Monday, 30 April 2007
It was a strange decision, at once outlining Mourinho's uncharacteristic (almost) surrender of the league and also emphasising his overwhelming need to win the Champions League. Chelsea stuttered to a 2-2 draw, the previously ineffective Kalou vital in the game , covering up for Sheva was never going to score.
Drogba, J Cole and Lampard all appeared, in an attempt to win the game but Bolton suffered no real pressure after equalising.
Over in Liverpool, Man Utd were using up vast reserves of luck to produce a rip roaring comeback after being 2 behind to Everton. It is likely their luck will run out in the Champions League, whether on Wednesday or May 23rd, but United fans will be happy at re-establishing their status at the top of the table. Of course it is not over yet, but the bookies odds don't lie - 50/1 on.
At the other end, Wigan were surely furious as West Ham not only avoided a points deduction but also beat them 0-3 at home, with villian in chief Tevez providing the quality. The much maligned (by me) Tevez is becoming better by the week and seemed a class above everyone on the pitch.
Charlton will surely be relegated now, along with Watford who already are, leaving a shootout between Fulham, Wigan and the Hammers to go down. Sheffield Utd may be dragged back in, but I doubt it.
Fulham play Liverpool and Middlesbrough
Wigan play Middlesbrough and Sheff Utd
West Ham play Bolton and Man Utd
Fulham will fancy a CL distracted Pool and Boro with nothing to play for
Wigan, ditto for Boro, may be wary of Sheff U who could need a result on the last day
West Ham could take advantage of Big Sam leaving Bolton and could face the already crowned champions at Old Trafford - if United play a reserve team and are in party mode, their task will be easier. Also, the Hammers won the previous fixture, and have experience of denying United the title (1995), even if United need points.
I think Wigan and Fulham are terrible and I hope one them goes down. As for West Ham - they do have a chance....
Friday, 27 April 2007
Quick blog on the weekend’s fixtures; hope you’re enjoying last night’s podcast as much as we enjoyed drinking during it.
Blackburn v Charlton
I fancy Charlton to score early against ’10-Man Blackburn’, a team who might be getting a bit tired. At a guess, 1-2
Chelsea v Bolton
Grinding one nil win for the home team. Where have we seen that before??
Everton v Man Utd
Everton are chasing the UEFA Cup and, while Johnson is almost certainly out, they could still grab a point. A lot depends on the horrendous signing that was James Beattie so…. Actually yeah easy Man U win. 0-2.
Man City v Aston Villa
I couldn’t give a flying pig shit about either side at this stage of the season. Both have promised much and delivered little at various points this year. 1-3 for the laugh, first thing that came into my head.
Middlesbro' v Tottenham
Meh. Again two sides I think have been a waste of space in the Prem this year for the most part. I think Woodgate has shown a serious lack of ambition in signing for his hometown team. Could still be entertaining with defenders thinking of their holidays and Viduka enjoying his football again. 2-2.
Portsmouth v Liverpool
Pool may well send out a b-team but it’ll be a fresh b-team and Portsmouth look knackered. Still though, Pompey to get a win, but only just. 1-0 or 2-1.
Sheff Utd v Watford
Huge game; if the home team don’t score in the first half hour both themselves and their fans may get nervous. Watford have little to play for and bizarrely this might help. Gonna go for a Watford win 0-1.
Wigan v West Ham
Hmmm…. I’ll say West Ham after the boost of no points deduction and because of the fact that Wigan’s defence is even worse than the hammers. 1-2
Arsenal v Fulham
Sanchez thinks his experience in beating ‘big’ sides with Norn Iron will help here. I doubt it as comparing Arsenal’s passing game to the English national team’s lumbering route one football just don’t add up. Fulham are a bad side. Arsenal are a good side. Arsenal win 2-0.
Reading v Newcastle
Could be a good game and it will be interesting to see how Martins and Owen team up. If they can play together then Newcastle next season could be a real force, especially if they sign some defenders. Hard to call this one, but Reading’s defeat of Bolton will leave them confident… eh…. 3-2.
The weekly Okey Doke Foootball podcast is available online, please join us as we curse and drink our way through the show. Download it here http://libsyn.com/media/okeydokefootball/odf27Apr07.mp3
As promised on the show, here are 2 YouTube links:
Chelsea TV - the players discuss who is the best looking. Ashley Cole nominates himself. Twice.
And Shane-o Mac challenges Jose at a recent WWE event in London
Thank for listening to the show,
Thursday, 26 April 2007
What last night reinforced, looking back at the season as a whole...
- Kuyt is not a top class striker, despite being hard working
- Bellamy offers little to the team
- Zenden is a disgrace to left wingers everywhere
- Alonso, whilst still quality, is having a poor season
- Gerrard is frequently ineffective, but mostly saves his reputation with goals and energy
- Agger has a lot to learn at centre back
- Benitez sometimes makes very strange decisions
- Shevchenko is the worst big money signing ever in England - makes Veron look class
- Chelsea's season may have been better with J Cole fit.
- Drogba is the best striker in the world but a pathetic diver and feigns injury
- Reina is a good shot stopper but a liability coming for the ball
- Ferreira is getting worse by the month
- Mourinho is a spiteful, disrespectful, horrible liar but a great tactician and motivator
I was going to review last nights match in full but let me just sum it up in a few words, so I don't have to relive that game:
Liverpool were poor, though Chelsea gave them little space. Chelsea should have won 2 or 3 nil, but Reina made some fine saves. Man of the match: Drogba
On a lighter note, myself and JJ are doing our weekly podcast tonight, available to download tomorrow at 10am GMT.
Premiership and Champions League Results. Upcoming fixtures. The state of the major European leagues. Pub Talk featuring the issues of the week: Gallas, Mourinho, Sibierski and loads more.
