Well, I guess I'll start off my reintroduction (of which there will be countless many, considering how fluctuatory my appearances can get) with a thread on Prem footie. If anyone is interested in their take so far this season, or for future crystal-ball suggestions in the coming year, feel free to make your voice known. It's important to set up debate, so that the resident Gunner fans (YOU know who you are... yours truly included) don't look like arrogant pricks.
As of now, I'm pleasantly satisfied with my Arsenal. Who would've known that trading (in the American sports franchise speak) Henry off to Bartha and benching Lehmann for the much cooler (and in my opinion, WAY cooler) Almunia, would jump-start the youngsters to such heights? To see Arsenal playing the way Wenger wants, and the fans want, is just a delight. Even if you dislike Arsenal, you have to admit, they're playing fabolous footie right now.
I can certainly see the other big three--Man U, Chelsea, and L'pool--coming into the title picture after January. If Man U can sort out their injuries, they'll definitely roar back to the form of last year. Chelsea seems to have found their offensive knack, after Avram 'The Puppet' Grant has instilled them something else besides the Mourinho strategy of "all men to the back except Drogba and Lampard". And if Benitez can actually start the same 11 twice in a row, they may actually get somewhere.
But as far as I can see now, Arsenal have it. Watching their most recent game against L'pool, one could say that Arsenal should've won--though they deserved at least a tie (which they got). Gerrard certainly looked mighty throughout the game for the Reds--and his role appears to me, from an American sports fan perspective, like the center in a hockey team. Sure he starts in the middle, or the left, or the right, but he's everywhere the ball is. Just like Fabregas. It was certainly fitting that these two beasts in the middle grabbed the goals for their respective teams, in much the same way that they've been doing their careers thus far: Gerrard with a thumper of a right-foot free-kick; and Fabregas with his uncanny sense of opportunism in the clutch.
Too bad I won't catch the ManU-Arsenal game this Saturday. I'm working. But man...
DR's back!!! Wow, first Poggs, now you. Old school returning!
Yeah, the timing of the fixture is awful. Should've been a Sunday game. Funnily enough this Gunner fan (and I know it was me you were thinking of ;)) said at the start of the season that United would win the title and sticks by that.
I always thought we'd finish second or third and as the season goes on the more I'm thinking second looks to be our most realistic goal. Chelsea may have fired 6 past Man City but they'll miss Drogba and Essien when the ACN comes round a lot more than we'll miss Toure and Eboue. It would be the equivalent of us losing Cesc and Ade (who isn't going as Togo didn't qualify).
Liverpool's problem is exactly what you said, the rotation policy. If Rafa settles down to a first-choice 11 only resting players (like Arsenal have done) when games are won, then they'll start going somewhere but I suspect they're already too far behind. They really had to beat us. Chelsea and Manchester United still both have two games each against us but Liverpool now only have one and it's at our place. Can't see them winning that.
Tomorrow's game should be good and will be the real test of our season. I said before we played Liverpool that two points from both games would be a result as we're top with a game in hand on those below us. We now have one of those points, if we can get stop United winning we're in pole position. Having said that they're coming to us in great form so it won't be easy.
I don't see a high-scoring game, their defence is rock solid and these games are usually tight. Given Arsenal's current run of scoring goals in the last 20 minutes United will be after a 2-goal cushion and I think if we can prevent them doing that we can win the game. 2-1 to Arsenal is my hope.
Arsenal looks pretty solid, but the real test will come once they get into the meat of their schedule...like say this weekend. We've seen how they do against the relegation zone, now let's see what happens against the CL zone.
I think Portsmouth have a shot at knocking someone out of the Champions League spots and I think the two candidates are Chelsea and Liverpool.
Their 6-0 ass-rape of Manchester City notwithstanding, Chelsea look to be a three or four points from twelve stretch away from some serious dressing room drama. And, that may very well be during the African Cup of Nations. They won't just be missing Essien and Droghba, but Mikel and Kalou as well. That's a lot of depth up front and in the midfield to cover, and the problem could be much worse depending on what injuries crop up. If things start to go off the rails, Chelsea could really implode and Grant will be sacked.
Liverpool. Rotation. Nothing really more needs to be said. Like Chelsea, I see this club as another potential powder-keg beneath the manager's seat situation. Expectations were high here and if they are struggling for a Champions League spot, Benitez could rotate himself out of a job.
