Friday, August 31, 2007

Harry Redknapp - Scout Messiah for Mid-Level Clubs?

I have always been impressed by Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp's work throughout his career, especially with West Ham and Portsmouth. He has constantly carried clubs through difficult times and on smaller budgets compared to the richer clubs (although Portsmouth isn't exactly poor now).

But what has been even more fascinating is his constant activity in the transfer market, where he has always picked out gems - players who might not be star quality, but are more-than-decent soldiers for the English Premiership, and always provide value-for-money with their subsequent displays.

And he has not had to pay outlandish transfer fees for them.

While I am not convinced about Glen Johnson, who has been exposed for a clown of a defender during his time with Chelsea, I believe Papa Bouba Diop will be a valuable asset for Portsmouth, and a great loss for Fulham. A proven midfielder in the English Premier League, he appears to be a replacement for Gary O'Neil, who should be moving to Middlesborough despite a delay (what in the hell is he thinking, moving to -that- club?!).

I cannot even start to count the number of great buys Redknapp has accumulated over the years. This season that forward line of his (with what's-his-name Benjani?) are again making fools out of Premiership defenders.

What do you think - will this be my kiss of death for Redknapp? :)

1/9 : Fulham vs Tottenham

Somehow I am talking about Spurs a lot more than even my own club - but they have been hot in the news and again I saw a silly little quote from a local sports journalist that I simply had to say something about.

It goes something like "... they beat them 3-0 last season in the corresponding fixture, so they should have no problems again this time...". That was referring to Spurs crushing Fulham.

Sure, they have more or less the same team, and played reasonably well vs Manchester United last week. But to provide such reasoning shows how much you really know about football and predicting it.

Results from last season are no indication of what will happen this. Sure, there are trends and patterns, but teams are usually different. Furthermore, despite not starting well again this season, Fulham are not exactly pushovers either. And Spurs might suffer from a typical football hangover - having put in so much effort last week and still losing, they might get steamrollered today.

So this time, I have a sneaky feeling that Fulham will post an easy win over Spurs, just to turn the screws even tighter on Mr Burger Jols!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Too Much Soccer For The Players - Causing Deaths?

Michel Platini has come out voicing his opinion that the recent death of Antonio Puerta and other related incidents are highlighting that the soccer calendar is too packed and players are tasked with too many games. That might be implying that the extra exertions are taking their toll on the players.

While I agree somewhat that there are too many games and players nowadays are under extreme physical stress, however, the exercise science and medical technology available nowadays have also helped counteract that to a certain extent. Of course, the cost of such technology and medicine might not be within the reach of every club.

However, in commenting, Platini seems to have overlooked the fact that players with such health abnormalities should not even be put into such a position in the first place. There needs to be an improvement at the grassroots level to filter out such players, and I do not mean 'filter' in a negative way. They should not be exposed in the long run to such physical demands which can only lead to tragedy, if no such aids as mentioned in the previous paragraph are available to them.

FIFA should look into this - there is just too much at stake for soccer as a sport.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Know Why Asians are Breaking into the Soccer Market?

Because we can now do this...

This has been on for quite a while but it is still amazing!

Will Arsenal Get Past Sparta?

Frankly, I don't really care.

Especially after I showed the world how insightful and on-the-money I am with Liverpool romping to a resounding win over sorry Toulouse. While I was disappointed to not see Voronin pairing up with Crouch, but Kuyt did his chances no harm with a well-taken brace.

Other than that, nothing much on the game as Liverpool really coasted to the win.

But I just gotta bring up the new soccer panel on the EPL live games here in Singapore's Football Channel. While many have complained about the lack of quality insights from the self-proclaimed critics, I have personally enjoyed one of the panelist's comments and views. Actually, I don't know his name - it's that fat, balding fella who talks like he works in an ash-covered English industrial town.

Here's what he said about Edwin van der Sar during last weekend's game vs Spurs, when he punched a ball out of the area instead of catching it - "He's a COWARD!" ;)

Not so sure what the public has been complaining about - as far as I'm concerned - this panel's right on the money!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another Soccer Tragedy - R.I.P. Antonio Puerta, Sevilla

Antonio Puerta, the Sevilla player and Spain international, has passed away after having suffered 2 heart attacks in the weekend Primera Liga match. My condolences to his family and friends. It is always sad at a time like this and I do hope to see the game's authorities finding ways to prevent this.

Mourinho - The True Story (The Book Jose Mourinho Tried to Ban)

I actually got this book on Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, quite a while back and finished it quite fast. Given that I am not known for finishing books, this is quite an achievement.

Said to be the book that Mourinho did not want anyone to read, due to the extensive interviews and research that author Joel Neto did on his subject, it was a fascinating read that was quite well-paced, surprisingly engaging (despite it being a biography) and provided quite a number of insights on the man himself. Now, I love the guy for his witty sarcasm and apparent arrogance (hey he always walks the talk so how can you hate the guy?) but he was never the coach he is now, during his early managerial days. Read the brief below and get the book for a great read.

