Monday, 21 March 2011

The Citeh Snore

Well it's Run-In time and the irritating pattern of the season has changed very little.

It’s frustrating that United remain just out of reach, like some unruly kid that keeps ducking under your arm when you really think you’ve got the little bleeder cornered.

Fergie’s touchline ban saw him up in the stand on a trimphone from the 1980’s, supposedly calling his minions on the bench. Is he allowed to do that? How’s that a punishment?

'Sorry Fergie? You want me to pull off Hernandez at half-time?'

The FA have said to his Knightship 'You're grounded son! Now go to your room! Oh by the way I've topped up your mobile pay as you go and there's a bottle of your favourite claret in the airing cupboard. Love you!'

The Gooners continue to play a back four as familiar with the art of defending as Eric Chabal is with flower-arranging. Almunia wandered out of his box like a bloke who’s suddenly discovered he's gone in the Ladies bogs by accident. Hopeless.

Wenger's answer to the psychologial crisis in his defence is to bring in that pillar of rational thought Jens Lehmann. Hmm. He'll be getting Dale Winton in soon to give a bit more bite to the midfield.

Chelsea on the other hand have regained a bit of bumptious swagger if you overlook the distinctly fragile Fernando. Blues fans are not on his back yet but Torres still looks like he’s carrying a heavy burden. Where’s the pace gone? Have those overworked hamstrings twanged too often? He looks nowt less than a Spanish Michael Owen right now.

Or a Castillian Sheva. Perhaps in six years time Torres’ll be back at Atletico and reminding us of what he once had. But the omens aren’t good. And Liverpool’s head honchos must be smirking like April Fools Day Pranksters at the £50 million they got for a toothless nag.

David Luiz, on the other hand, is top notch. You need a certain self-confidence to get away with a barnet like his (although Marouane Fellaini would spit on such coiffurial restraint) and this lad is right to have it.

Here's David Luiz as a toddler. Bless!

Chelsea was my tip at the start of the season and with the bronchitic Arsenal choking and the corridors of Old Trafford getting clogged up by defenders on trolleys the Blues might yet nick it.

More likely is United bagging the league and Chelsea dumping them out of Europe. We'll see.

One club that won’t be in the final shakedown is Man City. I’ve heard Citeh fans saying a top four finish’d be great and that the club are just building but I have to say I’ve found them a right bloody infuriating lot to watch this season.

The main problem is the fact that the footy they play is utterly tedious, especially when up against a team in the top half. Mancini’s selection at Stamford Bridge couldn’t have been more miserable had he had Stockport County’s budget.

But given that money pours out of Abu-Dhabi like chocolate flows through a Willy Wonka factory, you’d think Mancini might be up for putting together something that teeters towards a style that might just pass, on a good day, for enter-flaming-tainment.

I tell you what, you wouldn’t give Roberto £300 million to design you a house, would you? He’d just build a big solid grey concrete box with iron gates everywhere and CCTV at every door. I suppose you might have David Silva watering the flowers in a couple of window-boxes but that’s your lot as far as flamboyance is concerned.

It’s not like they haven’t kept spending the money. But Balotelli seems to have more loose screws than a mother of fifty-seven kids. There’s a lot of talk about body language these days and Mario’s is easier to read than most. Right now, I reckon his body is saying is saying ‘I’m barking mad, me’. And only someone temperamentally unsuited to the pressures of top-flight footy could get a grass allergy.

"Please, gaffer, let us keep the snood n gloves"

Actually I needed a new TV the other day so I bought a Marioballo telly. It didn’t stay on for long.

Mind you even a sneezing itchy-eyed Balotelli’d do a better job for you than Edin Dzeko. I’ve seen shopping trolleys with a better first touch and his awareness of others couldn’t be worse if he played with a bag over his head. He's not lazy, or potty, just a bit shit.

The aggrieved skipper Carlos might not hang around much longer if he constantly has to cope with either Nutty or Slack as his partner upfront.

In the end Citeh’ll win summat – maybe even the FA Cup – but I preferred Sparky’s Citeh when they were throwing caution into a very strong wind and just about winning 4-3.

Meanwhile we’ve got the latest episode in the Lame Duck Meets Damp Squib farce that is Fabio Capello’s England. It’s not the Italian’s fault that England have a game against Wales followed by a friendly v Ghana. I mean What the Fuck?

When you look at how sports are administered in this country – and you only have to look at the England’s cricket schedule this winter to realise it’s not just the FA - you’ve got to wonder whether an aquarium of randomly quizzed octopuses might do a better job.

Meanwhile John Terry, a man so unpopular he wouldn’t win a Mr. Unpopularity contest cos no one wants him to win anything, is back as skipper. Capello hasn’t spoken to Rio yet. The idea that they’d understand each other is preposterous anyway.

Terry is a natural leader, I’m told. And yes, he has got a big gob and he gets stuck in. And I dunno, what with the centre-forward’s elbows and the left-back’s handguns, it’s hard not to think that Terry is the epitome of the England footballer right now. And as such, he’s the man to lead us through the Oblivion that is Capello’s England.

PS Well done Matt Jarvis! (‘Boro born!)

