May 28 – death by TwitterBy Alberta Gooner | May 14th, 2012 | Category: Daily Links, English Premier League, Lead Article, Rumors, Soccer | 34 comments
It’s a pretty sedate Monday following a weekend dominated by international friendlies and frenetic spinning of tales in the rumour mills, facilitated by Twitter. It’s becoming ever harder to sift the real from the surreal as Twitter appears to be populated by people with too much time on their hands, many who are either socially dysfunctional, barely literate or both. The anonymity of the Twittisphere allows them to set up accounts posing as journalists, pundits and players and saturate the gossip market with all kinds of red herrings. Still, it was mildly amusing to see Fleet Street’s bigfoots stumbling over each other in chasing this “exclusives” like lumbering St. Bernards after a hare.
Eden Hazard, apparently the Belgian Lebron, has announced he has made his “decision.” The consensus appears to be Roman Rent Boyz are in pole position with Beetface as first runner up. Stockport Massive apparently eyed up his wage demands and gulped after realizing what kind of “signal” it would send to UEFA Financial Fair Play regulators after posting a 197m loss.
Duncan Castles, who is pretty well connected with somebody inside the west-end chavs, also claims they’ve been offered Ajax fullback Gregory van der Wiel. Oh and that Guus Hiddink wants Nani to join the Massive’s sister club in Anzhi Makhachkala. That deal obviously won’t happen. It will, however, increase the colour in Beetface’s cheeks and language as Nani’s agent brings a new salary demands to negotiations over extending his deal.
To some actual transfer news and Swansea confirmed some shrewd business by signing Gyfli Sigurdsson, who starred for them on loan last season, from TSV Hoffenheim for £6.8 million. Or, put another way, less than what Liverpool paid for Charlie Adam last summer. Apparently no other club saw the usefulness of a 22-year-old midfield playmaker who scored seven goals in 18 Premier League starts, which should amaze the supporters of a fair few clubs. When I see the midfield options at, say, Aston Villa, it’s apparent a player like Sigurdsson would step straight into the starting XI and improve it considerably more than playing Emile Heskey out of position as some sort of elephantine trequartista. That’s fee, by the way, is less than Villa paid for Stephen Warnock, Curtis Davies or Nigel Reo-Coker, which should definitely cause pharmacies in the greater Birmingham area to refuse to sell razor blades for the next few days.
Speaking of overpriced flops who scored fewer league goals than Sigurdsson last season, £35 million Andy Carroll made his debut for England and, as usual, didn’t score in a 1-0 friendly victory over Scandanavian soccer superpower Norway. But he did play well enough to excite the Fleet Street hypsters into bigging up his chances at the Euros. Jason Burt sheds his cynicism for dewey-eyed gullibility. At least he didn’t compare him to Didier Drogba like some simpering, gobsmacked idiots. Carroll doesn’t deserve to clean Drogba’s boots, let alone be mentioned in the same sentence.
And whenever the conservation turns to fools in football, the name of Sepp Blatter is never far. Bobby McMahon, who isn’t an idiot, parses the latest intemperate remarks from FIFA’s president to “improve” the sport and possible alternatives to penalties.
More sobering news that should concern Herr Blatter arrives in Italy, where Lazio’s captain was arrested in the match-fixing probe.
And finally, a little comic relief, as David Pleat explains how Norway managed to enjoy 56 per cent possession against the Three Lions. And, that, my friends, is about it. At least until the next Eden Hazard tweet arrives!
May 25 – enduring the silly season
It’s a football-heavy weekend for this particular coach, who will travel to Edmonton with the Fort McMurray Fury for the second round of league matches in the Edmonton super league. It will also provide a nice break from the silly season of transfer speculation and rumours.
I won’t bore you with the latest updates on (insert random name of player)’s proposed move to (insert club here) or whether FSG have actually extended a job offer to Roberto Martinez that doesn’t involve Dave Whelan’s mindless speculation as a source.
Shorn of this “news”, it’s a pretty thin gruel but there is one link of note. The good folks at French Football Weekly polled some of the best English-language bloggers on Ligue 1 and pulled together a XI for the season. Which probably will serve as the “source” for most red tops’ speculation about Wenger’s transfer targets in the coming weeks. Kill me now.
Anyway, that’s about it. Enjoy the weekend!
