Archive for the ‘European Football’ Category

It was a keenly contested one. In fact, I was at the edge of my seat when the players lined up to shake each other’s hand. The Handshake Showdown last night was just in-fucking-sane.

The football however was definitely a sweet moment for Manchester United, for no other reason than the fact that they go top even if it is only for twenty four hours or so. You can’t really do much about your opponents, you can only win your games and hope for the best.

It is for this reason that the Devils will be happy with their performance, not because they defeated a Liverpool team that contained a member of the Nazi Party. Of course, the media will have you believe otherwise.

This bit however will only focus on the football that was played, the rest being nothing more than a distraction as far as I’m concerned.

1) The first half was very ordinary, nothing remotely exciting happened. United held the lion’s share of possession throughout the match, but especially so in the first half. Liverpool didn’t really have an attempt at goal barring that Glen Johnson opportunity, if I remember correctly.

2) Here’s the customary “Paul Scholes is so fucking good” sentence. Who would think that Paul Scholes hasn’t played between May and January? I certainly wouldn’t. He and Michael Carrick combined really well in the middle of the park. They passed really well and switched the play from left to right really quickly, feeding Valencia and Rafael on the right who gave Luis Enrique a forgettable match for sure.

However, as good as United’s midfield was, Liverpool’s was (there’s really no other way to say this) shit. Henderson, Spearing and Gerrard were abysmal and gave all the time and space in the world for Carrick and Scholes to play the ball around.
I was a little disappointed with Giggs though, I thought he had a fairly average game then again he’s been very consistent this season, so he’s allowed one off game now and then.

3) Danny Welbeck has been improving with every game this season. He’s added a lot of new things to his game – he drifts out wide, he makes runs in behind the defender, he holds the ball up really well and therefore connects play between midfield and attack. The last reason is probably why he’s being picked ahead of Hernandez consistently.

Welbeck also plays those quick one-two’s with Rooney and both of them have a good partnership going.

4) Wayne Rooney takes his tally to 21 this season, if I’m not mistaken. His brace was definitely well taken, but he should’ve perhaps had a hat trick to his name after Scholes’ dummy saw him get the ball in the penalty area, but toe poke well wide. It was a good quick two goals, killing off any bit of Liverpool enthusiasm.

5) For all those Liverpool fans that are expecting me to say something about the match from a Red Mersey perspective, let me tell you that there isn’t much to say. Liverpool was ordinary throughout the match except when Suarez got that poacher’s goal.

6) That goal was Suarez’s second most telling contribution to the game (the first being the handshake). Naturally, he’ll be remembered for the handshake and not the goal.

The defending from United was piss poor. What was Rio Ferdinand doing? Last week against Chelsea, he should’ve maybe been tighter to David Luiz when he scored and this time he just watches as the ball hits him and falls to Suarez.

Naturally, injuries have ravaged United’s central defensive pairing, but I think they have missed Vidic the most. They have a whole bunch of young talented defenders, but Vidic just makes your team so much more impenetrable.

A word of praise for Jonny Evans who looks like he’s getting his mojo back. He definitely looked a more capable defender than Rio Ferdinand yesterday.

7) After the goal, Liverpool started to push players up and De Gea was called upon to make a good save from Glen Johnson. The last ten minutes was the only period in which Liverpool looked like they were participating in a competitive football match. I’m sure the supporters were glad they finally woke up.

8) You’d have to wonder how long Liverpool are going to stick with Dalglish. This was a rotten performance by Liverpool, if you’re a fan I’m sure. There was no desire to win it. It looked like a stroll in the park for United, although the score line doesn’t really suggest that. The desire and passion definitely does come from the manager and if this is the kind of desire and passion they might as well have stuck with Rafa Benitez, who would (if nothing else) lit a fire in them and sent them out for a game against United. You’d have thought Kenny would know all about this fixture, but well, you saw it yourself.

A word on a few other Saturday fixtures

 

1) How long before Andre Villas Boas gets the sack? Yesterday the fan’s too got on his back with chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” and “You don’t know what you’re doing”.

Even Sir Alex has been at the receiving end of such chants at the beginning of his United career, but he had a far more boss in Martin Edwards unlike AVB who has Abramovich.

A 2-0 defeat at Everton a week after they squandered a 3-0 lead against United isn’t exactly the best for Chelsea.

In the fight for that fourth Champions League spot, Arsenal were the biggest gainers after Chelsea and Newcastle suffered defeats.

2) Swansea were beaten for only the second time at home this season by Norwich. That’s an incredible stat. Any team that’s played at the Liberty Stadium will tell you how hard it is. So cheers to Norwich who are now 8th in the Premier League.

And there’s La Liga

 

Where Barcelona managed to lose to Osasuna giving Real Madrid the chance to open up a ten point lead at the top of the table if they win tonight.

