This site would look much better if you upgraded to a newer browser capable of supporting web standards.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

All talked out

Although a lot of exciting things happened over the weekend, a hat-trick of hat-tricks, and so on — I found it all rather dull. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m getting tired of seeing Gerard Houllier trying to convince the World that his team are not boring, and that all these awful performances deserve the three points week in, week out. Maybe I wasn’t as surprised as some to see Glenn ‘they all hate me!’ Hoddle get the boot. Most likely is the fact that I spent a fair chunk of the time talking about football this weekend, and I feel like I’ve said all I need to say (without remembering any of it). So I’m going to leave it and look ahead.

Arsenal face Lokomotiv Moscow tonight and I have to say that, looking at possible line-ups, their injury crisis seems pretty manageable. With Martin Keown and Ashley Cole passed fit, a nearly full strength back four should start, and should also get a result. Manchester United’s group is, as every year, so much of a formality that it’s barely worth a mention. Likewise, Chelsea’s clash with Besiktas should be a walk in the park, unless the Turks have a bit of extra fire in their bellies, thinking about the Group seven European Championship Qualifier in a couple of weeks.

There’ll possibly be more tomorrow, with rumours of Sir Bobby Robson tendering his resignation and the infamous Premiership players/gang rape allegations hitting the headlines, I’m sure I’ll think of something to say.

permanent link

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Still talking about Sunday?

EDIT: quote of the day

“I played football for years, I know that if we played against our biggest rivals and the player on their team that we hated the most missed a dodgy penalty in the last minute, we'd have reacted just the same. The difference is their lot probably would have had a go back, like they should. Take that away from the game and you've got netball on a big f*cking pitch.” —

I watched Sky Sports News for half an hour yesterday evening, just as an experiment, and saw a total of ten replays of Arsenal’s antics after Sunday’s visit to Old Trafford. At least 20 minutes of the half hour was devoted to telling us, dear viewers, how disgraceful Arsenal are; complete with various has beens telling us how disgusting the Gunners’ behaviour was. I saw Martin Keown’s rosy visage, veins popping, mouth wide open, at least five times, and Ruud van Nistelrooy’s ‘that nasty man just pushed me’ face at least six.

No suprise for any of you to learn that BSkyB (owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Sun and the Times) own 10% of Manchester United’s shares. Making Arsenal look bad, and making sure no one sees twenty replays an hour of Quinton Fortune laying in to Jens Lehmann, or Gary Neville punching various Arsenal players, or Ruud Van Nistelrooy brutally kicking Vieira twice after fouling him from behind (not even vaguely going for the ball). It just wouldn’t be good for business.

Ryan Giggs, despite being charged with violent conduct, is irritated (or should that be irritating?) ‘you would never see us celebrate a goalless draw like that.’ He’s right though, if Arsenal had just missed a dubiously awarded 94th minute penalty at Highbury in a game about to finish an exahaustively earned draw, I’m sure they wouldn’t celebrate. I recall some pretty lively celebrations when they came away from Highbury with a point last season. Short memories these hairy has-been Welshmen.

On a completely different note, it seems Perugia are trying to sign Ljungberg, Hanna Ljungberg that is. The Swedish International striker is on Perugia president Luciano Gaucci’s wanted list along with Norwegian midfielder Solveig Gulbrandsen. And why is this interesting I hear you say? Well, meet Hanna and Solveig. His aim is essentially to be controversial, but this should also prove an interesting test of UEFA’s willingness to adhere to EU equal opportunities legislation, and good on him.

permanent link

Monday, September 22, 2003

Where to start?

EDIT: ha ha ha.

OK, I summarise minus the meaningless drivel accompanying 99% of tabloid back pages this morning. It’s worth saying to begin with that I thought it was a great game. Fast paced, technically and tactically fascinating, two fine teams trying to pick each other’s locks. Ljungberg, Lehmann and in particular Kolo Toure really shone for Arsenal, and the partnership of Mikael Silvestre Rio Ferdinand was excellent at the other end. Arsenal’s midfield had the measure of United, Vieira and Gilberto out muscling Keane and Neville for the most part, but United’s disciplined back line equally had the measure of Henry and Bergkamp. I dare anyone to try and tell me a draw wasn’t a fair result.

