Sunday 25 November 2012

Not awful but obvious we are not a top side anymore

I have to start by saying that a lot of the reaction to yesterday's away draw at Villa was rather hysterical, lacking context and also disrespectful to a well organised Villa side who gave their all.  By no means am I saying that we were great, we were not, but we were nowhere near as bad and awful as some have been claiming.  Overall we played the better football, created the better chances and could easily have ground out a decent away win.  The reasons we did not win are not simple and I don't think it does anyone any favours to start jumping to easy conclusions, like saying the players didn't try and that there was a lack of effort, this is simply not true.

Our main problem is that we no longer have a side that is full of the best players around.  Other top sides have overtaken us and we do not have enough real top drawer quality in our squad.  This was demonstrated yesterday by the lack of attacking options on the bench.  Tactically we also have issues and this is hard to cleanly separate from our squad weakness.  I am no fan of Podolski being deployed on the left, he is not suited to this role and has to be used centrally. The problem is we have so few decent wide attacking players.  Arshavin is past his best, Gervinho is erratic, the Ox has great potential but needs time, while Theo is also erratic and also injury prone.

We do not have the real scary pace in the side that we used to.  Players like Anelka, Overmars and Henry used to scare defenders rigid.  We don't really have a proper centre forward on our books with real pace, then we have Theo, Ox and Gervinho as our quick players, I just don't think we have enough in our squad.  The return of Jack Wilshere has also shown just how we have lacked real quality in the centre of the park too.  Arteta is a very good player but he is no world beater, Ramsey is decent, Cazorla is a genuinely classy player.

It is hard to sum it all up and generalisation of accuracy are hard to find, but the Villa game showed it all quite perfectly.  It was a reasonable performance in many ways, defensively we were solid, we played some neat stuff at times, the problem was that we weren't just quite good enough in attacking terms.  In isolation this wouldn't be a problem, but this isn't an isolated example, we are consistently failing to see off relatively weak opposition, we are just not a top drawer side and top drawer squad any more 

I can't fault the effort or commitment of the players though, they give their all from what I can see, the problem is more one of overall squad quality, there is also an element of poor tactics from the manager.  It is sad to admit to, but deep down I know we are just not a great side any more  we are good, we have some fantastic players and great talent coming through, but we no longer scare opponents like we used to, we are no longer league title contenders.

Saturday 17 November 2012

An unpleasant 5-2 groundhog day sees spuds smashed

The starting eleven was spot on, Theo wide right to give us that much needed width and pace, Jack Wilshere back in midfield to add to Arteta's guile and Cazorla's craft.  Tottenham did start well and their attacking line up was brave.  It paid dividends when Adebayor tapped home after Szczesny had saved well from Defoe, questions will be asked as to how the Tottenham forward was afforded so much time and space in our box.  Lennon then had a decent chance when Vermaelen stood off him on the edge of the box, the Tottenham winger dragged his shot narrowly wide.

Then the moment which had a massive impact on the game, Emmanuel Adebayor lost it and dived into Santi Cazorla's shin with a reckless straight legged studs up lunge, Howard Webb rightly sent him from the field.  A sweet moment for many Gooners, as Adebayor is one of the most disliked footballers in the modern game and that is saying something.  He is incredibly selfish, hypocritical, lazy and arrogant.  I really do hope he feels ashamed tonight, he is a disgrace in so many ways.

From that moment on we showed Tottenham no mercy.  We pressed them hard and didn't allow them to settle on the ball for a second in the remainder of the first half.  Theo terrorised them down their left, our first coming from a lovely Theo cross, there was still a lot to do with the header and Per obliged, a proper tubthumper.  The second was crucial, coming just before half time, not the cleanest of Podolski strikes, but he hit it early and it found the corner.  Giroud's third just before half time ended the game as a contest, a cracking first time finish leaving Lloris no chance.