May 24 – breaking out the abacus with David Conn
It’s Filthy Lucre Thursday and what better way to mark that august occasion than an Eden Hazard transfer update. Having dismissed Holloway Road Properties as small-time chancers unable to afford his demands, the Belgian winger has narrowed his options to the trio of Salford LBO, Roman’s Rent Boyz and those noisy young upstarts from the Middleastlands. Coincidentally enough, young Hazard picked the clubs with the three highest wage bills in the Premier League. As David Conn explains, two of them are poster children for UEFA Financial Fair Play as the Massive accrue a record 197m loss while Roman’s west-end chavs wound up in the red to the tune of 68m. Even with the Glazers doing their best to hamstring Beetface by loading down his club with debt, United still managed to pull a 12m profit, enough to pay Hazard’s reported wage demands for a single season with a little left over to make an installment on his agent’s 6m euro sweetener for (cough) facilitating the move.
Speaking of excessive wages, Didier Drogba is off to China for a reported 300k weekly earner, which should help finish that hospital he’s building in the Cote d’Ivoire. Alan Smith explains what made Drogba unique in terms of terrorizing defenders while John Nicholson salutes a man equal parts hero, villian, beast and big girl’s blouse.
On the subject of possible departures of London-based strikers, there are some disquieting signs in the RvP contract extension talks, where Holloway Road Properties’ reported offer of 130k for three years is not squaring with Kees Vos’ demand of 200k-plus every week. Nick Miller explains why selling their talisman might not be the worst thing for Arsenalistas. At least it will give the Chicken Littles something to cluck about over the summer while they poormouth Podolski and deride Wenger for having the gall to run a profitable club.
Speaking of disgraceful, pigheaded idiots who never learn their lessons, pretentious Twidiot, ex-convict and midfield menance Joseph Barton will serve a 12-game ban for losing his rag at the Middleastlands. The mind wanders back to St. James Park — or whatever Tubby Ashley has branded it — at the start of last season and remembering his action that led to Gervinho getting sent off. Karma, eh?
Anyway, Barton’s latest escapades have played right into Telegraph toothsucker-in-chief Paul Hayward’s greatest strength as a pundit: stating the bleeding obvious. Because no sensible manager has ever signed him — Bombardier Allardyce brought him to the geordie shore before Neil Warnock took him to Hammersmith.
Let’s move to Italy, where James Horncastle ponders whether Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 would work for the Azzuri this summer.
Philip Cornwall, meanwhile, looks back at how English managers since Glenn Hoddle have been undone by everything from faith healing to John Terry.
May 22 – Eden Hazard and other signs of the apocalypse
Mark down this day as a historic one in football and not because Didier Drogba announced he’s leaving Roman’s Rent Boyz or Emmanuel Adebayor has pledged his undying fealty for 175k a week. Again. For the fifth time in his career. No, it was a day where the sheer brass of a 21-year-old winger shocked the sensibilities of the petrodollar-laden sheiks who run Stockport Massive. Eden Hazard is reportedly asking for 200k a week plus a six million euro sweetener for his agents, which have cooled Abu Dhabi’s interest in the Belgian hotshot. Having overpaid to buy their way to a title based on goal difference, the Middleastlanders now apparently feel secure enough to not offer insane wages and transfer fees, what with a 198m pound loss and the UEFA Fair Play rules dangling over them like a Sword of Damocles. They have to show “good faith” efforts in reducing their losses and acquiesing to Hazard’s demands would waive a red flag in front of the regulators, with Beetface, Abramovich, Wenger and other interested parties leading the charge. With Hazard and his agent hawking him around Europe, one wonders if he isn’t cheapening himself slightly in the minds of clubs, who see a very promising young talent with a disturbing mercenary streak, as his agent appears to be trying to create an auction using the Massive as a stalking horse.
Speaking of troubling demands, the rumour mills are spinning around north London about the RvP negotiations and the initial signs are not all that positive. Holloway Road Properties captain is rumoured to be asking for a three-year deal worth 13m pounds. A year. If true, I’d love to get a screen capture of Wenger’s head exploding reaction, which might have made a proper mess of Dick Law’s suit. If true, I’m going to assume this stance has more to do with concluding he cannot win silverware at the club and pricing Wenger into a dilemma this summer. Wenger has stated he’ll keep RvP to the end of his contract but the fee he could fetch for RvP could pay for a younger, less brittle replacement. Interesting times ahead there.
