Spurs in Crisis

30/09/2008

A couple of seasons ago Spurs missed out on a top  four position, and Champions League football, on the final game of the season. Then Martin Jol, who had guided them to 5th place for two successive seasons, made a poor start to last season and was sacked. Juande Ramos was brought in after some impressive achievements at Sevilla in Spain. Yet now we find Spurs bottom of the table, win-less after six games, and off to their worst start in 53 years.

There was much optimism for Spurs fans after last seasons Carling Cup win, beating Chelsea in the final, and the big spending that followed this pre season. Spurs were forced to sell their two star players, Robbie Keane and Berbatov, forced by the players want to leave, but managed to bring in Gomes, David Bentley, Giovani Dos Santos, Luka Modrik, Roman Pavlyuchenko as well as Manchester United’s young forward Frazier Campbell, on loan.  Spurs fans believed that this season could launch them onto the big stage. After six games they have yet to win, yet to look like winning, and are bottom of the table, bellow crisis club Newcastle.

There is little wrong with the playing staff at the disposal of Ramos. Spurs have one of the best squads in the league. They have a good young nucleus, made up of talented English players, such as King, Jenas, Lennon, Dawson, Bentley and Bent, and in Modrik and Dos Santos they have two potential world stars. Yet it has all gone so drastically wrong. There is an argument against buying to many new players at the same time, with the players,  both new and old, needing to learn to play with each other, and foreign players needing to get used to English conditions and the pace and physical nature of the game. This argument would see a side show inconstancy’s such as are being seen at Manchester CIty, who are untouchable one weekend, beating Portsmouth 6-0, and then going out of the League Cup to League One Brighten, and losing to Wigan the next weekend. Spurs have not looked like winning a game.

While there is a trend in English football to sack managers too soon, managers need time to build a team, Spurs must be stuck between a rock and a hard place as to what is to become of Ramos. If things aren’t turned around soon he will find himself out of a job. His work at Sevilla showed that he is a capable manager, and the players at his club are quality, yet something is going wrong. A lot of the blame has been put on the Berbatov situation. Yet this can not be an excuse. It was clear for a while that Berbatov was on his way out of Spurs, the situation should have been addressed by club and players and more confidence should have been shown on the players on the field. A bigger loss was that of Keane. Spurs are missing the Irish forward and the readiness of their ex vice captain to jump ship to Liverpool suggests more than just his boyhood support for the Anfield club. Clearly things aren’t right at Spurs.

There are rumours that Ramos has shown an unwillingness to learn English. If this is the case it not only conveys the wrong impression on his staff and players, but makes it difficult for his vision to be translated. Gus Poyet has shown that he is a good young coach, and was said to be wanted by Manchester United and Newcastle, and is being wasted as a translator at Spurs. They demeanour and attitude of the players suggests that they are unmotivated and even clueless on the pitch. It is often far to easy and simplistic to blame the coach for most of the problems facing a club. But Spurs are a club in crisis and Ramos seems to be the main cause of this.

Ramos may have come as the man who would deliver Champions League football to Tottenham, but he is rapidly running out of games to save his job. For many Spurs fans that day can’t come soon enough.


IPL Auction News

17/09/2008

With the rebel ICLmaking more headlines this week, with a host of Bangladesh players, including ex captain Bashar, signing up or set to sign, and the ICL saying they are still awaiting news of their application to be recognised by the ICC, the IPL, the recognised T20 league in India, has announced news of the next set of team auctions.

Although not yet set in stone, the IPL governing body meets in October, the date for the players auction has been earmarked for January 29 next year. The IPL governing body will also discuss the option of increasing the salary cap for players, which currently stands at $5 million.

A new addition to the IPL players selection is the advent of a transfer window for the second year of the IPL.  There will be a one month window before the beginning of the competition where teams can trade players. This extra element to the new season is sure to create even more interest in the period leading up to the action, just as the transfer window does for soccer.

The semi final and final hosts will also be decided. As defending champions the Rajasthan Royals, lead by Shane Warne, will decide where the final will be held, while the losing finalists, the Chennai Super Kings, will choose who will host the semi finals.

Next years IPL will take place from the 10th of April until the 29th of May.


Bad Day For Manchester

15/09/2008

 

Liverpool finally beat United in a league game under Rafa, and Robinho’s debut for City ended in defeat against the team he wanted to join. Saturday was a bad day for Manchester.

