Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Straight Shootin' LJA's El Clasico Thoughts

On this chilly Tuesday afternoon I find myself watching the El Clasico repeat (we were broadcasting Pitch Talk Live so I couldn’t watch the match live) with baited breath and as I write this i'm seeing Real Madrid being taught a footballing lesson. In a game with apparently 400 million viewers world wide Real Madrid certainly stood on ceremony and were extremely sluggish in the opening exchanges with Barcelona bossing the ball. The opening goal of this match some would say was lucky, but I would oppose that view because if Iniesta hadn't tried to play the slide rule ball to Xavi, there wouldn't have been anything for Xavi to run onto, thus resulting in no reason for the Madrid centre back to commit himself, so in my view Barca forced their luck for 1-0 rather than relying on it.
The second goal was beautiful football, I lost count of the amount of passes and ole's I heard through my Xbox 360 in the run up to Pedro's goal but it was 15+ I assure you, and I got up out of my seat and was applauding the goal accompanied by the words 'that was amazing'. In the 1st half hour Barca had 72% of the possession, a 2-0 lead and were in firm control and then things kicked off a bit with Cristiano Ronaldo shoving Pep Guardiola because Guardiola held the ball for a couple of seconds, which Mr Ronaldo must have construed as time wasting. That was the 1st time in the game Ronaldo had been involved, albeit for the wrong reasons. Lionel Messi for the whole 1st half had pretty much been a bit part player but Barca were so dominant he didn't need to be anything more than that. In a match with the last 2 ballon d'or winners playing in it, it actually wasn't really about either man as both were kept quiet for large parts of the match. For me, Real Madrid have never been the best at the back, but in the 1st half Real were trying to play the offside trap on numerous occasions and were doing a horrible job of it, but as the 1st half wore on they started to get back into the game. Half time came after a bit of madness with Messi and a Carvalho elbow (more accurately a Carvalho shoulder) and a 2-0 scorline in Barcelona’s favour.
Now onto the second half. Lassana Diarra was brought on in place of Mesut Ozil and it seemed like damage limitation more than anything, but Real Madrid needed to do something as they had been chasing shadows for the first 45 minutes. The second half started as the 1st half did with Barca causing Real Madrid untold problems and only a last second intervention stopped Barca going 3-0 up within the 1st 2 minutes of the half. Messi did have a goal disallowed as he tried to have more of an impact on the game, but that questionably disallowed goal was a harbinger of things to come as Real kept squandering possession and the men in white shirts looked like they were regressing into shells rather than emerging as potential title winners, but as we know only too well in the English Premier League, a title isn't won in 1 game, its won over 38.
'The special one is a beaten one at the moment' - great quote from the Sky Sports commentary team for this game and without ruining the end of this great football tale, how prophetic was that statement? Another typical beautiful Barcelona goal was finished off clinically by David Villa and once again the offside trap and a lack of pressing cost Real again and Casillias was left with nothing else to do but to remonstrate with the referee, thus earning himself a place in the referee's notebook, 54 minutes gone and it's 3-0 Barca. The 57th minute came and as Lassana Diarra was robbed of possession you could sense another Barca counter attack, and they didn't fail to deliver. David Villa’s movement and finish was fantastic but Lionel Messi's through ball, which was far from easy (the easy ball was to go one more wide to the right) was inch perfect and Madrid went 4-0 down and looked shambolic at the back, the phrase 'hot knife through butter' came to mind at this point. Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillias had the facial expressions of men who didn't have a clue what was happening around them, with Ronaldo looking behind him and Iker looking to the heavens. Real Madrid were unbeaten in 36 matches going into this match but they looked like they hadn't won any in 36 during this match and without overhyping, this match was more lop sided than a see saw with a 20 stone guy at 1 end and a 2 year old on the other.
64 minutes gone and Sergio Busquets underlined what Barca were trying to do to Real...humiliate them, and Busquets effort from the halfway line was cheeky at best, but at 4-0 up you can afford to be cheeky. The party tricks we coming out on 68 minutes and you couldn't blame Barca for it, if you can compound the misery of your bitter rivals, then I say, do it, and Carvalho was fortunate that the game had been assigned a merciful referee after what looked like a blatant handball which denied a legitimate goal scoring opportunity.
To my mind, playing the offside trap against a team like Barcelona is like playing a high line against Brazil (see Ghana in the 2006 world cup), it's not a smart move as you will be put to the sword, and as the Barca fans chanted 'your getting sacked in the morning' to Jose Mourinho, which may not be far from the truth considering I call Real Madrid the revolving door of football management, in the last 3/4 years they've changed managers more than Pompey have changed owners and Portsmouth have been passed around more than chlamydia in recent times (as I’ve said on the Pitch Talk Live show on Mondays gone by). Bojan came on to replace David Villa on 76 minutes and Mr Villa received a standing ovation. Bojan was definitely looking to replicate David Villa's brilliant brace by having to chances in quick succession, 1 of which was squandered by the 'touch of a rapist' and the other denied by Casillias.
Real Madrid tried to catch up in this match but in all honesty they never got started and Barca were intent on keeping a clean sheet with their ultimate warrior look-a-like Carles Puyol flinging in challenges as per usual. A 5th goal from Jeffren compounded Real's misery and their first real test of the season was failed and failed abysmally as Barca showed Real Madrid how difficult it will be to usurp them from their throne. The end of the game was marred with a small melee at the end and Sergio Ramos was a deserved recipient of a red card (for a 2nd bookable offence) after a malicious hack at Lionel Messi and pushing Puyol in his face (I’m surprised Puyol didn’t release the warrior within and power slam him as opposed to falling to the ground). Mourinho and Real Madrid were made to look like schoolboy footballers in terms of style, guile, passing & movement, and in closing, El Clasico for me, lived up to the great white light hype provided by Sky Sports in their build up, but Real Madrid didn't and they were left staring into the blinding light of Barcelona's shine as they look up at brilliant Barca above in the table.
Final score
Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid (29-11-2010)
Xavi 10’
Pedro 18’
Villa 55’, 58’
Jeffrén 90’
I'm The Straight Shootin' One, And thats my opinion!!!
Liam Angell aka Straight Shootin' LJA

Thursday, 25 November 2010

“Hate You Arsenal, Love You Arsenal!”

“Hate You Arsenal, Love You Arsenal!”

Last Saturday, in the words of Black Eye Peas, "I got that feeling!!! " and it definitely wasn't that sort of feeling which would have me up in the clubs swinging from the crystal ball, pants down screaming "WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!"... Nope! Not at all.

I had that sinking feeling; the smug look had officially been wiped off my face. Sitting there behind my laptop waiting eagerly to see the response from a question I had posed to a good friend of mine but in the footballing world an arch nemesis. (A bit like Magneto and Professor Xavier from the XMEN). “Go on then, what have you got to say??” was what I had typed and with that there was an eagerness that loomed over me. I was expecting a barrage of insults and I was well prepared, ready to jump in hard; thinking it's on, time to defend my beloved GOONERS. I was expecting at any moment he would reply with some sort of smack!! Leading me to hit him with an enraged rant. I was just waiting, waiting for right moment; the slip up, the wrong thing to be said. I watched the speech bubble ticker along the base of MSN, my eyes wide open, static and without any sign of movement in sight. It was at this point that a torrent of counter arguments raced through my head! “How many Title’s have you won?”, “Wow you beat us today.... Oh and you won more Carling cup a couple years back did you? but have you ever won the premier League title???” the killer question i was hoping to lay before him was “I swear your boys are moving out of ends after 100 odd years?? ”. But that moment never came because after ten minutes of waiting for a reply, all that was said is “NAH! Man I’m happy with the quiet times from the arsenal fans enjoying the silence!

