Saturday, 21 February 2015

Perspectives 3- for the football Aficionado

Perspectives 3- for the football Aficionado

Serie A

Pirlo- rolled back the years once again yesterday with a 30-yard match-winning beauty against Atalanta

He is key to the Biaconeri's success in midweek, against Dortmund in the CL

Juventus were far from impressive in that match and they've shown a tendency to concede from set-pieces in recent times ( they did again yesterday, to allow Atalanta take the lead against the run of play) They are also susceptible during counter-attacks

So, expect Reus and Aubamayang to harrass and harry Pirlo and the CBs, Bonucci and Chiellini

Max Allegri's 4-3-1-2 formation means that Pirlo can easily be the source of their midfield/counter attack vulnerability. Pirlo can also look bad when he has no one to pass to. ( see photo 1)

This is why fans prefer Caceres and Padoin at FBs. They actually play like FBs rather than Lichtsteiner and Evra who think they’re WBs/wide mids and often play the positions too advanced. Not only does this shore up defense but it means the midfielders/Pirlo are not isolated with no one to pass to.

For this formation to be perfect against Dortmund, Pereyra has to play behind the strikers. That way, you get creative attacking width through him because he moves around up there and drifts wide

( to find out why Allegri ditched his predecessor, Conte's 3-5-2 and adopted 4-3-1-2 to accommodate the vital Pirlo, the tactical formation- inclined can check out this article)

Pogba and Tevez have to raise their games too ( they've been lukewarm recently ) and Moratta has to pair Tevez up front ( although Llorente scored ( a scrappy goal) yesterday, he looks like a poor fit up front- that has been the story of his season so far )


Dortmund- it appears as if they have broken through that mental block! They are now 10th after their 3rd consecutive victory. To understand how well they are playing -particularly in attack- check out this Gundogan goal ( their second, in a 3-2 victory against Stuggart yesterday) it's a thing of beauty.

They are still vulnerable in defence though ( Sahin should have been sent off for preventing a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Dortmund conceded the first goal from the resultant penalty though), this is why their match against Juve in Turin, on Tuesday is difficult to call

Hear Gundogan expressing sympathy for the hapless Stuttgart : " we were bottom ourselves a couple of weeks ago. It's not a nice situation. The head is willing but the body doesn't respond" That has to be the quote of the week :D


How do you solve a problem like Xabi

Bayern have been poor travellers of late.

It appears that if you target Xabi Alonso by man-marking him, combining a high press defence while simultaneously maintaining deep structured defensive lines, you neutralise their build-up play and render their attack flaccid ( it worked at Wolfsburg, Schalke and Shakhtar recently) Xabi got sent off in that Shaktar game too! :-(

He is not a very mobile player, hence his game is stifled with this approach and his good passing ability is limited to ineffective sideways and backward passes.

Or perhaps Schweinsteiger just cramps Alonso's style and both shouldn't be playing at the same time. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Xabi ran the show for the first 3 months in Bayern, but since Schweini came back from injury, Xabi's performance has dipped.

La Liga


I'm not going to bore you with the news ( maybe I should) that Leo Messi is on course to break his 91 goals a season record set in 2012.

The signs look 'ominous' too!:

1. He has 5 more goals than he did at this stage back then ( 14 vs 9 )

2. He's working hard ( getting back earlier than others to training after a break)

3. CR7 winning his 3rd Ballon D'Or is enough motivation for the vertically-challenged one :-)

4. There is Copa America this summer ( he didn't have this 'luxury' to add to his tally in that record-breaking year!! )

The search for Xavi's replacement

Rakitic has done well, but he's no Xavi. Oliver Torres might be a perfect fit. He is like a Xavi incarnate. Check out this article for more

Real Madrid

It was a solid yet oddly uncomfortable win for Real in midweek ( vs Schalke )

It's a step in the right direction though following their recent slump. The real buzz after that game was Lucas Silva's performance in the middle. The young lad was solid -considering this was his first full game. There are already talks that he is an upgrade to Khedira and Illaramendi. Time will tell



For Wilshere to return, Ramsey had to be injured. The two cannot simultaneously play in the centre of midfield. It's Murphy's Law of Averages regarding Injuries in Arsenal's Midfield. :-)

If he plays, ( very likely) will he be disciplined enough to smartly choose his moments to join the attack, and to protect Coquelin in the pivot? This is the big question in Wenger's recent romance with the counter-attacking 4-1-4-1 formation. We might find out soon, starting with Crystal Palace today

Man Utd

LVG's men aren't very good, but at least they're annoying people again.


