Tuesday, 3 November 2009

20 - 3 + 2 = 25 = ???Profit???

Stan Collymore this week wrote an article in The Mirror proclaiming that in order “to compete with La Liga and Serie A” the Premier League should scrap relegation and replace the league’s small clubs with ‘big clubs’ such as Newcastle and Leeds. This, he says, would guarantee that “huge derbies” such as Newcastle v Sunderland and Leeds v ?someone? would occur each year to the eternal delight of fans. I’m not sure who these fans are though, other than Newcastle and Sunderland fans. Newsflash to Stan: football viewers in Saudi Arabia don’t care about Newcastle v Sunderland any more than you care about Genoa v Sampdoria. That isn’t going to change no matter how many times you repeat the phrase “one of the world’s biggest derbies.”

Next, the whole idea of scrapping relegation is insane. Actually insane. Take today’s league table as an example. Portmsouth and West Ham are already cut adrift at the bottom. In Stan’s league the top six European places are the only ones with any reward, so for a club already a dozen points off the pace after eleven games in the first week of NOVEMBER, the season is over. They don’t have to worry about fighting against relegation and they’re too far behind to challenge even the top half of the table. It’s over. The players can relax, sit back and pick up their handsome wage for the rest of the season. This scenario would be exacerbated yet further by his planned expansion to 25 teams, where you’ll realistically have the top ten duking it out for the European spots and another FIFTEEN teams with no reason to compete. Fabulous. I’m sure the foreign markets will be sold on that! He uses the NFL as an example of a successful and competitive league with a fixed roster and no relegation, seemingly unaware that despite its name the NFL is not actually a league. I’m not even going to bother dealing with how stupid it would be to add another 10 games to a calendar that already contains around 60 in all competitions for clubs and even more including internationals.

How are these 25 teams decided anyway? He wants to get rid of small clubs such as Wigan, Bolton and Hull which would reduce the current size of the league to seventeen and then expand it to twenty-five ‘big clubs.’ Who are these other eight big clubs? Newcastle, Leeds and...? Bury won the FA Cup by a record 6-0 scoreline in 1903, let’s get them in there! After all, that was only a little over 100 years ago, which was the timeframe used by Collymore to define the “modern era,” stretching the term ‘liberal interpretation’ to unprecedented levels. Considering the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield FC, is 152 years old, defining the “modern era” as two-thirds the history of organised football is certainly quite something. Only 23 teams have actually won the championship in England’s top tier, so it can’t even be a league entirely populated by champions. The idea that there are 25 historically ‘big’ clubs in England is a figment of Collymore’s imagination, which is why he could only name two new additions to his super-league.

Furthermore, his idea that this horrible, horrible new format is necessary to “compete with La Liga and Serie A” is unbelievably misguided when the current format has already made the Premier League the most watched, and richest, sporting league in the world. Serie A in particular lags well behind the Premier League in global presence and revenue, with its clubs spending nowhere near as much money on transfers and wages, as well as attendances that have dropped dramatically in the last five years. La Liga possesses strong brands in Real Madrid and Barcelona but the practice of clubs selling their TV rights individually means La Liga’s presence as a collective brand is not as strong in foreign markets as the Premier League. So, perhaps Stan would be better off pitching this idea to Spanish or Italian officials in order to help them compete with the Premier League. Even if the Premier League was behind its competition and needed to catch up, it seems extremely strange to blame the 20-team promotion/relegation format as the reason when it’s the exact same format your (hypothetical) superior competitors are using. Why are ‘small teams’ and ‘not enough derbies’ the problem if you’re falling behind other leagues that have both of those things?

Foreign broadcasters will not pay any more for Premier League TV rights for the likes of Newcastle and Leeds. The big draws are the Champions League clubs, and they are in no danger of being relegated any time soon. Collymore’s idea that the football league pyramid in England need not be a meritocracy is abhorrent and completely against the very principles the sport is founded upon. If Newcastle and Leeds return to the Premier League it will be because they have earned it, and that’s exactly how it should be.

Stats of the Week No. 1: Robin van Persie has scored in each of his last five Premier League games, scoring six goals in total in that time.

Stats of the Week No. 2: There were 11 seconds of playing time between Arsenal’s first and second goals against Tottenham Hotspur.

Stats of the Week No. 3: Graham Alexander has scored 68 of his 73 career penalties.

Stats of the Week No. 4: John Carew scored Aston Villa’s equaliser against Everton with his first on-target shot of the season.

Stats of the Week No. 5: Jamie Carragher’s red card against Fulham was his first Premier League red card in 7 years. All 3 of his career red cards came in London.

Stats of the Week No. 6: Javier Mascherano last week received Liverpool’s first Premier League red card in over a year. They have now received 3 red cards in their last 2 games.

Stats of the Week No. 7: Liverpool have also lost 6 of their last 7 games.

Stats of the Week No. 8: There were 8 red cards in 9 Premier League games on Saturday, the most ever in a single day. The final Premier League game of the weekend on Sunday also saw Birmingham’s Barry Ferguson sent off.

