Critics Corner.

Opinions. And LOTS of them.

Dirk The Digger lays Chelsea to Rest

Posted by Sports Snob on January 22, 2007

That was nice, wasn’t it? Write an article about Mourinho which isn’t too scathing, and he dumps this result in Liverpool fans’ laps. We should be nice to him more often, I reckon.

The Backdrop

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Before today, Benitez had played Mourinho in the league five times. And lost five times. The most memorable of those losses was back in August 2005, when Chelsea hammered Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield. This seems to have worked in Benitez’s favour – the shock to the system then has resulted in Liverpool racking up wins and choking teams ever since. After all the drama generated by the situation at Chelsea, a lot of it by himself, Mourinho probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind, as far this fixture went. If relationships are indeed strained, you wouldn’t put it past Mourinho to dump Chelsea deep in it before pushing off at the end of the season. Further aspersions shall not be cast on his character. Promise.

To the game. Liverpool started at a high tempo, as they seem to have done quite a bit this season, attacking the Anfield Road End. Paolo Ferreira and Michael Essien looked a little rusty, and Liverpool were getting the ball into the box fairly regularly. Sensing a weakness, Jamie Carragher punted a long ball into the box, aiming for the hard-working Dirk Kuyt. Ferreira looked hopelessly out of position, and compounded his initial (positional) error with a slip, which allowed Kuyt to head the ball around him and volley into the back of the net from around 10 yards out. Cech didn’t have a chance. Four minutes gone, 1-0 to the Reds.

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Minutes later, Riise spurned an opportunity from six yards out, after working his way around Ferreira in the box. His right-footed shot was at a good height for Petr Cech to beat away, but it really should have been 2-0. Riise reminds me of a footballing version of Goran Ivanisevic. His left foot is dynamite, as he demonstrated in the second half with a thunderbolt from nearly 40 yards out, which rattled the crossbar under the Kop. Mind, I think a few of the fans in there were praying he would get it on target, because both teams had until then been hitting Row Z shots into the ancient stand with alarming regularity.

Pennant Cechs in with stunning goal

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In spite of a few threatening spells of possession, Chelsea never really threatened, and the game was taken almost out of their reach when Jermaine Pennant popped up 20 yards out to score his first goal in Liverpool colours. A long ball into the box was headed down to him just outside the area, and his dipping volley had Cech stretching his 6 foot 7 frame to no real use, as the ball cannoned off the underside of the crossbar into the goal. Barmy stuff, and a wonderful goal!

Arjen Robben was forced to come off not too soon after the goal, having gone down in a heap challenging for the ball in the air. His right leg seemed to twist under his body, and even though he came back on for a while, Jose was forced to being on Shaun Wright-Phillips, initially down the left wing.

The rest of the first half saw Chelsea under the cosh, except for a 15 minute period when Liverpool were temporarily reduced to 10 men. An aerial challenge between Xabi Alonso and Didier Drogba left the Spaniard on the deck with a split lip and blood all over his face. Stitches were a must, obviously, although whether they numbered 5 or 15 is unnecessary speculation, to say the least. The best they had to offer, though, didn’t really trouble Liverpool too much. The hard-working Drogba and expansive Lampard (his passing wasn’t too bad today) did manage to get Chelsea into the area on occasion, but Jamie Carragher was a rock at the back, challenging in the air and on the floor to keep Chelsea’s talent at bay.

The second half:

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The second half saw a lot more possession from Chelsea early on, although they were unable to force a significant save out of Pepe Reina, who looked solid today. His distribution wasn’t too bad either, but that may be due to the wind. The one scare Liverpool did have came about as a result of a defensive error from the otherwise excellent Steve Finnan. He failed to clear his lines, and Lampard came charging into the box, only for the ball to rebound off him and into Reina’s arms. Lucky break for Liverpool, and a promise of intent from Chelsea. Indeed, the period was played at a very high tempo Liverpool counter-attacking with genuine intent and Chelsea trying to breach the meanest home defence in the league.

A couple of moments which did have me in tears came within seconds of each other. Chelsea won a free kick just outside the box, in the left channel. Liverpool’s three man wall included Xabi Alonso, for some strange reason, considering his face had already been injured once that day. Up against the likes of Lampard, Drogba and Ballack, he must have been thinking ‘What am I doing?’, as he tried to defend the free kick facing his own goal. His teammates were having none of it though, and he was forced to turn around. I was a little worried myself. Heck. What followed was shambolic.

