Monthly Archives: September 2011

Week Roundup: de Gea in Doughnut Scandal, Doughnut Bramble in Real Scandal

Little roundup of what was a very busy week in el futbol:

David de Gea (if you believe any of this tabloid tosh) was apprehended for stealing a doughnut from a Tesco somewhere in Greater Manchester. He hid the £1.19 snack in his stomach but was caught on CCTV. He’s been banned from the store for 3 months. Perhaps he just got peckish whilst searching for ways to make the ball stick to his mitts after his uncomfortable game at the Britannia Stadium last weekend.

Titus Bramble, the man with a first touch like a 12 sided die, has got himself caught up in a slightly less serious incident that has seen him arrested by the police for allegations of sexual assault and possession of a unnamed A-Class drug. The more astute of you may remember Titus was picked up under a rape charge with his brother this time last year, but released without charge (his brother went down). Whether this is a seasonal thing with any truth in it I have no idea, but I’m not surprised he turned to drugs after that performance against Norwich on Monday.

'Hey! Come back here... Ball!'

West Ham have managed to fill the mistake-prone boots of the injured Robert Green with the equally jellified reactions of Arsenal’s Manuel Almunia on emergency loan. Hammer’s fans need not put their ‘my gran could have saved that’-esque phrases away.

Edin Dzeko has apologised for his whingey behavior midweek, unlike…

Carlos Tevez who has decided he doesn’t need to apologise to Mancini after being a “disgrace to football” (Graeme Souness) citing ‘confusion on the bench’, and an incorrect mental state as apparently sane excuses. As he is presumably suspended forever and (unless his magical plan to amend everything without any remorse works) City will be looking for a club to take him on loan until January. A tough ask you might think, but there’s always one club who are willing to gamble their title chances on a “bad apple” (Graeme Souness) player…

Carlos and his supporters

Limavady United are that club. They can’t pay any of his wages, but will keep him fit and won’t cup-tie him in the Champions League. Limavady, who currently sit 9th in the IFA Championship 1, should be rewarded for this bold move, and without disrespect to the two times winners, who wouldn’t want to see Carlos belittled by this move?

Adidas have updated the current adiZero F50 boot to include a miCoach microchip inside allowing users to track their performance on a range of stats. More impressively, users can supposedly then upload these figures to an online database where they can flatter themselves with comparison to the likes of Messi and Bale.

Kettering Town have transfer listed a teams worth of players after a midweek 5-3 defeat to Hayes & Yeading. Apart from the loss to close contenders, the 11 man sale was partially caused by two Kettering players coming to blows over penalty taking duties – resulting in two red cards. Jean-Paul Marna and Moses Ashikod are the players being taught the kind of discipline the Premier League lacks

Junior Cesar was the perpetrator of a heinous act of unsporting behavior last weekend as Flamengo conceded a penalty to America Mineiro. Everyone just acts like it’s the done thing as well.

Last of all, yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Bill Shankly’s death. Shanks’ ability to craft a quote was nearly as great as his ability to craft a team. Here’s a few zingers from the footballing genius:

“Chairman Mao has never seen a greater show of red strength.”

“This city has two great teams – Liverpool and Liverpool reserves.”

“I was the best manager in Britain because I was never devious or cheated anyone. I’d break my wife’s legs if I played against her, but I’d never cheat her.”

On playing for Scotland: “It’s fantastic. You look down at your dark blue shirt, and the wee lion looks up at you and says ‘Get out after those English bastards!'”

“When I’ve got nothing better to do, I look down the league table to see how Everton are getting along.”

Legend of the people

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Bayern Munich 2-0 Man City: Tantrum Time!

Blimey, you’d think the game was in Milan for all the handbags that were thrown around during it. I’ve seen happier benches in graveyards. But we’ll get to that.

Munich had only conceded one goal in the league so far this season and it wasn’t hard to see why, they were pretty damn solid. However if there was a current team that could smash a well organised defense it could’ve been City, who have really looked the part up front. Dzeko, Aguero and Silva have been fairly rampant around opposition’s boxes so far this season and, as Mancini promised, the Citizens started with a very attacking lineup full of potential. Mancini’s confidence was so high he gave Kolo Toure a chance to have a kick about with his little bro.

21 foot of man there

The lineup paid up first, and cost later. City began really well, forcing the ball forwards and creating an excellent chance that Dzeko really should have done better with inside five minutes. The Blues were keeping the ball fairly well and looked good for a goal; Silva denied a solid penalty claim. As time elapsed in the first half I began to see just how ballsy Mancini’s tactic was, and subsequently how it was going to get them owned.

The key area of the pitch was the flanks, with Nasri vs Mueller and Silva vs Ribery. These aren’t complete mismatches as all the players are attack minded, enjoy coming inside and aren’t the greatest defenders (though Silva did remarkably well at times). The dribbling ability of the Man City widemen should have been enough to push their opposing numbers back , so long as City kept possession – which they did for a while, so much so that the overlapping Micah Richards was the most attacking player on the pitch.

