Monday, 14 January 2008

Things I Learnt Watching Football This Weekend (12th - 13th January 2008)

Chelsea Like Freddie? Newcastle fans to boo Shearer? Benitez out???

1. The African Nations Cup will have a big impact on the Premier League

OK. So, CSKA Fulham might not struggle like many predicted (more on them later) but there is no doubt that football's most inconveniently placed tournament will cause problems for certain sides in the League. You only have to look at the unspeakably dire performance of 'arry's Pompey side at Sunderland yesterday. So bad they were, they even allowed Charley Uchea's less famous cousin to bag a brace against them. Maybe, the speculation about 'arry's approach from Newcastle had an effect on the players or maybe, the climate in 'oop north' in Sunderland was not conducive to playing football (when is it ever?). However, let us cast our minds back to the last time Portsmouth were in the North East when they absolutely bullied Newcastle into submission. 'arry has moulded a side full of big, strong African players whose physicality has proven too much for most teams they've travelled to this season. Strength has been Pompeys's most useful tool this season and helped propel them up the table. At the stadium of light, without the likes of Utaka, Diop, Kanu and Muntari, the weaknesses were as clear as day. This month could be telling for a side like Pompey and ultimately may prove to be the difference between Europe and midtable obscurity.

That said, I have no sympathy as the tournament existed long before African players plied their trade in Europe and it's not as if it should come as a suprise to a manager who CHOOSES (not forced) to sign an African player.

2. ANY football match is capable of throwing up a story. No matter how awful the game.

EVERY F****** YEAR Sky TV think it best to broadcast what is, quite frankly, football's least passionate derby match. EVERY YEAR Bolton v Blackburn is on TV, EVERY YEAR it's an awful game of football. But get this, EVERY YEAR I actually waste two hours of my life actually watching it, I expect some kind of miracle. EVERY YEAR I end up moaning at the inevitable snorefest and vowing never again. Why change the habit of a lifetime though, eh? How often has it been said that a goal doesn't belong in a certain game? Yesterday was certainly one of those occasions as Kevin Nolan's contender for goal of the season lit up a typically dull lancashire derby. The technique of the volley was incredible. No doubt some crazy fool will be touting him for England once again.

Also, you have to love a last minute winner. Even if it does come from Jason 'One of the most feared strikers in the premiership according to wikipedia' Roberts.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo may never win a penalty again.... but may never need to!

The boy has his many, many, MANY critics. For all his talent, he's hardly the most noble of players on the pitch.... in fact, I wont sugar coat it: he dives. He is a persistent diver and will dive for as long as he's playing football. However, times do arise when he is hard done by. For me, Steven Taylor extended his leg and prevented the footballer of the year in waiting from progressing. If he went down easily, he had every right to as it was a foul. Still, what better way to respond. Rather than sulking or blowing his top and nearly give himself an Aneurysm like Old Taggart (your team won 6-0. How could you possibly be moaning???) on the sidelines The Artist Formerly Known As Fake Ronaldo stepped up and led the demolition job on a Newcastle side that very few outside of St. James' Park would have sympathised with. Oodles of Dream Team points for the Portuguese as well.

4. Roy Hodgson wont save Fulham.

I've always liked Roy Hodgson. While the likes of Alan Curbishley sit around moaning about not getting the England job when all he has ever achieved is a nice mid table finish or eight, a man like Roy Hodgson is going abroad and honing his skills as a manager on the continent in the most obscure areas of the game. His CV is glowing and if he was to have a pop at the FA then you'll hear no argument from me. Sadly, his most recent premiership job saw him doom Blackburn Rovers and the same unfortunately is set to happen with a very poor Fulham side. It's coming up to two years since their last away win. Maybe they'll get one at Barnsley next season.

5. Arsene Wenger's attitude may cost Arsenal some serious honours in the long run.

While you may criticise his lack of faith in English players and sing some very libelous things about him at games. There's very little you can say negative about Arsene Wenger. The man is no doubt a genius and turned a good Arsenal team into a GREAT L'Arse team over the last decade or so. However, Arsene is a man that chooses to stick by his principles regardless of what happens. Arsenal have not had a decent title challenge for years because Wenger has insisted on blooding youth rather than spending money. Despite the draw with Birmingham (and subsequent wrecking of my accumulator. Nice one lads!) Arsenal have performed admirably this season and sat on top of the table for most of the campaign. To not win it from here would not be a disaster but it would be disappointing. With the Salford Bay Rowdies hitting form and looking to buy as well as CSKA Fulham reinforcing their already strong squad, Arsene must stop insisting that he cannot improve on what he has. Some have said that the gunners don't have the squads like their rivals to last the course. For me, L'Arse are crying out for a winger/goal-scoring midfielder right now and with the right man(I'm never an advocate for spending for the sake of spending), the Emirates could well see it's first league title. Unfortunately, Wenger's reluctance to spend may prove to be his undoing.

