Monday, 29 August 2011

I 8-2 inform you but...

Arsene, Arsene, Arse....

What the hell is going on? That’s the first time he’s ever selected a first XI using a tombola. I’m not sure what the team instructions were either... Let’s keep it shite for the first hour? Go out and depress yourself? It struck me that while United played a fluid 4-4-2, Arsenal played a 0-10-0 with everyone in the hole.
Wenger had his head in his hands before the game started.

Seriously though, I’ve never seen owt like it. You might say the senior players never really came out of their shells at Old Trafford. Of course invertebrates live in shells and this was as spineless a performance as you are likely to see from any team this season.

Arsenal’s great strength – passing, moving, creating – the chief architects of this at present are Arshavin and Rosicky. Like a stampede of horses being fronted by a couple of fat, gelded Shetland ponies.

Andriy and Tomas take a break during training

I’m just guessing that they sit around at training until Pat Rice looks over at ‘em and then they hurriedly break into a bout of gentle trotting til he buggers off again.

Arch victim of Sunday’s debacle was the lad Carl Jenkinson. He’s 19, and looks like he’s been left at Paddington station with a note a round his neck, bless ‘im. Walcott railed at him at one point, which must’ve made buoyed him up. After all there’s not enough space in the universe for what Theo doesn’t know about defending (witness the trip on Evra).

At least Jenkinson was trying, mind, until he became the third straight red card for Arsenal in the Premier League. Each one of them was making their full debut, I believe. Which suggests that the wearing of an Arsenal shirt involves some sort of Faustian pact in which you have to surrender 90% of your brain function.

There was a mitigating circumstance (not, mind you, the one about our boys being tired after midweek – Arsene goes to that option faster that an Allardycean centre-back goes to hitting it long).

No there were eight players out – or eleven depending on who’s doing the maths. Of those the big miss was Vermaelan, the only tent-peg in Wenger’s wind-blown canvass of a defence. Even the Belgian couldn’t have covered for the dithering of Djourou. He’s got all the strength and positional sense of a fledgling sparrow that’s fallen out of the nest.

Van Persie tried to look forward to the next game – home to Swansea, which has banana skin written all over it – and said the team gave of their maximum. Really? That’s the best they could do? Jeez, that might even call an audible ripple of discontent at the Emirates Library.

There was no Song, Wilshere and Gervinho; and Sagna, Gibbs and even Squillaci might’ve helped. But United don’t have Ferdinand, Vidic or Rafael available either. It just so happens that Ferguson has bought replacements – and good ones at that. And that is why this sorry drubbing leaves you pointing the finger at Monsieur Obstinate.

His squad has no depth, except in the matter of tiny midfield tippy-tappers. He’s had the whole summer to line up his targets in central defence, central midfield, centre forward... and he’s signed the Ivorian with the head of a river dolphin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who sounds for all the world like one of them promising English sprinters who turns to shite when he hits his twentieth birthday.

The good news is that Wenger has signed a South Korean who was very much on Fulham’s radar a couple of seasons ago. That’s where he’s at now, picking up Fulham rejects. South Korea must be the most recreational of countries – there’s Parks bleeding everywhere.

So, three days to get back on the trail of some decent players. Somehow you’ll be surprised if he manages to muscle Cahill or Samba over to the Emirates, whereas you just know Harry Redknapp’s going to be standing in front of the press on Thursday morning conjuring footballers out of every box, top hat and sleeve while Kevin Bond plays his Debbie McGee.

Not that Spurs haven’t got a worry or two. Two thumping defeats from Manchester outfits and Harry’s been bleating like a forlorn lambkin about all the transfer speculation surrounding Modric and Crouch. My heart bleeds, H. And Spurs being such a poverty-stricken club n all.

Daniel Levy appears to be the only person left in the country who thinks Modric is going nowhere. £40 million quid you’d get for him, Dan. It’s not like the money’d be wasted, is it? I mean you haven’t got Wenger for a manager.

Still while we crow about North London’s plight – HA! – it all means that the Manchester stronghold on English football has grown all the tighter. Those of us expecting Dzeko to turn from Ugly Duckling into Ugly Duck have been rudely surprised. Mancini’s got that side by the scruff of its neck and in Aguero, Silva and Nasri he’s got a little triangle of delight to rival any that you might have come across while late-night googling.