It's called the Hot Piss Paradox:

The knowledge that your team and, by extension, you have gotten away with it, and everybody is really annoyed with that. It is what Man Utd has been doing all season- the play ain't sh*t but they keep getting decent results.

Why Hot Piss Paradox? 'Cos rolling around in hot piss is literally a terrible idea, but metaphorically great fun, it seems! Ask a tantrum-throwing kid :D

We'll see if this streak continues at Swansea. Both Phil a Jones and RVP are available after short injury lay offs

Man City

Much of the talk is whether Bony will make his City debut vs Newcastle this weekend. Toure should start though and I suspect Pellegrini will keep Bony on the subs bench and start with the same line up that will face Barca in midweek- with Silva playing just behind Aguero in a 4-4-1-1 modification of the traditional 4-4-2 set up


Mario Balotelli tweeted about "Penalty-gate" : "Thank you hendo for let me take the penalty. Stop drama now." Apart from the slight grammar challenge, that seems like some pretty good advice. Let’s stop the drama. Now! :D


We are in a unique and enviable position ( and I'm not talking about the all season- long OATT status :P ) when it comes to goalkeepers. Check out this article for what we think about the Courtois/Cech situation

Scottish Championship

Stan Collymore has been fired from his job as a BT Pundit

It follows his demand that Rangers’ games should not be televised because of sectarian singing by their fans, citing references in songs to "Fenian blood".

(These are "Billy Boys" songs- composed in the 1930s

"Billy Boys" were a Protestant street gang in Glasgow led by Billy Fullerton in the 1920s

Rangers fans adopted their songs when this gang started attending games)

Collymore wrote a series of tweets about the matter. One said: "I can hold my head high and say I did the right thing to challenge hypocrisy amongst Rangers fans"

These songs were eventually banned by the Scottish Govt & the SFA in 2011 'cos of the "Up to our knees in Fenian blood" line in it

Fenian- the Fenian Brotherhood is a fraternal organisation dedicated to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic in the 19th and early 20th century.

These are Catholics. Rangers and its fans are Protestants. I hope you get the vibes now

Collymore chose the wrong medium ( Twitter) in my opinion and BT were within their rights to fire him. Why Twitter? What's the point?

Finally, a word on racism in football:

Andi Thomas makes a lot of sense in this article

"Football in general, and football fans in particular, can't persuade a racist not to be a racist. And a sport, and the people who follow that sport, cannot dismantle a system of discrimination and oppression that has existed for centuries and continues to exist, even though it's no longer acceptable to stand on the terraces and lob darts at the nearest black head. What football and football fans can do, however, is work together to make the game as safe a space as possible for everybody, at the same time as wider society works towards the same ends"

This is the kind of discussion I want to be having on these issues- Racism & Sectarianism- not the ( in my opinion) "your club has more racists than mine" mindless, waste of brain function psychobabble that sometimes happen in some fora

It is what it is

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Chelsea 1 vs Everton 0: Three Massive Points

Chelsea 1 vs Everton 0

3 words: Three Massive Points

Oscar didn't feature for this one. Official reason- injury. I'd love to think it might be related to his poor performance recently. Willian was on the left wing , Cuadrado was on right and Hazard was the No 10 with the free role behind Remy. Cech replaced Courtois in goal and Zouma got the nod ahead of Cahill

This victory was by no means easy

It might have been a much more straightforward night if the referee, Moss, had seen Naismith use an arm to lever the ball away from Cuadrado as they challenged one another inside the penalty area with only four minutes gone.

