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Jon's Nov Dec 2008 Blog
If you want an example of for all the chatter about 442 or 433 or 451 or 4231 what really matters in football is not that but the basics - passing, movement, pace and height then Chelsea gave a prima facia case of it against Fulham.
Credit to Fulham and Dempsey for making the most of the 2 chances to show how brittle and poor many of Chelsea's players are. Once again almost all that was good about Chelsea came through Lampard. Fulham should not get 2 goals against a good side without a great deal of luck or inspiration and whilst the 2 finishes were top draw Chelsea showed the price of a team with one trick ponies like The Nelk, Ivanovic, C'Ash, Deco, Malouda and Mikel. One dimensional footballers do not a rounded team make especially when they add no pace or height or ball retention.
Hodgson and Fulham are certainly well organised as Chelsea probably would have added to their 2 goal hal against most bottom half teams.
Scolari started, as I would in an ideal world, 1 of Nelk and The Drog with 1 less of Deco, Lampard and Ballack. However in a team denied Terry that meant Malouda, no pace, and 5 short/aerially ineffective players with no dominant centre half (Cole, Cole, Deco, Bosingwa, Malouda). Result was: carnage at 2 corners: the ball given away: a lack of passing options: 2 goals given away to fairly ordinary set piece goals.
Whilst I am not the biggest fan of Anelka or 442 he was no worse than wasting a selection on Malouda defensively. His habit of finding space and avoiding contact and leaving the Drog up front means he can actually link play and as he showed the other week stands more chance of mopping up a meaningful goal that way.
Chelsea's best team at the moment is pretty easy for me when everyone is fit. Deco for me is not suited to small pitches, no space and a team without pace as he donates too much ball to the opposition and sidelines. Also he is not an effective tackler. Ballack is taller. Essien should replace both and not Mikel.
Out wide is painful. Joe Cole still thinks a bit of quality trumps his lack of quantity. Kalou is taller faster but with little quality. Malouda is a waste of 30 million wages and fee.
I also think Drogba is still short and may never get it back at his age. Still effective. Anelka may do Ok against Fulham but in a big game is he really a player you want? At least someone seemed to work out when Chelsea have the ball The Drog plays forward and when Fulham have it The Nelk does where his talents are better suited to the fast break.
Defensively set pieces will be a challenge with Anelka, Cole, Cole, Bosingwa, Deco and Malouda as starters. Quite why the summer signing was another aerially challenged full back is a mystery known only to the teams who cannot develop any talent and end up buying what is generally available - old players, full backs, holding players and wide players at grossly inflated fees.
I fear my loathing of Liverpool has cost me a bet on a title I did and do not think Chelsea are young, good or resiliant enough to win. This seems to be becoming more obvious even to nuetrals who want to slurp reputations and admire goal tallies not watch games.
The irony would be after buying Keane if Liverpool win the title playing 4321 with Kuyt and Keane deployed wide or central when Torres' lifestyle, seriously is anyone naive about why players get injured continually, takes its toll rather than 442. Indeed Rafa must be laughing the other teams have painted themselves into a striker/lightweight wide player cul de sac. Although Chelsea for now probably need to play Anelka and Drogba as the alternatives are worse than a straight 442.
Yeah Usain Bolt was terrific: Hoy, Pendleton, Cavendish, Wiggins, Hamilton, Pujols, Calzaghe, Pacquiao ditto: Ronaldo, Messi, Villa, Casillas, Senna good: and a host of others who escape me. Phelps!
However for reasons on the field and off the field surely few can match the South African captain Graeme Smith. He has to be front man and spokesmen for a sport in one of the most political sporting cultures dealing daily with the added racial factor.
Indeed it is that culture that probably denied the most devastating batting line up since Pollock and Richards were unable to play for South Africa had KP stayed and developed in his homeland. Seriously how bad would England be without the 50 averager and how good would South Africa be with Smith and KP in the same line up? It would also make the relationship between Arie Haan and Johann Cruyff in the same team seem close and fraternal!
Seriously Smith, Amla, KP, de Villiers.... 2-5 impressive?
Whilst KP's maturation process has been slow and he is now someone we can be proud leading our national team. Smith has been a captain for 5 years and is the younger man and has 3 more test centuries than Kapes as well as 2 defining innings to win 4th inning chases this year alone.
He does not play in an atmosphere where players like Shah, Mahmoud, Panesar and Bopara could be isolated, humiliated and discarded for the likes of insiders like Vaughan, Strauss and Collingwood without questions in Parliament.
Captain, opener, leader and averaged 61.5 with the willow. Draw in India win in England and 1 up in Australia. Really without knowing a huge amount from this distance I cannot think of anyone better to be sportsman of the year even with Phelps and others having an Olympic year.
If anyone doubted that the England cricket team were selected by a bunch of clowns who select by their view of personality those naive clowns will be unable to deny it if Michael Vaughan is brought back to the team.
Seriously despite one superb hundred in the 2005 Ashes it is really at least 5 years since Mickey was a front line test batsman. There is no evidence since he resigned and left the team he has had a renaissance.
Given ala Strauss he would brought back against one of the weakest major test nations whilst Shah is once again cold shouldered (hardly taking away from England's recent record of dropping and treating Asian extracted players like chattle). Expect the Experience excuse for selecting someone who is not a choice on form - class is temporary current form is all is the maxim one should use.
It would be a sickening selection of which the nicest one could say is cronyism and many might see as racism.
The last time John Terry was sent off was for an outrageous cheat. He was let off and referee Mark Ball-sey was crucified for showing his love of the game by sending off England's captain. At least Phil Dowd had no silly interpretations to slow him as the nervous official produced the crimson laminate. Dowd showed that like Halsey he had the cohones to send Terry to first use of the soap.
The other Big Phil finally showed his testicular fortitude faced with a problem and finally took The 'Nelk off early to bring on The Drog. He left his packed central midfield and ripped off Joe Cole to strengthen the defense - for once Joe was the obvious one although I would have brought him inside and sent Deco off with the 'Nelk to grab the 2nd use of the soap.
Craig Burley could not understand why the 16 mostly soft goal man got the early pull but Scolari was vindicated. 10 man Chelsea did not want to face a team with Arteta delivery, 11 men, Lescott and Cahill without Terry and The Drog and light in midfield - qualifies as a no brainer like the deserved sending off. As it was The Drog tackled people and at least got some pressure on Lescott at corners - albeit the amazingly strong Lescott still drew a stupendous save from Cech who looked somewhat more like the Titan of a few years ago.
The most amazing moment for me was when Lescott just shouldered The Drog off the ball. Boy I may have doubts about him as a left back and centre half but he is in shape and tries hard. He nearly got the winner as well making The Drog look like Khalid Boulahrouz. He's off my poor player list after this.
Dowd also did not hesitate to wield the yellow for the whining Chelsea. I am sure when an ageing Dowd shows the grand kids the video it will feature this game where he got the Petulant Lampard, Cole and Balls-ack to go with Terry - quite a collection.
Gareth Southgate said that Julio "Crippler" Arca is not that sort of player. Thanks Gareth for sorting that out for us. At least when 'Gentle' Ben Thatcher elbowed Pedro Mendes no one wasted breath with that lie.
Just to warm to yesterday's theme about under 21s who don't go anywhere but have a lot of money handed to them and spent over them Manchester City today had 2 goals conceded through Micah Richards channel, one with him nowhere to be seen. For a big physical guy Richards does not get goals and is not a natural defender. Yet 2 years or so ago supposed pundits, who had played the game, said he was a good player. He got valued at 20 million: Jose Mad said buy, buy, buy: He could not pass then: had no positional discipline: He got paid like a star player. Mercifully the new owners can afford it. He is not very good yet.
Maybe I should have thought about this when big'in up Arsenal's young players. At that age no one considers weaknesses only promise and I fell into that. Think of all the crap you read about Lampard probably one of the most complete players we've had. Yet get some teenage one trick pony who has no fear and no one has a bad word to say.
Watching Arsenal today you can see how a team that is not particularly organised but young with pacey talented players can be a top 5 side. Sort of like Villa with less organisation and more developed skills but less physical talent. The problem is watching I don't feel unlike at times last year that I am watching a fluid dangerous team. They have too many left feet on right footed players and their organisation in midfield and at the back frankly stinks. Here as at Chelsea an inspired finish from van Persie rather than joined up team play got the opener.
Sure their results against Chelsea and Man United have been quite good but unlike last year it would be hard to say they were in control for much of the game - United had 20 shots as Rooney had one of his all too frequent trying to give souvenirs to his mates in the crowd.
Too often Arsenal players tried to go through walls of 3 or 4 Liverpool players or could not find a pass. This was not the incisive short passing of yore it was sporadic individualism. Without a clear explanation their 7 points from 3 games against the big 3 looks more like one of those things than a sign they are a top team at present.
Injuries to Fabregas and worse a suspension to Adebayor make a game with Villa interesting - Flair versus Endeavour. At least today they actually did better with 10 men and their 2 best players off in a nostalgic hat tip to the days of 50 sendings off in 4 or 5 years. Now 75 in all under Arsene.
Of course watching Liverpool again struggle to break a team down with more than a route 1 ball one wonders if they have spent a fortune on centre forwards to stand still. It is no surprise the recent run of ordinary results by the big 4 I am not convinced any of them, World's Champions and all, are that good by the recent standard of Chelsea 04-06 and United 06-07.
Whilst either of Adebayor's bookings could be questionable one has to say it is dangerous the exaggerated foot over the ball and full body check with swinging elbow to cut off the incoming opposition player. Maybe Adebayor could cut down at least the foot lift and swinging arm for future reference. We saw what happens when referees make excuses for players with the directed assault on Messi last week. He may have been unlucky but neither were they necessarily bad decisions.
The first reaction to Australia's defeat is to think damn we should win the Ashes back. The next is to wonder why 350 plus 4th innings wins appear to be getting easier and happening like buses - you wait years and then loads turn up.
3 factors at work here for me: the pitches are getting lower and flatter: secondly the balls used become like bowling oranges after 20 overs or so in some environs: finally the bowlers who could bowl under all conditions with an orange seem to be retiring - McGrath, Murali and Warne.
This has also opened up the world of test cricket. In 2005 England got a win as for 1 summer their bowling peaked almost simultaneously and a lot went wrong for Australia. Albeit Harmison was already morphing from GBH to Harmlessson. The situation was still after that loss a case of Australia no 1 and the rest winning and losing to each other to be a poor poor 2nd.
Now with India winning over Australia and likely England at home, Murali seemingly heading out, Pakistan probably reduced to touring, South Africa giving the Aussies a fight it would appear that there is a 3 cornered fight for the top with South Africa, Australia and India. Pakistan swept England and beat India not so long ago but unfortunately the political situation rules them out of home series and contention As US/UK try with an opportunistic India to bully Pakistan to voluntarily becoming the 54th state after UK, Iraq and Afghanistan (not everyone may agree with that but let's say Pakistan are only touring).
Anyway where does this leave England whose batting tends to mean they are better on helpful (low scoring wickets) as they have 6 or 7 bowlers in and around the team who need a little help as they have no obvious no 1 bowler overall - world class not no 1 in the team.
Michael Vaughan writing in the Telegraph shows the mind set of those around the England team by saying that he sees Harmison as vital to the team regaining the Ashes. First up notice how he is not looking for a fast bowler who can put the opposition on the back foot but Steve Harmison - always a personal and binary position from the deluded one. This is the whole ludicrous circus based on insider individuals and self indulgent captains trying to show what great managers of their friends they are. Amazingly England can actually select any one who is available not just from the current squad, their friends and re-treads. I wonder if someone will tell Miller, Graveney, Giles, KP and Moores they are allowed to select others.
Now the punch line I agree with Vaughan but for different reasons. If we play teams on result wickets with pace and bounce then Harmison, Panesar and to a lesser degree Flintoff, as he bowls well whatever, become world beaters when 350 is a high score. Indeed if conditions seam a little then Sidebottom, who has been nearest a world class bowler for us most recently. Indeed his mistake was arguably trying to play hurt showing he is twice the man Harmison is. Anderson or Broad could be effective if the pitch is lively or we get swing.
This, result pitches, eliminates England's dual problem that they cannot bat time like a South Africa did to them and they cannot get 20 wickets on all but helpful pitches. It means that England go from a weak attack without a star to a strong one with the chance of wickets at both ends not relying on 1 bowler to get 5 or 6 as Australia may.
The problem is that the wicket that one assumes Panesar and Harmison's dads prepare at Old Trafford is not on the rota - Harmy since even 2006 email@example.com!!!!!!!! Panesar firstname.lastname@example.org!!! Nor at Monty's 2nd home Trent Bridge email@example.com. So our choice of grounds and pitches seemingly is not about winning the Ashes. To cap it all the worry about Sophia Gardens is that it will be low and slow. Indeed a few years ago Lords was a result pitch and I was there as Harmison tattooed Ponting and co to 5 wickets before McGrath did more damage to England. Now it is a draw wicket if England bat first and a loser if we bat 2nd.
Contrast the Old Trafford numbers of the two at other grounds. Harmison at Headingly since the Ashes 6@49, Lords 5@55, Oval firstname.lastname@example.org.. He has no matches at Sophia Gardens and Edgbaston since 2005. Monty Panesar Edgbatson 5@39, Headingly 10@25, Lords 18@39 and Oval 7@52 . These are based on small sample sizes but aggregate when there was and was not a fast wicket and variable or steep bounce and think about how they bowl and their lack of variety and a split is obviously going to occur.
Given few wickets will favour Harmison and Panesar (whose bowling lacks any variety so his main weapon is surprising bounce and the one that hurries on for LBW) then I think England have to consider at least making the wickets as uneven as they can reasonably. Maybe leave plenty of grass on them or something.