One destination could be FC Franco, who — to the dismay of the middle-aged men and women on Fleet Street — secured the extension of the omelet maker until 2016 or whenever Beetface decides to decamp from greater Salford. Or, as one wag on Twitter put it, enough to see him through four more touchline bans.
Fabio Capello, the last manager to win a league with Los Merengues prior to the omelet maker, has been linked with the opening at Anfield. I cannot tell whether this is real or rubbish but FSG would certainly be wise to sound him out. A serial winner, I’d put a few pennies on Liverpool returning to the Champions League under his stern tutelage. Steve Gerrard would play WHERE HE WAS TOLD. None of Andy Carroll’s rides would be burning on his driveway because he would not be out late at night. Ever. Hell, Capello might even be able to turn Stewart Downing into a decent footballer. Yes, he’s really that good. Whether FSG are prepared to pay Don Capello’s price, both in salary and a transfer budget, remains to be seen. But, admit it, it would probably bring back the fear factor for both the squad and LFC’s opponents than if they hired Roberto Martinez, the Portugese tactics elf or brought back Rafa. The man is a serial winner, just like Beetface and (sigh) the omelet maker. Not many of those exist in the game.
Enough of rumours, here are a couple of great reads. First, Matt Spiro chronicles the victory of Montpelier, which ought to restore everybody’s faith in football.
Next up is Tom Parfitt’s excellent read on the effect of Suriname footballers on Holland’s squad and how it has hurt the mother country in CONACAF qualifying.
And finally, Daniel Storey holds the wheeler dealer accountable for the lesser lights’ failure to secure Champions League football.
May 21 – it’s a Drog’s life
Saturday’s Champions League final looked very familiar to Arsenal supporters, who saw FC Hollywood dominate possession but lack a cutting edge in the final third to really trouble Petr Cech. After spurning a couple of chances, a false dawn appeared when the hosts took the lead but the nervous hosts failed to properly defend a set piece and super villian Didier Drogba equalized with as fine of a near-post header as you’ll ever see (chiefly because he was getting shoved in the back while making contact with the ball. After Arjen Robben — the anti-Drogba — bottled his opportunity to put the hosts ahead from the spot in extra time, it went to penalties and, incredibly an English club managed to best their Teutonic counterparts. Though their chief saviours were their Czech keeper and Ivorian talisman. All of this concluded with the most nauseating trophy presentation in history, chiefly because John Terry demonstrated why he is the biggest — I’m searching for a word that won’t get me in trouble here — in all of football, accepting the trophy in his uniform. As opposed to Roy Keane, who was suspended for the 1999 final and didn’t make a complete prat of himself, choosing not to intrude on the spotlight earned by his teammates who had overturned FC Hollywood in the final. What an utter douchebag.
So Roman gets his hands on the trophy he always wanted and it only cost him about 800 million or so pounds. Congrats and I hope that moment was worth it.
It’s hard to feel sorry for Spurs after all that “mind the gap” stuff back in the winter but the victory for the Rent Boys has some real ramifications for the lesser lights, who may have some trouble finding the kinds of recruits required to usurp the established order given their wage structure and lack of Champions League football. They probably won’t be able to keep Adebayor around given his wage demands and it will be interesting to see what moves are made by Modric, Bale and Assou-Ekotto over the summer. They will have to find a top central defender and think about a keeper.
The west-end chavs, meanwhile, look consigned to losing Didier Drogba to a huge weekly earner in China and the rest of the Premier League, in general, and Arsenal, in particular, can breathe a sigh of relief. Drogba may not be the best striker of his generation but he was peerless in big matches. Unlike Messi, he’s never had a problem scoring away from home or outside England either. Just a stone-cold killer in big matches. Yes, he embarrassed himself with some his pratfalls but Arsene Wenger will rue not signing him as much as missing out on Yaya Toure. I can guarantee you Arsenal would not have a seven-year hiatus in the silverware cabinet had we brought in those two before they pitched up at L’OM and Catalan Aesthes. A great player but good riddance. I’m sure he’ll feature prominently in the nightmares of Phillippe Senderos and many, many other centre halves for years to come.
