Archive for ‘Football’

July 24, 2012

£423m debt

£423m debt

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July 14, 2012

Remember there was only o…

Remember there was only one red card on Saturday and the last time I watched the game it certainly was not a Stoke City player who received it.

Tony Pulis in response to Wenger saying his side are overly aggressive and dangerous, in a match RVP was sent off in, with the help of some elaborate feigning from Sorensen. For a man so accustomed to pushing the laws and principals of football to it’s limits frequently in a match, he is remarkably good at being on the right side morally when it matters.

July 14, 2012

Media often incorrect in identifying mistakes

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Rafa Benitez’s failings came, according to our incisive media, as a result of his squad rotation. Yet that is ignorant of the fact that Ferguson chops and changes his side unpredictably every single game. Ferguson’s command, management and understanding of his squad is so immense in fact, that it is almost impossible to 100% guess the line up he will select for any given game.

Much more so than Benitez, who was essentially rotating full backs or swapping a midfielder or two. Ferguson is the Godfather of picking a team for battle for each individual game. Yet the media lazily and stupidly pointed to Rafa’s rotation as a reason for his side failing, when United last season, where they lost the league on goal difference alone, had no true or ultimate line up at any point.

Likewise, Rafa’s goals conceded were attributed, largely by Alan Hansen (once a defender apparently) to the application of zonal marking, presented by the media as if it were a bizzarre voodoo mysterious way of doing things, unfamilliar and utterly doomed to failure as a result. The fact was however, zonal marking is largely employed as the basis for defending, particularly outside of the Premier League. However, much more Liverpool’s conceded goals were a case of poor execution of zonal marking, individual mistakes, or just bad defending.

Another supposed failing of Wenger is that he never splashes out on peaking powers, or players that are established. Yet the truth is, Ferguson doesn’t do this either. The policy cited already on here ensures that Utd are also builders of talent rather than procurers of it. United’s best players of recent times, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nemanja Vidic, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, David Beckham and Paul Scholes, were all acquired at young ages. So too have Arsenal’s; Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry and Patrick Viera. The difference is that Wenger is being forced to operate firmly in the black as costs of The Emirates stadium inhibit the club still, meaning that he is sometimes forced to sell when he does not want to. Whereas Ferguson retains the power to firmly say no to Madrid if they want Vidic, despite this ultimately losing money, or telling Madrid ‘one more year’ til they can buy Ronaldo, Wenger is not being allowed this priviledge, meaning he is forced to sell players when he doesn’t want to, unlike Ferguson who sells as and when he sees fit.

Perhaps though, the pervading feeling is that if you are winning and competing at the very top, see United getting to the 2011 Champions’ League Final, then everything is forgiven, forgotten and viewed as a success, whereas if you haven’t won anything for 7 years and there’s a dedicated site counting this (http://www.sincearsenallastwonatrophy.co.uk/), then media will go looking through your drawers and asking questions. These questions are often misplaced and off target but nevertheless confirm that winning writes history. And also that Ferguson is incomparable in management ability.

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July 14, 2012

15 Years

Berbatov is the only player over 26 to have been signed for a fee by Ferguson in 15 years. Leighton Baines could soon be the second.

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July 2, 2012

Euro 2012 Best XI

Coach – Slaven Billic, Croatia – Was a poor header away from beating, and knocking out Spain, before they hit on the counter and scored. Pushed Spain closer than any other side and would have gone much further but for being in a group with the two finalists.

Gk – Iker Casillas, Spain – Never really looked like conceding. Dominated crosses into the box throughout (the only consistent threat), and his distribution improved as the tournament went on which helped Spain retain the ball.

Fb – Fabio Coentrao, Portugal – Defensively sound and decisive and technically assured when Portugal broke.

Cb – Gerard Pique, Spain – Not a gargantuan display but looked his old self with good reading of the game, tackling and passing.

Cb – Mats Hummels, Germany – Reads the game extremely well and is very comfortable on the ball. Cassano spinning him was a significant, sole mistake in an otherwise utterly convincing tournament from him, but the goal was due to good Italian play at their left wing back spot too.

Fb – Jordi Alba, Spain – So natural and technical on the ball he could really play anywhere as a forward, and with Spain dominating possession that’s essentially what he could be; a later-arriving attacking option. Spain could play with no wingers and dominate the ball because of this man’s direct, linear qualities on the left. Vital.

Mf – Andrea Pirlo, Italy – Pirlo dominated games when consecutive teams failed to press him. Instrumental against England and Germany in particular, making ball retention and switching the ball look effortless. Altered the tempo of games to suit him, before meeting his match against Spain.

