Anti-Barcelona

Posted: June 27, 2012 in General Rants
Tags: ,

I had a recent piece published on a popular football website. Quick copy paste job just to archive it. Was in response to a chap who was attempting to defend his dislike of the Spain/Barcelona way of playing football. Cheers.

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I found myself agreeing with you throughout. Without wishing to sound “hipster” (is that the word for it right now?) as if I disliked the Spanish way before everybody else, but it has bugged me for quite a while now. Like you say, it is glorious in its philosophy, and I completely appreciate and respect the amount of dedication, perseverance and technical ability that these individuals and their coaches are required to exhibit, but it just doesn’t entertain me.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I would much rather watch two League 1 teams kick seven shades of sh*t outta each other with rugged, unpolished, frayed and sometimes quite dirty football, because that’s just football to me. Stoke City get criticised ALL the time for their “long ball hoof” style of football, and people won’t except the fact that it often proves succesful as an excuse. Yet when viewers criticise Spain/Barca for passing it amongst themselves in the centre circle for 70 minutes, people always level the chestnut “Hey, it works doesn’t it?”. Unravel that one.

That’s why I was firmly behind Madrid this season whilst following La Liga. They may not utilise the exact same philosophy as Barcelona, but they are still able to play attractive, breath-taking football whilst almost always remaining exciting and thrilling to watch (Messrs Pepe and Marcelo sometimes transpire to ruin it all). Beautiful football to me isn’t about being able to string 700 completed passes together in neat little triangles, it’s about the giant bast*rd centre back jumping and heading a corner clear, the nippy little winger latching on to it, breaking at speed, sharing a one-two with the striker whose racing up along-side him and then belting it past the keeper. Defence in to attack in 7 seconds and a goal at the end, that’s what gets me out of my chair, that’s bloody entertaining. Watching players pass the ball endlessly back and forth to each other without even attempting to shoot unless it’s 4 yards from goal, is not.

Who are QPR?

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Haven’t posted in quite some time. Sorry about that.

Wanted to talk about QPR today and how, even with the backing of a very forward thinking, wealthy chairman, they still look like they are going to self implode and head straight back down to the league they completely ran away with not 12 months ago.

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During the 2010-2011 Championship campaign, QPR spent most of the season both at the top of the table and as the clear favourites to earn promotion and with the driving force of Neil Warnock behind them it seemed almost inevitable that they would win the league. They also had the bonus of being able to rely on a lot of their key players during that period; Paddy Kenny, Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Alejandro Faurlin, Adel Taarabt and Kaspars Gorkss all started more than 40 games for Rangers with Jamie Mackie, Matthew Connolly, Helguson, Bradley Orr, Kyle Walker, Wayne Routledge, Tommy Smith and Hugo Ephraim all playing more than 30 games and lending their hands to the effort.  They had a very strongly recognised first team XI that was only really upset through injury or suspension, with Warnock reluctant to employ the heavy rotation policy that we now see at QPR.

Fast forward less than 12 months and we see a completely different squad. A lot of the previous heroes have left and a lot of new faces have been brought in. During the period between the end of last season and the end of this season’s January transfer window they have sold or released no less than 17 players with a further 21 being loaned out (which included the likes of Clint Hill, Ephraim and Connolly). In order to balance the massive amount of players leaving the club, be it permanently or on a short-term basis, they have brought in 18 new faces (4 on loan).

Which ultimately means that of the generally recognised current first team XI, hardly any of them are players that helped QPR achieve Premiership status in the first place. Paddy Kenny remains the only nailed on starter from the Championship conquering team, with occasional appearances made by Shaun Derry and Helguson (Faurlin’s injury noted). Almost every other key area on the pitch is now being filled by somebody who has only recently been brought into the club, most notably upfront where 5 new forwards have been aquired. Meaning the likes of Smith, Mackie and Helguson rarely get the time on the pitch, which is highly ironic as more often that not when QPR have scored this season, it has come from Jamie Mackie and/or Heidar Helguson.

I made a similar point to a friend at the beginning of this season, essentially saying that you cannot expect to simply wave around a blank chequebook and make complete wholesale changes whilst also maintaining a high level of performance. If you want to voluntarily send your team into a period of transition, maybe it’s not quite a good idea to do it in one of the toughest leagues in the world. In order to start spending and bringing in the big names, you need to first establish a solid base that will keep you afloat if things go awry. That was never established at Loftus Road and now they are paying the price for naively assuming that money means survival.