Meanwhile, Fergie’s latest vibrant rebirth, with Rooney very much at the delivery end, is a joy to behold. I’m not entirely sure about the success of the Wazza barnet, mind you. It still looks like a child has filled in the gaps with a felt-tip to me.

You can't help feeling if a comb-over was good enough for Sir Bobby then... respect the traditions, Wayne

It’s true to say that City’s success is built on obscene wealth while Fergie’s success is built on perceptive purchases and a canny youth squad. Oh, and obscene wealth.

Only Dalglish’s Liverpool threaten the Mancunian dominance, and even then that’s as a nettle threatens a carthorse. It could be a long few years for the ABM brigade.

Oh and re Usain Bolt’s false start and how we might have to change the rules... Bollocks, Mr KFC knew what the rules were and he fucked up. End of. Unless we want to give him his gold medal BEFORE the final and treat the race as his coronation.

As we say on Teesside 'Hard fucking cheese, you dopey bastard.'

Monday, 22 August 2011

Arsene's Goners?

Watching Arsenal thus far is like looking at a mantelpiece at a country manor. Every time Lord Wenger comes down for tiffin, another sterling silver candlestick has gone missing.

"Mon Dieu! Ou est tout le monde?"

The fledgling season has only one talking point thus far. Well you could bang on about Manchester City’s bright start, but why the fuck bother? A brain-damaged monkey knows that eventually the spending will reach a tipping point whereby there are so many decent players in the City squad that they simply can’t help winning the tile.

Mancini’s doing no one any favours by not picking Bonkertelli to start. Dzeko seems to be following the Drogba route to football stardom. One terrible lumbering season followed by a revelatory second effort – he looks as if he’s swapped his feet with Rodney Marsh’s at the moment. And Aguero looks very good indeed. But there’s summat rotten about the state of the Premier League when they can afford to keep Tevez, brooding like a betrayed Spaghetti Western extra, on the bench and still pay him a four-bed terrace in Hull a week.

Oh and there’s also Bill Kenwright, the Oliver Twist of the division, who can’t have any more from the banks to buy anyone. Everton’ll be all right but only cos Moyes works wonders. I bet if he has to paint a door at home he can do two coats using the contents of one tester pot.

But the travails of Arsenal are the real story. The team aren’t playing any differently, i.e, they keep it very well. But do we really want four midfielders who’ve been cloned from Tomas Rosicky? Van Persie is wafting around up front like a schoolgirl in a ballet class, primarily cos Arsenal have forgotten how to create chances.

The only plus so far is the proof of Vermaelen’s value to a back four that played like a bunch of revolving doors last season. That also suggests that Wenger doesn’t have to take a spotter’s guide with him when he goes looking for centre-backs.

Of course things could not have started much worse for Le Prof. Three suspicions already, the last for the comically-named Frimpong – which appropriately enough already sounds like some sort of fashionable and stupid haircut. Me I wouldn’t let the player on that pitch until he’s taken the gaffa tape off.

Here's Frimpong before his mates played that nasty stag night trick on his bonce

For all that the Frimp is a proper holding midfielder, but as with many of Arsene’s recent selections for that position, tackles like Paul Scholes in a blindfold. His second effort, in which he tried single-handedly to answer Liverpool fans’ dreams and transfer Lucas to somewhere in mainland Europe, was deserving of a straight red.

Nasri’s move to guess where is back on, and at Eastlands he can enjoy rubbing shoulders with the likes of several other millionaires who are content in these times of austerity to warm their arses on a subs bench and do half the work of a proper footballer for five times the pay. You can’t blame him, really.

So Arsenal’s cupboard is looking a tad bare, but there is £35 million to spend on someone and about nine days to throw it around. The Wenger wish-list is like one of them long lists that book prizes start off with. Latest front-runners are a bloke called Yann M’Vila and the lad from Lille who’s named after the serpent that hissed in Eve’s ear – the Eden Hazard.

A partner for Vermaelen should be top priority too and frankly it’s no good Arsene frantically rubbing the top of his head like a cold turkeying junkie, he should’ve bagged Gary Cahill already – and long before Cesc finally went home.