Tottenham gave it a go in the second half but they always looked fragile on the counter and so it proved with our neatly worked fourth, a lovely Giroud flick on, Theo played in Podolski who accurately squared for Cazorla, a sublime team goal.  Bale did score a consolation with a good shot with his right foot, he really looks too good for the rest of this Tottenham side, but it merely served to provoke another goal with Oxo rampaging down the right to feed Theo for a thoroughly deserved fifth goal.

Overall a much better display, and the way we attacked so directly and effectively was particularly encouraging.  Giroud leads the line so well and our width on the right was a real catalyst.  Perversely Tottenham looked rather Arsenal-like in their vulnerability at the back to the counter attack.  Still we did concede two goals and there is still much room for improvement defensively.  The captaincy issue is a real problem at the moment as Koscielny is playing well and Gibbs is out best left back, can the captain really warm the bench?  He may have to on form.

Saturday 10 November 2012

You'll win nothing with defending like this

It was just terrible defending again, conceding three at home to Fulham is bad but the manner of some of their goals was really concerning.  The last minute penalty miss was irrelevant for me, it would have papered over the cracks of a team that has been set-up without enough consideration of basic defending.

The 4-3-3 formation has been a dismal failure for me and we have never looked solid playing with it, it does not suit the players we have.  The full backs are terribly exposed, the wide players do not assist them enough, we have such a poor shape in wide areas when we do not have the ball.  The basics are being ignored, positionally we are poor and there is too much diving in to tackles.  The origin of the 4-3-3 was as a result of trying to accommodate Cesc, it has now become our Achilles heel and an excuse to play too many forwards while stupidly ignoring the importance of defending.

Podolski should be playing more centrally, he showed this again with his excellent movement for the 2nd goal, two nil up and we should have gone on to win comfortably.  Fulham equalised with an easy headed goal from a corner, than a shambolic second saw us caught out again down our left, Podolski is simply not a good defender and Vermaelen is erratic with his positional play, Mannone also made another error, he really should have kept out the header.

Luckily Olivier Giroud helped us out of the mire with his second and although Arteta could have won it late from the penalty spot, it would have been harsh on Fulham, it was never a penalty, much like Cazorla's at Old Trafford, an accidental hand ball given by a bad referee.  Fulham looked so dangerous every time they broke, and they did come worrying close to a fourth goal.

The bottom line is the manager has failed.  We are a defensive shambles and this has been the case for years now.  Some players are also not up to the task but the main issue is that the way we set-up the team, whoever was in it would struggle, is is just so naive and weak from a management point of view.  Terrible defending, terrible result against an average Fulham side.  Arsene needs to go back to the drawing board and fast.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Who was worse: Dean or Arsenal?

Depressing on many levels.  I shall keep it short and to the point.  Tactically we were a train wreck that had been hit by a meteor.  Arsene left a terrible defender in Santos terribly exposed in a formation which provided him with no protection.   Manu consequently destroyed us time and time again down our left side, utterly inexcusable and so very predictable.  The way we were setup was also so so toothless offensively, we had no pace and no width, Ramsey and Podolski are pointless in those wide positions.

As a result a mediocre Manu side thoroughly deserved their win, they created far more than us and were the better side.  It is just so disappointing that Vermaelen's early error and Arsene's woeful tactics gave us little chance of having a real go at their average defence.  The positives for us were the outstanding saves of Mannone and another excellent shift from big Per.  On the negative making Vermaelen skipper looks a terrible decision, his defending has been substandard this season and he is making too many basic errors.

Now to Mike Dean, he is truly the new Mike Riley.  He gave Manu a very very dodgy penalty towards the end of the first half, Cazorla's arms were raised but he was protecting his face instinctively, it was a clear accidental handball, nevertheless Dean pointed to the spot as he loves to do at Old Trafford.  Then was the rank inconsistency and apparent bias in his card decisions.

Dean let Carrick get away with murder all game long, he failed to send off Cleverley for a terrible late lunge when he has already been booked, shortly after this he sent off Wilshere for a far milder tackle on Evra, Evra's exaggerated feigning of injury did Wilshere no favours though.  Van Persie was also lucky not to receive a straight red for a terrible late potential leg breaker on Sagna, only a yellow was produced by the dodgy Dean.  Wilshere's red made it impossible to recover at a time in the game when United did look there for the taking.

