Thursday, 28 November 2013

Match-fixing arrests give me that sick feeling

It makes me feel a little bit sick when I read headlines like this "Six arrests in football match-fixing investigation" as on the BBC website today.

I feel sick because someone is playing around with our game for the sake of gambling and money.

And that threatens the integrity of our Beautiful Game. Which makes me feel sick.

Apparently six men (including three footballers) were arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) over suspected international illegal betting. But none of the investigations concerned "professional clubs" (whatever they are these days).

The NCA was reported to be working closely with the Gambling Commission and the FA.

The FA said: "We have worked closely with the authorities in relation to these allegations. The FA will make no further comment at this time due to ongoing investigations."

We can't have this sort of scum threatening the integrity of our game. Let's hope they're all wheedled out and locked up.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Manchester City need to travel better to challenge for the title

Manchester City destroyed Tottenham Hotspur yesterday, 6-0. Before the game Tottenham had only conceded six goals in 11 games, but they were on the back put from the first minute as a poor clearance from Hugo Lloris led to Jesus Navas opening the scoring after only 13 seconds.

But the real enigma is Manchester City.

Their home record is 6 wins, no draw, no defeats, scored 26, conceded 2.
Away record: 1 win, 1 draw, 4 defeats, scored 8, conceded 10.

I don't understand how a team costing so many millions, with players from all around the world, find it difficult to travel away from the the Etihad stadium and get points!

(As a side point, no English players started the game for City, though a couple (Lescott and Milner) did get token substitute appearances when the game was well and truly over.

City's league home/away form is not quite reflected in League Cup and European games where their record is:

Home: Won 2, drawn none, lost 1, scored 11, conceded 5.
Away: Won 3, draw none, lost none, scored 7, conceded 1.

Their league defeats have come at Cardiff City, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Sunderland - at least three of which take a bit of explaining.

Currently fourth and six points behind leaders Arsenal, Manchester City will need to tidy up their away form if they're to make a sustained challenge for the Premier League title.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Where will England's goals come from?

Not very impressive from England. Back-to-back home defeats and not a single goal scored.

I know all the arguments about 'experiments' and 'giving people a game', but it doesn't disguise the fact that, actually, England are not very good.

Roy Hodgson says there is time, but there isn't. I believe there is only one friendly between now and the selection of the initial squad. No time at all.

The major problem is our lack of a goal-scoring threat. Last night against Germany England had NO shots on target. None. Germany had five attempts on target, meaning that Joe Hart at least had the chance to prove himself. And he did.

But going forward England are poor. Andros Townsend makes excellent ground with the ball. Wayne Rooney makes space - by coming deeper - but Daniel Sturridge plainly is not good enough. Rickie Lambert got a few minutes, but not enough to make an impact.

There are also problems at the back. Chris Smalling looked second-best when it mattered. Ashley Cole lost possession, lost tackles and was out of position on too many occasions. His day has surely gone.

Roy Hodgson has got time: many long, lonely nights to contemplate where England's next goal may come from.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Mourinho - graceless as ever as his team salvages a point

Couldn't Jose Mourinho find it within himself to simply admit that his team had been lucky to get their injury-time penalty against West Brom on Saturday?

It was, frankly, never a penalty as Ramires ran into West Brom defender Steven Reid and took the opportunity to "go to ground". Hapless referee Andre Marriner was fooled and awarded the spot kick. This was duly dispatched by Eden Hazard to keep Mourinho's unbeaten home record in the league with Chelsea intact.

Mourinho said after the game: "The penalty came at a moment when it's difficult for the team that is winning to accept. You are waiting for the last minute and the whistle to come, but this one was a penalty. I didn't know, no idea; but on the screen, no doubts."

He also tried to deflect attention away from this poor decision by claiming that his team should have had a free-kick before West Brom's second goal. He said: "It's a free kick just in front of the fourth official [what's that got to do with it?]. It's a big mistake from the referee." Wrong again. Branislav Ivanovic dwelt on the ball and wasn't strong enough to retain it under the challenge of Stephane Sessegnon.

For poor West Brom manager, Steve Clarke (assistant to Mourinho in his previous spell at Chelsea), it was a different viewpoint for the penalty decision: "I'm flabbergasted at the decision. I can't believe he gave it. I saw it at the time. I've been in the game a long time and I knew Ramires was already on the way down before anyone was near him."

Back to Mourinho's comment: it wasn't difficult to accept because of the time of the penalty; it was difficult to accept because it wasn't a penalty - big difference!

Friday, 8 November 2013

A good week for English (and Welsh!) clubs in Europe

It's been a pretty good week for English clubs in Europe.

Manchester City secured qualification with a 5-2 win over CSKA Moscow, but they will probably go through as runners-up to Bayern Munich so the second round draw will need to be kind to them.

Arsenal had a fantastic 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund, a win that will go a long way to putting them through to the knock-out stages out of a group with three good teams (add Napoli to these two). Aaron Ramsey's excellent scoring record for the season continued with his winning header.

Chelsea have recovered superbly after their shock defeat in the first group match against FC Basel. Their latest win, 3-0 against Shalke '04, pushed them to the brink of qualification.

Manchester United's rather dull 0-0 draw put them top of their group with eight points and another win will see them through. Steady, if unspectacular, progress.

In the Europa Cup, Tottenham Hotspur ensured that they will progress to the second round with a 2-1 win over Sheriff Tiraspol from Moldova. Six wins out of six (including two qualification games) - often with understrength teams - is evidence of a fine European campaign to date.

Wigan Athletic's loss at Rubin Kazan (Russia) leaves them with five points in second place, but work still to do in their final two group games.

Wales's Swansea City got a 1-1 draw at Kuban Krasnodar and they have eight points to date. Second behind Valencia in their group, another two points will certainly see them through (and one, or even none, might be enough!).

All round, an excellent week for teams from the English League in Europe.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Spurs need goals

Watching Tottenham against Everton yesterday, it was obvious what Tottenham's problems are.

They do not have sufficient goal-scoring threat.

They have only scored nine goals in ten games, yet still sit fourth in the table. Their defensive record (5 conceded) is second only to the unlikely Southampton in the division.

But as long as Tottenham can't score, they will not represent a long-term threat to the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Yesterday's first half was completely dominated by Spurs at Goodison Park, but Everton held them at bay, and the second half was much more in Everton's favour.

If Andre Villas-Boas cannot find a combination with his current players, then he will be very keen to delve into the transfer market come January's window.

And yet Spurs are reported to be happy to let Jermain Defoe go. Defoe may never have quite reached the heights that his earlier potential promised, but surely he's worth a run in the Spurs line-up.

They need goals.