Drogba Scores – Not in the way you’re thinking though

Drogba was stood over the ball, with Ballack nearby. Clearly, the plan was to roll it over to Ballack, who would then set it up on a plate for Drogba’s dinner. The wind blew the ball off its spot slightly, and Drogba bent over to shape it up again. Ballack, however, seemed a little distracted, and seemed to be telling one his teammates to bugger off. Drogba wasn’t paying too much attention either, and kicked the ball gently to Ballack, who seemed almost surprised to see the ball rolling between his legs. A blooper in the same class as Robert Pires’ ‘air-kick’ against Manchester City a couple of years ago.

Liverpool didn’t look back from there, and defended from the front, with Dirk Kuyt dropping deep to help out what already looks like the best midfield pairing in the Premiership. It could have been three, had he converted a delightful chipped pass from Steven Gerrard. His volley flew inches over the Liverpool crossbar and into the instinctively ducking Kop.

All in all, a good win for Liverpool against a Chelsea team who really ought to have more strength in depth, considering the billions at their disposal. They missed John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho through injury/illness today, and the suspension of Claude Makelele didn’t help things. Petr Cech was back, but still looks understandably tentative, in spite of his special helmet.

Man of the Match: Dirk Kuyt. His energy and running had Chelsea scrambling all day long. Dropping deep to help out the midfield, and linking up well with pretty much everyone on the pitch. Scored the first goal with an instinct not seen from Liverpool’s strikers since Michael Owen left.

Oasisboy

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Posted in Chelsea, EPL, Football, Liverpool | 2 Comments »

Is it time for Sachin to go?

Posted by Sports Snob on January 20, 2007

“…The next six weeks will decide the fate of many cricketers who will be playing against the West Indies and Sri Lanka, and Sachin Tendulkar is no exception to that…”

This line in an article here passed off rather silently without raising too many eyebrows and with good reason. After the batting performance in the third test in South Africa, I started writing a post on why Sachin should take a break from the game and come back with renewed energy.

But the selectors had different ideas. Vengsarkar and co have made him vice-captain and if the team fails in the upcoming series, Dravid could very well be on his way out. But is making Sachin captain the right move in that case?

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A long bad run

Sachin’s performance in the final test match against South Africa was embarassing. He was doing no justice to his stature as the world’s premier batsman or a senior member of the Indian team. This isn’t a recent phenomenon though. The little man has been in poor form in both forms of the game for around two years now. He has made just over 1000 runs at an average of 38 in the last 2 years in the one day game and around 800 runs at an average of around 34 in the test game. These numbers stack up poorly against his career statistics and have now put him as far outside the top 10 bracket of International batsmen as he has ever been in the last ten years.

Is it time?

So, is it time for Sachin to leave while still being regarded as a force to reckon with? While he is the best judge of that, I am fairly sure every man and his dog have an opinion on this one. That he still loves the game is obvious from the enthusiasm he displays on the field but seventeen years at the top have taken their toll. There isn’t an unbroken bone or untorn muscle and the body takes longer to respond to what the mind asks of it. Add to this the media and general public speculation on his form, stance, inability to play left-arm spinners and what not. Throw in the burden of expectations that he has worn so lightly for over a decade and we can still hardly fathom what this man goes through. Sachin has rendered yeoman service to Indian cricket and that is irrefutable.

But even a player of Sachin’s stature must deliver the goods regularly and prove himself to be in the team. Atleast that is the expectation, given that the team and the game are bigger than any individual. Sachin has failed to deliver over an extended period now. The fact that he was the second highest run-getter against the Proteans speaks badly of the rest of our batting and is no excuse.

Do I suggest that Sachin be dropped? Sycophants will want to hunt me down for this sacrilegious thought but anyone who has been following his career is now wondering how much longer Sachin will agonize us with his form. He will show us glimpses of genius with stunning drives and powerful cuts and then edge a ball to the slips when on 30. Another bad series and the blood-bayers would probably be right in their demands for a Sachin exclusion.

The End: A forced retirement?

The selectors though, will not drop Sachin, not unless they want to earn the wrath of the entire country and looks like he isn’t going to take the break I suggested. So, the only way for the career to end is a retirement but not just yet. His continued inclusion in the team should be contingent on the performance in the next series. If he fails, I don’t think there is anything blasphemous about dropping the great man from the team the euphemistic way of doing which would be to demand his retirement following a farewell series (which might or might not be the World Cup). But why one more series? Well, most players performed considerably worse in the South African series and I don’t see any replacements really. Also, while he looks like he is over the hill, he might turn in performances in this series and the World Cup that make me look like a fool.