The sinking feeling first made its presence felt deep down from within, those words flashed on to my laptop screen and my whole pattern of thinking was thrown into turmoil. I was no longer that cocky, brash, free talking Arsenal fan; where an excuse was in place for everything. Just to give you an example of what I'm talking about, Fan who chats (S): "What happened to your goalie blood?" with that i would reply "Ah! don't watch that blood, at the precise moment of bundling the ball in to his own net the goalkeeper looked slightly left and was hit by a ray of sunshine which blinded his judgement". Fan who chats (S): " But blood it was an evening match!" and my reply of course stating the obvious "Have you ever won the premiership blood?"... But yea there was none of this, I had been humbled by his humble approach to victory, I was lost for words, all I could do was “lol” in reply. At this point I was a shamed man, in agreement with a SPURS FAN (forgive me my Arsenal faithful), but it's all I could possibly do. I was reduce to sitting like a little school boy, being schooled about the outcome of the match. I was forced to listen to the pros and cons of playing sexy football and I made to listen to yet another know it all! About how Arsenal are not ready for a title. By the time I finished speaking to him those feelings from within went from sinking to almost drowning, I was immersed in sorrow. All that could possibly save me now was the meal I was getting ready to go out for and a couple bottles of 1664.
I woke up the Sunday just gone, with a slight hangover, hoping I would have forgotten the events of the day before but for me trying to dodge football on Sundays is like trying to dodge a bus inspector on the old route master busses NEAR TO IMPOSSIBLE. Sunday 10am is when I awake up to watch 'Sunday Supplement and Goals on Sunday'. This Sunday was the worse! Not only did I have to endure an hour of silly pundits criticizing my beloved team but I also had to re-watch the shambles that unfolded before my very eyes the day before. I was and still am a man in pain right now. Like Arsene Wenger and the billions of Arsenal fans from around the world, I could not and cannot understand how we endeavoured throw those 3pts away. Especially to the old enemy, who for 17 years have not come to our territory and beaten us in a League game! "It's been 17 years!!". As for being beaten at home, again we fall at the Emirates this season; the third time this season. The Emirates is now looking like the home of the AWAY TEAMS, West Brom, Newcastle and Now Spurs have all come to the Emirates and we’ve allowed them to violate the code of the home team!! In fact I dread to say this all have given us a footballing lesson and verified one thing 'WE JUST AIN'T GOOD ENOUGH!'. I’ve never been to Highbury for a match day but I have been to Emirates where I’ve been told by a disgruntled group of Arsenal Fans “Highbury may have been small but it’s better than this big piece of S***” . The old faithful seem to think that Highbury as a smaller venue was more like a home of the true supporter and had more of an atmosphere. When you think about it from that point of view, that means the home up against it as much as the away team. We play in a World Cup chartered stadium, which holds up to 60,000 fans but it seems to be a stadium that inspires opposing teams to want to play well if not better than usual, due to it being a bigger stadium, bigger attraction and a bigger place to make a name for themselves...

Moving on swiftly I just want to say I know I keep using metaphors about Arsenal, i posted literally yesterday on my facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/DAT.MAN.G).

Arsenal be that B**** in your life that your trying to get rid of and you just want her to go away. At the best of times she sexy, so sexy she's all up in your head ,messing with your mind but deep down you know she aint no good for you, got everyone running up through her home f***ing with her... KMRT "I HATE you Arsenal, I LOVE you Arsenal"
I apologise for the explicit language my French was never that good but as I sit here and alter my blog some more I just thought of another one again literally how I feel about Arsenal at times.

Arsenal are like a friend! That snaky friend who is safe with you, however you don't really trust them. They are not who they really say they are; they never say what they actually thinking; they fling on a whole charade to keep you around them just long enough to make it beneficial to them (I.E Profits, New Stadium etc or even being 2 nil up and then bang lose 2-3 in the dying moments..) then they go and screw you over.
The sinking feeling just isn't going away, and in terms of looking at Arsenal I can't believe them anymore. When Wenger is in that press conference being poked and prodded about title credentials and he claims “I believe I have a talented crop of young players... I believe they are ready to challenge for the top table.... I believe they can compete in the champions league...” , it all just flows through one ear and out of the bum crack! You have to ask yourself, how comes the high echelons at Arsenal only "BELIEVE" and never "KNOW".

I just want to end with a cry of realism peeps, to all fellow fans and haters. The next generation of players coming through are going to be less experienced than the ones currently playing. Arsenal "BELIEVE" they will be able to win, but what they really mean is they "KNOW" they can challenge. Don’t expect too much unless we buy big, that is a fact one I've slowly come to realise, it's not likely but it is what's needed. The future have been invested in well but it's the present we need to start investing in. I’m not saying Wenger's Arsenal doesn’t have a chance of winning the league in the near future but with the youth he is grooming, they are young and skilful on the training ground and to everyone surrounding the club this looks promising but as we know looks can be deceiving fact at present is in battle, on a consistent basis their inexperience leaves them unproductive.

Arsenal play Wenger’s ideal sexy football to showcase their natural ability; for entertainment and this is a way of flirting with us drawing us in on the dream. The worse thing is we the fans know this "It's a dream", surely we must all know this. Nevertheless if you’re like me you also have that glimmer of belief that change is amongst us. This is why Arsenal is the team for me, this is why "I HATE you Arsenal, LOVE you Arsenal!"

This Blog of Events has been brought directly to your screens
by Gavin 'Gman' Henry

Monday, 8 November 2010

What a strange trip...so far

Well, as the title of this blog says, what a strange trip it's been so far in the Barclays Premier League.

11 games in and things are going absolutely mental, some things have remained the same as they have over the last couple of years with Chelsea at the top of the league, but even they have been involved in some strange goings on. Newcastle being 5th after 11 games, noone would have predicted that, Blackpool in the top 7 after 11 games, Liverpool having to work their way out of the relegation zone and now being 5 points off 4th spot, Chelsea getting beaten 2-0 by that same Liverpool side who were apparently in a relegation battle 2/3 games ago, Arsenal being beaten at home by Newcastle for the 1st time in years, it's been mad on the pitch. There has been the odd mad event off the pitch as well, with Andy Carroll moving in with Kevin Nolan as part of bail conditions, Ivan Klasnic and Titus Bramble being arrested after being accused of rape, and Chris Hughton being the victim of a media generated campaign to get him sacked before a win against Arsenal and a big win against Sunderland. It's been a bit odd so far because you've got to add in the protracted Liverpool takeover saga and the Wayne Rooney saga as well, so on and off the pitch the Barclays Premier league has provided entertainment, thrills, spills, intrigue and mystery in equal measure. Now, on the pitch again this bonfire 2010 weekend has proven nothing can be taken for granted, most people thought that Chelsea would have a cake walk towards the title after obliterating Blackpool, Wigan and West Brom earlier in the season but it's looking a little different after being beaten by Manchester City and Liverpool this past weekend. It's also interesting to note that newly promoted Newcastle are the leagues best travellers after picking up a historic win at the Emirates in the league. Blackpool and Newcastle are both exceeding expectations for sure and it is still only a quarter of the way through the season, but there have been some shockers in terms of results. We were broadcasting Pitch Talk Live when news was filtering through about Liverpool being beaten 3-0 by Manchester City at Eastlands, but the mad results don't stop there, West Brom beating Arsenal at the Emirates and Chelsea failing to score at Aston Villa were also notable results due to the shock value more than anything but Liverpool's humiliation at Goodison park and Man City's humbling at Molineux, and Newcastle's infliction of halloween havoc on Sunderland were additions to this catalogue of strange goings on in the EPL.

