Monthly Archives: February 2011

A Cow, a Banjo and Tottenham

pavmiss

25 shots. 15 off target, 10 on target. 1 goal.

Lets, go through that again. 25 shots, 15 of those off target. 1 goal.

And this is from a team in the Champions League, who beat AC Milan, competing for the same competition next season.

Part of me is laughing, the other half is crying.

Who do you blame? Everyone, lets try that. Tottenham’s strikers this season have scored eight goals in the league. Eight. That is less than Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale, two midfielders. Six of these goals have come from Roman Pavlyuchenko, two from Peter Crouch (puts him level with the likes of Niko Kranjcar and Alan Hutton) and zero from Jermain Defoe.

Zero.

Cast your mind back to the 2009-10 season, Chelsea at home in April, when they won 2-1. There you can find Defoe’s last goal in the Premier League. A penalty in the fifteenth minute, dispatched into the left corner. If you want his last goal in open play, well, that would be March 13th. That is eleven months ago. For a striker, that is simply inexcusable.

Fair enough, Defoe did miss the first three months of this season, but since November has had three months to make an impact. And all I remember him doing is winning a flick on to van der Vaart for the first goal in Spurs comeback against Arsenal. The rest of the time he has been hopeless. He’s not been the same since his injury? Fair enough, maybe that could be reason, just needs a bit of confidence, score a goal, then he’ll be back to his best.

So explain the two goals against FC Twente in the 3-3 draw. Or maybe the two in the FA Cup match against Charlton. Was that not enough, he seemed clinical enough then. Defoe needs a rest, there is no way he has lost quality since last season, heck, those five goals against Wigan, that was only fifteen months ago. I know a lot can change but it is hardly three years. He is only 28, in theory, at the peak of his career, and for some reason, it is just not happening. His shooting against Blackpool was woeful, chances in the past he would have buried were ending up in Row Z, it was a pain to watch. Pain to see a quality player playing so badly.

Alongside Defoe against Blackpool was Roman Pavlyuchenko. The Russian, who this time last season was having a resurgence, the popular player everyone wanted to see play, he did, and my God he was good. 9 goals in 6 games at one point, then he inevitably stopped scoring for a bit, but hey, who cares about that eh. What a man, give Pav a chance, he got it, took it, and decided that since he was up there, he thought he could stay there forever, no one will change their opinions on him.

Wrong.

Six goals, he might be the best striker at the club, but for a striker who has played all season. No injuries, no problems. Two of his goals were tap ins, though two of them were beautiful (the volley against Bolton and the one against Chelsea). He is the player who doesn’t turn up for 89 minutes and for that 1 minute does something pretty good for once. The prime example being Young Boys away, dire, I mean dire for the first 85 minutes then scores a right screamer to make it 3-2. But most times this season, he doesn’t turn up for those 90 minutes. A whole game. He’s often anonymous, every first touch he makes, a cute little rabbit cries.

He did score against Blackpool, albeit a long range effort deflected in. Nothing really you can shout about.

He’s useless frankly. No use at all for Tottenham. And the same can be said of Peter Crouch. Crouch is useful for those games in Europe. He was dangerous against Werder Bremen in Germany, the hat-trick against Young Boys, and was dynamic against AC Milan. But the rest of the time? His first league goal came in November, his second at the start of February. 6’7 of a waste of a space in the 25 man squad.

Why didn’t Spurs get a striker in January? It was plainly obvious they needed one, yet only ended up with Steven Pienaar and Bogani Khumalo. Two players they didn’t really need. Two players yet to make a mark on the team. They spent the last two days bidding for every striker in Spain, coming close to both Forlan and Rossi. Yet the neglect to remember the other 29 days in January, in which it was very easy to buy a striker.

And my word has that shown. Against Blackpool they needed a clinical striker, and they didn’t have one. Same can be said for the game against Manchester United. Poor business all round by everyone.

Spurs have a brilliant midfield (when fit). Which team wouldn’t want Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric playing for them. And then there is Tom Huddlestone who plays the defensive midfield role far better than anyone else.

So why can’t the strikers score for toffee? Confidence? Maybe, but all three lacking from confidence at once is a big coincidence.