Bayern absorbed City’s opening pressure and soon began to enjoy the ball themselves; this is where the tactic doesn’t work at all. Nasri and Silva have nothing to offer in the form of defense to Munich’s top attacking threats: Mueller and Ribery. The european pair played on the counter in the earlier stages as Bayern were still pressuring City for the ball, and they looked dangerous then; dragging the Blues out of shape.

Richards’ threat was impressive early on and, using offence as defense, he managed to contain Ribery further back a la Dani Alves. But it was to be short lived as Yaya Toure was left inadequate to the frenchman’s pace after Richards’ was caught out of position. Hart produced a great double save and had every right to be enraged at his lackluster defense allowing Gomez to tuck in to Mueller’s leftovers. I couldn’t help but think that had Nigel de Jong been on the field he perhaps would not have allowed one of the rebound shots.

Yeah, Nigel. Yeah, get him on. Nah, I'm sure it doesn't matter who for...

Gomez was once again quickest off the mark and Hart was once again unlucky as City were dealt a low punch as halftime settled. Without being too critical, perhaps Hart wouldn’t wonder how many saves he had to make if he didn’t spill the first one into opposing strikers each time. Still City’s defense were too slow and unfortunately for them Bayern’s were just getting stronger as the game progressed, becoming a black hole of possession at times in the second half. Ex-Blue Jerome Boateng was particularly excellent, nullifying the threat of Aguero competently.

55 minutes in Mancini decided to bring de Jong on. Of course, this could appear a ponderous decision to some, a train of thought that soon gathered momentum as Edin Dzeko’s number went up on the board. Commentators were puzzled, fans were confused and the big Bosnian forward was not best pleased. Players, particularly of the Striker breed, rarely want to come off. We saw Luis Suarez looking all sad when he was withdrawn last weekend. But there is a difference – Suarez had been playing well, Dzeko had failed to make an impact.

By now ze Germans were in their comfort zone and passing for fun, whilst also pressuring City into losing possession really well. In that situation as City you have to take chances whenever you can get them and sometimes that means getting ugly. As Bolton fans will tell you, launch enough long balls at a capable-in-the-air (big lad or Kevin Davies) player and you’ll eventually get a chance. I don’t condone this style of play but there are times when it is understandable.

I don’t feel de Jong was the wrong choice at all; they needed the ball back and they needed to keep it well, two things the dutch holder does exceptionally well. I do think Aguero should have come off though, especially considering Dzeko’s experience at the Allianz Arena for Wolfsburg.

Pictured: the flight home

I think Mancini’s beginning tactics were a bit audacious, though I applaud him for it. His team is playing well, scoring relatively freely. Why shouldn’t he go to Germany and play a very attacking setup? (he’ll lose) I’m getting a bit tired of watching managers play intentionally conservative teams or reserve players away and I applaud the Italian for his ambition and faith.

The area he has/will come under attack for is the substitution,

  • At 2-0 down you can’t bring a holding midfielder on.
  • You have to create more attacking options.
  • You can’t take a striker off in this situation.

Above is a list of comments you might have heard/said/thought. They directly correlate with a list of comments someone who thinks Roberto Mancini has had a lobotomy might say. With an attacking formation sent out like it was, Mancini was hardly going to pack up shop 2-0 down. City were being played off the park and de Jong was brought on to take possession back and see that they string several passes together.

After this de Jong inspired ‘cooling phase’ Mancini was to bring a striker on for one of the current holding midfield players, most likely Barry, this striker would then capitalise on the new-found possession. All I can see wrong with that sound tactic is his choice of striker to bring on.

"What's this training bib for? Wait, you don't expect me to... you've got to be kidding"

Sadly, Argentinian gorilla impressionist Carlos Tevez decided he’d had enough of the world thinking he had some integrity, and was disgusted by the thought of people respecting him. According to Mancini after the game (via a loaded-question) Tevez just flat out refused to come on. I really felt for old Bob in the post-match interview, you could clearly see emotion on his face. Not just immense rage, but disappointment and betrayal too.

Perhaps Tevez had unimaginable reasons, perhaps he had soiled himself. Perhaps this was all a cleverly timed ploy to get his contract terminated away from the £150,000-a-week nightmare.

Roberto had a tough enough game to play without all the gross-unprofessionalism surrounding him on the bench but I do have one hindsight-tinged question: why was Tevez on the bench in the first place? Mancini knows the striker wants out and must be aware that depending on him would cast him as the man who built his house on sand.

If I were Roberto I would barely play Tevez, instead relying on the players that were going to make it past January. Mario Balotelli came off the bench at the weekend to break the deadlock with Everton and, injury permitting, I just can’t see why he wasn’t on the bench. God knows he’d welcome the chance to play.