Mf – Xavi, Spain – Xavi was just the catalyst for how Spain were approaching games. Always the middle pass in build up play, he played much higher up in the final and pushed Pirlo so deep he was ineffectual. Provided key passes throughout the tournament and just seems to be playing football with an understanding above everyone else.

Mf – Mesut Ozil, Germany – The one attacking player in the German team that was undroppable. His movement and positioning made him impossible to track and provided a fantastic, creative link that makes him suitable for possession play or counter attacking. Finishing is the only thing his game lacks.

Fw – Andres Iniesta, Spain – Iniesta was just consistently brilliant. From the first game v Italy to the final v Italy, Iniesta was the same; creative, inventive, skilful and impossible to get the ball off. He’s perfect at keeping possession and always presses without it.

Fw – Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal – Lived up to expectation and his physical and technical prowess was matched with excellent awareness and positioning. If Bruno Alves’ penalty falls a few inches lower Ronaldo might have carried Portugal to winning the competition.

Fw – Cesc Fabregas, Spain – Fabregas was outstanding in the final, providing forward runs that defenders couldn’t cope with as well as helping maintain possession deeper. His position, a play maker who makes forward over-lapping runs, makes him unique to watch as he is as likely to play a key pass as get on the end of one.

Subs:

Gk -Buffon, Italy – brief moments against Germany were the only times Buffon didn’t look solid and dominating.

Df – Papadopoulos, Greece – Powerful and aggressive, and capable on the ball too.

Mf – Khedira, Germany – his running up and down the pitch was really good to watch. Played well.

Mf – Montolivo, Italy – Really inventive and imaginative. Got tired trying to press Spain in final.

Fw –David Silva, Spain – was reliable and consistent for Spain with being given a lot of responsibility in attack.

Fw – Balotelli, Italy – His second goal against Germany was brilliant, and his performances in general were incredible for a guy only 21.

Fw – Gomez, Germany – Despite being too static and seeing little of the ball against Italy, his three goals were all skilful ones.

July 2, 2012

Euro 2012 Worst XI

Coach – Bert van Marwijk, Holland – No coach was terrible but van Marwijk made some bad errors of judgement, and the 4-2-4 shape Holland finished with against Portugal showed either the manager was ignorant of cohesive shape, or the players were just ignoring him.

Gk – Chalkias, Greece – A barrelling sprint out in the opening game started a collection of terrible moments for him, capped off with a pass smashed into touch as he exited with a mysterious injury. Positionally shocking, poor with decisions and bad at handling.

Rb – Glen Johnson, England – Johnson’s forward runs, his best asset, were mediocre but much worse was his defensive display. A series of strange decisions and terrible positioning really hindered England and made the defensive two banks of four set up vulnerable.

Cb – Richard Dunne, Ireland – Ireland were always going to invite pressure and be on the back foot, and this really brought out the worst in Dunne who was slow, too aggressive, technically incompetent and utterly lacking in ideas.

Cb – Jerome Boateng, Germany – Looked poor on the ball and was bad positionally too. Not terrible but unconvincing.

Lb – Jetro Willems, Holland – You can’t be too hard on a player playing at a major tournament who is born in 1994, but Willems inexperience showed, and was a bit all over the place.

Mf – Glenn Whelan, Ireland – Whelan’s only really competence is in ball retention and possession, so to say he was bad at it pretty much sums up a dire display from him, as he was wasteful the rare occasions his team had the ball, and too static without it.

Mf – Van der Vaart, Holland – His weaknesses were clear as day against Portugal, where in a midfield role the team carried him defensively and in attack he was often too far ahead of the play which cost Holland dearly when they lost the ball.

Mf – Florent Malouda, France – His role was shuttling the ball between midfield and attack, an important link up, but was rubbish defensively and wasn’t creative or imaginative in possession either. Hard to justify his selection.

Fw – Arjen Robben, Holland – It’s not unreasonable to expect a lot from Robben and he really didn’t deliver. Has had a terrible season in the big games and, along with his other high profile team mates, put in average performances at best.

Fw – Robin Van Persie, Holland – RVP is at the peak of his powers, and as a more dynamic striker, should have contributed more in terms of build up and link up play. Rare poor finishing from him too which cost Holland.

Fw – Wayne Rooney, England – His re-introduction shipped Young to Left midfield where he was ineffectual in attack, whilst Rooney himself was sub par in attack and defensively cost England the game against Italy by failing to track Pirlo at all. For a guy who has long been seen as a hard worker and a selfless player, he was extremely selfish and didn’t work hard off the ball. Ss a result, Italy, through Pirlo, kept the ball for long periods and dominated possession, meaning England didn’t compete as closesly as they should have.

Subs:

Gk – Sifakis, Greece – It suddenly became clear how Chalkias was first choice. Cost Greece a goal or two v Germany.