Liverpool had gone the duration of Rafa Benitez’s time at Anfield without a league win against United, and hadn’t even scored in the last five United matches, but they finally broke their duck on Saturday in the early kick off. The match came too early in the season, it was Liverpools 4th league game and United’s 3rd, to have any real significance in the title race, but what it would have done was given Liverpool the confidence to believe that they can actual feature in this seasons race, and not just talk about it. On the other hand they did comfortablybeat Chelsea last season and still didn’t feature in the title race. The feeling though in Liverpool is that this season is different, and they they now have a squad good enough to compete with United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

While Liverpool do have a stronger squad, and although Robbie Keane has yet to score, he could end up being the signing of the summer and the perfect partner for Torres, Liverpool should be more cautious then they are being. This has the potential to be yet another false dawn for the former kings of England. The worrying aspect from Saturdays match against United was that United were so poor. Liverpool were the better team and deserved their win. But they weren’t better in the sense that they were good, but rather in that United were so bad. Liverpool dominated the game but didn’t actual look like scoring any goals. It took two mistakes, the first by van der Saar and the second by Giggs, to gift Liverpool their two goals and the victory. So there is still very much for Liverpool to do if they are to mount a real challenge.

For United the path is much easier. They can not afford to defend as they did on Saturday ever again if they are to retain their title. The defending was terrible, and the two mistakes, by their two most experienced players, will not happen again. They need to bounce back immediately for they have Chelsea on Sunday and if they were to lose that they will be giving the rest a real lead and have to play catch up far earlier that they would like.

At City they talk was dominated by the clash of the cash, Chelsea v City, the two richest clubs in the world, in terms of owners wealth, and the impact that Robinho would have. Robinho was linked with Chelsea for the whole summer and wanted to go to London, but CIty offered more money, thanks to their new riches, and Robinho was off to the blue half of Manchester. As so often happens in football his debut turned out to be against the team he almost joined. It took only 13 minutes for him to make an impact as he opened the scoring with a free kick, 1-0 to City. City began to believe that they could be a force this season, that all the talk was true, and then the bubble burst. It was all Chelsea from then on and they levelled a few minutes after Robinho’s goal, and then comfortably won 3-1.

The talk of all the best players coming to CIty, of Champions League football, and title winning, is just that right now – talk. City have a long way to go. They have a good mid table squad and the addition of Robinho wasn’t going to take them that much further. They will delve into the transfer market in January, but who they want and who they’ll be able to attract and get is another story. What they need to do now is to hope to stay as close to that 4th place position as they can, and then hope that the players they bring in in January will take them up a step and get them to 4th. It’s going to be a hard job actually staying in contention for that 4thplace, but the players most know that with all the money available to Hughes they are all playing for their futures, and will have much to prove between no and January. Staying within touching distance of 4th place will go a long way to showing the boss they are good enough not to be replaced.

The hype was there, the belief maybe, but the effort was short, and in the end Saturday was a bad day for the city of Manchester.

 

(pic from teamtalk.com)


Early Start My Favour Liverpool

12/09/2008

The Premier League season has barely begun and already we have two massive weekends, with Manchester United v Liverpool tomorrow and Manchester United v Chelsea next weekend. The fixture list has not been kind to the champions.

United have had a stop start beginning to their season and have already played a game less then their chief rivals, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. They played in the European Super Cup a couple of weeks ago meaning that their weekend fixture was postponed. Then came the international week just past meaning that United haven’t played a league game since the second weekend of the season. So they may just be coming into this heavy week, with a Champions League game against Villarreal in between, a bit colder than they would have liked.

Until this season, when the rules were changed, the Italian Serie A seeded teams according to where they finished in the season just past, when compiling the fixture list. This was designed to ensure that the top teams would not meet each other early in the season. Effectively hoping that when they did meet they would be a top form and condition and the match would be “fairer.”  They have since done away with that, making the fixture list as random as it is supposed to be.

United go into this match with a great recent record against Liverpool. But it has been a while since they have met them this early in the season and they would no doubt, if given the choice, elect to play them when their season is well and truly up and running. With the league so close these days teams don’t want to fall behind early, and the losers of this match will already be playing catch up.

The stop start season thus far has given the likes of Carrick and Giggs time to recover from injury, both went off in the opening fixture against Newcastle, and Berbatov some extra training with his new team mates. Nani, who has been suspended for the opening games , is one to have benefited from the internationals, as they would have given him competitive games that he has so far missed.

For Liverpool, both Torres and Gerrard, their best players by far, have been out injured for the last few weeks and both missed their countries games. While they were declared unfit to take part in the internationals, don’t be surprised if they were to suddenly find themselves well enough to play tomorrow. England and Spain may be annoyed if that were to happen, but Liverpool won’t be. Miraculous recoveries like that are common place in football.

Being played this early in the season means that from a footballing point tomorrows game should not be as good as it would be if they had played later. However this is United v Liverpool, and the rivalry and bad blood between the two means that it will be as hard fought as ever and neither team will want to give an inch.

