Friday, May 29, 2009

Is he really worth it?

Ok, raise your hands, how many of you reading this blog play fantasy football? If asked to hazard a guess, that number is probably close to 100%. And for those of you who do, which player represents the most expensive buy but brings back the most returns. Sorry Liverpool fans, it's not your Captain Marvel.

Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo is the one to have in any team, fantasy or otherwise, if you're looking to win nice shiny cups and trophies, CR7 is the one you want ... until now. There's always been a not so nice aspect of this talented footballer's personality, he can be a bit of a sore loser and he can be prone to the odd temper tantrum. The Champions League final showed that this negative side to him still remains.

Quotes like ""We, the players, were not well, the tactics were not good... everything went wrong" and ""About clubs, I do not want to talk about that, I want to rest, go on holiday, I am very tired, I have played a lot of games, a lot of pressure. The future, we will see" aren't going to endear him to the Man Utd faithful. Neither will it please Sir Alex.

So, what happens now? Well, based on past trends, CR7 will be exported post haste to sunnier climes for a sum that, while still quite high, won't be close to what the market would have paid for him if Alex Ferguson still wanted to keep a player. Big names in Man Utd's past have all paid the price for raising the ire of the Old Man and have all been shown the exit door.

Ronaldo will be no different. There's only so many hairdryer treatments and boots kicked that can be dished out before something snaps within the living legend. After that, there's only Sir's way or the highway ... and Sir usually gets his way.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barca are Champions!

And so Barcelona are now European champions for the third time (the second time at the expense of an English club if you're counting) although they might as well have been crowned world champions after their display last night.

To say that United were second best would be an understatement. United were outplayed, lacklustre and bereft of that spirit they're so famous for. Sir Bobby Charlton may claim the current Man U squad is the club's best ever. The truth is the squads that won it in 1999 and 2008 would have given Barcelona a much tougher fight.

And interestingly enough, the squad that showed in Rome yesterday comprised largely of the same group of individuals who won it last season. The only difference is that the Cristiano Ronaldo in Moscow last year was a lot different than the one who cut a frustrated attention-seeking figure last night. Last night's performance should be enough for Ferguson to let Ronaldo go to Real Madrid this summer.

But let's take anything away from a Barcelona team who, despite some shambolic defending in the opening minutes, made a statement to the world that short passing attacking football is still the best way to play football. So confident and excellent was their passing abilities that they made the Devils look like an amateur side getting their first lesson in professional football.

Iniesta was sublime while Xavi Hernandez was as fantastic as ever. Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry were a constant threat. And then there was Lionel Messi.

Last night's final, no matter on United and Barcelona say, was always going to be about Messi and Ronaldo. It was not just a match to determine who the best team in the world is but the who the best player is? The question as to whether Ronaldo truly deserves to be called Fifa player of the year was finally going to be answered.

And it was pretty obvious that last question has been nagging the Portuguese star for some time. The second the match began, Ronaldo seemed to be on a personal mission. He attacked Barcelona's already fragile defence with ruthlessness that was never on display in the Premier League this season. If people were unsure as to who the real world player of the year is then he was going remove all doubts.

Messi in contrast seemed uninterested in proving a point to anybody and began playing deep to get Barcelona's passing movement going. And once it began flowing, Messi was a complete menace everytime he got the ball. As for his dribbling skills, which gave United's defence a torrid time, let's just say Ronaldo's step-overs started looking amateurish.

That difference in attitude made all the difference. Ronaldo's desire to prove something to the world made him selfish in front of goal and had he passed the ball, things may have been different. But in his defense, Rooney and Giggs were so out of depth it would have been a waste of time anyway.

Messi on the other hand was committed to his team and never once seemed selfish although at some points it seemed as though the Argentinean would have been able to dribble past the entire Man U team if he wanted to. And that perhaps is the marking of the best footballer in the world.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tonight's the night..

Well, the night we've all been waiting for is finally here. Regardless of whether you are a Man Utd or Barcelona fan, anyone claiming to be a fan of the beautiful game has been waiting for tonight. Let's hope all the neutral's don't get disappointed.

