Monday, 28 February 2011

Predictions for Chelsea vs. Manchester United

Tuesday's huge game between the two biggest clubs in England promises to be a star-studded affair.

The television crews will have you believe it will be a goal-fest with breathtaking football from both sides and neither team taking a step back.

It will be billed as Van Der Sar vs. Cech, Vidic vs. Terry, Lampard vs. Scholes and Rooney vs. Torres.

The fact of the matter though, is that it is far more likely (although the "neutrals choice" prediction may still come true) that both teams will cancel each other out.

Chelsea, it is true, have nothing to lose, but equally, neither side will want to risk dropping points to their big rivals.

It will be a tight, scrappy affair with barely any room.

Look for Patrice Evra to get booed and there may well be some tasty challenges and maybe a few cards, but that will probably be the end to the excitement.

A goal, if there is to be one will come from either a set-piece or mistake a la Arsenal on Sunday.

My prediction is 0-0 although if I had to choose a winner, I'd say Chelsea could well nick it simply because they will (should) show more ambition than United.

Let's all hope I'm wrong, with is very very possible, and the match will be a thriller down the bridge.

But to be honest? I just can't see it.

Let me know your thoughts and predictions.

Does Rooney escaping punishment symbolise all that is wrong with the FA?

Wayne Rooney has escaped punishment for his elbow on James McCarthy against Wigan on Saturday.

As the referee Mark Clattenburg did not book Rooney at the time, the FA had the option to ban him retrospectively but it seems they have not decided to take any action.

Footage seems to show that when McCarthy tried to block Rooney off, the England hitman stung an elbow forcefully into the side of the midfielder's face.

If the referee says he did not see the incident, which he surely must not have based on the fact Rooney was not given a card, the FA can take action themselves.

This has not happened however and as Clattenburg has said he thought he took the appropriate action, the FA is powerless.

As an objective fan, to me at least, that elbow looked dangerous and malicious- two things which should not be tolerated in our game.

To McCarthy's credit, he did not make a big deal of it and that may have helped Rooney.

The disciplinary system of the FA however, seriously needs to be looked at.

With their desire not to undermine officials, they are sacrificing their power to stamp out challenges and incidents which should not be tolerated.

If for example, a player is booked for a challenge, even if on retrospective viewing it was the worst tackle ever and did/could have resulted in serious injury, the FA cannot overrule the card and the player will escape any further action.

This surely cannot be right.

Just because the referee missed it or had a different opinion, doesn't mean he was right and the FA should have the bottle to admit their officials are not perfect.

Their inability to acknowledge technology, even replays after a game, are beneficial is once of their biggest weaknesses and symbolises everything that is wrong in the FA.

If they did, we would get a fairer game and much much more uniform discipline across the board.

What do you think?

Are there any changes you'd like to see at the FA or in football as a whole?


Sunday, 27 February 2011

Final minute Arsenal defensive disaster gives Birmingham deserved victory.

It was a mix up between center back and goalkeeper which provided Birmingham with the League Cup this afternoon at Wembley, but nobody can claim it was not deserved.

Birmingham had the better of the chances throughout. Before Zigic's opening goal, Lee Bowyer was through on goal and was taken out by the young Polish keeper Szczesny  which would have been a clear penalty and sending off had it not for the linesman ruling for a non-existent offside.

Zigic scored a smart header not long after before Robin Van Persie finished with a typical volley on the turn past a hapless Ben Foster.

Birmingham still had the best of the chances though and they hit the woodwork in the second half.

Arsenal grew into the game and as it wore on, Ben Foster showed why he was once talked about as the natural successor to David James as England number one.

With one minute to go in normal time though, a mix up between Szczesny and Koscielny handed the substitute Obafemi Martins with a simple tap in to win it for the midlands outfit.

From a neutral standpoint, it was a satisfying sight.

All the talk throughout the week had been about how Arsenal would end their six year trophy-less wait.

There was no talk of Birmingham having a chance and you couldn't help but detect a hint of arrogance from the London outfit.

It was with great surprise and joy then that I watched Stephen Carr lifted the cup high above the young Arsenal player's heads.