"Cool, calculating and extraordinarily talented, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is as obsessed with his image as he is with success itself. So when Joel Neto's brilliant biography exploded on the scene in Portugal last year, his first reaction was to reach for his lawyers.

Twice he tried to have the book banned by the courts, and twice the judges threw out the case against Neto's probing and perceptive analysis of soccer's hottest property.

Here, then, is the inside story of the life of Jose Mourinho, told by the people who have known him best. It is the book he didn't want you to read."

Champions League - Liverpool vs Toulouse

Match of the day as really, I expect nothing less than a win against the French Ligue 1 side. While Toulouse has started picking up its form in their league, Liverpool has been nothing short of impressive as they look to slowly transform into the Valencia of old.

Remember how Valencia went to Anfield a number of seasons back and totally dominated the home side?

Now, Liverpool will be -that- Valencia!

Rafa has finally schooled the players on his playing style and tactics. You know his confidence is now sufficiently high when the emphasis is now on the attacking end. And today, with my expected return of Crouch, Toulouse will have trouble coping with the long ball assault coupled with some wing verve from Babel. Liverpool has always performed better on the European stage under Rafa's reign, and this night will be no different.

Of course, each time I predict a win for Liverpool, they decide to stink up the place.

Job Well Done, Ole!

A sad day for football as Manchester United veteran striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has decided to retire from football.

While I am a Liverpool fan and detest Utd, I must say Ole has been one of -the- model professionals in the modern game. Never to complain about lack of playing time, always ready and ever performing for the team and club, there is nothing to dislike about the guy. His uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time has helped Manchester United achieve a number of milestones during his career, not least the winner in the 1999 Champions League final.

Perhaps he can now help the current crop of young prima donnas in the team understand where the goal is.

Best wishes Ole!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Soccer Needs a Kick Up Its Backside!

As demonstrated by Catania coach Silvio Baldini...

I love this game!

Is That A Sign of Tapping Up I See There With Berbatov?

Berbatov says that he has not heard of any interest from Manchester United. But his agent has claimed that he is to meet the Spurs board about renewed interest from Manchester United.

Does that make sense to you?

And if what his agent claims to be true, then does that make it a case of 'tapping up' by Manchester United?

I know this is common, and I have said it in a previous post. I am not saying that no one should do it, but do not do so and then complain about another team for doing the same.

Manchester United - the world's most famous club (for all the wrong reasons), with a hypocrite of a manager. Bobby Charlton should do something about this. ;)

Another Manchester United Struggle

They still need a striker who is clinical, or they need their oldies like Scholes and Giggs to get back to form in terms of finishing. The rest of the players on show like Nani, Carrick and Hargreaves are run-of-the-mill so far, not of the same quality. Perhaps when Rooney is back he can provide some of that finishing touch but he blows hot and cold too often. Ronaldo... well, I cannot wait to see the back of him, unless he changes his attitude. He is a nice little player but shows too much petulance.

So Ferguson, still do not need a striker eh?

Which leads me to my next post...

Does Sven Really Have The Midas Touch?

Caught this other game on Saturday, and Arsenal got really lucky with that unimpressive win. While they did bombard little Schmeichel with shots from all angles, he made some of his work look more tedious than it actually was. True, he rode his luck too on more than one occasion, but as they always say, luck favours the brave!

What really got me thinking was that Manchester City more than held their own with some terrific quick-fire raids on the Arsenal defence. Obviously, it has been said already that Sven seems to have totally changed his approach compared to when he was with England, and many wondered if this could really be true.

But if you had seen Sven's Lazio of years gone by, you would know that his tepid play with England was due more to his ever willingness to please the media, public and players. Doing so meant sacrificing verve and attacking football for results. Now, back with an underdog team (let's face it, Manchester City fans - your team is not great... now), it has allowed him to build his own imprint - he has loaded the team with pace and intelligent movement.

Now, if he can lift the team after the morale-sapping Emirates Stadium defeat and keep his pants on, I am sure you will see more of the blue half of Manchester this season.

What a Smashin' Win... Without Stevie G!

So while having a blinder of a weekend getting all boozed up and loaded with delicious Singaporean food, I managed to sneak in a few EPL matches, tops of which was my highlighted match - Sunderland vs Liverpool. And despite having a horrible, horrible new away kit, the Anfield boys managed to grind out an impressive 2-0 win.

All this without Captain Inspiration Stevie G!

And I take back the word 'grind'... they were seldom in trouble, looked comfortable for most of the game, and totally dominated sorry Sunderland. And like I said, Pennant had a terrific game (although for the wrong reasons that I meant originally hahah). Torres was well impressive with his turn of pace and looked to be quite suited to the English game. Voronin, other than his poor delivery, had great movement and thought.

