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European Soccer Blog

This is a Blog for European Soccer Fans, and although the main focus will be Arsenal, I will be keeping up to date on the main news in world soccer especially transfer speculation. I love football, and I am realistic supporter, not some wannabee glory hu

Updated: 2015-09-16T21:59:54.555-07:00


2001 no longer seems 6 years away...


That is how desperate the situation at High... no wait (forgive me) Ashburton Grove has become. Why do I mention a year normally associated with terrorism? That year encapsulated Arsenal's most embarrassing defeat in modern history - a 6-1 tub- thumping at the hand's of Manchester United. On Saturday lunchtime, Arsenal were treated to a another dose of an only slightly less venomous medicine, this time on Merseyside; in front of Liverpool's new American co owners - one wonders whether Liverpool's breathtaking display has left the Americans shell shocked that there just might be something more exciting than March Madness on this side of the pond?

Whatever the case, on this occasion, the terrorism is not being perpetrated by some Islamic fundamentalist, no - the terrorism is etched between the paper thin lines of Arsenal's permeable defense. These players have hi-jacked the Gunners' back line and transformed what are normal defensive rituals into Sunday morning comedy routines which only serve in aiding the opposition, not Arsenal.

All this was on a day when Arsenal were presented with a precious opportunity to cement their status as the third best team in the Premiership, hence securing another venture onto European shores next season. To say Arsenal "spurned" this chance is the understatement of the season. Suicide would perhaps be a more appropriate description. From the start, Arsenal were 2 yards off the pace, Liverpool harried Arsenal like blood thirsty wolves chasing a pack of hyenas, and the skyscraper they call "RoboCrouch" used his height to great effect. More irony for Arsene to ponder, two players the Frenchman previously rejected once upon a time played a decisive roll in this thrashing, number one being Jermaine Pennant whose spell at Arsenal was tainted with off the field controversy, and number two being Crouch - whom Wenger once described as “a basketball player who can play with his head”. I am sure messas Michael Jordon and Kobe Bryant would be equally flattered if they were on the receiving end of such a back handed compliment.

True defeats in the north of England are no stranger to the north London outfit. This season alone, Arsenal have suffered at the hands of Bolton, Man City, Everton, and of course Liverpool. And that does not account for the last gasp defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup; which extinguished Arsenal's only semi realistic shot at silverware this season. If Celtic and Rangers joined the English League tomorrow, rest assured there would be no welcome party from Arsene's boys...

So the heaviest Premiership reverse since February 2001. Accurate to point out that on that occasion the scoreline read 6-1 in Man Utd's favor, but way back yonder Arsenal were still second in the league, and were still fighting in the FA Cup and Champions League. This season's traditional northern drubbing comes at a time when Arsenal are officially annexed from every competition, so although 6 years ago Arsenal conceded two more goals, the picture still looked brighter than it does today considering Arsenal's league position and precarious premature exits in the FA Cup and Champions league (two arenas where Arsenal have flourished in recent seasons).

At the beginning of the 2005-2006 season Wenger said he was not one to look back because he harbors too many regrets on previous failures and misfortunes. One can only imagine that sentiment will have been reversed on Saturday as the Gunners provided their fans with an early, not so welcome, April fools joke of a performance!

My Rant on Fox...


And no! Surprisingly my tirade is not directed at the political vultures at the top of the blood sucking money making tree that is FOX. My venom is not directed at the political architecture of the network which continues to serenely support the Bush administration by constantly parroting the orthodoxes handed out by the Republican party which have led us into the quagmire of Baghdad and beyond.However, my anger is directed towards one of FOX's sister channels, "Fox Soccer Channel", and more specifically, the Fox Soccer Report, which airs on channel 613 on satellite television at 10pm eastern, 9pm central. This show has ruined the prime principle of soccer broadcasting.This dilemma compounds, what is to me anyway, a fundamental problem entrenched in the roots of this country. American media is incensed with a fixation of advertising by the mass; cramming as much in to as little time possible in order to make the maximum profit. I'm sorry, this simply does not work when it comes to presenting British soccer.It may work with the endless carpet commercials sandwiched between the intervals of your Sunday morning conservative radio talk shows, it may work during the non stop commercials which display legal attorneys encouraging people to sue for an arm and a leg. And it certainly may work during the infamous ESPN show called sportscenter, which successfully transforms baseball and basketball highlights into tiny two minute segments representing only a portion of the actual game. But you cannot marginalize soccer highlights into such short segments, that action represents an unforgivable sin on "the beautiful game".And the pirates that run this show Fox Soccer Report are complicit in this act. They have this wild idea of compiling all the soccer highlight reels from 4 or 5 different countries into a brief one hour segment. This leaves the viewer with a somewhat less than full filed taste in his or her mouth. Showing one clip from a game that lasted 90mins and declaring "the game ended in a tie game" is not the way to report a game of soccer.Even on the few occasions when analysis is permitted (and believe you me, this is rare) the main correspondent, Bobby McMahon, is only provided with 15 seconds or so to either summarize, or preview a game. He often ends up saying "This is gonna be a close game but I see it going this way..." This is simply not nearly enough time to explain the tactics, players, or sheer mental psychology that surrounds international soccer. You have to allow your viewers to understand the emotional pysche of the respective players before a match, and what sort of tactical masterpieces the managers will employ during the match to win the game. Furthermore, I do not think Americans have grasped the concept of "derby matches", these are games which take place between local rivals where the seed of hatred between the two clubs age back 10s, if not 100s of years. Rivalries which make the Packers - Bears rivalry look like a tussle between two spoiled toddlers on a playground!!!!!!!!!!!!So to conclude, Soccer is not Baseball. It does not deserved to be presented as if it were a commercial itself, no, this game deserves more respect. I hope Fox Soccer Channel changes its ways and adopts a more rounded approach when it comes to Soccer coverage. I can only hope that Fox allows Fox Soccer Channel the same adequate analysis time they allow Bill O'Reilly on "The Factor". Hopefully with less advertisements, and a more comprehensive analysis of the games at hand, the Fox Soccer Report may one day enter "The No Spin Zone".(Highly unlikely in our lifetimes, however...)[...]

Three of the Premiership's finest


1. Ronaldo. Simply, without question, the best player in the league right now. Scoring goals and providing assists for fun, terrorizing defenses across the country with his trickery and skill... simply brilliant. This is coming from an Arsenal fan, so believe you me this is hard to swallow; accepting the Mancs have the best player in the league. Nonetheless, nobody can question that fact. When Ronaldo first joined Utd, people accepted the sheer brilliance of his tricks and flicks, but many questions his end product. Too often, his crosses would go astray, or his shots would be miles off target. He was thus nicknamed a "show boater" in the media circles. Despite the rocky start, he has proved everyone wrong this season and could be in line for the Ballon D'or....

2. Dider Drogba. Some People might raise eyebrows here, but I think he has been Mr. Consistency for Chelsea since day one. I vividly remember his last gasp winner at Everton, where he half volleyed an impossible strike into the top corner from nearly 40 yards, as his best (and most important) goal of the season. Time and time again he has come up trumps for Chelsea. I also feel he had added more to his game this year, he tracks back and completes defensive duties for Chelsea, heading away dangerous balls from set pieces and corner kicks. But more importantly, this year Drogba has grown mentally ; it's not just the physical side of his game that has reaped rewards for Chelsea. People have short memories, but I have not yet forgot his "quit threat" last year on Chelsea when he was being lambasted in the newspapers for diving - that explosive confrontation between Mourinho and Bryan Robson might jog your memory! Back then, Drogba gave serious thought to leaving Chelsea, he was emotionally distraught, and people were questioning the $25 million tag he was carrying around with him. But now, few could argue that the Ivorian has set the league on fire, and scored some crunch goals for the blues as they are in pursuit of a record equaling third successive title.

