Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Deshamps: Liverpool wanted me

What is it with football managers who deem it necessary to announce the clubs they've rejected in the past? Take Marseille boss Didier Deschamps for instance. As if Liverpool didn't need more off-the-field distractions, the former French captain has now revealed that he was interviewed for the job before the club approached Roy Hodgson but rejected the move to stay at Marseille.

Is there a reason Deschamps is revealing this now, months after the incident? Is this about inflating his ego? Or is it a reminder to his employers at Marseille that he's a highly-sought after manager and its time to talk contract renewal? Or is he reminding Hodgson that the Englishman wasn't Liverpool's first choice?

If it's the latter, one can only speculate on Deschamps' ulterior motive unless Hodgson's position at Anfield is not as solid as he makes it out to be. It isn't uncommon for clubs to fire new managers (remember Big Sam and Newcastle) and Liverpool's miserable start to the season would only compound speculation that Hodgson's job could be on the line if things don't improve soon enough.

Liverpool's performances on the field have been amateurish at best judging by the way they've been outplayed by teams such as Birmingham and Sunderland. You could call it "early season blues" and the Reds have never been known to be early starters but the severe lack of confidence and coordination in the side points directly at Hodgson as much as it does at the players themselves.

Still, who - with the exception of Sven Goran Ericsson - would want to take this job? Would anyone be willing to coach a side with Liverpool's current crop of players with an almost non-existent transfer budget?

Still, let's not forget that it's still way too early to cast a verdict on Hodgson yet and the man certainly deserves time to prove himself to the Liverpool faithful, his rivals as well as to Monsieur Deschamps.

Unfortunately for Hodgson, time and patience are luxuries that expire real quick at Anfield.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mirror likens Fergie to North Korea's Dear Leader

In Sir Alex Ferguson's world, he is rarely wrong about anything. He's lambasted referees when decisions don't go his way while praising terrible ones as long as they give United a penalty or two. He's always ready for a post-match interview when United has collected all three points but nowhere in sight when the Devils lose. Yes, Sir "Double Standards" Ferguson he certainly is but when you've won as much as he has, you tend to think the world revolves around you.

And so Fergie's latest fight has taken him to another old nemesis -no, not Arsene Wenger - which is the media. With Wayne Rooney's slump getting worse each match, Fergie has had to come out and defend his star striker and has accused pressure from the media on the England's star's private life as the main culprit for the striker's barren run.

In the Scotsman's defence, he's probably somewhat correct about the negative effects the media can have on footballers. But blaming the media for Rooney's poor form is an exaggeration and an easy target. Perhaps we can brush his memory up and remind him that Rooney's poor form began in South Africa, long before any story of his alleged infidelities surfaced.

But this isn't Fergie's first outburst at the media. Last year, he suggested the majority of journalists and newspapers in England took great delight whenever United lose a match (how would he know if he's never there for the post-match conference). Then there's his ongoing feud with the BBC.

Anyways, the media, or the Mirror at least, has hit back at the Man Utd gaffer by suggesting he should quit the Old Trafford outfit and take over from Kim Jung Ill.

"He would revel in the North Korean us-against-the-world siege mentality and how he must often wish he could cut himself off like them.

"The biggest attraction of the job by far, apart from the temptation to nuke Anfield and Eastlands, would be the media - or lack of it - in the Asian country.

"There would be no pesky journalists to annoy him by reporting what he actually said in press conferences when he deems to have one and perhaps best of all, no BBC.

"Instead he would directly control the state-run media so that Wayne Rooney's problems would be conveyed to the public as a dastardly plot by agents from Liverpool FC to discredit the young hero of the Democratic People's Republic " - David Anderson, Mirror Football.

You can read the entire article here. If anything, the humour and comparisons to "Dear Leader" are funny enough to make diehard United fans laugh. Or maybe Fergie was right and the English press don't like Man Utd.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

City gives Ancelotti the blues

OK then, I was wrong about the outcome of the City - Chelsea clash. As it turns out, City is quite capable of turning on some fine displays against big sides and Ancelotti's men never looked capable of clawing back into the game.