If replacing Drogba becomes job one for the Rent Boys, job two is sorting out the manager’s position. I had touted RdM based on his work at West Brom before they gassed him (prematurely, in my opinion). I don’t know, however, whether he’ll have the stomach for the purge that is going to be necessary at Stamford Bridge. If Roman does see the Champions League win as a sign to retain the status quo, he’ll keep around RdM and the current squad, opting only for some cosmetic surgery to the squad. And that should make the rest of the league some hope because this current iteration of the Rent Boys — particularly shorn of Drogba — will not be competing for silverware next year. There’s too many questions surrounding Torres, who voiced his unhappiness about his cameo role in the final and wants “clear the air” talks. And what of Frank Lampard, who has a year to run on his deal. He did a reasonable impression of a training cone in midfield as FC Hollywood players nimbly moved around him despite this nauseating puffery from, who else, Henry Winter, who apparently either didn’t watch the game or sees a potential autobiography to ghostwrite.
Don’t bother with that last link. Far better, instead, to read Bobby McMahon’s chronicle of Roman’s expensive attempts to bag the Big Eared Cup and provides some interesting stats from the final. Raphael Honigstein has the reaction from the shocked hosts, who have apparently decided to fill out their midfield by singing Bilbao’s Javi Martinez. Which was apparently well in the works prior to the final but ranks as one hell of a statement of intent.
To Italy, where Geoff Bradford reports on some troubling allegations made against Juventus gaffer Antonio Conte about match-fixing while he was at Siena.
Richard Whittle saw Napoli best Conte’s current side in the Coppa Italia final, raining on the parade for Alessandro del Piero but capping a great season for the Neopolitans.
May 18 – donning lederhosen for Saturday
Being safe and secure with our plasticine trophy for winning this season’s London Repechage, Saturday’s Champions League final poses a real dilemma for the customer base of Holloway Road Properties PLC. Do we hold our noses and root for Roman’s Rent Boys and hope their benefactor, having collected the one gong he craved when he bought Ken Bates’ IOUs, will sail off with his fleet of yachts and mistresses? This would also give us a chance to point and laugh at the wheeler dealer and the rest of the north London lesser lights, who would miss out on Champions League football, having puckered with a 10-point and two-goal lead.
For me, it doesn’t come down to who I hate more: I pretty much despise them both in equal measure. Thinking strategically, though, ousting the Rent Boys from the Champions League probably would do more to damage their rebulding efforts. They can still offer the kind of wages that, combined with the allure of the Champions League, would allow to them to attract top players. With Spurs operating under budgetary constraints, it’s going to be tough for them to attract replacements for several players. Combined with the wheeler dealer’s tactical blundering, there is a much better chance they could be ousted in the Champions League qualifiers and thus miss out on the moneyspinner than the Rent Boys. So it’s lederhosen and Auf in den Kampf Bayern!
I hope they heed the advice of Jonathan Wilson following their spanking at the hands of Borussia Dortmund in the cup final. They’ll need to figure a way to neutralize Didier Drogba that doesn’t involve a tranquilizing dart. He’s the one player to fear and must be looking at that spatchcocked back four and licking his chops.
Bobby McMahon questions the dollar figures being thrown around the Champions League final and the promotion final between the east end pornographers and Blackpool.
On the subject of filthy lucre, the Swiss Ramble looks at the books of Leeds United.
Staying in England, Randy Lerner appears to have learned his lesson and flew in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to discuss the Villa job. OGS is very highly rated and it’s nice to see Lerner look beyond the obvious for the right manager to lead his club back to the top half of the table. The right manager will have a lot to work with at that club.
Meanwhile, FSG’s struggles continue as Brendan Rodgers turned down a chance to interview for the opening at Anfield. That no small amount of brass on his part. He’s promising but has had one good season in the Premier League. He’d do well to remember people are talking about him in the same tones used to describe Owen Coyle at this time last year. Let’s see how Rodgers does next year without Sigurdsson, who was Swansea’s best player but returns to Hoffenheim and will be sold to a bigger club than the Swans.
Finally, here’s a great piece by Princeton graduate Adrian Melville, on his experience as an American trying to fashion a pro career in Brazil’s lower leagues. Highly recommended.
