Archive for December 14th, 2010

What We Learned From Prem Week 17

All Aboard The Managerial Merry-Go-Round

So it’s goodbye to him and it’s, er, goodbye to him as well as Fat Sam Allerdyché followed Chris Hughton down the tunnel marked ‘Hoof It’ and collected his memorial Crackerjack P45. Having declared my undying un-love for Fat Sam last week, I can’t say that I’m either surprised or even remotely sympathetic, especially as he’s likely to collect another £million plus payoff to keep the millions he made off Newcastle company. Meanwhile, Hughton probably won’t be getting anything like £1 million from his departure from the Toon.

Can you really blame Real Blackburn’s management who’ve just bought the club and realised that they’ve bought a bit of a dog (and I’m not just talking about Fat Sam here)? Would you trust Fat Sam with a multimillion pound transfer budget? And irrespective of their retention of their Premiership status, it’s clear that Fat Sam’s Real Blackburn played less interesting football than any of his predecessors, and it’s worth noting that the last formation he sent out was a pyramid inverting 5 – 4 – 1 and that was at home (at home!) against his old side Bolton. Imagine the shenanigans if he ended up taking over at West Ham.  Because our money is on Gloomy Avram following him out of the door as West Ham flirt with ultimate relegation.

Things Arsène Wenger Still Doesn’t Seem To Have Learned

  • How to deal with Didier Drogba that Nani fellow
  • How to coach a defence
  • What a good keeper looks like – although Szczesny looks promising
  • How to beat the big teams

You can add to that that he seems incapable of building a team with the necessary fight to it. It can’t be simply a case of ‘jam tomorrow’, as Wenger has had more than enough time at Arsenal to build a post-Invincibles team, he’s been at Arsenal for over a decade and during this time Alex Ferguson has raised not one, not two, but three Championship winning sides. It seems that Wenger’s alternative is to buy young talent and try to mould it to his will and in the process suffuse it with an irritating politeness and lack of drive, spirit and general Neitzschean will to win. You can argue that teams are a reflection of their managers and that perhaps Wenger is just too passive in contrast to great winning managers like Mourinho, Ferguson or Guardiola.

Alternatively, maybe Wenger has just accepted what is clear to any Arsenal fan, that there are three teams in the Prem with substantially larger financial resources and that Arsenal are simply getting the best results they can with the resources they have. They are still currently second, still in the Big Cup, still in the FA Cup and in the semis of the Not-So-Useless Cup with by far the easiest route to the final. So near and yet so far eh?

Bring On The Games

Man U did what they seem to always do to Arsenal, which is bully them into submission and scrape a one – nil scrappy goal encounter that is low on interest, excitement and skill.

Chelski regulars used to call Tottingham‘s ground Three Point Lane such was Chelski’s record here and it’s a reflection on how demoralised the ‘Ski are right now that they ended up somewhat happier with a 1 – 1 draw than Spurs were. And they missed a penalty. Spurs will be a bit miffed that they didn’t have the ability to put Chelski to bed when they were on top in the first half. Just like near-North London neighbours Arsenal, Tottingham had no answer to The Drog, who biffed aside the returning Michael Dawson and lashed the ball so hard it flipped Gomes over before drizzling over the line. Which goes to show it’s not just Arsenal who have low grade central defenders and keepers.

What with having the second latest manager to get the Mark Hughes Unlucky Sacking press love in, anyone would think Newcastle had actually won their last few games rather than being 17th in the form guide (and they’d be bottom if they hadn’t won over the weekend), with a record of one win, two draws and three losses in their last six matches. Clearly relegation form that puts them beneath even Wolves and Wigan, if not Hughes’ new team Fulham, and would give any owner pause for thought. You have to say that it would have been easier for Ashley to have done nothing and bumbled along into a relegation dogfight rather than go through all that hassle and appoint Alan Pardew. In contrast, the Liverpool Red Sox are in actual trouble, despite having the same number of points as Newcastle and the third best home record, their away record is the third worst. At nil nil they look alright, but lose a goal and they’re up the shitter. Uncle Wroy’s own away record is even worse if you take the results of his previous club Fulham into account. Liverpool still look like a team who don’t really recognise one another and with Gerrard injured and Torres still to find his form, they seem impotent. Newcastle, with a point to prove, and Joey Barton back in the side, were clearly the better team and their goals came from nicely worked moves across the pitch.

Yaya Toure swats aside another titchy Prem defender. Look at the size of him.