3. Tomas Rosicky. Some people might say, "why not Fabregas?" Or possibly Adebayor - who in turn has had a prolific season. Nonetheless, I selected Rosicky because he has blended an attacking pulse into Arsenal's play which was missing last season. Fabregas is incredible, don't get me wrong, but Rosicky has the ability to inject urgency and a lethal streak into Arsenal's attacks. He is also capable of playing anywhere across the midfield, and behind the striker as an advanced attacking midfielder. He also, like Drogba, is not afraid to fulfill his defensive commitments and this was typified in his epic display away to Bolton in the FA Cup where the Czech was simply on fire ; playing a key role in engineering the opening goal. The highlight of his Arsenal career, so far, came at Anfield. Liverpool had not faced defeat there, domestically, for nearly 6 months. But Rosicky tore Liverpool's porous defense to shreds with his movement, passing, and shooting accuracy. His two goals that memorable night summarize his importance to Arsenal, the ability to get forward from midfield, reek havoc, and score spectacular goals which devastate the opposition. He really is Robert Pires in disguise.....!!!!!!!

"Czech Mate" for Liverpool and Benetiz...


Nothing easier than a first tie away to the cup holders, at Anfield of all places. Nothing could be more simple than going to a team who had not lost at home, to a domestic side, for the better part of 6 months. Add in Liverpool's recent form, 4 wins out of their last 5 in all competitions, Arsenal could not have asked for a more simple, routine outing in their first expedition in a competition they themselves have dominated throughout the 2000's. The performance Arsenal delivered justifies my wry sarcasm.

Arsenal's defending is what impressed me the most during the match. Crouch was well contained, Xabi Alonso was almost anonymous, and Gerrard was a peripheral figure for most of the game. Liverpool had all of the ball for the first 30 mins until we ventured forward and produced and truly stunning strike out of the blue.

That is an ingredient that Arsenal have been missing this season. The patience and maturity to wait for the right moment to come forward and attack; particularly in away matches. The saying "football is like a game of chess" really is true. Teams have to wait for the right moments in a game to push forward for a goal-especially when the game is tight. This is similar to a chess player knowing the right moment to bring out his Queen, or Bishop. Some of the Gunners' defeats this season have seen Arsenal start as the dominant side in the match, Bolton, Man City, and West Ham, and the other teams have come back and hit us where it hurts with swift counter attacks and profited from costly mistakes.

I think the tactical approach to the game at Liverpool was "spot on". We allowed Liverpool all the ball, all the possession, let them shoot wildly from 30 yards, dealt with the second ball from Crouch - and suckered them on the counter attack. If only we could treat every away game this way, especially against the so called "physical teams" in the Premiership, we might even be in the thick of the title race.

Nonetheless, yesterday's performance was a strong suggestion that Arsenal can, and will win silverware this season. I have not totally written off our chances of catching Chelsea, if they continue to stumble, we could steal second place this season. And if we could win a trophy to accompany the league performance, that would spell a successful season for the gunners. Whether that be in the champions league, FA cup, or carling cup.... who knows, what is for certain is that yesterday's annihilation of a team who not only were holders of the FA Cup, but who are above us in the league, proves Arsenal are ready to re-launch their season. This coupled provide Wenger with the perfect platform to make 2007 a year to remember for Arsenal, and abolish some of the more painful memories of 2006.....
...especially that night in Paris!

The plot of the ever going Managerial Merry go round thickens...



Why does irony consistently personify itself in pure form in the footballing world? The phrase "Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction" keeps appearing in the bedazzled minds of footballing fans across the planet, the question just reared its ugly head once more. This time last year, had you placed a bet that Pardew would leave West Ham and join Charlton, and Curbishley visa versa, you would have probably been laughed at or told that you had a screw loose somewhere upstairs. But as of Christmas eve, a reality check was needed for both sets of fans of these two prestigious London clubs. Roughly half a year after his emotional, and slightly suspicious departure from Charlton Athletic after 15 years at the helm, Alan Curbishley has taken over at West Ham. And take a wild guess who has just recently replaced his tenure at the Valley? None other than West Ham's recently axed boss, Alan Pardew.

They may share the same first name, but their styles of management differ vastly, in my opinion. Curbishley is the embodiment of Mr Consistency, play it safe, a restricted... cautious approach. Whereas on the other hand, Pardew is a rip roar gung ho type of person who at one point had over six strikers on the books at West Ham last season. This dogged approach led West Ham to a respectable mid table finish last year, and a matter of milliseconds away from the FA Cup, ruined by a Steven Gerrard blockbuster.

Given this, it will be very interesting to see how both clubs respond to the man management styles of either Gaffer. There will certainly be more immediate scrutiny on Curbishley at West Ham, given their steep footballing tradition - coupled with the fact that billionaire Icelandic entrepreneur has just taken over the club (the man who showed Pardew the door with no hesitation). Despite that, there could be more long term pressure on Pardew at Charlton. The reason I say this is because of Charlton's recent antique-like premiership stability; if Charlton are to go down, Pardew will shoulder the majority of the responsibility - although his two predecessors (Reed and Dowie) haven't exactly done him any favours in the league table or transfer market. Charlton's supreme expectation of their Premiership status will keep that sand clock running in the back of Pardew's mind. His desire for attractive football and a rip roar mentality may have to take a back seat to common sense, and reality.

That reality is, in fact, that both managers are under immense pressure to reverse the fortunes of their respective clubs. The pair go head to head in February, we should have a clearer picture by then of the pending fate of Curbishley and Pardew who have just exchanged a totally unexpected round of musical chairs.

The Bald Eagle, Iain Dowie, is en route elsewhere


The debate will rage on and on throughout the 21st century. Will air travel become more, or less expensive. That is the question Charlton left themselves with today with the "hasty" sacking of Iain Dowie. Critics may suggest that putting the Bald Eagle, Dowie, in an opposite "flight path" (aka - unemployment) from the London club may prove a costly decision. Others, like myself, may argue "au contraire". I think Charlton have done the right thing by clipping this bald eagle's wings...

Animal analogies aside, the case for and against sacking managers early leaves us with a relatively evenly balanced scale, on either side, with positives and negatives galore! If you, the club, are thinking about the "long term" future and security of the football club - many suggest that "sticking it out" with managers is the best way to go. A la Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, par exemple. But some recent examples prove that it is not always the worst idea to play a little cloak and dagger. Newcastle could point to their upturn in fortunes last year, when they axed the vastly unpopular Graeme Souness. Additionally, Liverpool could point to their Champions League campaign of 2005, after the slightly controversial sacking of the hit and miss Gerrard Houllier (although he had been at the post, full time, since 1998). The irony of those two examples are, that both supporters of - Liverpool and Newcastle - are starting sing those deadly chants of "We want ..... Out"! That fateful chorus usually spells the end for MOST Premiership managers, time will only tell if either of those two lambs are sent to the slaughter house.

