Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yossi Benayoun for Liverpool (v Real Madrid), 25 February 2009

Nineteen points in it. Come on, chasing pack!

Arsenal 2-0 Fulham
Chelsea 2-0 Wigan
Everton 1-0 West Brom
Middlesbrough 1-1 Liverpool
Aston Villa 2-1 Stoke
Bolton 2-1 Newcastle
Hull 1-2 Blackburn
West Ham 1-1 Man City

and wildcards from the Carling Cup Final:

Manchester Utd 2-1 Tottenham
First goalscorer: Tevez (Man Utd)
First booking: Assou-Ekotto (Spurs)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wayne Rooney for Manchester United (v Fulham), 18 February 2009

Is it a world record for Edwin van der Sar? Either way, 14 games? Bonkers.

Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland
Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Bolton 1-1 West Ham
Man Utd 2-0 Blackburn
Middlesbrough 1-1 Wigan
Stoke 1-0 Portsmouth
Fulham 2-1 West Brom, 13:30
Liverpool 2-0 Man City, 15:00
Newcastle 0-0 Everton, 16:00
Hull 2-2 Tottenham

the Champions League is back!

Inter Milan 1-0 Manchester United
Chelsea 2-1 Juventus
Real Madrid 2-0 Liverpool

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

John Carew for Aston Villa (v Slavia Prague), 6 November 2008

What is the point of spending an entire season successfully chasing a European place in the league (and in some instances plying six or so games in the Inter-Toto Cup in July) if all you're going to do is play a reserve side in the Cup the following season?

"The league is more important", you see. Important in the sense it qualifies you for European games you're not bothered about playing?


Thursday, February 12, 2009

David Villa for Spain (v England), 11 February 2009

Mumble, mumble, 2010 World Cup, quarter finals would be a fantastic achievement, Carlton Cole, really? lack of technical ability, Stuart Downing (giggle).....

FA Cup time this week. Anyone interested in watching Watford v Chelsea live on ITV on Saturday teatime? No, me neither.

Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Coventry City
Sheffield United 2-1 Hull
Swansea City 1-1 Fulham
Watford 0-2 Chelsea
West Ham 2-0 Middlesbrough
Derby County 0-2 Manchester United
Everton 1-0 Aston Villa
Arsenal 3-0 Cardiff

Wildcards this week from the Championnat:

PSG 2-0 St Etienne
Lyon 3-1 Le Havre
Monaco 1-2 Marseille

Monday, February 09, 2009

Fernando Torres for Liverpool (v Portsmouth), 7 February 2009

Two more casualties in the Premiership today with the expected sacking of Pompey boss Tony Adams and the unexpected departure of Luiz Felipe Scolari leaving Chelsea searching for their fourth manager in eighteen months.

Both sackings seem to be frankly ridiculous, for similar reasons.

Let's start with Adams. To be quite honest, I don't rate Adams' managerial skills. His reign at Portsmouth has lasted just over three months and he has presided over sixteen league games of which they have won just two. This is after an unimpressive earlier stint at Wycombe Wanderers.

Saying that, though, I really feel for him. The club's financial situation is precarious and the team have been playing resonably well, only losing to Liverpool on Saturday by conceding twice in the last few minutes. It's hardly like he has had the time or opportunity to stamp his mark on the side and if he was the right man for the job three months ago either it's a knee-jerk decision or the people who employed him got it totally wrong and should carry the can.

Scolari is in a similar boat. Expectations at Chelsea have been raised to an unattainable level under Abramovich - take the firing of limited but honourable man Avram Grant despite Chelsea being a whisker and penalty kick away from doing the Premiership/Champions League double last season. Chelsea are a mere seven points behind Manchester United and going well in the FA Cup and Champions League. Performances have dipped of late, but is seems pretty harsh to sack the manager with a team in that position (especially when they have no replacement in mind).

What's going on? The average tenure for a manager these days is, apparently, around 17 months. The financial pressures on promotion and relegation are so great that pretty much all management roles have become something of a poisoned chalice and only (and I mean only) instant and continued success seems to be good enough. Sacking managers with less then two dozen games under their belt seems completely ludicrous and undermines the whole essence of the role. Paul Ince got seventeen games as manager of Blackburn Rovers - Adams one less. Considering the long term success achieved by managers who get a fair crack of the whip (Ferguson and Wenger the two obvious examples, David Moyes a close third) I just wish club would pick a manager and stick with them through thick and thin. It took Sir Alex four years to win a trophy at Manchester United - in this day and age he would have been long gone by that point.

I appreciate that times have changed (financially) and that those pressures on chairmen are more severe than ever. I do think though that enough is enough though before we get to the stage where a manager gets a rolling contract for a game at a time which ends when they lose a match. Or why not get rid of the management role altogether and just let the players decide what to do?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dan Gosling for Everton (v Liverpool), 4 February 2009

....Apparently. I didn't see it :-)

Ah, hello there. It's predictions time again, innit.

Manchester City 2-0 Middlesbrough
Blackburn Rovers 2-1 Aston Villa
Chelsea 2-0 Hull City
Everton 1-0 Bolton Wanderers
Portsmouth 0-2 Liverpool
Sunderland 2-1 Stoke City
West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Newcastle Utd
Wigan Athletic 2-1 Fulham
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Arsenal
West Ham United 0-1 Manchester United

Wildcards from League Two this week:

Accrington Stanley 2-1 Luton Town
Darlington 2-0 Wycombe
Gillingham 3-1 Bradford

Monday, February 02, 2009

Edwin van der Sar for Ajax (v de Graafschaap), 3 May 1998

Whether you like them or not, congratulations go to Manchester United and specifically their Dutch international goalkeeper who broke a longstanding English record on Saturday.

It has now been an astonishing 1,104 minutes since Edwin van der Sar picked the ball out of his net eclipsing the record set by the fantastically named Steve Death during the 1978-9 season.

It is a particular testament to the veteran keeper that he has done this behind a regularly changing defence, with the back four having variously included Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville, Rafael da Silva, John O'Shea, Patrice Evra, Wes Brown and Jonny Evans during this run.

If van der Sar keeps West Ham at bay for 75 minutes at Upton Park on Sunday he will beat the current British record (held by Rangers' Chris Woods). A clean sheet against the Hammers will then mean that if the Dutchmen gets to the 65th minute against Fulham next Wednesday night without conceding he will beat the world record (currently held by Atletic Madrid's Abel Renso).

van der Sar has had a terrific career. He is Holland's most capped player and was the first non-Italian to keep goal for Juventus. He is also one of the few players to win the Champions League with two clubs, picking up winners medals with Ajax in 1995 and Manchester United in 2008. He has also won a UEFA Cup winners medal and six league titles with United and Ajax.

Many records have fallen during the Ferguson era, and for a team who have receive regular plaudits over the years for their fine attacking football it must be of great satisfaction to Ferguson that his side are also record-breakers for their defensive achievements. A model professional, I hope van der Sar makes it through the next couple of games with his luck intact as it would be a tremendous crowning achievement to a fantastic career.