6. I cant say for certain that Liverpool will finish fourth.

They probably will but with 16 games left, and the likes of City, Everton, Villa and Pompey on the horizon playing as well as they have thus far, if you're a red you have to hope Rafa has a trick or two up his sleeve. Liverpool are not playing well, and more importantly, they aren't playing well. After this Saturday, the last month has seen them face 'Boro, Derby, Reading and Wigan and only just beat Derby. If we throw Luton in the mix that's five games that any serious title contender should be winning comfortably. These results only suggest that Liverpool are not in the same class as L'Arse, The Rowdies and CSKA Fulham ...and it's not just because of the rotation system. The way things are going on the pitch, the reported off pitch problems and today's revelation that the board have already been looking elsewhere, I seriously doubt Rafa will still be on Merseyside come the start of next season.

7. CSKA Fulham are definitely in the title race.

Dont get it confused! They may have lost a few players to injury and African nations etc but Chelsea under Abramovich will just keep on coming back like a movie baddie who refuses to die. Lose Drogba? So what? Buy Anelka (who almost instantly showed his class on his debut might I add...). That's essentially why so many people are against this CSKA regime. Unlike Pompey, people at Stamford Bridge have barely batted an eyelid at the African Nations cup. No longer will they ever have to 'just deal with it' like anyone else. They assemble an incredible squad of players and will continue to spend the money as soon as one needs replacing. Imagine a world where your overdraft is infinite and your bank couldn't care less if you ever pay it back. The comprehensive victory over spurs simply illustrates how strong they are as a team and a squad. I said they'd be champions at the start of the season and I wish I'd put money on it when they drifted out to 12-1.

8. Newcastle wont sort themselves out for a very long time so the Geordies had better sit tight.

Things at St. James' will probably get worse before they get better. The term poisoned chalice has been branded about a lot in reference to what has been described as the impossible job. I cant believe that I actually feel sorry for The Walrus following last week's events. Were they expecting to be at the top of the league at this stage? Geordie fans had a moment in the sun in the mid-nineties with Kevin Keegan which in hindsight was probably the worst possible thing to happen to the club. The fact they never won the title (or anything else for that matter) somehow raised expectations so high. Now, agitation spreads like wildfire as soon as things don't go their way and before you know it, another manager loses his job and they're right back to square one. With no stability, I'm sorry but Newcastle wont achieve a thing. They currently sit 11th in the league behind the obvious 4 and also Everton, Man City, Portsmouth, Villa, Blackburn and West Ham. With the exception of the Hammers and City who have had huge cash injections to aid their cause, Every other side has been a result of long term (2-3 years) building. These teams have earned their right to be in the top half because they have shown patience and reaped the rewards. Giving Fat Sam only seven months is not showing patience and whoever comes in should not be expected to 'wallop Chelsea' (the exact words of the man in charge) within a couple of months.

Alan Shearer, eh? I'd like to see it just so he gets found out. If you never thought you'd ever Newcastle fans booing their Messiah just give him the job and see how quickly it happens.

9. The Derby & County - The pub side currently masquerading as a premier league football team - are rubbish

Although technically, I didn't learn that this week.

10. With only one relegation place left, any from 6 could still go down and make the race for survival quite interesting.

For me, despite their precarious positions, there is no chance that Spurs and Newcastle will go down (Imagine if they did though...) so, it's between Reading, Boro, Bolton, Wigan, Brum and Sunderland for the last place. Weekends like this one could decide it. Wigan won a game they were expected to, Reading and Bolton lost games they might have fancied at least a draw from, Boro and Brum picked valuable points that they might not have expected but Sunderland picked up an unexpected win that might prove crucial come May. It's hard to really get into it because it will flip flop a lot between now and then with so many factors coming into play. I for one just hope it goes down to the last day again. In recent years relegation battles have been far more entertaining than the title chase and so may it continue this season.


Amelia Butterly said...

I'm not very good at having an opinion on football, but I do like the picture of the fat fan. Please bring him on the map/wine evening.

Anonymous said...

Very nicce!