In conjunction with the large number of players walking through the QPR rolling doors, the chairman Tony Fernandes has openly admitted that in order to tempt the likes of Barton, Wright-Phillips and Anton Ferdinand into signing for the R’s, they were given contracts that did not include relegation clauses. Meaning that, if QPR are in fact relegated, the rather high wages (Barton on £80,000 p/w for instance) wont be affected and the club will still owe the players the full weekly amount. Both Norwich and Swansea made sure, upon promotion, that all of their top earners had clauses installed within their contracts that ensured their wages would take a significant cut if they were relegated at the end of the season, meaning the bank manager would remain happy and the club could still afford to pay their players in the lower division. By not doing this with their premium talent, QPR will face possible financial ruin if they are relegated and will be forced to swiftly offload the players they spent so much to bring to the club.

In a nutshell the question here is how well would QPR have done if they had simply kept the same players (and manager?) that achieved such great success last season and simply added one or two new players in key areas, rather than completely changing the entire club?.

Disclaimer; This is more of an angry fans rant than a journalists subtle analysis. Imagine you’ve had a few down the pub.

From what i gather reading the generous plethora of footballing websites and online newspapers, a lot of United fans are blaming Gibson and Evans for the defeat, and I cannot understand why. Evans did have a shaky few months recently but he seems to have emerged from that and was impressive last night alongside the brilliant Smalling who looked a class above. Gibson was pretty good in the middle, didn’t lose the ball often and knocked it around quite neatly, the main problem for Gibson and United as a whole, was the fact that Ferguson still thinks Diouf and Macheda are good players.

I cannot see why he continues to play those two asshats. They have shown absolutely nothing since joining United (the Cico Villa goal was a complete fluke) and continue to disappoint every single time they step out onto the pitch. Macheda has been at United now since 2007 and in one 30 minute sub appearance Ravel Morrison managed to show more promise than the Italian buffoon has in 4 years. He has never looked good enough for the first team, he is rarely talked about by the reserve coaches, he completely failed in his stint at Sampdoria and there is not a single team in the land that is looking to loan in him January. Get rid now, release him on a free, I don’t care.

Diouf has shown even less. He is the living embodiment of a knee-jerk transfer. The guy had a pretty decent scoring record for Molde (who weren’t even in the Norwegian top division back then) and United decided to buy him. Since joining he has done nothing. He spent an entire season at Blackburn for god’s sake and got 3 goals. If you can only get 3 goals a season for Blackburn, what in blue blazes are you doing at United?. Plus, in terms of categorising a player, he is way out of the “young promising talent yet to fully develop” zone, as he is already 23 years old. He’s older than Sturridge and the same age as people like Young, Hernandez and Aguero!. Go away please.

The sheer lack of any talent up top meant that Valencia took it upon himself to be the main winger, the main creative midfielder and the main goal-scorer all at the same bloody time. Whilst i was proud of the lad (whose quality also stood out), I never expected him to do it all alone.

I also do not understand why Fergie decides to remove Berbatov if he wasn’t injured. Fergie cannot remove the halves best player and then claim that he was serious about winning the match.
He also made massive mistakes with the selection. Carrick and Fletcher could have done with a run out as they are still to find top form and Young could have benefitted from 60 minutes or so after his injury. You could of at least had a bit of experience on the bench. I can fully understand why Giggs wasn’t able to play given the recent events, but the bench could of had Evra or Hernandez as back up for the last 10 minutes, just in case.

Overall, a bad night for United, an absolutely woeful night for the manager.

Mutiny in the face of defeat

Posted: October 3, 2011 in General Rants

In light of recent events, most notably Tevez refusing to come on as a sub against Bayern Munich and Adel Taarabt storming out of the ground after being replaced at half time against Fulham, I wanted to talk about mutiny. Should we be laying all the blame at the feet of the player that dares to speak their mind, or should we instead be looking at the managers who, by removing their offensive options, are simply admitting defeat before the game is even over?.