But back to Charlton, specifically, I think they have made the wise choice. Charlton Athletic have looked a distant, pale shadow of their former selves this year and their performances have matched their run of results ; deplorable. The defending away to Wigan was like watching the Faroe Islands (dare I say it!). The supporters, somewhat ironically, have been right behind Dowie - but all those years of mediocre consistency, and typical sonic the hedgehog like starts to campaigns, with Alan Curbishley at the helm - have led the Charlton board to yield the all too familiar premature axe. So Dowie is the first casualty of the Premiership campaign. Who will be next... Roeder or Benetiz... cheerio or adios... I wonder....???

Arsenal must hold on to Reyes and Cole


(image) With the transfer deadline looming, Arsenal FC have only bought one player - Tomas Rosisky. The Czech international joined for an undisclosed fee, thought to be in the region of around £7 Million. This is a notable capture for Wenger; the 25 year old was a star performer at the World Cup... scoring a memorable goal against the USA (YESS!!) in one of the opening games.
Despite this high class snag, Arsenal have lost no fewer than 3 first team squad members this season. Sol Campbell, Robert Pires, and Dennis Bergkamp have either called it a day (the non flying Dutchman) or moved on to pastures new. Add this to the significant loss of Patrick Veiria last year... along with the other notable departures in recent seasons... the likes of Ray Parlour, Edu, Wiltord, Keown... Arsenal have lost the majority of that great side which dominated the early 2000's era with 2 Premier League triumphs... and 3 FA cups. The word "EXODUS" (yes note the capitol letters) springs to mind as if it were a Sheppard exercising a massive cull on a herd of diseased Sheep whose wool was no longer good enough for processing...

Fancy analogies aside, I'll get right to the point. Arsenal need a stronger squad in order to compete with the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and least of all... Manchester Ung a good example. Add that to the departure of Sol Campbell, the injuries to Senderos, Lauren, and Clichy... only the World Poker champion himself would wage with such odds of offloading such a prized commodity like Cole to one of your biggest rivals... As for the young Spaniard, Reyes, it is true he has not quite found his feet at Arsenal, but he is merely 22 years old. Thierry Henry is 28 and the Arsenal Boss is speaking about him as being Arsenal's future... if that is the case, Reyes must be a figment of Arsenal's imagination - he has the potential to be as good as Henry, international experience, can play in multiple positions, is 2 footed, and he has many more playing years on his side compared to Henry. To sell Reyes would be 4 steps backwards... and we cannot afford that right now, that really would be "going back in time".

Your move, Monsieur Wenger.

The dawn of a new season


It is late July 2006. As I watched the World Cup final earlier this month it was almost impossible to imagine that it had been 4 years since I sat down with my family in our old English house. I can still remember Rivaldo's step over from Kleberson's pass... and Ronaldo's subsequent exquisite finish past player of the tournament Oliver Kahn to seal Brazil's 5th World Cup.Four years on, I found myself in the only country on the planet oblivious to the magnitude of the aura that is global football; the USA. OK, I might be a wee bit apprehensive with that statement; major developed countries like Hong Kong and New Zealand are not completely submersed in soccer, and cricket still rules the roost in most parts of India. But considering the circumstances, it still feels as if you are in the twilight zone being in the Midwest when a World Cup is taking place. It was as if the gravity of the culture shock of being a well traveled British citizen, stuck in rural Wisconsin, had hit home like Zidane's infamous headbutt on Marco Matteratzi.Nonetheless, life goes on, and there is a new football season in England on the horizon. My team, Arsenal, are upon the dawn of a new era as the Gunners enter their new ground, the Emirates Stadium. I will be looking closely at our defensive abilities this season. We had major troubles away from home last season, particularly in Northern England, with the rough em up tactics of North East clubs on our so called "prodigies" who cannot bare to stand one meaty tackle. I think the problems stems from a more scientific, and tactical reason. I believe that our defensive qualities must improve if we are to go to places like Blackburn, Everton, Man Utd... and get the desired results. The loss of Sol Campbell is a body blow for the gunners, and we have yet to sign a major force for our brittle back line from Europe lush transfer market as of yet. Unless this happens, I fear it will be an ongoing struggle for the Gunners, and we will not compete with Chelsea or Man Utd for the top places, it could be another 4th/5th placed finish for my beloved Gunners.One player to watch out for this season, in my humble opinion, is Aaron Lennon of Tottenham and England. I believe he is one of the best in the world at the moment on the right flank, and he is the man Mclaren should use again Greece on the right flank. He is quick, speedy, has great acceleration, and is gaining experience. Also, towards the end of last season it did seem as if he was gaining a better first touch, and his finishing abilities leave nothing to be desired either. I would love to see Martin Jol use him behind Berbatov (Tottenham's new summer recruit) in a free roll to torment opposition defenses like the way Ryan Giggs sometimes played for Man Utd behind Ruud Van nistlerooy.I see positive outlooks for Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man Utd. I think Chelsea will get off to a blockbuster start again (winning 10 of their first 13 games) and with that impregnable start to the first third of the season, they will be champions. Mourinho has identified Stanford Bridge as a fortress, which at this present moment in time is indomitable (only Charlton picked up a point at Chelsea last season..... unreal). Man Utd have not made many noises in the transfer market, their prodigy RVN seems destined to leave for either Bayern or Chelsea... and the aging Scholes and Giggs do not seem like the players they were this time 3 or 4 years ago. Liverpool have been the most active in the transfer market, on both fronts, bringing in players like Gonzalez and Bellamy, but letting the likes of Cisse and Hamman leave. Rafa's revolution continues, expect them to be closer to Chelsea and Utd next season in the race for the title; Bellamy is the man who could replace Michael Owen. He has all of Owen's positive attributes and in my honest and humble opinion, on his game, is a better player than O[...]

Domenech composes the perfect script to silence the World Champions



How do you say "Deja-vu" in Portuguese. The literal English translation of "already seen" was etched in the minds, heats and souls of everyone connected with Brazilian football in the quarter final against France in Frankfurt on Saturday. Lots of "oh la la" and a silent samba drum... quite the upset indeed.
Ever since that horrific, shocking exit in 2002, and the tame exit to Greece in Euro 2004, the French national team has turned from the heroes of France (who famously won major tournaments in succession in 98 and 2000) to the old, aging knights of a table which is not so round anymore. They have been chastised into a French wine which does not gain vintage with age... they have been sacrificial lambs up for the slaughter on the back of a series of deplorable displays from a side once deemed "The Brazil of Europe".

How ironic is it that fate has a cruel and vindictive way of twisting hands and putting the shoe, quite literally in this case, on the other foot. France, heavily favoured in 2002, despite the absence of the likes of Pires and Zidane, were humbled at the hands of Senegal and Denmark; eliminated without scoring a single goal. 4 years on, revenge could not have come any sweeter. I say this with the knowledge that the French themselves were the underdogs in this game against the much favoured, World Champions, Brazil. "Revenge is a dish best served cold".