As displayed in previous Champions League finals, just about anything can happen..especially when one side is English! Still, tonight's match has all the potential in the world to be the cracker its been hyped to be or yet another snooze fest whenever two big sides match-up with each other. Yes, let's hope both sides throw caution to the wind and not bore us to death with some overly cautious tactics.

And above all, to the two men who dare claim they are the best players in the world, tonight's the night to convince us just which one of them is truly worthy of the title, "The Best Player in the World."

Anderson to run naked in Rome?

Man U midfielder has apparently laid down a wager that he'll run around the stadium in Rome naked if he scores a goal in tonight's Champions League final, the Daily Mirror reports.

The report doesn't exactly say who he's made the wager with but I'll assume its with someone else in the squad. The report also doesn't specify if the goal has to be scored during open play and not from penalties. Anderson tends to score during the latter and has never scored in the former wearing a Man Utd shirt.

Now, I know you get a yellow card if you take your shirt off to celebrate a goal but what happens when your shorts go off too?

Anyways, regardless if you're rooting for Barca or Man U, for the sake of our eyes, let's hope Anderson doesn't score tonight.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jol takes over at Ajax, Fergie wanted Guardiola and more

Here's the latest news from around the web:

Jol is Ajax new boss

Tottenham reject, Martin Jol, has been appointed Ajax Amsterdam's new manager replacing Dutch-legend Marco Van Basten who quit the club after he failed to guide them to a Champions League qualification spot. Jol led Hamburg to a fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga.

Fergie wanted Guardiola

As the air around Rome's starts to get tense, both Man Utd and Barcelona have begun the mind games ahead of tomorrow night's final. From Lionel Messi insisting he'd pay money to watch Ronaldo play to Berbatov stating he won't step up to take a penalty kick in tomorrow's final comes the biggest shocking revelation of them all: Alex Ferguson wanted to sign current Barcelona manager, Josep Guardiola when the latter was still playing for the Catalan giants. Yes, apparently Fergie wanted sign Guardiola after his contract at Barca ended in June 2001. However, the deal fell through because United were made to wait too long for an answer from the player's agent.

Ancelotti wants to remain at Milan

Doesn't anyone want to coach Chelsea? Now that Jose Mourinho has signed a new contract at Inter Milan, Blues' target Carlo Ancelotti now wants to remain at AC Milan if the club will have him. I don't know if this is more of the usual game managers like play with the press but if Ancelotti does not want to come to Chelsea, then he shouldn't even if Milan let him go. Thus, if Ancelotti's out of the picture, that just leaves Frank Rijkaard as the biggest contender for the job. But don't give up Chelsea fans. Roman gets what Roman wants. And in the worst case scenario there's always Paul Ince and Sven Goran Ericsson.

Don't go Xabi!

Argentina captain and Liverpool midfielder, Javier Mascherano is pleading with his club to keep fellow midfielder, Xabi Alonso at Anfield. Mascherano reckons the Spanish playmaker to be one of the club's most valued assets and is urging the club to do the right thing. There has been several rumours regarding a deal that will take Alonso to Real Madrid despite denials from the player and Rafa Benitez. Nonetheless, if that Tevez rumour is true, Rafa will have to sell. Still, Mascherano can take some comfort in the fact that Aston Villa has offered Gareth Barry a new contract. Should the England midfield man accept, the likelihood of Alonso leaving will be slim.

Shearer signs four-year deal with Toon?

The Mirror claims Geordie legend Alan Shearer is to sign a four-year contract with Newcastle and has promised to bring the Toon back into the top flight. According to the report, the former England striker will be holding talks with Mike Ashley soon.

Being that this report is from the Mirror, there's a good chance of it being a work of fiction. On Sunday, after Newcastle's relegation, Shearer refused to comment on his future at the club and rightly so. Shearer was dragged into the mess at St James Park when it was already too late for the club.

The foundations for the drop were well laid out by Ashley, Keegan, the Cockney Mafia and Greg Kinnear well before Shearer took on the job.

But Shearer, being Shearer, may be feeling some sense of responsibility for the drop and that only someone with his passion for the club will be able to bring Newcastle back into the Premier League. My only question is if Shearer truly wants to sacrifice the next four years of his life trying to save that club. Many more qualified managers have come before and failed.

Stay tuned for more developments.