Much of it had to do with City's discipline throughout the match in ensuring there was barely any room for Chelsea to get into their usual game. It also had to do with the fact that Chelsea's creativity level was next to zero as a result of Frank Lampard's absence.

But more importantly, this was Chelsea's first match against a decent side this season and perhaps an indication that that it won't be that easy for the Blues to retain the title this season.

Back to City, while fully deserving of all three points, I still retain my earlier view that Mancini's side still aren't title contenders just yet. This was City's third win out of six games this season and they certainly need to be a little bit more consistent if they really are looking to taking a shot at the title race.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Man City vs Chelsea : Clash of the Titans? Think again.

A year ago, former Man City manager, Mark Hughes suggested that the match between his side and Chelsea was big enough to overshadow the Man Utd vs Liverpool match that same weekend. No one really knows what Sparky meant by those comments - the results of the City vs Chelsea certainly didn't live up to the Welshmen's billing - but it's commonly accepted that Hughes was merely taking a dig at his former boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, in implying City, after a summer of some insane spending, was now bigger than United.

Still, pre-match banter aside, Sparky's comments that day certainly revealed City's true ambition which is to be the biggest club in England. But is City any closer to making that a reality this season?

Despite spending more money than anyone else (Sparky and Mancini's transfer budget over the last two seasons could probably buy Northampton), City still look years away from being genuine title contenders.

Despite an emphatic 3-0 win over Liverpool, Roberto Mancini's side has looked disorganised and ill-equipped to face smaller sides like Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers that are more than ready to frustrate bigger - or in City's case, more expensively assembled - sides. And let's face it, just about anyone can beat Liverpool these days.

So, the big question is, will City be able to stamp their title credentials against Premier League defending champions Chelsea tonight? Judging by the way Carlo Ancelotti's side has been steam-rolling past their opponents, it seems very unlikely that City will muster enough to pull off a historic upset. Clash of the Titans? Think again. This, barring any freak incidents, should be another walk in the park for Chelsea. This then brings us to a bigger question. How come money can buy success for some teams and not others?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are you really surprised Mr Hodgson?

"These players have to accept responsibility. I accept responsibility for changing a lot of players in the team, I did it because I honestly thought the players I put on the field were good enough to win the game and they weren't"
The comments above were made by Roy Hodgson following Liverpool's shock defeat to Northampton in the Carling Cup and if anything, in the middle of the expected barrage of criticism that will be aimed at him in the following days, there will be some who will sympathize with the Englishman.

After all, you can't get any more honest than Hodgson did in his post-match comments. He was under the illusion Liverpool Football Club's reserves would be better than a League Two side, especially with five first team squad members included.

Alas, the truth is Mr Hogdson, 50% of the players you've got in your senior squad aren't fit to feature in any League Two side let alone a Premier League club. But weren't you aware of this when you took on the job?

The frightening level of mediocrity at Liverpool has been well-documented and you can thank the previous management for that. And yes, maybe you should have sold Ryan Babel when you had the chance to and there's a reason why Lucas Leiva gets booed by the home fans.

But that's just it. Everyone knows that Rafa Benitez made some terrible acquisitions yet many of these third-rate players (read Maxi Rodriguez, Lucas, Babel, etc) seem to be regular features in Hodgson's side. In fact, Hodgson had the chance to offload these players and bring in some new faces during the recent transfer window but for some weird reason or other, he chose to stick with Benitez' flops.

And now his faith in these players is being repaid in the form of Liverpool's worst ever start to the Premier League. Even if he's finally caught on to this fact, it's too late to do anything at this point and he's stuck with them until January. And if Liverpool's position isn't any better then, Hodgson may find himself to be the first one out the door.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Redknapp slams Torres!

Former Liverpool and England midfielder, Jaime Redknapp, became the latest 'pundit' to critisize Fernando Torres' poor form for Liverpool this season after the Reds' dismal draw against Birmingham.

"Out there for 45 minutes today he (Torres) has been terrible. He hasn't got hold of the ball, he hasn't chased, he's got frustrated, he could have been booked, he's been diabolical," Redknapp said.