Except may be at Headingly where I might play Monty I'd look if they have 5 bowlers to go with Prior at 6 Flintoff at 7 with Broad and Swann at 8 and 9 leaving Sidebottom at 10 and Anderson as the best no 11 in the world. That way England might at least have a tail with stickability if a collapse leaves Flintoff and Prior stuck. I'd also look at other bowling options dependent on form and wicket.
Broken record time picking the same 11 is not a strategy it is a one liner England are not good enough to do. It is one thing to keep a team together when it has all wickets and conditions covered but that is clearly not the case.
I try to avoid giving specific advice to people on matters of money. After all as with betting sometimes to do what is not sensible is to swim against the crowd and the route to go. Thus I would have advised Martin O'Neill probably against buying or using any of the dull runners he has assembled.
Seriously for someone whose clubs perform above reasonable expectation 12 million for James Milner is a mind numbing amount of money. Milner is our most capped under 21 ever and as you can guess if you think about it for more than a minute that is not a good thing. Seriously how many U21 caps do Rooney and Walcott have? Let's be honest neither of them is exactly a great and they graduated adjacently before their 18th birthday. Milner played in the U21 team where he could use his size and physique to bully opposition in a team which seems to be a development academy for over paid spoiled thugs - if I was a Premiership manager I would not let my kids play for the likes Pearce, Taylor, Platt and Wilkinson in "Thug Academy" as I call it.
The under 21s are a place of hope that is soon replaced by futility and obscurity. Their selection raised false hopes for Carlton Cole, "Ted" Nugent, Dyer, Jenas, Alan Smith and many others. They once appeared bright prospects with the world at their feet but most have been nothing more than expensive mistakes for clubs - many just passed on for declining fees. The team itself has relied on the premiership physicality of its players to beat up more cultured, some could even string 2 passes together unlike England, less physically developed players but all to no avail as success has proved elusive. The last time I watched them they played like individuals with the likes of Walcott and Milner trying to score on their own from 40 yards out.
Anyway back on topic the point being the best players and those with a genuine future graduate to the national team quite quickly - not so little James. Yet Martin O'Neill pushed 12 Million Sterling when that was worth something more than 5 Euros.
Anyway I digress Aston Villa I just don't get much about them. They don't pass the ball well. They do not keep the ball well. Sure they defend with a deal of commitment. Yet they stand 3rd and had until today's win identical goals for and against with the Arsenal.
So how can they be so good? I would suggest that they are benefiting from what so far is a weak year with Man United and Liverpool seemingly hamstrung by expensive summer striking buys they did not need - yes there are worse wastes of money than over paying for a 22 year old you need rather than last contract strikers who cause you to change formation. Ditto Chelsea who rather than adding insurance in Deco as Lampard ages and Ballack regularly breaks down merely added a 3rd behind the striker midfield to start. Making themselves width-less and brittle - they should have far more points based on goals for and against but seem just bullies who pile on once ahead.
Also Villa have proportionately a similar goal difference to last year (+10 after 18 games when they were +20 overall last year) and may have improved but only slightly. I just do not see anything in their play other than the quality of Young and his delivery and their pace and hard work to take them forward.
Indeed like Everton the other team challenging them as the 5th best in the league you see a team with strengths that revolve around the collective and not individuals. Indeed both managers clearly give the impression that any player is not that important if he breaks the team ethic. They also have decent defensive organisation and tactics which separates them from the likes of Martin Jol and other good but not top class coaches - seriously can you imagine Tim Sherwood leaning over Brad Freidel or Tim Howard and saying do you even practise defending as it does not show as he did to Paul Robinson, then of Spurs under the dutchman.
I am left with one question when Rafa or Ferguson go can Moyes or O'Neill step up and manage talent? Can someone who is willing to have his club pay 22 million for the certainty of effort of Young and Milner or 11 million for the brute force of a Yakubu manage a team with the maverick talents of a Wayne Rooney or a Ronaldo? Or someone who needs preening, molly coddling and to some degree influence formation and team selection like a Steven Gerrard?
One wonders if either would also have the ability to step up to the single game tactical and motivational focus of International football. Neither has a consistent record of cup winning. O'Neill would at least be able to do the PR that Moyes cannot. O'Neill as can be seen on his TV performances has moved from the ranting clown who could not understand, and refused to, the new and more exciting offside interpretations. Whereas Moyes seems to see being an un-apologetic referee paranoid as a badge of honour.
In a way one hopes that the two most substantial coaches and managers outside Wenger, Rafa and S'Alex get the chance when the real jobs come up. The real jobs are not: coach under a sporting director abroad: cuckold at Man City: isolated with ageing players at Chelsea: Newcastle, Spurs or wannabees: but Arsenal, Man United and Liverpool. Moyes and O'Neill are good at giving young talent games like a Wenger. They deserve the chance next.
Those of us bullied by clowns who claimed the rest of us did not know about football because we had not played it professionally used to love Jose Mourinho. Mourinho had played almost no professional football and had got his in as an interpreter of Geordie into Catalan. He was a chancer in management and just used his considerable intelligence to beat the old lags.
For two years his Chelsea's organised destruction brought the full range of Frank Lampard's talent into view. His use of strikers as a tool rather than the point of the team in a country cowered by the pundit tyranny of Lineker, Gray and Shearer and the Owen worshipping journalist core gave us hope that we could talk about football as a team game again.
Indeed his use of substitution of 2 or 3 of the front 3 between 60 and 70 minutes being a masterstroke which reached its zenith when using Crespo against Drogba softened defense or add the physical Drog late after Crespo had run them ragged.
The only problem which was live-able at that point was as he showed in his first clash with Barcelona and the initial Carling trophy that his psyche is unable to deal with the prospect of defeat. Hence he fell apart polluting the atmosphere and soiling even triumphs with his behaviour and lying before, during and after big games.
The problem was that he started to wear out players and jettison anyone who he did not trust - possibly a sign his psyche was imploding. Thus players on the fringes of his team became distrusted and their play suffered. By the end Mourinho was just wearing down Lampard (see last world cup) and Drogba chasing 4 trophies despite 2 of them being of no value to Chelsea. Adding to his paranoia and declining sanity was his relationship with Roman Abramovich whose own weakness is avoiding confrontation. This gave the rapidly declining Mourinho no one to confront and react to and it ate away at him like water torture far worse than if Roman had a stand up row with him.
He just dissolved under pressure unable to contain his delusional paranoia - Smuggling dogs, conceding games, playing Essien in the back 4 and blaming the Berkshire Ambulance service were just examples we were able to see of his declining hold on reality.
In the end he quit with a payment so huge so he did not blow the gaff on how mad Chelsea was.... that almost qualifies as irony a man who by some accounts could not longer eat solid food paid not to talk about the Asylum he was leaving.
Thus it will be interesting in the weeks till they play United if the nutter can keep the atmosphere cordial with a man he professes to like and respect. If he cannot one hopes his lucrative career is soon over. Unfortunately football re-treads people long after their good qualities have been used up.
Never has a star burned so brightly and died so quickly and sadly as Mourinho at Chelsea.
Sadly the Football League rule on home-grown is not to allow players to test positive for Marijuana provided it was home-grown. Unfortunately it is a xenophobic childish demand that 4 of each squad of 16 is home-grown or at least at the club 3 years before the age of 21. So at some point a club will over pay for a player not because of what he does on the pitch but the moronic fact he was in their youth system and will be on the bench whether he has flu, one leg or is on a ventilator. Clever clubs will register a couple of groundsmen in case of emergency.
There is no real logic to the justifying statements just a series of emotive whines and statements that we are meant to assume are: sensible: correct: good: commonsensical. Ignoring completely this just comes from weak politicians looking for cheap points and clowns like Platini and their bureaucratic jealousy of the wealth of the Premier League and its recent success in Europe. Seriously has youth development ever had a higher profile than in the last 10 years? No! This is a reaction to foreign players coming here and raising the standard and hence the rational is to lower the standard to favour poorer locally produced players. Seriously do we want the best league in the world or to stand Canute like as the sea overcomes us to prove our sanctimony?
We hear continual statements about sports and especially football as though it should be separate from laws governing privacy, employment, human rights and generally sense. These kind of things come from a feeling that youth development is somehow a panacea - not that this junk will encourage it. There is no shortage of young players and youth systems out there just a shortage of good ones maybe that this does nothing to address.
Indeed this regulation merely allows a small group of domestic players to hold their club to ransom as a group. The home grown players could bring a club to standstill by merely withdrawing their labour to get paid more. The most likely outcome is poor players paid more money to either not play or not play much.
Such a rule makes even less sense without any protection that stops teams like Spurs stealing youth players from Crystal Palace for far less money than they are worth at 16 - indeed it encourages bigger championship clubs to behave like Spurs and load up on other people's talent before their 18th birthday exacerbating the problem.
All this rule can do, IMO, is: lower standards: pay more money to poorer un-ambitious players who stay with the club who developed them: indeed those players caught by these could be young player stuck on contracts who want to move but have a false value due to this rule that preventing an outcome that is currently agreeable to both sides.
There is no actual offered justification for this bar moronic comments from Barry Fry and his ilk about "Too Many Foreigners". There is no logic from A to get to B just a load of old nonsense about youth and development. There is nothing in this proposal to motivate people to develop more or better players than they are already - they just need say 6 reserve standard players. Seriously does it make any difference if Brentford have 4 developed reserves? Or 4 that someone else developed?
Restriction and guaranteed spots will just stifle development for several reasons: late developing player over 21 will be scrap heaped as they have less value to another club: players and clubs will have a reason to keep players not in the best 16 in their squad denying opportunity to others: Players cast off by Premiership clubs at 19 will less routes to the football league as their further development is less important to their 2nd club: Football league clubs will have a reason to prevent players needing to move up for a chance at a dream or down for a starting position: Home grown players will be over paid by their original club which makes no sense: home grown players could be forced to see out contracts for reasons that are nothing to do with either side being happy but to ensure compliance with regulations: Any player who wants to continue their education will find that clubs do not want them after 18 as they will not be part of their quota (OK not many affected but surely we want to encourage education over the remote hopes of a football career).
If Gordon Taylor and the PFA don't challenge this in the courts then that says vary little for him or them. Apparently every club currently complies it is not tackling an actual problem just removing flexibility and creating barriers to entry.
And finally when for similar bogus reasons Bliar and the FA wanted to prevent transfers being made illegal they argued that the football league would go bust without transfer fees for young players from the premiership. Now they are discouraging this practice and making those they sell less valuable (if the Premier League has a collective aneurysm and adopts this nonsense) and more valuable to keep. Both this and the demand for transfers were gut fear not based on a rational attempt to fix or explain a problem. It is contradictory if nothing else to encourage clubs to hang on to what was called their lifeline sales 5 years ago.
For a team to score 387 to beat you in the 4th inning you generally speaking have to have a wicket go flat and a poor bowling attack. This wicket did not go completely flat so the bowling was awful.
England bowled badly catching the captain between attacking and defending. We had fielders placed for bad balls because Flintoff and Swann aside the bowling reeked. We played 5 bowlers and yet 2 of them barely bowled as many as any of the the other 3.
England's obsession is finding the best XI. Despite risible performances the England team became the first in history to be unchanged for 6 tests against New Zealand. Indeed the squad appears to be 13 friends who have to tour, Owais Shah and Monty Panesar (wonder why?) as the outsiders and a chosen friend of the captain and coach who may turn into one of the 13 - Swann in this case.
However England are not good enough at batting or bowling to do this. It is lazy selection and derives from the fact the team is selected by the two people worst placed to scout talent the seemingly public school good ole boy Moores and captain Kapes.
I'll say it again that whilst one can never tell if a ground will favour swing one generally knows if it is a fast or slow wicket. On a slow wicket abroad based on his career, since his brief explosion, Harmison should not be played - his numbers continue to stink and he offered 1-90 on a wicket that was not that good (or bad from a bowlers PoV). Ditto Anderson when the ball is not moving 2-79 abroad constitutes a good performance by him amazingly enough. In addition their combined innings were 43 - Swann on his own 38.3, Panesar 46 overs and Flintoff who we should be looking after with his ankle problems 40.4. So tell me what the 5th bowler provided? What an average 4th bowler could have? 43 overs 169 runs 3 wickets? With Shah at 6 and Prior Flintoff at 7 and 8 (and soon even Broad at 9) we bat deep is having both Harm-less-son and Anderson on a wicket guaranteed to suit neither worth that?
The other fast wicket only candidate to be rotated is Panesar. Quite how he can be selected ahead of Swann now is questionable as he is an automatic out and a terrible fielder. His record may look good compared to the likes of Tufnell but in an era where he gets LBWs and the ball can hurry on on his favored wickets it is not as good as it looks and he is below average on most wickets. Indeed Panesar here showed that even on a spinning wicket debutant Swann bowled 4-145 Panesar 3-170.
Platooning is something that makes a lot of sense. England do not have anyone world class but on the right wicket or against the right batting line up Panesar, Harm-less-son, Sidebottom, Anderson and Flintoff (always bowls well to be fair to the giant clown) can be. Rotation would allow us to pick the 4 or 5 best bowlers suited to a wicket as it does seem pointless for us to have 5 bowlers and then have 1 or 2 barely bowl or be picked on wickets where they bowl badly. Seriously Panesar, Anderson and Harmisons 6-339 in the context of the game being a match loser and all are poor choices on a slow wicket without much swing.
Generally this is the kind of low scoring game that England prosper on. As whether they have 5 or 6 batters they generally speaking cannot bat out draws or get 20 wickets even with 600 on the board on a good wicket as they showed against South Africa.
The key is like sports pundits England use one liners as analysis, knowledge and justification even when they are actually meaningless cliche. Example include: "Best eleven": "Positive Cricket": "Working Hard": "Competitors": "Right Type of Person". Indeed it does seem some players are dismissed not by their form but by subjective and unquantifiable judgements of their make up and character which is kind of ironic in a team with Anderson, Harm-Less-Son and Flintoff (who is always 100% when bowling but batting and off the field is a cancer).
Time to remove selection from the team control.
