Disgusting

04/05/2010

What a strange weekend of football. On Sunday there were two surreal matches, one in England, and one in Italy. In England, Liverpool hosted Chelsea, and in Italy, Lazio played host to Inter. In both matches the home fans wanted their team to loss, although both got their wish, there was only one where the team agreed with the fans.

Lazio’s fans may have jeered and booed whenever their team attacked or the keeper made a save, they were determined that Roma were not going to win the league, and so happily favoured an Inter win over their team, but there was a difference to what was happening in Liverpool – the players still tried.

From the moment the Liverpool Chelsea match kicked off the viewers were treated to a limp, lifeless and really shameful performance from Liverpool. They wouldn’t make any tackles, stood off the Chelsea players, inviting them to attack, and refused to go at anything other than a jog. Chelsea fared little better, looking as nervous as they had in losing to Spurs a few weeks earlier. They were there for the taking, and until Steven Gerrard gave them an opening goal Liverpool could have easily sprung into action and had them. If they wanted too – clearly they didn’t.

Obviously Liverpool fans will protest that their was nothing sinister or underhanded in Gerrards pass to Drogba. Perhaps there wasn’t, but the truth is would he have been that reckless, careless and irresponsible, had he been concentrating? If he cared? I doubt it. It was the attitude of the players that was alarming.

There can be two things drawn from this. Either they, like the fans, did not want to allow United to win a 19th league title, or they were determined to get rid of the manager. Both are favourite now, so which ever it was they will get their wish. Rafa should be on his way, probably to Juventus, and Chelsea have one hand on the league.

Whoever takes over at Liverpool next year should be alarmed and disgusted by the unprofessionalism of the players, and the loss of integrity they’ve given to the game. They’ve done themselves, their club and the game a disservice. unfortunately I doubt they realise and sadly I don’t think they even care.


At Last Spurs Rise

21/04/2010

Each year I predict that Spurs would be the team to crack the top four, and while many have opined that Arsenal would be the team to lose out at the expense of their North London rivals, I always felt it would be Liverpool losing out. Now finally that looks to be on the cards.

Last season Liverpool pushed United to the title. Much was expected of them this season. Many, admittedly within the camp and their fan base, felt this would be there year. That proved to be far from the truth. What we have seen this season is that Liverpools title challenge last season was a once off surprise and not the dawning of a new period of success. They are a team with not enough quality and over reliant on the little that they do have. While many would suggest that Rafa is a genius, this stems solely from the Champions League success of his first season. A success born from an inherited squad. It’s what has happened since that has been the problem. They have stagnated as a top four club and this seasons decline has been a long time coming. It’s fine to turn up for a couple of big games a season but it’s the 30 odd other games that win you titles.

By contrast Spurs have been on the verge of breaking into the top 4 for years. That they haven’t has been mostly down to their form against the big teams where they have flattered to deceive time and again. Not so now. This last week they have beaten both Arsenal and Chelsea and travel to United on Saturday to try to make it 3 in a row. It’s a remarkable record at the business end of the season. While they have steadily build their squad they have had to compete with the shift in power that has seen Manchester City splash the cash to compete for 4th place. In the penultimate weekend these two will battle it out for what should be a winner takes all 4th place play off.

The number of English, and British players, in the Spurs squad must be a factor in their rise. King, Dawson, Jenas, Defoe, Crouch and Bale, supplemented by some foreign flair and experience is a better recipe than Rafa’s bit part foreign mercenaries.It’s meant that there is less time needed for players to adapt and get to grips with both the team and the league. The relatively smaller squad to that of United and Chelsea has meant that they’ve had to persist with the likes of Gomez in goal, who had a nightmare start to his career at Spurs, and Roman Pav has had to remain with them, and is now coming good.

With the right investment, and there is little room for error, they can sustain their push next season. They’ll have to find a blueprint that would take them to the next level and not follow Liverpool path. Next seasons race for 4th, with Spurs, City, Liverpool, Villa and Everton all comepeting promises to be one of the most intense yet.


Spurs Not there Yet

03/11/2009

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Each English Premier League season starts with predictions of teams breaking into the elusive top four, and with it Champions League qualification, and each season seems to end the same way – with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool keeping their top four monopoly. In the last few years only Everton have managed to finish ahead of one of the top four, Liverpool, but have progressed since then.

 

This season sees the best chance yet of an outside team cracking the top four, with Manchester City’s buying power and Spurs progression under Harry Redknapp putting pressure on the top four. Added to this has been the big fours inconsistency, with United, Arsenal and Chelsea having lost 2 of their opening 11 games, and Liverpool’s nightmare start seeing them go down in 5 of theirs. Last season Liverpool finished 2nd with only 2 loses. City have had their best start to a season and currently occupy 4th position, at the expense of Liverpool. Although they have drawn their last 4 games City have only lost once, the least in the league. Their money is buying a good team, and with more to spend in January there’s every chance that they can crack a top 4 finish, and progress from there.

