About Me

Hi I'm Tom, a 24 year sports fan. I like almost all sports but in particular football, and in particular Chelsea FC. Other favourites are F1, golf, rugby union and cricket. In this blog I will attempt to cover any football topics that tickle my fancy including reviews of the past weeks action and any big stories, and I will try to be as un-biased as I possibly can (although we all know how hard this is when talking about your own team!). It is not my intention to provide updates on football news as this is readily available, but rather to provide some in depth review of the English Premier League (games, players, transfers) as well as praising excellent performances, decisions and games in general. I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

And then there were three…


Last night Arsenal became the first English side to exit the Champions League, losing on the night 3-1 to Barcelona, meaning an aggregate loss of 4-3. And to be fair, I don’t think that there can be any complaints from Wenger or other Arsenal fans.

Throughout both legs Barcelona were by far the better team and it is testament to how far Arsenal have come over the past year or so that they were always within touching distance. Who knows, if Wenger had a higher calibre player than Bendtner on the bench Arsenal may have stolen the tie on away goals. But, it wasn’t to be.

The main talking point of the night surrounds the controversial manner in which Robin Van Persie was sent off but I have a slightly different opinion to the consensus. First of all I think that it is a very harsh second yellow. Whether rightly or wrongly, not all yellow cards are equal and this certainly didn’t deserve a second yellow. To provide a bit of context, a yellow card for kicking the ball away is appropriate, in my mind at least, if a team commits a foul and then kicks the ball away, thus preventing the other team taking a quick free kick. That is disruptive to the flow of the game, takes away the advantage unfairly from the attacking team and is rightly punished. In the instance of Van Persie last night he took a shot towards the goal and it was all pretty innocuous. However, to say that he didn’t hear the whistle and protest total innocence is, for me, a step too far. Firstly, all the other players heard the whistle throughout the game so why not in this instance. I certainly don’t think that 85-odd thousand Barca fans were that excited about him receiving the ball and it would be na├»ve to suggest that the Arsenal contingent drowned out the whistle. Secondly, Van Persie’s run took him towards the assistant referee and I firmly believe that he knew he was offside as he would have seen the flag go up himself. This is then compounded by the fact that Van Persie took a shot outside of the box with his right foot whilst at a difficult angle. All this adds up to say that he just swung a leg at it when he realised he was offside. That is not to say that I think he deserved to get sent off; far from it. But he knew what was going on and just didn’t expect to be booked.

The two other incidents that I took away fall into the categories of ridiculous and sublime. To cover the former, what was Fabregas doing with that backheel 20 yards out from his own goal?! Did he suddenly think that Barcelona may lay off the relentless pressing for a while? Foolish indeed and it got punished. And how it was punished. The boy Messi is absolute class and that little flick that lifted the ball over Almunia proved it. On first viewing I thought that he had half volleyed the ball and it had rebounded back into his path. No such luck involved here; it was all skill. Messi’s quickness of thought and fleet of foot produced a moment of brilliance that the naked eye took two views to pick up.

When compared to Bendtner’s chance late in the game, it is clear to see that the best side won.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes... and Elbows.


In the build up to the Chelsea vs. Man United game this evening the two stories that seem to be dominating the headlines are Wayne Rooney’s alleged elbow from the weekend and the shooting incident involving Ashley Cole, an air gun and a student on work experience. The question has been asked: should either of them be playing this evening?

First of all, I think that both incidents should be treated completely separately. Let’s take a look first at Wayne Rooney. For me I think that the ref has got this wrong and that it deserved a red card. No questions asked. I guess the interesting point to come out of this is the response of the clubs and the FA. I have blogged before about how outrageous it is that the FA aren’t allowed to hand out further punishment if the ref brandished a yellow card (it point blank refuses to accept that referees are human and equally capable of making mistakes as the rest of us), but in this instance the referee took no action in terms of cards and so the FA had the perfect opportunity to issue the appropriate sanction. It failed to do so. I accept that issues of violent conduct are subjective and that there will be disagreements but I do not think that there will be many football fans up and down the country that can defend what Rooney did.

