Archive for June, 2011

Palace Tweets 2011-06-12

  • Oh no. That was wrong. We have no electricity. This is irritating #
  • Electricity back on thanks to man from national grid. #
  • EDF seem to have broken my electric supply. #
  • Liverpool manage to gouge out an astonishing £5 million for David NoGood (er Ngog). How the F do they manage to get money for their rubbish? #

Archive for June, 2011

What We Learned From Engerland vs Switzerland (2-2)

The three testicalled scrotum that is the Euro 2012 logo. Two countries separated by football.

That Blockage Is Back

Sadly for Englerland, they seem to have become the last bastion of the sclerosis that is slowly being purged from the Prem. It’s the same as it ever was, nothing is moving. Certainly not the players who are slowly but surely fading into obscurity, the so-called Golden Generation of Terry, Ferdinand and Lampard, who’ve done nothing and won nothing,  don’t look like doing anything to surprise us (except retire) in the future. Certainly not the tactics, which seem as comprehensively stuck in the pre-1960 era of physical supremacy on unplayable pitches as ever. Yes this Engerland team is as constipated as ever.

What Do You Call A Person Who Keeps Trying The Same Failing Strategy While Expecting A Different Result? Aside From Stupid Obviously

[pullthis]”You in England,” said Barcelona’s Helenio Herrera, “are playing in the style we continentals used so many years ago, with much physical strength, but no method, no technique.“[/pullthis] Admittedly he did say this in 1960 and so has come in a bit late to the party, but he does have a point.

Last month has seen 3 serious matches at Wembley, a turgid FA Cup Final, a brilliant Champions League Final and this Euro 2012 Qualifier. Of these, this was by far the worst, the least watchable, the least tactically aware and the least entertaining. And while Barcelona played such spectacular football they made Man U look like Stoke and Stoke were ground down by the Man City mincer, England were simply impaled on their own failings against a Swiss side that barely look capable of beating anyone yet were 2-0 up before half time.

Engerland Are Hamstrung By Two Factors.

[pullshow]First, the English style of kick n run/hoof and hope football is stunningly inefficient, hopelessly outdated and far too easy to beat. It encourages players to almost shun possession, rewarding those who get rid of the ball early, while punishing those who show any desire to hold the ball or competence in control. It might be vaguely acceptable as a style of play if it occasionally worked, but it’s safe to say that the most Engerland gained from any hoof was a Swiss throw in on their 20 yard line. Not one move of any significance resulted from this oafish play. Sure we might marvel that Terry or Ferdinand has the ability to artfully lob a ball 40+ yards over the shoulder of a lumbering teammate and cede possession to the Swiss, but it’s kind of a futile appreciation. Indeed both Engerland’s goals and all their scoring opportunities were the result of moves where the ball was largely passed on the ground. In this way Engerland repeated the same tactical flaws that cost Man U and Stoke their matches – a wide midfield that was largely bypassed by long, aimless balls punted upfield to heavily marked and isolated strikers, who were unable to receive the ball and immediately sacrificed possession. It’s safe to say that Switzerland were never troubled with the ball over the head of the defence.

Second it’s clear that the Prem (or the hoof n hope style it imposes) takes it’s toll out of players far more than other leagues. None of the English players looked fit or in form and the overwhelming impression was of a bunch of overworked, exhausted carthorses who fundamentally couldn’t keep it up for one last 90 minutes. It’s hard to tell whether this is a failing of the English physique or the Prem, seeing as all the Engerland players play in the Prem, while only the Swiss central defence of Djourou and Senderos do. And while the latter were poor, they didn’t really have a lot to cope with.

Now, being positive, it’s good that we’ve identified (confirmed?) these flaws, not least because they are fundamentally fixable. Although there is no clear evidence that they will actually be addressed. But it’s clear that nothing will change until they are.