Case in point. Man City were being completely outclassed by a frightening Munich side during Week 2 of the Champions League fixtures, whilst simultaneously being reminded that a large transfer kitty cannot buy you the type of experienced that only exposure brings. Yet, rather than attempt to earn more possession, create more chances on goal, push the Germans further into their own half and perhaps steal a goal that would make a fantastic game of the last 20 minutes, Mancini concluded that his side had already lost and decided to remove both Dzeko (the man on form) and Nasri (who is always capable of the unexpected) and brought on De Jong and Milner respectively, essentially admitting that the remaining time left in the game was nothing more than a display of damage limitation. This invited even more pressure from Bayern as the attacking impetus had completely gone from City with Aguero being left completely isolated as Silva desperately tried to help out the overwhelmed midfield. Mancini’s move to shore up the midfield and defense areas of the pitch by removing the technically gifted and replacing them with the solid workers, did nothing other than backfire and the only real saving grace that came from this woeful tactical mistake was that Bayern didn’t score again, when they really should have.
Given all that, is it any wonder that Carlos Tevez saw no point in coming on for the last 15 minutes?. I appreciate that there is a certain respect and professionalism that should accompany any sports person no matter what level you play at, and I am also under no illusions about Tevez and his mercenary tendencies, however, when given the choice between playing in a match that the man who is in charge has already thrown away as a defeat or playing the role of martyr to highlight the ineptitude of the manager, we really should have been able to predict which one somebody like Tevez would choose.

 

It’s similar in the case of QPR main man Adel Taarabt, who was removed at half time by Neil Warnock with the score at 3-0 to Fulham. Warnock’s response to this was wholly more appealing than Mancini’s, as he decided to remove two midfielders and replace them with two strikers, however the decision backfired even worse than the Italian in Germany. By removing both Taarabt and Derry (who is a rather unsung trojan in midfield), Warnock invited the pressure from Fulham as the likes of Dempsey, Murphy and Dembele were given even more room to exploit as the 3 strikers (none of whom have been particularly impressive anyway this season) were opposed to chasing back and helping out their team mates. I did wonder at the start of the season whether or not it was a good idea for Warnock to build a new team from the unwanted players at other clubs as it was likely to completely alienate those that earned the promotion, and create a genuinely unwelcome sense of individualism. When you consider that Taarabt is the leading light at his club that has been specifically told, by his manager no less, to be more of a live wire and to go back to his old ways of maverick stylings, was removed in favour of a striker (Campbell) that has only just joined the club, has only managed to find the net once (against a poor Wolves showing) and has only managed to complete a full 90 minutes once this season, you begin to understand just why Adel got so mad.

Some of the blame does lie at the feet of the player, granted. When annoyed, frustrated and angered, professional footballers should be able to use their own power of will to remain cool, but when the person behind you, that is supposed to know exactly what he is doing, looks as though he has no idea what he’s doing, lids might understandably be flipping.

Now, I am fully aware of the fact that the vast majority of my articles are constructed from a negative standpoint, a ‘glass half empty’ mind set, but that is usually because in this fantastic world of the beautiful game, there isn’t a lot that is purely simple. It is extremely rare these days to actually find something within this sport that is genuine, real and without any sort of ulterior motive. If a superstar panders to the cameras and delivers a press conference, most of the time it’s not because that particular player actually wants to interact with the outside world, it’s usually because their manager has ordered them to answer a couple of questions. If the boss calls a youngster into his office and tells him that they are going to be starting next weekends game, it’s hardly ever because the gaffer actually wants to nurture the potential, more likely its due to a senior player being injured and the manager having no alternative but to rely on an unproven, untested talent.

Nothing in the sport is as simple as black and white, good and bad, light and dark. And yes, I will admit that it is far easier to concoct an article whilst being a miserable sod, as is the natural way of the human race to constantly criticise and wish for change beyond our own reach, however, today, there is actually something truly worrying that I wish to address. Well, I say worrying, perhaps what I really mean is disturbing?, I’m unsure, you make your own mind up about this one.

