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All Things Footie | Wednesday, August 31 | Jordan

Deadline day proclamations

An exciting transfer deadline day as always, here’s the (updated throughout the day) All Things Footie verdict on the moves:

Tea time additions:

Andy van der MeydeEverton: Oh deary me. Another crock coming to the Premiership. A poor siging for a top team, but in Everton’s ‘just below’ bracket he may do a job.

Frank Songo'oPortsmouth: A cracking signing by Pompey, Alain Perrin clearly knows his French youth players—as well he shoul—and he’s snapped up a pearler here. He won’t take them to Europe, but he should add a bit of talent to an already strong midfield.

David BentleyBlackburn: On loan. A potentially good signing for Blakburn, recovering from their spell under The Worst Manager In The History Of The Premiership®, and I get the feeling that if a manager shows some faith in Bentley, he can come good and do a job.

Earlier news:

Michael OwenNewcastle: Well done Real Madrid. How the hell they managed to double their money on a player who had a crap season with them and who they clearly don’t rate and have already replaced is totally beyond me. Freddie Shephard is an absolutely awful businessman, but at least he feels like he's doing his club good—as it happens I think it’s like spending your life savings on a spoiler for a Reliant Robin.

Jermaine JenasTottenham: As if Spurs didn’t have enough central midfielders? Davids, Carrick, Davis and Brown to name just four. Jenas isn't better than Carrick or Davids, in fact, he's not really that good full stop. I don't much rate Jenas at all, though I do’ think Newcastle could afford to lose him (in a footballing sense), £9m is a lot of money. They should have brokered the Geordie lad Carrick to come in the other direction. Owen on the brain though, the fools.

Lee Young-PyoTottenham (and Edman out to Rennes): A straight swap, avereage full back for average full back.

Wilfred BoumaAston Villa: From the first time I saw Bouma play, I've had him clocked. Completely useless. A big hog at the back, will give away three penalties before christmas. Poor signing, big Doug won't be happy.

Mart PoomArsenal: Crocked Derby County/Sunderland quality keeper—Arsenal fans will be praying Lehmann stays fit and in form for the season. Again.

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All Things Footie | Thursday, August 25 | Jordan

Open season

So following a bout of stupid first-week-of-the-season international-friendly-itis, we’re back to normal, and I can’t remember what it felt like to have a weekend without the Premiership. Isn’t it great?

The big news of the weekend was Chelsea getting one over on Arsenal, and while playing 10 men behind the ball at home has to be a mark of respect from the Champions to Arsenal, that doesn’t make it fun to watch. A lucky, offside goal from the otherwise utterly useless Didier Drogba was all that separated the sides, and essentially Arsenal paid for being rubbish in the final third—a problem that can be laid squarely at the feet of Arsène Wenger’s conservative team selection. José Reyes showed last night that not only is he capable of running his little Andalucian legs off, but he’s also capable of playing some rather deft, almost Bergkamp-esque, balls to his attaking counterparts.

If there’s one thing that’s clear to me though, it’s that Chelsea will by no means obliterate the league this season—as if I didn’t know that before. Excepting a 10 game purple patch before his injury, it would be fair to say that Arjen Robben has looked utterly shit, and Damien Duff hasn’t played particularly well for 18 months now. Shaun Wright-Phillips has just one really good season of football (for Manchester City, mind) behind him, and I’m unconvinced about Joe Cole as anything but an average player who’s able to turn a game on his day. Frank Lampard had a superb season last year, but again, it’s a player who’s had one really good season, and I won’t judge a player on one good year, so he remains a slightly above average midfielder until he can prove me otherwise by dominating the Prem for another year.

Aside from a rock solid defence, Chelsea are pretty average. Oooh. Controversial.

Talking of controversial, it’s no secret that I think Michael Owen is utterly shit, and it’s no surprise to me that The Worst Manager In The History Of The Premiership®, Graeme Souness, is the only man willing to part with hard cash for the has-been. What unites Rafa Benitez, Arsène Wenger, Alex Ferguson and José Mourinho? They’re all good managers who could do with a striker, but aren’t even remotely interested in somone who’s averaged a goal every other game for his whole career. Why? Because he’s shit. He destroys his strike partners (what happened to Shearer after Owen became his strike partner for England?) by being selfish, lazy, and having the technical ability of a tired Pascal Cygan. He may score a lot of goals, but he will never play in a successful team because he puts his goals ahead of the team success—if the team loses 3-2 and he scores a brace he goes home happy.

