March 31 – belatedly marking National Cleavage DayBy Alberta Gooner | March 20th, 2012 | Category: Daily Links, English Premier League, Featured Posts, Rumors, Soccer | 27 comments
A burst pipe at our main plant prevented me from posting yesterday, which was apparently National Cleavage Day, which was marked by UEFA — and when we think of boobs, what a better place to start — by banning Arsene Wenger for three matches and fined him 40k in Greek indebtedness notes for intemperance towards a match official following his post-match moaning about AC Berlusconi’s time-wasting. Gooners who wander through grassy knolls have wondered whether Monsieur Wenger had done something filthy with Mrs. Platini to merit such a pigheaded sanction, which famously followed his ban for complaining about Robin van Persie’s ridiculous sending off at the Camp Nou. Hopefully they’ll use the 40,000 euros to improve the standard of officiating. It’s also clear they care a great deal more about protecting officials than, say, maintaining the integrity of their cash cow when they allow games to be played on glorified potato patches that was the San Siro pitch against both Holloway Road Properties and Catalan Aesthes. At least the rest of us can laugh when they fine (pick an eastern Europe, Portugese or Spanish club) who are fined 25 pence when large sections of their supporters direct monkey chants at black players. It really underscores where their priorities lay. Planks. (update — I wish Wenger’s fledglings showed as much stomach for the fight at Loftus Road on Saturday. Ugh)
Moving to more serious matters, English football was once again shocked by a major medical tragedy when Villa captain Stilian Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukemia, a disease that claimed the life of somebody close to me. Here’s hoping they caught it earlier enough to treat it and it spurs the Villa to rise up and smite the Rent Boys. (update — which didn’t happen, unfortunately, but the Villa supporters’ 19th minute tribute was class)
To the links and the profilic James Horncastle provides a couple of interesting pieces on David Silva’s declining form and whether Andrea Stramaccioni can repeat Pep Guardiola’s success by moving from moulding youth to winning first-team matches. He’s got a much tougher task than Guardiola given the respective states of the first-team squads.
I just realized the lack of Taking the Piss candidates in recent days and would like to offer Jason Burt, who suggests with a straight face that Leighton Baines is overtaking Ashley Cole as England’s best left back. Did he not see Baines play in the friendly against Holland? Cashley has showed signs of decline but after watching Baines’ pylonesque attempts at defending, you might as well put a big “attack me” sign on England’s left flank. Thicker than three planks, that idea.
That’s about it. Enjoy your football. (update — I didn’t but credit Club Kia for winning a game that Holloway Road were graciously willing to cede to them)
It’s that time of year, when the sun shines a wee bit more brightly, there’s a crisp freshness in the air and the sounds of puckering can be heard across greater Salford. Yes, it’s squeaky bum time, which means the traditional start of something that Fleet Street calls “Mind Games.” This tradition started in the mid-1990s when Kevin Keegan lost his rag in a televised interview and has continued, with varying success. Sometimes, as in 2002, the mind games spectacularly backfire, leading to delayed retirement plans. Other times, however, they have caused Beetface’s rivals to call press conferences and recite “facts” in a sort of stream-of-consciousness gibberish normally associated with James Joyce or a Lindsay Lohan bail hearing. Anyway, this year’s sparring partner appears to be the rather formidable Paddy Vieira, midfield destroyer turned Stockport Massive tapper-upper, who served first by suggesting that pressganging the Ginger Ninja out of retirement was a sign of weakness. Cue empurplement on the redder, less noisy side of Manchester, where football’s gentlest knight suggested Abu Dhabi FC had embarrassed themselves by allowing Carlitos back in the side. After MOTM Michael Oliver decided not to give a rather obvious penalty to Michael Jackson FC, Vieira responded with the stunning observation that United (gasp!) might benefit from favourable officiating, something that has never, ever been suggested. Beetface returned that volley by suggesting these things even out over a season. Only two more months of this nonsense to go and there’s already one causalty, as Stockport Massive have now banned the BBC’s Dan Roan from the club for “misrepresenting” Vieira’s interview. Perhaps if both clubs just summarily banned all media outlets, the rest of us wouldn’t have to suffer through this nonsense for the remainder of the season.