Perhaps this is where Wenger’s been least able to get his head around the new world order. Even Fergie didn’t faff about in the transfer market, such is the draw of the Abu Dhabi dirham. The Emirates is decorated by the shirts of greats that have gone before but the chances of Wenger bagging a so-called marquee signing are nil. In fact the possibility of him getting a beach-tent signing aren’t great.

And while we can indulge in a bit of schadenfraude at the Frenchman’s expense – and even that is difficult to maintain when the poor man looks as forlorn as a rain-drenched kitten – Arsenal’s difficulty in keeping hold of its players is a sign of a deeper malaise.

Wenger’s managed to keep a wage structure of sorts in place, and therefore attracted players who can by and large respect that sort of a thing. He’s had to let go of those that find £55k a week an insult, of course, but then if their sole motivation is money do you really want them hanging around? (It’s the same with them bankers we were told would leave the country if we hit them with a one-off tax on their bonuses – tax ‘em and wave the bastards off at the airport, say I).

Wenger is still a believer in bringing players through the youth system, Frimpong being the latest example. I think this is partly Wenger’s preciousness over the way his side must be schooled, but there’s summat endearingly old-fashioned and honourable about it, too.

And when you look over to Nasri’s next home you see a club that survived on a top-class youth squad now entirely overlooking such resources in favour of the latest arrival on the gravy train (one Pullman carriage each, all magnificently appointed with chunks of bling).

We keep hearing about the Chelsea kids too, McEachran especially, but he’s bench dressing still.
Here's Josh McEachran eager to get on the pitch and run rings round the opposition.

The only plus about Everton’s plight is that we get a 17-year old making a debut and looking tip-top from the start. That simply won’t happen at Chelsea or Citeh.

So I hope Wenger can keep 11 players on the pitch and find a way to turn it round, but if even Arsenal can’t find players who want to stay there, lack of trophies notwithstanding, then the Premier League is truly in the Age of Preposterity.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Dick Barton

The Premier League starts… with a whimper.

Thank Christ for Jabbering Joey Barton. It’s hard not to imagine him stepping out of a smashed shop window with a wide-screen telly in his mitts. Everything about the lad reeks of the kind of upbringing that would make an Old Etonian wince.

Of course Joey’s surprise appearance might be considered an attempt by the Geordies to put him in the shop window, but I don’t see anyone clambering over injured Malaysian students to get to the uppity Scouse muppet.

Incidentally, I don’t want to lace this whole blog with references to the lawless hoodied gits that rifled through the shops the other day, except to say that Cameron’s Big Society implied that communities be encouraged to ‘help themselves’ and this might have been misinterpreted.

Any road, it was good that the footy wasn’t postponed everywhere, even if that did allow Joey to do his ‘chippiest kid in the playground’ act.

‘Course Joey’s eloquent tweets seem to give the lie to his reputation of letting his feet do the talking, either with ball, or with the skull of someone who might not be to his liking. He’s got a bit of form with Arsenal following since Abou Diaby’s brainstorm last year when the big midfielder shook Barton around like a drinking straw, got sent off, and Newcastle grabbed an improbable 4-4.

Maybe that’s what was rankling with Alex Song when he used the lad’s calf as a doormat. While there’s a bit of you that, like the Cantona assault on a Palace fan way back when, says "‘kin right, son", there’s also that bit of you that thinks that there’s still a stampy, stropping underbelly to Arsenal that reflects the manager’s schoolgirl petulance.

And Gervinho hit the deck like an encyclopedia off a high shelf. I’m getting right miffed with the apologists that constantly suggest that cos ‘there’s contact’ a pen should be given. Depends on the contact, surely? Defenders will have to spend the whole season making sure that they cut any loose threads of their footy tops cos one waft of a tatty yarn is enough to bring a 6ft striker rocksliding to earth.

Barton was similarly outraged and grabbed Gervinho round the collar. While he was feeling around in his shorts for a cigar and a lighter the Ivorian managed to snake out the sort of slap that couldn’t have wafted the steam of a fresh cup of tea and, after a moment’s reflection, Barton turned into Rivaldo.

Plaintive cries of ‘He punched me, he punched me!’ followed. And Gervinho, forehead ballooning furiously over the tightest headband ever strapped round a human bonce, made a hasty exit. The twit.

Barton’s mark was made but at least contributed to the entertainment which is a damn sight more than the rest of his team-mates managed.

