All Things Footie

Helping the beautiful game keep it's looks since 2001

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, September 20 | Jordan

Formation, formation, formation

There seems to be a growing trend in the Premiership, and English football in general, to be dull. I love watching Premiership football because it’s exciting, because it’s fast paced, because it’s more often than not a-thrill-a-minute. Well, it used to be.

We’re all used to seeing the smaller teams come to bigger clubs and play defensively, with one big target man up front, packing the midfield and trying to stifle their technically superior opponents. I have no problem with that, it’s the way things are, and you can’t blame the smaller teams from wanting to get something out of the game more than wanting to entertain the crowds. For the truly great teams, it’s even possible to entertain the crowd when the opposition is being that defensive.

My problem right now is that the top sides are beginning to play like this too, and that’s a worry. Chelsea are the prime example, playing most of last and all of this season with one big lump up front, and despite what anyone may say about Duff and Robben being attacking midfielders, the truth is that they’re still midfielders. In all honesty, how enjoyable are Chelsea to watch? Truly? How enjoyable was Arsenal’s 4-5-1 tactic in the FA Cup Final last season?

The common argument to this kind of moan is that who cares about entertaining when you’re winning things, and that may be true to an extent 1  but it’s short sighted to say the least. I’m sure that when Serie A started on this road in the early/mid nineties, most Italian fans didn’t care that their top teams were playing negative, win-at-all-costs football, but in the long run it’s seriously damaged crowds in Italy, as well as the International reputation of their game. Given that Italy is probably the most football mad country on the planet (how many other countries have about five solely football oriented daily newspapers?) it’s no surprise they reached this stage earlier than everyone else, but it’s worrying that, ten years on, they're still a long way from fixing the problem. In England, we’re already starting to see fans ebb away from clubs, with at least three stadiums this weekend not even 3/4 full.

I started writing this piece last week, so I can assure you it’s just coincidence that this morning, Arsène Wenger himself is urging clubs to be entertaining—as he says:

“When somebody buys a ticket and spends £50, £60 or £70 [it cost me the best part of £50 last night], it is not because he wants to be bored, it is because he [or she, Arsène] wants to enjoy a football game. I feel we all have a responsibility to keep that going.”

It’s certainly true that a football team cannot be entertaining all of the time, off-days or specific tactics for certain teams will always be part of football, but the negative tactics employed by Liverpool, Chelsea will inevitably lead to people deserting English football in the same droves that flocked to it ten years ago.

There’s little point in winning things if there’s no one there to cheer you on.

[1] Though personally, I don’t care for that sentiment. I care about enjoying football, I will remember great games for longer than trophy wins. I’ll remember Arsenal’s losing cup final against Liverpool in 2001 far longer than their successful one against Manchester United in 2005.

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All Things Footie | Sunday, September 18 | Jordan

Don't despair

A new article will be posted on Monday, and don't worry, it won't be discussing the plethora of dull games played this weekend.

What I want to know for now is ... what's going on with the title of this blog: All Things Footie and The Mighty Chelsea. Surely just ‘The Mighty Chelsea’ would have done? Far be it from me to suggest that someone named their blog to take advantage of a similarly named, more established one.

And he’s a Chelsea fan. I notice a distinct parallel between someone and their johnny-come-lately football team.

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All Things Footie | Thursday, September 8 | Jordan

England's best result since Munich

Finally, England may accept there’s a problem. Finally, England will stop hiding behind the ‘unbeaten in qualifying’ statistic that’s been everyone’s blind defence of Eriksson. Finally, England’s dull, conservative and boring style of play has been undone by a plucky opponent (as it’s been threatened to be on so many occasions, but luck has gotten them out).

Normally, I’d say it was an over-reation to call for a manager’s head after one poor result, but in this case it’s more like that day when a man’s wife uses his razor to shave her legs, and all the little annoying thing’s he’s been putting up with for years are suddenly thrown into sharp focus. Before you can say ‘Ladyshave’ he’s asking for a divorce. Over-reaction? Or just a slap round the face for a conceited, and soporific support blinded by some misplaced sense of loyalty to their national team?

I oculdn’t give a toss one way or the other, but I suspect my low-view of Sven may be mirrored in a few of my countrymen this morning. And doesn’t being right about something give you and enormous sense of well being?

So unlike most Englishmen, I’m genuinely cheery this morning—on top of the lovliness of Sven getting his cumuppance, I’m exceedingly chuffed for Northern Ireland, who earned every plaudit they’ll have dolloped on their cornflakes this morning.

In all seriousness, and just to make everything crystal clear: Firstly, England will (probably) qualify for the World Cup 2006, secondly, there’s more chance of Jose Mourinho picking the same XI for every game this season than of England winning the World Cup—barring the unlikely circumstance of every other team pulling out of the competition. Why? Because unlike the team as recently as two years ago, the England side is packed with average players.

Jamie Carragher does not make forwards quiver with fear. Left wingers are not worried about what to do when Luke Young gets in behind them. Defenders know that Joe Cole has a few tricks in the bag, but that he’s ultimately incredibly ineffective. Opposing managers chuckle with glee when Wayne Rooney begins games on the left wing, then starts kicking, swearing and generally making a prat of himself when things aren’t going his way. While Lampard, Gerrard and Beckham are all exceptional players on the day, playing them all in the same team is a sign of managerial weakness and a Sventacular inability to thnk about a team as a single entity rather than a collection of celebrities. Shaun Wright-Phillips is a great little player to watch, but he looks like a fish out of water on a big stage at the moment. Add to that the fact that Owen’s lost everything that made him a scary player for oppositions to face (including playing for a good side) and you’ve got mediocrity.

All in-all, while not quite back to the days of Carlton Palmer, England are beginning to get towards the bottom of the barrel when it comes to talent. Despite the emergence of players like Rooney and, to a lesser extent, Wright-Phillips, they’re lacking in experienced, big-time international players. The World rankings currently put France, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Turkey below England. Nonsense. More notably, it puts, Mexico and the USA above them—something that if you’re a wise betting man (or woman), you’ll take advantage of in 2006. *wink*

(31) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

  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