May 17 – turd polishing with Alan Hansen
Given the incestuous nature of football, where pundits, commentators, managers and players tend to be drawn from a very pool, it’s impossible to expect impartiality. However, sometimes it might be best to leave certain subjects alone, such as having Alan Shearer or Graeme Souness discussing Craig Bellamy’s qualities in the change room. Alan Hansen manages to ignore this very common sense rule and bewails the coup d’etat against his former teammate and good friend King Kenny. Given some of the drivel and criticisms that Hansen has levelled against managers who didn’t play with him, it’s hard to square with his blandishment that “No-one would suggest all of Kenny’s buys have been rip-roaring successes, but I still think Jordan Henderson will develop into a very fine player and Roy Hodgson saw fit to include Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing in England’s Euro 2012 squad and put Henderson on stand-by.” without either cringing or collapsing on the ground with spasms of hysterical laughter. This is the selfsame “expert” who said Arsene Wenger needed to finish fourth to save his job in late January. Oh and later set the same bar for Liverpool after they won the Carling Cup in February.It sort of puts the current shrieking about the unfairness of his mate getting fired and putting a shine job on overpaying for some pretty mediocre players into perspective. I could go back a little further to August and dig up his comments about Wenger’s purchase of the Ox but that would take more time and we’ve got other subjects to address today.
Andy Hunter looks over the potential field and concludes Portugese tactics elf AVB, most recently of the Fulham parish, could get another crack at managing in the bestest league in the world according to Premier League rightsholders B Sky B. AVB has already earned the endorsement of John Barnes, whose managerial prowess is renowned.
Speaking of players who diminished themselves after leaving Anfield, Michael Owen announced he was leaving Salford LBO on Twitter, a development that will finally stop the one-man campaign waged by the Telegraph’s Hugh Grant for him to be included in the Three Lions Euro 2012 squad. And, oh no! It’s even worse than that. Winter is now saddling a hobby horse named “play the Ox, Woy.” Somebody alert Arsene Wenger immediately!
David Winner files a fantastic feature on Wayne Rooney’s visualization and why he was a fan of Jari Litmanen. It’s well worth a read.
James Horncastle pens an elegant obituary to Alessandro del Piero’s career with the Old Lady.
Michael Cox looks at how Wigan effectively made the switch the the 3-4-3 for the relegation run-in.
And finally, some advice for gamblers from Stefan Szymanski, who sees FC Hollywood as overpriced at home without three key players. (WARNING: GAMBLE AT YOUR OWN RISK AND IF YOU DO BET ON THE RENT BOYS, YOU DESERVE TO LOSE)
May 16 – Oh my god, they killed Kenny!
There’s no small irony on a day where Woy announced his initial England shipwreck squad for Euro 2012 that Fenway Sports Group decided to tie up the last remaining thread to their Moneyball philosophy at Anfield, which has so far consisted of:
1. Buying a valuable brand on the cheap from unpopular owners and cleaning house
2. Appointing a very popular manager with supporters and the media, who proceeds to overpaying for domestic mediocrities with predictable results
3. Taking a mulligan — cleaning house and approaching Dave Whelan for Roberto Martinez.
It’s pretty clear Fenway Sports Group has plagarized Randy Lerner’s business plan. The Villa owner should consult with his solicitors immediately as John W Henry, hailed as a beacon of a modern progressive owner for occasionally tweeting with supporters and showing up with his pert little wife to be received like visiting royalty at Anfield, has gone dark for the moment.
When King Kenny was appointed, I did express my doubts about whether he was fully equipped to deal with modern game, particularly given his wobbly tenure on the Geordie Shore but he had unfinished business at the club that he had graced as both a player and manager before the pressures following Hillsborough forced him to leave prematurely. His transfer policy suggested he was stuck back in his days at Blackburn, where buying up the best domestic talent with Jack Walker’s millions won him the Premier League in 1995. But that formula didn’t work today any more than it had for Martin O’Neil at Villa Park. His botched handling of the Luis Suarez race row with Patrice Evra angered the club’s sponsors who were paying Champions League level fees to be associated with the club and seeing poor ROI on and off the pitch. Richard Jolly lists KK’s mistakes and concludes it was the right decision while Nick Miller calculates the risks associated with cleaning house at Anfield for FSG. Andy Hunter sees the pressure shift to John W Henry, who – like Lerner – has seen some of the shine fade from the early good will accrued with supporters who loathed his predecessors. So then who next? Paul Tomkins has already been touting Roberto Martinez on Twitter, a sure sign of a trial balloon being floated. I don’t know how that appointment will go down with LFC supporters but Martinez’s sides do play attractive football and he did manage to assemble them on the cheap, which ticks two boxes. It’s going to be a massive job and it will be interesting to see how much FSG is willing to back their new man in the transfer market. But resolve shown in a relegation fight is not necessarily the same thing as battling for titles so there will certainly be many unconvinced he is the one to clean up the mess on Merseyside. Whomever inherits Kenny’s crown has one hell of a job on his hands.
