All Things Footie

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All Things Footie | Monday, October 24 | Jordan

Penalties, Scrapping, Chelsea, Shola, Burley

If Arsenal’s … unconventional … penalty had worked, it would have been the greatest piss-take ever. People would talk about it for years, and teams would copy it every other week. It didn’t work, in fact, it completely failed to work. Robert Pires was too casual about performing a very tricky manouevre.

A good parallel would be the famous chipped penalty—if when whoever it was tried one first in recent times (was it Yorke? or Di Canio?) had messed that up, and the keeper had just caught it, you’d never have seen one again. It worked though, so now people do it all the time.

In my opinion, it was a nice bit of semi-improvisation, something different to brighten up what was otherwise an awful game. If it’d worked, Arsenal fans would certainly have had TWO ‘i was there’ moments in a single week.

Weird game between United and Spurs (from the highlights). I couldn’t really work out who was on top, if indeed anyone actually was. It was a truly awful bit of goalkeeping from Paul Robinson, and you can bet your life that if it’d been a foreign goalkeeper (Tim Howard, Fabian Barthez, Jens Lehmann, Jerzy Dudek) it’d get mentioned in every game he plays in for the rest of the season. Not so for daaaahling Englishmen though.

While I’m on about how we seem to judge foreign players differently from home grown players: there’s a different moral code too. When teams like Man City spend a game kicking and ‘scrapping’, commentators can’t help but gush about the wonderful fighting spirit brought to them by the ultimate ‘scrapper’, Stuart Pearce. Their dirtiness, late tackles, high tackles, foul mouths, argumentative streak with referees, is a virtue. When European sides play like that it’s ‘pathetic’ and ‘disgusting’. When David Beckham got his meta-tarsal bone broken by Aldo Duscher, the press practically called for him to be imprisoned for assault, when Paul Scholes or Danny Mills nearly break players legs every game with stupid late tackles, they’re just ‘feisty’ or ‘committed’.

The $64,000 question. Are Chelsea a dead cert?

United won 10 games in a row a few seasons ago and won nothing. Arsenal were supposedly unbeatable with a 14 point lead at christmas and lost the league to United. I’ve seen nothing (and I challenge anyone to find something) to convince me that Chelsea are any better than Arsenal were in 2003, nor United in 1998, they’re just as vulnerable as any other team in the World—football is still as capable of turning on freak moments, bad luck, or just an off day as it was five years ago. Every season, the voice of reason tells us not to make any rash predictions too early in the season—and every season we fall into the same stupid trap. Some seasons (last year, the year before) we’re correct in our rash assumptions, others (2003, 2002) we end up with egg on our faces. To make any kind of prediction at this stage (or any stage for that matter) is fallacy, and to give up hope, at any stage, is weak; and the weak never win.

Chelsea are not invincible, the league is not won. I heard a commentator today say that ‘it was impossible to say Chelsea weren’t going to win the league’. What complete and utter shite. He should lose his job for that kind of talk—it’s as if he can’t remember saying the same thing about Arsenal and United a few years ago. Poor form.

Shoala Ameobi. I rate him. From some adjectives I’ve used about the taller players in the Premiership, you’d think I have something about all lanky forwards, but I really think Ameobi as something to offer. He’s better than Crouch. He’s better than Heskey. If any young player deserves a shot for England, he does.

And finally, George Burley. What an odd one. It’d be easy to say it was the millionaire, power-hungry, Eastern European owner had forced him out, but that would fail to take account of the fact that Burley did exactly the same thing not that long ago at Derby. Has the man got a commitment problem? An attitude problem? Or can he simply not hack the pressure? It’s a crying shame, because he (and Hearts) were in serious danger of making Scottish Football interesting for the first time in 20 years.

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All Things Footie | Wednesday, October 19 | Jordan

Grrr, it makes me mad

Well, two posts in two days, then nothing for a week or more. Typical. I really should be better.

I actually missed most of the events of the weekend’s football, though I did catch Michael Essien’s challenge on Tal Ben Haim—horrorshow doesn’t even come close—and how typical of the spineless, boneless, toothless, corrupt, hypocritical, time-wasters at the FA and FIFA to say that Essien can’t be retrospectively punished (even though referee Rob Styles reviewed the footage afterwards and said he should have sent him off). Something needs to be done about these people who don’t have a clue about what football is, what it means, or what it represents. Their colossal egos have convinced them that they and their organisations are the face of football; if they behave then football looks good, if football behaves, they look good. On more than one occasion they’ve claimed ownership of football. Ownership. Football needs to stand up for itself and smash these smug, overpaid pricks square in the jaw before throwing them on the scrapheap where they belong.

But, to paraphrase Bill Hicks, that’s another meeting. Today it’s irreverent soccer chat with Jordan at all things footie.

Arsenal are reminding me of Liverpool last season more and more. Indifferent (to be generous) in the league, but unstoppable in Europe (though unstoppable may be a slightly strong adjective given that they’ve not really been tested thus far). Don’t be surprised if Arsenal’s worst start to a Premiership season in donkeys years coincides with them finally achieving something in Europe that they’ve struggled to do when unstoppable domestically (where unstoppable almost doesn’t do justice to some of their recent seasons). And if they did win it? Would I change my tune about the Champions League being less of an achievement than the league? Of course not. The CL is a cup competition that anyone with a bit of luck can win, the league is won over 38 games, not

One thing, and one thing only, struck me from United’s game last night, and that is how much of a different side they are without Wayne Rooney. I can’t think of a recent aquisition by a club that’s made such an impact. Without Wayne Rooney, United look worryingly like a mid-table team; with him, they look a thousand times more dangerous. Whether that’s a positive or a negative, I’m not sure, but one thing’s for sure; Wayne Rooney’s talent cannot be overstated.