It’s been a while since any of us have posted and I for one would have gladly continued to neglect this fact if Keshav hadn’t incessantly harrassed me to write this. Initially I thought that if I just ignored him for a while he’d eventually drift back into his natural state of boredom but he just wouldn’t let up so…..

Here is my list of the 5 moments tha changed the Premier Leagus season.

Don’t take the order too seriously its loose and tentative. (Infact don’t take any of this seriously it’s mostly bullshit.)

5.) Wigan string together two wins.

As Indian football fans our attentions tend largely to be centred on the big 4 (an increasingly vague term with the emergence Moneychester Cashty) but the significance of Wigans victories versus Legbreakers FC and Should have given up and gone home after 15 games FC (Stoke and West Ham) should not be misunderestimated (as W would say). Keep in mind that thats something Arsenal failed to do in the last 10 or so games of the season. (There sure are a lot of brackets in this post aren’t there?)

4.) Someone accidentally leaves a mirror in Carlos’ room.

Carlos Tevez decides his startling ugliness is more likely to go unnoticed in Manchester (The city that gave us Beth Tweddle and Alfred Wainwright. Go ahead, google image search them. Look at the fucking teeth on that woman.) than in Barcelona where people tend to look less like a cross between Andy Garcia and an orc . This was truly momentous decison for City as The Fugly One went on to net 14 goals between the end of january and may 22nd helping them to a 3rd place finish and direct qualification to the Champoons League and probably saving his manager’s job in the process.

Hurray! Its Pay Day!

3.) United scratch their heads and pick their noses confusedly when someone talks about “loosing”.

The seemingly endless suply of late goals was absolutely instrumental (second only to their home form) to United’s success. The specific moment I have in mind is the comeback win against Blackpool. Trailing by two goals. Thoroughly outplayed in the first half. Warily aware that the momentum was starting to drift towards Arsenal. They still fucking won. People go on and on about this United team being considerably inferior to teams of the recent and slightly less recent past and I agree with them. This Manchester United team may not be very good but they’re still very Manchester United.

2.) Kenny says “Thanks for keeping the seat warm Woy but as my first name is ‘King’ I should really be the one sitting there.”

Before Dalglish took over Pool (Heh. Pool means penis in Tamil.) had won just 7 of their last 20 matches. Post Kenny they were outshined in terms of points won only by United. He rejuvenated (I hate that word) and revitalised (Thats better) a team lower on morale and verve than Micheal Carrick. The early doubts caused by some seemigly dodgy transfer dealings were soon allayed and it is apparent that Kenny is very much in the same league as SAF and Arsene. Given further investment Kenny could well deploy a Title challenging team next season.

"Can't you see?, I am Liverpool"

1.) Arsenal loose the Carling Cup final and unravel like a great big unravelly thing that unravels.

Why must the things I love cause me such pain? The season promised so much for The Gunners (Atleast we have a nice nickname, Not like United’s which sounds like a 5 year old came up with it. Te Red Devils?! I mean seriously!). Indeed it was Arsenal’s season (Not to be confused with “the season of Arse and anal” which is the mating season of Loyola hostel residents.)

I say it was Arsenal’s season because for the first two thirds of the campaign, Arsenal Were the story. Against the backdrop of a vulnerable looking United, a fast fading Chelsea and a Cloundering Liverpool, Arsenal were looking like contenders again. The victories against chelsea and Barcelona prooved that they could mix it with the best of them (and Chelsea). It was Arsenal’s season to throw away. And boy Motherfuckin’ did they. The final third of the season saw Arsenal knocked out of the F.A. cup, the CL and pick uo 11 points fron 11 games (Roughly. Dont go all Opta on my ass.) This disasterous form can be traced back neatly to that little incident when a Frenchman walked into a Pole. The loss crushed the players, the fans and it would seem the manager as well. It might have been “just the Carling Cup” but it was Shiny and Cup shaped which is something that hasn’t been seen around North London for a long long time (Anyone who tries to remind me of Sp*s Carling Cup win will be shot in the face.) Arsenal’s mental issues/blocks/repressed memories of sexual abuse by a clown or whatever the fuck is wrong with them were brought right to the surface by that result and set the on the path to implosion.

Its Mine! MINE I TELL YOU. Maybe not..

Honourable (or dishonourable as the case may be) mentions to:

Arsenal 4 -4 Newcastle. Manchester United’s early goals vs Chelsea at OT. Injuries to Charlie Adam (It’s ADAM not ADAMS) and D.J. Campbell when Blackpool could have profited from their services.

Thats all.

Harsha.

This entry will be sprinkled with bias in favour of Manchester United. Therefore at the outset, if you have any problem with this, stop reading now.

It’s a classic Champions League final and arguably the two most deserving teams are contesting. Barcelona versus Manchester United. Luckily, this time it is not Messi v Ronaldo (although the English press is trying really hard to make it look like Rooney v Messi).