Speaking of difficult tasks and unreasonable expectations, Uncle Woy unveiled an England squad with few surprises. JT is in while Twitter’s rioferdy5 is out although this is apparently down to “footballing” reasons as opposed to the fact they cannot stand each other. Phillip Cornwall won’t shed tears for rioferdy5 but I wonder whether some of the England players – Theo, the Ox, Glen Johnson, Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young, Jermain Defoe and Joleon Lescott all spring to mind — will make of the decision to include JT. Nick Miller has already reached some conclusions about this squad. One of which is this group of players isn’t good enough to win the tournament, an observation that should carry a #noshit hashtag. Uncle Woy did himself no favours with some of his selections. Stewart Downing isn’t good enough. Period.
A word about the Ox before the Fleet Street hypsters turn him into The Next Big Thing. There’s going to be a lot of sucking and blowing about his performance against Milan in the Champions League, which was very, very good. But he is very young and he didn’t quite make the same impact during the run-in, where his youth and inexperience were painfully obvious. Arsene will, I’m quite certain, be tamping down expectations for the kid and I hope the press doesn’t slaughter him if he fails to live up to the hype they accord to him. Unlike the vast majority of the England squad, the Ox does have stardust in his boots but this tournament might have come a little early for him to display it.
Paul Marshall looks at the squad assembled by Les Bleus that will defeat the Three Lions 3-0 and, zut alors! Laurent Blanc has taken a significant gamble on his former prodigy at Bordeaux Yoann Gourcuff.
James Horncastle diminishes his credentials as an Italian football expert by assembling a Serie A XI of the season that doesn’t include Arturo Vidal. Dumbass.
May 15 – Samir Nasri’s class and EPL sixes, sevens and XIs
Time to revisit my pre-season prediction and, yes, it’s an unmitigated disaster.
1. Salford LBO
2. Stockport Massive
3. Holloway Road Properties
4. Rent Boys
5. Dalglish FC
6. North London Lesser Lights
7. Erin Go Bragh FC
9. Aston Villa (dear God)
10. West Brom
11. Air Marshall Pulis’ Hoofball Merchants
12. Michael Jackson FC
16. Whelan FC
17. Norwich City
18. Kia FC
19. Factory Farm FC
Embarrassing pretty much sums up the bottom half of that table. What the hell was I thinking? Hopefully everybody treats this as a cautionary tale and doesn’t put any stock whatsoever into my August predictions. The most cringeworthy notes include ”Having lost last year’s number one keeper Dorus De Vries on a free to Wolves, Rodgers has desperately cast about for a potential replacement. That’s never a good sign”, “Astute buys in the summer have upgraded key positions, particularly Roger Johnson while their relegation rivals have regressed (Wolves)”, “Coyle has done an admirable job in moulding Bombardier Allardyce’s former hoofball merchants into playing Barca-lite football”. “Their ninth place finish is far more reflective of Villa’s middle-power status than the relegation turmoil experienced earlier in the season. Despite the departures of Downing and Young, the club has capable replacements in N’Zogbia and Albrighton”, “A return to the top of the table and a 19th title is probably beyond Liverpool for this year and supporters probably accept that. What they would like is a return to respectability. A Champions League place is certainly within reach.” Oh and “Gervinho’s addition should offset Nasri and Juan Mata’s purchase is apparently being negotiated as I write this.” lol
Colour me embarrassed. But not embarrassing. That better reflects Samir Nasri’s taunting of Arsenal fans. For a player whose substitution proved to be the critical difference in allowing his club to win at the Geordie Shore, he certainly has a lot to say about his former club and their supporters. There’s a word for people like him but, sadly, Sofaball’s family-friendly filter stop that words in its tracks. But it rhymes with (editorial intervention).