A wish …

These are the last legs of the greatest Indian career ever seen. Miles and miles of newsprint will be devoted to the years at the top and the spanking shots when he is gone. But most cricket lovers around the world would like to see this symphony rise to a crescendo and go out at the top. I hope it starts to build-up now or it might remain forever unfinished.

Prof

What are your views on this issue? Leave a comment. (If you think that I might be missing some parts of my anatomy or should stick things up some place, please keep those opinions to yourself, Thank You. )

Related Post: Sachin’s greatest one day knocks

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Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 3 Comments »

Sania crashes out, Roddick to meet Safin

Posted by Sports Snob on January 18, 2007

Sania, disappointment

Sania Mirza disappointed yet again and crashed out of the Australian Open in the second round. She lost to Akiko Nakamura of Japan who is ranked 10 places below her in the WTA rankings. Coming off a good run in the Hopman Cup and the other lead-up tournaments, there was a promise of better things to come at the first grandslam. But unfortunately for her “billion fans” and her, an inconsistent performance proved inadequate. Let us see how she handles this loss and how the rest of this season shape up.

Roddick versus Safin 

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If there is any player in the Australian Open draw that Roddick should want to avoid like the plague (other than Federer ofcourse), it is Marat Safin. The Russian who is making his billionth comeback is probably the second most talented man on the ATP circuit. And, he is the only guy to have beaten Federer in a Grandslam on a surface other than clay since the beginning of 2005. It is unfortunate for both players that this matchup had to happen so early in the tournament.  Blame it on the mercurial Russian whose performances belie the talent he possesses.

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Roddick is in the finest form he has been in for 12 months now. The serves are powerful and clicking, the powerful backcourt shots are in place and he appears fairly confident of his place on the court. Even given all this, he would be well advised to take Safin seriously. That man coming off two exhausting five set matches must be feeling like a polar bear in Chennai. But give him an opening and he will demolish you, if he fails to self-destruct that is. Safin is his own cyanide pill. You can find a previous post on Safin here.

Given current form, Roddick should win. But I would rather watch Safin progress in the tournament because he is capable of better tennis and in my opinion, has a better chance of beating Federer. Go Marat (ideal point to crack a Borat joke or pun… none come to mind right away)!

– Prof

Posted in Australian Open, Tennis | 1 Comment »

Sania Mirza moves into Round 2 of the Australian Open

Posted by Sports Snob on January 16, 2007

Women’s Singles – 1st Round
Olga Savchuk UKR 3 5

Sania Mirza IND 6 7

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Sania Mirza beat Olga Savchuk of Ukraine to advance to the second round of the Australian Open. If she moves to the third round, there is a potential matchup against the Swiss Miss, Martina Hingis.

Anybody for Mirza in the 3rd round? If yes, can she beat the Swiss Miss (whom she might meet)? How far in the tournament will Sania go?

Nice article about Sania and Anna Ivanovic finding fitness to improve their power.

Quote of the day- “The heat in Australian tans you. You can feel the sun burning your legs during changeovers. In Hyderabad, the sun isn’t that hot. I don’t know if it’s the ozone or whatever.” – Sania

Prof

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Posted in Australian Open, Sania Mirza, Tennis | 6 Comments »

PHL: Pakistan Hockey League?

Posted by Sports Snob on January 16, 2007

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The Indian Hockey Federation in all its collective wisdom, decided to start the Premier Hockey League in an attempt to revive the lost spectator interest in India’s national sport, and as a showcase for the many talented and unsung players of the sport. Many, especially the media, hailed it as the only good decision that Gill and his bunch of cronies had taken in a long while. TV channels were all gung-ho, what with all the television friendly rule changes and all. And a huge publicity blitz resulted. Hell, I even spotted people wearing Chennai Veerans, Bangalore Hi-Fliers (this was before ING Vysya Lionised them) T-shirts. For a moment, everyone thought hockey was back at the forefront of the Indian sportslover’s imagination. And then the games started…

PHL 2005 and 2006 were both damp squibs at best. In 2005, the teams still had no clue how to strategically utilise the time-outs, and the basic realisation that shorter periods of play meant that you had to go out on an all-out attack still had not dawned on them. They were still playing the then internationally standardised tactic of taking the ball into the opponents area, and then aiming at their feet to earn penalty corners. This hardly made for free flowing hockey, and spectators soon got bored. 2006, was more of the same with even more penalty corners, and drag flickers like Len Aiyappa ruling the roost.