Lets be frank, it isn’t going to be an individual player who stops Barcelona. As Inter Milan under Mourinho demonstrated last season, it takes a collective effort to stop the Catalan juggernaut. Say what you want about Barcelona, about them being diving cheats; yes, its true. But sadly, its also true that they are the best team in the world, and if someone claims otherwise, they certainly are the most difficult team in the world to stop.

Its going to take a focused performance from United to win the game. Nobody can afford to go into a risky tackle because of the nature of Barca players to fall down when someone so much as calls their name. Incidentally, a friend of mine told me a joke –

“Dani Alves goes down like a ton of bricks after a Scholes tackle. The ref comes to Scholes and sends him off but also books Alves for simulation. Alves gets pissed off and asks the ref, ‘How can you send him off AND book me for simulation?’

The ref replies, ‘Well, because the tackle was on Iniesta..’”

*this is the point where you laugh*

Lets be realistic, Scholes is not going to start the game. I hate to say it, but he’s past the stage where he can play in a Champions League final and expect to positively impact the game. Giggs, however is set to start the game and will no doubt be the creative element in the team. I would make a strong case for Park to start the game as well after his impressive performances when its mattered this season. He had a really good game against Chelsea and his energy levels will certainly be required to close down the Barcelona midfield.

So here’s the line up I want to see – VDS, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Fabio, Park, Anderson, Fletcher, Rooney, Hernandez and Valencia.

Yes, our season’s top scorer is going to be on the bench for obvious reasons. Berbatov doesn’t have the pace to trouble the Barcelona back four and will most likely be left on the bench (and I have a feeling he won’t even come on). So the reasoning behind my formation is that United will have to hit Barca on the counter. Their full backs pushing up leaves space out wide for the Red Devils to exploit. Particularly, Valencia and Fabio on the right can cause some trouble for Eric Abidal. Iniesta plays along Abidal’s side and he doesn’t track back at all. I pick Fabio over Rafael because I worry for Rafael’s temperament. His twin brother is a capable defender and has the pace to push up as well and hence he gets the nod from me.

I know most of you would have noticed that I left Giggs out of the line up, and this wasn’t a mistake. I think we’d be much better with three runners in Park, Fletcher and Anderson. Most of you are horrified by the thought of Giggs being left out, no doubt, but the fact of the matter is (as Nishanth pointed out) is that there’s no point in having a creative midfielder when you’re not going to see so much of the ball. It isn’t like Giggs will be spraying passes across the pitch (although I would love it if that happens, but lets be realistic).

I read in today’s paper that Chris Smalling might be in the midfield (in the role Pepe played against Barca). I don’t think this’ll be a good idea, Smalling’s a good reader of the game, but I’m not sure if he has the experience to match players of this quality (prove me wrong, Chris!)

The front three are quick and players who have the pace and the skill to trouble the Barcelona back four. Rooney down the left to exploit the space left by the marauding (diving) Dani Alves. Valencia’s pace and no nonsense crossing will trouble any full back and to be fair Barca don’t have great headers of the ball. The key player for United will be Javier Hernandez. Who would have thought that this guy who was a virtual unknown would be playing the Champions League final? (I assume he will start of course).

Hernandez is the key because it is very important to put away the ball with any half chance. Any miniscule sight at goal and it should be in the back of the net. Hernandez is also a good header of the ball. His movement will give problems to Pique and Puyol. Rooney dropping deep occasionally might also give Busquets a problem since he isn’t as mobile a defence midfielder as required. I would make a case for Mascherano to start for Barca but that’s not my headache.

We all know Barca’s strongest line up but just to refresh your memories – Valdez, Dani Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa, Messi. Although it would make a lot of sense for Guardiola to play Mascherano instead of Pedro and push Iniesta into Pedro’s position. My gut feeling says that that’s what’s going to happen although my gut feeling has been wrong in the past.

My line up won’t be the one Ferguson plays either, because obviously Giggs will start and I have a bad feeling that Carrick will as well. Carrick’s had a few good games (especially the games against Chelsea in the Champions League and more recently in the league at OT), but I’m not so sure about him.

Bottomline is United can’t score one and hope to defend. They have to score atleast 3, in my opinion because Barcelona will definitely score. And they’ll score more than 1. A new octopus has come out and said that United will win. I hope he’s a descendant of Paul.

Glory Glory Man United. For Number 4. For Edwin Van Der Sar. For Fergie’s third. For the fans! To ensure cheating cunts don’t win it. Come on United! Come on United!

1) Congratulations to Arsenal for a fantastic performance and a brilliant comeback. They players played really well and they deserved their victory.

2) Jack Wilshere – 19 years old and playing some of the best football I’ve seen. He was absolutely fantastic last night. He was composed, calm, showed quick feet and good movement, released the ball at all the right times. Ran with the ball when required and generally held things together in midfield. Song was doing the dirty work, but his yellow card early on meant he was treading a really fine line. Wilshere was picking pass after pass. He was instrumental in controlling the speed of the game during times when Arsenal had large spells of possession.