Secondly, the Ashley Cole story. This one is staggering. I don’t know what it is about the guy but he just can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble. Whether he should be allowed to play this evening or not though is, for me, pretty straightforward. Taking the actual nature of the incident at the moment, what occurred was an example of misconduct at the training ground. The club have decided to reprimand him internally, which looks as though it could be a telling off and a fine equivalent to approximately 2 weeks wages. If the police decide to get involved to investigate whether a crime has been committed, so be it. The point I am trying to make is that it has the square root of nothing to do with football and should be kept as such. If you take into account that a weapon was involved and that someone was hurt then clearly this is a very serious matter, however speculating about what happened won’t get anyone anywhere. What I would say is that if you are carrying a gun around you are solely responsible for it and pointing at someone else is entirely unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if you think it is loaded or not; you may not get a second chance with a firearm. Maybe an appropriate course of action would be to remove any license that Ashley Cole may have (do you even need a license for an air rifle?).

So, in short I think that we are talking about two very serious incidents but two very different incidents and they therefore should be treated as such. One is to do with football and, directly, a game and any punishment should be in line. The other is possibly a criminal matter and as such should be dealt with by the police and the courts. Otherwise it is a private matter that can be dealt with accordingly.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Cup Final Madness


What a mad weekend of football. The headlines will go to Birmingham, specifically the comical fashion that the winning goal was scored. Elsewhere though there were surprises with West Ham scoring 3 against a continuously improving Liverpool side and Wolves laying in a 4-0 thumping of Blackpool, a team that managed to beat Champions League contenders Spurs not so very long ago.

All in all it is turning out to be a very topsy turvy season, yet despite all this the printed press still resort to type by predicting every win or loss as either a season-ender or a platform that a team can “kick on” from. This just hasn’t happened and I genuinely think we are going to have to wait until the very end of the season to see what is what. It looks as though the title is going to go one of two ways, but it looks certain that the ribbons around the trophy at the end of the season are going to bed red.

At the other end of the table, West Ham look as though they are improving, with the added quality of Thomas Hitzlsperger clearly giving them a boost. I think that West Ham will stay up this season but it will be thankful to poor form elsewhere I think. My prediction for the three teams to go down is West Brom, Wigan and Wolves. Wolves will be the closest to surviving and their battle to retain Premiership status will be with West Ham and, I fear, Blackpool. Blackpool, after a wonderful start to the season are now beginning to signs of frailty yet they are still able to pull a result out of the hat, as demonstrated against Spurs.

The fight for a Champions League spot is also hotting up, with my prediction of the top four being United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs. The reason that I think that can be broken down into two parts; the top two places and third/ fourth spot. I believe United will win the title over Arsenal as they have the experience to do so, as well as the points on the board. Arsenal, over the coming weeks, will focus an awful lot of energy on the Champions League clash with Barcelona and this, coupled with the defeat at Wembley yesterday and the injuries to Fabregas and Van Persie, could mean that the struggle domestically. United, if they can get through two big games against Chelsea and Liverpool without losing too many points, will continue to do enough to stay at the top of the table until the season finishes.

As for third and fourth, I think it will be Chelsea followed by Spurs. Chelsea, all but written off for a top four finish as little as a week ago, now have the opportunity to go third if they win their games in hand. I am not saying that this will be the case but the games to go compare favourably to those of Man City and Spurs. City will run Spurs close for the final Champions League position but will drop too many points in games that they should be winning.

The final stage of the season is shaping up to be just as intriguing as the rest of it has been, and one thing that is for certain is that it is definitely too early to write teams off. Things will definitely change between now and the end of the season.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Spurs win butt UEFA show rules are a joke


Yesterday evening a fantastic result from Spurs away from home was marred by ill disciplined incidents both on and off the pitch. Despite winning 1-0 away at the San Siro against a European giant, all of the post-match talk will surround Gattuso’s misdemeanours (twice!) and a horror tackle from Flamini.