Patrick Vieira’s first yellow card was not a foul, just another case of a referee taking more notice of who’s playing than what he has done. Van Nistelrooij’s impersonation of a jumpy matador got Vieira sent off, the Frenchman shouldn’t have raised his leg, but seeing as our light-footed equine friend was a good two yards away I think it was a gesture of frustration rather than malice. The referee had no option of course, and let me re-iterate that Vieira shouldn’t have kicked out, and deserved a booking. The penalty decision was a joke, the kind only laughed about at Old Trafford. Justice however, was served, as Van Nistelrooij missed his third consecutive penalty. Leeds’ Paul Robinson must be gutted. Birmingham get to retake a penalty because the Robinson moved an eighth of a inch off his line, Lehmann moves a foot off of his and United’s missed penalty stands. Inconsistent refereeing you say? I won’t hear of it!

Final whistle goes, handbags, Van Nistelrooij does his rag doll impression and gets News at Ten interested. The behaviour of Ashley Cole, Ray Parlour and Martin Keown after the final whistle was inexcusable and unneccesary — after all, Arsenal had just earned a difficult, hard fought and deserved point — but anyone who was there knows how heated the atmosphere was, and it’s very easy to get wound up by a con artist like Van Nistelrooij. Still, not an excuse.

I love it when managers ‘speak out’ after the final whistle. I wanted Peter Reid to lay in to the linesman on Saturday, and I’m glad Arsène Wenger stood up and said what everyone who’s been cheated by Van Nistelrooij, which amounts to just about every team United have played, thinks. He does dive, he does look for fouls and he is a cheat. For all to be equal, Wenger should be punished; and being a dirty stinking Frenchman he’ll rightfully get punished more severely than the honest Scotsman that told Jeff Winter to ‘f*** off’ a couple of weeks ago.

Arsenal too should be disciplined, failure to control their players seems like a fair judgement, but talks of docking points are over the top. What happened at Old Trafford yesterday was not nearly as bad as the brawl at Villa park last season between Aston Villa and Birmingham, and they only suffered a £5,000 fine. Then again, Arsenal should be used to being made an example of by now.

I did wonder if United fans would be stupid enough to sing the Wenger/paedophile song, bearing in mind that new signing Kleberson is married to someone who’s just turned sixteen. They did. No surprises there, and none either when I saw two United fans punching each others lights out after the game. Thump. ‘I’m a United fan you tw*t!’ ‘Who you callin' a tw*t?’ Thump Thump. Gimps. Cheer up guys.

I wrote last week that Wolves fans must be wondering if they’ll get another point all season, and now it looks like another goal may be too much to hope for. This time last year, West Bromwich Albion had nine points in the bag (despite playing Arsenal, Man Utd and Leeds in their opening fixtures), that must seem like a distant, unattainable dream to Dave Jones at the moment. I thought at the beginning of the season that Wolves would stay up, and though that looks about as likely as Arsenal escaping disciplinary action for yesterdays festivities, I won’t change my prediction on the back of one point from eighteen. They can turn this around, but it needs to start now.

So Tottenham have given up on the second coming and told Glenn, for it is he, to pack his bags. Seeing as he was doing a terrible job, and Spurs are in the relegation zone, it’s hardly surprising — but it’s a terrible shame. Who are we going to laugh at now? In my humblest of opinions, Glenn Hoddle is easily the most overrated manager in football, tactically naive, self obsessed and slightly mad, most footballers turned managers find earning the respect of players easy. Glenn doesn’t because he still thinks he’s better than any of the little toerags he has to coach.

I can’t really remember much of the rest of the weekend’s football, but here are some interesting rumours from the inside.

permanent link

Monday, September 15, 2003

Ahhh, proper football again

Once again, it’s been a while since the last update, and though I can’t blame a (traditionally) busy weekend I can blame finally watching the second series of 24 on DVD and a time consuming installation of Windows 2000 on my laptop. I was going to write something deep and meaningful about England’s moderately moderate performance at Old Trafford last Wednesday, but instead I’ll simply write this.

How many countries can attract the best part of 65,000 fans to an international against Liechtenstein? How many countries can attract that many supporters to such a game, when the tickets cost the best part of £50 each? Why on Earth was Sven Goran Eriksson ‘dissappointed’ that England didn’t run the ball into the corner flag in the dying moments? Against Liechtenstein for Christ’s sake! Is he trying to strip all of the entertainment out? If it’s one all in Turkey with two minutes to go then fine, it’s a good tactic; but at home, two-nil up, against blody Liechtenstein? He’s taking the mickey.

