Monday, 18 January 2010

Weekend Observations 16th-17th January 2010

1. Blunderland

As impressive as it may have appeared on the surface to see CSKA Fulham publicly violate Sunderland on Saturday, I have little problem taking credit away from the home side as they were assisted by a side who were clearly filming an instructional video for children about how not to defend. Either that or they were auditioning for some kind of travelling circus. Either way, to say that they gave Chelsea a helping hand on their way to such an emphatic victory would certainly not be overstating matters. With the exception of Ashley Cole's one-off moment of genius (Spit!) each of the other six goals were just examples of extremely piss-poor play from the visitors. From Fulop coming miles out to flap at crosses to the inability of any one the Mackem back four to grasp the concepts of closing down, cutting out crosses or man-marking, I actually think they were lucky to get away with only conceding the seven given the other chances missed by 'Tha Bloos'. The old saying goes that you can only beat what is put in front of you. It's a shame Steve Bruce decided to put NOTHING in front of Ancelotti's team. I feel sorry for the fans personally.

And to think Lorik Cana was once linked with a move to Arsenal...

2. A Laws onto himself

As a young pup I always remember hearing good things about Brian Laws in the Nottingham Forest team of the early 1990s. I'd be lying if I said I had any vivid memories of any particular game he played in but as one of those people who was supposed to be quite good, I've always kind of had respect for him. As a manager, ignoring a rather amusing incident involving a plate of chicken wings, he had a fairly successful time at Scunthorpe down the years and up until recently, had a steady if unspectacular stint in charge of a Sheffield Wednesday side without a pot to piss in.

Like anyone who played under Brian Clough, he has been compared to and somehow expected to replicate the successes of the great man. Of course, such expectation is almost fantastical. Having been sacked from Wednesday, many would question the logic of even giving him a job in the top flight. This is the flipside of the idea that English managers do not get enough opportunities at the top level. There seems to be something quite perverse about rewarding a manager who was sacked for struggling with a Championship club, with a Premier League job.

That said, up until his side conceded the first goal at Old Trafford, Laws could have been well on his way orchestrating a real shock in the backyard of the champions. Burnley's profligacy in front of goal is what cost them rather than any sense of being overawed or overrun by a superior side. Play like that against teams lower down the league and Laws could both keep Burnley up and enhance his own rep as a manager.

Also, I feel I must point out this interesting (or not) statistic.

3. Top Fear?

Maybe I'll be proved wrong down the line but the top three positions look pretty certain. It's just a case of what order Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United will finish. This leaves the much sought after fourth and final Champions league qualifying place up for grabs with four teams very much in contention. However, Spurs, Man City, Villa and Liverpool all stumbled this weekend, which begs the question, do any of these teams deserve to mix it with the big boys? Spurs have now dropped points AT HOME against Hull, Wolves and Stoke this season. Any team with serious Champions League aspirations should do better than one point from a possible nine against such opposition (no disrespect intended blah, blah, blah etc).

Once more, it's too early to judge Mancini and what impact he will make at City but regardless of who is charge, given the cost of the side (yes, money will ALWAYS be the barometer that they are measured by), the succession of draws at the tail end of Hughes' tenure as well being made to look so ordinary by Everton this weekend indicate that while they will go on to dominate English and probably European football one day, questions remain over whether they are good enough this season to achieve their much publicised 'targets'.

Villa fans were quick to claim that last season the squad was not equipped enough to sustain any reasonable challenge over the course of an entire season. An unconvincing performance at home to a very poor West Ham side would suggest that the insecurities of 12 months ago still remain.

Liverpool's problems are too tedious to document here and now. It's been done to death everywhere else.

4. Four-Ever?
Everton could have included themselves among that group of teams chasing fourth spot but for a combination of injuries and dodgy form this season. Over the last few seasons, Moyes' team have shown what they are capable of – including reaching last season's FA Cup final – and the performances over the last two weeks against Arsenal (where they should have come away with 3 points) and Man City (who they absolutely battered with little remorse) as well as the battling draw against Chelsea a while back would suggest they would not be out of place amongst the upper echelons of the division.

Some consistency between now and the end of the season should see them through to a strong finish and if the aforementioned top four pretenders continue to stutter then who knows?

5. Good to see refs taking action on diving... despite being wrong

During Liverpool's match at Stoke, Lucas was adjudged to have dived in an incident that supposedly 27,000 people could see was a penalty. I'm not going to go into whether Lee Mason was right or wrong in not giving a spot kick but rather praise the official for producing a yellow card for for what in his eyes was an attempt to con him into giving a penalty. Mark Clattenburg recently gave Craig Bellamy a second yellow card for a similar offence and did so again last week when he felt Gabriel Agbonlahor had dived. Interestingly, all three decisions were probably wrong but it is certainly refreshing to see that refs are not shy in punishing perceived cheats. Long may it continue and hopefully it will discourage players from throwing themselves to the turf so liberally.

6. Trastornar el carro de Apple?

I've literally just finished watching the evening game from La Liga on Sky which saw Valencia demolish Villarreal 4-1. The shit-hot David Villa bagging a brace with Eva Banega and David Silva grabbing the others. The home side also had two goals wrongly disallowed for offside as well as missing countless opportunities to make the result all the more embarrassing for the team in yellow. For those that don't follow the Spanish championship too closely, Valencia are a team for whom trouble seems to be around every corner, they have been through a number of managers in recent years, are no strangers to player and boardroom unrest, oh and they have financial problems that would make Lehman Brothers blush. Despite all that, they have an abundance of talented players and are making serious waves in the title race this season. When people look at the Primera Liga, it's hard to look past the all-conquering Barcelona and the Galacticos of Real Madrid. However, with the latter slipping up this week and Barcelona arguably not as dominant as last season, there is certainly a realistic possibility Valencia could upset the proverbial apple cart or some other cliché and steal the title from under their noses. Stranger things have happened (currently a massive 40/1 at Bet 365).

7. Quite Preposterous Really

Like Valencia, West London's finest are no stranger's to controversy. The team has suffered from a lack of stability for quite some time and have not been helped by a seemingly trigger happy board that change managers more often than the normal man changes his boxers. Just last week Paul Hart was given the boot... sorry, "parted company" with the club after just five games in charge. I seriously believe my years of Championship Manager/Football Manager experience means that they should at least give me a week in the job. I mean, they've tried everyone else, haven't they? In all seriousness, it seems that the expectations of the powers that be far exceed anything that exists in footballing reality. They need to remember firstly that they haven't been a Premier League side for many moons now and to even get back there will take time and more importantly, continuity (that is not sacking a manager every six weeks). But of course, maybe I'm expecting too much from someone like Flavio Briatore whose rumoured overbearing control seems to be a hindrance to the club rather than a help.

8. Africa Cr*p of Nations

I've been watching this competition with some interest (COME ON THE SUPER EAGLES!!) over the last week. I'll try and sum up what I've seen so far in the most concise and accurate way possible: While it has been entertaining, the defending in this competition is awful. God awful. There have always been suggestions that what African football has in flair and strength, it lacks (quite glaringly) in defensive discipline and organisation. Some would suggest this is unfair, ignorant and somewhat offensive. Anyone with Eurosport would not! That is all.

9. And finally...

I'm not a fan of the new low-angled main cameras for televised games at the Reebok stadium.

1 comment:

Ponte End Tyke said...

I thought I was the only one who'd noticed the new camera view at the Reebok. I'm not a fan.