Nasri certainly didn’t make the team of the year and I’d invite blog regulars to submit their own XIs. To kickstart the debate, I’ll go with (4-4-2) Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Coloccini, Baines, Tiote, Valencia, Yaya Toure, Silva, Rooney, RvP
Meanwhile the Premier League turned 20 and handed out various gongs, including best player to Ryan Giggs. Beetface, naturally, was named as top manager while the Invincibles were the top team. The public voted for the following as the best-ever XI Schmeichel, Neville, Adams, Vidic, A. Cole, Cronaldo, Scholes, Gerrard, Ryan Giggs, Henry and Shearer. It’s a strong side but one that is missing Sol Campbell, Paddy Vieira and Roy Keane. I won’t quibble with any of the others. Feel free to post your own.
May 15 – arranging a twat-off between Joey7Barton and Carlitos Tevez
Everything is over but the crying after a long weekend of football. Here is the blow-by-blow.
1. Anybody who doesn’t have Yaya Toure or Vincent Kompany in their Premier League Team of the Season should give up the sport. Right now. Watching Stockport Massive without Toure in the midfield is a little like living through my wife’s failed attempts at learning to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission — a painfully, stuttering experience that isn’t easy on the eye. If Toure was the difference-maker between the two sides in greater Salford, Kompany has inherited Nemanja Vidic’s crown as the best defender in England. This is so obvious even Alan Hansen managed to grasp it and acknowlege it. Although I see he failed to include Sol Campbell on his list of great defenders in England over the past 20 years. Note to Alan, he was better than both Tony Adams and John Terry. Michael Cox, meanwhile, identified the wide play provided by David Silva and Samir Nasri as a crucial to Abu Dhabi FC’s success in the league.
2. Choosing a twat of the year is far more difficult. Twitter philosopher Joey Barton did his level best to re-state his case before Carlos Tevez reminded people of his form in the area during the Massive’s victory parade. Obviously, remembering what that cheating little prat did to get Gervinho sent off in the season opener, I’m not impartial here so I’ll leave it open. I do like the suggestion that they both be thrown in a cage — Carlitos with a golf club and Barton with a lit cigarette – and have at it. Before they both get to face Christopher Samba, who would only be armed with the knowlege that he’d have the public’s full support to kick nine bells out of the descipable little turds.
3. Will the third time be the charm for longsuffering Aston Villa fans as Randy Lerner hits the restart button following the failures of Ged Houllier and Alex McLeish, who was put out his misery after alienating supporters and players with his tactical ineptitude and bizarre team selection. Villa shipped more goals from set plays than any other team in England, which really belies his reputation as a defensive organizer. Even worse than the fetid football produced by the clubs were his excuses from the pundits who should have their licenses revoked for supporting him. ESPN’s Derek Rae tweeted “Sorry to see it end this way for Alex McLeish at Villa. Good football man who will be back.” Taking the Piss has another entry! Lerner’s other sports enterprise, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns have also struggled and it leads me to wonder whether his early success by allowing Martin O’Neill to overpay for MOTD-scouted talent was the outlier. He needs to read Ben Lyttleton’s piece on recruiting a manager. Probably more than once. And then sound out Paul Lambert, Roberto Martinez or Brendan Rodgers before Fenway Sports Group finishes its “review” of the car wreck at Dalglish FC’s that’s already claimed three high-profile victims.
4. Holloway Road Properties PLC clinched Champions League by doing it their way. By which I mean freaking the living shit out of their supporters with a nerve-jangling 3-2 win that relied heavily on the oafish incompetence of stand-in keeper Marton Fulop. It was the first time Arsene’s post-Cesc boys managed to win without Mikel Arteta in the XI. It should silence the Chicken Littles and strengthen Arsene’s hand in negotiating RvP’s extension and drafting in some replacements. Podolski is done and dusted and M’Vila should be wrapped up prior to the Euros. Given that Chamakh, Arshavin, Denilson, Bendtner, Vela, Almunia and Squillaci are all on the block, I’d suggest it’s going to take more than adding those two plus Wilshere, Diaby and Frimpong to bridge the gap between us and the greater Salford sides. And given the injury history of Diaby, in particular, does it make sense to rely on their fitness in pushing for titles? Our struggles without Sagna, who is 28 and suffered a second leg break, suggest a fullback should be another area of interest for Arsene. Given how we started in August, losing Cesc and Na$ri before getting embarrassed at Old Trafford and Ewood Park, this season can be viewed as a success but supporters will expect more next season. That work starts this summer, beginning with extending RvP and signing M’Vila.