Monday, 14 March 2011

Arsene Around

Gooners. RIP, almost. Well for another year any road.

There are questions that recur in life. Why when it is so necessary does water tasted so fucking bland? Why can’t Paul Scholes tackle? Who watches Homes Under The Hammer? But my favourite at the mo: How long has Arsene Wenger got?

'Taxi! S'il vous plait!'

There’s no way Arsenal would ditch the Frenchman completely – his presence runs through Arsenal like that yeller streak down Audley Harrison’s spine.

And your average supporter – and by that I don’t mean Croydon born and bred but Man U through and through, I mean those of us that are through a third set of dentures having ground down the previous choppers watching a never-ending clump of numpties let us down - we’re still thinking we’d kill to be still in four competitions come March, even if we’re out of three by, well, not much later in March.

But Wenger did two things when he came to Arsenal. He won trophies; and he did it in a nice way. I say ‘nice’ – that’s overlooking the fact that in Winterburn, Bould, Adams and Keown there was already in place a set of defenders so intimidating that Wes Craven could’ve thrown ‘em straight into a movie without giving the lass in make-up so much as a text message.

Hindsight’ll tell you that Wenger’s Invincibles were founded on Henry’s goals and more to the point a rock solid defence with the best holding midfielder the Premier League’s seen in Patrick Vieira. (If you tell me it was Roy Keane I’d be hard pressed to disagree so I’d suggest a tie-break between them. Give em a 12-inch deep-crust pepperoni each and he that has the least mozzarella left on him after twenty minutes is the winner. Although I think they already tried that in 2004.

And what sort of bloke would bring a pizza into work anyway? What next? A twelve-bore shotgun?)

Incidentally, anyone else notice that Sr Torres told La Marca that the atmos at Chelsea is far better than it was at Liverpool (obviously that was before that twinkly little tinker Kenny came back in). He said: “Here, you don’t have to prove you are a professional, it is assumed.”

Yeah, apparently that Jamie Carragher couldn’t hit a frigging elephant with an air-rifle let alone a student. And Nando says there’s lots of laughs and japes at the Bridge too. Like what, a sweepstake for how long it takes Drogba to get up after some defender breathes on him? Ho, ho. Or the who-can-take-the-laziest-penalty competition. (Anelka judges that one as it’d be unfair to let him compete).

Jeez, if them boys in blue are assumed to be professional then the world has truly gone tits up. Which of course it has for way too many poor souls, so let’s not dwell there.

Where was I? Wenger, yes.

You compare that Pizzagate 11 to the one he might put out today and where is the flinty midfielder? Where is the 25-goal a season striker? Where is the Campbell/Toure centre-back pairing. On Saturday Djourou wore the expression of a surprised heron chick and the eager Koscielny is horribly worrying, not least cos, like Lee Van Cleef before him, he is has a profile even when he's looking straight at you.

I suppose at least the last three results give the explanation for the question ‘Why the long face?’

There’s no doubt that this latest collection of Wenger Boys are all Arsene’s own work. He is pretty much to blame for their success or failure. The fact is all these kids have been brought up to keep the ball. Ping it about. One-twos, give-and-gos. Lovely.

Trouble is no one’s ever taught them how to do owt else. Now you might say they’re trying to emulate Barca (oops, man-size tissues out for the pundits). But even I’ve seen Barca bung Pique up front for the last ten minutes. And any road, Barca’s players do it way better. The little dinked-pass by Iniesta and the sneaky finish by Messi after Cesc’s ‘Sign Me Boys’ backheel last week... you don’t see Arsenal unpicking a defence that ruthlessly. At least not nearly as often.

And so teams do what they have to against the North Londoners. And that’s what Man U did on Saturday. He explicitly did it as it happens. Seven defenders on the park. One bank of four, one bank of five, lone striker, defend from the edge of your box and... let ‘em have the ball. Birmingham’s tactics in other words.

And then play it long and watch the Clouseauesque back four try and deal with you. It’s not sophisticated but by ‘eck it works. Arsenal’s travails against weaker teams in the FA Cup just illustrate their frailty.

Beauty is skin-deep they say in which case Wenger may have put together a side that is as beautiful as they come. But it’s a kind of, I dunno, that lass out of the Amelie films beauty.

Lovely to look at but, bless, you wonder if it couldn’t be a bit dirtier. (That’s a tad Keysish but you take my point.)

Now I should say that I love what Arsene has brought to our footy. We’re a better place, even with the hissy fits, the whinges and them terrible bouts of temporary blindness. But time is up for him if you ask me. And some bloke on 606 came up with the replacement:

Owen Coyle. Took Bolton – plodding alehouse grinders in the Allardyce mould. Taught them to use the grass but never eschews a big hump up to Cap’n Elbows when he needs it. Might just lead the Trotters to Cup Glory as homage to that epitome of all things un-Arsene Nat Lofthouse. And Arsene still overseeing like an elderly Merlin.

Of course fans of the victors’ll be making two bloody expensive trips to Wembley. Please get the semis back on neutral territory in a venue that suits the supporters , not the pockets of the bleeding FA!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Give That Man a Sainthood!

