Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’


& The Evil Superpowers out to curtail its mission.

That’s one way to stop him – Iniesta takes on Croatia

 

I am amazed at the current crop of journalists and fans who have now become ‘bored’ & disillusioned with the pure, passing game of the Spanish national side and the most-widely associated protagonists of  ‘tiki-taka’ football,  FC Barcelona. They say these sides are killing games with their passing, putting teams and viewers to sleep with their monotonous, robotic combinations.

But I believe the reason behind this sudden negativity aimed at the beautiful game, is the negative anti-football set-up which is becoming a regular theme in the new battle for silverware. How ever many times the pundits at the European Championships compared a team with a defensive mindset to doing “a Chelsea”, and no matter how annoying it was, part of the annoyance was that they had a point.

I was publicly slated on the evening of the Champions League final for my purist beliefs about how the game should be played, & how the Blues had now ruined what could have been potentially, three great games in the lead up to, & including the Allianz arena showpiece.

Roman Abramovich has bankrolled an impressive cast list at Stamford Bridge during his tenure as owner, and no way is every purchase aimed at a negative or defensive footballing mindset. They have great players, they have firepower, and they should utilise this. You are playing in UEFA’s elite club competition and representing English football in the most prestigious final of the calendar. For that reason alone, you should give your opponents and fans the respect they deserve by at least attempting a foray upfield before the eighty minute mark.

The historical beacon of bigotry, cheating and evasion that was Rangers FC, I think deserve a slither of credit for the shocking lack of attacking intent they portrayed at Ibrox against Messi and his beautiful Barcelona bandwagon in the Champions League in 2007. Under Rijkaard, the monopolisation of possession was starting to take shape prior to the leadership of Pep Guardiola through 2008-2012, who highlighted the style & introduced it to the masses.

Bayern captain Lahm aims to breakdown Chelsea

Walter Smith’s side were not able (that particular year anyway) to financially match the wages or go toe to toe on any level of talent or class with the Catalan giants – therefore their only option was to allow the football to be played out in front of them and for an embarrassment of possession to be forsaken in the hope their goal was not breached.

Lionel Messi was very aggressive in his post-match comments about anti-football, but we have witnessed Celtic ride their luck in the Camp Nou on occasion in a similar vein and not complained about the outcome when it was a positive one for the Hoops. What we require, is a new direction in the ongoing struggle against pure, beautiful, inventive football – and I think actually attempting to play football may, to a certain extent, work.

France were a massive disappointment  during these Championships – they came into the tournament on a great run competitively, with Laurent Blanc installing a belief in the players and the country, that they could replicate the past glories of World Cup ’98 and the 2000 European Championship in Belgium & Holland. Looking through their squad list, there was an abundance of great  flair players who could light up any game – and I’d lost count at the number of punters who had wagered Karim Benzema adding to his Real Madrid club total of thirty-two goals last season, by becoming the tournament’s top scorer.

Watching the quarter-final on Saturday against Spain was not only upsetting for the neutral, like myself, but bewildering for the French team it seemed who looked stuck between a rock and a hard place at times. At points during the match they looked threatening going forward, and when they put Spain under pressure, del Bosque’s side made mistakes.  Then they would remember the game plan outlined at the outset of the match to contain their opponents, and have to fight the natural urge instilled in themselves to exert their fluency and offensive charms.

On the domestic front, Real Madrid managed to stop Barcelona from a fourth consecutive league win last season aided by a glut of goals from a certain Portuguese superstar. When the El Clasico came about though – the tactics shifted slightly, and it seemed their main ploy was to dismantle Barca rather than go toe to toe.  Last season even though the possession statistics were heavily stacked in the Catalan sides favour, Los Blancos attacking prowess was almost identical and their daring was rewarded with a two one victory in the Camp Nou which all but finished off Guardiola’s side in the title race.

So are those now rebelling against their former love, bored with the actual tactic or frustrated with the antidote which has spawn in an aid to curb the success? The problem surfaces when teams are too scared to lose, rather than wanting to win. This in turn has produced an agenda focusing on the incessant and somehow, robotic, pass and move style modelled by Xavi & Iniesta et al, rather than further criticism which should be heaped on the men trying to eradicate the beauty of it.  If more managers and teams broke the shackles of their destructive strategy, and stood toe to toe with the tiki-taka culture – the positivity could return, and the winners would be two-fold. I expect Portugal to rise to the challenge on Wednesday – I hope the magnitude of the evening does not cause them to retreat into their defensive shells.


Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas has become another victim of Roman Abramovich’s crazy lust for instant success as he exits nine months into the Stamford Bridge hot seat. Seven have been axed by the owner during his tenure and with former Liverpool boss, Rafael Benitez, installed as the bookies favourite to be the next Chelsea manager, you can’t see him lasting much longer.