PHL 2007 was preceded by an even bigger media blitz than ever before, with celebrity endorsements, movie tie-ins (Bhaganbhag), catchy taglines (Garv Nahin Tho Kuch Nahin) etc. But more importantly, the format of the league was changed with the two tier system being dropped in favour of a more easy-to-manage-and-follow single tier system. Also out went the perennially underperforming teams viz. Imphal Rangers, Delhi Dazzlers and the Lucknow Nawabs. And you had the entire Pakistan national hockey team on action, with as many as 12 of their players spread amongst the 7 teams. Given this, and IHF’s bullheadedness in not allowing some of India’s finest (though one may argue that Dhanraj Pillay is over-the-hill, the fact that every team wanted him in their folds speaks a different story) to plat the tournament, it hardly comes as a surprise that this year’s edition has been dominated by the Pakistanis.

Dominant Pakistanis

 

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Rehan Butt, arguably Asia’s lone hockey superstar these days, has been in sparkling form for the Bangalore Lions. Len Aiyappa’s back injury has meant that the PHL’s top team and defending champions cannot rely solely on their penalty corner conversions to ensure victories and has seen them adopt a more attacking style of play, attempting to score as many goals as possible without relying on set plays. And Rehan Butt, with his lightning quick speed and ability to score from insane angles has led from the front. The other Pakistanis aren’t doing too bad either. For example Shakeel Abbasi has been the lone warrior in an otherwise dismal performance by the Hyderbad Sultans. Even the Indians are getting the hang of the Pakistani style of play, with Gagan Ajit Singh giving the Bangalore Lions a taste of their own medicine when his Sher-e-Jalandhar team thulped them 7-1.

PHL, might not have been the platform for Indian hockey players that it was meant to be, but on the other hand, we are seeing some good enjoyable attacking hockey once again, and that can only be good news. Bring in more Pakistani players, I say. Or Pakistani teams even; Karachi Blazers and Rawalpindi Bombers, anyone?

Thejaswi Udupa

Posted in Hockey | 3 Comments »

Australian Open 2007: Preview

Posted by Sports Snob on January 14, 2007

Roddick beat Federer! Under normal circumstances, when two players who are in the top five in the world meet each other, we wouldn’t think this is that much of an upset. But Federer’s record over the last two seasons have given him an aura of invincibility. Roddick has beaten the Fed only twice in fifteen meetings and Federer last lost to Andy Murray quite some time back last season: not invincible, but close.

Australian Open Preview

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It’s the middle of January and the first major of the tennis calendar is upon us. The Australian Open doesn’t get the noise that Wimbledon and the US Open generate but it comes early in the year and tennis fans starved of grandslam action for five months eagerly lap it up. It is time for self appointed critics to comment on players’ strategies and serves, predict winners and comment on who will make it big in the next two weeks, months or even years. And yours truly is going to embark on such a mission though I restrict myself to just the next two weeks.

Men

Does Roddick’s victory mean anything different for this year’s Australian Open? Does anybody change their predictions on the basis of this result? You would be a fool to bet against Fed based on this match. It is a new season and even Federer might require sometime to get back into his groove. But even when he is not in form, you are going to need a flawless performance and a bad Fed day to beat the man like Safin got two years back at Melbourne. So, Federer it will be again this time around.

Nadal hasn’t started the season too well either, losing at Chennai and pulling out of a tournament with a strained groin muscle. Rafter turned down Hewitt’s practice request for some personal reason and this probably dents the fairly flimsy chances that Hewitt had of doing anything at all. At this point, I would bet on Roddick to do some damage but not quite enough to topple Federer. Then the other names, Andy Murray, Baghdatis, Tursunov pop-up: no serious challenge here. The dark horse could very well be James Blake. He played well last season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few strong performances this season too. If one of these players can mount a serious challenge to Federer, we could be in for some rivetting tennis.

History suggests an Opportunity

The best time to challenge Fed is at the Australian Open. The new season implies the champ is still rusty from the lack of match practice and the early rounds could be crucial especially against a dangerous opponent such as say, Karlovic. Looking back at the results of the last ten years, we see that the Sampras name figures only once. And he was the most dominant player of his time. Agassi has won it thrice. He was always the one for meticulous training in the heights during the Australian summer. Further, there have been unlikely champions: Petr Korda, Yevgeny Kafalnikov and Thomas Johansson (really!!!). Add to this list, Marat Safin (the 2005 winner) and you can see what I mean when I say the best time to beat the top guy is at the beginning of the season. In cricket terms, before he is well set and has got his eye in.

Women

The women’s field looks fairly weak to me with the pullout of Henin and the retirement of Davenport. I predict a Sharapova victory and I am certain the organizers would love for her to be there till the end of the tournament. This Russian is a showstopper, both with the game and the looks. She is not just another pretty thing. She is focussed, talented and does not look like she will fritter it away. Clijsters and 2006 champion Mauresmo will have to be contended with before she can lift the Daphne Akhurst memorial cup.

