November 4 – getting stuck into Luis SuarezBy Alberta Gooner | October 31st, 2011 | Category: Daily Links, English Premier League, Featured Posts, Lead Article, Rumors, Soccer | 35 comments
Luis Suarez has made quite a debut in English football. If he isn’t the POY, he’s certainly in the conversation. About the only thing that appears holding up back is his propensity to go to ground a little too easily. Oh and some allegations that he might require some diversity training with John Terry and Ron Atkinson. Scott Murray, though, sees Suarez as miscast as a villian by the media and fans.
Suarez, to me, brings it on himself. The penalty against West Brom was softish but he didn’t dive or even exaggerate the contact. He got that reputation for his pratfall from the Jack Rodwell tackle, though, something I spotted and it is apparently noted by his fellow professionals. Now English fans and media types tend to howl loudly when Robert Pires or Didier Drogba toppled over under little or no contact and tend to overlook starfishing by “honest” British players. Murray’s point is a good one but hopefully Suarez will have learned something about staying on his feet, too.
While others celebrate Beetface’s 25 years in greater Salford by reminiscing about their favourite Fergie story (mine remains him losing his rag at the media during the Veron press conference), Daniel Taylor points out the daunting task of succession planning. He is, after all, 70, and can’t do the job forever. Can he? Some interesting anecdotes about how the spectre of Sir Matt Busby hung over his successor like the Sword of Damocles.
To football’s most successful property developers and a breaking story involving American Brek Shea, who will apparently train with Wenger’s brittle tots during the MLS off-season. I’ve heard lots of good things about Shea so I’m interesting to see what happens. It would be very good news to see an American international at a Champions League club because, selflishly, I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a streaming site for Arsenal games.
And James Horncastle reports on Sinisa Mihajlovic’s failed charm offensive at Fiorentina. If anybody wonders whether Terry and Suarez can recover if they are found guilty of racial abuse, google “Mihajlovic and Vieira” to see what pops up.
To sun-kissed greater Manchester, home of Nemjana Vidic and a city never sleeps. Well, at least on Mario Balotelli’s street. Both of the local clubs turned in decent performances against modest opposition and were, naturally enough, bigged up endlessly by Fleet Street slurp merchants. United defeated a Romanian side so modest that had Liam Brady channeling his inner Alan Shearer on RTE (“don’t know anything about them”) as opposed to straining himself to, y’know, do his job and actually pick up a phone and do some research. Embarrassing.
Anyway, Wayne Rooney’s turn in midfield had the great and good (and never-were halfwits) on Fleet Street hyping him into the next Zidane/Xavi blah, blah, blah. I’ll only pick one *covers eyes* and (drum roll) it’s Rory Smith. OK, this isn’t nearly as nauseating as some of the match commentaries. Nor is it the first time Rooney has showcased his skills as a playmaker. I’ve always thought his most natural role was second striker, a position where he’s shone for both England and United. It’s not all that surprising that, given the number of forwards available for selection, Lord Beetface might look at giving him a cameo in the middle of the park. After all, it’s either Rooney or Michael Carrick – a dilemma that screams lesser of two evils.
Rooney is a complete footballer who doesn’t get enough credit from neutrals or people who actively dislike United (or even United supporters who won’t forgive him for blackmailing the club into an extension). But I’d take him at Holloway Road in an instant. So would Wenger. And players such as RvP would welcome him in open arms because of his unselfishness to do whatever it takes to win. If England had two or three more players with his attitude and ability, they’d bother the Spains, Germanys and Hollands at this year’s Euros.
To the Middleastlands, where the neighbours finally made some belated noise in the Champions League by tonking a mixed Villarreal squad of first-teamers and u-17s. The conductor of the orchestra was David Silva, whose gift is simplicity according to Sid Lowe. If Silva is the conductor, what is Yaya Toure? A monster performance. Silva may get the plaudits but Stockport Massive have the new Vieira. I’m looking forward to seeing him go head to head with Alex Song and seeing whether Kolo’s younger brother is able to impose himself on a match to that same degree. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luis Gustavo certainly blunted his influence when Abu Dhabi FC played at FC Hollywood. Oh and I wonder how many of the many pundits on Fleet Street who wrote off Mario Balotelli while he was screwing around with his training bib or enraging his manager with a comical backheel in a friendly have to say right now. Mancini might just be right about the kid being one of the 10 best footballers in the world.
