Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Weekend Observations 22nd-25th August

Back for the new season...

1.Sixual assault
That's right! One of the few reasons I've decided to write this blog was to use that pun (In fact, maybe the ONLY reason!). I'm sure you have all simply loved the numerous and tedious 'six' based puns seen in many a news publication over the last 48 hours (My personal favourite was the News of the World's ''SIXY BEASTS”). Not wanting to feel left out, I decided to go for the effective if not slightly sinister and violent example above. You're welcome.

But this isn't a blog about the bastardisation of the English language through "clever" plays on words. No, the reason all three of you are reading this piece is to absorb and subsequently disagree with my views on the recent happenings in the beautiful game.

As you may have heard or seen, there were an unprecedented THREE 6-0 hammerings this weekend. Arsenal put Blackpool to the sword, Wigan were publicly violated by CSKA Fulham and Newcastle fans were given an opportunity to revert back to the deluded bunch we've all come to love over years after the Magpies stuffed Villa at St, James' Park. Yes, we all love goals but do these results (as well as CSKA's humping of West Brom last weekend) highlight the quality of the aforementioned or simply show us how bad some of the teams that populate the 'best league in the world' actually are?

2.The Future's Bright...
The Arsenal and Newcastle games saw England hopefuls Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott notch hat-tricks for their respective sides. While I'm not about to detract from their achievements, I think the quality (of lack thereof) of the opposition played a huge part in both youngsters' trebles so let's not get too excited... yet. However, following the shambles in South Africa, it's hard not to be pleased to see that there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the national team. Adam Johnson's performance for City against Liverpool should not go unnoticed either.

3.The Numbers Game
Not being a particularly superstitious man, I rarely attach any importance to squad numbers. I like wearing number 4 for the Sunday league teams I've played for but I wouldn't exactly bite off your fingers if you ever tried to stop me from wearing it. I am aware however that there are people that do believe there is some significance to the number a player wears. At Arsenal, the number 14 (Henry) is held in high regard and the same goes for the number 9 (Shearer) at Newcastle. You might argue that messers Walcott and Carroll have been entrusted with a lot of responsibility being given those shirts but kudos to both this weekend for performing in a way that would have made their respective predecessors proud.

4.Paul Scholes - He Scores Goals
Yes, he does! Take a bow son!

If I had bothered to get off my arse and finished the unpublished season preview/predictions blog post I started some weeks back, I'd be looking for the recipe for an industrial sized slice of humble pie (can you bake pie by the slice?) having boldly suggested that Roberto Martinez was going to get it right at Wigan (coincidentally, also famed for their great pies...) this year and they were definitely in contention for a top half finish. As we all know, you can't realistically gauge how the season is going to pan out after just two games but I can confidently state that I was wrong about Wigan and Martinez. The manager has to carry the can for this as it's his over-zealous attacking philosophy that is costing the team. There would be some justification if Wigan could actually find the back of the net but a bit fat zero in the 'Goals For' column along with the 10 goals conceded (both matches being at home no less) means that he is getting things oh so badly wrong. Chairman Dave Whelan has today suggested he is going to keep faith with his manager which probably isn't so great for Wigan but will mean a lot of fun high scoring trips for away fans traveling to the DW stadium over the next nine months. That and the pies, of course.

6.Something about technology
Once again, a big controversial decision has people talking about the need for technology to help officials blah blah blah repeat to fade. I've written about this before and stand by my previous assertion that while it would be welcome, we don't even need 'technology' per se as an extra official behind the goal would be as effective and easier to implement. An extra official could have easily spotted Stoke's 'goal' against Spurs and I wouldn't even have had to waste the last 84 words going over the same mind-numbing debate yet again. Instead we'd be arguing about the fact the goal shouldn't have stood anyway due to the also unspotted (is that a word?) foul on Gomes by Huth. But then again, an official behind the goal would have seen that too wouldn't he?

Also, see the penalty Fulham should have been awarded at 1-all against Man Utd and the fact Arsenal probably shouldn't have had a penalty against Blackpool. Both would have seen by an extra man behind the goal.

7.The Bale Identity
You'd struggle to find a better goal from the weekend than Gareth Bale's volley against the above-mentioned Stoke City. You can read the gushing tributes to the Welshman's vast improvement elsewhere but I'll just say how refreshing it must be for Spurs fans not to be crapping their lillywhites (see what I did there?) whenever Bale's name appears on the teamsheet given his previous reputation as a jinx.

8. Return of the Mac
Spreading further afield, Die Bundesliga begun this weekend. How is this relevant? Well, with the much-maligned Don Fabio taking flack from every direction at the moment, it has been interesting to see that his predecessor and 'worst England manager ever' Seventh Choice Steve McClaren has been something of a revelation on the continent since walking out of Wembley with his tail (presumably his brolly) between his legs that awful November evening way back when.

Having won the Eredivisie with unfancied FC Twente last season (following a second place finish in his first season the previous year), SurAlex's former protege has recently been appointed manager of 2008/09 German champions VfL Wolfsburg. His first competitive game took place on Friday night against Bayern Munich at the Alllianz Arena where McClaren's side gave a decent account of themselves. They were however, unfortunate to lose out to a last minute Bastian Sweinsteiger goal but there was little to suggest that the former Middlesbrough manager cannot continue where he left off in Holland – comical accent aside hopefully.

Despite my extensive previous criticisms of him, I have to say that I am impressed that we have an English manager that is prepared to spread his wings by going out and managing in different countries to further his own education of the game. If more English managers were prepared to do this then we'd ultimately breed better managers and wouldn't have people up in arms about us hiring foreigners because we quite simply wouldn't need to. I'm not saying I would like McClaren back in charge but there is no denying that his recent Euro education, whatever your feelings about the Dutch league, means he is far more qualified for the job now than when he replaced Sven.

9. Where's 'e Edin?
In the same game, I got the chance to watch 90 minutes of the much-hyped Edin Dzeko for the first time. My verdict? lively player and scored a great header but for the crazy prices he's being quoted at? I'm not so sure.

10. And finally...
I don't like the new MOTD titles this season nor the new Sky Sports News layout (although being the techy TV geek that I am, I can't express my happiness that it is now shot in proper 16:9 widescreen format – of course, can't complain about the lovely Charlotte Jackson in HD either).