Subcribe to the RSS here http://feeds.feedburner.com/OkeyDokeFootball
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
Last night we had the pleasure of watching two of the best teams in the world go head to head in an enthralling game of football, one of the best of the season so far. (View the goals here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1t1x5_man-utd-vs-ac-milan-goals)
United started well, getting a lucky early goal from Ronaldo, via Dida's best Jerzy Dudek impression, but they were worth their lead afterwards - Fletcher strong in tackle, Carrick distributed excellently and Ronaldo causing all sorts of problems to Jankoulovski and Seedorf.
Kaka, however, took over the game in a masterclass of midfield play - his first goal a brilliantly timed burst of pace past Heinze with a cool finish past the static van der Sar. His second was more down to some comedy defending from Heinze and the leaping Evra, but it was coolly dispatched to the corner.
United were staring elimination in the face and Ronaldo wilted under the pressure, absolved only by Milan doubling and trebling up on him. Maldini went off at half time, depriving the back line of a wealth of experience. Ex-Parma man Bonera didn't impress as his replacement. Likewise, when Gattuso was forced off with an injury, it deprived the Milan midfield of his excellent running and tracking down - the sub, Broochi, was anonymous. Kaka had a couple of goods chances to score early in the second half before Rooney, previously having done little bar argue with the referee, scoring from close range after a wonderful move and delicately scooped chip from Scholes. Suddenly, the nervousness went from United's play, Giggs and Scholes came into the game more, without Gattuso, Milan were being streched all over the place. A number of good free kick positions were wasted by Giggs and Ronaldo as Milan lost all attacking threat. (The horrendous Gilardino deserves sacking for his performance last night.)
It looked to be heading for a draw, until, just after 90 mins, Giggs won the ball in his own half and 8 seconds later, Rooney took advantage of bad positioning by Dida to lash one in from 20 yards. United breathed a sigh of relief, and take a lead to Milan, confident in their ability to score (and concede) goals.
The second leg is next Wednesday, and it is clear what United need to do - attack.
Man of the match: Kaka
Special award - worst performace in the competition so far: Gilardino
van der Sar: 6 - might have done better for the 1st goal
O'Shea: 7 - surprised everyone by winning a crisp tackle in the first half
Brown: 6 - unconfident but it wasn't hard to keep Gilardino quiet
Heinze: 5 - at fault for 2 goals, his mark increased by one for the vast improvement in the 2nd half
Evra: 5 - intelligent going forward but a moment of madness with Heinze let Kaka score. Needless yellow card sees him suspended.
Ronaldo: 7 - a threat in the first half, but went missing as the Milan defense learned how to contain him
Carrick: 7 - another solid performance, played deeper last night than he usually does in the league, but excellent on the ball
Fletcher: 7 - Fergie seems to have found a role for the former waster - all action midfielder! Unlucky not to score.
Giggs: 8 - wonderful break for the winning goal, and set up Ronaldo for the first. Occasional missed pass.
Scholes: 7 - Got a grip when Gattuso went off, his passing wayward beforehand. Wonderful setup of Rooney's 1st.
Rooney: 8 - Not really in the game but when it mattered he scored the vital goals with confidence.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
Well it’s happened, it’s here, it’s upon us… John O’Shea and Wes Brown in defence. Together at last.
Imagine if you’d been knocked into a coma towards the end of the 2003 season and were only waking up now to read United’s team sheet for this evening. You’d be confident that the two best young defenders in Britain could contain anything Milan could throw at them.
When somebody explains the previous three years to you though, you might begin to feel faint. John O’Shea’s extra pounds, lost pace and lumbering style have replaced that amazing promise. Wes Brown has done little except grow, and then shave off, a ginger afro in between playing the odd game and looking like a poor man’s Rio.
Despite the fact that I have no problem in saying I hope it’s a Liverpool v Milan final, I don’t think United fans should be all doom and gloom. As long as their defence plays a half decent offside trap against Inzaghi they have a good chance of surviving. Their midfield is different with Gattuso needing to be bypassed at all times, if he makes Carrick his bitch early on you’d suspect by the time that 90 minutes comes around, the former Spurs man will be fetching tea for Gennaro in between telling him how his beard is “like soooooo hot right now”.
I don’t want to talk about Ronaldo or Rooney anymore. If they perform, fine. If they don’t, I won’t be surprised. Just so long as I don’t have to hear the RTE panel talking about them for half an hour and ignoring the brilliance of Pirlo and Kaka
Milan are looking strong in their league but hey have been powered up the division by the cup-tied Fat Ronaldo’s goals and are a long way off being one of their great sides.
Basically, just because United have their entire defence out doesn’t mean they’re gonna be hammered. In 2005 Liverpool often had to play with the legend that is Djimi Traore (see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7fdJWap2ks ) in their back four so if they can do it, John O’Bese and Wes could just hold out.
Great game ahead, I will talk about the Pool (and my growing, scary confidence over the tie) tomorrow.
Monday, 23 April 2007
Well, as Yogi bear said, it's like deja vu all over again. I wrote last week about injuries so I won't be boring you with more lists, but the absense of Ferdinand could be a boon for United, what with his 'libero' impression on Saturday - winning the ball at the halfway line, advancing deftly forward, spotting the easy pass to the wing - hang on, try to beat the defender, oops, lose possession, wander around looking dazed for a while and then trundle back to defend whilst Boro contrive to feck up a great opportunity for a counter attack.
United were uninspiring on Saturday, with only 3 half chances in the second half (2 from Rooney, 1 from Carrick) to try snatch an undeserved winner. Boro should have a penalty when the always poor O'Shea got none of the ball in the box. Jose may moan (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1sbwi_jose-mourinho-is-feeling-the-heat ) but the referee was a long way back, and he immediately looked to his assistant for help, who said 'No'. However, United probably would have won that penalty had the roles been reversed.