Df – St Ledger, Ireland – Not as bad as Dunne but still poor.

Df – Terry, England – Was constantly caught out with balls over the top, which cost a dissallowed goal against Ukraine and was exposed by Italy several times.

Fw – Podolski, Germany – £10m move to Arsenal doesn’t look such a bargain after a memorably bad 45 minutes against Italy.

Fw – Nani, Portugal – It’s getting to the point where it’s foolish to expect Nani to be relied on in big games. A skilful and gifted player who isn’t living up to potential.

Fw – Kerzhakov, Russia – 15 shots, none on target.

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June 28, 2012

Pundit cliche bingo

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An impressive collection of inane and vapid cliches were trotted out tonight with Keown and Shearer in particular drowning out the more thoughtful, and therefore unwelcome, views of Gianluca Vialli.

Martin Keown:

‘Germans are machine-like’

‘Italians are emotional people’

Keown reduces two entire nations down to stereotypes that bared little relevance to what had happened on the pitch. The obvious question is why Humphrey and Keown even needed to be pitch side for these mindless quips as, despite being close to the action, Humphrey offered little extra despite his past work on CBBC, F1 and the 2011 Royal Wedding.

Alan Shearer:

‘He wanted it more’ – here Shearer ignores the good movement of Balotelli, poor positioning of Badstuber and the terrific cross from Cassano instead attributing it to Balotelli simply wanting to score.

Mark Lawrenson:

‘Germany have to score next or it’s all over’ – In an otherwise competent performance from Lawrenson, a slip of the tongue suggested this performance was a fluke, as his stating of the obvious would have had even the least observant spectators sceptical about his contribution.

Special mention also to all the BBC pundits who continue to pat themselves on the back for unearthing the unknown talent of Pirlo, 33, who is now even Shearer’s player of the tournement after successfully watching him for two games in a row now.

June 28, 2012

Beckham out of Team GB

if Ryan ‘Gave the ball away uncharacteristically there’ Giggs gets a role in this side on ‘merit’ then it makes a lot less sense that Beckham doesn’t make this team.

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June 28, 2012

Why Spain look disjointed at times

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The Spanish side can’t perfectly be divided into Barcelona and Real Madrid players as we sometimes oversimplify, however it can be divided roughly into these two groups. Of course, having a squad consiting three quaters of the two best teams in the world is something of a miracle for any national coach, and something which very rarely occurs. However the side clearly does not destroy and annihilate sides as well as either of the club teams. However, this is less to do with the conventional wisdom that the side ‘lacks Messi’ and is more to do with the greatly disparaging styles of play the players are accustomed to.

When Spain retain the ball in their own half the defenders can be pressed into giving the ball back to the goalkeeper, a universal fact about football. For Barcelona this by default sees the centre backs spread wide either side of the box whilst the full backs push wider and further ahead, and the central defensive midfielder, often Busquets, drops deeper as well as Xavi to provide further link up. This means Victor Valdes becoming effectively another outfield player, and his good footwork will distribute the ball out to the defenders and continue the carousel, until the pressing opposition are disheartened or are exposed for having come too far out of position.

Yet at Madrid their ideology is the polar opposite. Mourinho instills a directness into their play that uses Di Maria and Ronaldo as outballs circling Benzema, whilst Ozil provides link up. The build up play is much more simplistic, with Ramos and Pepe encouraged to launch the ball forward and the side to capitalise on opposition mistakes with their pace and power. Casillas hence has a very different role, as any pressure on the centre backs sees the ball knocked back to the keeper who will take a touch to adjust himself, the centre backs push forward to squeeze the play and make space tighter, whilst Casillas thumps the ball in the direction of the attackers. This approach, though more primitive in it’s make up can be as effective as Barca’s total football, however the polarisation of these two styles is clear, and gives Del Bosque a difficult task. Throw in the other players that make up the side; David Silva and Jordi Alba used to more possession based styles and Torres more familiar with direct play and Del Bosque has a difficult job fitting these players into a cohesive style.

Del Bosque to his credit has chosen to emulate the Barca style of ball retention and tecnhique above power and opportunism. However recreating this is not entirely easy with players that have spent the past two years contesting headers, playing with aggression and putting balls into dangerous areas. The result is as strange hybrid that sees the aforementioned scenario become a convoluted one. For Spain, Xavi if pressed will lay the ball off to Alonso who for lack of options would switch the ball back to the centre backs and himself move forward in anticipation of the ball being delivered long. Ramos will play the ball back to Casillas then, instead moving wide to create space to keep the ball he will jog forward. Casillas is clearly the most unsuited to the tika taka style, and as a goalkeeper this is no real surprise, as he will often hesitate to play a pass, being much more comfortable bashing the ball forward and as far away from his goal as possible. Xavi and Busquets will sigh as their purist hopes of keeping the ball under all circumstances are dashed and the Madrid players will continue unknowingly. Similarly, Xabi Alonso, an epert exponent of the long, accurate pass and the switch to the flanks, will do this without consideration to how it will stretch Spain, and see the reciever of the pass vastly outnumbered by opposition players.