France outplayed Brazil with a complete display in tandem with an overwhelming aura of industry and flair. The men with hard hats in the midfield (Vieira and Makelele) allowed the more elegant Zidane and Ribery the room to operate and reek havoc on Brazil's petrified back line and seemingly non existent defensive midfield. In truth, one could make an argument to state that France's performance was as much Brazil's undoing as French achievement. There was too big a separation between Brazil's attack and their midfield. Ronaldinho and Kaka played far too close to Ronaldo than necessary. Gilberto and Ze Reberto lacked consistency in their positioning in defensive midfield... leaving Lyon's Juninho looking like a 5 year old stuck in the middle of Parisian roundabout (how ironic he plays in the French league). Brazil were an absolute mess!

Having said that, the master of the show, the chorus and heartbeat of Domenech's symphony was undoubtedly the mercurial, magic man Zidane. Describing him in such a magnificent manor was almost word of mouth 3-4 years ago, but a series of deeply disappointing, trophy-less seasons at Real Madrid (coupled with mediocre displays with the national team) have led some people to question the eternal greatness of the man nicknamed "Harry Potter". Zizou controlled this match from central midfield as if he were a chef cooking a banquet for the United Nations. His deftness in possession, accuracy in passing, and lethalness on set pieces provided the stranglehold France needed on the game against their illustrious opponents. Almost on cue, Zidane gorgeously whipped in the free kick that Henry guided home past Dida to secure "victoire" for les blues. Nothing short of an utterly breathtaking display from the man who is "back from the dead" to rescue the reputation of French football. Ces't manifique?

"High Noon" for players and officials alike in Germany...


What is that one movie... "The quick and the dead". The World Cup is starting to remind me of the theory behind that film in a metaphorical sense... and in my opinion this is detrimental for the current state, and future of international football.Today's explosive game has brought the issue to the fray, though the whole thing has been boiling steady since the tournament began in early June. The two instances that previously caught everyone's eye occurred in the Croatia Australia game (when Graham Poll failed to send a player off after showing 2 yellows) and then in a contradictory rather violent fashion when Italy played the USA, and three were dismissed, 2 (both Americans) were shown their marching orders in highly suspicious circumstances. Moreover, the referee from the USA Italy.. "brawl", Jorge Larrionda, was suspended in 2002 from officiating because of improper conduct. How can FIFA allow such preposterous errors to occur when the fate of nation's future footballing destiny is at stake? Larrionda clearly should not have sent off Mastroeni because there were tackles as such flying in left right and centre during that game. If that tackle warranted a red card, there probably would have only been Keller and Buffon left on the field of play.... disgraceful!Poll's performance in the Croatia game is... forgivable (at best), but Valentin Ivanov's horror show of a performance in today's round of 16 game was almost laughable. Such was the magnitude of disbelief surrounding the countless cards being dished out by the ruthless Russian, Deco (dismissed in the 78th minute), was seen confiding with his fellow Barca teammate Van Bronckhorst (who was ejected in the 90th minute) over the reasons behind their respective Red cards. Did Mr. Ivanov think he would get his Christmas cards sent out early? It certainly seemed the man from Russia was not offering "any love" between himself and the players. He was more "trigger happy" than a hunter and the beginning of hunting season... in total the four red cards set a new tournament record, surpassing the three dismissals which occurred in the matches between USA and Italy (2006), Denmark and South Africa (1998), Brazil and Hungary (1954) and Brazil and Czechoslovakia (1938). Also, the number of yellow cards equaled the World Cup record which was set in 2002 when Germany played Cameroon!Now surely, common sense is needed to be placed in abundance when a Referee takes charge of a game this massive. Not withstanding, there is a recent history between these two teams, Holland have not beaten Portugal since 1991 and the Dutch were eliminated by the Portuguese in Euro 2004 (also to a fabulous strike by the mercurial Maniche). Honestly... the official should not have acted in such a way that degragated the quality of what was a potentially brilliant game, which rather was twisted into a slug fest in which both sets of players frequently clashed in unnecessary fashion. In truth, if the two teams had possessed a greater "historical" rivalry - like the one that exists between the Dutch and the Germans - Mr. Ivanov could have caused a riot with the way he dealt with today's game.... it was that shocking!I for one echo the post match comments of FIFA President Sepp Blatter that "the referee himself deserved a yellow card". I personally believe that FIFA is partially to blame in their appointment of such dreadful officials, and for their remarks before the competition began about referees taking a harder line on players who foul/cheat on the football pitch. I believe that too many yellow and red cards ruin the spectacle of, what is undoubtedly, the greatest show on earth. Enough of the yellow and red "confetti", and more of the main course (a fantastic football match), bitte, Herr Blatter!source[...]

Argentinian devastation....


Undoubtedly the most scintillating performance of the World Cup so far! I personally thought they were terrific against the Ivory Coast, whereas others thought otherwise. As a result of their "six" against Serbia and Montenegro - I am going to analyze what makes this Argentina team so good.I think we are starting to see the benefits of the youth policy that exits in Argentina. People forget, this is the team who won the Gold Medal at the Olympics in Athens in 2004. I think there has been a great benefit, since their awful showing at 2002, at dropping the likes of Ortega, and Batistuata, and including the likes of Messi, Javier Mascherano, and Carlos Tevez. There is a great technical level to Argentina's play. They enjoy playing through the middle and using width through their full backs. They have a fantastic, what I call, "tripod" in attack of Crespo, Saviola, and Maxi. The key to their attacking success is the ability of Saviola and Maxi to drop back into the final third and join in with the play, so they can turn, and allow the likes of the full backs and Crespo and other midfield players to bomb forward. This was perfectly illustrated for Argentina's second goal - in which he combined with Cambiasso - a truly devastating strike which may go down as one of the greatest goals in World Cup history! Additionally - the fact that both Maxi and Saviola have great ball control and passing precision - means that their attacks are normally fluid and rapier sharp in accuracy and precision. Compare this to England - who struggle to join the strikers and the midfield - you have the exact opposite with Argentina.This could not all work without the intelligence of Crespo. He reminds me personally of a Robbie Fowler in his time - except with greater power and presence. He "comes alive" around the penalty box, the perfect combination of an artist and a predator. He has the ability to come back all the way to midfield and link the attacking minded players with himself. He also has a perfect sense for being in the right place - at the right time. He times his runs deep into the box to perfection - and is normally poised to strike from rebounds/deflections around the 6 yard box. He is the definition of a complete striker. In actual fact - if he possessed the pace of an Henry or an Eto for example - he could be the greatest striker in the world... Not forgetting Riquelme. He glides through games as if he were a hawk soaring through the sky. The Villarreal playmaker makes the game look effortless. In truth, the Serbs gave him an absolute of Eternity of time on the ball and this is criminal. His passing is accurate and penetrative - his eye for a pass is second to none, and his ability to slowly prowl forward like a panther and inter-act with the attacking minded players is like watching an expert pack of lions hunt down a herd of bewildered Zebras. People cannot live with Riquelme when he is playing well; when he is on song you are in trouble. Man marking him is crucial because he is the ignition... the oil in the engine for Argentina. He makes things flow and lubricates the midfield.At the back, they have the experience, power, and strength of Heinze, Ayala, Sorin and Burdisso. All these players have premium experience at the top level in Europe. Bang around the names of European superpowers like Barcelona, Lazio, Manchester United, Valencia, Juventus..PSG - these players have all competed with those premium European teams. The experience and know - how of Ayala is crucial - a man who has been around since 1998, famously skinned by Owen in St Etienne against England, he is the leader of a defence which relies on his dominance to keep the opposition quiet. Their goalkeeper - one of the few in the starting line up to play in South America ([...]