Chelsea passed on a golden opportunity to close to 1 point, playing poorly (and Newcastle playing well) to allow United off the hook.
At the other end of the table:
P GD Pt
15 Fulham 35 -19 36
16 Wigan 35 -19 35
17 Sheff Utd 35 -20 35
18 Charlton 35 -21 33
19 West Ham 35 -30 32
Watford were relegated (thank God, I can't stand Aidy's positivity), West Ham have dragged themselves back in somehow, Charlton and Sheff Utd played a cagey draw (great goal from Stead though), Wigan lost and Fulham got their first point under Sanchez. Fulham play Arsenal next, Liverpool and Boro so I predict they will be looking at a last day match to try to escape. Wigan are certainly bad enough to go down, Sheffield Utd have hit a bit of form at the right time, Charlton and the Hammers have had decent runs.
I'd like to see Fulham and Wigan go down as they have swiftly become pointless (poor attendance, bad players, etc.) in the overall League sense, but I won't lose sleep over it.
I'll be back tomorrow with a preview of United vs Milan, see you then
Friday, 20 April 2007
Well with the Premiership kicking into the home straight I have been struck down with a strange affliction which anyone who has listened to today's podcast will be well aware of. I am starting to love watching Chelsea. There's just something engrossing about every time they play with that weird assurance that they will ALWAYS (at Okeydokefootball we have a Sun/Mirror approach to capitalisation) score, and an array of players who can produce FANTASTIC (alright that's the last one) goals.
SWP's brace against West Ham was a perfect example and with Kalou, Essien, Mikel and Fat Lamps all in top form they are playing in a fast but skillful rhythm that few, if any, teams will cope with. The Guardian's Kevin McCarra has made the point that some people are starting to believe that if you don't like Chelsea this all of a sudden makes you a better person. It's a strange condition that has been rampant of late - former skunk-haired Spurs man Chris Waddle was the latest to jump on the bandwagon during the week.
He said he wanted United to win everything as Chelsea play a horrible brand of football.
I have been railing against this 'a victory for Man United is a victory for old fashioned values' bollocks for some time this season. A club that has a summer budget of over £30 million - and has had so since well before Ken Bates sold Chelsea to the Roman Army - are no champions of 'the people' as righteous column writers would put it.
Man United are a team who averaged 80 per cent of decisions in their league games up until the early part of this decade (no recent stats have come out on this but the latest penalty decisions both for and against Man U at Old Trafford would suggest little has changed); they are a team who are indulged by referees to a disgraceful degree and Paul Scholes lack of red cards over his career is a testament to that; they have played horrendous football in Europe for the past six years discounting the Roma game. Liquid football, my arse.
Their fans will quite rightly celebrate their league win - which considering the goal difference and Chelsea's run in should be secure. But just celebrate that your team has won the league, not that your team has SAVED (all right I lied) football and that everyone else should be grateful. This cuddly bear image of Man U doesn't sit well with the decade of hate they inspired pre-Mourinho.
If you're a Man U fan who hasn't claimed this, though I doubt many have resisted the temptation, I'm not referring to you. Indeed, Mark has been at pains to point out their fallibility this season on the podcast.
On another note, I will of course shelve this admiration for Chelsea during the week for the Champions League semis. I think Liverpool can win but it's all about stopping Essien who is the drive for the team at the moment; Drogba too will have to be marked out of the game, something I think Agger is capable of but only if he has one of his best games. If the occasion of the Champions League semis doesn't do that for the young Dane then there will be problems aplenty. Still, that's next week. Two great games, two great nights in front of the TV, beer in hand - that's the kind of religion I could get behind not the the cult of Man U 2007.
Our weekly podcast has just been made available for download :(http://libsyn.com/media/okeydokefootball/odf20Apr07.mp3 )
Premiership and FA Cup Results.
We hate Gerard Houllier.
Pub Talk featuring the issues of the week:
Euro 2012, Keane, David Dein, Ferdinand, Baptista, Lampard and FIFA rankings and loads more
We apologise for a couple of lame jokes, not least the Rocky 6 one.
Hope you enjoy the show, and myself or JJ will be back later with a blog,
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
It's been a wonderful season for club doctors and physios.
Patrice Evra, only back from injury, limped off last night, leaving United with only 2 first team defenders, Brown and Heinze standing (or, in their respective cases, dithering and lunging).
United's injury crisis is hitting at the wrong time of the season, with the following injured or doubtful for the weekend and the first leg of the Champions League midweek:
Vidic, Silvestre, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Evra, Neville, Van Der Sar, Park, Saha
Over at Chelsea, Sheva has probably put himself out of the next 3 games after this horrendous (and hilarious) missed chance on Sunday (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPiSq-mdnnA ) and they are missing Robben until the end of the season.
Arsenal have had it bad many times this season with notable lengthy absentees - Henry, van Persie, Rosisky, Ljungberg and Gallas
In contrast, Liverpool have been reasonably lucky with injuries, and yet have only the Champions League to contest for (couldn't resist that dig...)
At the other end of the table, the notable injuries this season are Watford - Marlon King, Newcastle - Entire defense, Duff, Mickey Owen, Reading - Kitson, Charlton - Bent, Sheff Utd - Rob Hulse, Fulham - Bullard and many more.
How much better all their seasons could have been...
At the moment, Chelsea are looking like the best bet for cups as United lie on the ropes, but they will have enough to win the League. Just.
On the podcast tomorrow night, we will be discussing how much we hate Gerard Houllier, albeit for differing reasons, myself because he's a fool and a bluffer and JJ for the agony he inflicted on the Pool. We hope you agree with us and would love to get some stories, quotes, etc. from you to contribute to the vile.