Makelele hits out at Mourinho; Special One stays at Inter (updated)

Another footballer with an autobiography taking a swipe at a former teammate/coach. We've seen it a hundred times. That unbeatable urge to put pen to paper and reveal all the sordid details. Not that we really care. Most of it is made up, other parts are overtly sensationalised to sell more copies.

Joining that esteemed group of footballers is French midfielder, Claude Makelele. And in doing so, the former Chelsea star has also taken several swipes at the man who literally saved his career, Jose Mourinho. In a nutshell, he claims Mourinho betrayed the 'brotherhood' he established when he was first appointed Blues coach during his third year at the Bridge.

He goes on to say that Mourinho began taking all the credit for Chelsea's success (big surprise) during that season which eventually created rift between manager and players. You can read the rest here.

Whether Makelele's account of the story is true or not (there's definitely some bitterness there), one thing's certain. By providing such details of the players' relationship with Mourinho, Makelele will at least sell a few copies of his autobiography as there are enough people out there who can't enough of the Special One. And there aren't many people who'd want to read about Makelele's life.

Meanwhile, the Special One has given further indication that he's set to leave Inter after guiding them to the Serie A title this season. Mourinho, who has expressed all season long his disdain for life in Italy, remarked there was a 0.01% chance he would be going to Real Madrid.

Now, no one really knows whether he was just trying to be funny or was honestly refuting speculation he was on his way to Spain. But Inter president Massimo Moratti was apparently less than thrilled. You can read that here.

Interestingly, Mourinho claims Real Madrid have approached four different managers but have been turned down by all four. Now how would he have that sort of information unless he was one of those four managers?

Update: Barely days after making that 0.01% remark, the Special One has put all the speculation he began to rest by signing an extension to his current contract at Inter. The extension will see him remain at the club until 2012.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Toon go down

After 16 years in the top flight of English football, Newcastle United just could not muster enough to avoid relegation. For a side that merely needed a draw to stay afloat, the Magpies played most of the match with an indifferent attitude. There was just no real drive or passion on display at Villa Park, which was really surprising for a team fighting for survival. Let's just say that Newcastle was so poor, Brad Friedel could've gone for a beer and Villa would have still emerged victorious.

And the fact that they went down thanks to a Damien Duff own goal pretty much sums up the Newcastle story this season. Championship football always seemed inevitable. All the same, it is a weird feeling just knowing that the Magpies won't be in the Premier League next season.

Nonetheless, there's still several questions hanging over Newcastle's future. Will Alan Shearer stick with the Magpies? What about Michael Owen? Will he remain a Newcastle player? Will there be an exodus at St James Park?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Here we go again..

The silly season has begun earlier than expected this year with the bulk of the rumours centering on Cristiano Ronaldo's future. This time, the Sun claims Ronaldo is certainly moving to Real Madrid this time around despite the Portuguese star's repeated denials. Everyone knows that Ronaldo has had a mediocre season by his standards and the popular thoery is that the Portugeuse winger 's been sulking after his dream move to Spain last summer was denied. Then there's another theory that United are looking to sell him to raise enough cash to bring in Franck Ribery or Kaka to Old Trafford.

Apart from Man Utd, the other club getting all the headlines is Chelsea and the club's impending announcement of a replacement for Guus Hiddink. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has so far denied all knowledge of a move to Stamford Bridge but for some reason or other, the English tabloids are having none of it and are convinced the Italian will be managing the Blues next season. The Daily Mirror has even gone so far as to claim Ancelotti will bring David Beckham to the Bridge!

There's a good chance most of these rumours are the kind of stuff British tabloids need to sell newspapers. True, some of these rumours have a tendency of becoming reality as denials by footballers and coaches mean absolutely nothing. But by and large, much of this stuff is the work of fiction writers, not real reporters.

But if anything, let's hope we don't have to go through another three months reading about that Ronaldo-Real Madrid move. Please.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Letter to the blog

Below is a letter from a reader of this blog who goes by the moniker, A Diehard MU fan.

Blame yourselves, not sue MU

By A Diehard MU fan

Apparently relegation candidates Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland have threatened to sue Manchester United if the Devils field an under-strength team against Hull this weekend. By doing so, Hull may grab a point or three that will condemn three teams into the Championship next season.