Pardew continued to be stout in his defence of the Shameless extra in the No.7 shirt, insisting that Barton wasn’t deserving of a red card. Then again Pards’s appearances on Match of the Day 2 have been strictly limited since he described a magnificent Michael Essien tackle by saying ‘He’s absolutely raped him,there.’

As Ken Clarke’ll tell you there are different levels of rape – apparently – but I still can’t think what Pardew thought he was saying. It was hard not to sympathise with Wenger’s assertion that the two tusslers should’ve got the same punishment, but maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if the Gooners hadn’t played with the usual clockwork passing patterns and yet finished with all the end-product of the post-Thatcher mining industry.

To be fair to Joey, which is a hard concept to embrace, he had a a top season for the Geordies last year and he is still a very decent midfielder. He’s a good passer, has a decent shot on him and rarely gets caught in possession – of the ball, anyway.

I have this horrible feeling that, given he’s more irritating than one of them tiny spiny fishes that swims up your cock in the River Amazon – and that he can more than string a sentence together – he’s being lined up by sports phone-ins and TV couches everywhere as the latest antagonist of the great British football fan.

In other words, stick him in crap clothes and a Kate Winslet wig and you’ve got Knobbie Savage. Or bring back that naff tash and you’ve got Gary Neville. And football needs its bruisers, its nutjobs, its preeners and primpers, its unhinged, one-eyed pillocks.

Still, it stirred up a weekend of timelessly pedestrian footy. United proved the value of having a goalscorer from the opposition, but didn’t look all that tasty. Rio, like some disobedient poodle, is back on the couch, Vidic is getting creakier too, and De Gea looks flakier than a Gregg’s sausage roll.

Torres looked lively but Chelsea still need an overhaul, the minnows did okay barring poor old QPR. And the worst aspect of the weekend’s games was the injury to Kieron Dyer. I mean I’ve never been a big fan of the lad but no one deserves his level of ill luck. By all accounts he’s been brilliant in training but put him on the pitch and his shins turn to celery.

Finally, the weekend was the crowning achievement of the England cricket team. That’s right, the ruthless oiled machine of the modern game is now England. Three cracking pacemen, a tidy old tweaker, a top six that could not only make a century but, in Cook’s case, bat for a century, and a keeper who counter-attacks like a bearded South African-English Gilchrist.

It’s just right pleasing really even if India’s bowling attack has all the edge of a chicken passanda. It’s only the silly old decent Englishman that wants Sachin to get that 100th hundred you know. Flower n Strauss don’t want the bloke getting so much as a sniff. Pitiless, they are. Isn’t it grand?

Monday, 8 August 2011

Premier Predictions

Well bugger me it’s back. After a summer full of more tittle-tattle than an at-home Ann Summers party (you should hear the missus and her mates guffawing like some Teesside coven - chilling), we are proud to announce the return of The Best League In The World. Or the Fastest. Or, if you have a degree in Creative Accounting, the Richest.

The curtain-raiser was surprisingly provocative. I say make it a derby every year regardless and we might have some fireworks instead of the usual just-off-the-sun-loungers/plane from Malaysia torpor. But is that a pointer to the rest of the season?

Here’s Robbo’s predictions... and remember punters, I am the man who put the ‘Damn!’ into Nostrodamus.


Wenger’s team increasingly resembles a dimly-remembered boy band who had a couple of hits in the early 80s and now hang around outside China White’s hoping the doormen will recall what they used to do.

So far Arsene has studiously avoided strengthening his squad in the right areas. Still no Cahill or Jagielka – just another flashy frontman with a bootlace for a headband. They’re too easy to score against. And for the Joy of Cesc, let the lad go. The top four is beyond them. 6th.


Look just cos McLeish dumps Brum in the mire doesn’t mean Villa get the rebound effect. It’s not as if HSBC are lining up to hire Sir Fred Goodwin is it? (And here he is looking like a bloated Jimmy Somerville).

Villa have offloaded their hard-working wingers Young and Downing and replaced them with a French Stephen Ireland. N’Zogbia is wonderful if he can keep his noddle together, but he won’t be the alpha male at Villa. Not so much a new dawn as the same day as yesterday. 8th.


