Sunday, February 17, 2019
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  • Clearly, the stand out tie of the weekend’s Premier League fixtures was the clash of the titans at the Reebok Stadium, as Bolton entertained Wigan. Ok, maybe not, but seeing as the Latics are top of the form guide over the last six games yet still perennially feature in the last dregs slot on Match of the Day, I thought I'd start with them.

  • For years the idea of Arsenal without Arsene Wenger seemed unimaginable.

     

    Appointed in 1996 he completely changed the club’s regime, went on to create a team capable of playing arguably the best football the Premiership has ever seen, and then achieved the magnificent feat of going the whole of the 2003-04 season undefeated. Furthermore he also shared, and incredibly still shares, the first four letters of his name with the club, something which for many served as confirmation of just how much the two were meant for one another.

  • Contrary to his kid-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-turned-roy-of-the-rovers-style-kop-hero image, last night Steven Gerrard spent a night in the cells following a brawl outside a nightclub in Merseyside. The Liverpool captain always gives 110%, so what else were we to expect if trouble happened to erupt whilst he was out boozing with his pals at 2am? Our ‘Stevie G’ is, however, by no means the first footballer to get involved in trouble after dark.  

  • Newcastle fans are long-suffering. Even so, today’s announcement is unlikely to be water off the proverbial duck’s back. The cockney mafia are staying. With no one willing to front the GBP300m asking price, Mike Ashley, Joe Kinnear, Dennis Wise et al are back in it for the long-haul. 

     

    Owner Mike Ashley and his club-peddler, Keith Harris, have been unable to find a buyer that has ‘the best interests of the football club at heart,’ read the statement. This in spite of deals with an unnamed Nigerian consortium and a South African gold and diamond mining company finding the price as the only sticking point.  

  • A stacked Boxing Day fixture list contained some intriguing match-ups which posed some pertinent questions.

    Aston Villa Vs Arsenal - Could Villa show that they are a true threat to the Gunners fourth spot? Yes. Accusations of bias may abound, but Villa should have been out of sight by half time as they played a lacklustre Arsenal off the park. 
     

  • So, Juande Ramos appears to have identified the next Galactico. A man who will seamlessly fill the boots vacated by the likes of Figo and Zidane. Yes, that's right, you guessed it. It's so, so obvious: Jermaine Pennant.  

  • On the back of Paul Ince’s sacking and the possibly looming departure of Mark Hughes, we should take on some festive spirit and give these two unfortunates something to be cheerful about. So, for Ince, Hughes and terrible managers everywhere, here are the three worst Premiership managers of all time.

  • Boca Juniors won Argentina's Primera Division championship on Tuesday night, after a three-way knockout tournament that brought goals, five red cards, goalkeeping calamities, moments of stunning skill and impossible ineptitude, a sickening injury – and a dead pigeon. What the "triangular" sometimes lacked in quality, it more than made up for in drama.

     
  • With Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all set to face Italian competition in the next phase of the Champions League, the English spotlight is now on Serie A - the Premiership’s predecessor as the richest and most powerful league in Europe.  

     

    Whereas the English clubs get set for a busy festive schedule, their Mediterranean counterparts are off on their winters hol’s. This weekend’s action concluded the Italian league programme until January 10/11. 

  • For all the ex-pro pundits lamenting the fact that young British managers aren't given long enough (often citing the tired fact that Ferguson was a Mark Robins goal away from getting the sack a few centuries ago), Premier League chairmen have to look after the best interests of their clubs and can't afford for the likes of Ince & Keane to learn on the job at the expense of their teams flirting with relegation. John Williams has been lambasted for speedily dispensing with the services of the snarling Guv'nor, but new broom 'big' Sam Allardyce has immediately helped to justify the decision to install him after a year’s exile from management by triumphing in his first fixture.

  • If the Portuguese League was anything this week, it was a packet of Hula Hoops. Why? Because it was packed full of Os, with all of the big boys drawing 0-0.

     

    Sporting 0 – 0 Académica

    Sporting came to the table first this weekend, hosting mid-table Académica. This was a game they really should have won, and they probably would have if it hadn’t been for the inability of Helder Postiga to do his job.

  • Real Madrid 1-0 Valencia

    Juande Ramos' Madrid came roaring out of the blocks to kick start this week's round of La Liga. Only 3 minutes had passed when Robben recieved the ball wide-right, only to cut back on a clever diagonal path threading between 2 markers to the heart of the box where he laid the ball back for Higuain to score with an impressive finish with the outstep of his left boot . 

     

    Former Chelsea defender Del Horno endured a long night at the tough task of marking Robben, but it was Valencia's Marchena who would suffer worst when in the 67th minute Robben drew a soft foul , that perhaps unfairly, resulted in a second yellow of the night and dismissal for the Spanish international. 

  • Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough saw his side move eight points clear at the top of the Blue Square Premier on Saturday with a 3-1 win at Altrincham, while promotion rivals Torquay United and Crawley Town also recorded important victories. 