Suddenly, I am looking forward to a great season with my boys...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

25/8 - Sunderland vs Liverpool

Fresh from criticising Roy Keane's transfer moves and the quality of his Sunderland team, I am now back to offer my opinions on this exciting English Premiership match-up that everyone is looking forward to. By the way I do not know why I keep saying English Premiership even when everyone else says EPL.

Liverpool will have its hands and feet full dealing with a Sunderland team that should be modeled in its manager's image. Tough tackling, no-nonsense, swashbuckling monster of a team that they are. The players will be eager to silence their No. 1 critic (who else?), but they have to do it without captain Dean Whitehead. If I were Roy Keane, the instructions would be simple - get stuck in! Liverpool, despite having a decent start to the season and having pegged Chelsea back for much of last week's game, are still suspect to me - the soft underbelly is still showing with their slightly meek surrender to Chelsea upon conceding the equaliser. Even if Steven Gerrard were to be fielded, putting one or two Sunderland destroyers would trouble that toe of his.

That said, Torres inspired with his quick turn of pace which should pose a few problems at the Stadium of Light. I would be hoping Pennant gets some playing time, you know when soccer needs a few dramatic talking points and he could provide it by scoring a winner against the Black Cats.

Still, this all points to a creditable draw for Sunderland, with Liverpool back to the drawing board.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Ex-Manchester United Player Past His Prime at Sunderland

Just about a week after lambasting his players and claiming that he made a mistake in putting his faith in certain players (cue Dwight Yorke) who should not even have been there in the first place, Sunderland manager Roy Keane has gone on to sign another ex-Manchester United has-been in Andy Cole.

Cole will probably be more committed to the club compared to the Smiling Dork Yorke, but he is clearly past his prime after having left Blackburn Rovers a couple of seasons ago. He could hardly run with Manchester City, and that was a club spent almost an entire season without scoring a goal at home.

Perhaps Keane signed him on as a coach for his strikers. They were dreadful against (another relegation favourite) Wigan, and will need as much help as possible if they were to survive in the English Premiership this season. However, note that Cole has usually only prospered when playing with another striker who supplied him with breakthrough passes (for example, the great Peter Beardsley).

Who does Sunderland have to fill that hole?

Manchester United Games To Win

Not only does Manchester United have to win their upcoming weekend English Premiership game against Tottenham Hotspur, they have now decided that they should up the ante by playing mind games or dirty tricks on their main rivals.

After successfully preventing Liverpool from getting their Argentinian international target Gabriel Heinze, Manchester United have now resorted to reporting on their English Premiership rival, for apparent claims of 'tapping up' on their ex-player. No doubt Alex Ferguson would be the instigator as he tries to deflect attention away from his early season woes by irritating the heck out of his counterpart at Liverpool, Benitez.

The sad truth is that any club could be guilty of tapping other players. Alex Ferguson did it himself with a few of his previous transfer acquisitions (most notably the best running horse impersonation there ever was from a Dutch international - fortunately he scored the goals to cover that up), so all this now smacks of hypocrisy.

An even sadder truth is that hypocrisy is now one of the main bywords in soccer everywhere.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is Spurs The ~New~ Newcastle?

While we still have to see if Sam Allardyce will bring stability to one of the clowniest, if not -the- joke team in the English Premiership, Tottenham Hotspur seems eager to take over the mantle!

After having continuously signed numerous players with potential (but who never seemed to realise any of it), they have now started the season with only 1 win out of 3 games (and that against the sheep of Derby), 'star' players on the bench getting unhappy, and a messy managerial debacle unfolding.

Martin Jol has, admittedly, done a nice little job of making sure Spurs are among the Top FIVE English Premiership clubs the past couple of seasons, but the club has really flattered to deceive. The jolly big fella has also been questionable on the transfer market, buying a number of decent but ultimately average players who will never walk into any of the other real Top Four English Permiership teams. Except for Berbatov. But he will leave soon anyway.

Now with the Tottenham board making a boo-boo with the failed acquisition of Sevilla coach Ramos and subsequent denials, Jol has been ordered to deliver nothing less than a Champions League place by the end of the season. Rest assured, if he were still to be around by then, he would face nothing but the sack.

Because Spurs will never crack the Top Four with Martin Jol around.

They play some nice football in spurts, but ultimately they lack any real class and Jol lacks the tactical genius or ability of a Mourinho or even Ferguson.

At the rate they are going, pretty soon we might see Newcastle-ish antics like players fighting on the pitch, continued gaffes from current England No. 1 Paul Robinson, and midget-sized headless chickens like Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe pairing up, running rings round defenders but not knowing where the goal is.

They should have gotten rid of Martin Jol earlier. He was never going to bring the club anywhere.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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