Information about turning corners, worst signings and his little red scarf are appreciated....
Feel free to leave your comments below or email email@example.com
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
Well, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, footballers are not known for their intelligence but Michael Essien's omission from the PFA player of the year short list beggars belief. An all round midfielder, comfortable attacking & defending, can play in every position bar goal, we are watching the best midfielder in the world enter his prime. Someone compared him to Roy Keane recently - utter tosh, Essien is by far a more complete player.
Indulge me for a second while I bring up some cliches about Marvelous Mike:
He treats every game like a cup final...
He's an irresistible force of nature...
He steps up to the plate...
Continuing the theme - what is Gerrard doing in that list? Has he been playing football this season? And Rooney on the young player of the year list? Do footballers even watch football? Are they basing their votes on Pro Evo, Fifa 2007 or Football Manager games?
I propose getting rid of this silly award, it is a popularity contest, not a footballing contest.
Perhaps I should save my ire for the football writers player of the year award instead...
To tonight's game at Old Trafford, United are more injury hit - Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Mikael Silvestre, Park and Saha are definitely ruled out and Rio Ferdinand and John O'Shea are doubtful - Nordie teenager Craig Cathcart could be handed his debut at right-back. Still, they should have enough class going forward to open up the gap with Chelsea, and my money's on Smith to score, with United winning by 3.
Talk to ya tomorrow
Monday, 16 April 2007
The FAmous Cup – as Sky so irritatingly put it – will be won by one of the Top Four for the 14th year on the trot after Chelsea and Man U won their way to the new Wembley’s gates in mid-May. United were too strong for a Watford side that could have had a chance if they held out a little longer at 1-1. Chelsea meanwhile, continue to look like the form side as the season enters its final stages. Blackburn should have taken their chances but how often has that been said about Chelsea’s opponents.
Once again, it’s been an okay competition but nothing to get too excited about. The highlight has been studying the British media’s reaction to the games so far and the somewhat muted coverage of the competition as the English still struggle to accept that the FA Cup is no longer what it once was.
For as long as I can remember watching football, I remember English commentators referring to the FA Cup as ‘the world’s best knockout competition’. Now while this talk went on in the days of the old European Cup there was still some merit to this argument. Well, apparently.
In the seventies and eighties many teams would often admit that ‘this season we’re concentrating on the cup’, or so I’ve been told. And being ‘told’ about the competition’s reputation and history is something that I always related to the FA Cup. Certainly not great football.
I was always told how the Spanish, Italians and the French didn’t treat their cup competitions as seriously.
I was always told that the FA Cup final got a ‘global audience’ of hundreds of millions.
I was always told that winning the cup was ‘every young boy’s dream’.
Removed from all that guff here in Ireland though, you could see the holes in these
arguments. For instance, the only reason given for its ‘special place’ in comparison to the Italian Cup et cetera was that it was older. That’s it. The ‘global audience’ figures are scarce as well; if anyone wants to furnish me with them I’ll gladly take a look but I can’t see them coming near a normal Premiership weekend from the mid nineties onwards.
It seems the FA Cup is just another in the long list of things that the English like to think they do better than anyone else. The ‘best cup competition in the world’ tripe has recently been replaced with the ‘we have the best league in the world’ tripe. Who cares? Do you want a medal? How do you even quantify something like that; especially when Sky were already calling it the greatest league going when three Spanish teams were in the 2000 Champions League semis and three Italian sides in the last four of 2003.
The argument that the Champions League has ruined the FA Cup has been wheeled out on several occasions, so now the FA wants to attach a Champions League place to it. It’s easy to blame foreign money and UEFA for all that has gone wrong but anyone with any brains know that English football has needed little help to destroy the FA Cup.
The money that is knocking around thanks to those wonderfully-negotiated Sky TV deals mean that teams fighting relegation or challenging for the UEFA Cup will drop as many as many first-teamers as Chelsea, Man U, Arse or Pool when the FA Cup comes knocking. The third round of the competition resembled the Carling Cup equivalent this year; with most Premiership reserve sides getting past lower league opponents anyway.
The gulf is widening between the leagues and while a few early round shocks might take place; to wing it all the way to the final still leaves too big an obstacle, in the shape of one of the top four teams, to hurdle (see Man U 3-0 Millwall).
Even the BBC only wheel out their reserve side for the early FA Cup rounds with Gavin Peacock, Lee Dixon and Mark Pugatch taking up the slack while Lineker, Shearer, Lawro and Hansen head off for a game of golf. The BBC also consistently picks all-Premiership games to show most rounds. Surely this leaves no room for shocks, and is merely because they don’t have any live games from the league itself to cover.
Back to the FA though who have made such moves as…
- Bowing to pressure and letting lower league and non-league sides switch home ties to Premiership grounds whenever they get drawn against a top flight side to make money; but virtually sacrifice any chance of winning the game.
- Allowing Arsenal to replay Sheffield United after the Kanu incident (see here for more: http://www.arsenal.com/article.asp?thisNav=The+Club&article=357593&Title=Highbury+Highlights ). The sign of a Mickey Mouse competition.
- Arranging the final the week before the last round of Premiership games earlier this decade; showpiece my arse.
- Letting Man United drop out of the 2000 competition. Awful, awful decision.
I’m sure there’s more, but that’s enough already. The biggest impact this season’s final will make is that it guarantees that the top seven sides in the Premiership will be in Europe next year. A Champions League place, a new Wembley or anything else won’t bring the FA Cup back to its previous stature.
It’s not all bad, and the final will be a decent match which we all will watch. This year, more than ever, it will serve as an appetiser for the following Wednesday’s Champions League final (depending on who wins those semis of course). With ITV and Setanta taking on the rights for next season’s FA Cup they too will try and inject some life into it, though unless they start picking the first teams for Premiership sides or the Champions League ceases to exist, you’d suspect they’re fighting a losing battle.