Who was "sou" right?


At the beginning of the season, I reminded everyone that recently axed Graeme Souness was not the right man for the helm at Newcastle United. ON February the 3rd, 2006, my hypothesis was proved right. Souey has been sacked.

To be honest, this has been a long time coming. Ever since that famous bust up between Lee Bowyer and Kieoron Dyer against Villa towards the back end of last season, Souness has been hanging by his coat-tails to keep hold of his job. The decapitation of his position at the North east's most famous football club has been as inevitable as the sun rising on Newcastle's famous Angel of the North. The decision has been long overdue.

To be fair, only recently has the pressure on Souey intensified to boiling point. He has been given over 50 million pounds of money to spend by chairman Freddie Sheppard, yet such acquisitions as Emre, Parker, and in particular a certain Monsieur Boumsong - have not performed anywhere near well enough to justify their mammoth transfer fees. True, Souness has had to battle a catalog of injuries which has hampered Newcastle's progress, but only to a certain extent. The magnitude of the problem at Newcastle is far greater than a busy treatment table. Newcastle's defense is nothing short of an absolute shambles. At times, when I watch Bramble and Boumsong, it is as if they are given the freedom of St James to roam around like lost rabbits; they do not seem to take any responsibility on the pitch. Their midfield is littered with aging veterans such as Solano (who Souness only bought to keep the Goerdie faith full satisfied) and hotheads like Bowyer, and ever-crocked pre-Madonnas like Kieron Dyer. Upfront, their talisman Alan Sherear has had no decent service since Bobby Robson's departure, and the likes of Luque and Ameobi have looked more confused than a three year old presented with a calculus equation...

These factors combined have infuriated the supporters, who have recently lambasted Souey with jeers and taunts. and banners begging chairman Freddie Sheppard to wield the axe. The extent to their frustration of Souness's management was perfectly illustrated when Newcastle drew 2-2 with Middlesbrough. In the tyne-tees derby, Newcastle had been outplayed and were 2-1 down deep into injury time. Despite a late injury time goal by Lee Clarke, which did send the supporters into raptures, the fans still booed Souness and his team off. It was the most symbolic piece of hatred between a set of supporters and a manager I have ever witnessed.

It would take a brave chairmen to appoint Souness now, his reputation with regards to results and performances, combined with an ugly habit of falling out with the best players at the football club, have made him the rotten apple of football management. Sunderland, do you dare...

Mourinho, the ultimate connoisseur of the Premiership


Deep thinking, exacting, and extremely methodical, for someone who is supposed to be in a pressure job Jose Mourinho is a really cool customer. Look in the dictionary for the phrase "calmness personified", and you will see his face. The intensity of his occupation does not seem to faze him; for he feels he is under "no pressure", and life is beautiful. Joie de vivre, Senor Mourinho.

It is painstakingly obvious that most top managers in England and around the world do not relish the modern media. They are like hounds chasing foxes, a pack of hungry bloodsucking wolves who descend on their prey when they are at their most vulnerable - right after another defeat.

Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have endured feisty relationships with the press in recent years. Wenger himself threatened to sue the media because he was furious about his comments being turned into "personal attacks" against the current Chelski boss during their recent "war of words" in which Mourinho labeled Wenger, and rightly so in my opinion, a voyeur.

Ferguson on the other hand has taken a more typical rough and tumble, hands on approach to dealing with cheeky, snotty interviewers during his post match era. We all remember the hilarious incident in the 90's when John Motson (a BBC commentator) asked Fergie if he would do anything about Roy Keane's behavior. After a few choice, x rated words, Ferguson shoved Motty off camera and physically reminded him that being raised in a Shipyard district in Glasgow during the 50's and 60's does not count for nothing... To his credit, Ferguson no longer provides post match reaction to the BBC because the television company did a documentary on his son - only god knows how Ferguson would deal with another cheeky Beeb broadcaster after a shock defeat to the likes of Wigan, or a premature Champions league exit...

Mourinho, though, is calm and methodical when dealing with the pressure of today's media. He strolls into a press conference, with a sublime hint of nonchalance and "je ne sais quoi" and toys with the respective press by making frequent jokes and lightening the mood inside what is usually a pressure cooker atmosphere. For example, recently, when William Gallas was linked with a move abroad Mourinho decided to bet his salary against the salary of every single member of the press inside the room that Gallas would be at Chelsea next season. It turned what was potentially a "no comment" conversation (which would only have increased speculation) to a comical one in which everyone was laughing hysterically at the prospect of the French defender leaving the club. Even Tony Blair, the prime minister, teaches his staff to watch the way the Portuguese man conducts his interviews. He has a brilliant way of combining seriousness with comical ambiguity, he is the iceman in front of the camera, ladies and gentlemen I give you the modern managerial marvel that is Jose Mourinho!

As the season enters its most crucial period (December/Christmas) you can be sure that the wind and rain that greets the British weather in winter time will be "no sweat" to Jose, whereas Fergie and Wenger might want to take a leaf out of his book - for he is "the special one".

Hate to say I told you so



At the beginning of August, I told all Arsenal fans that Arsene Wenger's failure to invest in new players (and canny knack of getting rid of world class ones) meant Arsenal were going to have a tough, long year. A quick peek at the Premier League table, and a glance at the contract situation with the record breaking, mercurial Thierry Henry, proves the point that Arsenal might in fact be in a decline, rather than a transitional period.
First of all, the sale of Vieira to Juventus was the first mistake. As Alan Hanson pointed out in his analysis on the BBC website, "It has done as much damage psychologically, as it has on the footballing side". I agree with this 100 percent. The old wise men in the dressing room (the likes of Pires, Henry, and Campbell) will look at the departure of the former skipper as potential "get out clause" should the club continue to falter in the middle of the Premier League table. This could also spark a mass exodus, and the likes of Reyes, Van Persie, and Cole may follow suit. A terrifying prospect, which might leave Arsenal hoping to avoid relegation, rather than challenge for honors domestically and abroad.

It is Wenger's biggest challenge since he arrived at the Highbury outfit in 1996. To be honest, this day had been coming, and every Arsenal fan knew it. The only irony was that this summer, the speculation on Vieira's departure was almost non existent - compared with those other long, protracted summers where the Real Madrid rumors were intensified to near boiling point. In Arsenal's case, lightening struck unexpectedly without the thunder clouds in the horizon. I say that because the euphoria that existed after beating Man Utd in the cup final, and there was also the added incentive of the football the Gunners had displayed over the 4 months preceding the end of last season, which took them back as the only team who were within a yard stick of all conquering Chelski.

All that was a marvelous achievement, and constituted another successful season for Wenger; albeit mediocre. Nonetheless, the performance against Manchester United in the cup final, and the shambolic performance away from home against Bayern Munich, combined with no ambition in the transfer market are the factors one should have highlighted last season. These were small warning signs that Arsenal were facing a bleak, dark period in which results, and good performances would be both shocking and absent in equal measure. The result, and performance against West Bromich Albion proves that theory to a tee. True, the pressure on Wenger's player to help their respective nations qualify for the World cup have contributed to an injury list as large as Chelsea's budget, but that is not an excuse. Greater investment over the summer was needed, and the man with the magic hat did not provide it.