Hell No, We Won’t Go (For Change)

And it’s strange that there should be such reluctance to change. After all Engerland’s only significant win, the 1966 World Cup, came after Engerland adapted their tactical style from a 4-2-4 to a 4-3-3, bringing the concept of Ramsey’s wingless wonders into play. Our refusal since then to adapt from the 4-4-2 that almost none of the players use in their club sides is dogmatic in the extreme. Our ridiculous justification of retaining the hoof n hope style, namely that we don’t have players capable of playing any other way, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What’s really scary is that we keep playing this way even though it’s yielding increasingly bad results.

I don’t see how you can realistically blame Capello for this. I don’t think he has beaten a lack of ability on the ball into these players (or if he has one can only admire his effectiveness given the limited time he has to work with them). Nor can he be blamed for the lack of individual skill or imagination in the side. Poor first touches, bad decision making, an inability to control or pass the ball accurately, a desire to ‘get rid’ as soon as possible, none of this is Capello’s fault. Failure on this scale takes years of training to accomplish. Where he does fall down is in trying to give the side an idea of how to attack or defend, you got the sense that no one in the Engerland team had a clear idea of how they were going to attack the Swiss. Or if there was an idea, it was the exceptionally bad one of lobbing the ball to Milner and somehow expecting something to happen other than giving possession to the Swiss. Admittedly that’s what Man U tried against Barcelona, but they at least had the hope that Valencia would be able to control then cross the ball.

Only Baines and Wilshire actually ever ran at the Swiss in a convincing, potentially dangerous way, and it was no surprise that Engerland’s goals should come from a penalty awarded after Wilshire ran into the box and a nice chip (admittedly by Milner) after a run down the left wing. Aside from this only Walcott seemed to take the Swiss on and sadly he has become a byword for ineffectiveness and non-delivery.

The Guilty And The Damned

Aside from a lack of a clear, compelling vision of how to beat the Swiss, Engerland’s other failings are legion. Darren Bent, like Man U’s Hernandez and Stoke’s Kenwynne Jones before him, was isolated and impotent as a lone striker trapped half a pitch away from his nearest teammate, although in his case he was played out of the game by some of the most successful graduates of the Arsenal defensive academy rather than the best Barelona can offer. So obviously he had some chances, the two most blatant of which came from balls passed or richoceted to him along the ground. His inability to score open goals really is impressive. On this display even Carlton Cole has a chance of an Engerland callup.

Walcott patently isn’t a winger. It’s not clear what he is, in his moment he can be devastating, but he’s no wingman. He seemed to offer no real threat and you can understand why Capello isn’t entirely sold on him. His defensive duties covering for the useless Glen Johnson also limit his forward progress, but he’s fundamentally toothless.

Milner’s not a winger either, neither is he blessed with pace nor ability on the ball. So, aside from providing an ample target for Terry and Ferdinand to lob balls at, it’s hard to see what his role on the right is suppose to be. Having both Walcott and Milner playing wide effectively gave the midfield to the Swiss.

Engerland’s midfield, meanwhile, is a total mess. Lampard was so ineffective he must be fast running out of arguments for his inclusion. Currently he seems to be there simply because the ancient Lampard/Gerrard dilemma seems to fester in people’s minds and Gerrard is now injured. There must be other midfielders from the under-21s who can step up to this level. It’s easy to see why his goalscoring seems to have fallen off a cliff.

How Scott Parker managed to win the Player of the Year award is a total mystery. He seems to have slipped into that moment in time which was after Nasri stopped doing cool stuff and before Dirty Suarez arrived at Loserpool. Admittedly it was a very, very short moment so big ups for seizing the day and all, but Player of the Year Parker is not. His one trick, a kind of groovy 360 degree shuffle with the ball that retains possession while leaving the player dizzy and confused, while funny to watch isn’t going to make it onto the training grounds of Stoke, let alone Barcelona. Didn’t so much shit on his copybook as rip the whole thing up and stuff it into the bin.