 

The same can’t be said for Spurs. Each season begins with Spurs as the side predicted to compete for 4th place, and with the exception of one season, when they finished 5th, they have been unable to sustain a real push. Redknapp has done wonders with the struggling team that he took over last year, but with the players at his disposal it would only take the right man to turn them into a competitive outfit. The start that Spurs made to this season filled all at White Heart Lane with optimism. They even led the table for a while. However they have been shown up in their games against United, where they were well beaten by 10 men, and against Chelsea and Arsenal, both who thrashed them. Their opening day win against Liverpool suggested that they had potential to last the pace, however it now seems that was more about where Liverpool are this season then how much Spurs have improved.

 

Spurs have improved under Redknapp and are enjoying a good start to the season, however when they’ve really been tested, against United, Arsenal and Chelsea, they have been truly out classed. Rather than competing with the top four, it is perhaps more realistic to say that Spurs have moved ahead of the chasing pack, the likes of Everton and Aston Villa, made the gulf in class between them and the top four is as far away as ever. Spurs will be competitive but their fans shouldn’t be looking at a top 4 finish but rather at a Europa League place. However City fans may be able to dream of a top 4 finish, especially with Liverpool’s struggles, but for Spurs that’s still more of an ambitious dream then a realistic goal. Still, a cup run may be within them.

 

pic from teamtalk.com


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.


Veloso To Milan?

17/06/2008

Miguel Veloso, the Sporting Lisbon midfielder currently with the Portugal squad at Euro 08, has long been touted as being Premiership bound, with Manchester United seemingly favourites to land the talented central player, and Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Newcastle and even Everton ready to pounce. It now seems he may be heading to Italy to join AC Milan.

While a host of club scouts are no doubt waiting to see Veloso in action at Euro 08 before making their move Milan may have jumped the line by taking action. The link to Milan is not new but where as before it was coming out of Veloso’s camp, and denied by Milan, they have now revealed that Veloso could be a Milan player in the future.  Milan director Ariedo Braida has said that the club are interested in Veloso and he could see him being a Milan player in the future. While this does open the door to a move to Italy it does put a vague spin on the time scale. He hasn’t said that they will be moving for Veloso this transfer window but merely that he sees him at Milan in the future.

With the Milan squad an aging one, and any new signings tending to be for the future, as a new Milan is born, with the likes of Pato leading the way, Veloso would fit the mould of the type of midfielder MIlan would want, probably taking over from Gattuso in the middle of the park. However with a host of clubs monitoring the situation anyone interested in Veloso will have to make a move soon, and would have to meet Sportings valuation of the player, which wont be cheap.

For now he is still a Spoting player, but it is only a matter of time before he makes the move to one of Europes elite.


Englands Foreign Problem?

20/11/2007

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Whether or not England gain the point they need to sneak into Euro 2008, thanks to Russia’s stage fright in Israel more than anything England have done, much will be made of the debate as to why England have been so toothless and inept over the last few years. Excuses and explanations can be found in every corner, from the manager, Steve Mclaren, just not being up to the job, from the players showing little desire, to the players just being not up to scratch and relying on over inflated reputations carved out of being carried by good club teams. The explanation that is gathering the most voices focuses on the influx of foreign players in the English league system, to the detriment of home grown players, and thus to the nation team.

Those who are most vocal about this being the reason England are battling on the international scene, while their club teams are some of he best in the world, point to Arsene Wengers Arsenal as to the best example of the problem. Generally when Arsenal play there are no English players in the starting 11, and one when Theo Walcott makes a rare start. The team, describes by many as the most entertaining footballing team in the world today, rely on a cosmopolitan team made up of talented players from across the globe. Theo Walcott waits on the bench for rare starts. Justin Hoyte rarely makes an appearance either. But would the Emirates be filled every week if Arsenal was made up of average English players? Would they be playing the same brand of football that has made the Premiership stand out from the more tactical, but mundane, Italian league? The issue of whether or not foreign players, and foreign managers too, have helped or harmed the league is a simple one to answer. Without a shadow of a doubt they have made the league better.

At first there were only a sprinkling of foreign players in England. Cantona, Zola and Bergkamp brought a level of professionalism and flair to a game that was missing both. The days of players going out for a drink after training, of players eating anything they wanted, and of players not doing the extra work that was required to take them to a new level, where left behind. Players playing with these stars were quick to see that they had to change their habits and adapt or be left behind. This was the future of world football and it took the English league up to a new standard rather then have it lag increasingly behind as it had been doing. The best players needed to come to England, rather then Italy, as had been the case for many years.

With increased skill, flair and entertainment, came more money. Money poured into the English game, and this money has just increased and increased to such a state that the top teams weren’t the only one that could afford and attract the class and calibre of player that was craved by the team and fans. Without the foreign invasion there would be no money because the league would not be as entertaining and popular as it is now.