A high flying Manchester City arrive at Highbury this weekend, Arsenal fans will hope Henry's return will provide the ignition needed to get the season kick started. By the looks of things though, Arsenal need the equivalent to a NASA space shuttle in cape Canaveral to launch their chances of catching Chelsea come the end of the season. All Arsenal fans are waiting anxiously for that lift off!

Why an English Manager will not necessarily Work


Passion, Pride, grit and determination. These are some of the essential qualities that the British press believes that Sven lacks in order to succeed as the England Manager. Little do they know that the problem does not lie in the lack of fire within the "gaffer" himself, but in the technical ability of the players he has on hand.I distinctly remember after Euro 2000, and Alan Hansen was asked by the BBC why England were knocked out. His response was blunt, simple, and brutally truthful. They're just not good enough. And that is the truth. English players are just not good enough. I am not saying that any one of the English players in the squad are not good players, but they are not all great players. This is much more important than a fiery tempered manger who gets the Tea Cups shaking in a half-time team talk.If you look at the premiers, and you ask yourself who are the most technically gifted players, they are all foreign - in my opinion. People like Henry, Makelele, Pires, Gilberto, Okocha, Zenden, Robban, Duff etc... These group of players possess more skill, flair, and technical ability than most English players. For years, the British strength in Europe was hard work and determination. Now, European nations have that installed in them just as well as British players, and I think England has fallen short when it comes to the rest when you talk about craft, skill, and ability. Also, if you look at the England team, I can only think of one player who is comfortable on both sides (left and right) and that is Paul Scholes - he is retired from international football.True, there are some great individual performers in the team. Wright Phillips is an excellent player, but he does not have that extra something special that the likes of Ronaldinho, Zidane, and Figo have. One of the biggest flaws in English players is the absence of someone who can operate on the left hand side of midfield. The one man who could have done it for my money, Scholes, has quit. England do not have somebody who can fill the void on the left hand side of midfield. Great international teams either have somebody in that position, or they integrate a quality right footed player who can come in on his right foot and deliver adequately on his left if needed. England do not have this. It is that simple.So when you talk about an English manager making a difference because he "understands what the public demands" with regards to showing compassion from the touchline and the press room, that is just utter rubbish. We seem to have completed a 180 degree turn in 5 years. 5 years ago, the public demanded someone who could communicate with the players with a more astute and intellectual manner, as apposed to the gung ho, all out stle that King Kev deployed amongst his players. And let's be honest, this whole fiasco about the players having power, the same has been said before. The rumour was evident in 1990 in the Robson era, and again in 1998 when Hoddle dumped Gazza from the squad, and in 2000 when Keegan stuck with a "lifeless" and dogmatic 4-4-2 formation that opponents read far too easily.Furthermore, I do not think that the majority of the English managerial contingent is experienced enough abroad to manage the national side. Curbishley, Allardyce, Pearce, and Bryan Robson have never tasted European soil as a manager. Mclaren on the other hand has - but appointment would be unwise considering the inevitable hangover from the Erikkson era; the players would be unlikely to respond to Mclaren because of his previous connections with England. Someone brand new would be best suited if Sven does leave in the not too distant future.My Perfect choice, Sir Alex Ferguson. He would probabl[...]

Why I don't blame Michael Owen for ignoring Newcastle


Not exactly the most welcoming of faces in the world (picture on the left). That is the face Michael Owen would be welcomed by if he somehow idiotically decided to join one of England's worst clubs which seems set for a dodgy relegation battle this season. So, if you were to ask a 25 year old earning big bucks and playing at a club that lets you soak in the Spanish sun 75 percent of the year to change all that to join a damp rainy city of Newcastle and every footballer's managerial nightmare (Souness), the response would normally be immediate and assured. Thus, the silence and denial of Owen's Representatives from a confirmed £18 million pound approach from Newcastle is totally understandable. I for one could not understand why Owen would go to a club that is not in Europe, near the bottom of the Premiership, and has two of the most unpopular people in the club at the helm, Souey and Shepherd. The irony about the arguably comical situation at the Northeast club is that both Freddy Shepherd, and Graeme Souness, are in a catch 22. If Shepherd were to sack Souness after a run of 1 win in 13 premiership games (and a disastrous start to the season) the Newcastle Chairman would probably be ridiculed by the Toon faithful for appointing the high-tempered Scot in the first place. On the other hand, if Shepherd allows Souness to continue his work (or lack thereof) at the club, then the Toon Army could be spreading their good will in the Coca Cola Championship. Souness has a similar simultaneous sort of dilemma. He could resign, but then he would face the barrage of the press and fans that he was at fault for Newcastle's decline, and he would leave a colorful career with a dampened reputation. However, if he stays at Newcastle and the downward spiral continues, he will face the utter embarrassment of taking a club that had qualified for the Uefa Cup in the 2004-2005 season, into a relegation dogfight - and the sack would surly follow. If you add all those worrying facts into the melting pot, a dangerous mix follows. A mix that a striker of Michael Owen's caliber is not worhty of. I am positive that the England striker would rather spend the majority of the season on the bench with Madrid, as apposed to starting every game at a club that is in real limbo as to whether they stay in the top flight or not. Furthermore, Newcastle's lack of width after the sales of Laurent Robert and Craig Bellamy (both after fall outs with Newcastle's under-fire manager) would not help Owen in search of goals. Although Owen is a great player, every striker needs ammunition, and I do not see enough creative quality at Newcastle for Owen to get a decent goals tally. Some more food for though for Owen would be Souness' man managing skills. The Scot seems to have a worrying nack of following out with a football club's best players, Bellamy, Robert, David Dunn and Dwight Yorke are to name a few of who Souness has shown the boot because of bad relations. Michael Owen probably does not want to go through a similar sort of turmoil - he is a decent player - and Souness has an ugly habit of getting rid of good players.Also, Liverpool seem set to begin negotiations over a possible return for their prodigal son. Liverpool Chief Executive gave a big hint to the Sun yesterday by saying he would "keep his fingers crossed" over a possible move. Also, Liverpool seem set to sell Cisse to make way for Owen, the Frenchman joined the club for a record £14 million pound from Auxerre in 2004.Who's your Daddy Michael? Would you prefer the sunshine of Madrid, coupled with the security of fellow England captain David Beckham. Or would you rather make a swan[...]

Euro Masters on collision course


The Champions League draw was just announced and inevitably Liverpool and Chelsea (who met in an epic and controversial semi final last year) will meet each other again in this seasons first group stage. It is understandably a draw that neither side will have wanted. Sure, Mourinho will want instant revenge against the reining European Champions, but he would have preferred to have done this in this seasons Premier League fixtures - where Chelsea finished more than 30 points above Liverpool last season.

Furthermore, Mourinho has made a complaint about how Chelsea have to play away from home after the Champions League fixtures, he made this jibe against Arsenal who have David Dein as a key Representative at the FA. Arsenal play at home after virtually every Champions League fixture this season.

Speaking of Arsenal, they have been drawn in a relatively easy group along with Ajax, Sparta Prague, and Thun - an unknown Swiss outfit. I do not anticipate any problems whatsoever for Arsene Wenger's men, and they will be buoyant after beating Ajax 1-0 in the Amsterdam tournament in pre-season.

Manchester United have a slightly more challenging prospect in their group, they must face Everton's conquerors Villarreal. Lille and Benifica should represent no problems whatsoever for Ferguson's team, who usually stroll through the group stages with utter ease.