He may be a ‘poacher’, but there are plenty of poachers who don’t kill their teams off: Shevchenko, Vieri, Raul, Shearer, Van Nistelrooy, to name but a few. Besides that, the only thing Owen’s ever had that made him different was extraordinary pace, which he lost at 23. He’s ordinary at best.

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All Things Footie | Thursday, August 18 | Jordan

First Weekend, England Weakened

It’s taken me some time, but I thought I should round up last weekend’s ‘action’. The inverted commas exist because I’ve never seen so many bloody goal-less draws on an opening day—I don’t buy that it was because teams were playing defensively and nervous on the opening day; Man City v West Brom for one was a thriller, but both sides’ lack of attacking promise was exposed by the dour scoreline.

Liverpool began this season as they ended the last, inconsistent and mostly unthreatening. Best team in Europe my arse. Sunderland were shocking, and while I’d be hesitant to make too bold a statement one week into the season: they’re going down faster than Paris Hilton in a hotel bathroom.

Talking of promoted sides, I was mightily impressed with West Ham. I rate Alan Pardew—I enjoyed watching his Reading side long before he moved to the Hammers—and I’ve always thought Nigel Reo-Coker was more than just a great name.

Aston Villa have lost a great player over the summer in Thomas Hitzelsperger (regular readers will remember my long-term admiration for the young German) but they’ve a promising young team, and while Eric Djemba-Djemba is never in a million years good enough to play regularly in a top three side, he could do a job at Villa later in the season. Their opponents on Saturday, Bolton Wanderers, are beginning to look as though some of the more random signings are beginning to settle into a side, though I fully expect Allardyce to introduce some Ghanaian prospect he signed from Grasshopper reserves into the team ahead of someone with pedigree by Christmas.

I’ll never get used to Chelsea being as lucky as they were on Saturday, comprehensively outplayed and out-thought by Wigan, grabbing a last second winner moments after Wigan squandered a clear cut opportunity is a sickener indeed. It’s fair to say that it’s the worst time of the season to play a team like Wigan, when they’re trying to impress, and a good time for a poor team to play an unfit top side. Watching Wigan last season in League 1, they looked the most accomplished team in that division that I’ve seen for years. That said, they do have Henri Camara, who could go down as the most relegated player in history should he jinx the Latics in the way he’s jinxed Wolves, Celtic and Southampton.

A big signing this week for Chelsea too. A big, pointless one. Michael Essien is a nice little player, he’s decent. He’s not better than Makalele, he’s not better than Lampard, and he cost £26m. Can you say ‘artificially inflated transfer market’? I tend to agree with John Collins.

Perhaps the most controversial incident of the weekend happened at Highbury, where for my money, Jenas deserved every bit of that red card for scything Gilberto down in an innocuous area of the pitch. For longer than I can remember I’ve been frustrated by the fact that red cards are bandied about for swearing, taking your shirt off to celebrate, a bit of pushing and shoving, or calling the ref a tw*t, while Roy Keane’s famous ‘career enders’ go largely unpunished. I’m glad that finally referees are clamping down on the kind of offence that really matters; the reckless, dangerous, stupid tackle by the frustrated player.

Sorry Jermaine, but while we’ve not seen carte-rouge given for this type of offence much (enough) in the last few seasons, by the (written and unwritten) laws of the game you had to go. I did enjoy the game as a whole though, Alexander Hleb looked very lively, and capable of entertaining the crowds, and I didn’t even notice Vieira wasn’t there such was the assurance of young Cesc Fabregas.

I didn’t watch the England game last night (truth be told, I forgot it was on, and Corrie was really good) but I’m not surprised. England are poor: Gerrard is the exact opposite of a big-game player, David James is a joke, Joe Cole is about half as good as the majority of people seem to think he is, and Sven Goran Eriksson is only marginally better than Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan (not a compliment, incidentally). The less I say about Michael Owen and Jamie Carragher’s shitness, and Beckham’s past-it-ness, the better.