Paragraph E20 of the EPL rules says each team in the league must play their strongest team in every match. No team was reported breaching the rule but this doesn't mean that no team has broken it before. The top six teams have been doing it season-in season-out by resting their key players during weekend EPL matches ahead of mid-week European games. So why pick on MU? They might as well sue all the top six clubs.

With the Champions League final less than a week to go, Fergie will not expose his star players to injuries and risk failing to retain the European crown. Not for Toon, Boro and the Black Cats, at least. And the three teams could lose 30 million pounds of revenue each if they are relegated.

Having won the league, Barcelona fielded an entire second team last weekend with Samuel Etoo the only recognisable player. Pep Guardiola is expected to do the same this weekend. It will be a huge disadvantage for MU not to rest their starting eleven. Can MU file a counter suit to the three teams if the Devils lose the Champions League?

The three North-East clubs are also assuming Hull can get something out of the game against a second-string MU team. They forget that the young Devils almost beat fifth place Everton in the FA Cup semifinal last month that was eventually decided on penalties. With Hull in a free falling form, they might even lose to MU's youngsters.

The three teams fighting relegation - Newcastle, Middlesborough and Sunderland - had the whole season to gather enough points to avoid the drop and trying to sue MU with one league game left is just an easy excuse. They have only themselves to blame for their predicament.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What the...

Did you know that ESPN Star Sports' BPL presenter, Ally Begg, was once in a boy band?? That's right, Begg was part of an outfit called Bad Boys Inc (what the hell?) from 1993 to 1995 and was supposedly one of the biggest boy band acts in the UK alongside Take That. I found this out by accident on ESPN Star Sports official website. It goes on to say that besides music, Begg was once a part-time model.

On to sports, Begg has played in a number of semi-pro football clubs and has had trials at Blackpool and Burnley and is a qualified Scottish Football Association coach. And prior to ESPN Star Sports, he was a presenter at MUTV and Celtic TV before joining ESPN Star Sports.

The picture on the right, by the way, was obtained from You can find out a lot more about Bad Boys Inc there.

Now this is interesting...

Barely 24 hours after news broke out that Liverpool have put in a GBP50 million bid for Carlos Tevez, Rafa Benitez goes and says the Reds will break the their previous transfer records this summer (you can read it here).

It has to be noted that Liverpool's previous transfer record was some GBP20 million for Fernando Torres and it is widely believed the two skinflint American owners at Anfield will only give the Spaniard another GBP20 million to play with this summer.

Nonetheless, Benitez latest revelations has increased speculation that Carlos Tevez is indeed on his way to Liverpool. As mentioned in my previous blog, it's no big secret that Benitez has long admired the Argentine forward. In fact, it has been rumoured that Benitez tried to engineer a deal to bring Tevez over to Liverpool back when compatriot Javier Mascherano was signed on a loan deal.

While Carlos Tevez' price tag is still unclear at this point, it's safe to say it would be above GBP20 million. And if Benitez' transfer kitty is stuck at GBP20 million, he'll have to sell first before making any purchases which has led to rumours Xabi Alonso may be on his way to Real Madrid. Now that would indeed change things at Liverpool

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Liverpool to bid 50m for Tevez?

The Sun (UK) claims Liverpool have made a surprise GBP50 million bid for Carlos Tevez! You can read it here. It goes on to say the Reds will offer the Argentine striker a three year deal worth GBP160,000 a week (Christ!).

The report adds Liverpool's bid comes after Spurs made an initial bid of GBP18 million for Tevez. Come on now, Spurs. If GBP18 million is all it takes to sign Tevez, don't you think Ferguson would've already done that by now? GBP18 million is like lose change around Old Trafford.

But back to Liverpool's supposed bid.It's a bit hard to believe that the Reds have that much money lying around what with all the rumours the club's owners are frantically figuring ways to refinance some GBP350 million in debt so much so they might even let Carlsberg name their new stadium (see below). Where exactly will the cash come from?

Unless of course, Rafa Benitez has to offload several players first before signing on Tevez although the Reds would have sell several players just to raise GBP50 million.