Might have an issue with him getting the warm-up bib on as well though…

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Man City 2-0 Everton: The Unheard Tactics

I don’t really want to talk about this game. I was up for it, but it left a bad taste in my mouth after watching it. Like I had licked a damp labrador. Now that is to be expected to some degree in any game involving Phil Neville, but not to this degree. I’m not a huge fan of Everton (or Citeh for that matter) but I don’t make it my mission not to enjoy the Toffee’s games. Unfortunately it appears not to swing both ways.

Really should come with a toothbrush

Just like the nurse said to me during medication time, “you can take that two ways”: Everton don’t allow me to enjoy their games and Everton don’t enjoy their own games.

In my younger, naiver days I didn’t like Tim Cahill, I didn’t appreciate his incredible instinct, movement and heading accuracy. I, on occasion, would fantasise about him suffering. Based on that, my younger self would have enjoyed the game today.

Analysing a game requires looking at two main factors: match events and match tactics. The tactics inspire the events, and in turn the events inspire tactics. Let’s start with Everton’s tactics, and this week it’s easier than ever. Because I planted a mic.

Oh yes, I was there. Or rather my micro-mic was! I was at a Jimmy Hendrix convention (as anyone with ears and a concept of appreciation would be) when who should I run into working as an impersonator? None other than the ‘fro-meister himself, Marouane Fellaini! Always looking for an edge on the football journalism world I subtly slipped my James Bond-esque microphone in his mighty afro. What follows is an unheard insight into the Toffee’s dressing room.

Planting the microphone

12:35pm. Away changing room, Etihad Stadium:

[Lots of chatter dies down]

Moyes: Right, I want you to remain responsible at the back today. Except for you Leighton. You just go for it son, that definitely won’t bring the whole thing down. 

Baines: Alright gaffer, who am I aiming for in the box?

Moyes: The strikers of course… Jesus Leighton, use your head son. You’ll be aiming for… Lemme see here… Christ! Printer’s on the blink again, I cannae see any forwards on the sheet!

Cahill: Well, we don’t really have any boss. Me and Leon have been trying, but ever since we sold Yakubu our attack has gone down the dunny.

Moyes: Aha! Leon. Of course! You’re a bit on the wee side but you’re a good striker son.

Osman: You know I’m a right winger, right?

Moyes: Winger?! What do I need that for? We already got Leighton. Tony hits them from wide as well. Jesus, you want to flood the box with long balls Leon?

Baines: So apart from literally our shortest player bar me, who am I aiming for gaffer?

Moyes: Hmm, 5’10″… 5’11″… 6’4″! Bloody hell Maro! All that barnet aye?

Fellaini: [itching his head] I… uh…

Moyes: He’s your man Leighton. Look for Richard Pryor on stilts.

Fellaini: I’m a defensive mid, I uh…break up le play, win le ball. It would be… uh…unfortunate if our only chance of le game fell to me

Moyes: Nonsense son. We don’t need you in the middle, young Jack is genna be man-marking Silva all game.

Rodwell: All game?!

Moyes: Listen lads. It’s all about frustrating your opponent, giving the ball away in their box, not ours. About tracking runs, not creating them. No high risk balls, only long ones to unsupported midfielders up front. Got it?

Cahill: What about Royston? He’s got pace, skill, can take people on…

Moyes: But can he clear a ball? Look, alright he can come on if we concede, help us salvage something. Just, for god’s sake, be careful with the ball. You hear that Roy?

Drenthe: Yesh

Moyes: Good, you can attack if need be. Just don’t give the ball away to Silva in space while you’re doing it. Lets go!

3:17pm. Away changing room, Etihad Stadium:

[Sound of a boot hitting a wall]

Moyes: ROYYYSTOOOONNNNN!!

Ahhh! Not to Silva!!

Insightful, I’m sure you’ll agree. Apparently that transcript has made the idea of reviewing the events kind of redundant. So I’ll just add a few observations about the Citizens.

David Silva (man of the match) proved his quality again, with just under a quarter of his (usually risky) passes going astray. Although City were struggling to create golden opportunities in front of goal, Silva managed a post hit. Despite his fairly consistent marker he rarely experience huge pressure on the ball unless around the box; perhaps a sign that managers are wising up to his mercurial dribbling skills in close quarters (Rodwell only made three tackles, preferring to jockey the playmaker). In one of the rare moments Silva became free he dodged two challenges and threaded a perfect through ball for City’s second, demonstrating his deadliness.

Vincent Kompany proved he is capable of dealing with long, high balls for 90 minutes. We knew that already though.

Joe Hart still needs a lot of work if he is to become England’s man between the sticks. He had an exceptionally small amount to do but was found wanting during the build up to Fellaini’s chance. His distribution is in dire need of improvement too; completing just one of the eight passes into the opposition’s half.

All in all, Premier League champions pick up wins in situations where Premier League runners-up get draws. City did just that today with quality off the bench, piling pressure on Man United after their draw at the Britannia in an engrossing  battle.

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