AVB as he became known, emerged on Abramovich’s radar following his domestic and Europa League treble winning feat of 2011 with FC Porto –any comparisons becoming clear yet? (He also was part of The Special Ones’ backroom team at Internazionale & Porto). Onlookers predicted he may follow Jose Mourinho’s European success by taking his Europa League winning graduates one step further to the Champions League –but Chelsea came calling for the new boy on the block, possibly too soon, and the crazy goldfish bowl of the English Premiership beckoned. He inherited a squad which was in a quandary and disorderly in its age and abilities. Something he also took on was some rather meddlesome experienced first-team stars and an owner with ideas above his station on how “his team” and “his players” should be playing.

Villas-Boas required a clear-out and if he had any hope of succeeding, John Terry and Frank Lampard had to go –their constant actions and undermining of the ex-bosses has hamstrung the club from the undoubted potential they have to contend for major honours in England & Europe. This combined with the Russian tycoon appearing at training and interfering in the dressing room would drive anyone to the brink, and the young Portuguese man has been on the back foot since last June. A season in the Premiership is hard enough to get to grips with –never mind doing so with the harsh media spotlight and criticisms which are lurking behind every dropped point or defeat. The ex-Porto boss required time to stamp his authority and footballing beliefs within the Blues team –to clear out the deadwood and the players which didn’t fit, and incorporate his own cast list on the Chelsea starting IX.

Out of the previous six bosses, only three delivered major trophies whilst Claudio Ranieri, Avram Grant and Guus Hiddink all made reasonable inroads in the Champions League without providing Abramovich with the holy grail of European elite success. Power struggles at a club are one thing – but in-fighting between coaching staff, lack of respect and resent for your first-team coach and colonial groups of squad players is a situation of unmanageable proportions of which the club dictator needs to shoulder the burden of responsibility for. I am certain that within the next few years, Andre Villas-Boas will emerge again as one of the most wanted men in European football –where Chelsea go next, is not as clear-cut.


suarez

"Is it this way to the goal?"

Andy Carroll was a man in form and in demand last year – a goal every other game for Newcastle United, an England cap which alluded to a rising stock for the long-haired front man.

Now the much maligned young striker has failed to live up to the hype which surrounded his £35million move last January – A fee which Carroll immediately attempted to distance himself from, deep down knowing that the Anfield club had bowed down to Newcastle’s overzealous estimation of the player following his striking feats in the black and white.  I was of the belief that if Suarez and Carroll had a successful run in pre-season and both stayed injury-free, this could be a very rewarding partnership for Liverpool and a masterstroke from manager, Kenny Dalglish. The tall target man, initiating the knock downs for the wily and tenacious forward in the Uruguayan – a match made in footballing heaven on paper. In reality, it’s started off with nothing more than a whimper.

Luis Suarez @luis16suarez

Great win for keep gaining points! Last match that I can not play with my colleagues! A hug and thanks for all the support!

The partnership was already without a reasonable period of togetherness this season following derailment due to injuries and meandering form, prior to Suarez’s eight game sabbatical when found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United star, Patrice Evra during October’s Premier League clash at Anfield. Given the haste in which the Uruguayan was convicted, it seems the FA have pandered to their own Euro ambitions and desires by allowing John Terry the chance to captain the national team this summer – the evidence, witnesses in tow would seem more clear-cut than the aforementioned “altercation”.

Step forward the evergreen former Celtic forward Craig Bellamy, now in his second stint with Liverpool, to attempt and recapture some semblance of a strike force in the number sevens’ absence. Where the Anfield side would be without the Welsh hitman in his current purple patch is hard to say – but perhaps not sitting fifth in the league or still in the hunt for two trophies might be a starting point. He is also just one goal away from his total return at Anfield during his first tenure in the 2006-2007 season. When Bellamy is not in trouble with officials or on the treatment table, he is a veritable joy to behold – he can turn defences inside out and score a variety and abundance of goals. He probably scored one of the finest hat-tricks in modern-day history at Tannadice when in the hooped shirt of the Bhoys.  He is also not a penalty box striker – which could help propel his recent efforts to a whole new dimension when Suarez returns at Spurs next Monday evening.

One of the few times this season when all three were on the pitch, was at Goodison Park back in October – with Carroll and Suarez both on target late on following Bellamy’s introduction with twenty minutes remaining.

Their first league win of 2012 against Wolverhampton and a long-awaited goal from Andy Carroll completed a resurgence in form for Dalglish’s men after dumping the two sides of Manchester out of the League and FA Cup in the same week. But just prior to that, a three one defeat at lowly Bolton Wanderers had seemed to question King Kenny and his managerial capabilities. They have a League Cup final and the chance for silverware against Championship side Cardiff City to look forward to, along with the return of their captain and talisman, Steven Gerrard to full fitness, Suarez champing at the bit and a newly confident Andy Carroll – when your best players are all on form, it is nigh on impossible to drop them to the bench.