Then there's the other big question. Where will Tevez play in Rafa Benitez' line-up which only deploys one striker, Fernando Torres with Steven Gerrard in a supporting striker role? Who will have to make way if Tevez comes?

But these questions asside, it's no secret Tevez has been greatly admired at Anfield and would make a solid partnership with players like Torres and Gerrard. Language is another plus considering three-quarters of the Liverpool squad speak Spanish.

And unlike say the Gabriel Heinze saga (what is it with Argentineans wanting to leave Man U for Liverpool?), Old Trafford will not able to do anything to stop the deal except signing Tevez permanently as the club seem extremely reluctant to deal with Tevez' ultra-shady agent, Kia Joorabchian.

So far, it has been reported that Man U are interested in signing Tevez but nothing in the region of GBP50 million has been mentioned nor will it. I can hardly see Utd paying that much of money for a player that's been reduced to a supporting role to the club's three-pronged attack of Ronaldo, Rooney and Berbatov.

Then again, if Ferguson genuinely believes Liverpool have made an offer, he might just bite the bullet and outbid his archrivals to keep Tevez as far away from Anfield as possible. And if that is to be the case, Mr Joorabchian will be one very rich man. Now, doesn't that make you wonder now if it was Joorabchian himself who told the Sun about the Reds bid?

Surrender the Toon Army

Dear Newcastle fans AKA the Toon Army, face it, your time in the big leagues is up. It's been a slow, lingering, pain-filled demise but a demise it is. A succession of bad owners (Freddy Shepherd and Mike Ashley), the sacking of your only good manager (sacked because he couldn't crack into the Top Four) and the bringing in of Dennis Wise and the Cockney Mafia (a truly great name for a band but not so great for a football club) have resulted in what can be said as standing on the edge of the abyss, with the abyss looking straight back at you.

Mathematically, there's still a chance that the Magpies will survive. They're in the death zone together with neighbouring rivals Sunderland and Middlesbrough, and the free-falling Hull City AKA the former "surprise package of the season" ... at least for the first half of the season any ways. A win may prove to be just enough to keep the club in the Premiership but, at the end of the day, should it?

The days when The Toon played fantasy football, scoring goals, playing a fast-moving-fast-passing game and, again, scoring goals are long gone. Lost in the mist of time, a myth of epic proportions. Todays Newcastle United is a mess going forward and a disaster at the back. The selling of the only person that kept the goals against to a respectable level, Shay Given, was akin to playing Russian Roulette with 5 bullets in the barrel instead of only 1. The sacking of a series of managers didn't help either. Buying Michael Owen was a gamble with the odds stacked against the buyer. In short, Newcastle have become a comedy where no one is laughing, especially not the fans.

Yes, surrender Toon Army, surrender. Take a sabbatical in the Championship. Rediscover your game of fast-moving-fast-passing all-attack football and come back to the Premiership leaner, meaner and stronger because, right now, you're anything but that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Adebayor really leaving this time?

The latest reports say that Emanuel Adebayor wants out of Arsenal...again! This time however, the Togolese international is quoted as saying he's not too thrilled about being booed by his own fans this season and wants to play somewhere where he'll be more appreciated.

First off, it must be pointed out that Adebayor was booed by the Arsenal faithful due to his supposed lack of loyalty to the club. This usually happens when you say you'd like to play for Milan or Barcelona. But the booing certainly hasn't made him feel very welcome at the Emirates.

Furthermore, Arsene Wenger supposedly told Arsenal's shareholders last week he'd be willing to sell Adebayor to (get this) one of the Big Four! This can only mean Chelsea as Man Utd have too many strikers and Liverpool has a strict policy of having only one world-class striker at a time.

Of course, it goes without saying that whenever a footballer is available, the usual suspects such as AC Milan, Real Madrid and now Man City are all interested (an Adebayor-Robinho partnership would be most interesting...who'd be more selfish?).

But the big question is the impact this would have on the Gunners. Already firing blanks up front on a regular basis (except for that night when Asharvin scored four), Wenger knows that he needs to seriously beef up the squad this summer if they don't intend on once more being a spectator in the title race.

Adebayor may have his faults but is clearly more consistent than Van Persie or Bendtner and selling him may dry up the goals for good.