Well it’s great for us to have a bloke called Goodwillie in the League (my missus’s relatives are called Badcock – true – so if you’re name’s UglyKnob let us know and we can put together a Spaghetti Porn Western).

The Foghorn Leghorns in charge have been crowing about capturing some Galactico or other ever since they arrived at Ewood. No one’s showed up yet. Jones has gone, Samba wants to fly the coop, and the whole thing's going off half-cock. Kean will be the first to bite the managerial bullet.

Anyway I’d rather walk the M25 (in the fast lane) than watch Blackburn. Fingers crossed for 18th.


Bolton have been mixing up the humps up to Elbows Davies with a nodding reacquaintance with the Reebok grass. They’ve got a ruddy awful start, fixtures-wise, mind, and they’ll need to scavenge from the big boys again for a bit of creative nous. Could be tough but my wife has always had faith in the Coyle, so... 11th


Well who the hell knows what to expect here? Roman’s brought in a new broom and the old dust is still lying about the dressing-room. It’s the age-old conundrum for Villas-Boas. How do you get complacent money-bagses to keep it up all-season long? And how the hell do you get Fernando Torres to stop thinking he’s a poor white trash Emile Heskey? And why is Salomon Kalou? 3rd.


How’s the song go... Fairly Cross Ol’ Moysey? Not a whisper from the Toffees in the transfer market save for the Mo Cyzslak looky-likey clinging on to Jagielka and Rodwell like a Christmas kid refusing to share his selection box. While Kenwright’s delving behind the sofas, Moyes'll be lining up the 4-5-1 and praying to God that Saha stops breaking down like a Jeremy Kyle show housewife every five minutes. They’ll start the season like a traction engine and finish it like a dragster all over again. 7th


You kind of forget they’re still there somehow. Everyone’s favourite nightclub bouncer Martin Jol is in charge now. They’ve got Gudjohnsen and Riise for a bit of nous, Zamora’s fit, it’s a tidy squad. Were it not for that fucking Michael Jackson statue you could start taking them seriously. 9th.


Oh shite, another dawn beckons. Can avuncular Kenny keep that Mona Lisa smile for the next nine months, or will he just be another Moaner?

Dalglish’s midfield is so filled with options he'll end up like a pissed bloke at a curry house and find he’s ordered too much. And if he has, then Jordan Henderson is the unnecessary tarka dhal, Joe Cole is the stale naan, and Steven Gerrard the disappointingly lacklustre signature dish.

Having said all that Suarez and Carroll, if he can stay upright on a bar-stool for the season, could be the best front two that's yet to appear in Nuts magazine. THIS COULD BE THEIR YEAR... but it won’t be. 4th.


Oh I’m just bored of ‘em already. All that money and they turn out a team to play Allardycean footy. Dzeko’s a dzoke. Balotelli’s bonkers. Tevez continues to say he’s thirsty for a change – mainly cos he adores the Kia Aura of his agent. They’ve bought a chump in Clichy. And the best English winger of the last ten years continues to see more cameos than your average Antiques Roadshow art expert. For Chrissakes Adam Johnson, leave, son!

Clearly Mancini will muscle them up the table a little further in a way that shows all the daring of a pensioner booking a coach tour to Bournemouth. They’re Blackburn Rovers with genuine money. 2nd.


The great thing about Ferguson is every time he reinvents a team it’s like there’s a new club in town. Cleverley, Jones, Wellbeck, Smalling – they all, like Rooney (despite the patchy top weave) look like old heads on young shoulders.

Now no doubt, His Puceness will be flinging the usual pot-shots at the FA, the refs, the everybody who isn’t us brigade, and it’s amusing that a club that’s spent like they have this summer can still get away with a somewhat Redknappian line of appearing like the poor relations. But it’ll be fascinating to see how this team kicks on. I can’t see ‘em not winning it. And I’d rather them than the big lunks across town. 1st, dammit.


You’ve got to worry for poor old Pards, haven’t you? Well you’ve got to worry for anyone who has to work with Joey Tweet-Tweet Barton.
(I say put Barton and Balotelli in the Big Brother House, turn the cameras off for the night, and send in forensics first thing in the morning).

If they don’t start well, I can see it being bum-squeakingly bad all season. They’ll scrape it though but... and Ba’s a top signing. (You don’t want to be signing for Swansea with a surname like that.) 15th.