     

    Burton striker Greg Pearson, the league’s top scorer with 15 goals, struck either side of Dale Johnson’s leveller for Altrincham before John McGrath’s sweet second half strike sealed Burton’s victory in a match Clough described afterwards as one of the toughest of the season so far. 

  • Perhaps it’s too early to judge, but there has been a general trend of failure in Tony Adams’s managerial career so far. During his 12-month tenure at Wycombe Wanderers the team was relegated and he left them floundering in the lowest rung of professional football. The former Arsenal captain’s win percentage there? 22%. So far at Portsmouth things have been little better with only three wins in 12 games under his stewardship. 

     

    Contrast this to the wide held belief during his playing days that Adams would become a top manager. At Arsenal it was not only his leadership qualities that were revered.  Adams was also seen as an on-pitch coach whose input into the positional sense and tactical nous of his team-mates was not to be underestimated. This saw him become the Gunners’ captain at the age of 21 and go on to lead them to four domestic league championships, three FA Cups and a Cup Winners Cup. Surely this was the making of a fine manager. 

  • The Football League has voted in favour of ensuring teams have a minimum of four homegrown players out of sixteen in their match day squads. The motion was given overwhelming support, with only one of sixty-seven clubs voting against it. Lord Mawhinney, chairman of the Football League, described the move as ‘historic.’   

     

    The four homegrown players rule is UEFA’s response to FIFA’s 6+5 rule which set out to limit the number of foreign players, conflicting with EU law. The rule stipulates that four homegrown players will have to have been registered domestically for a minimum of three seasons prior to their 21st birthday. They can, however, be of any nationality.In contrast to that of the world governing body, UEFA’s proposal guards against undesirable squad compositions sets out to ensure youth development facilities are paramount to clubs.   

  • With the thrilling finale to the Argentine national championship set to play itself out, our man in Argentina brings us the first part of the story (The Ed.).  

     

    Strictly Come Dancing's three-way final has nothing on the Sunday afternoon drama served up by Argentina's Primera Division as it reached a thrilling climax. 

     

  • Blackburn have confirmed Sam Allardyce as their new manager a little over 24 hours after flushing Paul Ince down the water spout. The appointment comes as somewhat of a surprise with Allardyce expressing interest in the more illustrious Sunderland job only last week. 

     

    Alas, the powers that be on Wearside will not be rushed into a decision. And with Sunderland’s caretaker boss, Ricky Sbagria, getting more out of the team in his two games in temporary charge, Niall Quinn and his consortium moneyed Irishmen are set to bide their time. 

     

  • The strength in depth of the Premier League was once again evident as none of "The Big 4" picked up maximum points for the second time this season. Neither Liverpool or Chelsea seem eager to open up a significant lead at the top of the table and Benitez and Scolari must be finding their respective home form as painful as the kidney stones they've been forcing out. 

  • It was billed as the battle of the ‘anti-Inter,’ as Juventus and Milan went head-to-head at the Stadio Deli Alpi on Sunday evening. This was reaffirmed as the league leaders extended their lead at the top earlier in the afternoon thanks to Inter’s, Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired, demolition of Chievo. The question was which one of Italy’s two most decorated clubs would emerge as the frontrunner to take the fight to Jose Mourinho’s team? 

     

    Whilst Milan are the only side to have beaten their city rivals domestically, and have also beaten early pace-setters Lazio and Napoli, they have failed to raise their game against the lesser lights.  

     

  • On the surface it looks to be the most mismatched ‘El Classico’ in a long while. In spite of La Liga triumphs in the past two years, tonight Real Madrid take on a Barcelona side that has been frighteningly destructive this season. 

     

    Things are looking particularly bad for Madrid. The beginning of the week saw the departure of their manager, Bernd Schuster. After a string of bad performances the final straw came when he said it would be ‘impossible’ for his side to beat the Catalans at the Nou Camp.

  • Well, is it OK to boo or not? Harry Redknapp says: “Fans pay their money, they’re entitled to boo.” Sounds like sound logic from someone who has had his share of unpopularity, made verbal. The media tells us otherwise; it was ‘shameful’ and ‘inexcusable’ what happened to Eboue last weekend at the Emirates.

     
  • Over the years there have been many unofficial record holders in the world of football. Claude Makalele, for example, holds the unofficial title for the Premier Leagues widest ever member. A misty eyed Frank Lampard once reported that our Claude was the proud owner of a flaccid dong which had the same dimensions as a can of Coke. Another proud titleholder was Andy Cole, who it is rumoured had the same I.Q. as a tin of stewing steak. Andy’s attempt to change this view by demanding he be called by his full name, Andrew, did not spark the interest he had anticipated from MENSAH, and only further highlighted his oh so dim wits.