As for Portsmouth, if they can stay relatively healthy, I think they have the most potential for a move up. They score a lot of goals and are solid at the back. The period during the African Cup of Nations will hurt them, but 'arry should be able to cobble something together.
Blackburn is the other sleeper in this regard. They play a physical game and don't really have any glaring weaknesses.
Speaking of glaring weaknesses, what do Tottenham and a party attended by Paris, Lindsey and Britney have in common?
Multiple scoring opportunities.
Paul Robinson has already cost Martin Jol his job...can Steve McClaren be far behind? To be fair, Tottenham's back four make last season's Newcastle cluster-fuck look well organized. Seriously. These guys make Titus Bramble look like Franz Beckenbauer. But what's his excuse when he puts on the England shirt? How can McClaren look in the mirror starting Paul Robinson over Robert Green?
I think Sunderland and Birmingham are staying up.
Derby may not break Sunderland's record for futility, but if there are any for negative goal differential, they certainly are in the running.
I think Bolton is going down. Megson has never won more than about 40% or his games anywhere he's managed, and I don't see this changing. I think Anelka will be gone in January and that certainly won't make the row any easier to hoe.
Wigan will struggle. There are already rumblings that Hutchings is not on solid ground and Dave Whelan seems like kind of a prick that doesn't like when things aren't going his way. If he throws his toys out of the pram, they may slip back to the Championship where they belong.
Middlesbrough and Fulham are the other possible relegation candidates. Lawrie Sanchez is like Benitez when it comes to stubbornness. His high back line may well cost him his job. I'll hate to see Fulham go down simply because of all the Americans on the team. And, I hope Brian McBride gets well soon.
Coppell seems to have gotten Reading straightened out. They're too good a team to be where they were.
Here's how I see it all finishing.
1. Manchester United
7. Manchester City
10. Aston Villa
11. West Ham
13. Birmingham City
14. Tottenham Hotspur
20. Derby County
I can't fault any of your thinking. The reason I didn't mention Mikel and Kalou was because they're not "key" players like Drogba and Essien but you're right, they'll be missed. I do love how Kalou was so insistent he would only play international football for Holland (he has Dutch nationality by naturalisation), not the Ivory Coast (where he was born) only to change his mind.
Tottenham should never have fired Martin Jol. Pompey look good and could pounce.
1. Manchester United
6. Manchester City
11. Aston Villa
12. West Ham
14. Birmingham City
18. Tottenham Hotspur
20. Derby County
If West Ham can't beat the likes of Bolton at Upton Park, a top half finish may be as unattainable as European football. That was two points flushed.
I still think it's strange that footballers are allowed to change nationality just because they want to play their sport overseas, and join the national team. The fact that you need to change passports to join said national team should tell you something.
To be fair Kalou ws playing in Holland at 18, his brother had been playing there for six years before that, so I'd guess he visited him. If he's been exposed to Dutch culture from the age of 12 it's understandable he may feel more Dutch than Ivorian. It's just a more extreme example of someone like Johann Djourou, born in the Ivory Coast but moved to Geneva when he was 17 months and now plays for the Swiss. Sometimes people can feel an affinity for another country.
No offence but what about Clarence Seedorf, who played for the Dutch but was born in Suriname? Or Edgar Davids? What about the French naturalising players from former colonies? It happens because teams want to get better. The difference here was that Kalou's pretty good but is not better than either Robin Van Persie or Arjen Robben, but you can bet your arse if he filled a much-needed role he'd have had his naturalisation accelerated. Principles don't come into it.
Cricketers do it too. Hell if they didn't allow it in Rugby the Kiwis would suck.
Suriname is a former colony :P We're like France too, only these players often have family in the Netherlands from times past. Davids was born before Suriname gained independence from the Netherlands, Seedorf less than six months after. At this stage, the country was still on the receiving end of Dutch aid, and something silly like 25% of the population at the time moved to the Netherlands, fearing the new independent state would fare worse.
Whoa, I ramble. What I'm trying to say is, at least there is some sort of tie there. And yeah, if you've grown up in another country, fair enough that that's who you side with. What bothers me about this fella is that he'd not bothered to apply for citizenship until it became clear he might play for the Dutch team. He hadn't felt so overwhelmingly Dutch he couldn't wait to get a passport ever before.
Even so, that's all still fair enough. What really bothers me is that he had the guts to ask the minister of immigration to bend the rules for him, cause he wanted to play for the Netherlands. And then what REALLY angers me is that he had the guts to be stroppy when she said no. I reckon all asylum seekers in desperate need of a Dutch passport because they can't go home cause home means death would like the rules bent a bit, too. Where does this git get off thinking he's more important? It's a sport, not life and death.