The early fixture may favour Liverpool more than United, but United will be looking to extend their good run against their northern rivals, and tomorrows game should be a close, if ill tempered, affair.

(Pic from teamtalk.com)


Jayasuriya A Dolphin

10/09/2008

 

Sri Lankan cricket legend, Sanath Jayasuriya, has signed for the Durban based, South African domestic cricket franchise, the Dolphins, for the next two years.

Jayasuriya, in the twilight of his career at 39, is still a dangerous and destructive batsman, particularlily  in limited over and T20 cricket, and a useful spin bowler as well. Having retired from Test cricket Jayasuriya is still involved in ODI and T20 cricket for Sri Lanka.

The Dolphins were one of the most consistent domestic performers in the 90’s in South African cricket, and enjoyed a very successful mid 90’s period, when, lead my coach Graham Ford and captain Malcomb Marshall, the West Indian legend, they brought through a group of talented youngsters in Dale Benkenstein, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusner and Niel Johnson, in a team that also had South African players Jonty Rhodes, Andrew Hudson and Pat Symcox. Since the restructuring of domestic cricket in South Africa, with the formation of the franchise system, the Dolphins have had a lean time of things, with just one trophy, a sharing of the 4 day competition with the Eagles, in the last few seasons. The star of that team was current South African batsman Hashim Amla, who was just entering first class cricket. The formation of the franchise system, where the domestic teams in South Africa were cut to just 6, saw all teams but the Dolphins merge geographically with another team. This meant that while the other 5 teams effectively got the pick of the best players from two teams, the Dolphins stayed the same. They have struggled for the most part and have been hurt even more with the loss of experienced players over the last few years in Benkenstein, Klusner and now Pollock. They have had to rely on a youthful team who have found things tougher than they had hoped.

The Dolphins did enjoy a great run in the MTN Pro 20 Series last season, reaching the final, when they had been expected to finish bottom of the log, gaining a place in the Champions League. What they have needed is an experienced player or two to come in and bring stability and campaign knowledge to a team that has shown glimpses of potential. HD Ackerman was signed for next season for that very reason and adding Jayasuriya to the mix will surely aid the team, and help in the development of the likes of Imran Khan and others. Jayasuriya has played a record 421 ODI’s and 110 Tests, and that type of experience would be welcome by any team.

The signing of Jayasuriya, and Ackerman, has shown that the current Dolphins set up are aware of what is needed to get the team back to where it should be, challenging for trophies, and the Sri Lankan batsman will relish the challenge turning a team starved of success into a winning combination.

Next season is looking good for the Dolphins. Much will now be expected, but the optimism and action will be welcomed by all in Durban.


Will City Be the Real Deal?

08/09/2008

So Manchester City are potential the richest club in world football and now have a supposed unlimited transfer kitty that goes beyond even Chelsea’s ludicrous spending. Bur are they the real deal?

When Abromovictook Chelsea from a mid table team to the top of English football he revolutionised the London club witha spending spree that had never before been seen in world football. Chelsea’s first year of their rebirth saw them finish just off the pace to Arsenal’s unbeatables. The next year Mourinho came in and they won the title for the next two years. Then they finished 2nd the next year as Manchester United stormed back to the top. Mourinho was let go at the start of the following season and they again finished 2ndto United again. Last seasons loss to United in the Champions League final was their best performance in Europe. So with Chelsea as the obvious blue print, can Manchester City really reach the top of world football?

The Abu DhabiGroup have a worth that puts them way ahead of all the owners of football clubs, even Abromovic, and they have promised to bring the best players in the world to City, at any price, and have set their goals as a top four finish this season, title winners next season, and Champions League winners the next. It’s a pretty impressive target list, especially when you consider that Chelsea have yet to win the Champions League, and this season will be their 6th year under Abromovic. While their targets may be within reach, given their funds, and remember it only took Chelsea 2 seasons to buy the league title, their first goal, a top 4 finish may be out of reach for this season. Chelsea did it in their first season, but they had a whole preseason to go out andbuy. City’s take over left them with only a day to buy. They managed to bring in Robinho for a British record fee, but failed in bids for the likes of Torres, Villa, van Nistelrooy, Mario Gomes and Klaas Jan Huntelaar. So they working with the same players they had for this season before the money came pouring in, plus Robinho. City weren’t a top four team before Robinho joined, andthey won’t be one with him.