To fill the void, we could be treated to lots of navel-gazing features assessing the state of the Three Lions. As usual, Jonathan Wilson is well ahead of his colleagues by charting the entirely made-in-England disaster that awaits in the summer. The rest of Fleet Street will have to go through their usual hype/help/hypocrisy cycle before arriving where Wilson is after England crash out at the group stage in late June.
Talking of this cycle, Dalglish FC’s signings — greeted with so much enthusiasm during the summer as King Kenny’s Britpack buys affirmed a commitment to both pushing for a top four spot and dammit, showing other clubs (read Arsenal) that they should buy British blah, blah, blah — are now being re-cast by the likes of Norman Hubbard as, ahem, the Flawed Four. I’m linking this NOT to stick the boot into the blog’s Liverpool supporters but instead to highlight the massive hypocrisy of certain commentators and to point out, again, that transfer spending does not always equate to success, something that a fair few Arsenal supporters cannot seem to grasp even as they watched Andrei Arshavin meander pointlessly into cul-de-sacs through much of this season.
Continuing with the “car crash” theme, Bobby McMahon, who has no small amount of experience in organizing major sporting events, explains why Brazil’s shambolic World Cup preparations are a very bad sign for the Rio Olympics.
FourFourTwo has an interesting feature in inviting readers to build the best British and foreign XIs ever to play in the Premier League.
Let me try:
Brit XI (4-4-2 – obviously) Seaman-Neville-Campbell-Ferdinand-Cole-Beckham-Gerrard-Scholes-Giggs-Shearer-Rooney
Adams, Ince, Le God, Fowler and Lampard may object to this.
Foreign XI (4-2-3-1) Schmeichel-Lauren-Desailly-Stam-Evra-Keane-Vieira-Ronaldo-Cantona-Pires-Henry
Note the absences of, among others, Vidic, Gallas, Makelele, Bergkamp (sigh), Zola and Drogba. Plenty of arguments to wedge any or all of them in that side.
In any case, I believe the Foreign XI would be two goals better than the domestic side.
Steve Menary suggests the FA needs prospective owners to show clubs the money prior to allowing them to invest. Which would be the way the grown-up world does it.
When the Portugese tactics elf decided to sign his suicide note at Rent Boys FC through the novel medium of a Champions League team sheet against Napoli, the sheer smarmy cheek of leaving out the omelet maker’s mini-mes — Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and, most galling of all, world-class Frank Lampard — sets the newshounds baying for blood. The rest of the side dutifully obliged and rolled over, ushering in Roberto di Matteo as caretaker. The former old boy displayed an admirable respect of his limitations — letting JT manage the club — until things turned sticky. So when Roman’s mercenaries turned up at the Estadio da Luz without Lamps, Drogs and Essien in the starting XI, assembled journos began penning his obits. So when Salomon Kalou poked in Nando Torres’ ball into the six-yard box to secure a 1-0, there were plenty of bad words in the press box, where ledes had to be furiously rewritten. Some pundits have yet to forgive di Matteo for his error or the Rent Boys for winning but Richard Williams is a much bigger man than some of his colleagues (even though he decided to stick the boot into AVB in his lede). I mean metaphorically, by the way, and am not casting aspersions about his weight. Toothsucker Paul Hayward, meanwhile, spurned a chance to kick di Matteo and instead produced some nostaglic drivel agreeing with Frank Lampard’s rather pointed assessment that the Rent Boys are not as good as they once were. Which, if tweeted, should be filed with a #noshitsherlock hashtag. As a footballing spectacle, it was pretty dire stuff. The really good news is if the Rent Boys progress past Benfica, they will play Barca before and after their trip to the Emirates. Which should make for some interesting squad selections, eh?
Speaking of sides past their sell-by dates, Inter Milan’s struggles have been well documented on this blog but their youth side won the NextGen Development competition comprised of several of Europe’s elite clubs (and Aston Villa). Mark Lomas sees what *cough* “benefits” that UEFA’s involvement will bring beyond “marketing synergies”. I believe Holloway Road have agreed to expose the infants at the Hale End nursery to the rigours of this competition.