Rangers undoubtedly have the most challenging task as they have to face FC Porto (who won the competition in 2004) and Inter Milan (semi finalists in 2003). They also face Artmedia Bratislava, a Slovakian team, who will surly be the whipping boys of that group. Rangers will have to look to pick up maximum points against them to maintain any Hope of qualification to the knockout stage, and hope to pick up as many points at home against the other more challenging teams in the group.

(Full draw, British teams in bold)

Bayern Munich Juventus Club Brugge Rapid Vienna

GROUP B ARSENAL Ajax Sparta Prague Thun

GROUP C Barcelona Panathinaikos Werder Bremen Udinese

GROUP D MAN UTD Villarreal Lille Benfica

GROUP E AC Milan PSV Eindhoven Schalke Fenerbahce

GROUP F Real Madrid Lyon Olympiakos Rosenborg


GROUP H Inter Milan Porto RANGERS Artmedia Bratislava

Wenger's Gunners fire blanks


I was a disgruntled Arsenal fan watching his team lose to Chelsea on Sunday. Arsenal's first loss at Stamford Bridge for 10 years had a certain inevitability about it when Drogba, the first of a £72 million pound bonanza of substitutions who was introduced at halftime (which included new 26 million pound man Mikel Essien), scored in the 72nd minute. In truth, Chelsea are a wee bit stronger than Arsenal.It does hurt admitting that, but Chelsea have invested deeply in the past, and not been successful. In-fact, had Roman Abramovich not brought his Russian billions to the London outfit, they could have possibly been facing administration, they were in debt up to their eye-balls - the dream of lifting the premiership trophy looked more realistic in 2055, 100 years after their first league crown, rather than the 50 year exile which was ended so emphatically by Mourinho at Bolton in 2005.How times have changed. Now Chelsea's players are seething with frustration at 2 semi final appearances in the Champions League in as many seasons, and are aiming to emulate Arsenal as the best ever Premiership side by going an entire season unbeaten. Sunday's game was proof of that, Arsenal's invincibility against their London rivals was extinguished with a less than convincing victory which saw Mourinho keep his calm and Wenger vent his anger.For the long term, the consequences of the result are unknown. Arsenal have bounced back in the past from serious disappointments, in 2003 they surrendered the league to Man United, but then responded with an unbeaten season. One must not forget about what happened last season when Arsenal lost to their biggest rivals (Man Utd), they collapsed, and only took 5 points from their next 6 games, which probably cost them a shot at the title last season. If the latter is true this season, (if History repeats itself again) then the Gunners can forget the title.Despite the horrific statistics against Arsene's players, Wenger still professes that the only thing that his team is not doing is failing to realize their potential. If this is true, then are Arsenal's players waiting to prosper like a bunch of All star chickens at a farm that are not hatching eggs? Forgive the analogy, but if Wenger continues to stress that breeding players of youth is all that he is interested in, then what will happen to the groomed professionals like Henry, Ljungberg, Pires, and Sol Campbell? Will they get a bit fed up of people reminding them that they are in their late 20's, as apposed to their late teens? Will they begin to question the club's ambition? Will they follow Patrick Vieira out of the Arsenal trap door for forgotten stars who are frustrated with the clubs lack of growth and consistency in success.These questions that infuriate Arsenal's bewildered looking manager will continue as long as the quest for perfection goes on at Highbury. Yes, Wenger was talking up a perfect game ahead of the Chelsea clash, a perfect game that consisted of "4 chances", and an absent minded Swiss defender, and finally a cruel deflection that should have never happened because it is a sin to give your opponent the opportunity to have luck. Yes, I am confused too, some perfect game.We will all have to wait and see how they respond against Fulham on Wednesday night, but Arsenal will have a monkey on their shoulder after the lethargic performance against Chelsea, in seasons gone by, that has ultimately been their downfall. Let's hope that this season's traditional lethal injection has come too early to cause the deterioration which has previously ended Arsenal's chances of contending for t[...]

499.... and counting. Wenger nears an historic milestone


I was listening to the radio the other night, and I heard that Arsenal's titanic clash with Chelsea on Sunday will be Arsene Wenger's 500th match in charge at Arsenal. I was immediately astonished and bewildered that the Japanese speaking Frenchman had been around that long!If every picture tells a story, it is perhaps fitting that the picture on the left hand side has nearly 500 wrinkles to match the predictable stress and strain that would naturally accompany 500 games in charage. There are therefore some questions to be answered after his unprecedented reign at the Gunners. How far has he taken Arsenal? When/where, if ever, did he go wrong? And finally, what does the future hold for the modern version of Arsenal in a new blockbuster 60,000 seater stadium?Without question, no human being can argue that Wenger has transformed Arsenal into a neo-futuristic modern club brimming with over sea's talent. Wenger had work to do when he arrived at Arsenal all those years ago in 1996. He has a defence that was only just beginning to age, a superstar striker in the form of Ian Wright, and one of England greatest disappointments Paul Merson in midfield. Wenger clearly did not feel that the English contingent at Highbury was the way to go, although he did not eradicate the spine of Bruce Rioch's Arsenal immediately, instead he slowly bedded in a new team with an international flair. Throughout the mid to late 90's, Wenger brought in unknown superstars such as Patrick Vieira, Marc Overmars, Nicolas Anelka, and Emaneul Petit. Wenger stuck with England's infamous old guard, which only conceded 17 goals in the 98-99 season and truly that is year that certain back four of Seaman, Adams, Keown and Dixon and Winterburn reached their peak. During that spell, Arsene worked his magic and Arsenal won the League and Cup double in 97/98, wrestling the power away from Old Trafford to infuriate a seemingly impregnable Alex Ferguson and his gutsy Man Utd side. One of Arsenal's best ever performances came in the 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 98 when Overmars struck to swing the pendulum in Arsenal's direction, helping them clinch the title later that year with a virtuoso 4-0 demolition of Everton in which Tony Adams struck his picture book left foot volley to round off the scoring.Although Utd went on to dominate the late 90's and early 2000's, Wenger was not quite done polishing his Arsenal side. I for one believe the sale of Anelka set Arsenal back slightly in their quest for Silverware, but in 1999 an unknown Thierry Henry arrived from Juventus. It had been Wenger's plan and dream to partner the two Frenchmen, but that plan failed when Anelka left for a whopping 20 million pounds to Real Madrid in 1999. Had Wenger partnered the two, only the football gods themselves may know where Arsenal could have gone (Henry is 27, and Anelka is still only 26).But during the 99-2001 period, Arsenal fans endured some horrific results and performances (and worst of all, no real silverware) from an Arsenal team undergoing a significant transformation. One such result was the disappointment at Bradford City in 2000 when they lost 2-1 to the Bantams. I remember listening the five live in the car and I was totally ashamed. Another Arsenal performance to toss in the "I don't remember that" category was Arsenal's 4-0 whopping at Liverpool in the same year. But none of those annihilation's come close to matching the look on Wenger's pale shell shocked visage after the 6-1 mauling at Old Trafford. In that particular fixture, Arsenal had beaten Man Utd at home earlier in the campaign, but D[...]

An online article by the BBC, examing the differences between Cricket and Football


(image) I was reading BBC sport online and I found a delightful article by Johnathon Stevenson which points out why football should take a back seat to the Cricket which currently has England on the edge of their seats at the moment.