That means that the next time City have an opportunity to flex their financial muscles is the January transfer window. This will really be the first time they will be able to show the world what their plans are. However it will be near impossible to bring in the players they want, the best players in the world. 90% of the worlds top players play for the best teams in the world. And those teams, minus AC Milan, will be in the Champions League, and thus, unless they have been knocked out, will not do business for their best players. So this leaves City with the next tier of players, and perhaps the players from the Champions League teams who only have an interest in money, the mercenaries. So they will have to throw money at these players, from teams not involved in the Champions League, and hope that those brought in will be good enough to settle in very quickly, and to shoot them up to a top four finish. I don’t see that happening.

So maybe a more realistic goal for City would be to try finish as high as they can this season, bring in who they can in January, and really start over during the next preseason, where they will have the chance to buy big, get players settled, and have a realistic go at at top four finish. This season is too soon for the new challengers.

With that said the City owners to have a lot going for them. They’ve obviouslydone their homework well. They have chosen a club with a new stadium, a strong fan base, an excellent youth system, anda strong manager. Mark Hughes has done remarkably well with a small budget at Blackburn andnow deserves his chance to show what he can do with financialbacking. Everything is in place for City to go as far as their new owners want them too. They just need to find out a way to attract the players they want to City, because not all of them will be doing it for the money.

While some doubt that City will be a real threat, and Chelsea fans should be the last to say that, just give them a chance to see who they bring in, what they can do, and if Hughes can bring everything together, and the big four will not have things as easy as they have for the last few years. Some people may not like it, but it’s the way football is going, and will bring far more interest to the league, especially for neutral supporters.

City have some way to go before they can be the real deal, but Chelsea did it, so why not City?

 

pic from teamtalk.com


A New Chelsea

04/09/2008

 

The take over of Manchester City last season led many City fans to believe that they could be the new Chelsea. Despite spending more than ever, a great start to the season, and doing better than they had for a long time, their rebirth as the new Chelsea didn’t happen. It has now.

The Abu Dhabi United Group have transformed City to a club with new heights to scale and and challenges to compete for. That the take over and transformation happened over night, and on the last day of transfer activity, means that we are unlikely to feel the effect of this move until January, when the transfer window reopens, at the earliest.

There will however be a few nervous glances over their shoulders by the big four. While Spurs and Everton have flirted with the hope of a top four finish, and the Champions League that is the reward, there is now a realistic chance, and hope, that a real sustained challenge is on the horizon.

This news will worry Liverpool, and maybe Arsenal the most. Chelsea may now have the second richest backer in football, but they still have the financial clout to keep buying their way into title challenges, and ensuring a top four finish for years to come. United have never finished out of the top three since the Premiership began, and as they have shown with back to back titles, after a three year drought, they relish the challenge of competing against the irresponsible spending of the blank cheque Chelsea. Arsenal have never been a big spending team, and are starting to look like a selling club at times, but instead rely on the prodigious talent and potential of their young stars. At times Arsenal are the best team in the country, and the world, and on rare occasions they are muscled out of games and end up chasing third place and not first. They will have a cautious look at what is happening in Manchester now, especially since they have refused to entertain the idea of being bought out by many on looking billionaires.

The most nervous of all the big four will be Liverpool. They have some of the best players in the world in Steven Gerrard and, inparticular, Fernando Torres, and have added the guile and unorthodix skill of Robbie Keane to their ranks. Keane and Torres could be the best strike duo in Europe. The potential is there, they complement each other, the only thing they need, and this is where Liverpool have failed over the last 18 years, is for them to click. The back ground squabling by the owners, the manager, the chief executive and anyone else who cares to have a go, that has made Liverpool a virtual laughing stock of the elite clubs, and the news of yet more problems with the planned new stadium, mean that Liverpool are at risk of losing their top four place to the new kid on the block, Manchester City.

City wasted no time in flexing their new financial might, with bids for Robinho, Berbatov, Torres, Villa, van Nistelrooy and another player, thought to be Huntelaar of Ajax. All bids were over the British record mark of 30 million pounds that Chelsea paid for Schevchenko, with the Torres bid in excess of 50 million. They only managed to bring in Robinho from Real Madrid for a new British Record of 32 million pounds. Significantly they signed Robinho when he appeared to be heading to Chelsea, who had even been selling shirts with his name on the back last week. Come January they have made it known that they will be spending whatever it takes to bring the best players in the world to Eastlands. Bids for Christiano Ronaldo, thought to be 135 million pounds, Cesc Fabregas and Buffon (70 million pounds) are in the pipe line, as well as many many more.

Chelsea’s new transformation under Abromovic saw a spree of spending that could not be believed. City look to make that look small. These are interesting times for English football, and with the league crying out for a challanger to the top four it seems they may have found one.

 Buying success may not always work, but it has for Chelsea, so why not City?

 

Pic from teamtalk.com