Very few would have been able to argue with Redknapp on Torres' performance yesterday but like so many others, the former Reds captain seems to have missed the various factors that led to Torres poor performance yesterday.

As such, I've volunteered myself to list down several reasons that could have contributed to Liverpool's lack of firepower up front.

1. Torres operated much on his own for most of the match and hardly received the sort of decent service any striker would expect. In fact, until the final 20 minutes of the match, Torres' supposed 'striking' partner, Steven Gerrard, was equally anonymous on the pitch.

Service down the flanks was even poorer thanks to some awful football by both Maxi Rodriguez and Milan Jovanovic. The fullbacks weren't any better although Koncesky did deliver a few decent crosses into the box in the second half. Glen Johnson, on the other hand, is looking more and more like an overrated footballer each weekend.

2. Birmingham defended in numbers which made Liverpool's entire tactical approach to the game of deploying a lone striker destined for failure the second the match got underway. Other clubs may be able to pull the one-striker policy but in those cases, the midfielders do lots of the attacking and shooting as well.

In Liverpool's case, Hodgson's five-man midfield was a bizzare mix that couldn't get any rhythm or flow into the game. As previously mentioned, both wingers were abysmal throughout the match with Rodriguez, in particular, nowhere to be seen for extended periods of the game. But the wingers were certainly better than Hodgson's two 'holding' midfielders who failed to stamp any authority in the middle of the park let alone break up play or provide some support to Torres.

3. Torres is clearly not match-fit and seeing as to how this is his fourth game after being injured for over a month on top of the many injuries he has sustained the past 12 months, you would think that an injury-prone ex-footballer like Jaime Redknapp would have some empathy instead of getting on some high horse.

If memory serves me, Redknapp spent more time injured than on the pitch for Liverpool during his entire tenure as a senior team player. Redknapp, much like his former England colleague, Kieron Dyer, are the kind of footballers who have spent more time injured than playing football much to the agony of the clubs that paid for their "services."

4. Torres' contribution to Liverpool FC this season can't be summarised in just four matches. Redknapp should note that the Spaniard has become the fastest Liverpool player to have scored 50 goals in the history of the club. As such, going back to point number 3, Torres has clearly been a much better investment for Liverpool than Redknapp ever was.

I don't know if Jaime Redknapp will ever read this but if he's looking to vent his frustrations at Liverpool's terrible performance against Birmingham yesterday, he should look elsewhere and not focus on Torres. After all, the Spaniard isn't a Superman.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Queiroz sacked!

Former Man Utd no two, Carlos Queiroz, has been handed his walking papers by the Portuguese Football Federation (PFF) barely two years after being appointed to replace Luiz Scolari as Portugal's manager.

Despite a lacklustre showing in the World Cup and the possibility of a six-month ban for disrupting drug tests on the national team, the move by the PFF does come as quite a shock.

Perhaps Portugal's 4-4 draw and 1-0 defeat to Cyrpus and Norway respectively in the Euro qualifiers nailed it for Queiroz. Still, Portugal under Queiroz, while not as spectacular as their Spanish cousins, have generally been consistent in producing results.

Then again, when the 'best player in the world' is in your side, you're expected to do a little better than average. And let's not forget the fact this was Queiroz' second stint in-charge of the Portuguese national team.

But from a larger perspective, Queiroz' latest sacking brings about the question if at all any of Sir Alex Ferguson's deputies will ever amount to one-tenth of the Scotsman's success. This isn't, after all, Queiroz' first sacking.

If you remember, the first time he left the Devils was to take on the top job at Real Madrid. When that expired (six months later, I think), he managed to get a second chance at Old Trafford. But when Portugal came calling a few years later, Queiroz packed his bags again.

Queiroz' roller-coaster of a managerial career reminds me a bit of another former Man Utd number two who could only afford mediocrity after leaving Sir Alex' coaching team - Steve McClaren. I think most Boro and England fans have blacked out the McClaren years - such was the disappointment of his tenures at both clubs. Are all of Ferguson's deputies destined for failure the second they walk out of Old Trafford?