Liverpool have been reverting to a 4-3-3 formation and I believe for the club to build on their recent good form, a three-pronged assault with Bellamy and Suarez supplying Andy Carroll has all the ingredients for success. Part of the Geordie strikers repertoire is also laying on goals, and his flick on’s in previous matches for Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy have showcased this ability perfectly. The Reds, currently just outside the Champions League places, are on their day a tougher, and more consistent prospect than both Chelsea and Newcastle who sit above them currently. Also now installed as rightful favourites for the FA Cup, you wouldn’t back against a  domestic double trophy haul for King Kenny and his Merry Men.

Top Goal Scorers

  1. Bellamy
    9
  2. Suarez
    8
  3. Carroll
    5

Mario Balotelli again had the final say in a second half fuelled with controversy and goals as he extended his sides winning home record in the Premier League to eleven. He calmly slotted home an injury time penalty after a desperate Ledley King challenge – many onlookers, including Harry Redknapp, felt the Italian should never have been on the pitch to convert the spot kick. Just five minutes earlier following a determined block from Scott Parker on a Balotelli goal-bound strike, the Italian spiraling to find his feet after the ricochet had apparently “stamped” on the England midfielder. At the time, and after several replays I still find it inconsistent at best, but the FA have seen fit to charge him following a video review.

Talk of video replays and a retrospective ban for the player overshadowed the main headline – Manchester City, now 2/5 for the title, won again in the League to cement their rightful position at the peak of England’s top flight. Tottenham, who arguably created the better openings in the second period and could have won it with Jermaine Defoe going despairingly close near the end, did themselves no disservice and will surely take points from the majority of sides in the top half between now and May.  Spurs have a creative and dynamic midfield, and with fast-flowing attacking potency at Redknapp’s behest, along with their ever-improving backline,  you can be sure their title credentials will be respected in the remaining fixtures.

With the armory at both side’s disposal you would have envisaged a busy opening for both goalkeepers, but the first half was more like a chess match with both teams cautious and only probing gently to test the mettle of either defence.  Half chances fell for Aguero and Defoe but neither were troubling of Friedel or Hart respectively. As Howard Webb sounded his whistle for the break many were wondering, as per the two previous encounters, would a solitary goal to nil decide this cagey affair.

A great through ball from the mercurial David Silva, a player who has shown consistently magical close control and vision which is normally only praise reserved for a certain Lionel Messi, and a lightning strike from Samir Nasri put City ahead on fifty-six – and the flames ignited. With barely time to regroup, the home side doubled their advantage from a corner, a nick on from by Dzeko and Joleon Lescott bundled home. Panto villan, Stefan Savic’s backheader was appallingly short only moments later and Defoe rounded Joe Hart, and finished with aplomb. Another exquisite whipped finish from the left boot of Gareth Bale from the edge of the box two minutes later, now had the away side with the advantage – only ten minutes previously they had looked down and out. The pendulum swung back & forth before the last-gasp finale which capped off a truly mesmeric second half – Roberto Mancini’s side where able to show their staying power for the title race – following some below par performances the previous week – while the White Hart Lane team won’t be far behind.


I am sitting on a Sunday morning agreeing with Joey Barton – not just regarding the running of Newcastle Football club but also of his own interpretation of footballer’s on Twitter. “It’s quite worrying that a man who use to run casino’s is now making footballing decisions”. The world of Social media now controls the interaction between club and fan & journalist and reader, so it wasn’t long before the professionals got in on the act.  The QPR midfielder’s justification for starting his account, was to clarify stories in the press from journo’s about his life off and on the pitch, and perhaps deny or comment on them so his supporters could see the real Barton.  You wouldn’t be a fool for thinking that the relationship between the two may have mirrored his previous idiocracy on nights out & training pitches, but Joey Barton has reinvented himself on the site.  He has shown more depth, intelligence and level-headedness than any of us have witnessed from him on a Saturday afternoon – and as well as football issues, he has tackled “The Big Society”, backed a petition campaign for the Hillsborough disaster and tried to analyze the psyche of the rioters in England just a month or so back. Which is all good and well…..but when can footballers and tweets go awry? As well as Barton putting the death knell in his Newcastle career by questioning the whereabouts of the Andy Caroll bullion there is also this example….

“Was fit and available for selection. Don’t know why I wasn’t picked but gotta work hard to get back in!!!”