This is Carslberg Anfield

If Liverpool fans don't hate their American owners enough, this might just do it. According to some reports, the magnificent duo are prepared to allow Liverpool's new stadium to named after the club's sponsor, Carlsberg, as a means to refinance their mountain of debt.

Reports say the two dimwits are considering the option in light of all the money Arsenal has made and continues to receive after selling the naming rights of their stadium to Emirates.

As for Liverpool, the club was initially looking at building a new a stadium at Stanley Park but would rename the grounds Anfield once completed. However, with the new stadium plans getting shelved every season, it looks like George Gillette and Tom Hicks may enter into a deal with Carlsberg to speed things up and get themselves out of debt. And the new stadium would then be named Carlsberg Anfield!

It was bad enough when the Gunners opted to sell their tradition and history by allowing their home ground to be named after an airline you'd fly only if you couldn't afford Singapore Airlines. But for Liverpool to do such a thing, the consequences would be unimaginable.

The name Anfield evokes fear among Liverpool's opponents and strong emotions among its supporters. Having that name relegated to a beer can (Yes, once they name the stadium Carlsberg Anfield, they'll put it on all their products) will not only erase all the history and tradition once associated with the name but set a dangerous precedent to all the other clubs.

Imagine Old Trafford being renamed AirAsia: the Low-Cost Theatre of Dreams or Stamford Bridge being renamed Samsung Bridge? Yes, we know that football is a business and that businesses need to adapt to make money but somethings should just be left alone.

LMA: Can't we all just be friends?

The League Managers Association (LMA) apparently wants an end to the on-going rift between Rafa Benitez and Alex Ferguson. You can read it here. The LMA's involvement comes after Benitez' supposed refusal to congratulate Ferguson on winning Man Utd's 18th league title last weekend.

It's strange indeed that the LMA wants to get involved as I can't seem to recollect when they tried to patch things up between Ferguson and Arsene Wenger or for that matter, the fued between the Arsenal gaffer and Jose Mourinho.

Actually, I don't believe Wenger or Ferguson have said a word to each other whenever their teams play over the last 10 years. So why all the fuss now?

Still, isn't trash talking your opponent what makes this game all the more interesting?

The fact that Benitez refused to congratulate Ferguson should only spice things up for the coming season. As it stands, both United and Liverpool are now tied with 18 league titles a piece and the winner of next season's Premier League (assuming it's either Utd or Liverpool) will get all the bragging rights.

So yes, by all means, let's hope Benitez and Ferguson start bickering at one another way before the season gets underway in late August.

Interestingly, would Ferguson have congratulated Benitez if Liverpool had won the league? I do recall the Scotsman bizzarely insisting Utd were the better side after their 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sparky's staying!

Oh that crazy club.

Citeh chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak is insisting Mark Hughes will remain manager at the club next season. Even more bizarre is the fact that Mr Mubarak seems surprised that there's so much speculation Sparky's head is going to feature on the chopping block soon. Perhaps it's hard to catch Man City live on the tele in Kuwait?

Still, is this guy for real? How can he go around claiming Sparky's done a good job when they've had an abysmal season considering the talent in their squad ? Or for that matter, is he unaware that none of the big stars at City have any for respect Hughes (especially the Brazilians)? Does Mubarak have oil flowing through his ears?!

Perhaps Mubarak is doing what all club owners do whenever faced with a question regarding their manager's job security: Be in a constant state of denial until the envitable happens.

Or, Mubarak has actually been shopping around for a top notch manager all this while but has so far only attracted Paul Ince.

Hiddink definitely leaving Chelsea

Looks like Guus Hiddink is really leaving Stamford Bridge after the FA Cup final against Everton. It's not altogether surprising considering the fact the Dutchman has always maintained that his four month stint at the Blues was more like a summer internship rather than a real job. Still, at least according to the BBC, Hiddink, at one point, did consider extending his stay at Chelsea but the lure of the Russian national team proved too tempting.

But now that we know Hiddink will be heading towards Moscow in June, the big question is who's going to take over the hot seat at Stamford Bridge. Carlo Ancelotti and Frank Rijkaard are currently the most talked about replacements, but what's the likelihood either one of them will succeed?