Stats of the Week No. 9: David ‘Charles’ N’Gog has the best goals-per-minute ratio in the Premier League, with 2 goals in 44 minutes of play.

Stats of the Week No. 10: Manchester City’s goalless draw against Birmingham was their first in the league since March 2008.

Sweet Plays of the Week: Dimitar Berbatov scored a tremendous volley on the turn as he latched onto Patrice Evra’s wayward and wild shot. With the ball skidding along the deck at pace, Berbatov trapped it sublimely with his left foot with his first touch, before swivelling sublimely to lash it home with his second.

Spartak Moscow’s Brazilian midfielder Alex scored the chip of the week as he ran into the Rostov box, shot faked once, shot faked twice and then chipped the ball perfectly over a crowd of defenders and the goalkeeper into the net. A Rostov defender lightly handled the ball as it crossed the line, but then decided it wasn’t such a great idea and let it go in anyway.

Erik Nevland demonstrated his speed of thought and lightning-quick reactions by backheeling Clint Dempsey’s knockdown past Pepe Reina to put Fulham ahead against Liverpool. The Norwegian striker had mere seconds to react to the ball coming towards him and it is to his great credit that he possessed both the skill and intelligence to divert it goalward when many others in his position would merely have controlled the ball and tried to hang onto it.

A stunning first touch with the outside of his left foot as he ran onto Collison’s through ball allowed Carlton Cole to fool Craig Gordon and slot his goal away comfortably. Delicate, simple but oh-so-effective. West Ham still haven’t won a game when he’s scored though, so maybe he should stop.

‘The’ Sweet Play of the Week: Anelka clipped the ball across from the left wing into the path of Deco in the ‘D.’ Deco then chested it forward to Lampard inside the area who, with his back to goal, flicked the ball with his heel up and over the head of Bolton defender Gary Cahill, leaving Drogba to finish clinically low into the far corner with his right foot.

Sour Plays of the Week No. 1: Dirk Kuyt, regularly lauded for his unparalleled workrate, was largely culpable for Nevland’s goal against Liverpool. With the ball going out of play for a Fulham throw on the left touchline, Kuyt committed all his energy to chasing it down, sliding along the pitch and preventing the throw. By going to ground Kuyt eliminated himself from the game and created the space for Konchesky to pick up the loose ball, drive down the wing at pace and cross for Nevland to score. A lazier or perhaps smarter player would have let the ball go out and conceded the throw in an unthreatening position, also allowing the team time to re-organise during the stoppage.

Sour Plays of the Week No. 2: As a Wigan attack broke down on the edge of the Portsmouth penalty area, Pompey looked to counter-attack quickly on the turnover of possession. However, Wigan still had three men back against a single Portsmouth attacker. Surely one of the defenders would have moved across to Piquionne to put him under pressure should he look to receive a pass? Nah, no point in that! Let’s instead play a ludicrously dangerous offside trap near the halfway line and leave Piquionne unmarked to run onto a painfully simple straight pass and score! Yeah!

Sour Plays of the Week No. 3: The suicidal offside trap was also on display at Sunderland as Nyron Nosworthy tried to run out and play Jack Collison offside as the ball was played down the right flank. Unfortunately for Nosworthy the rest of his backline were not on the same wavelength, leaving him horribly out of position with a huge gap in the defence. Guillermo Franco was only too happy to exploit that gap and score the opener.

Adventures in tactics: Following the sending off of right-back Carlos Cuellar against Everton, Martin O’Neill moved quickly to bring midfielder Nigel Reo=Coker off the bench to take Cuellar’s place at right-back. Aston Villa’s unused substitutes included right-backs Luke Young and Habib Beye.

It’s Not Over ‘til it’s Over: For the second week in a row, two Premier League teams failed to win from a 2-0 leading position. West Ham, fresh from last week’s comeback, got a taste of their own medicine as they couldn’t even hang on against 10 men!

Raúl Madrid Update: Gonzalo Higuain continues to overshadow his glamorous colleague Karim “€35m” Benzema with 3 goals in 3 starts in La Liga, the same figure Benzema has amassed in 7 starts and almost 200 minutes more game-time. It remains beyond me why Madrid bought Benzema when they already had Higuain as well as excellent backup in Alvaro Negredo among others. Higuain was always going to be the one to make way for Benzema in the starting line-up considering Lord Raúl’s undroppable nature, which makes the transfer all the more illogical. Why bring in an expensive, essentially unproven player to replace someone who was already one of the league’s top 5 strikers? Having already added Cristiano Ronaldo to the squad, scoring goals was not going to be a problem. Benzema’s presence has put Pellegrini in an almost untenable position where he has to drop either a club legend who controls the dressing room, his best striker, or an incredibly pricey summer purchase made by the club directors – his employers. Politics dictate that it will always be the second option, even though it’s the worst one. This is why club directors should not be responsible for recruitment of personnel.

Yes, I am aware both Benzema and Higuain started together against Getafe with Raúl on the bench, but that was with an eye on tonight’s Champion’s League match. The norm is, and will remain to be, Raúl +1.

Classless Buffoon of the Week: Marlon King. There’s not much that needs to be said.