Okay, well to start things off I must admit that this weekend’s Premiership fixture list did little to excite. With this in mind I think I did the sensible thing and when 3 o’clock on Saturday rolled around I decided not to lumber myself with Man City v Pool on RTE (why oh why didn’t they show SU v West Ham, a game that actually meant something), or Arse v Bolton on Setanta.
Instead I chose life – or Blades of Glory as it’s also known. Excellent movie, check it out (avoid Sunshine though, pure shite; awful, awful, awful movie which should lead to Danny Boyle being banned from directing – ‘hey the movie’s not working on any level, we’re three quarters of the way through, hmmm… let’s throw in a zombie!’. Arggghhh… the anger at paying to see it, the anger….).
But anyway, before I lose the run of myself and start a film blog, back to 'fuhbal' as Fergie would say. Great result for Sheffield United against the Hammers with two quality goals from Tongue and Stead to boot (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PC2eWpz2tM). West Ham will have to be written off once and for all should they fail to beat Chelsea on Wednesday.
Fulham’s failure to win their first game under Lawrie Sanchez was at least an improvement on their previous performances. Losing 1-0 away to Reading is a fate that is nothing to be ashamed off when you consider that last week they lost at home to Man City in such a feeble manner. Four games left and one win and a draw might even see them home as the teams around them continue to drop points.
Charlton lost to Everton in a game that was lit up by James McFadden’s goal (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1q6as_everton-vs-charlton-highlights); a spark of gold in a pile of shite as Paul Calf used to say. While this was the end of the Londoners’ seven-game unbeaten streak they still have the look of a team that will grind out a few more points before the season is done and dusted.
Plus Darren Bent is scoring goals regularly; and a striker of his calibre isn’t on the books at Fulham, Sheffield United or Wigan (feck off with your England caps Emile). Could this be the difference? Do Charlton rely too heavily on him? Do I really care? Some of these questions will be answered in the weeks to come…
The rest in a nutshell – Wigan v Spurs was excellent; great goals, good drama, Killer Kilbane missing an open goal; it had it all but Wigan will be kicking themselves after taking the lead three times. Arsenal – in particular William Gallas – know about kicking themselves as well, but they finally forgot to bottle it and beat Bolton in, from what I understand, was a pretty dire affair.
Boro losing to Villa came as no surprise since their players check into Rancho Relaxo as soon as safety is secure every year. Villa are up to tenth; a fairly good indication as to how poor, in some respects, the ‘greatest league in the world tm’ is. Pompey beating Newcastle was to be expected but get well soon Duffer, you poor fella.
I will write on the FA Cup later as I have a bit of an axe to grind on the topic. For now though, things are looking as tight as Will Ferrell's spandex at the bottom. Bottom of the table I mean, ahem. Anyhoo, roll on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Friday, 13 April 2007
I'm just wondering, after yet another season of under-achievement at Spurs - is Martin Jol under pressure now? Will he be sacked? If not, should he be sacked?
I've been a fan of Jol since he came, but Spurs have had a so-so season. It's no disgrace to lose to Sevilla last night, or to Chelsea in the Cup for that matter, but Spurs fans have a good reason to expect more from the team. They are currently in seventh in the League which is definitely not good enough. Consider the money Spurs have spent, then compare that to Bolton and Everton ahead of them. Alternatively, consider the quality of players in the 3 squads... Players like Berbatov, Defoe, Keane, Lennon, King & Dawson wouldn't look out of place in any Champions League team. When you consider that an integral part of Everton's team is Lee Carsley, likewise at Bolton, the old timers Speed and Campo, you can see the point I'm making.
In short, I hope Jol turns it around next season, Spurs play good football, have quality players and it would be interesting to see them in the Champions League, especially instead of Bolton or Everton, God forbid!
Our weekly podcast is online since last night (http://libsyn.com/media/okeydokefootball/odf12Apr07.mp3) where we discuss:
Premiership & Champions League results. We discuss Man Utd blowing the title in 1995 in the Moment section. Pub Talk featuring the issues of the week: A good oul headbutt story to make the heart grow warm, Chris Coleman, silly transfer news, UEFA 'Suits' and loads more.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on the show and any footballing matter below, or as always, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, 12 April 2007
I sat through the tedium of last nights match between Bayern and AC Milan. Bayern were very average (although that is a tautology!), the old master, Filipo 'Offside' Inzaghi finishing well from a Seedorf flick on to prove there is life left in this Milan team. Seedorf himself, a suprisingly young 31, did well to open the scoring, shooting low past Krazy Kahn. Bayern resorted to long balls in the second half to try to force something, and viewers were left with the distinct inpression of a team with no ideas or creativity. It is clear they need an injection of new players. As for Milan, you could say the same thing, however United should be wary of the class midfield of Milan - Kaka is probably the best creative midfielder in the world, Seedorf has great experience behind him, even if his best days are over, Gattuso is a living legend, a tough all- action man, and Pirlo sets things up in the 'Carrick' role (as it shall henceforth be known. By me.)
At the back, Nesta was great last night, as he has been for a number of years.
I don't think Milan will beat United, but even if they do, Liverpool or Chelsea will surely beat them in the final, the 38 year old Maldini and the lack of quality strikers will prove to be Milan's downfall.
Liverpool played out their perfunctionary win over PSV last night, which tells us nothing about how they will do in the competition. However, the elimation of Barca will provide them with great belief but they must learn to hold possesion of the ball (c.f. Momo Sissoko). The Pool look fresh now, and have no other league or cup commitments, whereas Chelsea will be stretched with their thinner squad and fixture pileups, and further hampered by the aparent hoodoo Benitez has over Chelsea in cups...