I think Wenger has to be replaced this summer, he has taken the club as far as he can and he is now getting found out tactically on far far too frequent a basis.  The 4-3-3 system, the way we play it, is becoming an absolute defensive disaster and an impotent attacking joke.  We never really looked like getting anything from the game today and that is not good enough, 2-1 was flattering as well, it could have been a far more embarrassing scoreline.

The great frustration was that we have the players to beat this mediocre United side but the combination of terrible tactics combined with Dean giving all the big decisions to United made this almost impossible.  It is so painful to watch Arsene's naive tactical approach to games, because everything else he does as a manager is sublime, he develops players and coaches so well.  The problem is that this is a chronic problem that has been obvious for years now, I just cannot see us genuinely challenging unless these problems are addressed. Finally I should end by saying that Dean's biased performance today added yet more weight to the Premier League match fixing scandal, utterly scandalous officiating.

Brave Di Matteo opens Man United can of worms

I am no Chelsea fan but I do think Robert Di Matteo is a very decent chap.  Therefore it is no surprise that he has spoken out against United and in particular the malignant bully that is Sir Alex Ferguson.  Ferguson disgracefully labelled Chelsea's Clattenberg accusations as 'unthinkable'.  Ferguson should be charged by the FA for commenting on the truth of such serious allegations like this, it is appalling that he has practically labelled Chelsea's allegations 'lies'.

 We all know Sir Alex has a lot to hide in his dirty corrupt locker and the evidence that United routinely get the benefit of dodgy refereeing decisions is mounting.  Di Matteo said what many a fan and manager suspects and believes:

“There is a lot of evidence for being concerned that all the decisions go in United’s favour”

There are many potential reasons for this pro-United refereeing bias including the influence of Sir Alex, the influence of United on the FA and PGMOL, the FA's incompetent handling of discipline, the PGMOL's biased selection processes, the geographic bias of referee distribution, Mike Riley's incompetence and the lack of on field discipline which allows United players to regularly intimidate officials.  Di Matteo also added:

“There are some feelings in general but I don’t think they (referees) do that with a purpose it’s just part of their decision making and it seems to go in one direction.”

There may be no deliberate conscious bias from referees, this is something that many people completely fail to understand, but this doesn't mean that United are not systematically gaining from dodgy decisions, far from it, the evidence points towards the fact that they are routinely gaining many points from bad refereeing.

The ignorant idiots who write off the systematic bias of refereeing without thinking would do well to look at history and in particular the 2006 Italian match fixing scandal.  All it took to rig the league was for clubs to have influence over referee selection, the clubs simply made sure that they got favourable referees and the inevitable bias followed, of note it did not rely on any deliberate bias from referees.  All the hallmarks are there that the very same has been going on in England for years and United have been the chief beneficiaries.  Wake up people, the momentum is only going one way.

Friday 2 November 2012

The truth about 'Sir' Alex Ferguson

On the eve of Arsenal playing at Old Trafford,  the disingenuous Sir Alex is stirring things up by claiming that the disrespectful Robin Van Persie should be given a warm reception by Arsenal fans, apparently because ex-Manchester United players 'always' get a warm reception from Manu fans.  Obviously Sir Alex is forgetting Carlos Tevez, Paul Ince et cetera.  I thought this was a good moment to educate a few people on the real Sir Alex, the bully who has a lot of corrupt dirt to hide:

"Having researched the background to the feud between Alex Ferguson and the BBC, it has become pretty clear that Alex Ferguson may well have created this feud as a smokescreen to obscure our view of the real dirt. They key to the whole affair lies in a racehorse, the Rock of Gibraltar.