Now Lucas Neill’s tackle on Jamie Carragher was, as Big Ron would say, a horror show. Badly timed, if it was timed at all, and clumsily executed; whether it was born out of frustration or malice I couldn’t say. In fact, it reminded me of two or three Steven Gerrard tackles over the last year or so, ones in which he’s been fortunate not to break anyone’s leg with, so for old boggly eyes to lay in to Neill and call him a coward — while no doubt correct — is so hypocritical it makes me sick. It’s no more than I’ve come to expect from the whinging, Wenger wannabe though.

Speaking of Wenger, he was uncharacteristically candid when speaking about his side’s draw with Portsmouth, and even more so regarding the disputed penalty awarded against the visitors. ‘I saw it on television again after the game. It's very difficult to say whether he touched him or not’. To be honest, I saw it last night and it looked as if Pires caught his boot on Dejan Stevanovic’s outstretched leg and went down. It’s so difficult to say whether it was a ‘dive’ when there is contact. It’s absolutely impossible to understand unless you play at that kind of level how easy it is to be knocked off balance when you’re running full pelt and focusing all your attention on a ball in the air — taking your own stability for granted. When there’s no contact, slate them, when there is, no matter how innocuous it seems, I try not to judge anymore.

Slickly moving on to another famous diver, Francis Jeffers. What did I tell you about him never wearing an Arsenal shirt again? I wonder if the media will be so harsh on his diving now he’s not one of those ‘dirty Arsenal players’? I wonder if the next time he cons the ref into giving Everton a penalty, he’ll be splashed all over the back pages and crucified like he was last season? I somehow doubt it, but we’ll see. It’s the best way of getting himself in the England side though (leaving Arsenal, not diving); ask Matthew Upson, a regular starter and impressive performer before his injury, not a sniff. Moves to Birmingham and he’s in the starting line up. Richard Wright plays well, wins a double, no chance of a place. Moves to Everton and he’s second choice for a while.

To sum up the weekend; easy wins for Chelsea against hapless Tottenham and Man Utd against a terrified Charlton have really put the pressure on the undefeated league leaders Arsenal. I don’t think a home draw with Portsmouth will be the worst result of their season, but it will be a poor one to reflect on. If their minds were on Europe, they shouldn’t have been, United’s team had no problems concentrating on a difficult trip to the Valley.

Newcastle have more problems than just the lack of a midfield, their defence is absolutely atrocious and Wolves fans must be wondering if they’ll earn three points all season. Nicolas Anelka is really starting to hit some form for man City but when he goes off the boil I’m not sure if they’ll be quite as dangerous, and Kevin Keegan knows it. Middlesborough are going down.

And just in case you’ve not heard it:

David Blaine has given up his controversial stunt. He was told that 44 days doing nothing in a box is not going to break the record, which is currently held by Emile Heskey at four years.

Boom! Boom!

permanent link

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Dedication’s what you need

An alternative highlights reel of England’s soon to be record breaking unbeaten streak, courtesy of BBC Sport:

Slovakia 1-2 England · ‘Michael Owen struck a priceless winner to inspire England to victory as Slovakia threatened a European Championship upset … Middlesbrough's Szilard Nemeth gave Slovakia a deserved first-half lead … Eriksson will regard this as one of England's poorer performances, but he will gratefully accept the victory … His [Eriksson’s] tactical plan failed miserably … England were disjointed and disorganised, and it took Eriksson's side until nearly half-time to mount a serious threat on the Slovakian goal.’
England 2-2 Macedonia · ‘a night of embarrassment for England … a ragged England display … desperately lacking in imagination’
Liechtenstein 0-2 England · ‘a far from convincing display … England's first-half performance hardly made Liechtenstein look like a team with only Luxembourg and San Marino below them in the European rankings’
England 2-0 Turkey · ‘a richly-deserved victory … in sharp contrast to Saturday's limp victory over Liechtenstein … a stunning full debut from 17-year-old Everton striker Wayne Rooney … ’
England 2-1 Slovakia · ‘Sven-Goran Eriksson's embarrassment as Slovakia threatened a shock … England's much-vaunted diamond formation was reduced to a shambles … [Eriksson's] tactical plan was so ineffective he was forced to re-shuffle his pack before half-time … a first half that rarely rose above the shambolic … England's tactical formation fell apart, Eriksson's side were fortunate not to fall further behind … England were restricted to half chances for Owen’
Macedonia 1-2 England · ‘England were in desperate need of inspiration … a woeful first-half display to give Macedonia a deserved lead … a dreadful defensive display … shambolic … attacking opportunities virtually non-existent’

So Slovakia have had the measure of England twice and been very unlucky to lose both times; Macedonia held England to a draw at home and should have punished us more away; Lichtenstein, from what I recall, were very unlucky to not be a goal or two up at half-time. The easiest match so far has been the Turkey game. With the exception of the Turkey result, atrocious first halfs have categorised England’s performances, along with poor defending and poor midfield play. Without Owen latching on to one in 20 of Gerrard/Beckham’s long balls and Beckham scoring free kicks and penalties, there’s no way we’d be almost qualified for Euro 2004.