It’s a toss up between which manager I rate less actually, Eriksson or Graeme Souness. Either way, both England and Newcastle are doomed! Doomed I tells ya!

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All Things Footie | Wednesday, August 10 | Jordan

The counter

Later on this month I’ll be clocking up the big quarter of a century, and it got me thinking, Football in 2005 is very different to football in 1980, for all but one team. Brazil.

In 1980, the world famous CBF (Confederacao Brasileira de Futebol) was created as a breakaway governing body from the CBD (Confederacao Brasileira de Desportos—the Brazillian sport federation that governed all sport in Brazil). The national team had legendary players such as Emerson Leão, Rivelinho, Sócrates, Junior, Falção, Eder and one of my favourite players of all time—Zico. Their playing style centred on having no real midfield: attacking midfielders played up with the forwards, a defensive midfielder played just in front of the back-line. When they had the ball, they swamped the opposition, Zico had acres of space every attack because defences were trying to cope with four other ‘forwards’. When they didn’t have the ball, they had to rely on the ability of their back line to win it and get it back up to the other end of the pitch—not by hoofing it, mind—the passing was so intricate and beautifully executed that it mesmerised opponents and supporters alike. In the 1982 World Cup, Scottish FA head Andy Roxburgh said of Brazil:

“Give our lads a paintbrush, and they’ll got to work on the back fence. Hand one to a Brazilian, and he’ll make like Leonardo (da Vinci).”

The audacity of the Brazillian game has not changed … ever. Name me a Brazil team who played 4-4-2? Name me a side that didn’t have at least five (seven including the fullbacks) bona-fide attacking players on the pitch at all times? In 2002 they started the World Cup final with Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Kléberson (with Cafu and Robert Carlos practically playing in midfield in front of a back three—they could only be superficially defined as 'defensive' anyway). In 1998 with Cesar Sampaio, Leonardo, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Bebeto, 1994 with Mazinho, Zinho, Mauro Silva, Bebeto and Romário. See a pattern? While some (well, one) of those sides didn’t win the competition, you’ll still notice they’ve reached the final in the last three World Cups. Not too shabby.

Their formula is simple:

It may have taken however long it’s taken, but the rest of the World is finally catching on.

Arsenal’s unprecedented unbeaten run in 2004 came as a direct result of realising they didn’t need two defensive midfielders, Chelsea’s success last year came through playing the ‘Brazillian’ system. Even Porto and Liverpool’s success in the Champions League use the same formation (if you look at it, Liverpool were much more attack minded in the Champions League last season than they were in the Premiership). The counter attacking system is much maligned, but it’s only a crime when it’s played with 3 attacking players and 8 defensive.

As I’ve mentioned before The key player in the traditional Brazillian formation, and thus in modern football, is the defensive midfielder. With only one on the pitch, and given that his job (and his job alone) is to link defence and attack, he’s so mind-bogglingly important it’s difficult to express it. With someone inferior in the position, a team’s defence is swamped and the only way to the forwards is through long balls. It’s no surprise that the best player in this position in the Premiership is a Brazillian is it? Though Makalele is running Gilberto close.

It’s ironic though that perhaps the most valuable player in any Brazil team is one of the only four defensive ones. Forget Ronaldinho, forget Ronaldo, forget Adriano, forget Kaká (how!), without Emerson and Gilberto they’re near to pointless. It’s worth noting that in the recent Confederations Cup, Brazil looked a totally different team when they played the normally attack minded player Ze Roberto or the inexperienced Renato in the defensive position as opposed to Emerson.

So in 2005, as in 1980 (as in 1970 for that matter), Brazil are great; the difference now is that we’re all catching on, and football should be all the better for it. “It’s just like watching Brazil”, they chant, and they’re more right than they think….

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All Things Footie | Thursday, August 4 | Jordan

An idea

I was browsing BBC Sport when I came across a piece on Fulham’s recent friendly against the MLS All-Stars. What a great idea. Imagine, come the end of the season, a round robin between The Premiership, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Championaat and the Dutch EreDivision All-Stars. Managed by the manager of the respective divisions’ champions. I’d pay to see that. It would be infinitely better than normal International competition, and would get immense TV audiences World Wide. It’d be a no-lose situation (apart from the poor players getting even more knackered—though it wouldn’t have to last more than a week or two).