This will be one of my shorter blogs as it was just a passing thought after watching my beloved Liverpool's win against Chelsea on the ol' telly box but what a strange trip it's been so far, and there are many many more twists and turns left to come in the remaining games of this season, so in closing, the Barclays Premier League may not be a level playing field, but the unexpected should always be expected because on the EPL stage, it's always...SHOWTIME FOLKS!!!

I'm The Straight Shootin' One, And thats my opinion!!!

Liam Angell aka Straight Shootin' LJA

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Come On England!

I'm sure many folk are still smiling to themselves this week, when reading newspaper reports regarding the OK start the national team made for the European Cup qualification Campaign, winning 4-0 against Bulgaria and 3-1 against Switzerland respectively. I'm pretty sure fans have had the urge to scream from the top of their lungs "Come On England!", but won't exert their happiness in the usual patriotic ways of old (Pre World Cup). In fact I will go as far to say the only time England might be mentioned today/tomorrow and in the near future is in history and geography classes across the country...

"Why oh why would you make such a ridiculous statement GMAN!!", You may ask!

Erm!!!!!!!! ... Have you all forgotten the dismal world cup displays England gave us! Come to think of it, don't you remember the Pre World Cup HYPE! England promised so much but then produced so little. England!!! Were actually being tipped as potential winners! "I know.... I know, It’s paper talk GMAN, don’t believe everything you read GMAN!! any and all of the 32 teams are in the same position to win GMAN”..., but I mean ENGLAND were being TIPPED; HYPED; DESIGNED; BUILT UP; CONSTRUCTED; MEDIA MANUFACTURED and 'PITCH-TALKED' to be one of the greatest squads of current times. The crop of English lads, who attended the World’s most decorated footballing event were bathed with the title "The Golden Generation" as many of their failed predecessors had been before them. They paced through there qualification group with ease, sweeping aside their counterparts, the whole nation actually started to believe as we always do. The media circus, started to take hold of the nations fickle nature bombarding us with story’s like "ROONEY the next PELE or TERRY as good as MOORE” and as usual the F.A were quick to endorse, these claims and protect their manager and players alike.

Cappello was heralded by the British press as some sort of messiah; better still an Army lieutenant who had just seen England through a covert mission toppling all their footballing enemies. At times it was almost as if Cappello was some sort of cowboy, who was riding aimlessly through the highs and low forests, a journey that came with managing the world’s most dreamy nation. He was like John Wayne shooting down all those who tried to defy or challenge his authority. A most noticeable victim of this was EX Captain John Terry! Need I say any more??

The Italian who now after the World Cup is being spoken of as some sort of Tyrant was back then considered to be a saint. The only man right for the job in changing the English mentality into a winning one were the claims being thrown about. But How! Why! Who changed this opinion so fast? I don't know!

Now when looking back at the tournament and before the tournament, the paper talk was all about a fairytale ending! We'll for Cappello and his boys. This fairytale soon curtailed into a nightmare. Cappello was no longer the beauty that the papers had moulded, over night he had manifested into an image of a beast, the world of journalism was out to take KING KONG Cappello down. And in hind sight it’s hilarious because as British citizens we face the same fate each time a new tournament pops up. We have been through it so much we know the coo, in fact the tabloids tell us what they will do and what the most likely outcome is and we cannot do anything about it. Tabloids/media all like to build up the status of England before the Tournaments. England are the best this, England player are best that, but as they do this they also see the need to cripple individual personnel within the team and we as goosip/news hungry fiends buy into this, Tap ups, espionage, photo evidence all used in generating a worthy news stories. The England team therefore is never that far from some sort of controversy.

Personally a crazy thought of mine is the National media of all forms within this country are working together to destroy England’s chances of success in football, in order to make maximum profit from the stories they can print. There’s only so much money they can generate with good stories but with bad press they can spin all day, even create imaginative stories up that would have you or I as reader deliberating on whether there is any truth behind the story.

As usual the world cup campaign commenced in the same fashion, as any other pre tourney England received praise from everywhere even opposing nations threw their hat in the ring to say how good we were; how frightened they were of us; Rooney is as good as Messi (Bulls) and slowly as readers our minds are conditioned to expect the best, plus good news cross promoted with Carlseburg/ fosters/ Bulmas ect adds to the euphoria of good times ahead. However then follows the kick in the teeth, after weeks of good news plus cross promotion of alcohol, summer holidays and potential good weather for Bbq gloom settles in weeks/days before the tournament. WHY, you may ask?? The press only just decide to go and print/broadcast news of Captain John Terry's illicit affair with team mate and former best friend’s wife. This becomes the news of every household in the country no matter if you loved or hated football, and the press didn’t stop there in their pursuits to kill the buzz and maximise profits, extensive reviews on Cappello’s removal of the captaincy from terry which was expected was the next headliner but to make things harder for Cappello the papers/broadcaster alike decided to split their decision on whether this was a good choice by Cappello or bad one and some even decided to start chiselling away at the godly armour they had built around him. David Beckhams Achilles injury then out shone the teams preparations literally this became an ongoing saga until the tournament started. Beckham basically used the media to force his way into the England coaching set up, so his £16million face could still do right by its sponsors and this to me undermined Cappello as a manager and man. Cappello was also caught slipping when he verbally attacked the savage media frenzy which camped outside England’s training complex in South Africa 24/7, and there were also the reports of splits in the team how true they were no one will know, we’ll not until james Milner writes his latest autobiography “£24Milllion and haven’t done S***”. Oh yea and let’s not be forgetting Heskey, do I really have to go there with this one...

With all these things bubbling in the camp how on earth can any team cope. We the fans are as much to blame as the press even though they do seem to go into overkill mode when it comes to printing negative stories about our ballers and they may argue it’s because “SEX, VIOLENCE & CONTROVERSY SALES” but so does news of justifiable achievements. They may turncoat and then use the other argument “we’ll all we are trying to do is tell the news as it is and inform people what is happening in this world”. We’ll I’m sorry hanging someone’s dirty laundry in public is not telling people what is happening in this world. Stories of player affairs and driving bans are not going to affect a mum of 5 benefits or unemployed dads rights in getting a job. But in saying that these sensationalised stories which dismantle lives, marriages and ruin families are the type of stories the great British public like.

So for those of you that may be reading this at work, home or on your HTC, BLACKBERRY or IPHONE on the train/bus you may want to think about as we go into the next 2 group games in October do you really want to follow the trail of the newspapers and broadcasters by supporting England bullishly, going through the whole media mind games again, where at the end the most likely outcome is disaster and you endure sleepless nights, cold sweats and a host of disciplines for bad conduct at work, eventually being laid off for gross misconduct. Which then leads you down the pitfalls of alcohol, a weed addiction and potentially abuse of crack (like Phil Mitchell), reducing you to spend all your money on drugs and in bookies and eventually ending up homeless having to keep yourself warm with the same papers you used to read on your way to work or are you going to be a tad little more realistic in your approach and not expect too much??

