Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Things I Learnt Watching Football This Weekend (22nd - 24th September)

1. The standard of premiership refereeing is a disgrace

Not for the first time, one of the premier league’s most eagerly awaited matches is ruined by the incompetence of the man assigned to apply the rules.

Mike Dean embarrassed not only himself, but his profession and football as a sport with his performance on Sunday. Yes, while it’s true that the imminent demise of CSKA Fulham has many of us salivating more than Brittany Spears’ potential new lesbian cell-mate, and while many may think that after all the luck they’ve had with refs in recent years that they were getting their just desserts, no true fan of football can say that what went down on Sunday was acceptable. If Rob Styles had to face sanctions for his faux pas a few weeks back then Dean should never be allowed to take to the field again after Sunday’s calamity. It wasn’t just one major decision he got wrong but…

- Should have awarded The Rowdies a first half penalty
- Should never have sent Mikel off for his challenge which for me was more clumsy than dangerous/malicious.
- Should have instantly booked John ‘Above the Law’ Terry for attempting to prevent him showing the red.
- Should have sent off Joe Cole for his assault on Fake Ronaldo
- Should have, having already booked him, sent off Wayne ‘Above the Law v 2.0’ Rooney for his illegal, but slightly satisfying, challenge on A-Hole.
- Should have given Louis Saha a slap/yellow card for that pathetic swan dive. (I’ve had to sit through ‘experts’ proclaim that Saha was entitled to go down because there was contact. Bollocks! Since when was ‘Minimal Contact = Foul’ part of the football rulebook? He wasn’t impeded as he could have stayed on his feet and kept the ball. No foul!)

The game wasn’t a classic. It never usually is between these two but it certainly wasn’t helped by the performance of the referee. The other Big 4 clash this season ended the same way. Why is it that these men in the middle bottle it so much when it matters? I’m sick to my back teeth of the ‘human error’ excuse as well. It’s a job. Do it right or be punished. That’s how I’ve always understood life to be. Why are referees exceptions to these rules?

2. Predictions of CSKA Fulham’s demise may not be premature.

As of last week, when Jose Mourinho left. I spent most of my time rejoicing that the arrogant so and so would no longer be polluting my TV/Radio/papers/net with frequent bouts of verbal diarrhoea.

I expected CSKA to struggle, but would soon recover based on the sheer strength of Roman’s financial muscle. Any manager with a bit of clout about him could win the title with that kind of backing. Success was not mutally exclusive to Jose. He inherited a far better squad than the one he left and seeing how he hadn’t even signed most of them (Robben, Cech, Duff, Gudjohnsen, Gallas, Lampard, Terry, Joe Cole, Makalele were all CSKA players before Jose was gaffer), I don’t why he gets so many plaudits for winning them the title in ’05. He did what was expected and before people bang on about Ranieri’s failings, let’s take away the money and truly ask whether Mourinho would have be such a great manager when the strength of his squad was made up of Bogarde, Stanic, Melchiot, Jokanovic and Forssell? Thought not.

That said, Avram Grant doesn’t look capable of washing Jose’s Y-fronts. When a manager says in his first press conference, “I’ll try my best” then you know you have problems. CSKA were abysmal on Sunday. Sending off or not, the fact they failed to register a single shot on target the entire match sums up how bad things have gotton. It’s not even like The Rowdies were on top of their game and gave them a battering. They need to pull their collective fingers out over at the Kremlin otherwise they will be in serious trouble over the coming weeks/months/years. P.S. The rumours of Burmese monk-like protests from fans and Abramovich giving Essien lessons on passing the ball are hilarious.

3. Michael Owen is probably finished as a top player.

If it isn’t one thing with this guy it’s another. As of writing, it’s rumoured he is facing surgery on a persistent groin problem. How can this problem be persistent when he’s only played a handful of matches in the last few months? Surely this must mean that the problem was apparent before his crippling knee injury last summer. The guy has far too many problems for his own good and all the talk of who England should play up front with Owen needs to be dismissed because despite his successful cameos against Israel and Russia, we need to realise that this all they are these days, cameos. A fully fit Owen has become an exception rather than the norm.

4. Jimmy Hasselbiank and Robbie Fowler could make a mockery of Championship defences this season

I watched some of Cardiff v Preston at lunchtime on Saturday as I was interested to see how two of the hottest strikers in premiership history lined up against opposition far worse than anything they have ever been used to.

No disrespect to Preston or anyone else in the Championship but these guys have made their names at Chelsea and Liverpool respectively and carry a wealth of experience both domestically and abroad.

To be honest, both guys were just having fun. Fowler bagged a brace and I believe at one point I saw him attempt stepovers! Jimmy on the other hand disregarded all his team-mates and chose to shoot on site at every given opportunity. When these two click properly, it should make for some interesting watching.

[Like clockwork: Tonight they beat West Brom 4-2 in the Carling Cup at the Hawthorns. Another Brace for Fowler and a 20 yard strike from Jimmy!]

5. Rafa’s rotation policy. Does anybody get it?

£25 million Fernando Torres was left on the bench on Saturday for a game Liverpool could/should/would have won at a canter had they fielded their strongest XI.

Liverpool strolled through tonight, Torres bagging a hat-trick no less, which makes his initial omission on Saturday all the more puzzling.

I have a lot more respect for Benitez than to think he had one eye on tonight’s match against an under-strength Reading side in the Carling Cup as if to say it was a more important than 3 points in the league.

6. Yes, City were not boring but that’s more a testament to Fulham’s gung-ho tactics and Kamikaze defending.

Forget Diamond formations, holding roles, wing-backs, Sweepers, two banks of four and all that technical mumbo-jumbo. Fulham seem to currently be adopting the ‘playground football’ tactic. Pick enough players, tell some to generally try and stay back while everyone else piles forward trying to get as many goals as possible. Back to back 3-all draws at home, scoring in every game but sadly no clean sheets this season, seem to suggest that it isn’t quite going to plan.

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