  • As we stand on the cusp of another weekend of Premier League action, a glance over the precipice reveals some pretty bland fare in store. A couple of fixtures manage to raise an eye-brow or two, but the fact that Setanta is showing the pick of the bunch tells its own story.  

     

    Setanta’s coup d’etat is the visit of Manchester United to White Heart Lane; in particular the return of the lacksidasical son, Dimitar Berbatov. Unfortunately for pent up Tottenham fans and Setanta’s producers, it looks as though the stroppy Bulgarian will miss the game with a hamstring strain. What with a strain being the result of strenuous activity and all, you do have to wonder quite how the GBP30m-man - so reluctant to bust a proverbial gut - managed to pick up the injury. 

  • It’s Europe’s elite club tournament - widely acknowledged as the World’s best - but is there any other competition in which mid-season fixtures are of so little consequence? It’s understandable, with all the money ploughed into it, that the powers that be want to milk it for all it’s worth (let’s be thankful for the end of the double group-stage), but it hardly makes for compelling viewing. 

     

  • Real Madrid continue with their magnificent tradition; sacking a man who has just delivered the La Liga title and hiring someone who should be quite easy to shove about.  

      

  • Another eventful weekend in the Premier League, albeit with a trace of familiarity as all members of the Big 4 recorded victories. Liverpool remain top of the league after beating hapless Blackburn at Ewood Park, 3 goals to 1. Once again, it was workmanlike with a trace of fortune, and surely Benitez's men can't keep up the pace at the top of the league playing like this.


  • Saturday’s fixtures saw top of the table Inter travel to the Stadio Olympico to face Lazio, whilst the maroon half of the nation’s capital set off for Verona, as Roma travelled Chievo. 

     

    There has been a relentless air about Inter of late, and that continued as they brushed aside a Lazio side that had beaten Milan 2-1 at the San Siro in the Coppa Italia midweek. The first goal came with two minutes, courtesy of a Walter Samuel header from Sulley Muntari’s cross. At stoppage time at the end of the first half it was two as Lazio’s Modibo Diakité deflected Maicon’s cross past a helpless Juan Pablo Carizzo. The final nail in the coffin came as Ibrahimovic sealed the 3-0 scoreline, nodding home in the 55th  minute.

     

      

  • So Robbie Keane is back off to Tottenham for £5m, according to some of the Sunday papers. If that were to transpire then maybe Damien Comolli should get his job back: an absolutely cracking bit of business...

  • The Guv’nor as he likes to be known, may well be heading from Premiership management straight to a psychiatric ward if his recent comments are anything to go by. 

     

  • Having grown the beard of a hobo, you always got the impression that joblessness, if not destitution, was just around the corner for Roy Keane. Earlier this afternoon it did eventually come to pass - the Irishman walked out on Sunderland after 27-months in charge. 

     

    Keane’s decision to add to the spiraling jobless figures has been on the cards after the Black Cats’ wretched performances so far this season. Saturday’s 1-4 home defeat to Bolton was the latest in a string of six losses in their last seven games. Yet still his departure has received a mixed reaction on the red and white side of the Tyne.  

  • For a sport that draws the majority of its participants from council estates, English football’s corridors of power have a surprisingly aristocratic feel. Not only do we have Lord Triesman (also a Baron) as chairman of the Football Association, but there’s Lord Mawhinney, head of the Football League. 

     

    Who exactly are these two members of the gentry? To the untrained eye they may seem like your typical politicos - men who have painstakingly climbed the ladders of power. And that’s probably a fair thing to say. But there are a couple of telling differences between these two noble patricians. 

     

  • Both the top two failed to impress this weekend as neither of them picked up maximum points, which has increased the scrutiny on their title credentials. Chelsea's less pragmatic, more expansive attacking verve under Scolari has no doubt pleased Abramovic and reaped rewards on the road, but seemingly at the price of their formerly invincible home form as they lost to Arsenal.  

     

    It was a perfect game for Wenger's team in a way, as whereas they struggle against the lesser lights, when a team attacks and attempts to play football rather than stifle them, they are in their element. Van Persie's clinical brace was the difference here and goes to show that if he stays injury free, he can be a top draw performer. The first of his goals was clearly offside and in his post match interviews, Big Phil certainly was not the jovial character he has been portraying thus far to the English Media. Normally smiling and happy like he's fresh from watching a Heurelho Gomes greatest hits video, Scolari was agitated and exasperated - possibly feeling the pressure for the first time.

      

  • After salvaging a point at Fratton Park on Thursday, Milan’s creaking joints didn’t have fortitude to repeat the feat against Palermo yesterday. After going three down, Ronaldinho missed a spot-kick that could have brought his team back into the game. But alas, it was too little too late as the buck-toothed Brazilian netted from the spot at the second bite of the cherry on 83 minutes. With Kaka and Gatusso missing, the Rossoneri struggled and could have been on a hiding to nothing had it not been for some fine saves by Christian Abbiati in goal.  

     

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