In a normal year all 10 of the shortlist for the BBC Sport's Personality of the Year would be deserving. Seriously remember the horrid year when Damon Hill won it despite losing the world title - his 2nd award when he won it basically elevated a relatively unregarded driver to the upper echelons of British Sporting Heroes. Zara Phillips, arguably the only deserving candidate that year although Tony McCoy probably should get it every down year if Phil The Power Taylor is not your bag, for being a world champion in a pretty exclusive sport.
OK Calzaghe probably beating Hopkins at Light Heavy eclipsed last year but boxing may almost be more exclusive than eventing and sailing hence a second award would, in an Olympic year, have been a travesty - plus the personality he showed against Jones was not worthy of reward. Not that it was just an Olympic year with Cavendish and Hamilton.
Lewis Hamilton probably had the highest profile and his story is moderately heart warming. Nonetheless I guess a) he gets enough reward b) that Swiss home address and his justification of it without mentioning taxes stank c) As Charles Barkley said "It's Not A Sport, it's Driving". As I say in most year's a definite Yes.
Hoy is a better choice than Adlington who probably won two of the least competitive events in the swimming program.
In terms of track cycling Beijing did not offer Pendleton the chance to match Hoy. Indeed one could argue that Romero and Wiggins won the blue riband events not Hoy. Additionally Wiggins was winning for the 2nd straight Olympics in an individual event something Hoy was not doing. Romero was winning a medal in her 2nd sport. So if you don't discount women's sport then he was 3rd in terms of prestige and benefitted over Pendleton from her only having 1 event to go for. He did win 2 individual golds and that extra medal, albeit both using same attribute, maybe swings it although Wiggins is the greater cyclist.
In terms of world cycling Nicole Cooke being World and Olympic Road Race champion counts for more - IMO. Indeed The Cav trumps everyone with his 4 stages in the Le Tour even if he did not complete the course. Indeed one can only guess at what kind of routine cheating Cav's and Cooke's Spanish and continental opponents get up to. Cycling indoors is not that big and as Hoy attests the recent progression of the British team is as much the regression of their opponents.
Ben Ainsle arguably as a body of work must be considered a greater Olympian. Maybe in any one year it is hard to justify giving him the award but like Wiggins overall ahead.
In the end the masters of UK Athletics and UK Sport can be moist eyed and damp panted that they have painted maybe the greatest achiever the World and Olympic 400 metre champion Christine Ohuruogu as a cheat and unregarded because she won't play "the grateful bleck" that the Daily Mail Jeff "Clown" Powell and James "Bar Stool" Lawton expect from her. As their rarity shows and the range of nations who win attests Gold Track medals, especially in sprints, are rarer, and getting rarer, than something that is truly rare. She is unlikely to be considered ever whilst gut journalists exercise their inner feelings without resorting to rationality or any facts.
In the end there was no bad choice but it is hard to separate the top 3 from the rest. Indeed arguably Adlington and Hamilton have been more chosen by the media and as last year enough sports fans elected to over ride them. Arguably they should not be top 3. Hoy with 3 golds probably deserves it even if I would have preferred Wiggins, Romero, Ainslie, Cooke and Ohuruogu.
The one award that is an insult to intelligence is the one to the British Cycling Team as somehow a team when they compete in individual events. A joke. Man United fans can rightly say as League and Champion's League winners that maybe, they, as an actual, you know, team who compete as a, ummmhhh actual team should have won it. No offense to anyone but football is the world's most played team sport.
The lifetime achievement award should be renamed the nostalgia award. Seriously here is the roll of "Honour" Sir Bobby Robson (2007), Bjorn Borg (2006), Pele (2005), Sir Ian Botham (2004), Martina Navratilova (2003), George Best (2002) and Sir Alex Ferguson (2001). I am assuming lifetime means a lifetime IN sport training, coaching and competing. Or why have it as they can win the award if they deserve to in their playing careers as Pele and S'Ian did.
Sir Bobby Charlton got it this year but frankly he has been little more than a personality since he retired. Sure he ran soccer schools and has been if not an ambassador, or at least not a good one, certainly someone who has not lapsed into depravity. Nonetheless it is hard to argue in terms of top flight sport he can beat even his own brother who was a high profile manager of Ireland and Sporting Man blasting game to the dinner table. Seriously since it is not a national award how does he top Beckenbauer and Cruyff?
Borg's lifetime achivement is gut churning. He retired at what 25 or 6 to be a cocaine addict and then leech money through knowing John McEnroe and appearing in ads with him. A just horrible award.
Pele has been a roving ambassador although it is around sport it hardly merits an extra award that one assumes covers more than just a playing career. Some might even bring up his record with the military Junta in Brazil. Seriously for a lifetime achievement award where in the name of christ does he top Beckenbauer and Cruyff? Imagine if Maradona manages a world cup winning team? You can hardly disqualify him for being an addict in Borg's 2nd career? Addiction is surely a disease? Would they give the little man one?
George Best lifetime achievement? As a tabloid pre cursor to B list slobs making money by selling the same story repeatedly but a sports lifetime award for a player commonly said to have effectively retired at 27 to go drinking is a joke.
Sir Ian Botham has continued to earn coin by working in TV but frankly justify that award over the Great Man 'Sir' Geoffrey Boycott who is a best selling author and probably the most popular (and unpopular) ex cricketer this country has produced. At least unlike in 20 years when I slate Flintstone for getting the award for similar non reasons Botham was a great cricketer one of only 2 Great English cricketers in my lifetime.
Indeed the awards to Charlton, Pele and especially degenerates like Best and Borg hardly makes the award the honour it should be to S'Bobby Robson, Martina Navratilova and S'Alex.
One hopes it was a tactical decision by Scolari to dispense with one of his 3 behind the strikers to bring on Drogba - for Ballack. However he again picked a starting team effectively without a centre forward against a team who sit deep, given Anelka drifts off looking to avoid contact - seriously he got fouled once and still must be the least fouled striker in the premier league. So with all of Ballack, Deco and Lampard he had 3 ageing slow midfielders, no effective pace or height and Joe Cole to be sort of a surrogate winger and centre forward when The Nelk drifted.
Drogba coming on at least re-lit the Lampard fire which in turn created the space the gutless 'Nelka looks for. 'Nelka at least showed for the 2nd week that he has no problem scoring big goals, in little games, IF he can get the time and the chance. Rooney gains back his Cream On Top kingship without kicking a ball in anger - Bellamy will also be sending back the Cows Arse Banjo tin helmet to Old Trafford as well...
When you consider that for all its faults the Chelsea midfield is packed and dominates possession the brittleness of the defense is quite remarkable. Few teams attack Chelsea and like United and Liverpool generally call the charge off when one in front. However Terry, Bosingwa, Alex and Ashley are not plus defenders anymore and I think the brittleness of Chelsea highlights that. Indeed Carlton Cole's performance suggests isolated one on one Alex and Terry are well below average. Ricardo Carvalho's return is much needed. Cech is no longer the automatic save he was either positionally nor athletically.
Hence Scolari will not want to go 442, especially in Europe, given his defensive line which seems stretched by even the isolated likes of Bellamy and a surprisingly un-languid Carlton Cole in front of 8 defensive players. Indeed Chelsea are apparently in the market for strong strikers but ones who work hard, unfortunately for Carlton Cole, like TWSI favourite Kevin Davies and others like Heskey and Kenny Jones.
One wonders if Drogba is already sold or has injury problems from Scolari's reluctance to start him. You could argue as they are brittle anyway he may as well start The Drog and The Nelk although I would favour starting the The Drog and bringing The Nelk between half time to 75 minutes. If you start both no doubt there will be a run of 5-0s but also 4-4s and 2-3s. Indeed I really don't see that players like Anelka do anything but score for themselves but looking at the Chelsea squad and other options without a credible winger even I'd struggle to raise much of an argument - it is hard to argue he has improved any team since he was 17 mind.
What this weekend and the foibles of the big 4 show is that United and Liverpool have purchased their way into an almost Chelsea cul de sac with expensive 2nd strikers and having to deploy them. You wonder if the league could be won because at least Rafa is, seemingly, more prepared to admit his 20 million purchase [Keane] is a lemon and he needed an apple - kind of ironic after what he accused Valencia's Sporting Director of "I asked for a table and they bought me a lampshade". Indeed Benitez may even be in the Heskey market with Chelsea. Arsenal may be suffering from taking a rosy view of the good run last year rather than accepting the way they finished was more their real form when Adebayor was not inspired.
For me Chelsea are like an ageing heavyweight slow on their feet but who can still tie you up on the ropes and knock you out with big shots. Their squad is thin before Drogba leaves and one wonders if the true reason for not starting him is that Scolari cannot afford an injury to a striker. The unused subs today tell a story Hilario, Bridge, Ivanovic and Ferriera bascially average players who cover the same 3 positions and a terrible keeper. Indeed Ferriera and Ivanovic can probably play left back, Paulo Ferreira having done so, so why all 3? You'd only have that bench if you have no one else. Indeed with Belletti covering Mikel an almost pointless substitution he really only had The Drog and Kalou to step it up and the latter probably is only adequate.
If Liverpool cannot win the league this year they surely never will. Chelsea would seem to be on a downbound train hanging on to ageing players and with no youth even able to make a miserable bench. United fans can at least look to the future even if that involves the manager admitting he has made a 30 million mistake - or less likely finding a way to deploy him. Things and perception can change quickly but I am increasingly skeptical Arsenal have a team emerging as it appears to get more dysfunctional not less with the manager's defense of Eboue suggesting he does not seem able to grasp what happens on the pitch. Certainly it is hard to believe this year any of them bar maybe Liverpool will win in Europe.
You wonder if as in the early/mid 90s if these English clubs with their naive striker obsessions will mainly be shown up in Europe by teams with packed midfields. Certainly it does seem few English clubs truly exploit the Chelsea back line.
Hey at least for Chelsea fans they are spared the home defeats being like buses jokes by the equaliser today.....
Andy Gray must have watched the start to El Grand Classico crying at the brilliant genius referee who gave 6 Madrid players one shot at Lionel Messi before booking them - clever Madrid eh, all taking turns rather than anyone get carded earlier. After all as wor Andy would say if he gives them a booking early he gives himself a problem for later (nice the way violent cheating players are somehow a problem for the referee to keep on the pitch).
Of course as with big games in England the referee's tolerance of the first foul is known. The Madrid fouls were not good hard football challenges but cynical rakes of the Messi Achillis. They were not even looking at the ball or doing anything but cheating and worse trying to injure - no doubt the latest temporary soon to be sacked apologist at the Bernabeu Junade Ramos would say "They are not that type of player" although as usual we have tape that contradicts that.
My father used to regale me with tales of 'Chopper' Harris raking Eddie Gray and George Best down the back of the leg. I am sure that no one who watched would disagree that that was far more entertaining than watching talented players play. Watching this tempers my contempt for the media whore Best became - what else could he do for income I guess? How he lasted as long as he did when referees did nothing on pudding pitches?
The ludicrous respect agenda in England died as referees realised that letting players off escalating bad fouls would just result in ended careers. As soon as the red cards started appearing so did the crowd of gurning uneducated young men haraunging the officials spitting bile no matter how deserved it was. Guthrie of Newcastle being the poster child as he just kicked and kicked a player till he broke something - he claimed not to be that sort of player.
Indeed the respect agenda was all one way as bitter little men like David Moyes and others could find no spirit of the game in post match interviews as they racked up dis-repute charges. What is saddest is who do they think wants to hear their tear filled rants at nasty bogey men in black haunting their dreams and conspiring against their lil' old selves?
Gray is no doubt glad the FA are happy that unlike anywhere in world football that someone who lifts their bladed studs above the waist is not immediately called for a foul - we await the first permanent injury with bated breath it seems. After all some players today are far too pretty and need a few facial scars.
One hopes referees will realise that it is the player's responsibility not to break the rules not the referees. If referees opt for this 2nd bad foul 1st booking approach then it will be, and is, exploited by the likes of Terry, Cannavaro and Sergio Ramos. Teams will just draw up a rota to kick Ronaldo and Messi. Andy Gray may want and pump an anti referee cheats charter as that was the kind of manly football he played in but would I rather watched Messi play or limp around the pitch?
When everyone is frustrated at work and willing to try anything it is the manager who can redirect that frustration to a way forward who succeeds. Watching Arsenal one cannot help wonder if Wenger is still sending them out with the "Enjoy it lads, go out and express yourselves" which is great when you're winning. However when for all your alleged ability you are not winning you need more.
Wenger probably forced by injury, although there was a case for it, has had to forsake the lightweight wide players like Nasri and Walcott who were not achieving anything other than forcing them very light in central midfield. Yet still Arsenal appear not to hold the ball like a talented team and much like Eriksson's England Song is forced to try to make play from deep with few positive options.
Additionally rather than using the central diamond to get Fabregas forward it is used to advance Diaby who appears to have that Eboue or Clichy mix of athleticism without the ability to exploit it in areas that count. Surely you base the team on Diaby and Song types holding behind Fabregas. That is a base at least. Then only have to pick 3 players to be upfront and wide - Adebayor and 2 others in actual fact.
In addition to all that Eboue and Clichy are just a goal a game mistakes waiting to happen. Clichy even tried to give away a penalty here after handing the first goal to 'Boro. You forgive mistakes until it is obvious he is a consistent mistake maker under pressure. Indeed he [Clichy] spent the whole game gallic shrugging after mistakes.
Eboue I have been rattling on about for a while and am not reacting to the Arsenal fans booing but frankly you can understand them. They pay 50 quid or so to watch a 25 year old player who appears to do nothing positive on a football field. Added to which he gives the ball away and makes coward's tackles - there is a good argument referees should run him out of the games frankly.
Clichy how many errors is too many. Left backs are normally with holding midfielders, big strikers and right backs your 3 worst ball players. So the main part of their job description is the derivation of the hippocratic oath "Do No Harm", on this score he should be struck off.