Matic was bullish from the first minute, Willian had his curler superbly saved by an inspired Tim Howard who was returning from injury. Hazard missed a vital touch in front of Howard which could have resulted in a goal. Cuadrado was lively and played with a lot of understanding with the front trio of Hazard, Willian and Remy

We should have been out of sight by half time. We showed much invention but lacked a killer touch and the final ball was often poor

We were almost punished by Everton when Barkley put Lukaku in the clear. He took the shot early, hoping to catch Cech out, but the keeper dealt with it by extending a leg and knocks it out for a corner with his boot.

O Chelsea, where is thy sting?

The second half continued in the same vein with Chelsea trying to break down a stubborn Everton defence without much joy. Howard appeared to have watched the video of his massive display in that World Cup game against Belgium, Stones and Jagielka were immense in the Toffees' defence

Fabregas for Cuadrado, Drogba for Remy happened in the 72nd min

Everton were beginning to fancy their chances of actually nicking all the points. In the 70th min, from a corner, McCarthy played a fine reverse pass out to Oviedo on the left who fizzed a cross through the six-yard box. Lukaku made the run, got his foot on it at point-blank range ( it should have been a goal) but Cech saved superbly with his leg ( heard he was a handball goalie in his previous life! )

In the 87th min, Hazard turned a pass back to Matic 20 yards out who scooped it past Howard and into the net. Goal! ....No!! :-( Chelsea celebrated but the flag was up and it was a fine decision from the linesman because the shot hit Ivanovic on the shoulder on the way past Howard and he was a yard offside.

It was going to be one of those nights where we are frustrated despite our better possession and drop two points. But da Silva Willian had not read that script. A well struck half volley nestled in the back of the net ( after taking a slight deflection from Steven Naismith) in the 89th min ! Goal!

The goal came a moment after Barry was sent off for a second yellow for a hack at Willian. Both Ivanovic and McCarthy were booked from the ensuing melee- during which Ivanovic did a quasi-headbutt where his head kisses the opponent's forehead rather than genuinely smacking it.

My thoughts

How cool was the music during the entrance of the players on to the the pitch, dimmed lights and all?

We were in cruise control for most of this game but forgot to work the gears and hit the accelerator. It didn't matter at the end

Willian was immense yet again, with his work rate and general play

He has really upped the ante in his game in the last 3 weeks. I'm sure the Cuadrado purchase has something to do with it.

While everybody including the fans were panicking, he was probably singing this:

. "E Farabale o emi ni Baale o, t'e ba dobale o , e ma kaa nle o! " ( Baale Baale by Pope ft Reminisce )

The Toffees they were so tight...

but Willian he showed us light

(I hope you saw what I did there? )

Everton fans had probably started talking about 1 point nicked and a clean sheet. Willian said "Were there dragons in that fairy tale?"

Kurt Zouma really looks like a long-term answer at centre back, doesn't he? It's hard to find too much to complain about with the way he's been playing of late.

Zouma Stats:

87% Pass Completed

1 Chance Created

5 Ball Recoveries

2/2 Tackles

5/5 Clearances

4/4 Headed Clearances

3/5 Aerial Duels


He's only been with Chelsea for a week but Juan Cuadrado looked like he had a pretty good understanding with his attacking teammates.

Matic was in full beastmode tonight. He controlled that midfield like a boss!

His attack take-Ons ( 7 of 7 successful. By the way, that's 100%! )

Loic Remy was poor today. There was a lot of effort, but he just never seemed to be on the same page as his teammates with his runs-particularly in the box.

Costa would have been at the end of one or two of those crosses into the Everton box.

That Petr Cech save tho!.......Divine!!

9 out of 10 times that nestles in the back of the net

Lukaku was like...."Whoa, what happened there?"

Cech now has 167 clean sheets, just 3 short of David James' 170 record

Pix 4: Cech be like: "Courtois, give me my place back"

Branislav Ivanovic was probably offside for the disallowed goal, but it's hard to feel like that should have been called given the obvious handball mistake early on. Jose Mourinho should be happy, shouldn't he?