As I was recollecting the men’s winners of the past, I looked up some of the women’s winners of the last decade. And guess what? The women victors have been more consistent with the then rankings and stuff. Hingis won thrice in a row at the peak of her powers. Capriati won twice in her glorious comeback run. Lindsay won once and yes, there was a Wiliams winner, Serena, twice. Does this mean that the women’s game is weaker outside the top few? Is that the reason no serious challenge is mounted on the reputed players? Old winners’ lists give some interesting things to wonder about.

Sania Mirza’s chances:

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Sania has had a fantastic start to the 2007 season. She was in good form as India nearly qualified for the final of the Hopman Cup and made the semifinals of the tournament in Hobart losing eventually to the top seeded Russian Anna Chakvetadze.

Sania has an easy draw at the Australian open. She has been drawn against an unknown Ukranian (another East European!) Olga Shevchuk in the first round. If she manages to win that she will meet either Emma Laine (another unknown!) or a qualifier. Sania may well face Martina Hingis in the third round and that match is going to generate a lot of interest! Besides Sania had actually defeated Hingis last year.

Here’s wishing her a great Australian Open and a fantastic 2007!

Pretty Russian

And before I end this one, I have a question to raise. I would like readers to post their views on this. How do those Russians manage to produce all these pretty women players! Saying that they don’t play that well is missing the point I am trying to make. Here is the new additon that I noticed, Anna Chakvetadze (who is seeded 12 at the Australian Open):

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– Prof and Z

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Posted in Australian Open, Tennis | 4 Comments »

If I were a rich man

Posted by Sports Snob on January 13, 2007

I feel rather sorry for Jose Mourinho. I’m not echoing too many sentiments here, obviously, because by and large, people look at him and think, “Arrogant Git” (Perhaps its empathy?). Anyway, let me tell you why.

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I don’t need to give any of you guys the background of the situation. Roman buys Chelsea. Chelsea finish second. Roman buys Jose (literally). Spends millions and millions of pounds. Chelsea win title. Roman vaguely happy with his football empire. Still wants more. Spends millions again. Chelsea win title again. Empire not crumbling, but certainly not expanding. Spends a few more quid. Season so far – second in the table, in the second round of the Champions League. Through to the FA Cup 4 th round. And a 1-1 draw against Wycombe Wanderers (!) in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final. Didier Drogba and Michael Essien apart, they haven’t really set the league on fire, by any measure. There have been two or three spectacular games, notably against Arsenal and, dare I say it, Reading. But on the whole, Chelsea have looked defensive, and there doesn’t appear to be any real strength in depth, as far as the squad is concerned.

‘Chelsea’s squad?’, you may ask. ‘They’ve spent hundreds of millions of pounds on that squad!’ True, true, but almost every single player they bought came with an inflated transfer fee, and the squad as a unit haven’t really lived up to the prices on their heads. Didier Drogba, of course, looks a steal, especially now that he’s cut the diving out of his game (for the most part). Petr Cech was bought by Ranieri, and was a real bargain at just 6 million quid. But then look at the rest – Shaun Wright-Phillips? Jon Obi Mikel? Asier Del Horno? Michael Ballack? (He came on a free, with a 130,000 pound/week pay packet) Andriy Shevchenko?


That last name in particular holds a lot of significance for me. And for Jose too, I believe.

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It seems fairly clear that Jose wasn’t that keen on buying Sheva. At least, he wasn’t as keen as Abramovich was. He has undoubted quality, but he’s getting older, losing his pace, and generally looks like he’ll have trouble adapting to the physical nature of the English game. I’d love for him to prove everyone wrong and score bagfuls of goals, because an in-form Shevchenko is magnificent. Can’t see it happening in the immediate future though.

The Oligarch was behind the transfer deal, it is widely suspected, and he was going against Jose’s wishes. For all his bravado and big talk, Jose is actually a very good manager. I won’t say anything about his tactics, because the sight of Robert Huth playing up front still makes me laugh, His man management skills are without question, however. And so are his motivation techniques. His persona seems to have rubbed off on a lot of the squad, as is evident by the arrogance of Lampard and the whining of Terry. Not to mention the gamesmanship of Carvalho and Drogba. They take themselves too seriously though. With Jose, its clear he’s having a laugh, even when he’s whining. Everything he says, everything he does, is designed to attract attention towards him and away from the failings of his team. Not 3 days ago, the Pensioners drew 1-1 against Wycombe, a club three divisions below them in the league. Normally, this would attract much attention and more than a lot of mirth from non-Chelsea supporters. Nobody’s talking about it for two reasons though. One, David Beckham (see below). And two, Jose’s come out and said that he is ‘only a manager’ and effectively said that he doesn’t control the signings. Normally, we’d dismiss this as the (engineered) ravings of a man desperately trying to draw attention away from his team. This time, I think he has a point.

