Saturday, March 19, 2011

The UEFA Conspiracy and Referees Uselessness.

 When I saw the Champions League's quarter final draw early on friday I thought: "The UEFA Conspiracy". A few years back it was a rather fishy thing, given the way Chelsea were knocked off by Barcelona, and all the help the two spanish giants (Madrid and Barça) always seem to receive from referees. But then I though again and came to aknowledge simple luck for the spanish giants, and bad luck for the english ones.

 Couple hours later though, a friend of mine texts me "Did you see the draw? It's riddiculous!" wich had me thinking again. And well, theoretically, Barcelona and Madrid were handed the easiest draws. The catalans face Shaktar Donetsk, who even on having arrived so far are still unfancied, specially against the blaugrana piledriver. And Madrid have been handed this years surprise team, Tottenham Hotspur. However people seem to think the spanish outfit won't break a sweat in dispatching the North London team. So, "the UEFA Conspiracy" came back to my head only to be discarded again, telling myself I was just being silly.

 I woke up this morning, ran some errands and logged on the internet to be greeted by a "The UEFA Conspiracy is back" remark by another friend of mine. Now, I started thinking again and this time I realised another fact, Chelsea and Manchester United have been drawn together. Now, in spite of Chelsea and Utd's odd form this season, they're arguably the most suited teams to knock this year favorites, Barcelona. So now, come the Final (wich is the only stage in wich a Chelsea/Man Utd vs Barcelona match could be given) we'll have seen wether Spurs and Shaktar were really the easies ties. Hopefully we'll be treated to another all English final. This time between two great clubs with a very atractive brand of football.

 More than seeing Utd reach the final, I would like to watch Real Madrid and Barcelona out of it. Perhaps that would trigger an inmediate return to the Prem for Jose Mourinho. And perhaps even the downfall of Barcelona. 

 Now, putting things straight. My eagerness to see both spanish giants out of the competition, and the start of bad times for the catalans is simply explained, the UEFA's practically clear and open hatred for the Premier League and it's clubs and their obvious and well-known love not for La Liga per se, but for both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Now that's just unfair. It could be worse though, we could be talking about FIFA...

 Referee's Uselessness

 Both Utd and Arsenal have seen themselves haunted by terrible refereeing decisions both home and abroad in the past two or three weeks. If we check out Utd's bad luck with referees actually goes back beyond a year. But I'm gonna explore the recent incidents, not the blue... I mean, past ones.

 In the league Utd had a biased referee (the other sensible explanation is that the referee was a intellectually handicaped person) for the match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Ignoring a clear penalty by John Terry and refusing to even book David Luiz for three crystal-clear bookable ofenses. Then awarding a penalty for an obvious dive by Yuri Zhirkov on Chris Smalling and sending-off Nemanja Vidic (that was the only important decision the referee got right) for two offenses much softer than those of David Luiz, but still bookable ones.

 Against Liverpool the referee was equally awful, specially for not inmediately giving Jamie Carragher his marching orders after his horror tackle on Nani. However Liverpool outplayed Utd in that match and rightfully won. The feeling there was more of shame and dissapointment rather than unfairness, lack of justice and being robbed like in the last two visits to the Bridge.

 And today against Bolton Wanderers. First a rulebook penalty by Gary Cahill was waved away early on the match and then the referee failed to send off the same player for a misstimed harsh tackle on Patrice Evra. The referee also gifted the Trotters with two free-kicks over non-existing offenses on Kevin Davies. However, later on the game Jonny Evans was sent-off for a tackle pretty much identical to that of Gary Cahill.

 Conclusion, each and every single one of Manchester United's offenses must be booked and punished in the most severe way while the Red Devil's opponents have carte blanche to bend the laws of football in the way they want. If no one has scored against Utd by grabbing the ball with both hands and running past Edwin van der Sar right on goal is because no one has tried, yet. Trust me.

 Arsenal have had a similar luck with referees. It has to be noted that the Gunners' defeats against Birmingham, Barcelona and Utd ended up correctly (thank God), however they still had van Persie ridiculously sent-off against Barcelona and two goals dissallowed against Sunderland, one on a non-existent offside and a clear penalty waved away.

 Today the Gunners had a bad match against West Bromwich Albion, actually, it was rather a good game by the baggies. Arsenal were pretty good, but Hodgson's team was just better. Even so the londoners still managed a draw. After going two-nil down that's good.

 Let's just hope that in the remaining three duels between Utd and Chelsea a real referee is chosen. Howard Webb would be perfect, but I think he has retired. I also hope Arsenal have better luck with these people. I don't have to hope for such on Chelsea's behalf, unless they again go and face Barcelona in the Champions League.

Fergie's 5 match Ban.