So, the Champions League is shaping up beautifully now, I can't wait
Join us from 10pm GMT tonight for the podcast,
Wednesday, 11 April 2007
Okay, I may be a bit early in getting this in but it's late in the day and I have been writing an article on Ireland's environmental protection agency for the last three and a bit hours so it is with a melted mind that I ask ye this...
The summer, oh what to do with the summer?
Sunny days, cans of beer, kickabout in the garden, breathing heavily after four minutes of that kickabout - all of that is easy. But what I was wondering is – are there any topics in the great wide world of football that you think we should cover on the site or in the podcast in the coming months.
Titus Bramble is a professional footballer?
All of the above oddities warrant a look over at some stage. But we wanna stock pile some ideas so that we still have a full show during the close season and not just concentrate on poor Liverpool transfer rumours and Michael Carrick’s inevitably drawn out £35 million transfer to Barcelona.
And yes, we will have Ashley Cole in the Hate Section soon enough so no need to mention that. John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Gerard Houllier and many more as well.
Well folks, ideas?
Seeing as how Mark pretty much covered United’s demolition of Roma – which I switched away from after the third goal – I’ll concentrate on the performance of Chelsea last night. If ever there was proof that a manager should be allowed to run a football club and not a chairman last night was it. Say what you like about Chelsea – and we all have done so – but I have never seen a side so brilliant at smelling fear in their opponents. A trait they have inherited from their boss on the bench not in the boardroom.
Last week, Valencia went to Stamford Bridge and tore Chelsea apart for most of the game, this week they could only manage that for five minutes of the first half. They were lucky to score during this brief respite from Chelsea pressure and amazingly they could have gone two or three up with a bit more luck. However, even at one-down at the end of the first half every Chelsea player looked as if they knew the Spaniards were there for the taking.
Lampard was excellent (and I say that through gritted teeth), while Joe Cole was even better once he came on and his return could swing everything in Chelsea’s balance at the end of this season. Mourinho meanwhile was superb (I say that with teeth mashing against each other), brilliantly seeing that Valencia had gone into their shell enough for him to slot Essien in at right back for the second half (essentially going three at the back) once Diarra had been brought off for Cole.
This is the man remember who previously thought throwing Robert Huth up front was a good tactic so he must be improving over time – something his chairman should notice.
The Essien plan worked at Old Trafford earlier in the season when Chelsea overran United as the home team brought their midfield back to help out the over-worked defence. With space appearing before him, Essien looked like a man possessed; no actually he looked like a man capable of ending the tiresome debate over who is the best player in the world right now. Keep up this form and Ronaldo’s show pony antics will not only be usurped by Essien’s drive and brilliant range of passing but the Ghanaian will most likely give the little prat a kick up the arse for good measure to tell him who’s boss.
Chelsea were relentless and once they got the equaliser – even once it had got to the stage when the fourth official held up the board for injury time – I still felt they would nick it. Mobile phone records will prove this by the way for any of ye doubters out there. Mourinho urged his team forward at 1-1. With a big game at the weekend against 10-Man Blackburn, he didn’t want it to go to extra time and this bravery is something that should be applauded.
Even Ballack, at last, looked like he was contributing. Terry and Carvalho would no doubt have been on 9/10 performances had they anything to actually deal with in the second half.
The only problem they now have is what formation to play for the rest of the season. Cole looked like his old self, unlocking the defence and playing excellent one-twos with his fellow midfielders but will he be in the side each week? Will Diarra – who is no longer heir to the throne of Makelele thanks to the excellent Obi Mikel – continue at right back? Will Essien only be let loose in emergencies?
I think the semi between Liverpool (fingers crossed there no more surprises tonight) and Chelsea will be very, very tight. It’s something, like Man U v Bayern/AC Milan, which we will look at extensively over the coming weeks.
I don’t care which national league is the best in Europe by the way. The Champions League has again proved itself as the only must-watch competition going. Please don’t let Platini mess with it. Last night was just the latest great evening of football we’ve seen in Europe this season, long may it continue.
Though hopefully United don’t actually win the f**king thing.
A great night of football from Man Utd, scintilating play from almost everybody (I'm looking at you, Rooney). C. Ronaldo was excellent in a big European match for the first time, well, ever. Smith showed a fantastic attitude up front and now gives Fergie a good choice while Saha is (again) injured. Carrick was excellent, not only did he score 2 class goals, but his distribution and movement were first class, and (not just last night) he looks a much improved player in the few months since his debut.
I never thought I'd say this, but I'm a bit worried that John O'Pies and Rio Fuckface Ferdinand went off injured, although Evra returned last night. Perhaps we can get Chelsea's 50 year old fitness coach to play centre back, as Mourniho was reportedly close to doing already this season.
Still a tough semi-final ahead against Bayern or Milan, I'll cover that closer to the match.
Last night also saw the Chelsea boys win their tie, Essien (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ok0y_valencia-1-2-chelsea-essien-goal) scoring the decisive goal -like last week, Canizares let his team down in a vital game, despite making a wonderful save a few minutes before.
Chelsea vs Liverpool to look forward to in the semi's... hopefully there will be as many incidents as there was the last time they met in the semi finals - "Gudjohnsen, how did you miss that!" etc.
We'll cover all this and more on the podcast, subscribe to the RSS here (http://feeds.feedburner.com/okeydokefootball ) to get this week's episode from tomorrow night at 2200 GMT,
Thanks and enjoy the football,
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
What I had planned for this blog entry is a run through of who I hope stays up and laughing at the Rio and Edwin comedy double act. While the latter is still very much part of the equation, the former is a bit more difficult. I have just deleted about 200 words where I was extolling the virtues of the football West Ham, Fulham and Charlton play in comparison Wigan and Sheffield United.
But, as Ricky Bobby would say, with all due respect, are any of these teams worthy of sympathy if they do down?