Added to that Bendtner and van Persie are surely more valuable sold than persevered with as neither has any striking instinct. Indeed this game only Adebayor of all Arsenal's outfielders appeared to have played team football before. Indeed it was his tidal wave of goals that made them look so good last year.
When asked to go beat a team like a 'Boro or Wigan Arsenal seem rudder-less full of nothing players who long for the reactive under dogism of playing a good team like a Chelsea or Man United.
I wonder if maybe I have been carried away by the alleged talent. All the fringe players at Arsenal appear to be clones of what they have in Fabregas and Denilson albeit hopefully Randall, Wilshere and Ramsey have more fight - at least Fab and Denilson bury the ridiculous concept of the Napoleon syndrome. The team is an irony from the man who introduced pace, power and size into central midfield with Vieira and Petit not to mention Silva and Edu.
The attacking core of Walcott, Nasri and Vela all appear very lightweight i.e. To support Adebayor they appear to have little in terms of players who can change this pattern of play or who can play team football to link with Togo's finest.
People used to laughably say there was no plan B with Arsenal. At present I'd love to know what plan A is - "Go out and express yourselves" is a cliche not a strategy. I regret bigging them up. Clearly what happened first half of last season was an illusion as a striker on a roll carried them through and confidence was high. I think they should be grateful to finish 4th this year and for Everton's stuttering start.
It is difficult to see a team emerging at present nor how one can emerge whilst players like Eboue and Cliche are considered good enough and seeming nothing players like Denilson and Diaby are added to lightweights like Walcott, Vela, Nasri. Whilst Adebayor is forced to play with poor all round selfish/clueless footballers like van Persie and Bendtner. This is before considering if they have even a fringe top class centre half. However the defense is for me the least of the problems and could be easily improved with a replacement level left back.
I am not a fan of the England selectors and the obsession with being slaves to weak men like Flintoff and their indulgence of players they think are the right type. Nonetheless they have had a great 2 days.
First up Strauss who they sort of dropped but not really rewarded them with what in context looks a Boycottian effort of concentration and extracting every last run from a pitch.
Then Anderson and Harmison gutted out their batting and Mattie "Prince Of Clowns" Prior played a superb extraction of runs from tail special. Indeed as he now seems to be able to keep wicket and have dropped the buffoon persona it is actually hard to argue for any other wicket keepers. As with goal keeping the sense of it is we have no great glove smith. Sidebottom might argue he'd have been almost world bowler of the year 2007 but for the butcher behind the stumps so we'll see what happens if Prior has to keep off the left hander bowling across a batter when it happens before calling him 100% the right man.
Followed up by all 5 bowlers performing to a level. Anderson belied his record abroad with an early wicket. Harmison aussi, aside from one tour of the West Indies, produced some fire. Flintoff was as usual with ball in hand magnificent without quite getting the wickets he could. Swann using the certified Hoggard technique of lulling them into a false sense of security with a 4 ball to start and then took 2 wickets in his first over.
Flintoff's batting the clowns will say he should just swing away. However I think there is a happy medium between blocking and playing like a clown needing to be dropped twice to get 50. 4 years ago against South Africa he played positively making correct cricket shots and threatened for a brief time to be a genuine all rounder like an Alex Stewart - picked for batting and keeping. In some ways the Ashes success spoiled him as several valuable 50s slogging with the tail and the ludicrous over rating of his batting in that style - he managed to average 40 just (53 the year before against SA).
Hopefully the way England gutted out shows them that winning cricket is about application at times and not just being positive for its own sake. Genuine positive cricket is winning cricket and it is more about executing a plan on a pitch than throwing the bat.
The problem is whilst the molly coddling of Harmison, Anderson, Flintoff, Strauss, Prior and Collingwood does not always go unrewarded does the brutal exclusion of others make that right? Maybe if they were not a club that was exclusive and did everything to discourage outsiders or people who were self conscious in any way they might have done far better.
It is hard to argue that the likes of Flintoff and Harmison have a better mental attitude than Tremlett, say, or that they stay in better shape. Indeed their childish whining and attitude has been well documented such that Flintoff was chosen as captain over the superior Strauss because of Harmy's likely behaviour. Flintoff rewarded that with a 5-0 whitewash loss, Harm-less-son averaged 60, Anderson worse, we were blown out in the world cup and the captain was allowed to become exposed as a serial drunken clown.
Indeed, as I pointed out when Vaughan chose Pattison over him, Tremlett had better bowling than any of them against a better Indian line up than the current one with Ganguly out, Tendulkar 2 years older and Dravid out of form completely. There may be good reasons to leave out the Tremletts and Shahs but one cannot help feel those reasons apply to Harmison (avg nearly 40 over the last 4 years or so) and Anderson (a drain and match loser home and abroad when the wicket does not help).
With the loss of Vaughan rather than replace, ala Strauss, with Owais Shah they'd rather one of KPs old mates Swann or Anderson and stand by Collingwood. Now, at least in this match and maybe on the sub continent, 5 bowlers is justified especially as here where each one provides variety of sorts (Broad would have meant 3 tall right handed fast bowlers and Anderson who was not that different whereas Swann spins the other way to Monty).
I am not saying we should select other players, although overall are we for all the money spent on the academy really as poor as we have been since the over rated and over blown 2005 Ashes win? What we need is selection and management set aside from anyone in the team. After all with the captain and coach on duty 280 days a year when can they scout, do commmercial stuff and be a family man? Hence the focussing on people you know and their high spots, rather than overall performance, is understandable.
So for me the way to go is to ask Australia, as we did initially with the academy, how it works to not have a standing captain but one appointed for series. To have a coach there to coach. To have selection based on objectivity.
Keane, Robson, Ince, Moore, Charlton wow the list is never ending surely great players don't make great or even good managers? Well it depends what you mean by great! The most recent 3 above actually probably have above average records including promotions and championships below top level.
Indeed Cruyff and Beckenbauer that is a European Cup and World cup winner respectively as manager. Not to mention Klinnsmann's relative success with Germany. Rijkaard had some success - although for me he is a borderline player in the very good never mind the great stakes. Ditto Schuster about to be sacked and someone who could have been a great player and indeed the same pigh headedness seems to be holding him back as a manager. Gullit was not sacked at Chelsea for more than excessive wage demands and a suggestion he would fall short soon - albeit his time at Newcastle, Feyenoord and LA Galaxy suggests a wise move by Bates. Maradona we shall see....
There is enough success there from the small sample of greats and mega greats to suggest the idea great players cannot be great managers is false. Indeed how many rubbish footballers who try end up as Eriksson, Mourinho or Wenger? Come on millions? How many rubbish footballers would you have to select to match the above? Arguably the great players get a lot of push from reputation and don't seem to sustain success or involvement which I think is key i.e. By sample size they've done rather well for a time.
Sticking to the English, and stretching the term as they are not great in an absolute sense, Lineker and Shearer have not tried and Gascoigne could not be a manager whatever type of player he was. Brooking could probably have been a great player and manager but lacked motivation it seems. Keegan was not a shabby manager and a 2 time European Player of the Year albeit he was someone who jumped when the heat went up - strong suspision his time has past but hard to argue with surely?
Of course many managers had very good playing careers that made them good players but not very good players. It is a perversion of history to call the likes of Busby, Paisley, Clough and Ferguson anything but top flight even good footballers.
Ferguson scored 25 goals in 41 games for Rangers when Scottish football was arguably among the best in Europe. He played from 16 to 33. He turned down a chance to move to Forest in the English first division after Rangers. With him Dunfermline came within 1 point of the Scottish League - 66 goals for them in 88 games is not shabby.
Brian Clough scored 251 goals in 274 games and played for England twice. Sure he played mostly in then division 2 but that was not that unusual then. His career was cut short at 29 by a knee injury.
Paisley lost 6 years to the war but was a division 1 winner as a player for Liverpool. Stein played for Celtic 148 times when again that was not shabby. Shankly lost years to the war but played with Tom Finney and played 7 times for Scotland. Busby played once for Scotland and had his career ended at 30 by the war.
Really what seems to separate the 2nd tier players from top tier is that they have unfinished business and chips on their shoulder. Ferguson was dropped from the Scottish cup final by Dunfermline and scandelously treated by Rangers over a cup final defeat. I think his career has several important points that made him the kind of carpetbagger manager that Beckenbauer and Cruyff would never be.
Busby, Shankly and Paisley lost time to the war. Clough was left out by England for inferior players. Ferguson kicked in the nuts by his clubs and Stein worked down a pit and knew what life outside football meant. Also Ferguson started as an amateur and worked in the ship yards. It may also have helped that all were hardened working class men but to call them football failures damns 99.99999% of people who ever tried to play football
So it may help to be a top player in terms of opportunity. It seems to pay to have unfinished business and a strong chip on both shoulders to drive you to want to be 4th not 5th. Also one wonders if the modern day Cloughs and Fergusons will really have the drive to fight given they are likely to be at least well off. Certainly the attraction of spouting tosh in a studio seems to have done for Andy Gray, Shearer, Lineker and others. Roy Keane even 20 years ago would not have had the money to walk away as he did. Truly great players can be good if they are smart enough like Cruyff or The Kaiser (don't you love the mix of English and German like Bayern Munich not Bavarian Munchen then!) but they don't need the day after day grind.
Statistically most poor footballers are poor managers! The old cliche is nonsense. Indeed Keane and Robson with their promotions are far from the complete failure of Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore.
Look for the most bitter and twisted person ala Mourinho, Moyes, Ferguson etc. Eriksson is a curio from almost every PoV mind! As a tribunal after his sacking by St Mirren concluded of the 37 year old Ferguson in 1978 he was, according to Wiki, "particularly petty" and "immature". He's grown up a bit but that is an idea of the kind of self serving personality and bitterness that is needed to get through managing lower clubs.
After a week when The 'Nelk' tried to hand back the coveted "Cream On Top King" crown to Rooney another of the so called Big Man's hard earned sobriquets came under threat - "Person Who Loses The Ball Most". To be fair to Luka Moderate [nee Modric] were Carlton Cole not almost as languid as 'The Languid One' himself, Simon Holt, he might challenge but to waste ball one first has to often acquire ball in advanced areas.
Indeed Rooney's attempt to secure the "Cow's Arse Banjo" title must be challenged by Craig Bellamy. Bellamy at least has lost the title he shared with team mate Lee Bowyer "The Biggest Cunt In Football". Thanks to his charity work and people I know meeting him and him living down his rep - not to mention the increasingly impressive body of work by Joey Barton.
Worryingly for West Ham against a side not over committing, as Liverpool did, they had no counter play.
Defensively West Ham were wide open and it was a measure of the poverty of Moderate that it took so long to break them down. The Spurs goal was a walk in effort from the training ground except with even less pressure on the ball never mind a tackle. Ledley King due to his lack of size and blistering pace, I am sure, has often caught defences unawares in the midst of his 3 year goal drought.
What this game was is the answer to Ramos/Poyet that you can get to a mid division place and above without resorting to tactics and long discussions of football. That maybe if you have top players desperate for an edge playing clever tactics, complicated training and long speeches in Spanglish might be more appropriate but with a squad of 2nd tier under achievers it just switches them off (yes you Lennon, King, Woodgate, Dawson and Jenas).
Given how people said Croatia had better players than us right up to the 1-4 drubbing. Luka Moderate's performance had me thinking all age 25 which package do a top club take: Moderate, Eduardo and Kranjcar for nothing or Lampard for 15 million? Wages equal i.e. E+M+K = Lamps. The answer depends on who you are. If you are Chelsea/Milan et al you want the only player who gets in your team as a starter. On Moderate tonight even Spurs might take the Lampard option mind. Eduardo might make a bench as Mickey O did at Madrid for late game situations.
The report today that in just lobbing 800 million on a fire the professional clown Abramovich failed to provide medical backup fit for a Flapping track. The kind of penny wise pound foolish clowns who sacked Mutu rather than just sell him and then sued him for money they will likely never receive. What does Peter Kenyon get paid for? Insight? He has none, or at least none he shares in public statements.
Consider this Lil Ole Bolton under Allardyce realised that back up staff cost nothing to get and 20 of them is paid less than an international or indeed 2 months of Frank Lampard (my favourite player despite the team he plays for).
800 million down the drain and what do Chelsea have? A crappy 43,000 capacity ground: average age 30: 15 injured players: not even guaranteed qualification for knockout stages despite a group that screamed gimme: An amateurish set-up with decisions past down Stalin style: No medical back up: No European Cup despite 4 near gimmes - 2 losses a result of managers cracking under pressure from their own owner and board and one down to Terry's ego taking a kick and Anelka's lack of guts: They even went back to a manager struggling to express himself in English: and a contract that will pay a 36 year 6 million a year in 5 years time.
In the end whether it is their: joyless football: cuntish chief exec: Putin The Butcher supporting owner: John "Teflon" Terry threatening churchillian speeches: John "Teflon" Terry cheating whenever he is exposed on the field: managers being led out the door in strait jackets with huge cheques to compensate for the loss of sanity and to gag them telling us they worked for lunatics in an asylum - as though anyone else is in any doubt!: execs clearly not involved in any decision making public statements about things they know nothing about being paid millions to be cyphers: 50 pound note burning: C'Ash: The Nelk in a big game: Players who only stay for the money like The Drog who cannot even be bothered to try this year. Just why would anyone want to support that? Football support boiled down to a name that has fuzzy childhood memories.
The capper being how cheap they are.
In a parallel universe Joe Calzaghe is coming off 3 routine one sided points decisions over Kessler, Hopkins and Jones - every bit as one way traffic as his beating of the overly muscled (wonder why?) Jeff Lacy. Alongside him Karl Froch has just won every round in beating limited over muscled (wonder why?) Canadian Jean Pascal to oblivion with a late round stoppage.
In our universe Calzaghe and Froch clearly felt being a far superior boxer winning with clearly superior boxing was somehow unworthy or unmanly. Hence Froch just let some a limited shorter fighter win 4 rounds on one card. Calzaghe has been down in his last 2 fights and was rocked to his boot laces by Kessler.