3) Its funny how the English press went on about Theo Walcott and how the entire Barcelona defence was pissing their pants because they had to face him. He was largely ineffective. He had some good moments early on, particularly when he danced around the Barca defenders just outside the box (atleast, that’s what I think he was doing), then squaring the ball for Fabregas who looped it to Van Persie. This was Arsenal’s first chance of the night and RVP was on target, but Valdez made a save.

But coming back to Walcott, he was quiet throughout most of the game otherwise. One other moment comes to mind was when he played in Fabregas who then crossed to RVP but Abidal managed to head out. I can’t remember him doing too much. He wasn’t using the full space of the pitch. He needed to go out wide, but he was coming in. He was eventually substituted by Wenger for Bendtner, which was surprising at the time, but in retrospect it looks like a really good change.

4) Laurent Koscielny had a cracker of a game yesterday. His reading of the game last night was top class and he spotted some of Messi’s runs before Messi himself perhaps. This is a really good signing by Arsene Wenger and it’ll be interesting to see who his Center Back pairing will be when Vermaelen is back from injury. One thing is for sure though, it won’t be Squillaci. Back to Koscielny, I thought he was really in command of the defence yesterday. I actually thought the entire Arsenal defence looked at ease for large parts of the game. For some time between 20-40 minutes, Barca were playing some really good football, keeping the ball, making the English team run around. But they were able to soak up most of the pressure and defended like a unit.

Perhaps its because they had Szczesny in goal who according the Djourou is always shouting instructions and takes charge of his defence really well.

5) Lionel Messi had a shocking game last night, by his own ridiculously high standards of course. He was wasteful in front of goal and seemed to be lacking drive and desire in the second half of the game. Andres Iniesta didn’t stamp his authority on the game either. Nor did Pedro really, who spent most of his time falling over. David Villa looked good and Barcelona’s best chances came when he was on the field, I felt. Perhaps it was a night of substitutes, because David Villa was taken off for Keita, a defensive move, whereas Arsene Wenger made two very astute changes – Arshavin for Song and Bendtner for Walcott.

6) Andrei Arshavin is having a poor season. Despite this, he has the most number of assists for Arsenal this season according to ESPN Soccernet, with 11 assists. He’s also scored 5 goals for Arsenal, including the decisive strike against Barcelona last night, I believe.  Another decisive strike earlier on in the season at Blackburn. A goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw against Wigan and recently pulled Arsenal level against Everton in a game Arsenal went on to win 2-1. What a horrible season he’s having.

Didn't really silence the crowd last night, made them erupt more like

7) Robin Van Persie was a little off form last night I though. He had everything yesterday, except end product. Of course, he did eventually go on to score, but the point is against Barcelona, you have to take all your chances and make the most of every half chance. His link up play was good, he held up the ball really well, but it was just end product that was missing. A vital requirement when playing as a lone striker. He did eventually score of course. Valdez really has to be questioned though for that goal, it was really dodgy keeping. How on earth can you get beaten at the near post from that angle? Well, ask Valdez. I don’t know if RVP meant to hit there though, it looked like he did, and Arsenal fans will swear on their mothers that he meant it.

8) It was a fantastic victory for Arsenal last night without a doubt, but I still feel that Barcelona are favourites. You’ve got to fancy them having a go at the Camp Nou. Of course, they can’t put out a much stronger side than they did at the Emirates. In fact, Pique is suspended for that game, so its definitely not their strongest side. Regardless, certain things will be different, for example -David Villa won’t be substituted after 60 odd minutes. The crowd at the Camp Nou will also be tremendously important not to mention the referee. Barcelona aren’t out of this tie by any stretch of the imagination, they have an away goal as well, which may prove vital later on. However, Arsenal now have the belief that they can beat Barcelona if they stick to their own tactics and gameplan. There’s no reason they can’t do it again.

 

Here are the line ups folks –

Line ups

Arsenal – Szczesny, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Eboue, Walcott, Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie. Subs – Rosicky, Almunia, Denilson, Squillaci, Arshavin, Bendtner, Gibbs

Barcelona – Valdes, Dani Alves, Abidal, Pique, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, Iniesta, Villa, Messi. Subs – Keita, Correia, Pinto, Mascherano, Affelay, Bojan, Milito

 

Both managers playing their most attacking first XI’s possible. Its definitely going to be a cracker. Both teams follow an attacking philosophy. There are going to be some cracking battles, and there’s going to be one man who has got to be stopped – Lionel Messi.

The Independent apparently said that Messi hasn’t ever scored on English soil. Maybe, but that doesn’t prove a thing. He’s still a class act, if he doesn’t score, he’ll create, he’ll make space for others, and he’ll just frighten the shit out of the defence for good measure.