These views have been brought directly to your door

By Gavin C Henry aka Da G-Man

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Straight Shootin' Opening Weekend Thoughts

So, the opening weekend of the premiership season has come and gone and what a weekend it has been, with goalkeeping gaffes, great goals and cards I have to say its already been a fun season and its only going to get better. In terms of great goals, my pick of the bunch has to be David Jones of Wolves with one of the most inventive free kicks i've seen in years against Stoke City because that could have went horribly wrong, but looked absolutely sublime as it went so right and proved decisive in giving Wolves their 2-1 win. In terms of teams there could only be one team who gets my vote as team of the week and that is Blackpool. The tangerines really impressed me with the way they basically pounded what was a poor Wigan side (who i've nicknamed the new Middlesbrough over the last year and a half) into the ground with aplomb, Ian Holloway looked proud of his side, but Gary Taylor-Fletcher had to be the proudest man in the team with the sheer fact that he scored the Seasiders 1st ever goal in the premier league, it may be their 1st time in this league but they shoed they won't go without a fight, but the one thing you hope for their sake, is that they haven't scored all of their goals at once as that opening day brilliance may end up a hollow victory for Holloway. Chelsea admittedly laid down a marker with an emphatic 6-1 win over the leagues Yoyo team West Bromwich Albion, but tougher tests will be coming to the bridge for sure. Man City vs Spurs was an intriguing watch, there were many questions to be answered on the day such as, who will be City's no.1 keeper? Given or Hart? Will Ledley King and his rickety knees play? Will City show they've got title credentials and hand Spurs a beating on the opening day, considering all the money that has been spent in the summer so far? Well, Hart was no.1 on this day and proceeded to show the league, if not the world why, it remains to be seen if Shay Given will get his place back after how well Hart did. It was an entertaining game but Spurs looked most likely to win it and if not for Joe hart and an amazing string of saves Spurs may have been out of sight at half time, but still, contrary to my expectations it ended 0-0 but the lack of cohesion throughout Manchester City's team was evident to all who saw that match and those who have City pegged as title contenders will find a lack of fluidity to be a source of consternation. Moving along to Sunday Liverpool v Arsenal was the marquee match and in my view didn't disappoint. As usual Arsenal did dominate possession but in the only flashpoint of the 1st half Joe Cole (and as a Liverpool supporter this hurts me to say this) was deservedly sent off for a challenge that wasn't malicious, but was dangerous all the same. N'gog drilled in a shot that by rights should never have went past Almunia, but after uncharacteristically sloppy passing from Arsenal, 10 man Liverpool went ahead and stayed ahead until about 86 minutes in when our player of the season last year conceded an unlucky, but still silly goal which gave Arsenal the draw, a result both teams probably would have taken at the start of the day. Everyone makes mistakes and fortunately for Mr Reina, he wasn't the only usually consistent keeper to drop a clanger this weekend as Tim Howard cost Everton 3 points with his 'dropping of the ball' against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Still though, I know i've missed out a couple of things such as Lee Cattermole's silly sending off (by silly I mean the challenge he put in for his 2nd yellow card) and Koscielny's stupid 2nd yellow that shouldn't have been a yellow, and the 2 legitimate goals ruled out in Blackpool's match, I could go on but i'm trying not to be long winded, point is, this weekend has been a lot of fun and there are surely a lot more to come!

I'm The Straight Shootin' One, And thats my opinion!!!

Liam Angell aka Straight Shootin' LJA

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

World Cup 2010 – A month of Football Heaven or A month of Football Hell?

Well, the end of the 2010 World Cup from South Africa is over and as an England fan my answer to the question posed by the title of this blog may sound, but the 2010 world cup has been football heaven!!!

It has been a fantastic month of football and it is fantastic to see a brand new country (Spain) win football’s greatest showpiece. It took a while to get started, just over a week and a half to be precise, but when the 1st round of matches came to an end, the upsets were on their way with the big surprises being Switzerland beating Spain by a goal to nil and Germany brushing aside Australia in such convincing fashion with their 4-0 win and Mexico being held by the host nation with a belter from Tshabalala. When the 2nd round of matches got started the surprises continued with Uruguay battering South Africa 3-0 and the French capitulation was in full swing after their 2-0 defeat by Mexico. England were held by Algeria after a limp and lifeless performance which was disappointing and frustrating in equal measure but then Wayne Rooney created his own talking point by blasting the England fans who had paid hard earned cash to support the boyz in south Africa. Slovenia vs the USA provided one of the games of the tournament at that point with a pulsating 2-2 draw, whilst in the other games the Dutch were fortunate as well as functional in their wins and the Argentineans were lighting up the world winning on a canter. The Portuguese also sent out a statement to the football world with a resounding 7-0 victory over the North Koreans who’d fought so valiantly in a 2-1 defeat to the 5 time world champions Brazil in the 1st round of games. So, the 3rd round of games and there were more surprises and the eliminations started coming thick and fast with Cameroon being one of the 1st teams out of the world cup, quickly followed by North Korea who were dispatched with ease by the Ivory Coast, but for them it was too little too late as Portugal and brazil (am match which promised so much but delivered bugger all) played out a real snooze fest of a match which ended 0-0. The French capitulation was complete with the 2-1 defeat by South Africa, who, by virtue of that result ended up as the 1st host nation in world cup history to be eliminated at the group stage. The African teams were dropping like flies and so were some of the bigger teams of Europe. England squeaked through thanks to a Jermaine Defoe goal and the Italians lost 3-2 to Slovakia which put their travelling wax museum of a squad on an early trip home. The South American teams were not only surviving but thriving and the Argentineans continued to show the big sides such as Spain how to win with aplomb whilst the Blackstars of Ghana were showing great heart, even in defeat against the Germans to ensure their passage through to the second phase along with the last 2 Asian representatives, with Ji-Sung Park leading South Korea and Endo & Honda showing the world that the men from the rising sun were not only the masters of their own destiny (at least temporarily) but also the masters of the unpredictable, but perfectly rounded, Adidas Jabulani ball. Isn’t it a bit ironic that ‘Jabulani’ is supposed to mean rejoice, but the ball has been nothing but a source of not only consternation, but frustration to players and goalkeepers alike? I know that was a very brief summation of the group stages but if I went into details i’d be here all day, night and you’d be reading this for a week.

Knockout Rounds (Round of 16)

So the knockout rounds started and due to the USA topping England’s group we had to face the old enemy Germany, and in all honesty we were shockingly bad with special criticism singled out for Matthew Upson who was the worst of a bad bunch. Ghana showed us how to play with the heart of a lion and Asamoah Gyan showed strikers like Wayne Rooney how to hit the back of the net, whilst the media started to sit up and take notice of the only African team to have made it out of the group stages and the bandwagon jumpers started to get their teeth into the so-called ‘African dream’ that Ghana were moving forward. Spain got the job done against Portugal in a narrow victory and the Netherlands beat Slovakia without getting out of 1st gear and Paraguay played out a goalless match which went to penalties which resulted in the Japanese proving that they didn’t have the best control of the Jabulani ball after all with one of their penalties that smashed the crossbar. Brazil barely broke a sweat when they swept aside Chile but they contributed, through the Luis Fabiano, Kaka and Robinho threesome a couple of the best (if not most controversial with Fabiano’s 2 hand balls for his 1st) goals of the tournament at that point. Uruguay were the victors against South Korea with Diego Forlan impressing again along with Luis Suarez although in a later round Suarez morals were severely questioned but i’ll get onto that in a bit. The round of 16 had great goals but had it’s controversies with Frank Lampard having a legitimate goal ruled out (cue the Pedro Mendes for spurs goal that wasn’t comparison) by linesman who left most of us England fans (especially me) wondering ‘who hired Stevie wonder as our linesmen for this match?’ but later on in the same day Argentina had a stroke of luck with Carlos Tevez being a good yard offside and scoring, but much to the chagrin of the Mexican players the linesman in this game also seemed to have a temporary bout of blindness and let the goal stand, even though the goal was replayed on the big screen and should clearly have been chalked off (again pissing off the Mexican players no end) the match went on and the Argentineans (more specifically Carlos Tevez) started to enjoy themselves with Tevez scoring an absolute belter from 25 yards out.