What I loved about reading the article was the pathetic truth that football exhibits some of the ugliest scenes in sport, whilst on the other hand displaying the work of art that is an entertaining football game.

In Cricket on the other hand, such deliquent images as the one your eyes are probably staring at right now are rarley present. There are not the 22 men brawls when a player is fouled, the players do not dish out fowl lanague when a decision by a match official does not go their way - and most importantly there is a greater mutual respect between the opposition.

The reason this article strikes an emotional chord for me is because it brings to mind the vicious problems that exist in football. The main one being racism - football's ugliest face. We have seen it recently in Russia when Liverpool played there, we have seen it in Spain, when the Spanish national coach labelled Thierry Henry a "black sh*t", and we even got a taste of racism in the premiership when Dwight Yorke returned to Ewood Park, and received monkey chants from the Rovers faithful. Ridiculous behaviour.

There is not much to say about racism, besides it being the most disgusting piece of a global sport. Ironically, more ethnic minorities play football professionaly than caucasians, though such a poignant statement should not be needed to slap the high beams on a problem that cannot be stamped out of the "beautiful" game. The British media themselves were even exposed when Ron Atkinson's off air blast at Chelsea's Marcel Dessailly, apparently for "poor defending" in a Champions League game against Monaco, (a fuc*ing lazy ni**er) raised specific questions about the elevation of racism at the very top of the game. Pathetic once again, on football's part.

So when the FA are asking themselves why they are seeing empty seats at football grounds around the Premiership, consider this - there are some people in Britain who would rather spend a morally satisfying afternoon supporting their country defeat Austrailia, rather than spend 90 mins listening to racist yobs crying monkey chants to players of a different colour.

Where would you rather put your passion?

Premiership Review


Wow! What an opening weekend of Premiership football we were all treated to. I obviously would like to highlight Arsenal's tame performance against Newcastle, it was enough for a win after referee sent off Jermaine Jenas, but he has since downgraded that card to a yellow. Personally, I hate when players get sent off, I think it ruins the pattern of the game, it is like taking a jigsaw piece out of a Rembrandt - sending someone off needlessly ruins the grand spectacle that is a Premiership football match. On a lighter note, Arsenal will need more killer instinct if they are to shoot down other teams more successfully this season; Newcastle's Magpies aren't exactly firing on all cylinders at the moment.A good word for West Ham, who bounced back emphatically to the Premiership with a 3-1 win over Blackburn. Sherringham is 39 and will be 40 when the season ends, and he is still one of the best players on any football pitch he plays on. Is he a bad tackle away from collapsing on stage, or has he been watching too much Peter Pan in his twilight years? Whatever the case, I believe Sherringham could still do a job for England. With Scholes gone, there is no longer a creative link between the midfield and the strikers - that is what the golden English Lion does the best.Man Utd eased past Everton 0-2. The atmosphere died in my opinion after Van Nistlerooy scored, Everton never recovered from going a goal down. That is going to be Everton's problem this season, the 4-1-4-1 formation is brilliant if you score first and then defend, but conceding first then rescuing the game makes life difficult because it is difficult for a side with limited resoucres like Everton to change mentality so quickly in a game. I do not think their success last season was a fluke, but replicating the trick this time around will be twice as hard due to other team's knowledge of their tactics, formation, and players. And let's not forget Wigan. Watching them tame Chelsea's multi million pound greyhounds to a leash for 92 and a half minutes was pure entertainment for an Arsenal fan, but Crespo's killer strike at the death brought everyone in the JJB right back down to reality. That reality being that no matter how hard you pound any team in this league, no result is certain until the fat lady sings her final whistle. Wigan could hear that whistle in the distance on Saturday but Mourinho's men made sure there was still time for an encore of the Chelsea of last season - win it late away from home 0-1! I, like every other true footballer lover in the country, felt for Wigan, but as I have found out many times in football and in life, nice guys finish last. It was like watching a classic Shakespearean Tragedy.Don't forget, Chelsea's rich boys play Wenger's "Vieiraless" Arsenal on Sunday, both have points to prove, and points to earn.Opening Weekend ResultsWest Ham 3 Blackburn 1Sunderland 1 Charlton 3Portsmouth 0 Tottenham 2Middlesbrough 0 Liverpool 0Man City 0 West Brom 0Fulham 0 Birmingham 0Everton 0 Man Utd 2Aston Villa 2 Bolton 2Wigan 0 Chelsea 1Atsenal 2 Newcastle 0[...]

Prem Preview (Portsmouth vs Tottenham)



Portsmouth Boss Alain Perrin knows that this will be the time when people will be judging him, he did well to steer Pompey away from relegation last season, but now will be the time for Pompey to perform. New signings like Andy O'Brien, and Laurent Robert from Newcastle will add strength, depth and experience to the squad, and we will surely learn more about the style of football the Frenchman will want to adopt on the south coast.

Spurs enjoyed a transformation under Martin Jol, and Edgar Davids is a signing that certainly could not have been dreamed of when Tottenham were dangling near the relegation zone the season before last. Jol will want his team to gel, and there is talk of the Champions League at White Harte Lane. Pompey play very well at home, and Spurs do not travel well, expect Pompey to come out on top.

My Tip: Portsmouth 2 Tottenham 1 (Expect the Pompey chimes to be ringing on Saturday)

Prem Preview (Everton vs Man Utd)


Everton will have been left frustrated after a 2-1 defeat to Villarreal, and their bid to qualify for the Champions League may now be over.

Alex Ferguson has stressed that a good start is vital if they are to challenge for the title, "the bar has been raised". After summer mayhem at Old Trafford following the Glazor takeover, Utd will want to make sure there is nothing more for the fans to complain about and let their football do the talking against Everton.

My Tip: Everton 0 Man Utd 2 (Expect the Red Devils to start on fire with Fergie knowing a bad start could spell the end of him at United with new owners in town)

Prem Preview (Man City vs West Brom)


Man City Boss Stuart Pearce will be disappointed at losing their best player Shaun Wright Phillips to Chelsea, but ever since Pearce was installed to replace Keegan last year, he transformed City and but for Robbie Fowler's penalty miss against Middlesbrough, that would have been secured. The fans are unsure about Vassel and Cole, who have been brought in to bolster City's strike force.

West Brom performed the greatest of all escapes last season, and Bryan Robson will be hoping his new signings ensure they do not have to endure a final day scrap like they did last season. This is a difficult game to predict, but with more consistency installed in City since Pearce's arrival, a City opening day win should be firmly on the cards.

My Tip: Man City 2 West Brom 0 (Expect City to find their feet an impress their fans on opening day)

Prem Preview (Middlesbrough vs Liverpool)


Boro have one of the league's best strike force, having signed "the Yak" Yakubu from Portsmouth this summer. Securing European football on the last day of the season against Man City was also a big highlight.

Liverpool are under going a revolution under Benetiz, who has endeared himself to the anfield faithful after a 3-3 Champions League triumph over the fancied AC Milan. This is a fixture that Liverpool have struggled in recently, but expect the European Champions to be at their best after a series of impressive new signings including Peter Crouch from Southampton.

My Tip: Middlesbrough 1 Liverpool 2 (Boro don't usually lose at home, bu expect Rafa to have his troops fired up as he will be keen to close the massive gap last season between themselves and Chelsea)