/end Kalou rant. Please continue your very pleasant football discussion :)
PS. I looked it up - Kalou's still not Dutch, and he's said he's given up hope of ever attaining Dutch citizenship. Or at least, that's what Wikipedia say, and we all know they are a beacon of truth and accuracy.
To be fair it wasn't him that wanted the rules bent either, it was Marco Van Basten and Johann Cruyff. Far be it from me to defend a Chelsea cunt though so yeah, string him up! And btw I know Suriname is a former colony, jeez. Who do you think you're talking to, Ran? ;)
Back onto the topic...who thinks Ferguson should get punished for saying the referee was biased?
Here, in the States, you take your beef to the league behind closed doors. If you make comments to the media regarding officiating, you get fined.
Whether or not a referee is biased is best left to talk radio.
As for referees, I am constantly shocked by the absolute lack of respect that players and managers have for them around the world. Here, you touch a referee, you shower early and deposit less money in the bank. Just this weekend, Jeremy Trueblood (a lineman for the Bucs) was ejected because he happened to run into an official during an altercation with another player.
Earlier this year, I watched John Terry grab an official's arm in protest to Mikel getting a red. In my book, he should have gotten a red as well. And, a suspension. Not just a standard red suspension, but something like three games.
Every call in show I listen to (606, World Soccer Daily, The Football Show) is inundated with calls about how poor the officiating is, and most of the traditionalists decry the idea of using instant replay to get calls right.
Do you think instant replay should be used?
Technically we do have rules against managers saying the sorts of things Ferguson did but he has a reputation for getting away with saying what he likes about officials and never being punished. Wenger often gets fined for much more subtle digs at officials (not that I condone that either).
I agree with you, criticising referees is something fans will always do, and in fact is part of the game, but that is where it should end. Players and managers both need to respect the officials more. It's no wonder they struggle to maintain order or get decisions right.
Where I disagree with you is your comparison between the NFL and Premier League. The problem of not showing officials respect is very much a unique to football. Rugby is a totally different ball game, no pun intended. Officials in Rugby are always given the proper respect due to them. In Cricket, likewise, the umpires are given respect.
My personal belief is it's a problem with the mentality of the Premier League's superstar players, especially the English ones. This is why when they get together to play for the national team they play as 11 individuals, not a team. I do like your idea about grabbing officials being punished, in fact I'd go further and punish those idiots who wave imaginary yellow cards in the air to get other players booked. They deserve to get booked themselves for it.
As for replays partly I suspect it's simply a resistance to change of any sort that makes people oppose them, and partly the way they look over at the NFL and see games "slowed" by the replays. What they fail to realise is that NFL football is a stop-start game, video replays don't create that, that's part of the game. The same replays are used in cricket and Rugby without any slow down.
I'm in favour of video replays for any "big" decision. Red cards, penalties, freekicks on the edge of the area (was it in the area or out?) and ruling whether the ball has crossed the line for goals. Of course people will point out the linesman in the Arsenal v Manchester United game spotted the ball had crossed the line, and use this as proof that video evidence isn't needed but I can show another half-dozen situations where perfectly good goals were not given.
I figure the instant replay deal is really an issue of pride with the officials. They want to be known as immediately right, and they, like most people, don't want to be publicly touted as getting a call wrong (especially if it's an egregious one that would've changed the outlook of a game). And besides, on the chance that a linesman gets an offside call wrong, or misses the ball crossing the goal, the outcome of the game ex post facto will not change the outcome of the game when the referee blows his whistle twice. (Which raises certain issues of fairness: that is to say, hypothetically speaking, if Gallas' goal against ManU in stoppage time--a concept in itself that differs strongly with the American 'time-out'--was not seen as crossing the goal at game time, but instead reviewed later as an actual goal, what should the FA do then? Award Arsenal the one point, and reduce ManU's by two? Tempers would flare from Demento himself, and Wenger would be smiling as if he had read a double entendre somewhere in the offing.)