Quarter Finals

The quarter finals provided not only more action, but one of the most controversial moments in football since, well, the last round to be honest, I would have said a while but football seems to be rife with controversy at times at major tournaments. Holland beat favourites Brazil in an intriguing encounter between the most prolific world champions in world cup history, and the team that was one of the greatest teams never to have lifted the aforementioned trophy. Wesley Sneijder in my view really came of age in this match as the Dutch deserved the win and he was the focal point of most of what was good for the Netherlands on that day. With a continent seemingly behind them and Uruguay in front of them most people were hoping that the ‘African fairytale’ would see Ghana go through to the semi finals of the world cup but it wasn’t to be. Sulley Muntari opened the scoring with a speculative (aka my fancy way of saying hit and hope) effort and Forlan equalized with a fantastic strike worthy of winning any game, but then the controversy came in. Last seconds of the match and the ball is going towards the line and that ball crossing the line for Ghana was about to spark scenes of delirium, the likes of which have seldom been seen in Africa before that time, but Luis Suarez aka the new owner of the hand of god mantle (his own words, not mine) intervened and looked like a pro volleyball player when he blatantly batted the ball off the line with his hands, thus giving the referee no choice but to award a penalty to Ghana and send Mr Suarez off. The resulting penalty had probably the most drama of the world cup so far and every single cliché behind it you could think of, the hopes of a continent, the dreams of a nation etc... but the resulting penalty (which was the last kick of the game in extra time) was missed by Asamoah Gyan, the game went to penalties and even though Gyan scored in the shootout, the damage had been done with 2 poor penalties from Ghana and a final Uruguayan penalty which was coolly dispatched thus ending the ‘African dream’ in somewhat controversial fashion with the Ghanaians doing what we all do in life at some point...cursing missed opportunities. Spain came out victorious, if not a bit worse for wear physically in their quarter final encounter with Paraguay whilst Germany (who i’ve called functional, average among other adjectives) took the award for shock of the round by not only recording a resounding 4-0 victory against Argentina but making the Argentineans look as bad as Burnley away from home by stifling their big game players and handing them a severe beating.

Semi Finals

The semi finals saw Uruguay dumped out by virtue of a 3-2 defeat by Holland in which Holland once again showed that total football may get you plaudits, but functional football can get you pretty far in tournaments whilst some viewed a potentially offside goal by Holland (offside potentially by virtue of Van Persie flicking his leg towards the ball from an offside position) as karmic retribution for Uruguay who some say shafted Ghana out of a semi final place, but again the Dutch showed that even in victory, their defence isn’t totally watertight. In the other semi final Spain, like Holland were not amazing, but they got the job done with a deserved 1-0 win with a goal by the ultimate warrior look-a-like Carles Puyol getting the only goal of the game, with the Barcelona stalwart proving once again that if you leave a defender to get a free header in your box, more likely than not he’s going to bury it.

3rd/4th place Playoff

The third/fourth place playoff was quite interesting but the Germans deservedly took 3rd place with the Uruguayans having to settle for fourth place and an unlucky Diego Forlan scoring another fantastic goal and coming within inches of getting the Golden Boot.

The Final

So, we went into the final knowing a couple of things, 1 being that we would have new world champions as the defending champions (Italy) crashed out at the group stage, and another thing we knew was that we were going to crown brand spanking new world champions as neither nation had actually won the trophy previously and that Germany were 3rd and Uruguay 4th. We expected a festival of football and we weren’t disappointed. There were chances for both sides and even though some of the Dutch players bemoaned Howard Webb’s decision making, they were fortunate to have 11 men on the pitch up until Heitinga was sent off anyway, especially after Nigel Je Jong’s fantastic impression of a karate master with Xabi Alonso being his victim. In my humble opinion the Spanish deserved the win and I am glad that the best pure footballing team won the World Cup and never changed their playing style.

So a month of football heaven is over and deserving world champions were crowned, it may have been a slow starter, but between refereeing controversy, the constant sound of the vuvuzelas and some truly fantastic goals, it has been a lot of fun and truly entertaining.

But as the Spanish rejoiced, i couldn’t help but be slightly envious. My prediction came true, England disappointed me as usual, but as sad as I am about the tournament ending, I am overjoyed at the spectacle I have had the pleasure of watching.

I'm The Straight Shootin' One, And thats my opinion!!!

Liam Angell aka Straight Shootin’ LJA

Sunday, 13 June 2010

And so it begins... (World Cup 2010)

And so it begins...

So yet another World Cup is upon us, and true to their word, the hosts exploded Africa's first take on the tournament onto us with a blaze of colour, some endearing dance moves and a goal African footballing legends George Weah, Roger Milla and Kanu would of been proud to add to their collections!

As has been proved year after year, it is imperative that the host nation does well, Africa as an entire continent has embraced this World Cup, just as the whole of Asia seemed to some eight years ago when it was their time to shine. With the eyes of the world watching, Nelson Mandela's dream is officially underway.

Naturally after tonight's rollercoaster in Rustenburg, all eyes turn to the inevitable question, will England finally emulate the victorious eleven from 1966, on this evidence the suggested answer would perhaps point towards no.

The obvious talking point has to be the performance of a certain West Ham goalkeeper wearing number 12. I'd hate to see how bad his blunder looked in 3D! Ironically his massive error was the type of mistake that David James has made a career set for it's own comedy DVD out of, despite his top class second half save, which did go some way to making amends for his Frank Spencer impression from the first period, there will still be a lot pointing towards James as the only choice for the rest of the England's participation in South Africa. Could it be a case that the grass perhaps isn't Greener with Robert?

The other choice of course is the highly rated young Mr Joe Hart. He is after all the PFA's goalie of the year. And for those who point to his age as a negative, they perhaps should look at how well Iker Casillias has done with Spain since he was thrust onto the national scene whilst still in his teens.

Green's howler isn't the only headache facing 'Don' Capello over the next week however. When Rio Ferdinand limped out of the tournament before a ball was even kicked, many were ready to push the panic button, after this performance the button may already be worn out! Ledley 'no knees' King looked dodgy at best in the first half, but compared to Jamie Carragher's shocking impression of a still international class central defender, King looked almost as good as Baresi in his pomp! As the veteran Liverpool warhorse chased about after Josey Altidore's shadow, a man not deemed good enough for the awful Hull side from last season, the Italian taskmaster must of regretted the moment he wasted his phone bill to ring Carragher and tempt him from his international exile.
Call me a biased Evertonian if you will, but I bet Capello now wishes he'd opted to take the ever-reliable Phil Jagielka on the plane instead now. Surely no country can win a World Cup without some pace at the back?!

The left side problem also raised it's ugly head again. James Milner was awful in his half hour cameo, but in his defence I don't think he was fit enough to start. His replacement, Shaun Wright-Phillips, simply confirmed what England fans knew a long time ago, he's the answer to a question that nobody actually asked.

That said there was still several positives from the game. Terry proved if nothing else that at least England have one centre half worthy of the shirt, and Steven Gerrard was outstanding in the centre of the park. Now, que the moment where Capello moves him onto the left in order to accommodate Gareth Barry back into the heart of his team.