I’ve never been the biggest fan of US Sports and competition structures, having written them off as boring, over complicated, or just plain drug-addled, but after reading a recent Observer Sport Monthly special on US Sports, I have to say I’m warming to some of the philosophies behind the more popular US Sporting pastimes.

Take American Football. I’ve always thought of it as a wet version of Rubgy, even though the bruality and general disorganisation and chaos of Rugby is exactly why I can’t stand the game. When it comes to football, I’ve always preferred (and have more respect for) the more cerebral management style of Trapattoni, Wenger and Mourinho to the blood and thunder methods used by the likes of Keegan, Clough and Ferguson. It’s more difficult, more studious and more it helps to push the game forwards.

I now see American Football as an extension of the cerebral style of football management, perhaps taken to extremes, but still a close relation. In American Football all of the onus is on the manager, unlike (Real) Football or Rugby—where once the players are on the pitch the manager can only pray until half-time, when a stern bollocking or a few pats on the back are almost as much as can be done. In football, substitutions aside, the manager prepares and picks the teams, then puts his faith in the players. I’m now beginning to understand that the choreography and planning by coaches/managers in American Football are not necessarily bad, and that it certainly promotes (and hides) a more considered style to the one often projected by American Sports of knuckleheads running into each other.

If football relied so heavily on tactics and forward planning, Kevin Keegan would certainly never have gotten a job in management. Which may or may not have been a good thing.

The socialist transfer system in American Football is actually (in my opinion) far fairer, better and more interesting than the capitalist meat-market in Football. In case you’re unaware, in a nutshell, at the end of the season the teams in the NFL that have done poorly, get to pick the best young players coming into the game, and the teams that have done well get the dregs. Thus the league gets levelled out a little each year, and you are less likely to have spells of one team dominating the game (if they do, it’s only because they have an exceptional manager). If a similar system applied to Football in the UK, Wayne Rooney would probably be at Blackburn or Southampton. An NFL-style salary cap would also mean you didn’t have wonky-lipped mecenaries going from club to club trying to get paid more than the average Middle-Eastern Oil Baron.

There’s a lot the FA and football could learn from much-derided (in Europe anyway) American sports, if you’re still not convinced, I’d definitely recommend reading the OSM American Edition

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, August 2 | Jordan

His day will come

“The winner of the Premier League will come from a small bunch of one.” — Peter Kenyon, BBC Sport

Good to see Peter Kenyon stirring things up before the season’s begun. He really is the most crass, classless and clueless suit in the history of football club chief executives. And that’s some mountain of people to be topping.

All statements like that do is highlight your arrogance and motivate your opponents to do better, try harder and ram your stupid, hollow words down your throat.

Apart from attempting to broker illegal deals with just about every player in World football who’s been a bit of a hit on Football Manager, Kenyon’s stupifying arrogance and power hungriness is simply sickening. Like Chelsea, he’s a bit of a new boy on the block, and fancies himself as quite the superstar. Lobbying the G14 for a place in Europe’s elite club ‘club’, lobbying the FA for a place on the board, and generally lording it over football as if he’s some kind of genius for ‘masterminding’ the financial strategy of a business that’s lost some £200m in two years.

Well done Peter.

I for one will jump for joy when the smug tosser gets his comuppance, and the day will come. I’ve nothing against Chelsea per-sé, I’ve certainly nothing against Jose Mourinho (who’s comment to Steven Gerrard: ‘I can say to him in the next 10 years we will compare trophies at Chelsea and at Liverpool. And he will lose’ was absolutely brilliant), I’ll even lay off Roman Abramovich, but Peter Kenyon is a rancid, infectious boil on the arse of football, and the sooner he’s lanced, the better.

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  1. Punishment should fit the crime
  2. Ouch
  3. Tevez and Mascherano madness
  4. Predictions
  5. Warming up
  6. The World Cup II
  7. The World Cup
  8. Thought for the day
  9. Ready children? Then let's begin
  10. Don't say I never give you anything