West Ham have money-grabbers like Lucas Neill and Matthew Upson on their books. Charlton have been disgraceful in their dealings with Iain Dowie and Les Reed. Wigan play ugly football, with long punts to Heskey and Folan often the focal point. Sheffield United don’t play champagne football either. And Fulham? Well their fans under-appreciation of their manager is a bit rich – do they expect to stay in the Premiership when their budget goes down year after year?
So I’m dropping allegiances and just going to enjoy the last month or so of the season. Whoever goes down deserves to; whoever stays up we’ll deal with.
And Edwin and Rio… well there are now words for how funny this was… http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1nicm_pompey-man-utd-20-ferdinand
I agree with all of Mark’s euro predictions as well. Scholes has cost United big time. Great night of football ahead. Reaction tomorrow.
Well, what a weekend of football!
Charlton out of the bottom 3 for the first time in months, Sheffield United are in real trouble and Wigan and Fulham are looking over their shoulders with real concern. Remarkably, West Ham have won 3 in a row and now have a real chance of survival
At the other end of the table, Arsenal are now in a struggle for fourth place with Bolton, and perhaps Everton. A very poor end to the season for Arsene and big pressure for next season already.
Man Utd had a disastrous loss to Portmouth, and if they are to win the title, they'll have to do it the hard way. Van Der Sar is turning into David James, and Ferdinand badly needs a real defender along side him i.e. Vidic to cover for his mistakes. United's match at Chelsea, which had the look of a dead rubber about it, will almost certainly be the most important match of the league season. United's next two league games are at home to Sheffield United and Middlesbrough, while Chelsea have 2 tricky away fixtures to the Hammers and Newcastle. There'll be a twist or turn yet.
To the Champions league tonight, there is no much more to say than we've covered already on the blog and the podcast, but I'm going to revise one of my predictions... Roma:
Man Utd Roma - Roma to go through
Valencia Chelsea - I'd like to do a Lawrenson and hedge my bets here, but I'll plump for Valencia
Bayern Milan - Bayern
Liverpool PSV - This match is over
Thursday, 5 April 2007
It is a worrying time for UEFA, crowd trouble seems to be on the rise in Europe. The Man Utd fans are no angels, but it is clear to me that the Italian fans were the instigators of the trouble. The police, naturally enough, were heavy handed, trying to control the situation.
As for the match, I thought it was a highly enjoyable affair, United will be glad to have the away goal after Scholes let the whole team down with a stupid sending off. Rooney's goal was excellent with Ronaldo beating 2 men on the right and laying a precise pass for Solksjaer, who clipped a beautiful cross to Rooney, who controlled wonderfully on his chest, and smacked the ball into the net. United tactics were on the fine line of very brave/very stupid as they left 3 attackers on the pitch, hoping to score the away goal. The trick worked, but they still lost the game. Still, a vital away goal means a 1-0 win is enough at home next week. I think they will do it, as Roma showed no penetration before the sending off, and only really threatened as the game opened up in the second half. Totti was average enough last night, Mancini anonymous, Taddei was in the right place to take his (deflected) goal but did little else. Roma will look to hit on the counter next week and flood the midfield, but if United keep their heads and play to their ability, they will go through.
I watched extended highlights of the Chelsea game and it looked like a rip-roaring affair. A wonderful goal from David Silva (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1mn6q_chelsea-01-valence) put the pressure on Chelsea, and only bad goalkeeping from Canizares let Drogba score, albeit well taken. Chelsea have it all to do next week and must score in Spain. There are some frailities in the Chelsea team - Diarra, a midfielder, at right back, Mikel Obi or an out of form Makelele as defensive midfielder, and the quite ordinary Kalou in whatever position he is played. Joe Cole is back though which is big boost, and any team with Drogba in it is a danger. A great second leg in store then
Tune into the podcast tonight to hear myself and JJ's thoughts on the above and more:
Premiership & Champions League results. We love Paulo Maldini in the Legend section. Pub Talk featuring the issues of the week: Niall Quinn's disco pants, Big Ron vs Totti and loads more from the first and only independent Irish football podcast on the internet, online since October 2006.
Wednesday, 4 April 2007
Bayern were lucky to draw against Milan, and are clear favourites for the 2nd leg with the 2 away goals. Now we'll see what Milan are made of...
As for tonight's games:
Roma vs United should be a really good game of football, United should be positive enough tonight, as they could really use an away goal. Once again though, a lot depends on Rooney and Ronaldo to do the business. They haven't so far in The CL this season so it is a big game for them. Is Ronaldo the best player in the world, as some hysterical media outlets (and Ferguson!) dub him - he goes MIA against good teams in Europe, so tonight and next is the time to prove it.Looking at Roma's team, they look very strong, with players of the quality of Totti, Mancini and De Rossi, and they will cause United a lot of problems, especially with United missing 3 first choice defenders. it must not be forgotten however, that this Roma team only finished 5th last season in Serie A, and are currently way off Inter's pace at the head of the table this season.
Overall, an intriguing game, and one I will not bet on...
Chelsea vs Valencia should be a tough, close encounter. I think the key to this game is how Chelsea will contain Valencia on the break, especially Villa, Joaquin and Vicente. Vicente may relish Chelsea's right back (whoever they are going to play there) and Villa has the quality to trouble Terry and Carvalho. As for Chelsea attacking, Lampard or Ballack must break forward to create space for Sheva and Drogba, and I think they have the quality to score tonight....
We will be discussing all the Champions League results tomorrow night on the podcast - subscribe at http://feeds.feedburner.com/okeydokefootball or visit our website below.