Finally, a salute to the very creative supporters of Magdeburg, who are assisting their side through its goal-scoring drought with some creative help from the stands.
The axe finally fell on the Tinker man right and, as usual, it was shortly after Massimo Moratti had vowed his embattled manager would see out the season, a sure omen to begin packing up his office.
Inter’s troubles won’t be cured with another manager — Moratti has gone through them in the same way Silvio Berlusconi wends his way through winsome young (sentence stopped short by Sofaball in-house counsel executing a Paul McGrath special). Adam Digby sees the ills troubling the nerazzuri at the board level and I tend to agree with him. I’m interesting in hearing from Interistas and others on this.
The one thing about Inter is they do have what appears to be a cracking youth team that recently captured the NextGen series that featured several top clubs from around Europe. Dalglish FC, the club currently bearing Fleet Street’s Chalice of Crisis, went out in the semis to Ajax in that competition and it’s something their supporters ought to consider given the recent downturn. Even if they complete a domestic double, Nick Miller sees a long way back for the Merseysiders.
Let’s be clear. Liverpool are not as bad as their current run of results suggests but neither were they ever credible Champions League contenders as pundits had been bigging them up after their Britpack summer spending spree. The jury remains out on Jordan Henderson but Charlie Adam is not good enough. Too slow and too many poor decisions. Yes, he takes a good corner and a decent free kick but that shouldn’t disguise he was a colossal waste of money. Stewart Downing is the same one-footed winger who can star with a mid-table club but was always destined to struggle with the expectations at Anfield. Not good enough. It’s staggering that Randy Lerner doubled his money on a 27-year-old one-footed winger whom MON overpaid to bring in from the Smoggies. LFC paid more than Beetface did for Ashley frigging Young. And a lot more than Wenger did for the Ox. That’s not a Moneyball signing that FSG and Comolli were touted as bringing to Merseyside. That Steinbrenner dumbassery.
The good news for LFC supporters is Rafa Benitez did manage to bring in Raheem Sterling for a pittance from Crystal Palace and the kid is now bothering the first-team squad as a 16-year-old winger. A little raw, by most accounts, but a dynamite talent. So the cupboard isn’t bare. Having Lucas Leiva back in the lineup will also be a huge improvement. The issue with LFC, as with Arsenal, is they did not have somebody to step in and replace what was a hugely influential member of the squad. In Arsenal’s case, that should have been Jack Wilshere. In Liverpool’s case, it should have been a player better than Charlie Adam. What FSG have to decide is whether to tie the can to Comolli. It’s going to be tough to sign the kinds of players they need without Champions League football. But they need to venture beyond the EPL to find value. Right now, they look like a more expensive version of the O’Neill era Villans.
Speaking of the free-spending, bespectacled mercenary lauded as a genius by Fleet Street beard strokers, Jonathan Wilson assesses his impact at the Stadium of Light. As always, Wilson provides well-researched, insightful punditry. Some of his brethren might want to try a bit of that.
Also cutting against grain is Iain Macintosh, who sings the praises of much despised Michael Carrick. Well spotted, although Carrick wasn’t the most influential Michael on the pitch against Michael Jackson FC. MOTM was definitely one Michael Oliver, who helped preserve that victory with a blinkered view worthy of Wenger.
From the sublime to the obvious, Bobby McMahon puts the achievements and commercial success of Lionel Messi and Cronaldo into perspective for the hedge fund crowd. Sticking on Wall Street, Gabriele Marcotti exposes some myths about La Masia, something that earned him some abuse on Twitter from some dogmatic Catalan Aesthes zealots with a loose grip on facts.
Let’s take a brief trip to the rumour mill and . . . what’s this? Mario Goetzke has extended his deal with Borussia Dortmund until 2016. Cue the despairing clucks of Islington’s previously quiet flock of Chicken Littles. What this does is drive up his price in the summer. Whether Wenger or anybody else is willing to meet it remains the question. It’s hard to begrudge the kid a chance to play with his hometown club. In a way, it’s the sort of news that should affirm your faith in football if it didn’t feel like a swift kick to the swingers to the club you support. Anyway, rumour has it that Wenger has targeted Yann M’Vila, an old rumour that has swirled around the club for some time. Apparently price is the only stumbling block. M’Vila’s agent isn’t stupid either. In addition to FC Franco and Inter, he knows the Rent Boys will need a midfield anchor and Beetface appears short in that area as well. While his client’s preference may be the trophied side of north London, money will apparently decide his final destination.