Ancelotti's had some really mediocre seasons with AC Milan of late which more or less suggests the Premier League could be a big challenge for him. Rijkaard, on the hand, will need to completely overhaul Chelsea's squad if he is to implement his brand of 'total football' at the Bridge. Two years ago, Roman would have handed him a blank check to do so but I don't that's going to be the case this year.

If anything, Hiddink's time at Chelsea has proven one thing and that the Blues are a force to be reckoned with when they employ defensive-minded tactics, which is a tactic that won them two Premierships not too long ago. And the best man for that job would be the one who introduced that style of play and was responsible for the signing on half the players in the current squad.

Yes, I'm talking about Jose Mourinho. If Abramovich seriously wants Chelsea to become the dominant force in English and European football, then he needs to end his unhealthy obsession with free-flowing attacking football (it doesn't always work. Look at Arsenal) and bring back the man who made the Blues a force to be reckoned with.

A League Too Far

And so, yet again, Manchester United rides off into the sunset with the Premiership in tow, another season for the red half of Manchester to sing with voices held high, we are the champions.

But it could have been the red half of Merseyside that could have and should have won it. They say the numbers never lie and the amount of goals that Liverpool have scored all season-long showed that they were more than a match for Man Utd, 76 goals v Man Utd's 67. If it was down to number of goals scored, Anfield would have rocked to Queen's finest.

Instead, it's another set of numbers that mattered, wins and draws. 27 wins to Man Utd to Liverpools 24, 6 draws to Liverpool's 11, that's where the game was won and lost. The Reds may have lost less games than the Red Devils but they didn't win enough.

So many factors have been espoused by fans and professional pundits aside, so many reasons have been given and too many conspiracy theories tabled. It was Rafa this and the squad that but, at the end of the day, it's the numbers that count and the numbers have spoken.

Still, there is always next season to look forward to. Man Utd will strengthen itself to defend a league it would love to call its own and the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal will lick their wounds and brace themselves to challenge the Top Two. Liverpool may not have won the league this season but the fact that the club came so close should inspire it in Season 2009/10. It now rests on the club owners, the manager and the players to decide whether this season is the stepping stone for greater glory or the start of the fall. Next season should prove to be an interesting one indeed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Carragher vs Arbeloa

You would think that infighting among footballers on the field is something likely to occur among players of a team losing a match and on their way to Championship football. You'd think.

Instead, during WBA's do-or-die fixture against Liverpool, it was Reds vice-captain, Jamie Carragher who blew a fuse on the pitch at teammate Alvaro Arbeloa after some real shoddy defending by the Spaniard. And this occured despite the fact that:

a) the Reds were 2-0 up
b) Man Utd had already won the Premiership
c) WBA was 20 mins away from being relegated
d) there are no extra points for clean sheets

In Carragher's defense, Arbeloa has made one too many mistakes this season at the back and was probably deserving of a good lashing. But at the same time, such a display, which nearly got physical, is unbecoming of a club that wants to become English champions. Passion is one thing but getting carried away and becoming violent with a teammate on the field (it took three Liverpool players to separate the the two) is not going to solve anything. Instead, as demonstrated in the match, Arbeloa's performance was worse after the tiff with Carragher.

Tevez' last match at Old Trafford?

Has Carlos Tevez played his last match in Old Trafford wearing a United shirt? After weeks of speculation the Argentine will be on his way out in the summer, Tevez' reaction at being substituted in the match against Arsenal over the weekend (he spent a great deal of time waving and applauding to the fans) seems to suggest the striker is indeed leaving the Devils.

Then there are reports that say Tevez has indeed been unhappy at his treatment at United. Part of the striker's frustrations have stemmed from the club's failure to permanently sign on two separate occassions ( last summer and January 2009). His new position in the pecking order to third-choice striker may have also played a part, especially being relegated as a secondary choice behind his overpriced teammate, Dimitar Berbatov.

United, of course, deny Tevez is moving anywhere with cheif executive, David Gill claiming all issues will be sorted by June. But if the striker and that agent of his have decided to move on to greener pastures, there's next to nothing Man U can do. And at present, rumour has it Liverpool, Tottenham, AC Milan and the usual suspects (Real Madrid and Man City) are keen on signing the Argentine forward. The coming weeks will certainly be interesting.