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All Things Footie | Monday, April 15 | Jordan

Not His Luca Day

An unfortunate (or misjudged, depending on how much blame you wish to attribute to him) own goal from Gianluca Festa ended Middlesbrough's hopes of beating both Manchester United and Arsenal in the Worlds finest club cup competition.

Arsenal were disappointing, with exceptions in the rock like Patrick Vieira and a terrific goalkeeping display from the North London club's Cup 'keeper Richard Wright. Boro turned in an impressive performance with strong defensive displays from Gareth Southgate, Franck Querdrue and Robbie Mustoe in midfield.

Like the other Semi between Chelsea and Fulham it was a tale of two halves, Middlesbrough dominated the first half at Old Trafford but failed to score (in Arsenal's net anyway) but Arsenal (or Sylvain Wiltord depending on how much blame you wish to attribute to him) should have put the game well beyond doubt.

Graham Poll seemed to have lost his whistle in the second half — which arguably led to the melee in the 80th minute involving practically everyone on the pitch (including the assistant referee's). That said I thought both Semi-Final referees had good games, though Graham Poll should have given Gronkjaer his second yellow for a deliberate handball.

A Blockbuster Cockney Cup Final

Thanks to John Motson for the headline. It may be a final to look forward to but it's at the expense of three of England's possible defensive squad. Ugo Ehigou and Sol Campbell carried off at Old Trafford — both with nasty looking injuries — and the loss of Graeme Le Saux at Villa Park. I think I may be alone with a few Chelsea fans but I thought Le Saux may have still had a part to play in England's left sided line up. He's certainly playing better football than he was at the peak of his England career.

Talking of England, Sven Goran Eriksson's squad for the Paraguay game was a bit boring (compared to his last few anyway). The introduction of Matt Jansen was an odd one with just this friendly to go, can he do enough? will he be given a proper chance? Sven has failed to give Phillips (not enough minutes on pitch) and Ricketts (a combination of that and a bizarre formation) a proper chance so why should Jansen think anything different will happen to him?

I personally would have looked at one of Jansen's team-mates for inspiration (particularly with the mounting injury problems facing the squad). David Dunn has been inspirational for Blackburn this season and has both been a feature in all of their impressive performances and a conspicuous absentee in their poorer displays — surely the hallmark of a key individual. If Kieran Dyer fails to make the squad (through injury of course) then Dunn would be a superb, versatile replacement. He is established as captain of the England U21's and has a wealth of experience at that level and now a full, impressive Premiership season.

On top of that most of his finest moments have come against the bigger teams, a wonderful display against Arsenal scoring two stunning goals springs instantly to mind, excellent performances in the League Cup and playing an instrumental part in the 7-0 thrashing of West Ham last October.

The major surprise in the squad is the absence of captain David Beckham, though I have heard something about an injury he sustained in Europe last week.

Injury? Crisis?

I think I may be alone in thinking that as a nation we shouldn't be quite as bothered about this injury as the Sun keeps telling us we are. First and foremost it's a bit of an insult to the rest of the team; without David Beckham we'll probably get just as far as we would with him. If we haven't got players to fall back on in this kind of situation then we don't deserve any better. France have lost a key player in Robert Pires but do you think that Le Monde dedicated its entire front page to a picture of his knee?

More worrying are the injuries to key defenders, all it needs now is something to happen to Gareth Southgate and maybe the FA will have to rethink the Woodgate/Terry stance. If Ashley Cole fails to regain fitness and Graeme Le Saux's injury is as bad as it looked then Wayne Bridge looks set to play a major part in the team — the only alternatives at present seem to be Calamity Neville and Chris Powell (although to my knowledge he is also injured).

The FA have sent letters to all Premiership clubs to let them know that as of the Paraguay game there will be no more international friendlies during the Premiership season. I guess this move is to appease managers and chairmen who complain (quite rightly) about their already overworked players being forced to play 90 minutes of meaningless football. It will also be in response to the evidence that these games have become somewhat farcical, 11 substitutions (or more) and young/inexperienced players being rushed into the international set up — often before they are ready.

Enough pontificating, here are the weekly awards…

Performace of the week : Newcastle vs Derby
Player of the week : Kieran Dyer (Newcastle vs Derby)
Goal of the week : Michael Owen (Liverpool vs Sunderland)
Team of the week :
Richard Wright
  Gareth Southgate
Marcel Desailly
John Terry
Patrick Vieira
Steven Gerrard
David Batty
Robbie Mustoe
Kieran Dyer
  Teddy Sheringham
Steve Marlet

Expect voting to open in the next couple of days for the all things footie end of season awards.

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