OK so some of the fights were amazing and exciting - not the one with Hopkins and Jones. However this is not fighting it is boxing. Maybe people love warriors but they lose fights they should win and end up speaking funny and being ripped off as rubes when they get old.
I guess in a parallel universe Ricky Hatton always turns up fit and he gave Mayweather a great fight.
In this universe Kessler takes early damage and stops Froch in 6. In the other universe Froch survives being dropped twice to win a split decision.
Calzaghe outclasses and outworks Froch if they meet in any universe.
Paul Ince has like Roy Keane started to show unusual vulnerability. I jokingly said he must have hired Fowler for company but his talk of loneliness and the almost cracking voice he is currently displaying says out of my depth. Sure the club wins a few games and it turns around. However maybe it is time clubs waited for managers with some seasoning and experience and sustained achievement.
The problem as Tony Adams acknowledged was that managing at Wycombe taught him nothing. Hence Ince did have some decent results, unlike Adams, at a low level before being given the Blackburn job.
The other poor alternative to just taking a great ex player and hoping is of course to take one of the infamous player traders whose defense is incompetence over any more lurid and likely explanation. I am sure this is why chairman get fascinated by these big ex-players who are likely to be incorruptible and not plagued by fan hatred before they start. The broken bent types queue up without a hint of contrition. Part of a coterie who are friendly with the big cohones at Sky/ITV such that it can seem that these TV pundits are the only others available and omnipresent.
The best things they can do is look to recruit from within and try to develop a club ethos. This will be centered around maybe even getting someone to start at their youth level and bring the players through. This does not mean putting all their eggs in one basket but developing a raft of coaches. The key thing is to decide if they want to trade or develop players.
My advice to clubs is to look harder and interview and not be interested in foreigners, great players, known gamblers and do not touch a regular self serving TV pundit or Kevin Keegan. Draw up a long term plan and stick to budgets - don't get over egged by the alleged 50 million you somehow lose by not piling up debt in the Premiership. Good consistent long term management will work better than short term ego led player buying.
One's curiosity at just how and who is selecting the Chelsea team is further prodded by the bench today. Those that got on were the duo of Paulo Ferreira and Ivanovic (how did he start against Arsenal?) probably as miserable a 23 million worth of signing as one can think of if one ignores Juan Sebastian Veron, Adrian Mutu, Asier Del Horno, Khalid Boulahrouz, Florent Malouda, Damian Duff and Andrei Shevchenko...
The 5 that did not get on of course included Cuuds. The other names: Stoch who debuted laughably against Arsenal, Mineiro, Sinclair and Woods. Is that all they have? That the seemingly disinterested and frankly crocked Drog, Joe Cole, poor Malouda, Bridgey and Ricardo Carvalho? 800 Million and that is what they are putting out? Again the team was a widthless 442.
No doubt Chelsea fans can take comfort that The Nelk finally got a meaningful goal he meant. At this rate he might get 2 or 3 in a season. OK he got one against Bordeaux although it was the kind of 3-0 up goal he specialises in so he might get 5 this year in all competitions.
Oh that and the continued frustration of more strikers less goals that truly count happening at Man United - The Vid just saved them doing his impersonation of Wayne Rooney except of course finding the goal from an angle.
Bad news for Spurs Rooney just got suspended. So all 'Arrys plans to sit back and let Rooney hit shots for throw ins from 25 yards go out the window.
It seems to take a job or two before managers realise it but buying fringe players off other, often top 4, clubs and British goal keepers is the route to the poor house - anyone see Foster the Inept last night? Steve Bruce realised this eventually after also plundering the Man United retirement home and stiffs for garbage.
Players like Cisse, Chopra, Diouf, Richardson, Higginbotham, Malbranque and many more. Look at Newcastle Owen, Butt, Geremi, Martins, Viduka, Luque and others. Memo to managers if someone in your division, or any top league, is willing to sell them get the avoid sign up.
A fringe player at a top club is like a utility infielder in baseball - invaluable as a short term reserve who will not let you down but won't add anything positive. They'll often be adaptable and able to play anywhere but a team of them will not be very good. The best reserves are complimentary players and rarely transition to something else.
The irony with Keane is that he took seeming relegation candidates and without spending a bean he took them from the bottom to the top of the Championship (division 2). That is harder than doing well by spending money albeit reflective of maybe Niall Quinn's management! Yet he starts filling his squad with names he's heard of or players he knows based on what? A detailed evaluation of needs? Of their pluses and minuses?
This is the 3rd seeming resignation this season the first 2 Curbishley and Keegan resigned after the club lost all faith in their ability to sign players (and with good reason). Keane at least has not played the martyr and de facto admitted he has spent 80 million poorly.
Whilst one has to accept that clubs currently have to have a single focus there surely has to be better player development and selection. The current system where a club is somehow expected to spend to a standstill and then get another player trader in is a joke.
Did Keane, Curbs and Keegan have a scouting network? Did they have time to do the scouting of all the players they bought? The fact is that eventually even the most successful player traders leave their club bankrupt. Is a full time manager the best person to buy players?
Harry Redknapp might be famous for buying and selling but clearly his motivation is the strong part of his resume not his player trading that has left Portsmouth so desperate for shekels they sold their manager, Southampton on the breadline and West Ham lost half an England team.
Too much money is spent without assessment and thought. Too much money is spent on name recognition and one liner logic - if he played for X he must be a good player. Mistake. Just as maybe Niall Quinn will scout out a manager next time.
The real interest for me at Arsenal is if the other half of the club that develops and finds talent will survive Wenger.
The bad news for Arsenal and the rest of the top 4 is the fringey/poor players like Bendtner, Eboue, Brown, Kalou, Ivanovic, The Fletch, O'Shea, Hargreaves, Malouda, C'Ash, Mikel et al have lost a buyer and maybe the silly valuations where almost any reserve was £5 million has gone.
Worst regular starter on a top 4 team this year?
I vote in order Eboue, The Nelk then Keane and Berba' forver joined but not as bad as Eboue and The Nelk. Unlike those two I can see them improving as their teams learn around them.
It is a function of the modern game that sometimes the goals do not flow. What would worry me about a title challenge from a Liverpool point of view is the way that Hyypia and Carragher were reliant on poor off side decisions. I've mentioned before that Carragher relies a lot on referee largesse with his shirt pulling and chicanery and they lack real pace there if they are going to leave themselves to be broken on when they cannot break teams down.
It is the function of these games that the more attacking side will maybe not have the clear cut chances of the breaking side but will have far more shots. So actually I would not be any more worried other than of course the loss of 4 points last 2 games. I would actually be impressed, Gerrard aside, most of the Liverpool players seemed quite patient and no one fell into taking bad shots bar the captain. I thought they kept working and were almost effective in open play and set pieces.
The real question is what will win the title this year? i.e. 80 points? 85? Hard to see that or 90 like last few years. Who, if any, of the top 4 can win 14/15 out of 16/17 and run away with it? I don't see Liverpool as capable if significantly more than 80 is required. Chelsea there may be a team and motivation lurking that could come out but I say that more for a defense as I think they are there to be taken. Arsenal could click, maybe, and Wenger might start leading rather than waiting for it to happen.
However my money would be on Man United as they can steam roller teams if Ronaldo catches fire or Rooney and Berbatov hit it off. Sure I would be surprised if they can repeat in Europe going light in midfield to have Berba' entertain us neutrals but probably weaken the team.
I just don't see Liverpool as inspired enough relying as they have done so far on attrition to break teams down after Xmas they can use a big squad to go on a tear or Babel or someone provides a spark they are in a good position with more points than United or Arsenal.
Chelsea I see as brittle and am not sure they are united or young enough. Of course they could get the right players fit and the right ones injured... maybe use some kids... the manager could pick the team... Peter Kenyon say something profound... Peter Kenyon say something that proves correct... Pigs fly upside down....
Arsenal could suddenly pull it together as the kids at United in the 90s. Whether Wenger: can/will select a consistent balanced XI: Make a choice between Champions League and the Premiership, may not be so urgent this year with a bigger squad growing by the week: Find a consistent front man who offers an outlet and someone the rest of the team can play off - without the goals of last year Adebayor is not that man or a positive at present and neither is van Persie who appears position-less and Bendtner who is a poor footballer at times: alternately who he does play at least bangs a few in. This is all of course predicated on them actually being good enough which they have yet to prove.
All I do know is as a neutral viewer I will be an Arsenal or Man U watcher over the other 2.
I love to talk football far more than watch it. However listen to Sky Sports News for 2 minutes and replayed episodes of "I'm a Celebrity" make more appeal. Seriously how can one fill a day with binary issues or just plain spilt milk.
How can you watch the United game and not debate Berbatov's movement? If you judge players by never mind the quality feel the width then he must be the most expensive player ever by the yard. If you are of the opposite bent the never mind the mileage feel the quality what about Rooney 2 weeks after blasting the ball everywhere against Arsenal spurning a couple of goal keeper to beats? (Jamie Redknapp said he [Rooney] did not get enough tap ins after he managed to hit an empty net from 3 feet - It is not for want of chances he does not get many simple goals was my response).
Or Micah Richards surely the most over paid and rated defender since Cole. He twice after incidents where he may have fouled lay on the floor pretending to be injured. Laughably after high kicking Vid' in the face he took longer to get up than the Serb. Oh and this "talented" player 3 feet out no goal keeper did not even air shot, did not even move his leg, just brain cramped. Quite how this man ever got in the England team is beyond me. Laughably Mourinho in his most eye twitching phase let out he wanted Chelsea to get Micah not Boulahrouz - or put simply he said "Hey Frank" [Arnesan] if you can waste 7 million on someone useless I would have wasted 21 on someone 3 times as good who cannot play right back or centre half either (merely shite in other words).
What about City claiming Berbatov was wasting time leaving the field? Hey that is how fast he is after 75 minutes and a credulity testing stat, from Sky, of 7 dribbles. The idea the Bulgarian with a packet of his favourite brand awaiting him in the dressing room was not rushing for his deserved post match cigarette is laughable.
So what is the need for a day on van Persie's goal. It was off side. It's done. Surely only Scolari for reasons below wants to make this the issue as obfuscation for what is happening to him and supposedly his team. You can discuss a clearly offside goal for how long? A minute? What about the wider issues? Like Chelsea are not the dog's and Arsenal have gutless players who prefer to be under dogs?
What about Ronaldo's sending off? It was valid, maybe not necessary on both sides, but done. Discuss it once for a minute? However what about starting both of Berbatov and Rooney? Is that really worth going light in midfield for? Can Carrick and The Fletch carry the load? Does Rooney run enough for 2? Is a bit of class a compliment to the work of the likes of Vid', Rooney and Park? Or against quality teams is the extra man in midfield more important? Those are surely the kind of debates from the week end not spilt milk?
It is like the referees have become the surrogates for a debate void. So managers rather than discuss matters that may touch on their failings and their players' failings chew on refs. Whilst Sky wanting to keep their good relations with the bitter little men who manage, and Sun readers, do not discuss in any depth and length the manager's failings - never mind their tactics and selections. The happy result for Sky is that these managers keep giving us those indispensable, cannot live without, interviews that so brighten every post game. There surely is nothing more entertaining than a partial angry clown wanting to blame the man in black for his troubles? Or in the case of one loon Ambulance men.
Sorry for well worn themes but Phillip Scolari's selection yesterday outlined 2 scenarios that: the man who took national hero Figo off to replace him with Spurs reject Postiga had turned into a pussy: And/Or he cannot select a team that makes sense with his squad. Actually raises a handful of sub plots but let's start with the main ones.
OK I said before the season that if he had Deco, Ballack and Lampard he would be best served bringing on one or two of them off the bench. Seriously is a team with: poor ball players like Mikel, Anelka, Kalou, Ashley Cole and Ivanovic: 3 central play makers: no width or pace bar the right back and maybe Kalou: the right balance? As against Man United and Liverpool they could dominate possession all to no avail. They created very little and even the goal was handed to them.
Malouda is an ummmhh aggghh player but surely better than all 3 behind the strikers midfielders. No winger was not exactly a way forward.
The 2 striker nonsense just has Anelka skulking on the fringes of midfield as he will not compete with even his own team mates for the ball never mind the opposition. Sure he ironically got involved in the goal but anyone who thinks his specious goal total is more than a see through fig leaf is deluding themselves. Play Anelka against poor sides only or when in front or if you drop back or the last 30 minutes. Starting against good opposition is hard to understand on paper and harder when you watch the poverty of what he does in the game.
What makes one wonder about Chelsea is this they chose to blood a player at 2-1 down v Arsenal in Stoch - the Stoch family video rather ruined by his hair cut. Seriously all those cup games and they whip him out 1 down to the 4th best team in the land?
One can also wonder why 10 million pound crud Ivanovic gets on the pitch ahead of Alex. He looks a walking red card in Europe where cynical fouling, generally speaking, is more rewarded with the cards. Maybe Alex is a poor player and that again it is a resources problem.
Overall Chelsea seem to be going down an odd route. I suspect that Scolari gets some of the team dictated to a degree as with the continuing fascination with leaving Anelka on for 90 minutes in league games even when he is utterly ineffective and likely to continue being so.
As is playing all 3 of Deco, Ballack and Lampard with a player like Anelka who they cannot play off and with no wide outlet other than the full backs - whose going forward leave you weak at the back. That is at least 1 too many strikers and/or 1 too many forward midfielders.
So I wonder if Scolari has the say the other managers have. Whose ego is running this show? Roman's? Lampard's? Deco's? Ballack's? Scolari's? Anyway's it is not clear thinking.
I also doubt his resources and wonder again if it is he who is deciding to blood players in inappropriate games. Sink or Swim leaves too many kids drowning. Maybe that is all he has.
Leeds tragic FA cup loss to Histon had me wondering how much pain was enough?
