated (Vaughan, Flintoff, Fletcher, Hussain and now KP and Moores).
Indeed it was only 2 years ago that allowed to behave unchecked an England captain was reported as being almost continually drunk on a tour - this was bizarrely hushed up at the time until he made it obvious by needing to be rescued from a few feet of water.
England's absurd attitude to the captaincy and fear of the standing of its own cricketers reached its nadir due to Flintoff. We ended up with Michael Vaughan unfit and Flintoff unfit so Strauss was not made captain but a sort of stand in's stand in captain. Then for fear of upsetting him and Harmison, despite knowing Strauss was the better man, Flintoff was appointed for the Ashes tour because that was the way they had said it would be - the result was a 5-0 whitewash as pals of the captain were selected ahead of others and all reeked - Harmison, Anderson, Gilo and Jones - picked ahead of Mahmoud, Panesar and Read - note how often 2nd generation Asian players tend to suffer this fate with England.
If they appointed and selected series by series then the regular unfits and un-professionals could lose the captaincy once and there would be no reason to bring them back. It is not a position in reality that someone should hold yet England have elevated it to a standing position you can hold despite not having a modern fitness regime that ensures you can even play for months and years at a time.
I would get a new selection panel separate from the team. I would appoint a team manager who is a bureaucrat not a cricket man - a manager pure and simple to deal with the Moores Kapes type stuff and send drunks home without regard for the size of their name. The coaches would be there to work with players who wanted them to and be led by the captain. Players would be responsible for their form. The captain would merely be there to feed back and manage the team on the field. Simple and frankly quite why the England system is any different is beyond me.
It's funny I used to hate 'Shame' Warne but you know what like? Like 'Pidgeon' McGrath boy do you miss them in test cricket. That kind of nuggegty never say die competitor never grows old the more I learn about sports.
Compared to wankers like Jermain Defoe and Theo Walcott throwing toys in an effort to become even richer despite a list of achievements that would struggle to fill a small stamp they are diamond. Indeed Walcs and Defoe have a list of miserable failure that would fill the Doomsday Book.
Mercifully as with The Great Man (Boycs) Warne has brought the same hard nosed attitude to the commentary box. You occasionally hear euphemisms for the Umpire is useless but not from Shane. No 'very adjacent' like Mark "Say Nothing" Taylor it is Bowden does not know the rules of cricket - a full toss hits the batter full in line and it is an automatic out at least according to the rules. Then Shane adds I was always happy to bowl from the other end when he was umpiring! Just before Bowden then gives one that was going 6 inches over the stumps for a seamer.
Hopefully Sky will not hesitate this summer to include Warney to shake up their trivia obsessed commentary. The only shame is of course they will not get The Great Man to create the greatest team since Stan Laurel met Oliver Hardy.
The other shame is of course Umpire Hair will not be allowed to umpire an Ashes series for rather better reasons than he does not Umpire games with the sub continent racists playing.
In an amazing finish to the week's clown competition Wayne Rooney eclipsed Hughes with a breath taking display of what some would call passion and others mere stupidity. 2 nil up against 10 men in a next to meaningless competition and the 'Little' Man comes on and demands more effort!
That is English passion hey. When it is easy and you are behind or when you are beating total rubbish and should be saving yourself to play more games than anyone else from here on in ranting and raving like KP when asked to describe Peter Moores.
It is also, of course, an amazing display of hypocrisy from the 'Mini' Man. This is a mutha who skulked off without showing any effort in a Champion's League tie in Lisbon 2 years ago? Who got himself sent off when asked to play for the team and be an outlet at the World Cup? The 'Small' man who picked up a 3 game suspension in pre-season friendly? The 'Tini Tot' who is lucky he is indulged by referees in this country as he behaves like a child when his team really needs him most? The commited pro who cannot show respect to our greatest rival in a friendly but comes on and demands more effort in a dead game in a meaningless competition? Apparently it is the same inidvidual - at least he cannot be accused of lacking a sense of humour as his self styled nickname is "The Big Man".
Worse from a player with his record of quitting on his team it could, and maybe should, be seen as showing up his team mates in a self serving display for his tabloid supporters.
Wow Jan Poorvliet complaining about a straight red from a yellow junkie like Riley, who avoids the straight red like the plague, could not have looked a bigger clown calling himself Coco wearing baggy yellow trousers, painted face, big red nose, long shoes and singing Captain Sensible's 80s anthem [sic] "Happy Talk".
A more prima facia example of the violent conduct automatic 3 match ban you will struggle to see when John Terry is not playing. Poorvliet not only complained at the time but kept the ranting fool act going into the 2nd half including wailing like Steven Gerrard when he has forgotten his Phil Collins CD at Riley at half time.
Poor old Hughsie on for his record extending 75th week, 22 consecutively, as 'Clown of the Week' and this fool takes his thunder.... The sack will seem merciful after that. Watching yesterday his left back was the only player who was not criminally at fault for a goal. If they are paying 11 million for remnants at left back they may as well pay 150 million for average players to upgrade Micah and co. Maybe Arsene should cash that Kolo chip for 50 million.... 35 if they take Eboue as well.... He can play all 4 positions better than Micah can play any after all.