Always one to keep up with the news, as I’m sure you’ve heard, Cristiano Ronaldo has been arrested to answer questions about an alleged rape that happened in a London hotel the day after Manchester United played Fulham. No doubt you’ll expect me to make some pithy comment or have a dig, but like the allegations against Robin van Persie in Holland earlier this year, I’m no tabloid jumper to conclusions so I’ll keep schtum.

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All Things Footie | Saturday, October 8 | Jordan

International observations

Lets talk about International football.

It annoys the hell out of me—particularly in the middle of the season—and the quality of football compared to the Premiership is very poor (although it is a slightly more open game in general, there’s definite adventure and passion from most sides, England excluded). Despite all that though, it does alleviate every other summer’s football withdrawl symptons, so I shall try and sound interested.

Observation number 1: Both Northern Ireland and Wales have a better forward than Peter Crouch. Are England really that short of strikers when Rooney’s missing? I’ve just seen the big lump try and control a relatively simple ball twice and nearly fall over both times. His only discernable form of challenge seems to be ‘barge into the keeper’, he falls over every two minutes, and … well … he’s just utterly useless. That’s unfair, he’s OK for a big lad, and is mid-to-bottom table Premiership quality, but he’d struggle to get in Azerbijan’s first team.

Why we’re obsessed with ‘big-lads up top’ in this country I don’t know. Bigger is not better, and when you’ve got on-fire players like Darren Bent and proven goalscorers like Jermain Defoe on the bench it’s a travesty that someone as poor as Crouch gets a staring place. He’s proven nothing, his scoring record and assist record are both poor, I can’t see what anyone thinks is promising about him, nothing. His only achievement seems to be convincing Liverpool to buy him—I think Rafa had been on the laughing gas that night. We all know how much Sven loves his big-names though, so I’m not surprised the clueless Swede let Crouch’s Liverpool shirt blind him into giving him a starting place.

Observation number 2: I can see why Madrid bought Michael Owen now. He’s a fabulous diver. Really quite spectacualar. He knows how to shift his bodyweight and throw his arms out so it looks like he’s just been viciously assaulted rather than getting the tiniest of clips. In the 40th (ish) minute a stone wall penalty was not given because of the way he went down.

Worse, why is it that when English players dive are they ‘very, very clever’, and when foreign players dive, they get talked up as some kind of monster ‘What he’s done there, he’s, he’s, got Beckham sent off, simple as that’. Hypocrisy at it’s most shining.

Germany 2006: If you’re a clever gambler, you’ll look at Switzerland and the Ivory Coast each-way. If you only like betting on favourites, you’ll get better odds on Argentina than Brazil, and I fancy they’ve got a trick or two up their sleeves as well.

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All Things Footie | Friday, October 7 | Jordan

I can do this, I just don't want to


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All Things Footie | Tuesday, October 4 | Jordan

All ruled out

Random (paraphrased) quote of the weekend that seriously got my goat:

”...he [Cunningham] may have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity, but, sigh, these silly rules are ruining the spectacle of the game. We all know that the referee was right, but I’m sure that really he just wanted to produce a yellow card, under the directives he is given he is not allowed to - and that’s the problem we have.”

Silly rules? Directives? Problem? Ruining the game? I’ll tell you what ruins the game, Bruce: players chopping down forwards when they’re through on goal. A goal from open play is more spectacular than a penalty, right? Even a missed one…. I’m sick to the back teeth of ‘honest, old-fashioned, English’ managers (Steve Bruce, Sam Allardyce, Steve McLaren, et al) whinging about the laws of the game, and worse, pleading ignorance. In the case of the most moaned about, The Offside Rule, most of the subtleties arise from unintentional changes of play, which you can’t plan for, so it simply doesn’t matter whether you know about them or not. Despite that each club is visited by referees before every season so they can explain well in advance any changes to any laws or their interpretations, to everyone in the club. If they’re not listening it’s their own lookout.

I’m sick of horrible challenges being seen as morally acceptable fouls, while things like diving are seen as hideous, vile, evil, twisted misdemeanours perpetrated only by lowlifes and foreigners. You’ll see a dive get discussed by the papers and the pundits for weeks, sometimes months after it’s occured, but people will already have forgotten about Lee Bowyer’s horrific tackle on Saturday. I for one would like to see more red cards for awful tackles that potentially endager the opponent, which is one of the reasons I wholeheartedly support that very directive, put in place by the Referees Association at the beginning of this season.

Liverpool are rubbish, because they only have half a good team. They have no-one up front, two and a half good defensive players (I’ve still not made my mind up about Reina, if he’s like any other Liverpool goalkeeper he’ll steadily get worse over the next two seasons before being replaced by someone else), and three and a half good midfielders (Hamann’s heart’s not in it). That’s it. Steven Gerrard’s heart-on-sleeve approach is all very well, and I’m sure it’s uplifting for the Liverpool fans to see him charging around the pitch, and Xabi Alonso is a superb technical player, but with lads like Djimi Traore, Jamie Carragher and Peter Crouch in the team, and a flakey sub’s bench, they don’t stand a chance.

If you’re wondering why ATF has been a bit quiet over the last couple of weeks, it’s because:

  1. after three years of stalemate—I’m finally giving ATF a makeover. Oh yes, a lovely shiny new ATF is on the horizon, and will be on these shores soon!
  2. Football is bloody boring at the moment, and—whoopee—another international break is now imminent.
  3. I’ve been rather enjoying the debate raging in the comments to my last post.

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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