Jack Wilshire, new boy on the block, illustrates everything that is good and bad about Engerland. On the plus side, he’s got great technique (we’ll soon beat that out of him I suppose) and drive. He made the only genuinely dangerous penetrating run into the Swiss penalty area. And, amazingly enough, he still wants the ball. On the negative side, he looked tired and was booked for one of those classic ‘I’ve lost the ball, so I’d better leap at it at knee height’ tackles that encourages fans to mistake ‘dangerous and stupid’ for ‘passionate’. Still the only member of the midfield whose name should be on the teamsheet.

And if our midfield is a mess, our defence is simply decrepit. Ashley Cole looks like this season has gone on for a month too long, and for him the 15 minutes he played were 15 minutes too much as he succumbed to an inevitable exhaustion-related injury. He’s still a great left back and it’s good that he’s finally got some serious competition in Baines and Gibbs.

Terry and Ferdinand are starting to look their age, an increasingly crumbling defensive pairing. If genuine threat starts at the back then these two have to go as neither seems capable of initiating a real life counterattack other than by hoofing the ball to a striker who is 40 yards from his nearest teammate. Now unless you are Chile’s Salas from back in the day, that’s not a real recipe for a goalscoring opportunity at Wembley. It was telling that Bent’s only one on one with the keeper came from a through ball played on the ground by Wilshire.

As for Glenda Johnson, it seems improbable that there isn’t a better English right back. He doesn’t defend well, drags Walcott back into his own half, can’t pass and ultimately contributes nothing to the team. Surely, surely he is going to be dumped soon.

On The Plus Side

Montenegro, who bizarrely are England’s only serious challenger in this group, also drew. This means Engerland’s fate is still in their own hands. Win their next three matches, away to Bulgaria, at home to Wales and away to Montenegro and they’ve qualified. And that is probably the most shocking thing about this whole sorry episode.

Archive for June, 2011

Palace Tweets 2011-06-05

  • Terrifying but apparently true. Fat Sam to West Ham. Just as I predicted Be afraid Hammers, be very afraid #

Archive for June, 2011

That Was The Prem 2010-11 That Was

Sclerosis – Pass Me The Enema Bag Stupid

The whole season, whether in football or society in general, seems to have been about finally purging oneself of that gargantuan blockage. Whether it was the sight of FIFA suddenly realising that not only did the emperor have no clothes, but that he was also a corrupt venal old fartbag, or the entire North African Middle East rising up against, er, a legion of corrupt venal old fartbags, or SKY finally moving past the anal lads culture entrenched by the likes of (venal old fartbags) Keys and Gray this felt like a watershed period. The end of an era.

On a football level, the season felt like a continuation of the malaise offered by the World Cup before working its way up to being something of a watershed moment. Man U (always ahead of the curve) began the umpteenth process of regeneration, with the Hernandez/Valencia/Rooney forward axis only being stifled by the long term injury to Valencia early in the season. The retirements of Neville (seamlessly eased out by the Fabio/Raphael twins) and Scholes, reinforced both the demise of the early 2000’s team and the transitional nature of the season. Man City continued their permanent revolution, establishing themselves as a top four team, while teams like Liverpool, Chelsea et al began the process of dispensing with tired, older (dare we say more expensive?) players like Gerrard, Lampard, Carragher etc. Meanwhile we watched the decline of the likes of Essien, Mikkel, Cech, Defoe, Crouch and the entire Man U midfield.

With all this decline and precious little improvement or additional excitement (at least until the import of Champion Cheat Dirty Suarez in January), this felt like a season of removal.

Get Stuck In! It’s All About The Defence Stupid

Strangely for a league that seems to be all about goals, good, solid defences seemed to be the key to success. Teams with poor defences (hello Arsenal, Blackpool and West Ham to name but three) lost out big time. Admittedly, Boremingham showed that a good defence in the early part of the season is no compensation for having zero teeth in attack. Unlike attacking partnerships, which can be forged relatively quickly, defences are built over time, not simply pre-season. Arsenal in particular paid the price for having no really settled back three. For them having one settled member of the keeper/central defence axis would be an improvement.