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I think a lot of the buys Chelsea have made over the last two and a bit years (Alexei Smertin, anybody?) have been made against Jose’s wishes. The specter of Roman appears to be hanging over a lot of their signings. Specifically those who are out of favour. Peter Kenyon was in all likelihood the mastermind behind the deals involving SWP, Ballack and Mikel, to name but three. Apart from Sheva, of course.

Mourinho doesn’t want to play any of these guys, but it appears that his hand is being forced by someone higher up, at least in the case of Ballack and Shevchenko. Ballack has been anything but impressive so far, and Shevchenko has been played out of position in order to accommodate him in the eleven. The side’s defensive frailties have been exposed by the recent injury to John Terry, and with Joe Cole out for the season, he’s lost one of the most mercurial players in the league. He has tons of players, but he doesn’t want to play them. Instead, he wants to buy MORE players, which leads me to believe that he didn’t really want any of these guys in the first place. Peter Kenyon has shoved off to China (how convenient), and Roman Abramovich recently said in an interview ‘We do not have a warm relationship. But it is friendly’. Or something like that (make of that statement what you will).

In summary , Jose’s got players he doesn’t want to play in the squad. He doesn’t have control over a lot of the transfers (this is my suspicion). He is being forced to play big names, because they are big names. And he’s got injuries in the squad which he wants to cover with new players. Abramovich, for all his philanthropy, is not going to shell out more money. Kenyon’s not in town. Jose’s got his back against the wall. And I’d like to think he’ll fight back.

They play Wigan tonight, and Mourinho has said that Shvechenko will be dropped, and if the board have a problem with that, well, too bad, I’ll be off now. And for all his outbursts, I’m quite fond of him, and I hope he stays in England. What do you reckon?

Oasisboy

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Posted in English Football, EPL, Football | 5 Comments »

Beckham to LA Galaxy

Posted by Sports Snob on January 13, 2007

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Well, it had to happen. Beckham had to leave Real Madrid and to no one’s surprise, he chose a move across the Atlantic to sunny Los Angeles where he would take his freekicks against teams such as Washington Wizards and Dallas Cowboys . Nobody really expected to move from Madrid to Portsmouth (although the prospect of him moving to Liverpool seemed interesting). What has surprised everybody has been the cash involved and the duration of the the deal.

The deal:

From the Wall Street Journal:


Mr. Beckham’s five-year pact includes an annual salary approaching $10 million a year, 40% to 50% of team-jersey sales and a share of club ticket revenue. His endorsements are expected to bring in $20 million to $25 million a year. Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the operating rights to the Galaxy and two other MLS teams, said it estimates that, including endorsements, Mr. Beckham could could earn in excess of $250 million over the five years — a deal the company called “the biggest in sporting history.”

Thats an obscene amount of money for any sportsman, let alone a player who is now past his prime, is entering a country where the sport has little mass support (come on even George Best and Pele did try!), is not part of his national football team and at age 31 is now watching his limited football skills go on the decline. Beckham will also be selling global brands such as Adidas, Pepsi and Gillette to Americans.

Miserable days in Spain

After a very successful career at Manchester United where Beckham won trophies every year, he moved to Real Madrid following a spectacular fallout with Fergusson. United had agreed a deal to sell Beckham to Barcelona (albeit a Barcelona that were struggling and had not won a trophy in ages) and the deal appeared to be going through until Beckham hijacked it by signing a contract with Real Madrid. Beckham was a perfect fit for the galactico policy of Real, he was a global superstar, and he would bring millions to Madrid through jersey sales and image rights.

Since then, Barcelona, inspired by Ronaldinho (ironically a Madrid reject) and driven by manager Frank Rijkaard have gone on to win 2 league titles and were crowned European Champions in May. Madrid on the other hand have gone to the gutters as a result of poor management and terrible transfer policies. Last heard, emergency talks were being held at the Bernabeu to understand why the club was under achieving.

To be fair to Beckham, he tried and tried hard. I cant understand how people like Guti and Raul continue to be in the Madrid first XI ahead of Beckham. And, being pushed to the centre of midfield by a series of managers didn’t help his cause either. Worse, he had lost pace. He is no Zidane but he is no Pennant either. You put him on the right side of midfield and Beckham will deliver perfect crosses to your strikers all day long.