The consequence of this is a side that preforms with neither the ruthlessness of Real Madrid or the possession obssessed approach of Barcelona. Remarkably though, the Spanish players are so technically adept that possession at around 65% is still almost a norm. Thus, the opposition rarely sees sight of the ball let alone goal scoring chances, whilst the individual creativity of Iniesta, Silva, Xavi and Fabregas usually leads to an opening at the other end, meaning that, depsite lacking cohesion from time to time and appearing disjointed, they are so absurdly good that they are still coasting towards winning this tournament anyway.

Cruyff’s ideology is indoctrinated into Barca players from grass roots level

June 25, 2012

The importance of closing down the deep-lying playmaker

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Italy’s gentle control of England yesterday came from two key factors. The first was the narrowness with which Young and Milner played, being sucked into Italy’s diamond which freed up space for the Italian full backs. The second is that deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo was never pressed or closed down anything like as much as he should have been.

Rooney’s reintroduction to the England squad would be beneficial for numerous reasons. However it was hindering for a few as well. Firstly, the 4-4-1-1 that Hodgson employed with Young behind Wellbeck saw Young working hard behind the ball to ensure players were closed down in possession deep in the middle of the pitch, whilst Welbeck naturally worked hard to press defenders and close players down higher up. However Rooney’s introduction in the place of Young, who shifted to the left, meant a change in the way England defended. As the star player of this side, Rooney appeared unwilling to exert too much effort when he didn’t have the ball. A huge departure from the sacrifical player who would work so hard on the left wing when Ronaldo was at Utd, as Rooney failed to offer much cover or press Pirlo at all, giving him time and space to dictate the game. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the introduction of Carroll as a substitute, whilst definitely providing an aerial threat, as he remarkably brough down goal kick after goal kick from Joe Hart, signalled the end of Wellbeck’s good pressing, essentially meaning that the front two of Carroll with Rooney in behind were putting hardly any pressure on the Italians, particularly Pirlo who had as much space as he needed, when Young, who is clearly unnatural defensively would have at least looked to press him better and make life more difficult.

However, this isn’t the first time English football has been ignorant of where attacks are orchestrated, or where the tempo and nature of a move is built. In the 2009 Champions’ League Final, Barcelona’s midfield carousel famously put the Man Utd side, including Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, Berbatov, Scholes, Anderson, Giggs Park and Carrick, at different times, to shame. Utd lined up with Giggs as a number ten linking midfield with attack, however this position, similarly to Rooney’s yesterday was strictly an attacking minded strategy and was ignorant of the effects of the deep lying playmaker; Busquets three years ago, and Pirlo last night. Barcelona’s midfield triangle consisted of the now routinely established Busquets-Iniesta-Xavi, with Busquets deep behind the other two. Utd opted for Carrick-Anderson-Giggs, with Giggs further ahead of the other two. However, Giggs failed to track Busquets at all, and thus Busquets would recieve the ball from the defence and have plenty of time to feed the ball into the two more attacking and skilful midfielders ahead of him, or thread it to the full backs. Of course, it is hard to distinguish whether it is Giggs not doing his job or a lack of player instructions from the manager to put him under pressure, but the fact that Busquets was given so much time to build Barca’s play means it was a failing of Ferguson’s regardless.

Which all begs the question as to why this is ignored. Ferguson’s expertise might be in squad rotation, man management and the culture he pervades, but he is certainly not void of tactical knowledge. Perhaps it is simply that English football does recognise the position of deep lying playmaker, as notably the closest thing we have, Michael Carrick, was ommitted entirely from the squad. Perhaps our 4-4-2 culture is more accustomed to two box to box midfielders, or one destroyer and one creator, neither considering a creative player playing deep. Hence we do not see the need to try to prevent that kind of player from operating.

Pirlo’s control of the game could not have been symbolised any better than by his jog to the ball and dinked penalty into the back of the net, which calmed italy and scared England in equal measure. Nor did his celebration of the goal suggest that it was anything other than certainty, a steely assurance that his side would win. This said everything about the way in which Pirlo controlled the game; with time, space and ease. Yet as much as that is down to Pirlo being majestic, the lack of a player making it difficult for him in anyway whatsoever means that we just as much allowed him to do it.