It’s clear that there are far too many journeyman defenders in the Prem. These are players capable of muscling opponents off the ball, obstructing them or failing that injuring them, but who are fundamentally unable to actually tackle properly. This was typified by the succession of ‘horror’ tackles early in the season which robbed the Prem of the likes of Zamora, Ben Haim, Jones and Valencia for large parts of the season. Certainly the English obsession with ‘physical’ football is a massive detriment to both the Prem and English football in general. The Prem needs to decide which it wants to protect, the old skool physical ‘get stuck in’ defensive mindset or creative skillful players. There’s little evidence to suggest that they will get this one right.

It’s clear that there are far too few good defensive coaches, and those who are perceived as the most ‘successful’ are promoting a hideous basketball inspired style typified by obstruction, holding and intimidation that might work in the Prem but which is heavily penalised in Europe (just compare Mau U’s foul rate to that of Barcelona in the Champions League final and consider that Barcelona seemed like the better defensive side). I’d rather players were taught how to defend legitimately rather than encouraged to ‘get stuck in’, but there seem to be no effective defensive coaches in the Prem.

As their progress in Europe and the Champions League final in particular demonstrated, Barcelona for all their diving and playacting are still a better,  more effective defensive playing team than practically anyone in the Prem. Consider their record against Arsenal and Man U and how few shots either had in three matches. Too few Prem players know how to defend at all or get the ball back when the opposing side has it.

Goals Win Games

No coincidence that once again the winner of the Golden Boot should come from the Champions (Berbatov) and the most industrious tyro in the league (Tevez). Van Persie’s 18 goals in 25 games kept Arsenal in the big four, without them it’s doubtful they’d even be playing in the Europa League. Boremingham and West Ham’s lack of bite led them to inevitable relegation.

There’s Bargains In Those January Sales

Normally January is a time for two kinds of transfer, the ‘save us from relegation’ panic buy and the ‘building for next season’ bargain, neither of which usually leads to anything approaching an immediate impact. This season, however, it felt like the January transfer window began the process of transition, removing the logjam of the past 4 or 5 seasons. Liverpool’s season was transformed by the arrival of Champion Cheat Dirty Suarez, who brought much needed goal threat and inspiration. Without him they maintained their appalling form and playing style in the Europa League.

Only time will tell if Andy Carroll and Torres were good January signings, but they both seem to have been ‘building for next season’  purchases. Arsenal’s dramatic slump in form illustrates the need for occasional surgical strikes in midseason.

The Importance Of Key Players (And Keeping Them Fit)

Arsenal’s progress was undone by Vermaelen’s season long absence – he’s played fewer games than notable crock-master Ledley King, who as every fule kno has only the one knee. Arsenal badly needed both a serious defender and some kind of leader and Vermaelen was a possibility. They were also undone by Van Persie missing the first half of the season. You sense that if only Van Persie managed to play an entire season he’d be the league’s top goalscorer (although his run of scoring in 9 consecutive away matches did coincide with Arsenal’s worst run of form for a number of years). When Arsenal were winning the Prem and challenging, Thierry Henry was regularly the Golden Boot winner.

Fulham weren’t helped by the assault on leading scorer Bobby Zamora. Their form notably picked up dramatically once he returned.

Birmingham might have gone to sleep having been gifted the Carling Cup, but the injury to Scott Dan in December (in their Carling Cup semi final) was every bit as effective in their slide down to the Championship.

West Ham lost Hilzlesperger to an international injury for most of the season, then, when he came back, they lost Scott Parker. Carlton Cole’s season long fitness streak was no consolation.

Man U didn’t look likely to win games, much less the Prem until Vidic and Valencia regained their fitness.