Staying in greater Salford, Beetface’s 25-year anniversary is looming large and there’s been plenty of talk of perches and fledglings and trebles and hairdryers from misty-eyed journos who want to inject themselves into the narrative of Fergie’s 25 years. The most hilarious being Alan Hansen’s contorted logic suggesting he might deserve some credit for suggesting “you’ll never win anything with kids.” Easily the best and funniest that I read so far is Andy Mitten’s memoir of an interview on a tour of Scandinavia in the early 1990s. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts. Anniversaries really don’t do much for me these days as mine tend to involving buying more expensive presents with increasingly diminishing returns (“you want to do WHAT to me? WHERE” You can sleep downstairs tonight mister! Just leave the diamond earrings on my nightstand.)
Speaking of diminishing returns, Norman Hubbard grades the FSG’s buys for Dalglish FC. I’m a little disappointed here. I naturally reckoned Suarez and Jose Enrique would be dubbed “King Kenny” buys whilst Henderson and Downing would be labelled as “Damien Comolli purchases.” It is remarkably fair-minded by Soccernet standards to paint them all with the same brush. The grades seem a little generous in some cases. I’ve not seen enough of Coates or Bellamy to form a strong opinion and I suspect that’s the case with Old Mother Hubbard, too, and he just pulled those numbers from the same place where our marketing folks get their sales projections.
Lots of meetings today so, as the wheeler-dealer might say, here’s the bare bones.
The ever-excellent Swiss Ramble looks at Derby County’s American Dream.
Tom Williams looks at how life on the Continent is suiting Joe Cole.
And that is all. Off to catch my flight.
At the start of the season, Fleet Street’s conventional wisdom on Newcastle had calcified into somewhere between apprehension and gloom. The reason: Tubby Ashley had ripped the English spine out of the bar codes, selling on ponytailed felon Andy Carroll to Liverpool for 35m quid and dispatching captain Kevin Nolan – invariably described as the leader and heartbeat of the squad — to West Ham. After spending much of the summer in open warfare agitating for a new contract and complaining the club had sold its best players, Twitiot philopher king (and convict) Joseph Barton left for pastures new in London. Replacing them were “untried” and ”untested” players such as Demba Ba (seven goals in 10 starts for West Ham) and midfield playmaker Yohann Cabaye (winner of Ligue 1 in France with Lille). What’s worse, these signings added to a growing foreign contingent that included midfield hardman Chiek Tiote, wide boy Jonas Gutierrez and centre half Fabricio Coloccini. This move was seen as trying to buy success on the cheap and ripping out the veteran presence of blood-and-guts English “leaders” such as Carroll, Nolan and Barton would doom the Geordies to a relegation fight.
On a cold Monday in Stoke, those effete foreigners moved up to third by going out and kicking nine bells out of Air Marshall Pulis’ hoofball merchants thanks to free signing Ba, whose hat trick in the match bettered Carroll’s goal total (two) in the league for Dalglish FC. Louise Taylor examines the role that Newcastle’s manager Eyore Pardew has had in shaping the miracle on the Tyne.
Speaking of pundits in disgrace, Alan Hansen is shrieking about the state of the Three Lions’ battered back line in wake of Rio’s fitness issues and JT’s lack of pace. Did he miss the past two World Cups? England’s defensive decline started when Big Sol lost his pace and then his place to JT, who has been a good defender but invariably gets found out against top clubs. This is why the omelet maker always made sure to surround him with world-class defenders such as Ricky Carvalho and Billy Gallas. Oh and stick Michael Essien in front of him. Branislav Ivanovic is a good defender but hardly in the class of Gallas or Carvalho. David Luiz has an, um, unique interpretation of what a centre half is supposed to do. It’s similar to how Andre Santos interprets left back.
The gloom for English football continued when FIFA and France Football announced the short list for the Ballon D’Or, which included just one English player – Wayne Rooney. There was no room for PFA POY Gareth Bale or the FWA POY Scott Parker, which has more than a few John Bull wandering grassy knolls muttering darkly about anti-English sentiment among those garlic-eating Continental types who seem to be fascinated with fipperies such as “technique” rather than honest, hard-running, blood-and-guts football.
Nick Miller, meanwhile, lists the most irritating utterances made by commentators. What’s sad is that Nick likely has never experienced Ian Darke and Steve McManaman calling a match, something that has forced me to mute the television on more than a couple of occasions.