In 24 months, Eriksson has not managed to cohere the most important part of a team, the midfield. He constantly messes around in friendlies — when I would have thought they were an ideal time to give these players a chance to get to know each other (in a footballing sense). His luck will run out as soon as we’re up against a team that makes their own luck. A good side will kill us, I think that England will lose in Turkey, unless the players let the taunts, death-threats and hostility fire them up enough to give a performance. Either way, we’re done for in the European Championships. (Assuming we make it.)

permanent link

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

One down, one to go

Firstly, forgive me for taking so long to write this update, I’ve been very busy over the weekend, and It’s taken me until now to catch up with the match reports from Saturday’s game. The general consensus seems to be — surprise, surprise — it’s the result that counts. The three points. Of course it is.

One of my favourite football writers, Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph, wrote an article yesterday (or was it Sunday?) enthusing about Svens ability to turn a game around by making clever substitutions, how being one-nil down seems to suit England almost. Apart from the fact that it’s only really the Turkey game, where Darius Vassell’s late inclusion turned the game, if England always do better once there’s been a change in personnel, it begs the question why isn’t Eriksson isn’t starting with our strongest line-up?

People will point to other teams that regularly achieve similar feats, most notably Arsenal and Manchester United’s ability to turn a lost cause into glorious victory, and ask why they aren’t having the same critisism levelled at them. It’s simple, Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson start with their strongest eleven, and if they’re not producing they inspire the players to push themselves and turn around their (so far) poor performances. Eriksson is no inspirer of men, and not an inspirational manager in any sense of the word as far as I’m concerened.

I was in the pub with some United fans on Sunday, who summed up England’s defensive frailties thussly — ‘Ashley Cole’s rubbish, Sol Campbell was a joke, you can’t blame Gary Neville and England needed Rio Ferdinand.’ Simple as that eh?

I have given up defending Ashley Cole for England, he’s simply too good a footballer to play in the side as it is. Bear with me on this one. With absolutely no protection in front of him, his attacking and playmaking instincts sell his performances short, he’s not a stalwart defensive full-back, like all good players in this position he’s pacey, hard working and likes to overlap, play one-twos and get involved in attacking. Anyone who sees him play every week will tell you that he’s a vital — almost irreplacable — player in a fast, technical side. England are so far from being that they might as well be playing a different game. Maybe Ashley Cole isn’t right for England until they can find a decent left sided midfielder? He’s left exposed so often that actually trying to play football ends up getting him in trouble; Roberto Carlos would look rubbish for England.

As for Sol Campbell, he is prone to the odd lapse of judgement; he did it for Tottenham, does it for Arsenal, and for England. Every defender makes mistakes, England don’t have enough World Class players to start demonising one of them. Gary Neville is just Gary Neville. He either doesn’t understand the offside trap or is just lazy. I’ve lost count of the numebr of times I’ve seen shots of players celebrating a goal with Gary Neville’s ugly mug in the backgroudn with his arm up whilst playing the forward on. He’s a decent, perhaps even underrated, player — my philosophy that all good modern sides have quality full-backs decrees that he must be worth his salt — but this is his one major flaw. Take it or leave it.

I’d like to see Owen Hargreaves given a shot at right back, but that’s the least of things I’d like to see changed in the England set up.

A tiny pocket of England fans boo the Turkish National Anthem and are accused of racist chanting (though I personally have seen no evidence of this) and England are threatened with being banned from Euro 2004. Macedonian supporters burn the St Georges flag, boo all the black players on the pitch for ninety minutes and a Macedonian midfielder effectively threatens to kill David Beckham once the match has finished. Expect a slap on the wrist and a €5 fine for the Macedonian FA, because we all know it must have been the fault of the evil English. They’re the only supporters that are racist and cause trouble around the footballing World you know.

I’d love to see David Beckham stand up and call UEFA a bunch of incompetent, selfish, biased and self-interested idiots. What are they going to do? Any action against Beckham would be a public relations nightmare, it’s feasible that Real Madrid’s latest super-star could become the players’ most powerful voice. Just what he needs, more pressure.

permanent link

XHTML, CSS, powered by blogger, copyright © 2001—2004 jordan harper


Thanks to