There is a Brazilian superkid (yes, another one) that goes by the name of Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva, or simply Lucas. He is 18 years old, 5 foot 7″ tall and occupies an attacking midfield role for his current club, his only ever club, Sao Paulo. At Sao Paulo he has played as little as 30 games, scoring 8 goals. He has featured 9 times for the Brazil U20 squad, and 4 times for the Brazil senior side. He has only ever played within the Brazilian league, has had no exposure to European football and is perfectly happy at his current club. He is currently valued, by a host of top European teams, at an average asking price of £95m. His rise to global acclaim has only happened within the past two weeks, and already there are cries of a new Puskas, a new di Stefano, Maradona reincarnated. He is being tracked by both Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Real Madrid and both Milan clubs.

You add this to the startling proclamation of Thiago Alcantara, who, after only ever playing 14 senior games for his club Barcelona, has sealed a new 4 year deal with a buyout clause of £80m, and you start to wonder, are these kids actually the second coming of the greatest we have ever seen, or are they simple commodities stuck with price tags to be used in financial war?.

Maybe its a sign of the times?. Perhaps, as the world of football continues to develop, we are going to see these sort of monetary values become even more common place, perhaps in the not too distant future, every single transfer negotiation will skip the early bidding and go straight in at £40m?. This may be inevitable, we may have to simply sit back and hark at the unstoppable upscale of a miners leisure activity. All I will say, is that labelling a child with a price tag of close to £100m without ever really seeing them play, without them ever having actually visited the country you want them to permanently emigrate too, is absolutely, clinically, unequivocably, insane.

[Quick Author Note - Apologies for the lack of updated content in the recent weeks, the only real excuse i can offer is that during the period of time just as the season ends and just before the real transfers begin to happen, I actually have very little to discuss with yourselves. However, as people are starting to move around.....]

You may recall, for those of you that are persistent purveyors of my particularly petit online publishings (alliteration is fun!), that back in December of last year, I constructed an article debating the rather confusing James Milner to Manchester City transfer. I outlined the implications in terms of his career moving forward and the general stigma attached to players that move for the money rather than the sport. In lieu of that post, I would like to discuss some of the current transfer dealings that have happened, or are about to go through.

- Kevin Nolan (Newcastle –> West Ham // Completed)

Now before i start to discuss this transfer, I would like to state for the record that i have an inordinate amount of respect for any sportsman/woman who is able to take a look at their career and realise that they need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. For Nolan to not only take the step down from the Premiership to the Championship, but to also take a rather substantial hit to his wages every week, is a rather commendable act.

However, one has to wonder just why a player would want to remove himself from the best League on the planet, when there really is nobody forcing him to leave. Could it be that he feels more at home working under Sam Allardyce?, Could it be that Nolan feels he is coming to the end of his career and would much rather spend his twilight years helping a team to actually achieve something, i.e promotion, rather than feature in a stagnant pool of general mid-table mediocrity?, or, and this is perhaps the most plausible reason, could it be that the ego that drives us all, has, for Kevin, told him that he would stand out as a much better player were he to ply his trade in a poorer standard of competition?. Whatever the reason is, this is one transfer that i just cannot get my head around. There is no guarantee that West Ham will shoot straight back up into the Premiership, what with some of their star players from last season having already left, and their talisman on his way, coupled with the fact that the top 6 teams in the championship are every bit as good as the Hammers.

Gael Clichy (Arsenal –> Manchester City // Pending)

This one I just cannot fathom at all. I can appreciate the fact that Clichy may feel slightly disappointed after having experienced the overwhelming exuberance of being part of the infamous ‘Invincibles’ (of which, Clichy is the only remaining first team player), and then to see Arsenal go on an inexplicable run of not really winning anything of note, but if its triumphs and trophies that you’re after, why would you possibly think that it’s a smart idea to move a side that, bar this years FA Cup victory, haven’t actually won anything since 1976?

Yes there is a current reformation going on at City, yes there are some genuine world-class talents at the club and yes the whole franchise does seem to be taking huge positive strides in the right direction, but, and this a big but, at the same time, the owners have more money than sense, nobody has any idea if any of the players are staying or leaving and the general harmony of the squad could be likened to a gabble of teenage Prom Queens fighting for the last pair of Jimmy Choo’s 5 minutes before Harvey Nicks closes. It’s a risk that may very well pay off and leave a lot of people eating their words were City to go on a European rampage and devour every single tournament that there is to partake in, but it could just as likely backfire as City never really achieve their true potential. Not to mention the fact that Clichy is a bona-fide first team player for his current squad, and would have to compete with the likes of Kolarov, Boateng, Zabaletta, Bridge, Boyata and Onouha for the left back birth were he to jump to the sky blue ship.