Sticking with the North American theme, Ian Plenderleith suggests manic English managers could learn a thing or two from the Tony LaRussa school of stoicism. Totally agree. It’s a little embarrassing to see Arsene Wenger acting like an incontinent coke addict every time a call goes against Holloway Road Properties. He’s certainly lost his professorial demeanor. And his dignity on more than a couple of occasions. And he is far from being alone.
Finally, Tim Vickery runs the rule over past and present starlets from Columbia. He’s right to mark out James Rodriguez, who looks like an outstanding prospect.
Of course, just after I post the links, we have some heavyweights provide their raw and unexpurgiated thoughts. Gabriele Marcotti explains the importance of Robin van Persie while Jonathan Wilson looks at the catastrophic defensive strategy employed by Chelsea. Michael Cox analyzes the Ch3l5ea-Ar53nal match and Juve’s win.
To the sophisticated and exotic rolling hills of South Yorkshire, where Halloween pranking is taken very seriously. Embracing that spirit is local side Doncaster Rovers, who decided to treat their fans with an impromptu signing of the shy and retiring El-Hadji Diouf, a Senegal international and — along with John Terry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Joey Barton, and Craig Bellamy – one of football’s good guys. It should be an interesting three months ahead for the Championship outfit, their fans and their opponents. Oh and if you see this tastefully appointed Caddy, Rovers fans, turn and walk the other way. Quickly.
Moving west to the, um, Middleastlands Stadium, where autocratic dictator Roberto Mancini’s heavy handed reign of terror continues. This week’s victim is Adam Johnson, who is garnering considerably more sympathy on Fleet Street than previous Mancini targets Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Emmanuel Adebayor or Mario Balotelli. In fact, the last time you heard similar grumbling about Mancini’s heavy hand from the press was when the Italian lowered the boom on some of the club’s Brit Pack (specifically Gareth Barry, Johnson and Joe Hart) for what the Daily Mail — a journal of incredibly high repute — described as a boozy golf trip last year. I’m a little surprised not to read a dimwitted pundit suggested Arab Spring has yet to arrive at Abu Dhabi FC or a comparison with Mussolini from one of the shrieker xenophobes on Fleet Street. Don’t worry, though. It will come as surely as the winter snow. After all, some halfwits had the temerity to suggest Robin van Persie was performing a Nazi salute in celebrating his goals against West End Rent Boys.
Speaking of which, David Pleat arrives with a postmortem about the high line employed by Andres Villas-Boas. It was something of a shootout at Stamford Bridge but Holloway Road Properties seemed to defend a lot better in the second half. Chelsea were probably playing their first-choice back four, at least two of Arsenal’s best defenders (Vermaelen and Sagna) were missing. The other piece to consider was in the midfield, where Aaron Ramsey ran the match, ably assisted by Mikel Arteta and Alex Song (whose brilliant turn and pass to set up Andre Santos). The visitors’ hammerlock on midfield exposes how much Chelsea miss Michael Essien.
Michael Cox, meanwhile, looks at Aaron Lennon’s positioning, Swansea City’s possession, Fernando Torres’ anonymity, Michael Jackson FC’s effective narrowness and Daniel Agger’s distribution.
Paolo Bandini sees Juventus ghost past Inter in the Derby D’Italia. The talking points from this match should include how Antonio Conte has wrung much improved performances out of Claudio Marchisio and Alessandro Matri, who were both excellent for the visitors. This might be down to the quality of some of the bianconeri’s summer signings such as Arturo Vidal, Mirko Vucinic and, most especially, Andrea Pirlo. If Juve have the look of title contenders, Inter seem a year past their sell-by date.
With diminishing returns from well-paid warhorses Julio Cesaar (32), Ivan Cordoba (35), Lucio (33), Walter Samuel (33), Cristan Chivu (31), Javier Zanetti (38), Dejan Stankovic (33), Esteban Cambiasso (31) and Diego Milito (32), at what point does Claudio Ranieri punt this season to focus on the development of some of the squad’s young talent (Andrea Ranocchia, Ricky Alvarez, Joel Obi, Phillippe Coutinho, Luc Castaignos)? Does Inter entertain offers for their remaining big-ticket assets Wesley Sneijder and Maicon? Finally, how much will selling Mario Balotelli and Davide Santon set back Inter?
Let’s end in Germany, where Raphael Honigstein wonders how long Borussia Monchengladbach can hold on to starlet Marco Reus. Here’s hoping the fallen Westphalian giants do keep Reus and continue to bother the top of the Bundesliga. I remember seeing the odd grainy clip of them back as a youngster in the 70s, when their name definitely rang out in Edmonton’s soccer community.