That even such scum as Putin, Brown, Bush jnr, Mahmoud Abbas, Saddam, Clinton, Bliar, Netanyahu et al at some point if things went bad for them one wonders if empathy would and should cut in.
Well if that point exists for Leeds United or those trouser filling scum bags it has not been reached yet.
Despite Bordeaux gifting them the opener Chelsea still failed to beat them. Indeed Scolari probably missed a trick by taking off Anelka at the point where despite the previous 60 odd minutes he would become effective with Bordeaux forced to chase the game.
This is a bit like every time I watch a game with Chelsea they are vulnerable with poor defensive full backs - see the bookings Cole and Lampard picked up. Weak at set pieces. No effective forward play unless we count padding the scoreline. Indeed had Liverpool and Man United not backed off once they got the lead then they could have been badly beaten as they were being completely out-played.
Indeed I just have a sneaking suspicion that all the recent money spent on strikers by the top 3 (Anelka, Berbatov, Keane) has not made them stronger - we'll see.
As a footnote nothing reflects the decline of Mourinho from brash young man to a flawed fractured man than his seeming trying to get a 31 year old Drogba for next season. A player short on fitness not far off a year off his last world class game.
The good news for Chelsea in replacing him is they do not need to get a genius just a Heskey/Davies type who can play for the team before they bring on the cat to get the cream. Of course Chelsea don't do cheap and effective as they showed by wasting 15 million on player with no re-sale value and a history of whining and no stones - as he showed when costing them the 4th straight winnable Champion's League title they could have have won - spurned with ego and attacks on their own managers.
Captain rages at team as not being committed enough. Grim faced Townsend and Sheringham act like it is the biggest act of treason since Guido Fawkes and a load of Gunpowder. Peter "Dreary" and his co commentator make whole Arsenal game a referendum on whether Gallas has a career or should be at Arsenal. Wouldn't happen at Old Trafford.
Of course we've been here before. It's been called passion. A desire to win. A kick up the backside even.
The difference between Roy Keane and William Gallas is? Come on? Both are foreign but only one is? It's nothing to do with height BTW.
Like Keane the only thing that will cause Gallas to leave the club is that his value as a player is dropping and at that point the manager will no longer tolerate it. So he could probably go.
The clown threshold for coaches and managers from nowhere is 0. Christian Gross found that out at Spurs. Ranieri probably never quite recovered from his early days when his lack of English and awful translator stymied him.
The other week Mike Singletary the legendary line backer for the 4 6 defence of Ditka's Bears dropped his trousers to make a point to his team. The 49ers of Montana and Walsh now run by someone who takes the kecks off to make a statement.
If he was a no name promoted coordinator his clown 'o' meter would have over loaded and he might not have lasted the week. Rational people and media phonies unable to square the circle of what their conscious brain was telling them and what they "knew" about Singletary opted to confabulate this as passion or make it fun with him being such a character.
49er fan Martin Johnson's England have now been humiliated two weeks on the trot and he has come out making Andy Robinson seem like a genius. His pithy almost routine remarks with zero insight making those of us who do not give him credit as a manager because he was a good player uneasy that as a great player, English view, he is somehow to be given years to show he can get it right. The real worry is that whereas things might get better that he does not have the insight to reach the potential he is surely currently squandering.
The sad fact is that Ashton, Gross, Ranieri and many others are dismissed because of their manner or being unconventional when maybe they knew their onions as opposed to turnips and swedes. Then again maybe their fate is better than the Bryan Robsons, Martin Johnsons and Singletarys who will be allowed to become serial clowns and figures of derison among fans and bloggers before they are canned. That the media that allows them more slack will slaughter them worse in the end.
In the end maybe the unfairly accused clown who does well 2nd chance ala Gross or Ranieri is better off as the fall is harder for the Bryan Robsons and even someone who takes themselves as seriously as Martin Johnson. Johnson probably has a 2nd and 3rd chance to come as the RFU have nowhere else to go other than a foreign coach having sacked the top English coach Ashton - a move I agreed with as he fell into the trap of using loyalty as an excuse to pick the wrong team.
Olsson was sent off today unable to deal with Aaron Lennon. The harsh view of Lennon is that he is inconsistent. The more likely to be correct view is that he is simply not very good and hence his best performances are held against him. His best performances are of course when his pace can make him look world class, entertainment speaking, by merely outrunning poor players dumb enough to go to ground. Added to that of course unless you are a very attacking team he is a defensive liability on a wing.
What interested me on Sunday about the latest poor player full back to flatter Lennon was why does it need a 20 year old Swede to play like Glen Johnson? Can't Blackburn find bad players in their youth system or the cast offs of others?
You simply do not need great players technically to play there. Decent athletic ability and some intelligence. You hardly need to scour Europe for a slow 5 ft 7" left back?
Olsson is actually the club's young player of the year and now has a 4 year contract. I have not seen much of him but not being able to handle Aaron Lennon as a starter and not just the two he got before 39 minutes would concern me. At least we had a referee who was going to make sure this cheat did not flourish.
One can only assume that having got a foreign player in that managers will not admit error by picking a kid from his own youth system instead.
Or more probably that most referees allow the Glen Johnson approach which is to foul and foul again. This is only possible away from the top clubs where every move is scrutinised. Glen Johnson indeed was exposed playing for Chelsea. In the cup final v the fearsome Cardiff for Pompey Johnson made 4 deliberate fouls. One a rugby tackle with the player past him and through on goal - he was not even booked.
Either way whilst I welcome all foreign players it just seems odd that Blackburn cannot find a better player locally. This is probably why the premier league teams run such debts and pay more and more money for the same mediocre performance. Why bloated youth schemes seem like a place where talented young players go to disappear.
It is also why managers may be incredulous that many of us consider many of them to be bent or incompetent.
The English are obsessed by strikers and their goal totals. Internationally we have even played 2nd strikers to boost 1st strikers goal totals and don't divide by 2 or consider in the modern age the wide open defence that can lead to or the problems of resilience, ball retention and movement from 2 v 3.
Yet Yesterday despite the top 4 having millions of pounds of talent all top 4 failed to score. This is a theme whereas once Arsenal with a balanced team around one striker would score every game 0 appears far too often in the striker packed teams currently at the top this season, so far at least.
For me no team has been as good in the Premier League as Chelsea in Mourinho's first 2 years when their strikers were not the top scorers and were used 1 at a time generally speaking in a 60/30 time split to wear the opposition defence down so the class players could open teams up and put them away.
I've covered Arsenal before and again playing 1 extra of van Persie, Adebayor, Bendtner, Walcott, Eboue, Vela, Nasri and uncle Tom Cobley to go light in midfield is an act of amazing stupidity with a defence lacking a dominant centre half and without the 2 central midfielders being far more anchored. Indeed surely it makes sense to push Fabregas in the hole and play another midfielder. In their 5 losses they have scored 2 goals 1 a late consolation. So playing all those classy wide players and strikers is bunk as they are not scoring and leave you brittle.
Arsenal appear to be a basket case at the moment with more and better players than anyone but lacking a team or a steady striker worthy of the name. Which makes the decision to play 2 or 3 or even all 4 of the lightweights a joke - van P, Adebayor, Bendtner and Walcott.
The interesting one is Chelsea who only play 1 up front. However they play a striker with 1 truly meaningful goal all season (a goal scored with the scores tied). In scoring 11 goals to January for Bolton Anelka who managed to be top scorer in a side that was botton - showed his ability to score/meet largely personal goals. Bolton soon recovered from losing this anchor. There is a reason England benefit from a pretty poor player like Heskey over people who run up better goal totals.
Chelsea meanwhile need to win every game and a cream on topper who does not hold the ball up, does not compete in the air and avoids all contact is that really what they need to break teams down? Indeed even his 0-0 goal against Blackburn was a joke in that it hit in off him not his decision. For a team who has scored as many goals and as much money and international players as Chelsea to play effectively with 10 men at 0-0 and no focal point against 8 or 9 men behind the ball is madness. Seriously at 0-0 would Kalou or di Santo actually be worse? In big games where some stones are needed? What is wrong with bringing Nic on at 1-0 up 20 minutes into the game. That may seem harsh on who starts but it is saner than starting the big softie.
Liverpool you can almost see Rafa being pleased to be able to only have 1 of Keane and Torres. Suddenly he has 2 both fit and available and he plays both. More strikers less goals. The effect of playing 442 as Spurs showed with Keane and Berbatov last year are you play a lot of 3-2 games etc or you cannot play the ball up to the strikers when you are 2v3 in midfield. Or you have one less player to break down a packed defence unless one of them drops off.
England with their 2 strikers actually have a good record of getting the lead funnily enough in big games always with 2 strikers see 1996, 1998 , 2000, 2002 and 2004 championships. The problem they have 442 is retaining the ball and holding leads. The problem is no England manager has ever had the stones to just pull off (fnaa fnaa) a striker. Then again we do not have the technical ability in the squad to play Italian style anyway so may has well keep 2 strikers for when they equalise!
Worse the lack of mental strength in English football has generally precluded the best defensive method 442 which is to continuing to attack ala the Man United teams of the 90s and get a 2nd goal. So our 442 makes it an 8 man game as we sit behind the ball - so deep the strikers are not an outlet and often exascerbated by having central midfielders as wingers.
Chelsea spent twice as much and probably more in wages on a player with zero residual value to get Jermain Defoe light. I dislike Defoe but hey he can score big goals and penalties whilst being as utterly ineffective a cream on topper as Anelka. Oh and a few seasons of pumped up goal stats playing for Chelsea spin him for 10 million or so. What made Chelsea go for a player who has always failed at the top and worn out his welcomes quicker than Russell Brand.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, no doubt like me and my brother, was misty eyed as his team won the 3rd one day international with the appliance of the Duckworth/Lewis method. I know, like Dhoni, when my brother played in the streets with a few overs left and the light started to darken we had to shake hands and take a draw. Our child hood dreams of glory thwarted. However now Dhoni gets to check his sheet of paper and 'take the light' to the ecstacy of thousands of his own supporters.
Who can forget those 70s and 80s one day finals finishing in the last over twilight. Oh how those players now must weep that they could have achieved even greater glory with a set of Duckworth/Lewis tables. Those crowds who would get home late on a Saturday night missing out on a pint at the local baffled that the teams did not shake hands and toss a coin rather than play on to a conclusion.
Some might foolishly argue that as the prize money is near zero, relative to what the players now earn, and the series just played for TV and the thousands of fans at the game it was embarrassing. They might further argue that Ravi Shastri was hardly the most critical interviewer to be asking Dhoni about his glorious win being both an agent and an employee of the BCCI.
Dhoni no doubt will counter at the glory of being able to wave a piece of paper at the opposition rather than the nuggety hardship of tediously having to knock off 43 runs in 9 overs with 5 wickets left in dying light - who'd want to watch that?. How over rated it is to deliver a finale to the crowd. How the crowd were in tears that India won in the most glorious way. He will no doubt further dedicate this win to the great man Inzamam ul Haq who helped the fans at the Oval beat the rush hour and get a few extra pints in a few years ago.
Desperate cynics might point out that 50 over one day cricket is so meaningless it led to the corruption of the whole game from top to bottom. That this corruption and incompetence was never rooted out and that the surge in revenue from twenty20 cricket has just left the corrupt and incompetent in charge to the games long term detriment, especially outside the sub-continent.
The truly delusional impossible to make happy commentators will argue that the sheer unmemorability of these games means no one will care in 5 weeks or even 5 days if India win this series so why not entertain the crowd. These sad sad people who view sport as entertainment and of being uplifting with their childish dreams of smacking the winning runs in dying light whilst representing county and country are pathetic. Who grew up dreaming of that kind of Hollywood nonsense? These are the kind of people who damned the beautiful and wonderful Sarah Palin just because she appeared ignorant of everything from what newspapers she read to the US constitution she wanted to supposedly uphold. Damn the faux Glory of Hollywood I say.
Maybe my favourite and least favourite current England players are injured. Maybe I am a whiny old git. Then again will they play for their clubs next chance they get? If they are carrying knocks how recent are they and what in the name of Christ were they doing running out in the Carling Cup last week?
Indeed Lampard once did not miss a game in over 160 premier league games and only missed cup games for suspensions. Not sure his England record has ever been that good.
I personally do see the need for international friendlies. After all the French make full use of them and have despite the odd blip a better record than England. So do other countries. Indeed given that fluent English performances from a side individually and collectively obsessed with tempo are so few and far between you'd think, no expect, the players to be desperate for the extra practise.
In the end what value does Frank Lampard see in playing 65 mins of the Carling, OK he was subbed on by an early injury, when he should have a night off or Gerrard the whole game and then sees a friendly with Germany as somehow missable? Both will want to play the slightly thicker Silver Plate Tournament the FA Cup as well no doubt. All I can say is that their values and their managers are warped. Wenger might whinge on this but he does not treat every single fixture with more reverence than the Greeks apply the Elgin Marbles. Whereas sadly Scolari and Rafa do - or at least Rafa does not seem to have the stones to tell his one player who should not play in those games not to as he does put out a mostly reserve side.
On the managers Arsene Wenger at least has to be respected in that he does not over burden his best players with both domestic cups for every round. The others are just either so self serving that they do not understand any other point of view, or so harassed, like probably Scolari that every game he loses is a plebiscite on his management.
Personally I think they are just totally self serving as their moronic attitude to refereeing and referees shows. Football shows have become one long stream of silly men trying to deflect blame from their coaching and their team selection by blaming the man in black like some Stephen King bogeyman they cannot stop and is out to get them.
They stand there twitching like Inspector Dreyfus obsessing over Clouseau about referees. Seriously ref shows so called common sense he's not being consistent. If he's consistent he's not showing common sense. Players break wall and he books them. They do it again and he does it again he's at fault when such contempt and cheating a 2nd time is surely a red?
In the end we see for all the platitudes that no doubt they will try from kick off to final whistle for England and will not retire that they care more for the cheap metal of the worthless domestic cups. Name the last two managers of the Carling Cup winning team? Mourinho resigned a broken man with the FA Cup to boot. Ramos sacked. Grant made the final last year sacked. It's a worthless tournament whereas honoring a long standing rival and playing for your country should not be.