Jordan Henderson (Sunderland –> Liverpool // Completed)

Many have spoken about this move already, so i won’t bore you with the same old regurgitated ensembles about how he is unproven, overpriced and only worth that much cause of his nationality. What i will attempt to highlight however, is the ineptitude of some, if not all, of Liverpool’s recent signings in midfield, and just why they feel it necessary to add even more ingredients to an already overflowing pot. Consider this; if you were to construct the Liverpool middle 4 (assuming Kenny plays a 4-4-2) and your talent pool included Steven Gerrard, Maxi Rodriguez, Raul Meireles, Dirk Kuyt, Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic, Lucas Leiva, Christian Poulsen, Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey and the returning Alberto Aquilani, would you actually find a place in the first team midfield for Henderson?. Granted, Jordan is one for the future, and he outlines the impressive youth policy that Liverpool have in effect right now (what with the likes of Wilson, Ayala, Pacheco, Robinson and Flanagan breaking through), but to spend upwards of £20m on a player that has rarely displayed an ability to actually perform at a level required for a Champions League team (assuming thats where Liverpool are aiming), is rather perplexing.

Fascination with the Bottom

Posted: April 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Could this be the most average Premiership season we have ever seen?. By which i mean, every single team in the English top flight has been rather poor this term. No one team has been head and shoulders above the rest, and its due to this reason that for the first time in recent memory, the bottom of the table is actually more entertaining than the top. Yes, winning the league is the ultimate goal of all 20 teams (if it isn’t the ultimate goal, you shouldn’t be playing the sport), but as the ‘Big Four’ have become tougher to predict, the bottom half of the table has begun to shine.

Whilst teams like Wolves, Wigan and Blackburn may not play the beautiful game in the way that Arsenal do, the sheer dogged determination to achieve survival has everybodies attention. With only 8 points separating Wolves in 20th and Aston Villa in 9th, it is still mathematically plausible that any team currently residing in the bottom half of the table could be relegated come the closing week of the season.

One thing that has emerged, above all else, from the relegation battle is the ethos of the Seasiders. Blackpool have slowly started to grate on myself and a lot of other supporters, as their care free attitude has gradually transformed into an arrogant swagger. It’s almost as if they believe, that by playing more attractive football than the other relegation strugglers, that they have more reason to achieve survival than everybody else. Whilst they have certainly been that figurative breath of fresh air this season, simply playing attractive football does not warrant relegation avoidance. With Avram Grant, Roberto Martinez and Mick McCarthy working their behinds off every week in order to secure the points needed for the magic 40 mark, it must be rather frustrating to have one of your neighbours claim that, although they might get tonked 3-0 every weekend, they deserve their place in the Premiership because they are a delight to watch. It would certainly irk me if style persevered over substance.

Personally, i think McCarthy is one of the best managers in the league, certainly one of the most underrated, and although his team is arguably a Championship side (with only Hanneman, Jarvis and possibly Doyle being Premiership quality), it would be more of a detriment to the league to lose Mick than it would be to lose Blackpool FC. Over the course of the 33 games played by Blackpool, currently occupying 18th place, the quality of their squad has come to light. Whilst they may be entertainers, you cannot hide from the fact that bar Charlie Adam, they have not made the transition from Championship side to Premiership side (they have the leagues worst goal difference), and at the end of the day they are exactly where they deserve to be.

I would not wish the disadvantages and despair of relegation upon any team, but as 3 do have to go down, i would ideally like it to be Blackburn, Birmingham and West Ham.

For me Blackburn are the worst football team in the league in terms of the style of play and the way they approach every fixture. They have gone right back to square one under Steve Kean, adopting the philosophy of having big strikers that everybody aims long balls towards. Add to that the ludicrous decision to sack Sam Allardyce, a decision that Blackburn have still not recovered from, the apparent lack of any understanding of the English game from the new Owners and the fact that they have conceded the most goals away from home this season, I believe they have not done enough to ensure another year of Top Flight football. Although realistically they will probably survive.