Djourou and Koscielny are a decent center back pairing. Whether they’ll be able to cope with the threat of Villa, Messi, Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi is what we’ll find out soon. I’m sure they’re going to have their hands full, but they need help from their central midfield trio of Song, Fabregas and Wilshere who need to keep hold of the ball. They need to get the ball wide to Walcott and Nasri who can attack the full backs.Van Persie needs to have a good game, hold up the ball and link well with his midfield. Considering the form he’s in, he’ll have a good game. The plan seems pretty simple of course, but the execution will be fucking difficult, I assure you.

So earlier on, I was in conversation with our newest contributor and fanatical Arsenal fan (he’s shaved the Arsenal logo off his great big bushy beard).  And here’s what he had to say

“The trump cards are Nasri and Theo if they fire today we can hurt the cunts. Especially that muppet maxwell…

Abidal in central defence isnt particularly impressive either….”

Enjoy a killer game, folks!

Transfer records went tumbling on deadline day yesterday. I expected a lot of activity but the amount of money that was thrown around really surprised me. January transfer window is usually full of speculation but very little transfer activity takes place. Mid-Season transfer are considered to be risky and unless there is an emergency clubs usually stay away from buying. Even players like Nemanja Vidic have struggled to make an impact immediately after coming in during the January transfer window.

The most high profile transfer was that Fernando Torres to Chelsea.The Blues also signed David Luiz from Benfica. The Luiz transfer had been going on and off the entire window, but I think it was a necessity for the Londoners to sign a Center Back given their lack of cover in the area. Chelsea fans would now love to see the back of Paulo Ferreira.

Once auditioned for a role as Side Show Bob.

Considering Liverpool’s position at the moment, I expected Torres to leave Liverpool soon. But I never expected him to hand in a transfer request 3 days before the window shuts. Torres has not been great this season but then again their whole team is struggling badly. The arrival of Dalglish has made a difference but it seems it wasn’t enough for Torres. One can’t blame Torres for wanting to leave but the manner in which he has left would have certainly angered the Liverpool supporters. A £50million offer was too good to refuse as far as Liverpool were concerned (and we privately agree, £50million for a player who is crocked so often?).

LFC fans surely feel let down by a man they called a Club Legend

Let us get down to the most mind boggling transfer in the history of transfers – Andy Carroll. I think he has been excellent this season. But £35millon?? £35millon for a player who has only 41 appearances in the league has 14 goals! This is the 8TH most expensive transfer in football – more expensive than World Cup winning David Villa. Andy Carroll (and every other English player still active in the world) has no idea what a World Cup medal looks like. Andy Carroll – much like his most expensive English brethren also suffers from disciplinary issues off the pitch. We clearly see him following in the path of Rooney, Ferdinand and Gerrard in that sense.

If he's worth 35 million, how much is Ronaldo or Messi worth?

This clearly is a panic buy from Liverpool. The Merseysiders are seventh in the league. Regardless of who they sign (barring maybe Messi) they are not going to get into the Champions League. Why spend so heavily in the January window when you have to pay twice the price?  Also Dalglish doesn’t seem like the kind of manager who would approve this kind of transfer which makes you wonder how much say he has over transfers.

Final Verdict regarding these two transfers- I have a feeling Torres won’t make that big an impact at Chelsea like many think he will. I think Chelsea needed a creative midfielder more than a striker. It will be interesting to see where he plays, probably Anelka will be dropped. He will score goals but I doubt he will be able to justify the £50million Chelsea has paid for him. He will not be available for the Sunderland game which means he could make his debut against Liverpool! It will be a real heated game.

Darrent Bent went to Aston Villa for £24million.So Carroll who is younger should fetch more than that. Only if you apply that kind of logic will this transfer make sense. This is a lot of pressure on a young player. After all he is only 22.He could crumble under the weight of expectation. But if keeps his head Liverpool have a good player in hand. But like Torres, I think he will struggle to justify the £35millon transfer fee.

In one corner of Manchester, some people are really happy that some other club is paying ridiculous prices for players who aren’t quite up there. City have been surprisingly pretty quiet throughout this transfer window, splashing £27 million pounds in the direction of Edin Dzeko, which looking at all the other transfers in this window seems like a well thought out, measured and financially prudent move.

 

Transfer Round-up

Tottenham went on a rampage in the last 3 days bidding over 30 million for nearly  every single striker playing in La Liga and got rejected by all.Harry Redknapp is not too happy about it. Peter Crouch was video taped doing The Robot outside White Hart Lane.

Denilson last night shocked the football world and Arsenal supporters by demanding a move away from Arsenal.He later on changed his mind after the best bid he received was  £5.99 from Crawley town! Crawley then withdrew the bid thinking it was over priced.

Rangers have signed Kyles Bartley and El-Hadji Diouf on loan. Glad to see Diouf leave the premier league. Fulham have signed Eidur Gudjohnsen on loan and Aston Villa have secured Michael Bradley on loan till the end of the season. Paul Konchesky joined Nottingham Forrest on loan. Daniel Sturridge moved to Bolton on loan.

