Archive for August 16th, 2010

What We Learned From The Start Of The New Season

Plus ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose

I have to say, following the serious disappointment of the World Cup, where there must have been, oh at least a couple of good games (out of 64), not one of which featured either of the finalists, and where none of the many Prem Stars on show actually did anything to either live up to or enhance their reputations, I wasn’t exactly overawed by the prospect of another Prem season.

I’m not alone. Apparently season ticket sales are down, even if TV revenue is up, up, up and parsimony seems to be the order of the day for everyone bar the Arabian Knights of Man City. So the Sky hype machine has once again focused on the same old, same old ‘stars’, many of whom are showing their age like teddy bears with the stuffing falling out. The Drog, Torres, Cesc, Rhino et al. The outlook is that the Prem has, once again, been devalued, with no real big names coming in and none of the Big Four really doing anything more than treading water, while the Best of the Rest play catch up and the Relegation Dogfighters just slap on the low grade talent like a pile of dirty old trollops from a turn of the century East End flophouse. What on earth could possibly keep us entertained as we wait for the start of the Champions League and some real football (although that doesn’t get going until the New Year anyway)?

Blackpool were unusually stunning against the thoroughly useless Wigan. The predictions were that both of these clubs were going down, but if only one of them gets stuffed, then it won’t be Blackpool. They’re an interesting team, if only because their wage structure provides less money than players could get playing in divisions below the Prem. So you can be fairly sure that every single player is motivated by something other than immediate financial gain. They’ll be an interesting proof of whether team spirit and togetherness really does count. Wigan, by contrast, started the season as they left the last one on the end of a right good thumping.

Sunderland vs Birmingham simply served as a reminder of why the Prem would be better off pruned down without either of these teams. Utterly unmeritorious football, backed up with the kind of agricultural, talent killing tackling that FIFA has been trying to outlaw for decades. Cattermole, the apparent engine of the Sunderland side, lived up to expectations and was sent off for exactly the kind of late, studs up sliding bullshit that kills football. The sooner players like him (and their lickspittle managers who attempt to defend them) are out of the game, the better. Birmingham are just shit.

Stoke have just spent a club record on signing Kenwyne Jones, so they must be delighted that he was scissor tackled  by Wolves’ loathsome Craddock and carted off after about 5 minutes. Still it’s tempting to say it’s just desserts as Stoke’s Shawcross (another of those ‘strong’ players who can’t seem to actually tackle properly) was responsible for ‘doing’ Aaron Ramsey a while back.

Speaking of scissor tackles, Liverpool’s new boy Joe Cole proved that he has all the talent to be the next Paul Scholes by doing one on Arsenal’s new boy Koscielney and being sent off for his trouble. Like Rhino, Cole has been suckered into thinking that you need to spice up talent by running about like a twat and tackling badly. Meanwhile, Arsenal still don’t seem to have learned that simply passing nicely isn’t enough and a bit of bite is required if they really want to challenge this season. Mind you a new goalie and some defenders wouldn’t go amiss either.

Chelski chewed up and spat out the utterly tame West Brom. They looked every bit as dangerous as they did at the end of last season and have shed themselves of some unwanted baggage in the shape of Bollocks (who must be torn between being gutted that he was injured in the FA Cup final and didn’t make the World Cup and being more gutted that Germany did so well there without him), Deco and, possibly, Joe Cole. They were merciless against a suicidally bad West Brom.

Given their manager had left them five days earlier and they have an important Europa League qualifier coming up, you’d have thought it was a perfect time to give Villa a good stomping. Not apparently if you are West Ham, who seem intent on destroying whatever shreds of a reputation manager Avram Grant has. They were pitiful and Villa cut them open.

Now, while there were some really bad mistakes and cock ups – Reina’s Robert Green-like spooning of the ball and himself into his own net narrowly tipping Everton’s Tim Howard’s Gary Sprake-like gift of the ball to Blackburn’s Kalinic for goalkeeping howler of the day – the biggest fuck up of all was at White Hart Lane. How Tottingham failed to muller the overegoed puddings of Man City is a mystery. Sure Hart was great in goal for City, but Tottingham will be killing themselves that they didn’t establish psychological mastery over a team that, once again, showed that Mancini’s default position is to play for a draw.

Man U seem to have started well, even if Rhino is playing like that ringer Sourness bought when he was manager of Southampton. They showed Newcastle what for, while Scholes showed that you don’t have to run about like a nutter tackling badly to run the game. Oh and Fulham started life without Uncle Wroy by drawing miserably with Bolton.

So, not a lot of skill or even entertainment on show (Blackpool, Chelski and Man U aside), plenty of evidence that the Prem is more likely to drown in the shite quality of the Championship rather than rise to the level of the Champions League. And, finally, god spare us from the vacuous sofa-curdling lifestyle magazine bullshit that is Match of the Day 2. It’s hard to imagine a programme more bereft of football or stuffed fuller of preening One Show wannabe featurettes and musical medleys than this. Cut it down to size and just show the bloody football, then stuff all the garbage onto some daytime soap show. Because this is enough to put you off watching football on a Sunday altogether.