Likewise, the lack of any goal threat from Birmingham has seen them win only 8 out of their 32 games (a 25% win rate), whilst drawing 14. That record in itself is synonymous with relegation and whilst i have nothing but respect for Alex Mcleish, when you realise that they have the joint worst goals tally (32, along with Wigan) in the entire league, you start to wonder if they would be better off in a lower division.

And finally, West Ham. Possibly the better of the 3 teams, with Green, Upson, Parker, Cole, Keane, Bridge and Ba all showing that they deserve to be playing regular football in the Premiership, it has been a simple lack of bite that has seen West Ham stuck quite firmly in the bottom 3 for the majority of the season. They have the individuals, but when the sum of all the parts are combined they often come up short against every other side in the league, proven by the statistic of having the fewest number of wins of any team. It would be a shame to lose the Hammers, as they are one of those entities that you simply associate with the Premiership, however their form has been far too sporadic for a team looking to survive.

The UEFA Euro U-21 Football Championships begin this summer, a year before the full competition occurs in 2012. The reason this is so relevant is because certain English individuals are making noises about partaking in the U-21 Euros when both Fabio Capello and their respective club managers really would prefer it if they didn’t.
This raises an important moral dilemma. Should players like Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere be prevented from participating in a competition that may garner vital new world experience, but may also render said individuals exhausted and ‘burnt out’ by the time it comes to playing the real thing.

Germany, the reigning U-21 champions, showed exactly why it can be so fruitful to allow your youngsters time out from club football to venture into the world of internationals at such a tender age, as a number of the players that did so well in the 2009 Euro U-21′s (predictably thrashing England 4-0 in the final) became part of the full senior Germany team that performed so well in the recent 2010 World Cup. It is often said that the top players can only be measured by how well they perform on the global stage, so surely allowing them experience of this whilst they are still developing as players will surely result in a better standard of professional?. Yes an injury may occur, but that’s the sport with which we hold so much love for. To pick up an injury, you have to be playing football. Jack Wilshere could quite easily pick up a calf strain whilst playing for Arsenal and be out for 8 weeks, where as had he gone to the U-21 Euros he may not have picked up the injury and could have led England to victory, gained experience, a winner’s medal and the support of the nation. Picking up injuries is all random, it’s based mainly on luck. Professional footballers train to such a high standard these days that injuries can occur at anytime, so preventing a player from participating in a tournament through fear of injury is simply irrelevant and asinine.

Allow the kids to go. They have at least 10 years of football ahead of them, touch wood, what is one summer in the grand scheme of things?. Besides, an England U-21 team without the likes of Wilshere and Carroll may face the same ridicule and embarrassment that the senior squad did, not 6 months ago. If we wrap all of tomorrow stars in cotton wool, there may be nothing for future generations to view and experience.
There is no use in taking 3 steps backwards if only 2 steps are made in progress.

Usually I go off on some frantic tirade about how i think the modern times of football are affecting the game and how foreign owners are destroying the British tradition of our sport. However, today there are a lot, and i mean a lot of big stories emerging from the world of football, so rather than conjure 3 or 4 separate walls of text, i am merely going to cover a brief bullet point or two on the subjects at hand.

 

  • Arsenal’s first choice centre back pairing seem to be done and dusted for the season. Thomas Vermaelen has had 6 reoccurrences of his original injury, that have set him back another 12 weeks at least. Bearing in mind the season has only 9 weeks remaining, it also looks like Johan Djourou will miss most, if not all, of Arsenal’s title run in as he has been given a diagnosis of 6 weeks at best.
  • Cesc Fabregas, Theo Wallcott and Alex Song will all miss the WBA game.
  • The other rather shocking news to come out of the Emirates this week is that Arsene Wenger has re-signed the 41 year old former German number 1, Jens Lehman, as a back up to Manuel Almunia. ‘Mad Jens’ has been drafted into the Arsenal set up as both Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny are injured, and Vito Mannone is currently out on loan at Hull City.
  • Luis Nani has been causing major shockwaves recently, in more ways than one. He has released a press statement voicing his fury at Jamie Carragher, after the Liverpool stalwart left a large gash on the shin (I don’t understand shin injuries, where are your shin pads?) of the Portuguese winger. The vicious tone with which Nani released his statement clearly showed that no love has been lost between the two players.
  • Then, almost immediately afterwards, Nani addressed the issue of his displeasure with his current contract. After seeing Darren Fletcher, Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney all receive bumped up contracts recently, he is rather disappointed that he has not been offered an increase in wage after the admittedly brilliant season that he is currently enjoying. Whilst he may warrant an increase, he has to realise that it is the manager’s decision, not his. His threats to leave look like a rather pitiful mimic of Rooney’s theatrics.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson has been handed a 5 match touchline ban for his comments made towards referee Martin Atkinson after the league defeat against Chelsea. The ban will come into immediate affect and has been met by Ferguson’s usual vehemence. He firmly believes that he was right to contest the decisions that Atkinson made during the game, and will appeal in the name of ‘truth and justice’ against his ban.
  • Sir Alex has also admitted that Rio Ferdinand’s season might be over, as the perma-crock constantly hits relapses of old injuries. The current English skipper has only played 15 club games all season, which clearly shows that the injuries are getting the better of him, and at the ripe old age of 32, this maybe the end of the United centre back.
  • Owen Coyle, who faces Manchester United this weekend with his in form Bolton side, has backed the Red Devils to win the Premier League title.
  • Torres has played down his recent goal draught.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson has also played down talk of Manchester United drawing Barcelona in tomorrow’s Champions League Quarter Final and Semi Final draws.

