Bits & Bobs: Weekend Review, Contracts & Champions League

Today’s update is a bit of a mix and match really. I have a few leftovers from the weekend to pass judgement on, reaction to contracts being signed in the midlands and a few thoughts on this evenings round of Champions League results. Enjoy 🙂

Arsene Wenger crosses a line.
Well, though I am not averse to having a good old fashioned moan about Stoke’s horrible style of play, I have to say I think Mr. Wenger has gone a teensy bit too far in his accusations that the Stoke players went out to deliberately injure his Arsenal side during their match. While Walcott and Adebayor both did pick up injuries, I think it’s a very serious allegation to suggest that Delap and Shawcross were deliberately trying to hurt their opponents. While neither tackle was particularly pretty, it is fair to say that Delap and Shawcross are not the most agile or subtle of players, while Walcott and Adebayor certainly are, they’re both nippy and have incredibly quick feet. Having played for years myself, I know that when you come up against an opponent as fast as those two, sometimes you commit to a full blooded challenge with every belief you will get the ball, only to see them whip it away from you, and you end up clattering them. I can’t prove that this is the case here, but neither can Arsene prove that they set out to injure his boys, and seeing as I don’t regard Delap or Shawcross to be particularly aggressive or nasty players, they deserve the benefit of the doubt in my opinion. Arsene needs to stop trying to lay the blame elsewhere and try and re-motivate his side after a couple of demoralizing results, because eventually, the buck will stop with him.

Roy Keane: harshly treated.
I must say, as a player, I had very little respect for Roy Keane. No one can deny what a fantastic player he was, but certain incidents just put me off him altogether, no least his shocking admission that he set out to hurt Alf Inge Haaland in his book. But since becoming a manager, my opinion of the man has improved greatly. He is as honest a manager as you will find (along with Moyes), and is not afraid to accept defeat when he knows his side have deserved it, something he acknowledged after the Black Cats defeat to Chelsea. But seeing that he has been slapped with a misconduct charge after watching the second half from the stands, strikes me as a little harsh. Anyone with half a brain could see that Anelka’s first goal was clearly offside, as Alex touched it forward to Anelka who was all but on the goal line when he poked it in. Keane says he was sent to the stands for complaining about a foul on Chimbonda by Joe Cole, and having watched replays, I can see his point, there is a definite tangle after a bit of a lunge from Cole. So I reckon that to charge Keane for misconduct is a bit harsh, when to be honest, the referee has had a bit of a nightmare and for Sunderland, had the goals been rightly disallowed, 1-0 leaves them much more in the game than 3-0, and I think Keano had a right to be frustrated.

Aston Villa: Bright Future
I think Aston Villa fans will be hugely pleased to see that Ashley Young has just put pen to paper on a new four year deal with the Midlands club, and so should England fans in general. Villa have managed to put together a really good young side, featuring a number of good young English players, most notably Young and Gabby Agbonlahor (who has also recently signed an extension), both of whom have been in good form so far this season. Villa fans will be relieved that they have secured the futures of these two starlets, as I am sure that had any doubt remained come January or even the end of the season, there would have been no shortage of clubs sniffing around after them. I am quite sure that at least one of the ‘big four’ would have been interested in them, but though I would love to see Young especially at Everton, I think it is good news for England’s prospects that they have been tied to new deals at Villa Park. It means that they can continue to develop with regular first team football (which they wouldn’t get at a ‘big four’ club) and they can further develop a good understanding together, as well as with Villa’s other young Englishman, like Barry, Reo-Coket, Milner and Shorey. In the heart of the midlands then, Martin O’Neill seems to be doing Fabio Capello a bit of a favour, and it is certainly worth keeping an eye on how they develop.

Liverpool: Lucky F**kers.

Sniper in the stands!

"Sniper in the stands!"

Even if I wasn’t a diehard Evertonian I am sure I would still resent the massive amount of luck that Liverpool seem to benefit from on an almost weekly basis. Watching the second half of their game against Atletico Madrid this morning I was pleasantly surprised to see how comfortable Atletico looked, and after a lovely goal from Maxi Rodriguez (boy have they got some good strikers at that club), it looked like they would take all three points from Anfield, and would deserve to do so. Liverpool had plenty of possession after going a goal down but rarely looked like doing anything with it, apart from when Agger kept getting his head to set pieces. Otherwise though, Atletico were solid, and in the fourth minute of injury time, must have thought the game was won. Unfortunately, a routine cross into the area saw Gerrard rise for a routine aerial challenge with Mariano Pernia, and then subsequently squeal like a baby and throw himself to the floor (see picture). The referee obligingly gave Stevie the penalty he wanted and Atletico were left to rue two points dropped. I’m certain it was never a penalty, there was contact but in aerial challenges, when isn’t there? Rafa (the opposite of the honest Roy Keane) has come out and insisted that anywhere else on the pitch it would also have been a foul, which just makes himself look like a fool because anyone with half a brain cell could see that those sort of challenges had been going on all over the pitch with no punishment. Yes I’m bitter, I wanted them to lose, but surely everyone can admit, now that their point is safely in the bag, that it was an awful decision? What do you think?

Scolari’s first big test at Chelsea.
Well, Chelsea have just lost to Roma in the Champions League, going down 3-1 to the out of form Italian outfit and seeing Deco sent off in the process. Most worrying for Scolari is that Chelsea failed to capitalise on early pressure, and then uncharacteristically poor defending gifted Roma the lead, from which they never looked back, surging to a 3-0 lead before Terry pulled back a consolation. While at the start of the season Scolari’s achievements in getting Chelsea playing superb flowing football were widely hailed, the team has lacked a little cohesion in recent weeks, the Sunderland match aside. After losing their epic home record to Liverpool, Scolari admitted that his side were a little bit clueless as to how to break sides down, suggesting that though they play good football, that is the only dimension to their play. And while initially having success in Rome tonight but not making the breakthrough, it seemed that the Italians soon figured out how to defend against Chelsea’s style of play and could then push on the attack themselves. It will be interesting to see then, whether Scolari can instigate change in the Chelsea setup, and while he won’t want to alter the way they play completely, surely he will want to add more dimensions to their attack – something which a returning Drogba might be able to help with. So after a couple of recent defeats, all eyes will be on Scolari at Stamford Bridge, and how he comes through this may determine how successful his reign as Chelsea coach could ultimately be.

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One Response to Bits & Bobs: Weekend Review, Contracts & Champions League

  1. DeludedDude says:

    Lots of excellent points well made, as usual.
    I couldn’t agree more about Liverpool and their luck – referee’s seem much too inclined to award decisions in their favour, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the penalty given against Atletico was abusrd – it was more a foul from Gerrard than against him, since he had the most momentum going into the jump. I’m not suggesting however, that it was a foul either way, it clearly was just a 50/50 aerial challenge.
    There’s a history of referee’s favouring Liverpool though, I’m specifically thinking back to Mark Clatternberg’s abysmal performance in the Merseyside Derby last season, not long after he had (innappropriately?!) accompanied Liverpool on a pre-season tour.
    Aplogies, this turned into a little bit of a rant.

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