Basically, I don’t think Crouch or Pavlyuchenko are good enough for Tottenham. They should be sold in the summer and make way for two new, world class strikers. Karim Benzema, Luis Fabiano, Diego Forlan, I don’t care who. Anyone.

But they could still all score, why not? I mean, shouldn’t the coach who helps with the strikers also be held responsible here?

Come on out, Les Ferdinand, what exactly do you do? How is it since you came in to Tottenham the quality of the strikers has gone down hill. That means Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch even Robbie Keane. What do you do?

I’d love an answer, because I’ve seen nothing. It is getting worse and worse, and Blackpool showed a Champions League side a lesson in finishing. They had seven shots, scored from three. Spurs had twenty-five, scored from one. That one being in the last minute which will only slightly improve the goal difference.

Remember at the start of the 2008-09 season, 2 points from 8 games and all that. Gomes was looking hapless and Spurs couldn’t drop him (well, they could, but that would mean playing Cesar Sanchez, no thanks). In came Tony Parks, new goalkeeping coach, and suddenly he started playing like Gianluigi Buffon. The same can be applied to the strikers, get a new guy in, and they will start scoring again. We will all be happy, Champions League here we come.

Maybe not that extreme, yet.

It is a blip on the highs this season has to offer. But I fear it will grow, there will be games like Blackpool coming up. I admire Blackpool, they were battered, but were clinical, the counter attacking football they played was excellent, setting up the second and third goals (even if one of them was offside). Change needs to be made, and goals need to be scored.

Start the Car and Get Out of the World Cup

canada

I’m not a cricket man. I mean, I look at the results every now and then, see how England are getting on.

But every single time the Cricket World Cup comes along, I can never really get myself up for it, in the same way I can for say Rugby Union, or for the Open events in Tennis. The World Cup in cricket though is flawed, in so many different ways, and it just sucks all positive energy as by the end of it you are just thankful its over rather than excited for the winner.

Is it unfair to write out a World Cup after just three days of action? Probably. But I will anyway, I will say why its all stupidly wrong, has a worse and more confusing structure than the Rugby League World Cup, why we should all just give up, go home, and watch Jeremy Kyle instead.

Lets put this into context, the World Cup for football in South Africa lasted exactly one month, the cricket version is two weeks longer. When you consider the two weeks preceding it are for Warm Up matches as well, that’s nigh on two months away in a foreign country. And if you consider an example like England, who prior to this spent two and a half months in Australia (presuming they were in both Test and ODI matches), that is approaching five months away from home, in a row. With maybe a week at maximum spent at home. That for me is far too long.

And this is easily solved. Look at the football World Cup as an example, that often has two or three matches on the same day during the group stages. Considering the amount of matches going on at the cricket World Cup group stages, it would make sense for there to be two games a day, which by my calculations, would take 21 days to complete. Much faster than the current system of a month. People have double the amount of cricket in a day, and the pace of the game means it is easy to watch both at the same time. Presuming one starts a few hours after the other, of course.

It’s a start.

But the more noticeable thing is the scores I’ve seen. I’m no expert, but scores of 171, 122 and 69, in the premier event of cricket, is that good for it, really? I’m all up for minnows being allowed to play, but what if they are no good at the sport at all. Its clear the likes of Canada and Kenya are not going to win, it isn’t like say Greece or Denmark at the European Championships, they have no chance, there is a reason why they don’t play in ODI series more often. They aren’t competitive, so why should they be allowed in?

Let them play against teams similar to them, maybe every now and then. The only ‘weaker’ team I feel can be deserved to play is Ireland, who got into the Super 6’s last time out. Then they deserve a chance. Then maybe let another weak team in, ten team tournament in that case, less pointless matches, teams will get to play teams more of their calibre, more competition, more excitement, more fans, more money.

I’m a genius.

So two groups, five teams each, lasting say, three weeks. Perfect World Cup then? I think so. There is no reason to make it difficult, no reason to have unnecessary teams. Do four weak, small, nations really bring in more money? No. Is the competition better for them, probably not.

The World Cup should be the pinnacle of that sport, and for me, I see England fans more interested in The Ashes and vice versa. Make it the best.