Leaving behind the obvious reason as to why the league can not issue a restriction on non England players per squad, that is slaps in the face the freedom of employment laws that all EU citizens have, that is would this be illegal, there is a far simpler case as to why it is not needed. If the English players were good enough they would be in the team. England is not producing players of a high enough standard to merit selection into the teams that are at play today. When less foreign players plied their trade in England obviously more English players played. Yet these players would have been in the same class as Championship players these days, with the exception being the Bryan Robsons, Terry Butchers and Gary Linekers. These players would have still gotten into any of todays teams simply because they were good enough. Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Michael Owen will all start for any club team because they are good enough. If Arsenal had any players of this calibre they would be playing. The best players will come through no matter what is infront of them.

Simply put, the influx of foreign players in England has brought out the best in English talent. The players that are good enough are playing in their clubs teams. Players like Wright Phillips, Crouch and Defoe need to leave their clubs to get first team football. The system is not to blame, the players are.

 

England failed to qualify for USA 94 when there were few foreign players in the league.


In the Papers

01/10/2007

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NEWS OF THE WORLD:

Avram Grant has become a laughing stock among his own Chelsea stars who are backing him to get the boot by Christmas.

David Dein’s Arsenal dream is in tatters as Alisher Usmanov prepares to send him into exile.

Jose Mourinho could be back in management within a month – replacing Claudio Ranieri at Juventus.

Mark Hughes is the latest manager to be linked with Martin Jol’s job at Spurs.

Liverpool and Arsenal are chasing £10million-rated French star Samir Nasri.

Peter Reid is a surprise candidate to replace Sammy Lee as Bolton manager.

SUNDAY MIRROR:

Jose Mourinho is lined up to take over as Tottenham manager next summer.

THE PEOPLE:

Roy Keane is set to be offered an extension to his Sunderland contract.

Harry Kewell is running out of time to save his Liverpool career.

Manchester United starlet Lee Martin is set to join Plymouth on loan, with a view to a parmanent move.

Manchester City are lining up a £6million swoop for Juan Roman Riquelme.

Spurs are keeping tabs on Southampton winger Nathan Dyer.

SUNDAY EXPRESS:

Ajax striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar wants to move to the Premier League – news that could interest Manchester Untied, Arsenal and Newcastle.

THE SUN

  • Chelsea stars have been told that Avram Grant is the future of the club.
  • John Terry is set to be fit for England’s Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia. Michael Owen is also aiming to play in both games.
  • Frank Lampard has suffered a setback in his bid to be fit for Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Valencia.
  • Hong Kong tycoon Carson Yeung has assured Birmingham he will complete his takeover by the end of the year.
  • Everton midfielder Tim Cahill aims to return for the Merseyside derby on October 20.
  • Roma star Francesco Totti has apologised to a Manchester United fan for the violent police action in the Stadio Olimpico.
  • DAILY MIRROR
  • England boss Steve McClaren faces a massive dilemma for the crunch Euro 2008 qualifiers with Estonia and Russia over John Terry and Michael Owen.
  • Liverpool are lining up a deal for Hamilton youngster James McCarthy.
  • Middlesbrough’s Andrew Davies will hold talks with Hull about a loan move with a view to an £800,000 permanent move.
  • Celtic outcast Jiri Jarosik will spark a bidding war between Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Wigan when the transfer window reopens.
  • Fulham pair Moritz Volz and Collins John are January targets for Southampton.
  • DAILY MAIL
  • Roma have reopened the wounds of last season’s bitter Champions League clash by claiming Manchester United players deliberately whipped up a hostile atmosphere ahead of the second-leg tie.
  • Jussi Jaaskelainen’s agent has confirmed the Finn is unlikely to sign a new deal at Bolton and would jump at the chance of being reunited with Sam Allardyce.
  • John Toshack has launched an astonishing attack on Jose Mourinho.
  • THE INDEPENDENT
  • Chelsea captain John Terry is ready to play against Valencia on Wednesday night after surgery to repair a fractured cheekbone – and could wear a protective mask.
  • Wales coach John Toshack has launched a bizarre attack on Jose Mourinho.
  • Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has reacted angrily to reports Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer were bugged.
  • THE TIMES
  • After successfully undergoing surgery at the weekend, Michael Owen could return for Newcastle on Sunday.
  • John Terry has promised he will be fit for England’s Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia.
  • DAILY EXPRESS
  • Chelsea are set to ban broken cheekbone victim John Terry from facing Valencia, even though he has begged to be allowed to play.
  • DAILY TELEGRAPH
  • Chelsea want the FA to consider retrospective disciplinary action against Fulham’s Clint Dempsey for the challenge that broke John Terry’s cheekbone.
  • DAILY STAR
  • After undergoing surgery to repair a fractured cheekbone, John Terry has vowed to play through the pain for Chelsea and England.
  • THE GUARDIAN
  • Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has attacked a minority element of the club’s support for anti-semitic abuse of their manager Avram Grant.
  • Francesco Totti has sought to defuse tensions between the supporters of Manchester United and Roma.