Archive

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Brendan Rodgers was the manager of the season.

I’ll take your Alan Pardew and I’ll raise you an Alan Pard-who? I jest, Pardew did incredibly well with under the radar signings and clever tactics. Just how close he really was to the champions league cannot be underestimated, a last minute goal from Thomas Vermaelen (last kick of the game even) at the Emirates worth a vital “6” points to Arsenal.

However, Swansea’s football was a hedonistic blend of perfect precision passing, a work ethic for off the ball pressure that would put Pep to shame and then add to this cocksure combo a lovely dash of giant killing and Swansea were comfortably my favourite team outside Ashburton Grove.

Prior to this season it was assumed that for a team without access to the champions league honey pot, or without an oil rich oligarch hungry for glory, success in one on one duels with the big boys was hard to come by. The only way to achieve success in these mano el mano’s was to neutralise the big boy, then sneak a goal and run off into the sunset, sharing cheeky high fives with your charming urchin comrades.

The best example of this would be Everton, a team who seem to have so little money they’re always just one loan repayment away from having to take public transport to their next fixtures. Whenever Everton play a team bigger than themselves they rarely seek to impose themselves on the game. Instead allowing the opposition to play their football, then exploiting any inherent weakness to sneak a point(s). This tactic has served David Moyes extremely well, consistently performing above expectations and occasionally outperforming their more financially blessed Merseyside rivals. Blackpool provided ammo to this ethos, with Holloway’s side of 10/11 attempting to beat the big boys at their own game. But in the words of the sensei they racked disciprine (www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdbORXEmbnk) and failed to close down off the ball, leading to a glorious relegation. The futility of this noble failure was proven when Iain Holloway remarked that while he was nominated for sports personality of the year in 10/11, he didn’t even receive an invite to the ceremony in 11/12.

Swansea took one look at this Status Quo, told it that Rocking All Over The World was a pile of wank and proceeded to rewrite the rule book. Like Barcelona and Bilbao they used their ability to retain possession as a defensive tactic. If possession was lost, every team member forced the opposition to feast on an extra large serving of pressure flan, inevitably forcing an error or restricting available options and allowing a team mate to intercept the oppositions desperate passing. This impressive disciprine allowed Swansea to kick Mr Goliath right in the japs eye and take 3 points from Arsenal, Manchester City and, Brendan Rodgers future employers, Liverpool at the Liberty Stadium.

Which leads us to the current conundrum. Liverpool have spent over £100 million pounds on British (shit) talent, and their style of play this season has been that of a traditionally British team. A direct brand of football, focusing play down the wings and utilising long, Hollywood passes via Adam or Gerrard. Suarez being the exception to the rule, with his impressive dribbling skill only matched by his ability to be a massive cunt.

The mismatch between the Brendan Rodgers philosophy and the current Liverpool squad has led many to doubt the current teams ability to adapt, with Andy Carroll bearing the brunt of this doubt. However one look at Llorente, one lingering look at that sultry Basque bastard, will suggest that all may not be lost for Andy the antihero.

Llorente is a really handsome guy. He’s so attractive that just one look at him will turn your penis into a homosexual. Your mind may remain totally straight, you’ll go around quite happy with the favourable clothes to boob ratio synonymous with the summer months. Then the next time El Capitan Corrigan is called into action there will be an alarming ceasefire in your Basque cannon, and you’ll know that your penis is now a homosexual.

Andy Carroll will never do such a thing to your penis, he just doesn’t possess that quality. More importantly to Liverpool he does possess similar qualities to Llorente in: his height, strength, ability to hold up play, clever runs in the box, and his impressive close control (see the goal he scored in the FA cup final, outfoxing Terry with a sidestep in the box). Now admittedly, these qualities I’ve generously assigned to Andy Carroll are the qualities of Andy Carroll at his best. Qualities he seemed to be rediscovering towards the end of the season and qualities he has displayed whenever playing for the England team.