Seria A

Lot of transfer has taken place in Seria A.The best signing has to be that of Antonio Cassano by AC Milan. Milan have also signed Emanuelson from Ajax, Van bommel and Nicola Legrottaglie from Juventus.

Inter Milan made 2 excellent signings in the January window.They have signed Pazzini from Sampdoria and Andrea Ranocchia from Genoa.This will certainly help their squad.

La Liga

No major news in La Liga. Adebayor of course moved to Real Madrid on loan. Also don’t forget that Ibrahim Affelay’s transfer from PSV to Barcelona went through during this transfer window.

 

Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood appeared for an interview with the Daily Star and he has the following to say –

“It’s important for me and for the board to not lose our nerve when the media and the fans are all screaming. We’ve had some tough years.

“Once, in the mid-1980s, I was smuggled out of Highbury, lying in the back of the car. We were having a bad run, and there were 500 people standing outside the boardroom shouting, ‘F**k off, Hill-Wood’.

“These days, the bar has been raised. But, I’m surprised that people keep saying that Arsenal have not won anything for 5 years. Liverpool haven’t won the league for 20 years!

“And I remember when they were in the old Second Division and Manchester United were in the old Second Division… I think the boys and girls who support us are very lucky.

“I remember a year ago, standing in the front of the directors’ box… there was a woman shout, ‘Spend some f*****g money’.

“I said, ‘Don’t worry, darling. Leave it to us; we will sort it out’… or some similar patronising statement, which probably pissed her off even more.

“This season, we’re still in all competitions and we’re 2nd in the league. So, we’re not that bloody bad!”

Now we’re all entitled to our opinions of course. But unfortunately for Arsenal fans, PHW’s opinion really affects their transfer scenario and what the club is doing with regards to player acquisition etc etc.

Needless to say I disagree with Peter Hill-Wood. (He’s had some exciting times eh? Smuggled out of Highbury in the back of a car?). Anyway, the point is this –

1) Does he really want to compare Arsenal to Liverpool; a club that haven’t won the league in 20 years? It shows a worrying lack of ambition from the Chairman of one of the title chasing two clubs in the league. He seems to think like this – “Alright, Liverpool haven’t won a the league in 20 years, so we have another 15 years to go”

Lacking ambition

2) The same Manchester United who were languishing in the second division back in the day are now racking up trophy after trophy. So shouldn’t a club that’s been playing first division football pretty much throughout its history be winning a few trophies?

3) Arsenal are currently second only because of astute signings by Arsene Wenger. Whatever he needs, he gets cheap. However, if Arsenal had decided to spend big and invest heavily in areas that needed to be improved (Goalkeeper, Center Back) who knows, they could have been first in the league.

 

 

 

A third away win for Manchester United in this season and that puts the gap between them and Arsenal at 5 points. Arsenal, meanwhile, on the same day, ended up booking a place at Wember-ley for the Carling Cup final. We now know that their opponents on that day will be Birmingham City who beat West Ham 4-3 on aggregate.

More on that in a bit, but first lets start off with Man United’s terrible first half performance at Bloomfield Road.

You know there’s something wrong with a United performance when Nemanja Vidic almost scores an own goal. I don’t even know where to start. The defence, the midfield, Wayne Rooney? I don’t even understand why Sir Alex started with the 4-3-3 formation when the 4-4-2 has been working wonders thus far. Of course, it was changed before half time with Rooney playing up front with Berba and Gibson moving to the left leaving Scholes and Fletcher in the center of midfield. After that they played as if their life depended on it. Those of you who don’t sense sarcasm in that statement can kindly kill yourself in a painful manner.

As woeful as United’s first half was, Blackpool’s was fantastic. Charlie Adam was spreading the ball here, there and everywhere, and more often than not, Patrice Evra was caught of out position leading to Blackpool attacks. Evra was perhaps at fault for the second goal after he was caught ballwatching while DJ Campbell headed it into the back of the net. What’s worrying for United is that defending from set pieces has traditionally been one of their strengths, but this time the marking was all over the place.

What changed it in the second half was the introduction of Ryan Giggs who brought more urgency into the game. Another pivotal moment was the removal of the ineffective Shrek, for whom a certain Javier Hernandez came on. If Rooney continues playing like this, United fans will have to change his chant slightly from “White Pele” to “White Adebayor” perhaps.

By the way, Berbatov is top scorer for United with 19 goals and Hernandez has 8. Nani has more goals than Shrek who has only netted 3 in the season. Why on earth aren’t Berbatov and Hernandez United’s front pairing? Its a question only the gum chewing bespectacled wise old man can answer.

Entertaining - but he might pay the price for it

In the end, it finished 3-2 in favour of United. This was perhaps as much because of Ian Holloway’s policy of attacking as because of United’s policy of attacking. Towards the end, United were easily breaking and stretching Blackpool. Its definitely entertaining football, but will it help them fight off relegation this season is anyone’s guess. After all they’re only 6 points clear of 18th placed Wigan.