The Second French Revolution

I’d like you to go to that part of the brain you have padlocked shut, hidden the key to the door somewhere you have forgot about and basically have a ten mile exclusion zone around it. Inside contains all those things you have decided to forget about, all those things you don’t want to remember, they are just too awful.

Come on then, I’ll give you time to find that key, its time to go in. Just be careful, I only want you to go to the bit which stores the 2010 World Cup.

There? Good, just be careful, some bad memories will come flooding back to you. Oooh, the 4-1 is there, the Rob Green howler, you can remember that again. Can’t you? I’m sorry.

But the reason for this rather strange and possibly pointless exercise is that I want to talk about France. And you thought England had a bad World Cup, it seems good, in fact I’m pretty sure that 4-1 against Germany still looks good against France. Hey, we won a game at least.

France got one point. In that drab and horribly dull game against Uruguay on the opening day. And then the capitulations against Mexico and South Africa.

It wasn’t the performances though that made the headlines. The spectacular internal implosion got everyone talking, from Anelka to the fitness coach chucking away his pass in front of, well, the whole of the international press and their cameras.

And the man who ended up with full responsibility was Raymond Domenech. The astrological lover who only four years early took his nation to the final of the World Cup.

How times change. And it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. They did set precedent by finishing last of their (albeit difficult) group in the 2008 European Championships (behind the Netherlands, Italy and er, Romania). And then only got into the finals themselves because of the hand of Henry.

Out went Domenech, fair to say no one was really saddened by this decision.

In came Laurent Blanc, the ex-Barcelona, Internazional and Manchester United (to name a few) defender. He brought to the table three years of managerial experience in the French top flight, Ligue 1, with Bordeaux. He was the first manager since 2001 to break the Lyon stranglehold on the league, winning the Ligue 1 Manager of the Year in the process.

Not bad for a young manager.

His first job for France was to punish all 23 members of the World Cup squad. None of them would be present in his first international match, a friendly against Norway. They lost 2-1 but a precedent was set by Blanc, he was boss.

And its shown well in his spell so far, which has included wins against England (2-1 at Wembley) and Brazil (1-0 at Stade de France). France are getting back to their successful selves, like the team Blanc won the World Cup with back in 1998.

Of course it would be silly to suggest the European Championships in 2012 are nailed on certainties for France. There are still a lot of good teams in Europe, Spain will still have many of the top class players which won them the last Euros in 2008 and of course the World Cup, Germany have talented youngsters which served them well in South Africa and the Netherlands should never be discredited, even if their tactics these days aren’t as good as they used to be.

But Blanc has tried to make improvements, shift the dead wood, actually care about the national team and prove himself to be a capable manager who can take care of the players and manage them suitably.

To compare the changes, below I’ve listed the last game in charge for Domenech (South Africa at the World Cup) and the latest game for Blanc (Brazil in a friendly on Wednesday).

v South Africa (22/06/10) v Brazil (09/02/11)
Lloris (GK) Lloris (GK)
Sagna Sagna
Gallas Mexes
Squillaci Rami
Clichy Abidal
Diarra Malouda
Diaby M’Vila
Gignac Diarra
Gourcuff Benzema
Ribery Menez
Cisse Gourcuff

Only four members have remained. The talented keeper in Hugo Lloris (who was about the only player not to disgrace himself at the World Cup), as well as Bacary Sagna, Alou Diarra and Yoann Gourcuff. And its worked, Brazil’s team consisted the likes of David Luiz, Robinho and Alexandre Pato, all players who are world class. Even if it is only a friendly, the signs are promising.

I watched the France v Brazil match on ESPN instead of watching England, and despite me regretting the decision because for once it seemed the England match was a better spectacle, I could see France were getting much better. The goal consisted of a superb run from Jeremy Menez, who crossed the ball in for a Karim Benzema tap in.

Those two players show the quality France has available, from the reliable Lloris to the skilful Gourcuff, it has its talent. And I do believe Blanc is the right man to guide them forward, back up the rankings, back to the best they can do.

It’s too early to say for certain is Laurent Blanc is the genius I’m making him out to be, but why not? Top of their qualification group, Euro 2012 on the cards.

And no more Domenech.

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