Heard this script new trainer, new promoter, new methods, learning new stuff and never been fitter. Was that not what Naseem Hamed said? Or was it Amir Khan? Or Lennox Lewis? Needless to say lots of losing British fighters say the same thing before they lose. It's Ricky Hatton's new script now.
Added to the doubts is the hollowness of Hatton's record. He beat long time champion Kostya Tszyu and that is commendable. However Tszyu was dragged to Manchester by a fat fee off 3 rounds in 17 months at the age of 35 and Tszyu quit on his stool and retired. A good start but until he fought Mayweather Hatton studiously avoided anyone good who was on the upgrade.
So to the Mayweather fight where he was totally out-classed and stopped in not much better fashion than the by then palooka Arturo Gatti by the glass fists of Mayweather. A fight the score cards suggest Ricky won one round in or Mayweather dropped a point. Indeed Mayweather had not knocked anyone out in 3 fights including Zab Judah who a peak Tszyu had crushed in a 2 round slug fest classic.
Hatton has not put up a world class performance since the Tszyu fight. Mayweather beat him inside and at range.
His opponent Paul "Paulie" Malignaggi is known for his fragile hands otherwise would represent screaming value at 9/4 or worse. He is also coming off a poor performance split decision over someone he won nearly every round off in their prior meeting.
Calzaghe and Lewis, the greats, aside the last Brit not to come unstuck against a rising US/Americas fighter? Most are matched with the declining, aged and even vulnerable and yet many still contrive to lose.
Were this the "Paulie" who gave a peak and upcoming Miguel Cotto nearly all the trouble he could handle at 140 then this would threaten to be a mismatch for me. As Malignaggi said he was fighting Cotto after just 22 fights - glass hands or not he comes from a tougher school.
Probably the bet is Malignaggi on points and hope his hands stand up. The fight is in Vegas although there'll probably be more pro-Hatton noise than one gets at a Man City home game.
My main worry aside from Malignaggi's hands is of course as the bigger draw Hatton may get favors from the judges. Also, and this is crucial, from the referee who may allow Hatton to hold which allows him to stretch his stamina. In a clean fight with Paulie's hands Ok I'd have this as a pick'em at best for Hatton.
If you look at Arsenal you can see that they have conceded 15 goals whereas Man United have conceded 10. Both teams have 25 scored and United have 1 more point. So had Arsenal held on to the ball v Spurs and conceded just one less goal they would be 1 ahead. My point is that Arsenal even with the mental brain cramp against Spurs have conceded 1 less than Villa and no one is accusing Villa of being a lightweight team not up for it. Indeed were Arsenal ahead or level they do not concede the break away goal yesterday.
The problem is for much of the season they have been playing 442 knowing they were weak at set pieces. They have basically scored 1 meaningful goal in their 4 losses. If you play 442 as Arsenal did for the last 23 minutes yesterday you accept more conceded and more scored. My point is that Fabregas, Adebayor, Walcott, Denilsson, Nasri, Bendtner, Eboue and others are failing not the defense - Cliche's brain cramps excepted.
Indeed one could argue 442 they do not put enough pressure on players in front of the box and this more than their defenders are at fault - Fabregas, Diaby and Denilsson.
They could have got a bucketload of money for Adebayor and Fabregas and frankly it is not working up front for them. They have a youth team coming through and need to think how they want to play. More they have to think about who will be most effective in that.
For instance is Walcott ever going to be a player who impacts 80+% of games like a Lampard or Ronaldo or is it 50%. Given he is totally lightweight compared to the best is he the kind player that you want? I have no answer but feel the point must be raised.
Indeed the worry surely is that Wilshere, Ramsey, Vela and co are also slight but the first two compete in a way that Fabregas and Denilsson do not.
Make no mistake if Arsenal were scoring as they should given the way they set up and retain the ball the defence would be brittle but acceptable - indeed at least with the mental failing of Cliche it can be improved easily.
The real test for Wenger now is to start to let go of his lightweight players like Eboue whose continued selection utterly baffles me. He has to look harshly at Bendtner and look at Adebayor's consistency and likely fee. I would even consider if Walcott and Fabregas might not be worth more than they are delivering and if their physical limitations can be overcome.
Arsenal could buy a strong defender to handle Delap throws but that player is unlikely to be able to handle the one on one defending required. It is easier to beat the lower teams like Villa if you are 1 or 2 in front at half time.
Well after Rooney's 11 goals added one point to United's total last year he must have felt his reign as the Cream On Top King was safe for the rest of the decade. Indeed in a fit of orgasmic pride at his record he married his long term spending machine. Yet not 6 months later and not only has big Nic matched his 11 goals from last year before the end of November (or even the middle) he has racked up 7 in 2.5 league games and may get more today. Yes Anelka's 2 against Blackburn were the only goals and resulted in 3 points but as you'd expect from such a great cream on top merchant Anelka's role in the opening goal was completely inadvertant and he can thank Paul Robinson for aiding him with an inept display of appealing to the ref when he could have walked over and picked the ball up instead.
Credit to Nic it is important once on top to put teams away although Chelsea's insecurity is almost frightening as they have continued to beat teams long after they had to - indeed they have not conceded 2nd half in the premiership.
In football especially against top teams the key goal is the first and anyone who saw the Liverpool and United games, even Roma, will attest Anelka is as useful as a safety match without the box at 0-0 and 0-1. Indeed as someone who does not compete for the ball or risk any contact he may be worse than useless. Indeed most of his career he has not even been that top flight a goal scorer.
I am sure that Chelsea would have done better last year at half the price and some resale value with Defoe whose size makes him often a non factor at 0-0 against packed defences but who does not lack bottle and can score a penalty - European Champions anyone?
Our libel laws in the UK make analysis of domestic Rugby League impossible. You would run a huge risk even with making rational analysis of Great Britain/England players in Australia.
What we do know is that even when 2 players were bang to rights betting on the opposition they got almost insultingly irrelevant bans of 3 and 4 months - life ban in baseball (any bet on baseball never mind the opposition) 5 years in English cricket.
Last GB tour a GB player rushed home in tears on a tour where GB were abysmal except in the one game they were fancied to be heavily spanked. Yet even after stories in the Australian press and the player rapidly running home and retiring there was no investigation no nothing - unfair on player and the sport. The neutral view is this if the sport in the UK is dying and wants to die why bother anyway?
Seriously when England/GB look like winning and contrive ways to lose or fold early can anyone hand on heart say individual errors when the culture is so bent and has no intention of rooting out the cancer? When someone fails to ground or drops a ball or knocks on is anyone naive enough to be certain we are just inept.
Added to that like the 1970s England football team eating baked beans and drinking themselves* out of the tournament one cannot help wondering about these English men abroad.
I am sure that men like Jamie Peacock are above reproach but I would not believe anyone who suggested the whole squad was living responsibly or sadly not betting on the opposition.
Who is celebrating more the England players who tanked this in an inexplicable display of incompetence that a core of committed players nearly overcame amazingly or the Kiwis set to get stuffed in the final.
It's entirely fatuous for Tony Smith looking everywhere but at the camera or the interviewer to come out and say the boys have been great. "We just haven't put it together on the park" and for some reason(s) we never do.
* Far better to blame the manager for taking off an ageing player famous for losing the ball. Or better still blame the keeper.
Even if Chelsea had beaten Burnley their insistence on giving fringe players who are rubbish games as well as their first teamers rather than youth would have meant it was worse than a loss as they would continue to waste resources in a pointless cup bid - even if they win the cup itself it is worthless and wears players out. Seriously Drogba aside why were most of those players not at home relaxing? It is beneath stupidity.
Ray Wilkins said that the top boys wanting to play reflected their winning mentality rather than weakness, fear and short termism which would clearly seem to fit the facts better. Arsenal are blooding 4 or 5 (more even) kids every year and going nearly as far and further than Chelsea who are just using up their squad in the a pointless pursuit of a meaningless trophy. This is the kind of thinking that has arguably caused the broken isolated managers to pass up the chance at 4 there to be won Champions Leagues - the trophy equivalent of pennywise pound foolish.
The winner last night was Chelsea short term as it is potentially 4 less games for Lampard and others to play. The winner was also Burnley. The medium long term loser was Chelsea who once again pandered to the fears of their ageing players and coach. One can only assume as Mourinho, Grant and Scolari cannot all be total and complete morons that the driver for this competition comes from the head figure Abramovich as anyone with a football IQ above shoe size would describe their attitude to the cups as beyond cretinous.
Thankfully for people of my viewpoint the economic crisis is likely to shake up the top 4 with Liverpool and Chelsea facing reality and it will be interesting if their bloated money wasting, till now, youth systems can recover for them. However it does seem that is the only way the top 4 will be shaken up is financial reality. Their likely replacement should Chelsea or 'Pool fall is Man City in another orgy of spending and maybe wasting the best youth set-up outside of Arsenal.
Spurs by giving up their, even I have to accept, flawed system are now in the hands of a player trader. One who recruits friends to coach and probably knows a fair few agents on first name terms. At least Commoli can reflect that his buys don't seem so bad now! That decision to dump Jol without doing due diligence on the next coach a self inflicted wound.
The problem with the first team manager who is only interested in a first team is that this is fine for teams with no ambition who will buy and sell until they drop down the league when they replace that manager and hopefully start the cycle again until they have too much debt at which time they reconstitute likely in a lower division. It sets the ceiling at 5th in the league with 4th in a year when 65 points will do it.
It really offers no route to challenge the top teams by revenue as they can outspend you and have expensive youth systems. Indeed arguably the top 4 have the biggest and best youth systems as well - Man City aussi even if that was in place before the money. The idea a manager can do the scouting necessary to "find" players is as absurd as the idea that Moores and Pietersen are even as good as badly placed to pick an England cricket team, never mind 3 squads.
Arguably Arsene Wenger does the kind of coach/director of football and Ferguson clearly did this once but as the world gets wider and more complex I am sure they delegate more and more. Arsenal have a system of coaches and don't buy anyone who costs real money off a quick view of video tape or an agent tip. Yet who else does this? Look how unoriginal the buys of Everton and others are paying full price for exposed players - the kind who like baseball free agents are likely to be declining before their contract is up.
It is thus I find Redknapp's instant success a phyrric win. Sure it shows that the main thing managers must do is motivate and get the atmosphere right in the dressing room. That it does not pay to try to be different or to humiliate players without squad numbers. Credit to Harry who may be the best English manager (wow damn with faint praise!).
Whilst Chelsea have won 2 titles with a coach with mere input on players it does seem hard to go forward without the first team coach being a manager. Mourinho and Ranieri under the pressure of being alienated from the structure and sniped at from within probably could have won anyone of 3 Champions Leagues and maybe Grant also had he not chased every game as though it was a referendum on his future.
Indeed arguably the confrontation avoiding Abramovich would have been better telling them they were gone at the end of the season but had a free hand otherwise. As it is he may not get a better chance than he has had at 4 Champions Leagues he sacrificed by isolating his first team coach.
Indeed the real damage is that all his spending on Arnesan and co has been ignored and thus to a degree wasted by Mourinho and Grant as they were not part of the circle and it not in the coach's perceieved interests to care beyond the next result.
Unfortunately I don't see much to support in teams likely to rise and fall subject to finances and about a mean without ever making a permanent shift forward save for others falling. No one seems to want to defy their finances and be better than they should be like a Sevilla or Coruna or Vigo did for a few years.
Arsene's kids running wild and suddenly for a week until their next loss the media get it. Indeed one national columnist who had obviously read his TWSI suggested Chelsea start using Arnesan's bloated academy this week - apparently all Chelsea's big players wanted to play in the Carling and will bench showing they have the same short termism as the Stalinist style regime forces on their current temporary coach.
The problem with kids is they do not always pan out. Watching Arsenal last night one realised they are not exactly a team short of mega talented small speedsters already. It is not like they can particularly boost their squad other than give Wenger more reasons to go light in central midfield. One cannot help wonder if of all the joyous talent the passing and movement of the more pedestrian Ramsey might not last longest.
All it really perplexes me about is how Eboue who appears to have little or no ability apart from running and cowardly tackles is even within hailing distance of the first team. Especially when there are the likes of Roy Keane who will give you 5 million for a pointless cast off from a top club.
Gus Poyet in probably a money making whine that smacked of sour grapes busted on the Spurs players for knowing nothing about football. They apparently do not discuss the game and start buying Ferrari's at ages under 20. OK and that is meant to surprise us?
It probably does not help Gus that the moment he and Ramos left Spurs start playing like a team possessed showing amazing spirit to come from behind all the time beating Liverpool, drawing with 'snal and now from one down against Siddy (Hughes can take the long walk to managerial obscurity of something like the Newcastle job!).
It all goes to show if you are in the 2nd tier of teams that being too clever with tactics and expecting English players to even care enough to learn is mistaken. Harry Redknapp will walk around handing out compliments and bollockings in his cheery manner and the team will come together. Cheering up young millionaires and making them feel good will work better than lining up a genuine 433 to use the space behind Ronaldo and get at Neville say.
In some ways Ramos was a poor appointment as his success was really attributable to his director of football. One of only 3 or 4 serious ones from what I can tell in the whole of Europe - most of the rest are lackeys, negotiators and fall guys for rich owners.
I must confess I don't know how you shake the lethargy of mind that dominates rich young talented English players. Mind, it seems even harder to mould a team of 11 nationalities as well. Quite what a manager can do at a 2nd tier club is beyond me. Ironically as with Allardyce at Bolton and Hughes at Blackburn 3rd tier players looking to get 2nd and 1st tier wages may offer more hope.
The saddest part is that the general ignorance of the game that pays them so well goes all the way to the top. Looks at how England cannot adjust to new formations or their opponents tactics without being told what to do at half time. Look how they whittle on about symptoms like lack of tempo and ball retention rather than the causes of their often moribund 442 football under Eriksson et al.