This was Kris Commons following the weekend’s defeat at Ibrox. There are some good points from this message, mainly that he feels fit and also that he will work hard to try to regain his place – but the ins and outs of his non selection are in the managers head until he, and only he feels the need to air them. Neil Lennon has now went on record on a few occasions after Sunday to explain certain decisions and the tweet was not omitted from questioning  “He is obviously frustrated he was left out of the squad and I accept that but won’t make a massive issue of that,I’d have preferred it to be kept in-house, but this is the modern way of it – social networking seems to be the way forward.”  So even @NeilLennon sees the benefits!! I don’t think the issue would have plagued me as much if the midfielder had started the season the way he had played since joining – and major concerns over his fitness and derriere haven’t been helped by drinking copious amounts of lager on a boys golfing holiday. So hopefully talk of fall outs with management and dietary issues are going to be put to one side in the coming weeks when Kris can back up his tweet with some performances on the pitch.

There are now twenty-eight youth, former and current Celtic players on Twitter  (http://twitter.com/#!/walshybhoy/celtic-players/members) all bringing their own aspects of life to the online community. The type of interaction can range from their feelings or arrangements before a match, family occasions, and interests and hobbies out with the beautiful game.  This instant interaction is like e-manna for mere mortals like us who idolize players, a glimpse or even a re-tweet can make someones day just like an autograph or picture outside the training ground. Just yesterday I was left amazed when John Hartson read my cousin’s blog – and then to add to it, he also replied as he had gone through a similar experience – this kind of relationship would previously be a one in a million shot and cannot be undervalued.  Thankfully this group of online Celts’ has not muddied the waters with the fans and everything so far has been extremely good-natured – this good nature can also extend to their involvement with charity ventures, and their retweets and endorsements can add so much to not only affiliated club charities, but ones close to their own and supporters hearts.

It’s hard to imagine what the reaction of past stars’ antics would have with their followers – Paolo Di Canio’s “leetle problem”,  Eyal Berkovic’s hand gesture to the Jock Stein Stand or even the intellectual musings of Eric Cantona after his kung-fu attack at Selhurst Park. Many managers and owners have questioned players involvement on the site, but in a day & age when the gap between the working class fan and board level hierarchy is ever-widening its refreshing for the fan to still be within tweeting distance.

Torres enigma set to unravel

Posted: September 19, 2011 by thebhoymcclay in Football, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

A sight we may well get more accustomed too? (But in Blue!)

You may not know it following yesterday’s match headlines at Old Trafford – but Fernando Torres has made an impressive start to this season. An abundance of journalists and onlookers chose to highlight the glaring miss late on from the Spaniard which may well have made the closing stages interesting, and in retrospect would have galvanized the strikers reputation in an instant. It’s funny how the margins of error in football are so slight that they can turn one outstanding individual performance,  into a moment in time which now defined the 90 minutes.

Much has rightly been made of the strikers £50m move to Chelsea which has for the most, been unsuccessful, but could Andres Villas-Boas’ faith in Torres’ ability and his footballing approach revitalise the striker? Early indications are positive – a Man of The Match performance away to Stoke, two assists in a Champions League win against Bayer Leverkusen and a goal yesterday, to cap off a not too shabby six appearances in a Chelsea shirt this season. His manager rightly backed El Nino after the game yesterday and even drew comparisons with Rooney’s penalty slip to his own players’ off balance gaffe.

ATLETICO: 249 games /91 goals

LIVERPOOL: 142 games / 81 goals

CHELSEA: 24 games / 2 goals

Since that transfer at the end of January, it took Torres 903 minutes to capture his first goal in a Blue jersey and for some fans, they thought it may never have come.  Toward the end of the 2009/10 campaign with Liverpool,  the striker went in for his second knee operation in five months. The ongoing problems on that right appendage since Christmas told the story of an uncomfortable and inept few months when Rafa Benitez still regarded Torres as the talisman – a weight of burden which was too heavy on his shoulders. He went straight from the surgeons table to the World Cup and was again visibly not ready to compete at the highest level, he made only two starts as Spain went on to become champions with no scoring assistance from their one time star man.

The following twenty-six appearances for the Reds’ under new manager Roy Hodgson, in which he found the net nine times, did not bode well for player or club and at the start of January, the former Fulham man left the hotseat. Torres decided to cut out this disastrous spell in his career by moving to Stamford Bridge and only now after Villas-Boas’ appointment has any sign of a resurgence been noted. This early run has also coincided with an injury free period in the side and a full pre-season without any niggles or major international competitions to contest with. The new look Chelsea dynamic with Torres at the head of a three-pronged attack (Juan Mata & Sturridge yesterday) can reap rewards and I believe the Spaniard could have one of his most productive seasons in the Premier League and Europe – El Nino ready to take the country by storm again?