The much berated Emile Heskey also proved some of his doubters wrong, he produced a performance that showed everything that is good about his game, he held up the ball expertly, and allowed the likes of Gerrard and Rooney the space the expose a very fragile US defence. However with one-on-one with Tim Howard, midway through the second half, he also showed the side of his game that have made him the figure of ridicule and scorn over the years. Who really thought he'd do anything else but miss? Chances like that simply can't be squandered against the better sides in this competition.

England can, and no doubt will recover from their American prom date. Tougher tests are still to come...

On the note of who will lift the famous trophy come July 11th, the sensible money seems, understandably, going on the Spanish to finally pop their World Cup cherry. Four years ago I walked into a bookmaker on the eve of the 2006 edition of this worldwide spectacle, and confidently handed over a tenner and placed it on Spain lifting the greatest prize in football a month later. Ok I was wrong, they exited in the second round to eventual finalists France, however that young, talented side would stride into the European Championships only two short years later, and win the entire thing at a canter. With it they played style of football worthy of any El Classico match. Since then the talents of likes Sergio Bousquets and Gerard Pique have been added to the ranks that Vincente del Bosque's has at his disposal. So they'll walk it, right? But hang on, didn't we say the same thing about Brazil four years ago?

The Dutch, as always, will delight us on the pitch, whilst their devoted fans will make every stadium they play at look like a Sunny Delight advert gone global! With the brilliant Wesley Sneider pulling the strings, don't be surprised if this orange party goes all the way to the final.

Argentina have the players, well the strikers anyway, but can Diego Maradona really guide this mismatched squad to the final again, just as he did twice as a player? The man is arguably the greatest player to of ever kicked a ball, and seemingly to the whole of his nation, his players included, he seems to be simply viewed as a a god. However I suspect the players love of him alone won't be enough against some of the greatest tactical football minds in the world. Maradona makes decisions that even Kevin Keegan would find bemusing. Jonas Gutierrez as right back, seriously Diego?! Surely even the world best player, Lionel Messi, can't cover for that sort of ineptitude, can he?

Brazil will probably do well, but I don't think well enough. Kaka has been average at best for Real Madrid this season. Germany always come good on the big occasion, but looking at their squad you've really got to ask to question where the creative spark will come from this time around. The France were awful in their opening encounter against Uruguay, and let's be honest are bloody lucky to even be at this World Cup, as any proud Irishman will tell you. They are a spent force now sadly, the golden generation has long since passed, and there is no real evidence another will be along any time soon. The Ivory Coast have Didier Drogba, and even with a broken arm he's better than 90% of forwards in the world, but despite having a good squad I suspect Pele's desire to see an African winner will still have to wait at least another four years. Italy are simply not a patch on the ageing, but nonetheless talented squad that lifted the trophy in Germany. I'd be very surprised if lightening struck twice this time around with the Azurri.

But hey, what do I know eh? Algeria will probably now go onto win the whole thing, SWP will go on to be named player of the tournament and the Dutch will no doubt crash out in the first round!

I think one thing we all agree on however, is that the vuvuzelas are the most annoying part of any World Cup since the BBC finally sent Jimmy Hill to a retirement home after France 98!

By Kris Hutchinson

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Wenger, Gerrard & Ungrateful fans

Now, of course I have the Liverpool fc perspective on the ungrateful fans issue with the recent abuse that our great Captain Mr Steven Gerrard has had to endure from a few supposed Liverpool supporters recently. It was brought to my attention that certain Liverpool supporters were chastizing Steven Gerrard after an errant backpass against Chelsea and I for one was appalled by the way some people had the temerity to turn on Stevie G.

Admittedly 2009/2010 hasn't been Mr Gerrard's best season in a Liverpool shirt (the defeat away to Wigan was probably the worst i've ever seen him play) but let's not have this short memory stupidness that some seem to have. Criticism is fine as everyone makes mistakes and no-one is perfect, just take top level referee's as an example of this, but think about what Steven has done for Liverpool over the years, remember the F.A Cup final in 2006 aka the Gerrard final (and it wasn't called that because Gerrard sat back and watch proceedings pass him by), remember who started the scoring in Istanbul, remember who scored the critical 3rd goal against Olympiakos that was the beginning of us getting there in the 1st place.

When I saw the mistake by Stevie G I turned around to a friend of mine who I watched that match with and said 'you know what, after everything he's done for the club, I can't be pissed at him for doing that'. I had the same reaction when he did the same thing which presented Thierry Henry with a goal back in 2004/2005 at Highbury after he had carried our team for that whole season. My message is simple, have your opinion by all means, but remember what Steven Gerrard has done for our club before you start calling him shit, or a twat or any other defamatory name, otherwise i might have to start quoting Didier Drogba & calling you a fucking disgrace, because thats what turncoat fans are.

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA & thats my opinion

Liam Aka LJA

To my surprise I picked up the Daily Mirror about a week back and read an article, which stated that a minuscule fraction of Arsenal glory hunters (the new wave of fans whom talk absolute nonsense) were so unhappy that they decided to disrespect Arsene Wenger by parading a banner which read “Sign ins or Sign off”. If I were Arsene Wenger (who is one of Arsenal’s most successful managers) I would be absolutely disgusted. Especially after the tuff season he and his players endured; a squad hit by niggling injuries, a back biting board; a couple loose lipped players and pundits talking and slurring around every corner. However he still managed to ensure we finished in the top four above our rivals spurs...

I just can’t understand the nerve of these so called Arsenal fans, how can the call into question Arsene Wengers ability to manage when his consistency with in the league is second to only Alex Ferguson, he has not finished outside the top four in his tenure at the club, and it was not until the billionaires entered the premiership that he was finishing no lower than the top three. Also Wenger was the first ever overseas manager to win the premier league back in 1997/1998 this was topped up with a Fa cup victory the same year, since then he has won 2 more leagues in 2002 and 2004, plus 3 more Fa Cups in 2002, 2003 and 2005, and he remains the most successful overseas manager to manage an English club to this date.

Fan’s have been hitting out at Wenger for the trophy baron spell since our FA Cup win in 05, however if you ask me Arsene Wenger has been pulling off some of the grandest master strokes. What many of these egotistical Arsenal fans don’t realize is Arsene Wenger has given more to Arsenal than he most likely expected. He has literally put in over 13 years of his life contributing to all areas of the club set up, introducing a new health regime; a new style of play; a youth academy second to none; assisting in the design of the new stadium and winning trophies (He must also be merited with having an unbeaten squad over the course of one season), where all this criticism comes from I do not know.

To sum up, Arsenal fans should more than appreciate Mr Wenger for his achievements; they should praise him at least three times a day, rather than begrudge him for a few seasons of hard times. Wenger has been loyal to Arsenal, helping us to grow as a club both on and off the pitch. The past 4 seasons have seen him working with the bare minimum to create a top four team, any other manager would have walked as the task is almost impossible for all other clubs to do, what he has done. Nope! Not Wenger he stayed believing he could create a team within the means of the club that could compete at the top, Wenger has stuck to his guns to ensure Arsenals future and i think us Arsenal fan at least owe him the same level of respect to ensure his!!!

In Arsene I Trust

G.C.Henry aka Gman

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Gooner be a Good Season or Bad Season (May 2010)

At the end of the 2004/2005 season we saw Captain Patrick Viera (now of Manchester City) lift the FA cup. In what was a tightly contested match Arsenal were fortunate to out whit Manchester united 5-4 on penalties. Many Arsenal supporters at the time including myself saw this victory as the start of good things to come. 5 years on and another season has passed us by, yet again Arsenal have nothing to show for it; No trophy, no final and not even a big player signing. The only glimpse of excitement beaming out of the Arsenal camp at the moment is the battle between board room multi millionaires Stan Kronke VS Alisher Usmanov.
In terms this seasons outcome, I'm pretty sure my fellow Arsenal fans will see this as another wasted one; a season that promised so much joy but delivered nothing but pain. In all honesty I felt there may have been a chance of something special being achieved for 2010. Even though critics and pundits alike were adamant at the start of the campaign that Arsenal were not good enough for the title challenge; were not up for the champions league battle and some even claimed the 'Young Guns' would struggle to finish in the top four. How wrong were they on the latter!!!