Perhaps they need to earn their stripes the same as the likes of Carr and Lee Bowyer have (who despite having a career spanning around twenty years, was participating in his first ever final).

This will be invaluable experience for the talented gunners who will now learn that success isn't based on ability alone but on grit and determination along with tactical prowess.

Well done Birmingham, all good stories end with the underdog pulling through.

But don't think this will be the last you see of this young Arsenal side in a final. I see many more on the horizon yet.

Things which are wrong with the modern game.

We love our beautiful game. We live for the passion of a Saturday afternoon, the drama of the injury time winner, the adrenaline rush of that big tackle.

But if we compared the game today with that of the one of fifty, forty, thirty or even twenty years ago, we'd see some significant changes.

It is true that many of these changes are for the best- advances in technology such as boots, drinks, stadium designs and clothing.

Television has perhaps made the biggest impact- bringing the game to everyone while providing it with enough money to make the advances in technology that have just been listed.

But there are things in our current game which would never have been dreamed of in times past.

And these things are what I shall be writing about today.

The first thing I perceive that is wrong with our modern game is...diving.

Diving or "simulation" has been slowly creeping into our game since the Klinsmann era. It started being out rightly condemned and looked upon with scorn by fellow professionals and fans alike.

But lately, over the last ten years specifically, it has become common place in whichever league you watch- be it La Liga or in the local five a side tournaments.

People have even began justifying it. "If the defender put his foot there, then what does he expect the attacker to do?". This attitude is symbolises what is wrong with the game.

Cheating is now OK.

I remember seeing footage of George Best being clattered from behind by a huge center back as he was through on goal.

He did go down?

He he roll around screaming like a small child?

Nowadays, a player would do do all of the above and more, but did George?


He adjusted his center of gravity, rode the challenge and went on to score a memorable goal.

Best was a flair player in the truest sense of the word, but he was also brought up to believe football is a contact sport and he accepted that and dealt with what that involves.

Michelle Platini has talked about making football a semi-contact sport, like Basketball to "protect the flair players".

I'm sure everyone can agree this would be the most shocking decision ever made in the history of our game. The spectacle would be lost, never mind the logic is shaky at best. Did Best need protecting? Did Cruyff? Did Maradona?

No, the cream will rise to the top no matter what. In fact, it is the ability of these such players to avoid contact which makes them so watchable.

The fact that players would openly cheat to win a free kick turns my stomach and I do wonder what they think when they watch the footage back at the training ground the next day.

The next thing wrong with modern football is related to diving, but boils my blood just as much, if not more.

It is when a player brandishes a card at the referee in order to get another player booked or sent off. I've never seen just disrespect and lack of sportsmanship.

Not only should it be the referees' decision, but how could anyone want a fellow professional to be sent off?

This truly does sicken me to the core and I hope the powers that be implement a punishment of those brandishing the imaginary card in the future.

The final thing which I think is wrong with the modern game is the lack of loyalty displayed by players.

There was a time when a player would spent ten years at a club without much thought, and even if someone did move on, it was fully his manager's decision, certainly not his and definately not his agents.

Nowadays though, a testamonial game is very hard to come by.

A pity as there was a time when players saw that as the ultimate mark of how successful they have been in their career.

More and more often we hear the phrase "it is my dream" when a player is angling for a move away. The more I hear that phrase the less I believe those using it.

I'm sure many players "dream" to play for their boyhood favourites but that doesn't always happen. They certainly don't try and force a move. Jamie Carragher? Paul Scholes? Both long term servants of clubs and both have another club they list as the one they support.

Sadly, these are the last of a rare breed and the regularity of players demanding moves will only increase.  Perhaps there will be a ruling put in place to stop this, but I can't see what anyone could do.

Contracts don't seem to mean much anymore. They are there to protect the player, not the club and it's fans.

There are many other things wrong with the modern game, such as 'snudes', Ashley Cole and the extraordinary amount of money given to players- although I do understand it is a short career and I don't begrude making as much as you can- I sure would.

Despite all the negatives though, our love for the game remains in tact. The passion, agression and drama will hopefully never die and I'm sure in thirty years time, we will reminise on this time period as the "Good old days".