Arsenal are going to Wember-ley

Its been so long since Arsenal have gone to Wembley that their coach driver claims he’s forgotten the way. He was quoted as saying “I think I’ll have to go and buy a map. But the problem is, the mapmakers are holding out for a buck and Arsene [Wenger] has said that he won’t pay more than 50 pence.”

The crisis was resolved after the map paid the other 50 pence.

By the way, this blog (and me specifically) predicted that Arsenal would end their trophy drought this season. So I hope they beat Birmingham.

Richard Keys is doing too much Crystal Meth
“There are some dark forces at work here. I asked if we could make people aware of the fact that [Massey and Keys] had had a conversation and thought it was best for both parties to move on. I was told ‘no’. And 24 hours passed, by which time the world had gone mad. I don’t know why I was told ‘no’… I remember saying to Sian ‘I need to make this official, on behalf of Andy and myself we unreservedly apologise for our behaviour. It was wrong.’

.

Careful with that meth, Keysey

That’s part of the official apology tendered by Richard Keys. Who on earth are the dark forces here? Sauron? Voldemort? Silly me, of course he’s referring to the Sith Lord Palpatine.

Fact of the matter is – Keys was wrong. I don’t know what difference it would’ve made if he’s apologized on Monday or on Tuesday, so long as this Monday are Tuesday isn’t a year, five or twenty down the line.


 

 

 

I suspect most of you are familiar with Andy Gray, commentator, analyst and Scotch of great and undeserved renown.
Well you may have also heard that he has just been shitcanned by Sky who provide us (via Espn) with our Premier League fix.

"Hi, I'm an idiot, and I no longer have a job"

The circumstances of his dismissal are fairly simple. Think of the Dean Jones-Hashim Amla fiasco and replace Jones with Gray and Muslims with Women.
The idiot thought his mike was off and said some stupid things(YouTube it if you wish to hear).

Gray and his colleague and fellow brainless idiot Richard Keys basically questioned a woman’s ability to understand anything as ‘complex’ as the offside rule and trotted out the general “they belong in the kitchen making me soup” attitude. The context being the officiating of Lineswoman Sian Massey in the Pool-Wolves game

She got it all right actually

However sexism is not the only thing that fills up Andy Gray’s cup of idiocy . Gray is one of the most shameless proponents of Xenophobia in English football, and unlike Racism or Sexism there is an institutionalised approval almost bordering on encouragement of xenophobia in the modern game, from the media, the FA and from talking (sh*t)heads like Gray.

Anyone who has watched Premier League football over the last few years shoud be able to recall the numerous times when British and Foreign players have been given differential treatment by all quarters.

Consider the instance when Eduardo dived in the Champions League against Celtic, there was an immediate queue of people forming to formally condemn him as the worst human being since Hitler. Contrast this with the studied ignoring of Steven Gerrard’s oft repeated and frankly badly acted gamesmanship. These double standards extend beyond diving.

Rooney’s vicious (and hilarious) attack on some Portuguese bugger’s nuts were explained away as the evil foreigner Ronaldo’s fault, just because Ronaldo was supposed to have been making fun of him. If I attacked someone’s genitals everytime somebody poked fun at me…well I’m pretty sure society would frown upon it.

This xenophobia seems quite often to go hand in hand with another moronic attitide prevalent in England today. The notion that Leg-breaking assaults are “part and parcel” of the game. Well. No, they’re not. The two trends often tie together withpPoor, innocent English “He’s not that kind of player” types like Martin Taylor and Ryan Shawcross are painted as Freaking victims of the tricksy, dishonest foreigners who have no business to be skillful or have quick feet.

Xenophobia is now visible even in the treatment of managers by the English press. Contrast the treatment good old uncle Woy got from the press with what Rafa recieved. Contrast the furore over Sam Allardyce’s dismissal with the sneering treatment of Avram Grant.

Andy Gray who was always quickest to jump to John Terry’s defense for a cynical foul or to Gerrard’s defense for a dive and just as quick to condemn a foreign player as “one of those types” i.e. Cheats is/was but one of the symptoms of a general malaise infecting English football, one that is particularly odious to us foreign supporters of the PL.

Hurray! The assorted knick knacks column is back after a really really long time. Snow prevented me from putting up updates for the past few weeks. I mean, what is up with that? Damn global warming. Or is it global cooling? Anyway, back to more important matters.

Man United beat Sunderland to stay on top

That’s the way its done best, if you’re on top, but you still have to come first if you know what I mean. Dimitar Berbatov bagged a brace in a game that started off with a bang for the Red Devils. Anderson hit the frame of the goal once and so did Berbatov. Berbatov took his chances quite well and played a very good role linking up play with the midfield.

Rooney too looked sharp, at least he did in the first half with some glorious cross field balls. However in the second half, Roonaldo was anonymous. Its a good thing United didn’t win a penalty though.