 Now that's just funny ain't it? How can we encourage our youth to tell the truth?. Look at what happened to Ferguson for doing so!! I just don't wanna take my chances on this one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Scot and the French.

 The last couple of weeks have been quite tough for both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Both have seen amazingly bad refereeing completely wreck their teams. Both are right now under scrutiny, from the FA and  UEFA respectively. While I genuinely consider Ferguson has a point in appealing the improper conduct charge, I wouldn't say the same about Wenger.

 It started for UTD with a below pair performance by ref Martin Atkinson at Stamford Bridge. A clear handball (however unintentional) by John Terry. If the ball had been flying nowhere then no complains, however, the ball headed straight at goal. In that situation handball is, according to the book, paid with a penalty. Tackles and silly fauls by Chelsea went unnoticed while UTD suffered every mistake. And in the end, Nemanja Vidic was sent off for two bookable offences nowhere near the three David Luiz commited.

 Considering the fact that UTD were twice handed with awful refs in both of last season's showdowns with the Blues (this being the third) it makes you think... Is it really a mistake by the ref?

 At Liverpool however; regardless of the fact that the ref failed to send off Jamie Carragher for a tackle that has left victim Nani with a bone-deep gash and out of at least UTD's next two matches; the best team won. In fact, the only complain (footballistically) I can make about that match was Kuyt's first goal. He had to let the ball go in, I mean, he stole an amazing goal from Luis Suarez. Credit to that kid, have been watching him at Ajax for a couple years and I know he can make it in England. Fiesty and talented the Uruguayan.

 And just as it was fair, Fergie didn't blame the defeat on the refferee. Because it would have been riddiculous. The only bright spot for UTD was another goal by Chicharito, a great buy at just 6million pounds because of his great performances and goalscoring exploits. Credit to Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool I've always wanted to face is coming back.

 On the other hand, proffesor Wenger decided to blame Arsenal's lame performance on the refferee. And what a silly refferee actually. van Persie sent off for that? I mean, it smells increasingly like conspiracy to me.

 Barcelona were the better team and Wenger can't admit it due to the simple reason of Arsenal being so close to being as good as the Catalans and yet so far. I love Wenger's footballosophy, I do. Giving opportunities to the youngsters, brooding talent, playing beautiful football. But somewhere along the way he lost his senses. You need to buy to win. Obviously not like Chelsea or Manchester City. Like Utd, or the Arsenal of 6 to 8 years ago.

 Bergkamp, Henry, Campbell, Pires, Vieira and many of the other Arsenal greats where bought. Under no circumstance I am suggestin Wenger to do a massive clearout and then buy everything anew. Nope. He's got a good core, but he needs old cold heads. Either another competent striker besides van Persie or let Bendtner prove all of us doubters wrong. A decent goalie to backup Sczesny (or however it is spelled). And a leader, because Fabregas just doesn't seem to have his head in London anymore. The sensitive thing now would be to make the geographical adjustment.

 Arsenal had all the right to complain on the huge mistake that disallowed Arshavin's goal against Sunderland. Then they were robbed, not so against Barça. They were better than last year certainly. But they just couldn't break that hoo-doo they've got against them.

 Now both sides go head to head at Old Trafford tomorrow, and it's gonna be difficult for both. They both feel hard done by, and they both suffer from injuries to key players. Utd have three of their top wingers out, so it seems Ryan Giggs will run along either Obertan or Bebe, although Fabio is also an option. Hargreaves is still out (big news) and Ferdinand is out too.

 Arsenal are without Cesc Fabregas, in my opinion, no biggie. As I said the lad just doesn't care anymore, he is no longer the driving force he's been for years. I would be concerned if Wilshere or Nasri were out, actually, I am concerned because they're in. Towering Belgian hardman Vermaelen is also out, for a while now. But I think the one Arsenal are going to miss the most is... young pole goalie (no, not that one the other one) who got a finger injured at the Nou Camp.

 All things considered, is going to be a tough match for both teams and one that will shape the rest of the season. If Arsenal lose, they will focus only in the prem and that would give United food for thought. I put my bet on the red devils though. The players want the FA Cup, that is the one trophy most are missing. And I bet they will fight on three fronts and give a good fight indeed. Will they win? That's an entirely different matter.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Visiting the Kop

A few weeks ago I decided to stop slothing around and turn my life round. Part of that plan involved retaking a blog wich I started almost two years from now. A blog that hasn't seen a new entry since april 2009. The plan is to post a weekly entry (at least).

Another step was separating the blogs actually. The other one was intended as a more serious blog, touching different topics but as it usually is with me the first thing that came to mind was football. Given that, a new football-only blog was the best idea, and now here it is. Just for you.

And what a better way to inaugurate this blog than writing about the "most important" match in English Football. Liverpool vs Manchester United.