Good pies at Carrow Road, they tell me. That’s what’d comfort me if I were a fan. 3-down to Spurs at half-time? So the fuck what, I’ve got a Delia steak n ale and I’m a happy man. They’re so busy planning for the drop they’ve probably bought a birthing pool and their own gas and air. 20th.


Anagram fans will welcome back Neil Warnock. “Colin’s” main job is to keep hold of Adel Taarabt, a man who you can’t mention without using the word ‘mercurial’. (A similar relationship exists between the words ‘Hamilton’ and ‘reckless’; or ‘Flintoff’ and ‘pedalo’).
Word is the R’s will be charging £72 a ticket which may be no more than a bit of metal in the fluff of your Paul Smith jacket for the likes of Briatore and Middle Earth’s very own Ecclestone, but it’s a cynical fucking hike on the purse-strings of the poor saps who sat through years of non-achievement with grim resignation. For that reason alone, 19th.


Pulis is a permanent scowl isn’t he?
Slowly but surely we are learning to love the stout yeomen of the Potteries. And like us, they are learning that life doesn’t start and end with the towelette attachment to Rory Delap’s shorts. There's a kind of charm in their charmlessness.

As long as they prepare a comfy corner of the physio’s room for Jonathan Woodgate I think nowt much’ll change. An honest to goodness 10th.


I think Steve Bruce is just a shite manager? Never has a man presided over a team that positively binges on bad results. Unlike Brucey, Sunderland are downright bulimic.

As ever he’s lobbed some lucre about and ended up with a couple of creaky artisans from Fergieland and a likely lad in Connor Wickham. When I heard Bruce had bagged him I thought he must be a Ghanaian called Can’t-ee Kick’em.
Mackems prepare for more feast or famine. 14th.


Look I don’t know if their fans care two hoots about this season given that after watching Cardiff finish three successive promotion-chasing seasons like one of them twats in a home-made flying machine jumping off Brighton pier, they've got there first.

Nice to have Angel Rangel back on Match of the Day, mind, joining the ranks of Looney Rooney, Patchy Squillaci and Stephen Hunt. The Swans will play some nice stuff but can they hold out at the back? I give ‘em a hope. 17th.


On Saturday, there was a worry that Modric had secretly joined Man U but it turned out it was just one of the mascots holding hands with Carrick (and increasingly Carrick needs his hand holding). Still here is, still trying out an all-blue kit.
‘Arry must be gagging to trim the squad of some expensive weeds, mind.

David Bentley must be there to breathe out carbon dioxide for the house plants. And I swear I saw a card advertising Robbie Keane’s services in a telephone kiosk last time I was in London.

It’d be nice to think Spurs will tiptoe into the top 4. But there’s more chance of Sepp Blatter retiring gracefully to an Alpine log cabin (and if he does I’ll be the one hollering from the ski lift in a bid to start that avalanche). 5th.


Roy worked the wonders he can work with lesser mortals last season. Give him top-of-the-range internationals like Joe Cole and he hasn’t got a clue.

No reason to believe he can’t weave more magic this year. The resources look meagre but then again the chairman has done this really weird thing of trying to balance the books rather than go pissing in the Arabian or Mid-West American wind for a slush fund. They’ll be fine, man. 12th.


N’Zogbia’s gone now. Cleverley’s back in red. Who’s left? And where the hell did they come from? Martinez is the one huge plus for the Latics and his bit of nous should see them clamber up the table a little.

But they really are becoming an unfeasible tale of survival – in 2012, prepare yourself for the story of how, trapped under a fallen bus, Hugo Rodallega manages to cut off his own arm and arrive at the DW just in time to nod in a far-post winner and consign Blackburn to relegation. 13th


Ah, doughty old Mick. As bluff as they come, he makes Geoff Boycott sound like a Harrow-educated diplomat. If you aren’t chuffed that Wolves stayed up then you’re either a Baggie or a berk.

Having said that there’s nowt complicated about the Wolves way. And now if you get past Karl ‘De Jong’s a Pussy’ Henry you’re going to run into Joltin’ Roger Johnson or George Elokobi, who eats brick shithouses for breakfast. Enough spine to stay another day. 15th.

That's it. Boro for the FA Cup, obviously. Obviously.