5. Compared to the minor surgery on the squad required at Ashburton Grove, our rivals in the London Repechage face far more troubling prognoses. At the north London lesser lights, let’s start with the wheeler dealer. And what can I say about a man that hasn’t already been said in open court, a Panorama documentary Pompey message boards by the learned gentlemen of the press, who were puzzled as to why his world beaters proceeded to shit the bed in the title run-in. At first, this was explained away as professional footballers being (stifle laughter) distracted by the speculation surrounding their manager’s future after that greasy foreigner, tired of being undermined by his bosses and criticized by people with the tactical acumen of houseplants, walked out on the Three Lions in a lurch. This became harder to explain after the puckering continued following Woy’s appointment to the England job and there’s some speculation that Daniel Levy is a little tired of the constant circus that seems to surround the wheeler dealer. Then there’s the question marks surrounding his squad. His starting keeper turns 41 this week. Ledley King’s knee is gone while 34-year-old Billy Gallas has lost three yards of pace and all his bottle. Media fave Scott Parker is 31 and faded badly in the title run-in. Leading scorer Emmanuael Adebayor’s subsidized loan from the Massive ends. There are plenty of holes to fill in an aging, injury-prone squad before they face a tough Champions League qualifier in August assuming FC Hollywood logroll the Rent Boys in Munich. Levy is a smart man and he’ll have his work cut out this summer to address a lot more needs than his betters over at Holloway Road.
6. But Levy’s job pales in comparison to what faces whomever inherits the mess in the west end, who showed their age down the stretch. A major purge was started with the departures of Alex and Nico Anelka and more will follow in the summer as Kalou, Malouda, Bosingwa and Ferreira all set to depart during the summer. Talisman Didier Drogba’s contract ends and has yet to accept a new deal. Frank Lampard is 33 and aging poorly. Knee surgeries appear to be catching up to Michael Essien. Oh and club captain JT will be goosestepping into the dock to face his day in court over the alleged racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand. While some of the new Rent Boys have shown they are as sturdy as the previous generation (Ramires, Juan Mata), the jury remains out on Nando Torres and David Luiz. If they fail to beat FC Hollywood in the Champions League final, new recruits won’t have the allure of Champions League football. This appears to be a team with transition stamped all over it and UEFA rules now prevent Roman from trying to buy his way out of trouble. Given their sugar daddy’s legendary patience, the Rent Boys could be running through a few managers in the next couple of seasons. Their supporters should carefully study Liverpool, right down to the stadium woes, to see what awaits them next year. Enjoy midtable bitches! You might be there for awhile.
7. Given how awful FC Hollywood looked against Dortmund, though, the west-end chavs certainly have a chance against the wobbly looking Bavarians. Bobby McMahon and Raphael Honigstein pick through the bones of Dortmund’s clinical gutting of their richer rivals in the DFB Pokal Cup final.
8. Turning to the Continent, let’s all salute the anti-Barton, Alessandro del Piero, who bowed out with Juventus returning to the top of Serie A. Paolo Bandini salutes one of the class acts in world football. The Old Lady’s revival under Antonio Conte ranks as one of the best turnarounds this season. Unfortunately, I do not watch enough Serie A to put out a credible XI but Arturo Vidal looks like one hell of player. If Beetface is serious about addressing his woes in midfield — and let’s not patronize the fans by bigging up Shovelface Carrick — that should be one of the players on his shopping list. As opposed to Wesley Sneijder. Although obviously that’s the guy we should all encourage the prawn munchers to be lobbying for. Props also go to Udinese, who nicked the Champions League qualifier from better funded rivals including Lazio, Napoli and Inter. They are sort of the anti-Inter and you wonder which players will be picked off by vultures over the summer. Mauricio Isla, Pablo Armero and Kwadwo Asamoah will appear on a lot of shopping lists.
9. Villarreal used to be a Spanish version of Udinese but injuries and sales left the cupboard a little too threadbare and the Yellow Submarines will sank into relegation. Sid Lowe traces their decline from Champions League semi-finalists.
10. Congrats to Gary Neville, who will join Woy’s coaching staff just in time for this summer’s shipwreck in Polkraine. At least England are now trying to get bright, young minds into their national set-up. I hated Neville as a player but have been pleasantly impressed with his punditry. It will be interesting to chart his progress in the technical area.