Now I say: "most important", because, no offense to the Kop, it's no longer the most important match in English Football. It still holds a remarkable importance for both Utd and Liverpool, but it just doesn't matter that much to the general English population. Matches between Utd and Chelsea, Arsenal, and now most certainly, Manchester City are more sought after by fans.

Even for us, young Manchester United supporters, saying Liverpool is the most important match is more a matter of historical pride and rivalry, rather than truefelt Gary Neville-like emotions. Now the hatred and actual concern that slowly simmers in me towards Man City is genuine, and on le Roi's name, a few years back I would have never thought it possible.

Can't blame us though. As an outsider (Like most Man Utd supporters) I didn't have a dad who taught me from day one about the local club, as tradition commands in England. Football in my country is BS. No better word really. Ever since I watched Utd for the first time in 2006 (the day I fell in love with football) life has been a little bit sweeter and I repeat, can't blame me for not loathing Liverpool Gaz-style.

I respect Liverpool, and that's something I'm actually proud of. That's one of the positives of being and outsider. The rivalry I feel towards Liverpool is a healthy thing, and still very passionate.

The first derby I watched was just amazing. Didn't have brittish friends back then so had to inform myself about it using the media. The club's webpages, brittish online media, and that sort of things. But even if I wasn't there in the stands of loud Anfield Road, whatever I had read didn't prepare me for the amazing reception Utd has at the Kop's backyard.

It was a fight, tooth and nail. Managers screaming at the touchline (one of them at least, the other was taking notes. Facts perhaps), players taunting and hitting each other. The Kop roaring their despise and contempt for those (back then) menacing with equalling their title record.

And it had to be settled down with a goal from the most unlikely sourse. John O'shea, jumped as high as he could to meet a corner, only for the ball to come low at him, hit the side of his leg and bounce into Pepe Reyna's goal. Lucky goal. Great match.

Now I love beating the Kop, and I absolutely hated it when they won 1-4 at Old Trafford (didn't leave my house the whole weekend. Got out on monday 'cause well, had already paid for college so...) but, City are my main concern right now. However, I have this theory that goes: "The more money you spend on players the least trophies you'll get". Ask Real Madrid if you don't believe me.

There's a way to counter that particular Law of Football. You get Jose Mourinho to manage your team. Let's face it, the man's a genious. Chelsea, Internazzionale, and now, if time is given for him Real Madrid. Madrid fans pray for Florentino's patience to hang in there for one more year.

City aren't gonna get him though. And hopefully my theory will be proven right.

I have come to love football in this era where footballer's wages (and prices) are over the moon. Where billionaires are buying football clubs left and right. Where fans of a football club are more of a global comunity than a local one. And were the "one-club men" are each day harder to find.

I deeply regret not being born earlier. Didn't see Eric Cantona, RvN, Roy Keane, David Beckham, Peter Schmeichel, and many others wear a red shirt. And I didn't enjoy neither Giggsy, Scholesy or Gaz in their best years. And won't enjoy the first two for too much now. However I was lucky enough to see Solskjær, Ronnie, and some of Giggsy and Scholesy.

I don't think I'll ever see an all-brittish team for Utd. And that's what I want to see actually. I don't watch the Prem to see the best from Brazil, Portugal, Spain, or any other country. I watch the Prem for the likes of Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Charlie Adam, Robbie Keane, Gareth Bale, Adam Johson (Why aren't the latter two at Utd!!?).

Look at Chelsea, they've got 3 english players. Arsenal have got 2. Manchester City's got 6 brittish players. And those numbers are hardly gonna improve.

Tottenham, Villa, Sunderland, Bolton, Everton and most of the other Prem club's have great brittish contingents. Incluiding Utd and Liverpool now (the Kop's got 6 and some great looking youngsters coming). However, the curry that is the Prem of today is just the best league in the world. No one can argue that, that's a fact.

Now, I'm not asking for the old violence-ridden derbies filled with badass Vinnie Jones-like brittish hardmen (although one of those is always fun). But I admit I imagine everyday the day when Liverpool are coming back to fight us. The day when a visit to Anfield will be seen by me and many more, as a serious, very important match for the season rather than as a historically important feature.

Because, between the French Club based in North London, the Vodka-powered italian-driven blue engine, the Oil-pumped footballing jihad, the now Poultry-enforced title contender hopefuls and the Kop, I very much rather the old mighty Kop. Who now, with Kenny Dalglish, seem to have their sights set on bringing back the days of old.

Would also love to see Leeds back in the Prem, and have a go at them.

Maybe we rock right now, maybe Utd are now the masters of English Football. But Liverpool once were. Ask Fergie about it. And both the Kop and the Red Devils should remenber: the denizens of Anfield still have more European Cups than us.