Rafa and Slightly Reduced Phil today demonstrated a commitment to winning a meaningless trophy by playing Lampard and Gerrard in the FA Cup. Forsaking the chance to give them a couple of weeks off at a vital time of the season. This surely is the death knell for the ridiculous concept of a mid season break - better to use the time to finish the league programme early in a World Cup year.
Gerrard and Lampard have now shown their priorities: Euro and/or Premiership: FA Cup: Carling: England. Gerrard, allegedly, will fight to defend the honour of the FA Cup as strongly as he would the reputation of Phil Collins in the face of a recalcitrant DJ.
Apparently the coach and captain have fallen out over not picking Michael Vaughan. If you still want more evidence captain and coach should not pick the team then this adds to neither being in a position to scout outside the current squad.
It's a boys club and the ECB should convene a new panel separate from the team and current selectors. They should appoint a team manager and tell the captain to start winning matches and not worry about anything else.
20 million for Lassana Diarra, a holding midfielder who is great at winning the ball but then it turns into a bar of wet soap when he tries to do something with it, is ridiculous. Allegedly 12 million for Wayne Bridge for whom this is a last decent contract with no re-sale value and a history of injury maybe worse value. Seriously on these "valuations" how much is Ronaldo or Villa worth? Or even a 30 year old Lampard? Messi? Ibrahimovic? Eto'o? fogetaboutit.
It seems you cannot get real difference makers so people bid up the price of the mediocre or just what is available even if it is not a player they need or represents any kind of value. I was incredulous at 12 million for a dull runner like Milner but as with Diarra if that is the type of player you need it is not so bad in one sense.
The one that troubles me most is Bridge in that whilst he has been a decent left back his best days seem behind him. He brings decent footballing ability but now has almost no pace and since being the outfielder whose record of consecutive games Lampard topped (113) he is now basically injury prone. Plus given he is now no 3 at his position behind Belletti and Cole that hardly says he is a good player even. So in baseball parlance he is replacement level.
Sure Man City have defensive problems but will a left back really solve that? Surely better would have been Diarra who with resale value would at least be cheaper even at his silly fee. A left back? Unless they have a sore like Clichy it is hard to see how this saves them goals and points. Defence is mostly about the team set-up and organisation so surely it is cheaper to sack the manager?
Man City have a famously packed youth system and yet they cannot come up with a player close to the level Bridge currently sets? Surely their problems are more the balance of midfield and at centre half where Micah Richards is paid like a top centre half just behind Tezza and Rio and yet is a buffoon in the position.
Another aspect of this is that people keep saying Martk Hughes bought this or that and he keeps being interviewed. Yet the impression is that Hughesie has as much to do with anything as the Janitor. Indeed as he gets in the boardroom the Janitor may find that insulting. Yet despite having no more information than the club cat Hughes insists on being quoted - what a jester. Mourinho, Ranieri and others cuckolded by joker owners kept stum and rarely mentioned it.
Now if money is no object one has to further add that City have spent a fortune and yet have no top players. Robinho is a cream on topper, flat track bully and a complimentary player in a top side. The point being they keep buying players like Phillips, Bridge, Robinho at maximum fees. They are not moving upwards with them. They will have to buy a whole team if Hart does not develop, or more likely they give him no chance to, as they have no good players.
They will need to buy a whole squad, ground and fans to fill it unless they are happy to waste money on a club with a mediocre team, ageing support in a municipal stadium. This will leave them with a load of whining players they do not need and they will subsidise them to play for someone else as Chelsea did with Crespo to allow Milan a European Title.
Abramovich at least bought the core of a team at Chelsea with Lampard and Terry. He also got a modern high revenue club and ground - even if it is not quite enough. Lampard may have peaked but it is hard to believe that Chelsea could have got as effective a player at almost any price game in game out over the last 6 years. Indeed going forward for all the money they spent they now have nothing except peaked players on massive wages going well into their 30s like Lampard, Terry, Drogba and others who are not even good, Cech excepted.
There is just no sense to the direction these teams are taking. They will not attract top players and surely given the chance to do it again offering the Glazers a guaranteed profit by paying a Billion or so for United is actually cheaper as it will pay for itself if the initial cost is written off. Spending 800 on Chelsea is madness. Spending even more on Siddy is insane.
Here is the point only Man United and Arsenal have the grounds to generate real revenue and keep a team near the top.
Wenger said Friday people who demand Arsenal buy are clowns as Arsenal have paid for a ground and all the other clubs are losing money and his policy is sustainable and in the face of a recession sane. I really find Wenger's critics loathsome as he is the only sane man in football it seems. Arsenal fans should be as grateful if not more so to him as United fans are to Ferguson. He is not the false self serving idol that a Mourinho is. Or a bankrupter like Rafa Benitez who will leave nothing and move on when the money runs out - see Valencia.
Smaller clubs may as well package their ageing stars now and sell to the desperate in this window. Come the summer and season ticket renewals happen god help them - I am an atheist so bad luck on that.