A couple of excellent afternoon bonus links well worth reading. The first is Simon Kuper talking to former La Masia coordinator Albert Capellas about Catalan Aesthes’ recipe for success. He provides Seven Habits for Highly Effective Defending. Really awesome stuff for fans and coaches.
The second is Raphael Honigstein’s profile of Schalke 04 hitman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Enjoy!
This weekend brings a disagreeable proposition to a usually harmonious household. I usually back Aston Villa to the hilt but I can’t bring myself to do it this weekend and the same applies with my son’s usually generous tone and demeanor towards Holloway Road Properties PLC. So we’ll both have to live through two hours of strife as we watch Alex McLeish park the bas and have Richard Dunne and James Collins launch long, hopeful hoofs towards Gabby Agbonlahor.
Prior to that grim spectacle, at least football’s most successful property developers will already know the result from the clash between their rivals in (sigh) The Race For Third. I’m still torn up about having to root for one or the other. I’ll settle for a proper derby with each side a few red cards and disabling injuries.
Failing that, I’m hoping Roman Abramovich will heed the words of David Lacey and give the manager’s job to John Terry, the loyal servant who staged a coup against Fabio Capello in South Africa over tactics, the selfless club captain who charged people for tours of Stamford Bridge and used Stockport Massive’s interest to engineer a huge pay hike with Rent Boys. Oh and the sensitive soul who comforted the mother of Wayne Bridge’s child and the multiculturalist who (Sofaball legal team slides in with a two-footed, studs-up challenge to stop a potentially libellous end of sentence) Anyway, the contest for this week’s piss-take is well and truly over.
Can you imagine JT matching tactical wits with Capello? Or engaging in mind games with Beetface, who casually slapped down Abu Dhabi FC’s attempt at suggesting Paul Scholes’ unretirement was a sign of weakeness?
If Roman’s Rent Boys are serious, they’d look at somebody like Rafa Benitez, who spoke to Jen Chang about waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. It sure as hell isn’t the poisoned chalice in west London with a disloyal bunch of (the Sofaball firewall steps in, sending bad word rolling more than Luis Suarez after somebody brushes his elbow). I enjoyed hearing some of Rafa’s tactical insights and why he enjoys Borussia Dortmund. Any Rafa is probably bound for Franco FC to replace the omelet maker, whose boys puckered with the aplomb of the lesser lights in midweek. Part of Rafa’s deal with , where they will doubtlessly name one of the cafe of their UAE resort after him. Benitez Burgers has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Enjoy the weekend. Here’s hoping your club does well. Unless it happens to be Aston Villa.
Nominations for Sofaball’s Taking the Piss feature have been lagging recently and I’m sure any one of a number of craven and insipid columns about Fabrice Muamba could apply, the worst being the doltish pedantism and crassness from Daily Mail slaphead Richard Littlejohn. But as parading his dumbassery is pretty much standard form, or so I’ve been told, it’s not really all that remarkable.
The sheer baldfaced cheek of Olympique Lyonnais supremo Jean-Michel Aulas trolling for petrodollars, on the other hand, deserves some sort of recognition. Having bitched mightily about how the noveau riche were distorting the transfer prices and making it difficult for responsible clubs such as Lyons, Aulas’ indignation did not extend to overcharging the likes of Rent Boys for his starlets. Now he’s taken that next step of actually soliciting investment in order to compete with Quatar FC, whose financial doping inspired some moaning from him in the summer. It’s quite the pisstake from Monsieur L”Effronte. What’s the French word for prat?
Given the plethora of links posted on Tuesday, I’ll restrict myself to a couple of pretty good pieces. The first is from blog favourite James Horncastle, who looks at Borussia Dortmund’s shot at doing the domestic double.