I guess the biggest concern for all us Arsenal fans has to be the trophy cabinet at the Emirates, which hasn’t seen any action since the stadium opened. In fact it’s probably seen more cobwebs than it has noticeable accolades, the closest the Gooners have come to having any sort of glory was in 2007, when Chelsea’s vastly expensive and expierenced team came back from one goal down to dispose of the cheaply constructed teenage Arsenal team who had been wooing home and the neutral supporters throughout the knockout stages of the competition, defeating West Brom, Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham. Yet 3 years down the line the Gooners have failed to build on this momentum. WHY!!
Project Ashburton Grove aka the Emirates Stadium, was desperately needed. The development of the 60’000 seated stadium has ensured we are now able to compete with the United’s and Chelsea’s, in all areas of the game (Signings, contracts, marketing etc). However in doing so Arsene Wenger has paid the price heavily, yet Wenger being the wizard he is, has done a marvellous job. Sustaining Arsenal rights to calling themselves a top four giant, this is at the least required to quench the first of glory hungry fans.

Wenger has been working from a shoe string of finances and resources, and up until now has been unable to battle with the big money men of the premiership, reduced to dipping into the youth setup or finding cheap deals across the world. He was not helped by the fact David Dein, one of his closet allies at the club, chose to part ways with the Arsenal board (2007) due to conflicting views over the direction the club. This inevertedly introduced us to now Arsenals largest share holder Stan Kronke, whom at the current moment is in a power struggle with the Russian billionaire owner Alisher Usmanov, who’s ‘Red & White holdings’ was being chaired by David Dein up until 2008.

Wenger being a lateral thinker, shrewd business man and tactical genius has overcome such financial restraints & board squabbling by helping to guide his flock of young talent helping them to concentrate on the on field battles rather than the distracting pot shots that are happening within the board room.The Past 5 years has seen Wenger build a squad of young and upcoming stars. He has trusted his youth policy and continued give the next flock of talent the chance to flex their developing muscles. The likes of Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby, Alex song & Jack Wilkshere are proof of Wenger's theory that youth players can play an important role in sustaining Arsenals & Arsene Wenger rich legacy of entertaining football of the highest quality. Arsene is convinced this current crop of players if kept as a tight unit will be able to overturn the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea and when looking how this season has turned out, this claim is not far from the truth.

Arsenal was being ridiculed at the beginning of the season for their lack of spending. Wenger had a pre season clear out, releasing the likes of Adebayour and Toure to Manchester City for a joint fee of around £25m, his only signing during the august transfer window was 10 million signing of Thomas Vermaelen. Most of Wenger’s peers saw this as him being defiant and once again naive for trusting the same talent to take him into another premier league campaign.

The Campaign started weirdly, there was the case of a 6-1 victory away to Everton (whom to be honest were very wobbly, due to an early season injury crisis), we then went on to beat Portsmouth, only then to be defeated by both Manchester’s with in a space of a week, after the defeat to city we were already being written out of the of the race for the title. However from September – November we garnered a 9 game premier league non losing streak, winning 8 of the nine games. It wasn’t until we came up against another of our top four competitors that we came unstuck beaten 3-0 by Chelsea, a superb hat trick from Didier Drogba. The losses to United and Chelsea were indicators for the pundits that Arsenal had still a long way to go before being ready to compete with the biggest.

We then went on another 12 game none losing streak applying the pressure on both Chelsea and Untied only to be beaten again by the two. But when the chips were down, we bounced back to trounce FC Porto 5-0 at the Emirates in the Champions League. Only to find out we would face the spectacle known as Barcelona. This was being tipped as the match of Total Football. However in the premiership the momentum was slowly pleating away, pressure and injuries was taking its tool.

The season effectively came to an end after Barcelona dumped us out of the champion League with two terrific displays, one of which Argentina’s whiz kids Lionel Messi called all the shots (Literally). In the premiership our greatest rivals ended our challenge totally beating us 2-1 in a must win match, credit to Harry Redknapps Spurs.

Now with the season finished Arsenal lay 3rd in the table and with such a young squad, i believe this is a wonderful testament to Arsene Wenger's youth policy, Allan Hansen once said, “You can’t win anything with kids...” However I would like to point out in a 38 game season, Arsenal has won 23 matches to finish in the top four, ensuring they’ve qualified for the champion’s league once again; exited the quarter finals stage of the champions league, beaten by arguably the world’s best; the youth were knocked out of the Carling Cup by a very strong Manchester City side, who gave Man Utd a run for their money in the Semi’s.

So I conclude even though trophies are not heading towards the Emirates this term, all is not lost. I believe all gooners should be able to feel proud about the outcome of this season and positive about the next one, if Arsene Wenger manages to introduce a few new faces for next term, preferably a New Goalie, two Defenders and two Strikers then Arsenal will be a stronger and more resilient outfit. We have the stadium, we have the history and we have the talent!

These views have been brought to you by

Gavin C Henry aka Da G-Man

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Future Of Rafael Benitez & Liverpool Football Club

Well, as a Liverpool supporter this is an issue close to my heart and after the last 2 defeats (to Chelsea & Atletico Madrid) as I write this my team have virtually no chance of finishing anywhere above 6th, which for a great club like Liverpool is in all honesty a disgrace. This season may have further rammifications on the future than most people realize. This looks like equalling or at least coming close to being our worst season since 1998/1999 when we had the co-managers (Houllier & Evans) finished 7th in the league.

It is clear that mistakes have been made, and huge ones at that, but in my view there are a few entities that need to be blamed. Of course the manager is one of those who has to be held accountable. Mr Benitez has claimed recently that he hasn't had the financial backing of our owners Gillette & Hicks, although we must remember that Fernando Torres (currently one of the best strikers we've had since Robbie Fowler) was brought in during their tenure and also over Rafa's 6 years in charge he has spent around £200m. Buying the right players is crucial in this day and age as people expect progress instantly, and that includes chairmen and owners. The manager is the person who sorts out the tactics and is under immense pressure to get things right, but thats why he's paid good money to do what he does, and in Rafa's case this rings especially true after he negotiated a very lucrative 5 year deal for himself by basically holding the owners to ransom. Now, in my view, if you guarantee things (for example 4th place, which Rafa did guarantee), you have to put up or shut up and this season for what ever reason, whether it be poor man management, poor tactics or poor motivational skills, Rafa has not delivered. Lets take a step back in time, the Gareth Barry saga. It was a disgrace when we had a centre midfielder as good as Xabi Alonso and Rafa was trying to go for Barry who in my view isn't anywhere near as good. Letting Alonso go along with Arbeloa (both of whom were standout players last season) was a huge mistake. You can't build a successful team by selling off your best players, and in retrospect it looks even worse. Glen Johnson is a quality right back, no doubt, but if we'd had him and Arbeloa, we would have been so much stronger at the back this season, and considering we've been blighted by injuries at the back this season, it would have been fantastic to have that calibre of cover. Alberto Aquilani, for me, the jury is still out on him as we've seen flashes of brilliance from him at times when he's played, but a combination of injury and Rafa playing him intermittently when he was fit has made £20m look like somewhat of a waste of money, again, the manager has to take responsibility for this. A manager lives and dies by the decisions he makes and the players he buys but this season when changes needed to be made, our manager seemed like he didn't have the balls to do it. In games such as against Wolves away (0-0), Stoke away (1-1 draw), Wigan away (1-0 defeat) we needed more attacking impetus but we seemed toothless upfront and Rafa seemed like he didn't want to gamble anything to try and get the win, which is frustrating at best. What strikes me as most weird is the fact that we did so well last year (2008/2009) and we've done so badly this year which brings me nicely onto the players.