Man City (our tips for the top at the end of the year remember) are doing what really dangerous teams do, winning without necessarily playing very well and moving to joint top (now joint second) in the table. Sure they’re dominating matches, as they should given their players are approximately 1.35 times bigger than their opposition, but they’re not creating too many chances. Yaya Toure really is enormous, he’s kind of like a Heskey plus crossed with a James Bond villain, but with a bit more balance, brushing aside players like Scott Parker and making them seem the size of children. He’s certainly relishing in his more forward role, scoring two goals, while Silva is beginning to find his form and dominate midfield, cleverly setting up Ian Curtis for the third goal. That said, West Ham were very poor, or maybe they really are 1.35 times smaller than everyone else. City made them look every bit as poor as Bolton were last week. They no longer look too good to go down, rather appearing too bad to stay up, and it’s hard to see where their impetus is going to come from.

One of the key questions in maintaining City’s push for the Prem is whether they can do it without Leetle Carlito, who appears to be wanting a way out and who’s scored most of their goals. Mancini’s faith in nutter Balotelli is a high risk strategy, especially now that teams have seen that they just need to give him a little barge and he’ll be off on one. I’d guess that they have the resources and/or the clout to keep Carlito happy until the summer, when they’ll have qualified for next season’s Big Cup and will be able to recruit a right proper striker.  Or possibly an entirely new team altogether. Or start their own league. Or maybe buy the moon. And paint it blue. Or all of these and still afford to give cakes to everyone.

Stoke epitomise the mid table Prem strategy of the solid, dependable, journeyman play, the same kind of stuff that Fat Sam’s teams play only with a couple more ‘flair’ players. So they’ve got an OK defence (Huth aside as he’s a disgrace), an acceptable if unimaginative midfield and a 10 goal a season striker in Ricardo Fuller. Nothing too fallible but nothing too inspiring or interesting either. You’d have to say Fuller is up there with the likes of Kenwynne Jones, Ngog, Bendtner, and Kaloo, as a vaguely adequate striker, but he’s a pocket Drogba rather than anything like the real thing. Blackpool seem to have fewer individuals but a greater team spirit, you sense that Adams, Varney, Dad Taylor-Fletcher and DJ Campbell are very much team players. This was in evidence as they first went one up, then spent the best part of the second half defending like madmen. They also seem to have a slightly different tactical philosophy, rather than seeming to try not to lose, they’re going all out to win. Sure they may get spanked, but more often than not they’re scoring goals and going on to win. Certainly if I were the owners of Real Blackburn, I’d be asking how come Blackpool can play this kind of attractive, engaging football and still be a point and three places above us when they clearly have less experienced Prem players on probably significantly less money.

Speaking of Fat Sam’s latest exes, they were pretty pitiful against a misfiring Bolton side. But maybe Real Blackburn‘s 5 – 4 – 1 formation, less a Christmas Tree than a fat, stumpy triangle, got Bolton all confused. And yet they showed both their greater skill and desire when they were able to retake the lead less than a minute after Real Blackburn equalised, with a piece of glorious Route 1 football that simply tore Real Blackburn apart.

Villa sought to bounce back from their defeat to the Liverpool Red Sox on Monday by doing their local rivals West Brom. But this wasn’t the dour Midlands derby you might have expected. Villa are all about effective wing play, utilising the skill and pace of Albrighton and both their goals came from crosses from wide. You do feel that they’re lacking any kind of midfield strength to build with. West Brom are a bit of a mystery still, it’s unclear what they’re all about. They win at Arsenal but get thumped by Chelski and were played out of the game here.

In part two of the Midlands derby weekend, Wolves finally managed to put a piece of daylight between them and West Ham by actually winning. And not playing too badly.  Admittedly they were up against Boremingham, whose ultimate objective away from home is always a draw and who posed little or no attacking threat aside from one breakaway.

Fulham managed a new record, the greatest number of draws in the first 17 games ever. Which won’t have pleased their fans who almost woke up during their match (a nil – nil draw in case you’re interested) with Sunderland, when Dempsey almost hit the bar with a snap shot.

Finally, Everton can’t buy a goal. They can’t even steal one. They seemed to batter the Wigan goal but every time they got past the keeper or the defence, they conspired to fluff their chance, hurl it over the bar or just miss. Wigan, like Boremingham, had one break but fluffed it too. Everton’s recent form is so bad that they’re in danger of falling into the relegation dogfight.

Rob Green Save Of The Day

It’s always a great moment when we can actually honour the man whose name is on the award, and this week’s award does, indeed, go to Rob Green, who like Scott Carson before him, managed to let Yaya Toure’s second goal hit first the post, then his back before it ricocheted into the net. Honourable mention to Hilarious Gomes for his non-stop of The Drog’s shot.