Firstly let's go back a few years to 2001 when John Magnier and JP McManus first began buying shares in Manchester United. Alex Ferguson was friendly with these men and was a keen dabbler in horse racing. At around the same time the racehorse, the Rock of Gibraltar, was carving out a reputation as one of the best around. Interestingly the 'gift' of 50% of the Rock to Alex Ferguson occurred at around the very same time that Magnier and McManus began acquiring their first shares in Manchester United. The fact that a senior manager in a PLC should be accepting such a large gift from a major shareholder is dubious in itself.

Whatever the truth behind the Rock, Ferguson was the 50% registered owner and as the horse's value skyrocketed with his success, it became clear that the potential stud value of the Rock would be huge (up to 10million/year). Whether Ferguson had any claim to the stud money was the root of the long running and ugly dispute which would ultimately see Ferguson sue Magnier for 50% of the stud fees.

There is some more interesting background to this affair. Magnier and McManus (via Cubic Expression Ltd) acquired another big chunk of Manchester United from BSkyB; Murdoch's company had their takeover of MUFC blocked which then resulted in them relinquishing their 9.9% stake to the Irishmen. It would therefore appear that Magnier and McManus are on pretty decent terms with Mr Murdoch, no wonder the Murdoch media empire has been so quiet on the Magnier/Ferguson/BBC saga.

Thus the informal gift of the Rock led to a dispute which turned friends into bitter enemies. Magnier was not going to give in easily, he vigorously denied Ferguson's claims and immediately hired Kroll Inc, Wall Street's so called 'private eye', to begin the digging into Ferguson's dodgy dealings. Kroll dug the dirt and this led to the infamous '99 questions' for the board. These 99 questions exposed Alex Ferguson and his son, Jason, as well as casting doubt over the honesty of 13 Manchester United transfers.

As the ante was upped by Magnier, Ferguson realised he was out of his depth and buckled by accepting a tiny settlement fee, of note this was significantly less than he had previously been offered to keep things away from a court. This was in March 2004, a key fact is that this was two months before the BBC's program that detailed some of Magnier's infamous 99 questions.

Ferguson was clearly rather scared that his dirty linen was to be aired in public. This was because neither Magnier or McManus had a seat on the board, meaning that they could at any point have called an emergency general meeting to discuss the 99 questions in front of all shareholders. Ferguson clearly had a lot to hide, he had bitten off more than he could chew in taking on MagnierMagnier had found out things that Ferguson didn't want to see the light of day, Ferguson didn't want the 99 questions to be made public and he quickly dropped the lawsuit.

The BBC program was actually a bit of a damp squib, they were just feeding off Manchester United's internal review which had been forced upon the club by Magnier's 99 questions. Even the club's own internal review found significant problems and irregularities in numerous transfers, as well as breaches of FIFA rules. The release of this internal review was moved forward to reduce the impact of the BBC program 'Ferguson and son' which was initially due to precede it.

In reality Ferguson is probably deflecting anger towards the BBC because he is still fuming that he was completely outmanoeuvred by John Magnier. A man that is used to bullying people into accepting his way was bullied into submission by a more powerful man and made to look very foolish in the process. Alex Ferguson came very close to losing his job in the process, he was also very close to having all his dirty linen washed in public. Magnier and McManus walked away with a huge profit, selling their stake to Malcolm Glazer in 2005.

The wonderful irony of this whole affair is that so much rage is now being directed at people who do not deserve it. Firstly Ferguson's rage with the BBC is completely misplaced, he should be looking long and hard at his own dodgy dealings, he also should never have taken on John Magnier and the muck raking would never have happened. Secondly Manchester United fans direct so much rage towards the Glazers when it is likely if it were not for Alex Ferguson's lawsuit then they would have far more benevolent dictators in charge, it is Alex Ferguson's greed that is really to blame, still it is easier to be angry with anyone other than your beloved bully of a manager.

This story really does have it all, blackmail, dodgy dealings, corruption, horse racing and football. Strangely the Premier League, the FA and FIFA have never looked into the dirt that Magnier exposed at Old Trafford.  It is likely that the 99 questions and Kroll's investigative findings have been locked in a safe somewhere in Ireland, just in case in the not too distant future someone needs reminding who their daddy is."