Now I’m not saying that Carroll is as good as Llorente, and I’m certainly not saying that he is as enchanting. But the style of play that allows Llorente to flourish in Bielsa’s Bilbao is almost exactly the type of play that Rodgers will look to instil in Liverpool; constant pressure on the opposition, retaining the long diagonal balls from deep in midfield, and short accurate passing when in the oppositions half. Andy Carroll doesn’t have to be sent to the knackers to be made into glue just yet, he may yet Basque in the glory of Rodgers.

Being a Liverpool fan is fun. Well, I say fun, what I mean is quite the opposite; it’s usually as fun as a swift kick in the nuts.  Since our adopted goateed Spanish messiah left his post in 2010 we’ve had a pretty shit time of it. The season before he left we finished second with the highest points total ever amassed by a runner up, a points total that would’ve won the league in every other season in Premier League history. Liverpool were a well oiled machine, the might of Carragher and Agger at the back, the attacking threat of Arbeloa and Aurelio down the flanks, the midfield magic of Alonso, Mascherano and the industry and pure striking power of Gerrard and Torres. That season we decimated Manchester United, Real Madrid and Aston villa in just over a week, playing the sort of football that had both the pundits and the punters drooling.

After scaling those heights it all started going a bit tits up, Alonso and Arbeloa left, Gerrard started getting injury prone, Torres starting acting like a sulky lesbian with M.E. and the people who were signed to replace them weren’t up to scratch (not naming any names like N’gog or Aquilani). Much of the blame was directed (correctly) at the board room. At the time we were under the tyrannous rule of professional Waldorf and Statler lookalikes Tom Hicks and George Gillet, who were more arsed about dipping into club funds to redesign bathrooms on their ranches than trying to turn Liverpool into a truly global power.

There were protests every game, marches, high profile emails and gaffs (“BLOW ME FUCK FACE!”), dirty laundry being aired, Jurgen Klinsmann’s phone was being texted, and to make things worse, the team were playing like a gang of dickheads. Collectively, a lot of eyes were taken off the ball. Liverpool were out of the Champions League. Rafa left, Hodgson was appointed, key players were disinterested, no money was available to rebuild. Since that moment on, a once proud sporting institution started to resemble a midget kicking itself in the head.

Then, after years of transfer targets falling by the wayside due to dithering and a lack of funds (names such as Walcott, Vidic, Alves, Villa, Barry), we finally got lucky when FSG came riding to the rescue on their big beautiful American horses, swinging their big thick dicks and promising changes. Money? Yes! We finally had some to spend, and how we spent it! After scrimping, saving and being frugal (Pennant over Simao anyone?) we finally had plans in place to buy who we needed to fit a system and start back on the road to recovery. 100m quid pissed down a drain later (with the exception of a certain Uruguayan with big teeth) and that blueprint was cast aside. We were starting to act like a business, something the club had never previously done. The sentimental (emphasis on MENTAL) support for Kenny Dalglish’s sacking was beautifully over the top and just so us.

So, a poor team, no manager, no plan, no director of football on the books? What now? Oh, I don’t know… how about a media feeding-frenzy regarding the new manager? At last count we were linked with Pep, Jose, Hiddink, De Boer, Laudrup, Klopp, Jogi, Capello, Gullit, Ranieri, Emery, Benitez, Villas-Boas, Rodgers, Martinez, Van Gaal and that bloke who runs Pret A Manger on Castle Street. It seems today the big boys have finally made their minds up, and the hopes, dreams, aspirations and historical significance (cause we love our historical significance don’t we) now rests upon the shoulders of one Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers was my personal choice for manager of the season last term because of the excellent work he had done with Swansea City, so why was there a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that worries me about his appointment. Then it hit me, is a sexual thing! He’s not a big name; he’s just a coach, a coach with one year’s worth of premier league experience. A coach who was relieved of his position at Reading a few seasons ago. A coach who isn’t going to generate a lot of excitement for fans, and probably players alike.