The other piece is Paul Campbell’s take on Brendan Rodgers’ success at Swansea City, complete with obligatory Moneyball reference. Don’t let that spoil it for you, though. It’s as solid as Rodgers’ claim to be manager of the year. He’s burnished his credentials to move to a bigger club. If David Moyes leaves Everton FC this summer, it will be interesting to see whether the Toffees look at Rodgers.
Now my weekends are usually lost to football — ask Mrs. AG and she’ll make that abundantly clear. But there’s a bit of difference between watching four or five matches from the comfort of your own couch and going away on a nine-hour road trip with your club. So just indulge me for one minute while I salute the players on my team, who played fantastic. They wound up winning two games, losing one and drawing one. While we finished out of the medals, I’m surprisingly OK with not getting any silverware. Hell, I’m pretty used to that. I guess I’m just gratified at how far the boys came in the past five months. It was a thoroughly rewarding experience and I’m looking forward to dealing with the same group again when the snow clears here, hopefully by Easter.
Like pretty much everybody else in the world of football, I was shocked by Fabrice Muamba’s collapse on the pitch, which brought up bad memories of Marc-Vivien Foe’s untimely death at the Confederations Cup a few years back. Clive Clarke had a much better outcome and his story should give Muamba some hope. There was a lot of fairly witless and wittering stories about the impact on Bolton Wanderers and how they’d cope with it. Most of it is just drivel so I’m not going to bother with it.
Muamba is considered one of the good guys in the sport, with Sol Campbell describing him as a real gentleman. At the other end of the spectrum in football is super-twat, er, agent Pini Zahavi, whose fine work managed to bankrupt Pompey and is now claiming he’s owed 2m pounds. Shed a tear, eh? David Conn provides the back story.
Since we’re discussing business, let’s move to Forbes, where Bobby McMahon sees Canada — so disappointing on the field — beat out its neighbours to the south in support off the field.
Staying on Wall Street, Gabriele Marcotti tells the metrics crowd of the Wall Street Journal why it is so hard to measure what Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have done this season.
Would Neymar do as well in Spain as those two? Tim Vickery wonders whether it’s time for the Santos starlet to test himself in La Liga.
One of Messi’s teammates is going through a health-related crisis of his own. Eric Abidal will now undergo a liver transplant after having a tumour removed from it last year and his career is in doubt. I remember him being the “next Thuram” and while he has reached that level, he’s been a damn fine defender for his clubs and country. I always wondered why Wenger didn’t bid for him before he went to Lyon and I’m assuming it had something to do with his representation.
To Germany, where Raphael Honigstein sees FC Hollywood strut their stuff.
In Italy, though, Inter is struggling and Paolo Bandini wonders whether Massimo Moratti — the original sugar daddy who tried to buy success — has enough energy to oversee some painful rebuilding of an aging squad while constrained by UEFA Financial Fair Play.
In France, Paul Marshall sees promoted minnows punching well above their weight and bloodying the noses of title pretenders while James Horncastle explains while Lille’s Eden Hazard has plenty of top clubs in England hot and bothered. From the tattle I’ve read, Lord Beetface of Salford was actually scouting fullback Mathieu Debuchy whilst Prof. Wenger was counting out shillings for Yann M’Vila, whom he has identified as Alex Song’s long-term partner in the centre of the park.
In Spain, Tim Stannard sees Malaga finally justify some of the outlay of petrodollars over the summer by stunning FC Franco on the weekend.
Ben Lyttleton interviews Roberto Mancini, who draws parallels between Stockport Massive and mid-1990s Lazio beyond their pale blue uniforms.
Duncan Castles measures the groundswell of support at Rent Boys FC for Roberto Di Matteo following an FA Cup tonking of a Championship side. God, west enders are nothing if not au courant, aren’t they?
The Swiss Ramble looks at the finances of Newcastle United and applauds Tubby Ashley for learning his lesson.
Jonathan Wilson sees Dalglish FC burdened by unreasonable expectations. Given how much they spent, those expectations were natural. Given who they spent it on, the letdown was inevitable. I’ve occasionally tried to explain this distinction between price and value to the Chicken Little set of gooners without much success. I blame media illiteracy, Football Manager and a poor public education system.
Wilson also reports on the contributions made by Andrei Arshavin to Zenit St. Petersburg’s title march. Hopefully it will add to his overall fee.