What does this mean for the MLS?

Short term interest is no doubt going to shoot up, when every national newspaper and television channel covers the story, you know it’s something big. There will be a definite spike in attendances wherever the Galaxy play atleast over the coming season. But can somebody explain to me how in four years time, a 36 year old David Beckham is going to continue to draw the crowds for much longer?!

Worse, the chances of the Yanks taking to the sport in a big way are about as remote as India qualifying for the 2014 football World cup. Football (or should I say soccer) is perceived to be a sport to be played by young kids, where every kid however poor gets to kick the ball. And there is way too much competition for the MLS from the other big leagues. On the other hand, the young kids (and there are eight million between the ages of 8 and 16 who are playing the sport) might just be the perfect target for the MLS bosses and Beckham’s football academy.

It is also going to be interesting to see if this transfer results in other football superstars like Figo, Ronaldo hopping across the atlantic. Who knows? maybe Shevchenko will move there too. There is already talk of Edgar Davids joining the Dallas Cowboys.

Will Beckham be the messiah who will take Football to the final frontier? Will a very average and ageing 36 year old David Beckham be able to sell cars and razor blades? Will this website survive to discuss that in 4 years time? Only time will tell.

– Z

Posted in English Football, Football, Transfer Talk | 6 Comments »

Top 5 football moments of the 2006

Posted by Sports Snob on January 10, 2007

2006 gave its share of incidents and some override others for their display of impudence, trickery or maybe even idiocy. These are our Top 5 footballing moments(On the pitch) of the year:

5) Gerrard’s goal in the FA Cup Final

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Into stoppage time in what turned out to be one of the most exciting FA Cup finals ever, Liverpool were trailing to a reselient and a “fluky” West Ham side. My head was all over the place. Liverpool had retrieved a two goal deficit only to go and let a cross in. 3-2, with seconds on the clock.

Most Liverpool supporters were probably thinking ‘surely they can’t equalize now’ (I was, for one), when the stadium announcer went ‘The fourth official has indicated there will be a minimum of four minutes added time, four minu…’

The ball went to Steven Gerrard swung his right foot nearly 40 yards out to send a missile straight into the bottom corner of the net. Cue crowd exploding (the missile had nothing to do with it), Martin Tyler screaming like an idiot, and Gerrard pointing at the name on the back of his shirt. Liverpool went on to win the Cup on penalties, but even if they hadn’t, that goal would have gone down in history.

View the Video here: Gerrard (Liverpool vs West Ham United)

4) The Wink

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The English National team is synonymous with under achievement and especially under ex boss Sven Goran had the dastardly habit of entering big tournaments under a blizzard of hype and then leaving the tournament without as much as a whimper. And for the third time in as many tournaments, Sven had to meet his nemesis Scolari as England faced Portugal. For once, England seemed to be having the edge until Wayne Rooney got involved in an off the ball incident with Ricardo Carvalho. The kick seemed innocuous but before the referee could stop and think, Rooney’s pain in the butt teammate Ronaldo arrived and protested to the referee. Whether or not, this lead to Rooney’s subsequent sending off is anyone’s guess, but the English forward blamed the sidestepping Right winger for his role. The highlight of the night was when Christiano looked over to his bench and made what is now the infamous wink.

Since then, the two (Rooney and Ronaldo) have sorted things out and look set to capture the EPL championship this year, much to Roman’s chagrin.

View the video here: Ronaldo Wink (Rooney send off)


3)Champions League Final- Juliano Belleti & Thierry Henry:

For sheer drama and intensity, few matches in the year would compare to the CLE final of 2006. Although, the match could have been better had it ended 11 v 11, it had its share of heroics from Juliano Belleti and Henrik Larsson, villains in Jens Lehman and Almunia and the downright pathetic from Thierry Henry – 2 guilt edged chances and 1 blubbering rant. All in all, a Fantastic match to cap off a great tournament. Here’s hoping that Champions League 2007 lives up to the billing.

Video: Belleti against Arsenal

2) Grosso 119 minute strike.

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Prior to the World Cup, only the most avid soccer fan would have known of Fabio Grosso. A left back of an unwieldy nature, Grosso played for a Serie C team as late as 2001. Even he would not have predicted his meteoric rise. What was to happen in 5 years time was the stuff of legend. After winning a dodgy penalty in the final stages of a tense encounter against Australia, Grosso put his own stamp to the semifinal against the hosts with the most exquisite of strikes. Operating with a small window , he managed to curl the ball into the right corner. The Germans were shell shocked. A penalty shootout would be straight down their alley but Italians can thank god for grosso. He went on to slot the winning penalty in the shootout against France in the Final.