On another note, Surly Fergie should probably shut his trap and win the League this season. Otherwise, having to watch Wenger do the same with his youth as Ferguson did with Becks, Scholes, Giggs, Butt, and the Nevilles in the late 90's. In my opinion, Ferguson is protecting his own image, saying that Wenger's youth does not compare (at least, at this point) to the treble-winning 99 team. (But, let's be honest on this point: the Arsenal team of 07 and the United team of 99 are apples and oranges. Ferguson and Wenger have way different gameplans: Ferguson prefers a strict 4-4-2, while Wenger likes to keep the concept of positional play loose. (In terms of the literary criticism I read, one could compare it to the orderly nature of Anglo-American criticism--like F.R. Leavis or Cleanth Brooks; whereas Wenger's fluidity reminds one of Jacques Derrida or Roland Barthes. The Anglo-Americans base interpretation solely on the tension and resolution between form and content; that is, United's 4-4-2 must ultimately work in exactly that manner, to the style that Ferguson is accustomed, in order to succeed. For Wenger, however, the starting 4-4-2 does not always end up like that: if the half-backs run up the sidelines, the left- and right-midfielders run into the middle, and the centre-forwards float out toward the corners and sides, then the 4-4-2 becomes, in its full-on attack, a 2-4-4, and a chiasmus is reached. That's probably why I like Arsenal; their form is dynamic, but remains symmetrical.)
I think you misunderstand DR. I'm advocating using replays during the match to verify things like whether a goal should be ruled out for offsde, the ball crossing the line, penalties etc. Whenever a referee has an important call to make he should do what they do in cricket and "refer" it to a video ref. The video ref then makes a decision which is displayed on the scoreboard and is final.
I actually strongly disagree with reviewing video evidence after the fact because as it stands if a player gets a yellow during the game but is later adjudged to have been guilty of a red card offence, his team still avoids the punishment of having reduced numbers for the remainder of the match.
Well, with instant replays during the match, I'm fine with that. In fact, I'll all for it. I just tend to see that the referees would have a personal issue with it.
What could be interesting is to allow the managers, as they do in American football, the right to challenge (up to twice in a game) a certain call that the referee had wrong.
Another thing to notice is that, if the referees had instant replay, and they decided to use it to review an important event, it might actually break up the dynamics of the game as is, so the players might be miffed about it, too.
All in all, I like instant replay, and I think it would be an important step up in the game's mechanics. In my opinion, in almost every sport that has a referee, the referee can sometimes get a little personal with certain players or teams, and that's the stupid reason why Fergie would get riled, or Wenger sometimes. This is not to say that guys like Mike Riley don't do a damn good job, but the idea of impartiality must and always will be a concern with umpires, referees, and the like. (If anyone knows about the NBA, then you know what I'm talking about.)
I don't like the idea of challenges.
Managers could use them to simply disrupt the tempo of the game.
Put an official in a booth with multiple camera angles. He can look at fouls and determine if contact was actually made or a dive has occurred. All he has to do is buzz the referee and let him know what actually happened. Play has already been stopped, so it wouldn't be much more of a delay.
There could also be officials charged with watching the goal to see when and if the ball crosses the line, just like in hockey. Another thought would be to add two more linesmen. In American football, there are seven officials on the field in addition to the replay official. In basketball, there are three officials covering a fraction of the playing surface that football officials do. Same with hockey, except they cover a bit more surface...on skates. Four linesmen covering a quarter of the field would probably help get their eyes in the right positions more of the time.
The games have simply gotten too fast for three officials to adequately cover the entire pitch. Use more eyes and technology to get it right.
More referees is a good idea. I disagree with challenges for the same reason that Brad does, it's like how "time-outs" are abused in NFL to just slow the game down (which isn't what they were intended to be used for). Personally I don't think what I proposed would slow the game down that much at all, there is always a delay when the referee blows up, particularly for an important issue.
The new in-vogue move is to call a timeout the instant before the ball is snapped on a field goal. The head coach usually gets with the line judge and tells him what he's going to do, and I think it's wrong. If you want to call a timeout, you should have to get the referee's attention and hope play is stopped.
Haz and I should run FIFA.
I think linesmen would be less eager to throw up the offside flag if they knew someone was upstairs that could call it if it's missed. Let play flow, and if the eye in the sky buzzes him, then he can make the call. It's not like instant communication is some sort of futuristic pipe dream.
Regardless, having a linesman, who is a minimum of thirty yards from the goal, determine if the ball crossed the line or not is ridiculous. In the NHL there is a Goal Judge whose only duty is to watch one of the goals to determine if the puck crosses the line or not. Surely the beautiful game could employ a similar method.
yeh like every game spurs play we are always cheated like today vd hapoel tel aviv we shud have got a penalty etc
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