Tuesday, 3 April 2007
But.... under Benitez Liverpool have constantly struggled against smaller sides in the Premiership and lost well to an underdog Benfica side, managed by PSV's current boss Koeman, last year. He organises his team well in Europe and will wait for Liverpool to come at them. I wouldn't be at all surprised if PSV managed to sneak a home win or a 1-1 scoreline that would keep them in it for next week's second leg. Should the home win happen, Pool will be in serious trouble.
But then again, all I'm saying is that I wouldn't be surprised if PSV gave Liverpool some trouble. Essentially, if Liverpool don’t turn up for 180 minutes (and they didn’t turn up in the league at all this year until last Saturday) PSV have a chance.
Overall, Liverpool just have to keep calm heads and see this one out. They're a better side with better players. They have far more options up front and in midfield and should cruise past PSV should they play anything like they did in the first half against Arsenal on Saturday. It won't be easy watching that's for sure but hopefully when Pool play Valencia in the semis, business will pick up somewhat.
Tonight's score - 1-2 (how optimistic am I)
I think I'll fall into a coma if I even consider the PSV-Liverpool match tonight, so straight onto
Milan V Bayern.
Bayern are missing Old Man Kahn and van Bommel, so the edge may be with Milan tonight. However, I fancy Bayern over the 2 legs, as Gilardino/Inzaghi won't score many goals, based on form this season. The difference tonight could (again) be Kaka and the distribution of Pirlo.
Bayern have Makaay in fine form, Podolski is good but out of form since the World Cup. They haven't much creativity in midfield - Salihamidžić was finished a few years ago, Schweini is inconsistant, and the others are choppers.
Overall, I feel a bit of a slugfest tonight, with Milan scraping it 1-0, and I fancy Bayern to win the 2nd leg through brute force. Kaka is the key, expect Hargreaves to be all over him like a cheap suit.
Dida; Massimo Oddo, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Marek Jankulovski; Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini; Kaká, Clarence Seedorf; Alberto Gilardino.
Michael Rensing; Willy Sagnol, Daniel Van Buyten, Lucio, Phillipp Lahm; Hasan Salihamidžić, Andreas Ottl, Owen Hargreaves, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Roy Makaay, Lukas Podolski.
Monday, 2 April 2007
Roeder's made big promises about getting a new mentality into the club and has signed a quality striker in Martins. If he fails next year that's fine but for now Freddy, just keep calm and it might all work out at last. God knows the Pool and Arse are ripe to be kicked out of the top four next season.
Liverpool V Arsenal, Prediction: 1-1, Actual Score: 4-1. Right dropped the ball on this one, but delightedly so. Rafa's mid season signings of the Monster Masch and Arbeloa looked excellent and Pennant was well on form. Consistency for next season though? Miles off.
Bolton V Sheff Utd, Prediction: 2-0, Actual Score: 1-0. Should have been 4-0 to Bolton, World's Number 1 Dad Paddy Kenny kept them in it for ages.
West Ham V Boro, Prediction: 2-1, Actual Score: 2-0. How did I think Boro would score??? How???
Newcastle V Man City, Prediction: 2-0, Actual Score: 0-1. See above for rant.
Charlton V Wigan, Prediction: 3-1, Actual Score: 1-0. Dunno about the penalty as apparently it wasn't Fitz Hall that had offended. So who did? Wigan are getting worse by the week though.
Fulham V Portsmouth, Prediction: 1-3, Actual Score: 1-1. Lucky, lucky Fulham; the backroom battles over cash at Portsmouth are no doubt affecting the players. Kanu is an ungrateful bastard. An over the hill one at that. If he wins his battle for extra cash you can imagine that Primus, Davis and Taylor amongst others will be banging down the chairman's door for more dosh. If Kanu stays I think Pompey will have a West Ham style slump next season. Watch out for the Baby Bentley's Harry!! They're coming your way.
Man. United V Blackburn, Prediction: 3-0, Actual Score: 4-1. Blackburn were so bad in the second half it was pitiful. Man U saw the easy pickings and destroyed them. Poor Friedel playing behind that lot.
Watford V Chelsea, Prediction: 0-4, Actual Score: 01-. Closer than expected but I had to laugh at the last minute win. Inevitable.
Tottenham V Reading, Prediction: 2-0, Actual Score: 1-0. Didn't see it, though that may have been a blessing.
Charlton's fortunate win leaves Sheff Utd in squeaky bum time, Warnock's team don't score any goals which, naturally enough, is not good....
Man United blew away Blackburn (despite Rooney being shite again) and looking at their upcoming fixtures:
Sat 07 Apr Portsmouth - Manchester United
Tue 17 Apr Manchester United - Sheff Utd
Sat 21 Apr Manchester United - Middlesbrough
Sat 28 Apr Everton - Manchester United
Sat 05 May Manchester City - Manchester United
Wed 09 May Chelsea - Manchester United
Sun 13 May Manchester United - West Ham
in the form United are in, the next 3 games look like wins, Everton will be tough but winnable and the Manchester derby should be won. However, any dropped points on the run in and a loss to Chelscum could see United need to beat the Hammers to win the title. All United fans will know what happened the last time that needed to happen, United drew 1-1 with Andy Cole, in particular, missing chance after chance, and United lost the title to Blackburn, who lost to Liverpool, meaning a win would have seen United champions.
Chelsea were very lucky against Watford, but United have won a few in added time themselves, and, earlier in the season, were lucky to win 2-1 away to Watford in a very poor match. Keeps the title race interesting over the next few weeks.
I'm sure the phone-in people are calling for Wenger's head, he certainly hasn't done well this season, with the 4-1 to Liverpool a very poor result, however, this is no more than an anomaly as Crouch again showed he is a quality player. I expect big purchases in the summer which will make the Arse compete more.
Myself or JJ will be back tomorrow to preview the Champions league snorefest of PSV vs Liverpool where 2 of the most defensive coaches in Europe go head to head.