For Gattuso there can be no excuse and he will surely be punished appropriately by UEFA. The incident that I would like to focus on however, and the rules that govern the incident, is the tackle of Flamini that caused Vedran Corluka to leave the stadium on crutches. How the referee judged the tackle only to be worthy of a yellow card I will never know. But he did and that, unfortunately, is the end of it. This is the bit that really galls me. The referee made a mistake and UEFA should have the power to go back and retrospectively upgrade the card to a red. Yet the rules, as I understand it, currently state that as the referee has taken action his decision is final. I find this totally absurd. Had he missed it altogether UEFA would have no trouble issuing the red card.

Let’s look at this a little closer. The referee missing the tackle (or indeed the assistant referee) would still be a mistake and UEFA would be able to act on that, so why not in the instance when he judged it wrongly? This assumption that referees are always correct is madness. This situation seems even more straightforward to me when you consider the type of tackle; this was not an arm across the face that may or may not have been intentional. No, this was a two footed, off the ground lunge that had behind it the full force of Flamini’s bodyweight. What’s more, this is exactly the type of tackle that UEFA and FIFA claim to be trying to stamp out of the game.

For me, this rule is a further example that the governing of this great sport is a laughing stock. It is almost mandated now that a player celebrating a goal by removing his shirt is rewarded with a yellow card, yet nothing can be done about a tackle that seriously injured another player. Thank goodness he wasn’t harmed further.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The New Boys


Last night Chelsea handed Fernando Torres his second start in as many games, as well as a first for David Luiz in a Chelsea shirt. Both showed signs of promise but there was also plenty on display to underline that the manager’s work is not yet done.

Firstly let’s look at Torres. Without question, his movement off of the ball and between two centre halves is top drawer. Even being short of confidence, this is the part of his game that just happens; that is his talent. There were three or four occasions last night when he managed to creep off of the shoulder of one of the Fulham centre halves to get a sniff at goal. Unfortunately for Chelsea last night, that is where it ended as far as quality was concerned. It could be down to a lack of match sharpness (which would seem odd given he played regularly for Liverpool), taking time to settle in or just wanting to make extra sure with an additional touch, but Fernando Torres was not quite firing last night. I am not sure if the £50m price tag has added an extra burden onto his shoulders, but it has certainly given opposing fans something to shout about. There was no greater example of this than when the two Chelsea new boys linked up. David Luiz played a glorious ball over the top of the central defensive pair and Torres was off like a whippet. Watching the ball drop over his shoulder I was expecting one deft touch to control and one more to send the back of the net rippling. It wasn’t to be. That first deft touch that we were anticipating ended up being a hefty toe that sent the ball straight into the keeper’s arms. Cue cheers of “what a waste of money”. However, I have no doubt that at some point he will find that touch again and he will never look back.

As for David Luiz, there were many times throughout the 90 minutes when he showed he is a top class player. He is fast, good in the air and comfortable on the ball. Indeed, in the second half you could be forgiven for forgetting that Andy Johnson was even on the pitch, so little was his involvement. However there were also some concerning moments. The stand out one of these is giving away the penalty at the death that so nearly cost us a share of the points. I must say that he looked very tired at this point and maybe the foul was a result of the body not doing what the mind is telling it. If that is the case then Chelsea fans should have no worries. Adapting to the speed of the league is something all imports have to do and fitness will come with games. However I do think that there were other occasions when tiredness wasn’t the culprit. There were 3 or 4 occurrences during the 90 minutes when David Luiz came away from the back with the ball at his feet, only to give it away very cheaply, sometimes putting the team under immediate defensive pressure. There was also a tackle in the first half on Clint Dempsey in the box that didn’t look like it needed to be made- it was risky and could have given away a penalty. In these instances it appears that it was the decision making that was at fault and this could be harder to cure than fitness alone. Conceivably, one could argue that the pace of the game was a factor in all of these instances and I hope that that is the case. I don’t think that anyone can argue though that all the ingredients are there to make Luiz into one of the best defenders in the world.

So all in all a disappointing night for Chelsea in a game when we again failed to score despite dominating the game, however an encouraging performance from Luiz, an improved performance from Torres and another clean sheet give signs that finishing in the top four should be comfortable for Chelsea (that is my way of quietly conceding that hopes for the title are well and truly gone).