That’s about it. Back to normal next time.

One thing that has surprised me during the aftermath of this evening’s highly enjoyable renewal of one of the modern games most distinguished rivalries, is that a lot of people appear to be offering their sympathy towards Arsene Wenger. It seems his teams recent capitulation, losing the Carling Cup semi final, failing to score against Sunderland, being forcibly dumped out of the Champions League by Barcelona and now being removed from the FA Cup by Manchester United, all within the space of a fortnight apparently warrants some sort of warm feeling towards the Arsenal boss. Why?.

Surely when a team falls apart so vehemently as Arsenal did against Birmingham, it is the manager’s job to pick them back up again and sort out the mess. It is the managers vocation, occupation and direct responsibility to make sure that even though you may stare into the face of defeat, you still give it your all and deliver the performances. If your team is incapable of doing so, and continue to play ineffective, albeit attractive football, surely the main man is the man in the frame?. Now, im not suggesting for one second that Arsenal need a change of personal, due to the wonders that Wenger has worked over the past decade he really does deserve the respect he demands, but when you cannot feel anything but sympathy for one of the best teams in the land, surely that shows just how frustratingly bad Arsenal can be at times?.

I’m not an expert, nor am I highly trained in the field of Football management, however I am able to spot weaknesses when they are so blatantly obvious. Using a 19-year-old, admittedly a very talented 19-year-old, as not only your main linchpin,but also your chief conjurer in the middle of the park  is not a great idea considering the talents of Samir Nasri are being wasted out on the wing. I have never understood Wenger’s main formation of 3 in the middle, 2 wingers and 1 up top, especially when you take into account that the players that are often played out wide; Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky, are primarily central midfielders at heart, not wingers.

Flooding the midfield is also not a great idea when half of your midfield stable is made up of two players, in Diaby and Denilson, that are quite clearly out of their depth at Arsenal FC. Never has Alex Song been missed so dearly.

To top it all  off, Wenger then expects a man he has treated so improperly, Marouane Chamakh, to come off the bench and do the business for him as the main striker. I cannot believe that Chamakh would have been in the best frame of mind, considering that at the beginning of the season he was the number 1 forward, and has subsequently fallen behind even Nicklas Bendter in the pecking order. He has been unfairly treated by Wenger, as Arsenal would most likely be fighting for a top 4 position, rather than the title, had it not been for Chamakh’s performances and goals during the time that Van Persie was injured.

To cut a long article short, sympathy is only due when somebody incurs a bad run of luck, or is duped by a piece of atrocious officiating. When a manager and a team are simply poor, rather than unlucky, no sympathy is due whatsoever.

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A few points to add-on;

- Johan Djourou will be out for the rest of the season will a badly dislocated shoulder

- Man United have reportedly had a bid accepted for Everton’s Jack Rodwell

- Surely Chris Smalling is on the shortlist for Young Player of the Year?.

- Van Der Sar may be even tougher to replace than Giggs and Scholes.

- Darron Gibson wasn’t playing. I refuse to admit that he was on the pitch. I don’t ever remember seeing him do anything of worth.