Pix 4- Diego Costa's reaction when he learnt Man City were leading 4-1 at Stokes:

It's called the Diego Shrug, it actually means- Zero Fux Given

Interviewer asks Mourinho: "Did you see the Ivanovic incident where it was believed…" Replies…."What?" with a screwface….after the interviewer repeats the question, José simply replies "Don’t make me laugh." Classic!!

Chelsea left it late but we're still 7 points clear at the top.




Saturday, 7 February 2015

Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs : Purple patch or The Real Deal

Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs : Purple patch or The Real Deal

We hardly see narratives from a Spurs perspective over here ( for obvious reasons..they don't have fans on this Blog!. )

I feel obliged to do one after what I saw yesterday ( Spurs 2 -Arsenal 1 )

Arsène Wenger has seen many Spurs sides come and go, but few have outplayed Arsenal so thoroughly as Mauricio Pochettino’s did yesterday.

Arsenal were pinned down and pushed around. Spurs haven't done that to Arsenal very often in recent times. But it was lovely to see ( at least as a Chelsea fan :-) )

Spurs -Kyle Walker ( played like Cafu, he left Ozil and the Arsenal left wing for dead in many occasions with pace) Danny Rose complemented him on the right. Ryan Mason ( probably ran Kane close for MoTM. Thanks F.O. For making me more aware of him before the game) he was all-action-hero in defensive midfield and with the equally impressive Nabil Bentaleb, they totally bossed Arsenal in the middle of the park.

Moussa Dembele seems to have regained his self belief and ability to impact matches. It's a shame he can't score though (Poche might be waving his magic wand on that aspect of his game too) He has totally changed from holding midfielder and deep passer to ‘destroyer’ No. 10. He led the high press, which is a feature of the new Spurs, pretty well. This switch suits his strengths much better and credit to Pochettino for recognizing that.

Lamela is improving too

I thought Eriksen, who has frequently been their match winner this season, had a strangely subdued game

Nacer Chadli, who had a great game against Chelsea, is also a good player even though he only had some minutes yesterday.

All that is left is to get Soldado scoring again

Big Daddy Kane...nah, scratch that..:-) ....Harry Kane - I can't speak highly enough of this dude. 22 goals in all competitions, 12 already in the league, and he wasn't the main striker at the beginning of this season!.....He looks like the Real Deal

The icing on the cake is that he looks like someone who just seems to be enjoying everything.

Check out his one man single lap of honour after the game yesterday: He left the rest of the team and went off to the South Stand (where some of the most hardcore Spurs supporters sit) and the cameras followed him around the ground on that glory lap from there. There was no commentary and the feeling was intense, it was beautiful

Pochettino is building a beast at Tottenham, but he's making great use of the resources developed within Spurs academy ranks ( their latest acquisition is Dele Alli, who looks like another class act in the middle )

I don't think this is just a purple patch, I think it is something to really be worried about by the traditional top 4 ( judging by his antecedents at Southampton )

Time will tell though. I'm going to be watching their next game against 'Pool with keen interest now. I have to.

Hear Wenger: "We were not very good and the referee was at our level. On Kane, he said: “He was good, as always. He grows and he has a good determination. He doesn’t stop, keeps going. The regret I have is that we gave him a cheap goal."

Ahh, I see what you are saying Arsene, you didn't play very well, the referee was poor and you lost because you made a charitable mistake at the back ( I hope the sarcasm is not lost on y'all)

Incisive analysis of the game as ever! ( there were a lot of gooners who feel just the same yesterday on the match thread)

Now imagine if that comment had been made by Mourinho after a Chelsea loss - where his team was clearly second best... Sites would have been inundated with those hypocritical "Mou is unrealistic, Mou is uncharitable, Mou isn't magnanimous to the opposition in defeat" posts

Spurs were better, and even when they were a goal down, any realistic person watching that game would see that they were not fazed. They were still playing like a side who felt they were going to win that match.. ...and there was nothing cheap about those Kane goals. He took them well. Fortune favours the brave

Suddenly, Chelsea's defeat on New Year's Day doesn't look like a fluke anymore and Wembley glory on March 1 doesn't look like a foregone conclusion.