Wow you are 2 nil down against the league leaders. Their captain and centre half is floundering against pace and/or a physical challenge on an ice rink. Do you really bring on with 15 minutes left Robbie Fowler?
Actually aside from condemning your scouts and youth system should you really be paying a player with no pace or size and little movement in the premiership?
2 years ago West Ham were playing the ageing Sheringham and the media was stroking themselves about how good he was etc etc. Suddenly with them in relegation trouble a new man, Curbs, turns up and gets rid of him from the first team. Worse it turns out that Sheri was using his worldly experience at the card table to make himself a cancer eating away at the club.
Now maybe Robbie uses his experience in the dressing room well but one cannot help feel from the outside as a near useless player he is there to make the manager's life less lonely - something if I was a young striker who would not have minded 15 minutes against the best player in the league, without a quiff, would make me a tad miffed. Bringing on Fowler was as good as raising the white flag by Ince.
You cannot shake the feeling that whilst Joe Calzaghe is getting the recognition he deserves after beating 10 world champions if he is to retire I think he is picking the right time. He has little to gain and can only lose before considering his seeming susceptibility to first round knock downs. We'll also try to ignore the ludicrous demeanor, posing and boasting that Calzaghe seems to have picked up lately.
Kelly Pavlik losing comprehensively to Bernard Hopkins (B-Hop) showed Calzaghe beating the ageing Hopkins was no mean feat. Pavlik after all twice beat Jermaine Taylor who beat B-Hop twice.
However both the slower Hopkins and the ageing Jones put him down. Sure he came back to dominate with his abrasive wearing punching style. Sure he bust up Jones and whilst one can say that Jones was damaged goods he had only really been beaten by people who hit too hard for him at 175 - Glencoffe Johnson and Antonio Tarver who had stopped him and Tarver added a one sided decision to put the exclamation point on it.
Calzaghe as he showed with Lacy, Kessler and now Jones increasingly lacks the power to put people away at 168 and 175 - maybe due to his fragile hands. He hits hard enough that one wonders if Jones and Lacy would not have been better off being knocked out rather than battered and bruised for 12 rounds.
Also his in ring behaviour the taunting and show boating smacks more of self indulgence than entertainment. The whole show appears to be slightly drunk on hubris something he managed to avoid for the first 10 years of his world title reign. It also tends to come before a hefty fall as Andrew Flintoff could attest if he was aware of anything.
So I hope he stops. There is little glory in chasing Chad Dawson who has dominated Tarver and Johnson. Also at 6 ft 3" he [Dawson] might actually have the equipment to beat Calzaghe at 175. Especially a careless Calzaghe who seems to be drunk on the integrity of his own chin. One interesting thing looking down the rankings on the boxrec web site is how old the champions are. Of the top 9 in the 175 division only the 26 year old Dawson is under 34! Only one of their top 12 under 30!. Arguably Calzaghe's best asset his stamina and speed to outlast and wear down older or bulkier fighters could be matched by Dawson (who I have not seen fight so am guessing to a degree).
Indeed nothing reflects boxing's decline more than the almost total absence of young men in the higher weight categories. Another reason not to hang on and be beaten is that as with tonight's tawdry dismissal of an ageing past his best pug there is little or no glory left in this sport to extract. For me Calzaghe's early struggles against B-Hop and Jones, so called living legends, have if not lowered my opinion of him put a lower ceiling on what I think he can do.
Well Wenger went 451 and Arsenal were seemingly nearly as wide open as ever. United played their 442 and had they scored early it could have been a rout. In the end they conceded 2 and it could have been more. I just wonder with Hull getting 3 if their 442 is not too open to win a title if as in recent years 87 plus points is required.
The real question is with a 30 million striker for a team: who had no trouble scoring goals: funded on junk bonds: in a credit crunch: is does the manager have any option to change it? Can he bench his toy? Or even his unruly toy boy [Rooney]. What does he say to the board at sitting 25 million or 30 million of striker and 5 million bills plus in wages for a foreseeable tactical problem?
As a neutral viewer I would be a hypocrite to complain too loudly but winning and losing with style tends to get unpopular, despite the joy of the games, as the Galacticos and Roy Evans and the Spice Boys showed.
It seems the some managers want to load up on strikers and then seem honour bound to pick them. After all if they do not play Berba they have him and Tevez on the bench. Whereas had they kept Campbell and Saha that would surely have been the cheaper option and they could between them, if fit: play as a 2nd striker: play as a front striker: or in an emergency lone striker: sit on bench without remark: play in the stiffs unremarked: cost nothing and receive less wages than Berba.
One also has to question the opportunity cost of the Berbatov signing which could be a next generation keeper to replace Van Der Sar and pay back some debt. I guess Ferguson with a deep squad of defenders and midfielders and only a few years to go could not help himself. I wonder if he felt he could get the best from another mercurial talent and his ego got the better of him. The moral hazard of managers I guess. Does anyone wonder why some people think managers are bent?
Of course Berba could go on to be a United legend and this will all seem foolishness but we'll see. Hey he's better than Anelka who is near useless in big games or most games at 0-0, when it counts most.
Arsenal themselves were reduced to the bizarre Bendtner who appears unable to head a ball. He shows skills and ability but air headed about 5 balls and lost every tussle with a centre half (although still value in those tussles). His choice of positioning, shooting, passing and movement appears random. However at least he is cheap and jettisonable.
With Chelsea's age and Anelka seemingly, ala Berbatov, forced on a manager to justify his salary and fee to whoever damn paid for it it does raise the possibility of Liverpool winning the title. At least Rafa only has 2 injury prone strikers and mostly gets away with playing one as they come back to fitness. In an emergency he can run out 10 million pound meat head Dirk Kuyt.
Rooney returned to his normal finishing after hitting a couple of good shots on target which had me prematurely celebrating he finally got it. Jury still out, 'fraid. Does he really understand that you cannot score if you miss the target?
One final question how much longer can Gary Neville be selected ahead of the da Silva boys?
In the spirit of Jose Mourinho, when he was at the sanity level of sitting in a tree pretending to be an owl and accusing Ambulancemen of trying to harm Petr Cech, Arsene Wenger went too far in accusing the Stoke players of malevolence in their fouling of his players. Mourinho allowed Berkshire's Hunt to get away scot free and the principal of buzzing up goal keepers to be obfuscated away.
In the end the truth is probably worse that players in English football are ambivalent and will make tackles from behind knowing our refs will give them 1 before a yellow. They will do it knowing the refs book the same for a proper challenge or a sliding from behind effort with 1% chance of the ball.
As we clearly saw Stoke players caused injuries with sliding tackles from behind with little or no hope of the ball. By citing intent Wenger allows the morons on Sky and Setanta to push an agenda where little men's partial and ignorant views are worth a damn. Of course even had he correctly stated that players were allowed to tackle recklessly with little chance at the ball would anyone actual look at this properly? Has anyone analysed what look awful tackles? Depressing is it not where anyone would defend players like Rory Delap who unless he is hypnotised and thinks he is Usain Bolt would surely have no chance to tackle Walcott from behind and win the ball - its cheating, put simply, to deliberately foul..
We cannot know the intent between the ears of men like Delap and co but whatever they say after they break a leg they are that type of player. What Wenger and the other managers with more sense than the old tired Pulis types should say is that the tackle from behind by slow players on faster players can only cause injury. That since the odds on getting the ball are almost nil that it should be regarded as simulation a straight yellow no questions asked - whether there is 5 minutes on the clock or 75.
In the end the likes of Pulis and Loon-Alex are self defeating as they provide ammunition to those who would dress the players in blouses and skirts (not that women footballers want it to be a game for flower arrangers and needle point buffs either).
I want to see good hard challenges for the ball something a sliding tackle from behind on a player with Walcott's pace would seem not to be under any circumstances whatever Delap's brain tells him.
Well there is 20 minutes to go but it's looking a shocker for Chelsea. Now anyone who has read here before knows that I am skeptical about English teams playing 442 as a rule and certainly don't consider it the panacea, or even effective, for the national side that others do - I think I have most of 42 years of failure to support my argument since we pioneered 433!
As a formation for me it puts a lot of pressure on the wide players to get up and back. In addition your supposedly attacking midfielder can end up covering an area the size of France in a game, especially when paired with a pure holding player. I also feel you need very confident technical players to play it as well to retain possession. It also reguires centre halves more comfortable with people running at them than most - no one is of course entirely happy with people running at them with the ball.
So why after giving up a soft 1st half goal does Scolari go 442?
I think one of the reasons Gerrard is so much more effective when Liverpool are 442 and need a goal is that when teams sit back the attacking midfielder can get forward without stripping the team of cover against opponents deeper set with something to protect. It is a situation where swapping a midfielder for an attacker makes sense. So I could understand why Scolari might go there but not the way he went there.
Honestly think of the needs of 442 and then compare this midfield with that Lampard, Deco, Belletti, Mikel. Let's ignore John Terry's floundering when left to face midfield runners exploiting the softer centre as that is a given. 3-1 now... So he takes off Joe Cole and Malouda and leaves himself with Deco and Lampard wide? Or his flanks both open? He put on the extra defensive cover and denuded the wings and left a de facto non factor on the pitch [Anelka] - that is rubbish frankly and obvious even to me.
So now your 2 best players, Deco and Lampard, are now your biggest weakness! Or was this the 4222 that suited Brazil so well in the last world cup (for morons that was irony). He swapped 2 wingers for a forward and another central midfielder which is hardly attacking even.
Even if caused by injuries surely Anelka comes off with the Drog on he would appear to have no role other than to stand around wondering what he should do as he normally does when played with a centre forward or against a deep set defence. Or you bring on Kalou wide for some pace and size at least - even di Santo.
In the end he ended up with a travesty of no pace bar Bosingwa and no width bar Bosingwa so where was the crossing and off the ball running for Drogba going to come from? It is a point that defies analysis.
If this was Avram Grant they'd say he cannot win the big game.
Rafa would say "Better to Cheat Than Be Good".
Jose Mourinho now reduced to the world's best set piece coach by an ageing immobile Inter team would say "Better to be Lucky than Good" - some good news he can apparently eat solid food and dress himself after his Chelsea melt down. He may also soon have more leisure time as well to be with the boss as he calls her and his beloved dog.
It's OK for Harry Redknapp to go to an un-ambitious clubs who are happy to be 5th -> 12th and say 442 lads go out and enjoy yourself. If he has 2 good strikers in his squad he may as well play both. That is surely not acceptable at Arsenal.
To play 442 as a top table team I believe a team needs to be a strong counter attacking team with a very solid and defensive orientated centre 2 - back 6. Ala Vieira and Petit. You also need an organised back 4 who are strong as a unit ala Dixon, Adams, Bould/Keown and Winterburn. Even then I am not sure that those tactics are very likely to work consistently enough anymore (since 2003) without exceptional centre halves - for instance against mobile teams who counter attack even John Terry is a liability in a 442 for me. Even then Arsenal played only 1 centre forward in the Henry era and everyone else deeper. Basically as more teams have evolved into 433 teams it has become tougher to break teams down and 442 teams are brittle - see United so far this year.
You cannot do it with Arsenal's current resources. They have good players and retain the ball well. However they struggle to break teams down at times and are brittle - a lot like England who play 442 without the defensive and technical full backs nor the incisive wide players to make that work. Their centre halves are also not the best individually or collectively. For instance I wonder if Chelsea's Alex would be the best at Arsenal.
Compounding Arsenal's problems they played two big strikers which is marginally better than 2 small ones but against a team who would surely be more vulnerable to pace and movement?
It is no accident that Arsenal have lost to Stoke, Hull and Fulham whilst scoring only 2 goals (one a completely pointless late inning effort). It can happen to anyone but other teams with less offensive options generally score that number in 1 game with those teams. Yes they are frail at the back but all teams have strengths and weaknesses. What is killing them is the lack of firepower in the kind of games they should cruise. Yes the Spurs draw was a shocker but that was a learning experience and one of those things - Chelsea drew 4-4 twice last year from ahead and cost themselves the title, it happens.
For me it is a case of Wenger ala England managers wanting to keep every star happy and with Walcott, van Persie, Adebayor, Bendtner, Nasri and a host of others with Eduardo coming back he has to accept he only has 3 places for them and in that only one of his big strikers.
Last year Wenger passed up the chance to win a Champions League by assuming a very tired core could challenge on 2 fronts this year he has to be pragmatic in what might be the easiest, most open surely, Premiership in ages. At the moment having bet them to win the league last year I am not sure I'd bet them to beat last years points total which was not far off enough (83 only 4 behind United and this it is a reasonable expectation they would advance this year and challenge).
Intriguingly injuries to Walcott and Adebayor may help things even if they would be his best rated by many - providing the response is not a 442 with Eboue on the right! Probably time to add to the midfield and find a sold centre half ala Vidic or Alex or Terry none of whom were that expensive. For me I'd explore selling some of the likes of Eboue, Eduardo, Nasri and maybe even Walcott as they are for me currently too lightweight to consistently affect games you might lose. Nonetheless they do not need much improvement to go on a long run of wins which could still take them to the title and their odds are still value for me - even if they could more likely end up being a 75 point team instead. I just wonder if the manager would rather be stubborn than pragmatic?
For me the lack of leadership on the pitch starts off it. Wenger seems to want the team to work it out for themselves. So how can any player on the field take their lead when the manager refuses to dictate tactics.
On a side note I find it bizarre that Ferguson and Benitez by paying 50 million between them for Spurs strikers have almost painted themselves into a 442 position when everyone is fit. It is partly why I see 85 points not 90 as the winning number. All the top teams bar Chelsea seem more brittle and it will be interesting how fit Chelsea's old players are if they continue to eschew rotation to win 4 trophies (likely end up with none or that crappy domestic cups if they do). If Scolari uses Lampard like a horse at 30 in all cups and dead fixtures the title could be open.