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Deadline day madness

So the transfer window has finally snapped shut and what looked to be shaping up to be a fairly drab period exploded on the final day with well over £100m worth of footballer changing hands.

Until the final day Edin Dzeko’s move from Wolfsburg to Manchester City looked to be the headline of the month. Roman Abramovich clearly had other ideas. With over £20m shelled out on Benfica defender David Luiz and an alleged £50m being wired to Liverpool for Fernando Torres, the direct knock on was Liverpool paying £35m for Andy Carroll. Both broke the British transfer record (with Carroll signing before Torres).

This is clearly bonkers money and there have been claims in the media regarding how we are supposed to be in a recession etc etc. Now I’m now economist but all this spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing is it? (Putting aside the fact that the £50m for Torres was Abromovich’s personal money and if he ever decides to call back in these “loans” Chelsea could be in deep doggy doo-doo). All of those transfers had tax associated with them so the economy has benefited from them. The money that Liverpool paid Newcastle has been funded directly from the sale of another player. Essentially, Mr Abramovich has pumped £50m into the British economy and it has changed hands a couple of times, with tax being paid on each occasion. If he has the money to spend then fair enough.

As for the question of who, out of Liverpool and Chelsea, did better out of the transfer window is an interesting one as there were external factors. Looking at the delta, Liverpool brought in Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll at the expense of £8m and Torres. I would say that their squad looks better now than it did last week. Liverpool have been crying out for a quality second striker. Admittedly it was to support Torres but they do now have two class acts. Or are they? They are both young and questions remain over attitude and temperament in both cases but there is no doubt that both players have the tools to be successful.

Chelsea on the other hand have gained Torres and Luiz at the cost of around £71m. The question here is based purely on value. I tend to side with the opinion that if Ronaldo is worth £80m then Torres is worth £50m. Last season he was the most clinical striker in the Premiership, and by that I mean that he converted the highest percentage of shooting opportunities into goals. Chelsea, on the other hand (and I don’t have the stats on this) create more chances than most of the other teams in the Premiership. Last night for instance against Sunderland, Chelsea manufactured 14 shots on target with 7 off target. This does not include blocked shots. It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see that Torres should get the opportunity to score plenty of goals for Chelsea.

Ultimately the value will be determined by the numbers of goals that Torres scores and the success that that brings the team. However, with the Man Utd machine rumbling it is beginning to look ominous.

David Luiz is not a player that I know a great deal about but I know that he is very highly rated, can play anywhere across the back line and is a full International. He also has all of the physical attributes to be a success in England and, most importantly in my opinion, is young. As mentioned before in this blog, I do not go along with the idea that Chelsea have an ageing squad. There are some (possibly too many) players over 30 but there are also a significant number of players under the age of 21. These will take time to bed in and in a couple of years, when McEachran et al are 19/ 20/ 21, Luiz and Torres will be 25 and 28 and we will start to see the fruits from the academy form into a potent team.

Time will tell…

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

There's no Gray area- it's black and white

The one thing that I keep hearing from those not agreeing with Andy Gray's dismissal from Sky is that "it was said off-air, the microphones weren't supposed to be on". This is completely irrelevant. Andy Gray is not only at work when the cameras are rolling and the microphones are on. He is also at work when he is in make up, doing his preparation or changing his shirt ready to go on air. So the fact that the microphones were or were not recording is irrelevant, save for the part they play in providing evidence against him.

It looks very much to me like Charlotte Jackson may have come forward after the comments about Sian Massey, the female referee's assistant, were made. Looking at the clip she did not react well to the comments about tucking Gray's microphone into his trousers. Instead she glossed over it and, with as much professionalism as she could muster, continued with her job. However there were no smiles or giggles; this was not received as banter. Seeing the furore and public backlash to the comments around Ms. Massey, I would not be at all surprised if that gave Ms. Jackson the confidence to come forward with what she quite rightfully took to be wholly inappropriate behaviour.

Andy Gray is of course entitled to his opinions, no matter how prehistoric they may be, however when he is working for Sky and in the position of broadcasting to millions (whilst allegedly receiving over one million pounds in wages it must be said) they are unacceptable and must be kept away from the public.

Let's see if Richard Keys survives...