View the goal here: Grosso’s goal against Germany

1) THE Headbutt:

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The Number one Moment of the year has to be the infamous Zidane Headbutt. I’m sure the world gasped when television cameras caught the Frenchman knocking Marco Materazzi off his feet with a head butt that would do The Great Khali proud.There was much speculation as to what had provoked such a reaction but the incident was the butt(no pun intended) of several jokes from Late Show hosts and TV Sitcoms and even spawned a clothing range. What is known now is the Materazzi had made obscene remarks on Zizou’s sister. But little did he know that he would become the world most famous punching bag.

View the Video here: Zidane headbutt Materazzi

Posted in Football, Videos | 2 Comments »

Transfer Talk

Posted by Sports Snob on January 6, 2007

No, this is not an article about Harry Redknapp and his South coast shenanigans, so keep reading (or stop reading, if that suits your fancy). The January transfer window is open, and many clubs are scrambling to sign players whom they think they might at need at some point of time during the rest of the season. We’ll take requests in a bit, but for now let’s have a look at the ‘Big Four’ plus Manchester City.

Chelsea:

The club is looking pretty shaky at the back without Terry. Jose needs to shore up the defense in case of another injury. Boulahrouz does not make sense as a player, let alone an emergency centre half/full back (Face it, he’s only ever gonna be used in an emergency anyway). Tal Ben Haim has been mentioned as a potential target, but Bolton have tripled his wages and extended his contract, so it’s unlikely he’ll be moving any time soon. Micah Richards is another possibility – young, built like an ox, pace to burn, and what appears to be a very good footballing brain – but he’ll cost Chelsea at least 20 million pounds, which, while they can afford, may not be an amount they’re willing to shell out. I’d buy Matt Upson if I were him, to be honest with you – a solid defender with a fairly good track record. Or Anton Ferdinand. For a laugh. They’ll probably win the league anyway. Funny, with all the money they have spent and they have hidden in Roman’s couch- they are still short of players.

Man United:

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Fergie’s hunt for a defensive midfielder appears to be drawing to a close, with Bayern Munich announcing that they will consider bids for Canadian-Englishman Owen Hargreaves. But Munich want 20 million for it. Does Fergusson have so much cash? What about the money for the striker in the summer?

While United appear to be strong on both wings – indeed, with the form Cristiano Ronaldo has been in, they could ask him to play both wings simultaneously – they need a little more quality up front. Rooney, for all his talent, has performed sporadically at best for United. Solskjaer doesn’t have the same pace, even if he is an impact substitute of some pedigree. Saha has been in fine fettle, but is prone to injury, and SAF has done a wise thing by bringing Larsson to the club. Wonder, when the boy wonder Rooney is going to start scoring the goals.

Liverpool:

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Rafa Benitez has been fairly shrewd with his transfers so far, and it appears that the signings of Bellamy and Pennant are finally beginning to pay off. Liverpool have signed Javi Mascherano from West Ham on loan for the rest of the season, although it baffles me to think of what Benitez will do with 4 top class central midfielders. There is strength in depth for every position except the right hand side. I’m hoping a cheeky bid for Dani Alves from Sevilla will get that sorted, though. Finnan is incredibly consistent, but is also the only quality player in his position, and would relish some competition. Lucas Neill has been mentioned a few times, but Benitez should realistically be looking at some younger targets. Some would argue that Liverpool still need to buy a striker, but I reckon Dirk Kuyt has shut everyone up for now, with some outstanding displays. I wouldn’t say no to David Villa though, and I suspect Rafa might break the bank to get him. But not now.
 

Arsenal:

Arsene Wenger’s young team have been bullied a little bit this season. Their (now insignificant) victory at Old Trafford apart, the Gunners have looked shaky all season long. Beating Liverpool 3-0 at home and losing 1-0 at Sheffield United is pretty much indicative of their inconsistency. Now, I’ll be frank here – I cannot stand Arsenal. For all their talent (Fabregas, Van Persie, Henry), they are incredibly arrogant and self-obsessed (sounds a bit like me, this lot). With youngsters all over the pitch, and the old heads of Henry and Gilberto, Arsene must be thinking “Well, these guys look pretty good right now, we’ll worry about next year when we come to it”. I don’t expect them to buy anyone. They already have? Sue me.

And I did mention Man City (I love this club, by the way), but I think they need to be bought before they do any serious buying.

Oasisboy

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Posted in Football, Transfer Talk | 4 Comments »