Anderson had a really good game. His midfield runs sometimes leaves the opposition wondering as to how to stop him – its somewhat like a bull charging at you. His touches could be better and his execution when it comes to passing should definitely improve. He sees the pass, but when he releases the ball, its a fraction too late or a shade too powerful. Evra has challenged him to make consistent his sporadic pieces of brilliance. I hope he proves Evra wrong.

Like a bull in midfield (at times)

All in all a good game for Man United, not so much for Steve Bruce though. Bruce was without a lot of players especially in the Center Back role. Danny Welbeck was also ineligible as per the conditions of his loan deal, meaning Bruce was without a real goal scoring threat. Darren Bent was largely anonymous and Gyan just ran around a lot.

London Derby

It is official. Chelsea have forgotten how to win. And Drogba has forgotten how to score. Hah! I’m glad United aren’t the only team where the main striker has lost his goalscoring touch. Even he missed a penalty, mind you.

Lets be very fair, on the topic of Arsenal versus Chelsea, Arsenal deserved to win. They were the better team, they looked more incisive and most importantly they scored more goals.

Frank Lampard made his long awaited return for Chelsea but even he couldn’t inspire the Blues to a win or even to snatch a draw. It was a cracker of a game for neutrals, even in the first half to be honest, where only one goal was scored.

Chelsea started out better, with a little bit of creativity and some forward runs by Lampard. However once Arsenal got off first gear, there was no looking back. It was a really good move by Arsene Wenger to play Johann Djourou along with Koscielny as his Center Back pairing. Djourou was commanding in the air and won a lot of the air balls, and perhaps even negated the physical threat of Didier Drogba.

Good move, Mr Wenger

After Alex Song scored the first, I was pretty sure Arsenal were on their way to winning the game. Then when the second half kick started, Arsenal scored again through Fabregas. Chelsea had the ball nicked off them in midfield, well not really, but they did lose the ball in that area. Essien’s tackle put the ball in Walcott’s pass who squared the ball to Fabregas in order to avoid Cech’s charge and the Arsenal skipper made to mistake.

The third goal happened within two minutes of that. Chelsea had the ball nicked off them in midfield. Feels like I just typed that. Oh wait, I did. This time Fabregas played in Walcott who put it in the net.

Chelsea did look like they might recover actually. Ivanovic headed a goal home from Didier Drogba’s free kick and you wondered whether Arsenal were going to, well.. do an Arsenal. Ivanovic later on made another charging run only for Drogba to take the ball off him at the crucial moment and hit an Arsenal defender from his shot.

It didn’t look like Chelsea’s day and to be very fair, Ancelotti didn’t have too much on the bench to change things around. Mikel had started but was anonymous so he was subbed at half time for Ramires (who did close to nothing). Malouda lost the ball for Arsenal’s third and he paid the price by making his way for – – GAEL KAKUTA, an experienced youngster – isn’t that an oxymoron? Ancelotti’s third attacking move was to bring on Bosingwa for Fereirra. Bosingwa’s only contribution was to shoot from really far out and miss completely.

On the Arsenal squad – Van Persie did a good shift as center forward. Held the ball up, good link up play. Only disappointed with him for this one chance where maybe he could have played in Walcott but instead decided to go for it himself from a really difficult angle. He didn’t get a goal, but his contribution wasn’t unnoticed, for sure.

Walcott was good, his pace troubled the Chelsea defence. Although initially he struggled to get the better of Ashley Cole, but towards the second half it could be fair to say he made Ashley Cole his bitch – much to the delight of all the Arsenal fans, world over!

Fabregas was really good, even though he started off with a few misplaced passes. One of his turns in particular was simply sublime and he left two Chelsea players in his wake with that. Arsenal are glad to have him back I’m sure. Alex Song also put in a really good shift and even had a goal to his name at the end of the day.

Glad to have him back

Jack Wilshere ought to take a bow for his performance. I thought he’s be easily bullied out of the ball by the likes of Essien and Mikel, but he did really well to hold off the physical threat of Chelsea’s three man midfield. In particular there was an instance where he held off Essien and Ramires and eventually won a free kick for the Gunners.

Even Clichy didn’t look as vulnerable as he always does and you know that means that Arsenal are going to win the game.

So that means that Arsenal have gone to second place two points behind leaders Manchester United and on top of Man City because of superior goal difference.

Tottenham’s victory over Aston Villa

Just a small note on Arsenal’s arch-rivals as well. They were fantastic against Villa. Period. Even after Jermaine Defoe got sent off, they kept the ball really well and to be honest it looked like Villa was the team that was down to 10 men. Modric has rarely been given credit for the Lilywhites’ performances thus far. But hear this – Modric is sublime, they’ll miss him more than Gareth Bale in my opinion, some of the balls he picks out is simply beautiful. If you don’t believe me, go watch Spurs’ first goal against Villa and check out his pass to Alan Hutton, just before the goal was scored.

Take a bow, Luka.