The players have a huge cross to bear for how things go out on the pitch as they are the ones who perform on it. A lot of our players have underperformed this season, Gerrard being one, Babel being another until his twitter outburst which resulted in him being transfer listed, which then resulted in him picking up his game, Carragher looked poor in the 1st half of the season and Insua has been shocking at times (vs Man United at Old Trafford being the most glaring example) but in general this season it's been poor. Strength in depth is a problem for us, but the players at the club have to give 100% and a lot of players look like they haven't been doing that. Injury has had it's part to play but is not entirely an excuse. On the flipside as mentioned Babel picked up his game in the 2nd half of the season and Kyrgiakos has been a bargain for £1.5m, but my player of the season, and this is a worrying indictment of how poor our season has been, but my player of the season has been Lucas Leiva. In previous seasons he's been shockingly bad but over the course of this season he seems to have improved immensely. Against Wigan at the DW stadium the team was shockingly bad and as much as i love Steven Gerrard as a player, it was probably the worst performance from him that i've seen in a Liverpool shirt. A lot of people say we are a 2 man team but that would be disrespectful to Pepe Reina as he is a world class goalkeeper. Players are paid thousands of pounds to perform and we've paid millions of pounds for these players and they need their performances to match their price tags and in the case of guys like Ryan Babel, they need to perform well and live up to the potential they have. Rafa is right that we need 5 new quality players to compete, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that we could do with a new left back, right back, 2 natural wingers and a quality striker.

The owners, now, these guys do have some responsibility for what goes on out on the pitch as they provide the funds to buy players, but it seems like these two haven't done much more than break promises on a constant basis and run the club into £270m of debt. Currently, and it hurts me to say this, but we have a clown show upstairs, and with the turmoil in the boardroom with offers being made for the club and the owners squabbling with each other does not help anything, and another thing that doesn't help is way in which the owners have let these squabbles go public which is distracting to the players, and if you are distracted playing football, you won't be playing at full capacity.

The sale of Liverpool needs to happen quickly and the mistakes of last time need to be learned. We have to sell to someone who loves the club and doesn't just see it as a catalyst for profit. Gillette and Hicks have shown on numerous occasions that neither they nor their immediate family love the club (especially one of their sons after the clash with the Spirit of Shankly group). On a personal note, i'm glad Martin Broughton has been brought in by Christian Purslow to help sell the club, Broughton (from what i've read up about him) is a shrwed businessman and does not make stupid or ill informed fiscal decisions and the fact that he has been a Chelsea supporter for most of his life will have conspiracy theorists rubbing their hands with glee, but he wasn't brought in because of his footballing allegiances, he was brought in for his fiscal savvy. As stated previously this sale needs to happen quickly as the quicker new owners are found, then the quicker we can earmark potential transfer targets and the quicker we can get other things done, such as tying down important players down to new contracts, and if Rafa decideds to leave, then the quicker we can find a good quality replacement for him.

In closing i'd like to end with a quote which i believe that Liverpool fc must take heed of, 'Those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it'

I'm The Straight Shootin' One, And thats my opinion!!!

Straight Shootin' LJA

Friday, 23 April 2010

Inconsistent refereeing (March 2008)

Hi guys, below is an old post from 2008, but it is still true today,

The hilarity of refereering continues, and i don't know if anyone saw Birmingham vs Manchester City yesterday, but there was 1 decision that is an indictment of poor refereeing. Late on in the match Sun Ji Hi and Gary McShefferey are going for the ball, McShefferey and Sun Ji Hi basically shoulder barged each other, with McShefferey leaning into it a lot more than Sun Ji Hi. Seems all hunky dory there, no problem, just shoulder to shoulder in a tackle right? Wrong, because the referee blows and gives a penalty to Birmingham, and as you can imagine, i'm screaming at the tv 'You can't give a penalty for that it's shoulder to shoulder'. Now, that was an extremely soft penalty and should never have been given, like Fernando Torres also, who was booked for asking a legitimate question after being kicked 3 times by Man United players but the stnadard of refereeing has to be raised, all this talk of ref's cracking down on dissent, when there are more serious issues on the pitch that need to be 'tackled' (pun intended), but i feel that ref's have to raise their game considerably, because week after week after week i'm seeing ref's get even the simple things wrong and correct me if i'm wrong (and i definitely urge you to), but in almost any other job, you'd get fired for making simple mistakes over and over. If you were a doctor and you accidentally killed a patient, you'd be fired, and never work again due to a tarnished reputation, most other jobs, if you make a simple mistake once, that can be chalked down to human error, twice, is a stretch, but you may still get away with it and keep your job, but if you were to do that 3 time or even regularly, you'd be fired and never work again because you'd have a reputation for being a screw-up. Now, ref's, if they make a high profile mistake, they just get busted down to championship games to a week or two and have something like 2% of their pay (not an exact figure i know, lol) taken away for a week or 2, now, we need to raise the level of refereeing, and it needs to start at the top with more consistent decisions on a consistent basis. Referees and people generally like to talk up all this, respect the ref's thing, which yes, the man in black and his linesmen should be respected, but it's hard to respect someone, who regularly gets the simple things wrong and is supposed to be a professional and remember this, a professional by defenition is 'a person who is expert at his or her work' (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/professional). A professional, doesn't get simple things wrong regularly!!!
The funny thing about Euro 2008 is what they wanted to crack down on, and what they told every team participating in the tournament they would crack down on - Diving/simulation & pushing, shoving & pulling in the box on set pieces. Now, I have no problem with these being cracked down on as i think there is too much of it, but inconsistent refereeing has come up again. Now, i loved Turkeys comeback (both against the czechs and the Croats) but in their 1st match, they should have had 2 guys booked for simulation as they obviously dove to try and get free kicks, but nothing was done. Thats my 1st gripe, my 2nd gripe is that one of the things that Uefa said they wanted to crack down on (pushing and shoving in the box on set pieces) and there was 1 referee by the name of Howard Webb, who had the balls to give a penalty against a Polish player who was warned about pulling another players shirt, and was dumb enough to do it again (idiot). Now, i am glad the penalty was given as 1 ref finally cracked down on what was supposed to be cracked down on, but then a day or 2 later (and here's where my problem is) Howard Webb is publicly backed by Uefa for making that decision, and i thought to myself, great, Uefa have their heads out of their arses at last, but then during Croatia vs Turkey i hear that Howard Webb got sent home by Uefa/Fifa a day or 2 after they came out and supported him, i thought, 'what the hell is that?' Its bad enough having idiots (Platini & Blatter) running the game, but things just need to be clarified and rules of the game should not differ based on referees interpretation, some things need clarification (like Holland's 1st goal vs Italy in the Euros - Panucci, active or not) and some things need simplification (the whole offside rule, passive active and all that shite), i would rather remember a game for the drama and emotional rollercoasters you go through as a fan/supporter because of goalmouth action, than ref's or ambiguous rules which are ruining the game.

I'm The Straight Shootin' One, And thats my opinion!!!

Straight Shootin' LJA

(30 March 2008)