Tottenham haven’t looked good since Bale first did his hamstring over the winter. Van Der Vaart’s injuries helped eliminate any threat of a Top Four finish.

Chelsea usually get 40 – 50 goals a season from Drogba and Lampard. This season they’ve got around half that. Lampard, like Gerrard, is hitting that stage in his career where he’s more often injured than fit. Drogba added to his repertoire by catching malaria.

Man City weren’t the same team without Tevez.

Liverpool weren’t the same team without Torres (the exception that proves the rule perhaps?). But they were still terrible without Suarez.

I’ve Got The Sweetest World Cup Hangover

I can’t think of a single Prem player who came back from the World Cup and had a good start to the season. For some the malaise lasted well into the season, others still haven’t recovered

  • Rooney – dipped in form from spring 10 – spring 11 (never mind the World Cup)
  • Drogba – didn’t show for the world cup, still hasn’t regained his form, caught malaria
  • Torres – has been poor for the last 12 months, if not longer, a descent longer and deeper than that of Rooney. Still managed to win a World Cup – go figure
  • Lampard – yet to regain form, largely injured
  • Gerrard – yet to regain form, injured, unclear where he fits into the new RedSox world
  • Fabregas – poor, injured, yet to return to form, won a world cup. Go figure
  • Essien – missed the World Cup through injury, not seen his form since
  • Vidic – found form around turn of the year – although he seems more prone to fouling these days

Bad Foot Rising (Studs  Up)

This season has seen the continued rise of the American football/basketball style defence, holding, manhandling, shoving, obstructing seen as an ‘acceptable’ alternative to real defending. The legacy of Fat Sam and Tony Pulis, who seem to have totally misunderstood the concept of turnover.
Really bad tackling was a key feature of the early season – bad studs up sliding tackles, two footed diving tackles and the ‘oh shit I’ve just given the ball away’ redemptive leg breaker. Hang your heads in shame everyone concerned, including Jack Wilshire, who ‘did one’ on Birmingham’s Zigic.

Genuine Class Conspicuous By Its Absence.

Flattered to deceive –

  • Elmander – two nice goals, a long silence and a move to Galatassary
  • Nasri – two or three lovely (very lovely to be honest) goals and then nothing for most of 2011
  • Bale – one great game against Inter Milan, snuffed out the following week when he was played out of the game by Phil Neville
  • Van Persie – 18 goals scored doesn’t compensate for 13 games missed
  • Rooney – just beginning to find his form and the season ends. Did win the Prem for Man U at West Ham
  • David Silva – only beginning to find his form
  • Yaya Toure – only beginning to find his form, although he won the FA Cup for Man City
  • Adam – lynchpin of Blackpool, his loss after being sent off probably cost Blackpool their place in the Prem. Without him they’d have been relegated in the spring

Genuinely class

  • Tevez – thoroughly inspirational. The driving force behind City
  • Champion Cheat Dirty Suarez – welcome to the Prem, may have to amend our opinion of you. Inspirational team changing player
  • Jack Wilshire – lots of promise and he’s both Arsenal and English
  • Joe Hart – not dodgy keeper
  • Blackpool – great attacking football, suicidal defending, great attitude, there are shitter teams still left in the Prem
  • Javier Hernandez – Another welcome to the Prem. Proves the value of buying genuine proven talent rather than potential (cf Carlos Vela)

Good fucking riddance to

  • Fat Sam Allardycé – now’s your chance to show us how good you could be in Europe (in your dreams) or (in reality) the Championship
  • Birmingham – now’s your chance to show us how good you could be in Europe and the Championship
  • Gold, Sullivan and Brady – not likely to be seeing you three muppets any time soon
  • Ryan Babble – did Loserpool really get £6 million for him? Sale of the season no question
  • Gillette and Hicks – is it really only this season that you were turfed out?

Just think, the three relegated teams are being replaced by teams who’ve played consistently good football in the Championship.