What do you think?

Is there anything you would love to change with today's game?

Is there anything you don't agree with me on?

Let me know.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Will Fernando Boom or Bust?

I can think of many many ways I would spend £50 million.

A new car, or twenty. A huge house with my own small stadium in it's grounds. Maybe a new pair of jeans?

Roman Abramovich however, has decided to spend his £50 million on something different (probably because he already has everything listed above and more). Abramovich has decided to spend his money on a World Cup winning Spaniard who quite frankly looks like a walking talking been pole at six feet tall and 70 kilograms.

Torres, in all seriousness, has not been at his best this season. Many have said he hasn't performed for the last eighteen months, but a look at his eighteen goals in twenty-two starts at Liverpool tend to refute that claim.

Torres' first two games have left little to be desired, however. Liverpool fans have been smiling smugly, believing they have cleverly got rid of a player past his prime for a price tens of millions of pounds more than he is worth.

Sadly for them though, Torres is far from past his best and they have spent it on something of a risk in Andy Carroll (but that is for another time).

The bottom line is Fernando Torres is a touch of class.

Despite what Liverpool fans may outwardly say, they would rather have him leading their attack then a combination of Carroll, Kuyt, Suarez and N'Gog.

Why? Because Torres is a bona fide superstar. Chelsea are already gaining back that £50 million in shirt sales and gate receipts.

His goalscoring record is beyond doubt and his last match against Copenhagen went a long way to suggest he is slowly getting back to his destructive best.

His runs and drive panicked the defence for 90 minutes and the only thing between him and his name on the score sheet was the excellent Johan Wiland between the sticks.

As soon as Chelsea decide what formation to play him in, Torres will prove that form is temporary and class is indeed, permanent.

Is is only a matter of time before Torres will boom at Stamford Bridge.

Rooney: Man or Myth?

Over the last season a ghost has walked the hallowed turf of Old Trafford.

He was once the most expensive teenager in the history of the English game.

He has been called the gifted English player of his generation.

A genius in the purest sense of the world.

His name is Wayne Rooney.

His ghost like performances however have begged the question: has Wayne lost everything he promised and is he proving the heroics of last season were merely a fluke, no better than Amir Zaki or Frasncis Jeffers?

Despite the utterly stunning goal against Manchester City, Rooney has failed to deliver on all fronts this season.

It begs the question- was that goal a reminder of his genius or just a blast from the past?

It isn't a secret that Rooney has been ravaged by injury for the last twelve months. Ever since that fateful night against Bayern Munich (the other fateful night against Bayern Munich...) he has struggled with his ankle and has not really been the same since.

That excuse could have been valid for the World Cup. But is it now?

6 months on, and Rooney still looks out of sorts. It is true that his work rate is still fantastic- his goalless part in United's 5-0 victory against Birmingham  a month ago was arguably bigger that Dimitar Berbatov's, who scored a hat-trick. (Believe me, I was there.)

The hard fact is that Rooney is, a striker. Even my mother knows that a  striker's job is to score goals and six goals in twenty-one appearences is simply not a good enough return, especially when two of those were penalties.

He has shown too little of the predatory, six yard box instrict we saw from the thirty-four goal superstar last year.

When he has relied on pure talent, when he hasn't had the time to overthink a situation, it has been business as usual. Case in point the goal vs. City, the header vs. West Brom and the two vs. Villa.  All four goals were Rooney at his best-ruthless, instinctual.

But once again, those are the only four instances in the last year I have seen him be anywhere near as good as he really is.

Truthfully, I have shown more flashes of brilliance in the past twelve months.

I do honestly believe that Rooney will get it back together. I am one of those people who called him the most gifted English player of his generation because, quite simply, I think he is. How can't he be?

For the record, I also do not think that he really wanted to leave Old Trafford a few months ago and I do think his heart is still in it- I just think he needs to rely on what got him this far in the first place- talent.

With "Just enough education to perform", thinking is perhaps not Wayne's strong suit- if he started listening to his playground-honed instincts once again, we will see the man back for club, and country.