But, peel back the layers of this particular footballing onion however and you’ll find a coach with excellent philosophy who has learnt from some brilliant sources. He studied in Spain during his coaching education, under the coaching staff of Barcelona’s famous “Tika Taka” mantra, and also in Seville and Betis. He also had in a spell in Holland, out of pure “thirst for knowledge”. He applied these practises to the Reading FC academy and did such a good job he was picked up by Chelsea’s then boss José Mourinho to work with the reserves, again, picking up more knowledge. The guys had an education that most UEFA B-Licence holders could only dream of. There’s experience, and then there’s potential, which is what Rodgers offers us. As for his previous job ‘failures’ at Watford and Reading that many Liverpool fans will point to, I’ll point to Rafa’s CV and highlight Real Valladolid and Osasuna as too prime examples of a coach learning his trade.

In a recent interview, he spoke of his footballing philosophy in The Telegraph;

“People don’t notice it with us because they always talk about our possession but the intensity of our pressure off the ball is great. If we have one moment of not pressing in the right way at the right time we are dead because we don’t have the best players. What we have is one of the best teams. Leo Messi has made it very difficult for players, He’s a real team player. If you have someone like Messi doing it then I’m sure my friend Nathan Dyer can do it. It is an easy sell.”

Are we getting the glamour of Pep? No. Are we getting the cock-sure attitude of José? No. Are we getting the experience of Capello? No. What we are getting is a young hungry manager who wants to play football properly with emphasise on team-work and possession. Surely that’s an exciting proposition after the overly cautious football we’ve seen in the last 2 years? Time will tell if it was a sensible appointment, but from what I’ve seen from him so far definitely a step in the right direction. (Although what Andy Carroll makes of ‘Tika Taka’ is a different story, he probably thinks it’s a late night Indian dish)

Guest blog courtesy of @Semtex_Elvis. Give him a follow, he’s a lovely bastard.

A little blog, to share a slightly sad, but mainly hilarious story about a man, his drugs, and his poor spelling.

Our protagonist is one Gary O’Connor. The same Gary O’Connor who missed almost all of the 09/10 season at Birmingham City due (according to BBC Dispatches) to a failed drugs test, concealed as two operations to solve a hip injury.

The date is May the 14th (be with you). A one man justice machine, PC Morrow,  is patrolling Edinburgh’s George Street, known for it’s high end bars and nightclubs. All of a sudden PC Morrow’s justice sense starts to tingle, he looks to his left to spot four men in the back of a white Land Rover. On closer inspection it seems as if O’Connor is holding a piece of paper to his nose. PC Morrow approaches the vehicle. He opens the door to find a “nervous and distracted” O’Connor, alongside a rolled up £20 note and several bags of white powder. In the interest of maintaining Mr O’Connor’s right to be assumed innocent before proven guilty it would be presumptuous to say the white powder was cocaine, but it was definitely cocaine.

Hold on to your funny bones, they’re about to get a double helping of lol pie.

Upon questioning, O’Connor gave police the false name “Johnston”. When asked to spell “Johnston”, O’Connor got as far as “J…..O……S….” before attempting to flee the scene. O’Connor only made it 300m before being caught by the police officer. Now I’m not really sure how Cocaine affects your 400m time, but for an international level striker to only manage to outpace a police officer for 300m is disappointing to say the least. On catching up with the septum loathing tortoise PC Morrow described O’Connor as “very nervous looking, he was out of breath and appeared to be shaking”. O’Connor was then detained and taken to St Leonards station where several bags of white powder were found in various pockets.

There is something undeniably tragic about a once promising striker snorting his career away. But as any Hearts fan will inform you, he’s just a fat junkie bastard.

The story was from the May 29th Edinburgh Evening News, written by Neil Pooran. Words were my own.

Few men manage to achieve the duality of being both a football player and a living, breathing metaphor for their football club. Theo Walcott is one of these men.

Theo Walcott so perfectly represents the Arsenal of the last eight years. A man bursting with potential never quite realised. An occasionally devastating attacking force who unfortunately has the same attitude towards defensive duty as Ryan Giggs has to not having sex with his brothers wife. And in Theo’s own words, a man who has “only been able to find consistency in patches”.

If there was to be an award for ‘most infuriating player’ then Walcott would almost certainly win. If by some cruel twist of fate he failed to win, I’d like to think the eventual winner would imitate the Arctic Monkeys Mercury tribute to Richard Hawley and dedicate the award to Theo, the peoples champion. “call the cops, Theo’s been robbed”.