But we have Mou. He'll find a way. He.Always.Does

Bonus fact- Pochettino was the Argentine defender who fouled Michael Owen and gave away a penalty in the England vs Argentina Group F game ( World Cup 2002)

David Beckham converted the spot kick and England won 1-0 -A crucial victory for the English then


You probably missed the verbal sparring between Arsenal fan, Piers Morgan ( who has an uncanny talent of sticking his foot into his mouth ) and former Spurs boss, Alan Sugar on Twitter:


.@piersmorgan - ( before the match) "Kane can't get on Arsenal's bench"

@Lord_Sugar -

@piersmorgan-glad you got up at 4 am, now you have the rest of the day to get aggravated. Classic "Kane could not get on Arsenal bench" :D



Wenger 700th game in charge of Arsenal and has played against 11 Spurs managers.

You hired 7 of those losers! :-)

@aDonohue- Spurs fan:

To be fair, the Arsenal bench is reserved as a smoking section :D


Friday, 6 February 2015

Dortmund's Bundesliga 'brain fart' and other football titbits

Dortmund's Bundesliga 'brain fart' and other football titbits

Dortmund's spectacular 2014-15 collapse:

2 things Dortmund need to do-

1. Sack Club Director Watzke and Sporting Director Zorc

2. Employ a top class sports psychologist

....but Klopp should have just one more chance to keep his job: the next match against Freiburg

Dortmund's issue is not Klopp. It is their Director Watzke and Sporting Director Zorc.

Their sins:

Giving buy out clauses to Goetze and Reuss (20 million is a complete joke for such class acts!! ) and not giving a hefty raise to a vastly underpaid Lewandoski by the 3rd year of his contract ( which would have meant getting a contract extension in return)

It was a recipe for the disaster this season.

Nobody at the club thought: "What are we going to do when every other club in this League follows out example and starts gegenpressing too!"

Why Klopp should go if he doesn't get a result in the next match:

Klopp gave us Gegenpressing and Dortmund ( under his watch) were absolutely top of the game in 2010-13- winning the Bundesliga back to back ( even doing the double in one of those glorious seasons) , and getting to the CL final.

Klopp is the longest running coach at one club in the Bundesliga ( among the current lot) . He's the longest running coach ever in the history of Dortmund.

He took the club to the CL final with 1/500th of the player budget that ManU, ManCity, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barca have

So his record shows he's not a two-bit chancer.

With that kind of record, he's not suddenly a bad coach.

One last chance with Freiburg, in my opinion. If that goes south again,

I hope he'll step down on his own terms and spare the club the heart-break of firing him. Perhaps a fresh start in another league would do both club and him a lot of good.

Dortmund needs to hire a good sports psychologist 'cos confidence is a fragile thing.

During a spell of bad results ( irrespective of the League or the division) a range of reactions occur - one loss is an aberration, two losses is bad luck, three is a bad patch. After four losses people start to question things they had total faith in and the players start to lose confidence. You then begin to change things that were previously trusted.

It is what it is

Aubameyang, Reus and co can't buy a goal at the moment. Dortmund have always conceded goals but they often score 2-3 in a game so conceding didn't matter.

Sticking the ball in the net is their main problem this season. Once they concede one goal now, it's 'things fall apart' territory. They've scored a miserable 18 goals in 19 games ( Bayern have scored 43! )

Mkhitaryan and Immobile are looking like bad buys by the minute. Kagawa and Sahin are no longer the players they were ( JSP has a word for that: saponified! :-) )

Even the 40m Man Utd -rated Hummels is looking like a 4m defender without Subotic constantly by his side ( just as Lovren hasn't been the same without Jose Fonte at 'Pool )

I think they'll ultimately avoid the drop. Stuttgart, Hertha Berlin, Paderborn and Freiburg- the teams just above them are poorer quality-wise

but the Freiburg game is make or break territory

Speaking about Lovren:

He's been missing for so long that some 'Pool fans are wondering when his face will start appearing on these milk cartons

You'd be a wise man to bet on somebody receiving the marching orders in the 'Pool - Everton derby today. Someone.Almost.Always.Does

Speaking about Man Utd:

LVG went into January wanting a world-class centreback and a first-choice rightback, along with perhaps a dynamic midfielder and another winger, yet came out the other side with an (admittedly excellent) back-up goalkeeper. Hands up if you think Valdez would be happy playing second fiddle for long? Which makes it appear that his move was a gamble on De Gea leaving for ( Hala! ) Madrid in the not too distant future.