I think it’s official. Kenny Dalglish is the purest manifestation of the Divine. Soon Scousers will be flocking to the unveiling of a plaque in Dalmarnock reading ‘Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish, footballer, manager, seraph, was born here.’ Certainly, there’s not a bloke from the red half of Mersey side who wouldn’t happily allow King Kenny to larrup them with a carpet beater after Sunday’s 3-1 win.

Get thee behind me Satan

I can’t say I wasn’t jumping off me seat with every tiddly toe-poke from Kuyt as well. The boyish Dutchman has endeared himself to Koppites with a work-rate that makes your average anthill look like a Top Gear Mexican. There’s always the impression that all that energy doesn’t get converted into owt but to be fair the lad’s been slung out on the right for a couple of seasons doing the Benitez graveyard shift.

Turned out he was an annoying little goal-hanger all along. Heh-heh. ‘Course he wasn’t the star of the show, mind. We’ll give that to the very impressive Luis Suarez. His teeth are in good company: Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and now this lad with the horse-choppers.

But great footballers aren’t built on their looks – unless you’re my missus, who seems to think David Bentley’s got a lot going for him. This Uruguayan is as slippery as the notoriously difficult to catch Soap Eel. And with Andy Carroll lumbering on to the pitch like summat out of Lord of the Rings things are definitely on the up for Liverpool.

Dalglish compounded that feeling by betraying hardly and signs of euphoria during his post-match interview. If you look hard enough you can see a smirk, but downplaying such a victory is a masterstroke. Or maybe it’s just a tad honest.

Man U were crap. Three defeats in five and you can’t say it hasn’t been coming. If you take player of the season thus far, Nemanja Vidic, out of the defence there’s not a lot there. A nasty little nerk in front of the back four might’ve helped. It reminded you of why Nicky Butt got his fair share of games for United, and Fletcher must’ve been gnawing his arm off on the bench just waiting to get into the likes of Suarez and Meireles.

Not that there wasn’t even malice out on display. Jamie Carragher’s challenge on Nani was plain evil. Even so, Nani didn’t make things better for himself by recovering enough to sprint after the ref before tumbling to the floor again as the second wave of agony kicked in. Is this what passes as acting in Lisbon? I bet the Portuguese version of Casualty is a veritable orgy of howls and writhes and heads in hands.

Look it's Portugal's top drama queen taking a break from diving practice

To be fair Nani is out for three games now, Carra’s karate kick was as bad as it looked. It’s that when Nani goes down he usually gets the Drogba treatment – someone scuttles on with a magic sponge, the poor victim hobbles to the touchline in a parody of a victim of trench warfare and five minutes later the bleeder’s tormenting the back four as if Jesus Christ himself was the club physio.

Fabael or Rafio or whatever that pre-school doppelganger’s name is had a flying hack at Skrtel n all and my favourite bit of the match followed as the two teams clustered together in a post-closing time pub car-park melee while Dowd stood there with his arms folded like a quietly exasperated father of twenty-two. At least Phil was even-handed in his generosity.

Dowd wasn’t the only ref to get it in the neck this weekend. We had the usual gleeful brains trust review of decisions by Clattenburg, Halsey and the officials at the Emirates. As usual we get the pundits and the managers hollering for ‘consistency’.

Be nice if the managers heeded their own advice. Arshavin’s disallowed effort at Arsenal was mentioned to Steve Bruce who more or less said it was brilliant that the bloke had got it wrong. When the boot’s on the other foot Bruce always does that double-speak tosh of saying ‘I hate criticising officials but...’

Meanwhile Holloway and McCarthy showed a deeper understanding of the travails of the ref – Big Mick admitting that he might just’ve felt less charitable if Halsey’s decision to deny Stearman a very legitimate goal had proved terminal.

But the thing is, as some wiseacre put it on the 5Live phone-in, you look at the Footy Rulebook and it says ad nauseam ‘in the referee’s opinion’. That’s how decisions are made. And too many times the frigging imbeciles of post-match analysis forget that a ref – and as far as I can tell they seem like a decent bunch of blokes apart from that lass who knows the offside law better than Captain Caveman and Andy Gray – has only one view of the incident.

If you listen to a lot of them you’d believe that a ref was capable of the sort of visual pyrotechnics you get in Inception. (I watched that last weekend. It’s bleeding potty isn’t it? Like In the Night Garden for grown-ups. Although there are several regular boozers in the Blue Bell who believe In The Night Garden is for grown-ups.)

Here's David Cameron looky-likey Iggle Piggle wondering how it is Mark Clattenburg can live with himself

Ferguson’s post-match comments after the Anfield debacle were among his most lucid of the past three or four weeks. In fact it’s a policy he should stick to. Martin Atkinson might agree. The notion that Atkinson is neither strong nor fair is tantamount to slander. The FA should haul Ferguson over the coals. Otherwise we’ll have Rafa Bloody Benitez shuffling into view with his latest dossier and rather than dismiss him as football’s David Icke we’ll have to start paying attention to the beardy conspiracy theorist.

Oh and by the by, I tipped Chelsea for the title in August and I may well be proved right. (And if that doesn’t finish ‘em off nowt will).