Sack-watch: Roy “Things Are Looking Up” Keane finally secured his first win as Ipswich manageragainst Derby County. Another few points will lift them out of the relegation zone and he can begin looking towards a nice mid-table finish. One can only imagine the entire squad joined in the slaughtering of a pig in celebration.

Rumour had it Phil Brown would be sacked if Hull lost against Burnley. They did... he wasn’t. "Phil will be manager on Sunday but there's no point me saying he's got a job for life, that's not the case,” went the ringing endorsement from new chairman Adam Pearson. Rumour now has it he has been given a stay of execution until he completes recording of his debut album, provisionally titled Phil Brown: Songs of Lament.

“Coming soon to iTunes”

Play to the Whistle! Arsenal received a significant helping hand from the referee in scoring their first goal against Top Four Totteringham. Referee Mark Clattenburg played advantage after Sagna emerged with the ball following a foul on Eduardo, but the Tottenham players stopped when they saw the assistant referee signal for a foul, despite the referee failing to blow the whistle. The linesman is not in charge! As a result, Sagna had far more time than he should have had to measure his cross to van Persie.

Overreaction of the Week: “Man Utd facing defensive injury crisis” said the BBC. Yes, they were missing Vidic and Ferdinand, but given their performances over the past few weeks I’m not sure it was such a big problem to have them replaced by two proven Premier League performers, Brown and Evans, for one game. Not only that but a game against Blackburn; a team with 3 goals for and 18 against in 5 away games this season.

Wal-Mart to sell Coffins: I don’t think anything says “I’ll miss you” better than an $895 ‘Dad Remembered’ bargain-basement coffin. Unfortunately details are not yet forthcoming on possible buy-one-get-one-free offers, or whether discounts will be available should the deceased have met their end thanks to Wal-Mart ammunition.

Sweet ‘N’ Sour Play of the Week: Straight from the Tottenham kick-off following van Persie’s opening goal, Fabregas skipped past numerous challenges from the halfway line, showing tremendous skill, control and poise, finishing it off tremendously with his right foot. That was sweet. The Spurs players were seemingly still in a daze when they kicked off, with their heads in the clouds as they recklessly dived into challenges at the feet of Fabregas when it was entirely unnecessary to do so. That was sour.

Egg of the Week: Eduardo may have been granted a reprieve by UEFA for his diving antics against Celtic earlier in the season, but the football gods are not nearly as forgiving. Running through on Gomes without a single Tottenham defender within (approximately) a thousand miles of him, Eduardo slowly weighed up his options. Could he go for the lob? Could he go for the nutmeg? Could he take it round Gomes? Could he knock the ball to either side to create an angle to slot it in? No, none of those things were the right choice for ‘the league’s most natural finisher.’ The right choice, obviously, was to tamely scuff a pathetic shot wide of the left hand post, a shot which was off target from the moment it left Eduardo’s boot, a shot which under no circumstances was ever going to go in. All in a day’s work when you’re a highly-reputed clinical finisher.

Honourable mention: Gabriel Obertan of Manchester United managed to scuff a shot wide on his league debut from around six yards with the goal gaping.

Noooooo! N-Gage to be shut down in 2010.

Adventures in Officiating: Returning to the Premier League after his oh-so-effective one week demotion, Mike Jones had resolved all of his flaws and was reinvigorated with the spirit of refereeing excellence. Or not. Geovanni scored a goal for Hull directly from a free kick to tie the game 1-1 against Burnley, but Jones decided to blow his whistle for some irrelevant pushing and shoving in the wall when the ball had already cleared it and was heading for the net. Incensed, Geovanni complained bitterly at his perfectly legitimate goal being disallowed and received a yellow card for his trouble. Later on, as Geovanni chased down an opponent, he lost his footing and slipped on the wet turf and accidentally tripped a Burnley player as he fell over. Mike Jones, ever the eagle-eyed spotter of infringements, gave Geovanni a second yellow card for that non-offence and sent him off. Oh, and let’s not forget the penalty he awarded to Burnley after Stephen Hunt committed the offence of being-close-to-Mears-when-he-does-an-airshot-and-falls-over.

Special mention also to Antonio Mateu Lahoz, who sent off Real Madrid’s Raul Albiol apparently because Roberto Soldado pulled his shirt and fell over.

comment by cybermonkeypuzzle1 (U14180333) on 606: “I see that Mr beckham scored two goals in 18 matches the last time he was with Milan. So they must be looking forward to his forthcoming contribution in selling shirts and also for Armani a boost in their suit sales”

Because Beckham is a striker of course, to be judged solely on his goal return. I see someone who didn’t watch a single one of David Beckham’s fantastic performances for AC Milan last season. I see someone who has no idea what he’s talking about but takes delight in his petty and immature criticism nevertheless.

Expect the Expected: Michael Owen ‘uncharacteristically’ missed a chance against Blackburn, causing the commentator to declare “you would have put just about everything you own on Michael Owen scoring there!” Perhaps I’d have considered it... 10 years ago.

Next Week: Burnley disband, too humble to become big enough for the Asian TV market.

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