The bigger gamble is the lack of activity in the transfer window (for which there might be legitimate reasons- no good enough quality in the market) . Which leaves the question: is this current squad good enough for a CL place? Their current position suggests 'yes'. Can this side win the FA Cup? A rejuvenated 'Pool and Arsenal will have a say. You've got to factor in Okafor's law in that permutation though

Spurs vs Arsenal

Y'all know whom I'm supporting in this one- and it's not 'cos I particularly like them either. It is just what it is. Poche is doing a good job over there- giving the youths a chance in the team, Kane and Bentaleb readily come to mind.

(You've got to read about Spurs' latest wunderkid who has Nigerian origins, Dele Alli

He's been compared to Stevie G. I hope he fulfils his potentials)

Utd fans may remember him. He bossed their millionaires in the middle in that League Cup whitewash earlier in the season at MK Dons

Arsenal have the edge in these fixtures, but with Eriksen's current form and Dembele leading the high pressing game which Poche favours ( this covers the deficiency of their pivot and backline) I won't be surprised if Spurs get something out of this

A word on El Derbi

What Real Madrid have to do to win El Derbi :

Atletico have had the edge in recent times. They'll be compact as ever with their disciplined 4-4-2 ( usually derided as bus-parking) and force Real to play through the wings where the Real player can be double or triple-teamed

To win this game Real needs to finish the one or two clear chances they get or have one of the players pull something spectacular.

Atletico won't want to lose this though, as it could put their title defence in real jeopardy

On Luis Suarez missing sitters:

Some believe that he'll rediscover that that killer instinct at Barca. He just hasn't managed to get his teeth into things in Spain yet. :-)

On a serious note: in comparison to Neymar’s first season at Barca-

First 16 games with Barcelona:

- Neymar: 4 goals + 8 assists

- Suarez: 5 goals + 9 assists

Similar init? You can't fault the assist stats. Neymar is a better player this season so, there's hope for Suarez. He just isn't going to be a 30-50 goal a season player anymore. That accolade is reserved for the main man. It ain't Suarez.

Ghana vs CIV ACN final

Just found out that former Chelsea Gaffer, Avram Grant, manages Ghana

Bad news for Ghana! The Undertaker doesn't win cup finals ( it was why John Terry slipped while taking his penalty kick in the CL final back in 'em days :P )


Juan 'Vespa' Cuadrado

Why would Mourinho be interested in a player who is very similar to Willian?

There is an attacking deficiency on that Chelsea right wing- which I've talked about before. Mou has seen this too ( or has been reading our blogs over here! :-) )

Cuadrado vs Willian

A quick scan of the statistics will show you:

Cuadrado notched up 11 league goals and five assists in 32 appearances last season compared to Willian's four goals and two assists.

You might argue that Willian was adjusting to a new club in a stronger league back then, but even this season — one in which Cuadrado has been supposedly "out of form" — his four goals and four assists for Fiorentina better Willian's one in each category for Chelsea. Don't forget that in a World Cup bursting with attacking flair, Cuadrado ended the tournament as the joint-top assist maker in the welcome company of Toni Kroos.

He has to be an upgrade

So, welcome son, light up that right wing! , just like Hazard does the left.

NB- origin of the Vespa moniker :-) : The winger from Colombia weaves through opponents just as a rider on a scooter does fellow commuters in rush hour on a gridlocked stretch of road. Luca Toni calls him Vespa. A twist of the throttle, a sudden burst of acceleration and vroom, Cuadrado's off. Fiorentina's right-side is their fast lane. Few can stay with him." - James Horncastle