There have been games I’ve watched him play and whenever he had the ball I just knew he would do something amazing. When he scored the two goals to finish off Spurs in that glorious 5-2 I was sitting in a bar in Prague, completely incapable of expressing my utter joy. Instead resorting to the kind of gargled squeals I would expect to hear while orally pleasuring an Ewok.

However there is a flip side to Walcott., one all too often assigned via a “literally” infuriating sound bite to a “lack of a footballing brain”. The reality is that when his pace is nullified by a deep, organised defence he has little else to offer. Lacking the close control to beat players with skill and with insufficient crossing ability to float in an early cross, he resorts to an infuriating plan B. Said plan B consists of: Step 1) running the ball out for a goal kick/throw in. Step 2) berating the nearest team member, usually poor Aaron Ramsay.

If you were to summarise Walcott’s play, it would be neither of these extremes. The Walcott of this season has been occasionally sublime, occasionally abysmal, but usually just ok. I’ve sometimes forgotten he’s even playing, then lo and behold, he’ll pop up with a goal or assist. Which is great, now and then. But this typifies the majority of his games and he seems to think that’s pretty alright. Perhaps this is a symptom of the lack of competition for his place in the Arsenal 11, something the arrival of Podolski and the continued onslaught of the Ox should sort. Or perhaps this is a symptom of a more general malaise, a lack of a real driving ambition to push on and become one of the very best wingers in the world. Instead content on being a pretty good winger, assured of his place in the Arsenal squad and more or less assured of his place in the England squad.

It’s for these reasons I feel Walcott should not be seen as a first choice winger for years to come. I think he’s a very valuable squad player. But a squad player who wants 100k a week to contribute around 10 goals a season, despite harbouring ambitions of being an out and out centre forward, is perhaps not worth it.

Walcott’s saving grace may be that Van Persie seems to be pretty fond of him. And to say Arsenal are pretty fond of Van Persie would be an understatement on par with saying that I’m pretty fond of boobs. I love boobs, and Arsenal love Van Persie. A man not unlike boobs in the sense that if you give him the right support he will look absolutely amazing, and even if you don’t, he’ll look pretty amazing anyway. If keeping Van Persie meant signing Walcott on then it would be absolutely the right decision to sign him up for another few years. Walcott is by no means a bad player, he’s just not a great one. He could be great, but I’m not sure he can be arsed.

At time of writing it appears as if Chelsea have emerged as champions in the transfer market tug of war over Belgium’s precocious young star Eden Hazard. It has long been the accepted truth that the transfer market tug of war was a by invitation only three-way between Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United (rather depressingly my beloved Arsenal didn’t so much fall at the first hurdle as fall off the starting block, smashing their dignified face on the rapidly disappearing heels of the leagues elite.)

Eden Hazard has been one of the very few genuine superstars available on the open market in recent years and the (presumed) failure of Manchester United to secure his signature should come as a crushing blow to the clubs fans.

There can be no doubt that Manchester United are the most successful team of the premier league era, continuously reinventing themselves after losing their star players. To lose the title on goal difference to the ridiculously resourced City with a poor United squad is a feat only achievable via Glaswegian witchcraft. However with the league going to City, and Chelsea back to winning ways with their Champions league victory, both teams now have the champions kudos to go with their infinite resources and United may not be such an attractive option for top young talent any more.

The popular assumption that United would be an ideal destination due to guaranteed playing time also has to be questioned. If you look at the breakthrough stars of recent United seasons in Nani, Berbatov and Hernandez, all three have found their opportunities limited recently. With Nani facing fierce competition on the right wing from the excellent Valencia, Chicharito sharing the lone striker role with Welbeck and finally Berbatov, a £30 million pound signing, falling from league top scorer to a largely unused substitute.

The fact that Paul Scholes, at 37, was able to effortlessly emerge from his pasty ginger cocoon of retirement and become the “beautiful” butterfly of United’s midfield shows just how desperately United need to invest in quality talent. Whether they can still attract the best in Europe remains to be seen.

%d bloggers like this: