A recent(ish) session from The Bard Of Barking, on US Radio. Enjoy.
- A Lover Sings
- Way Over Yonder In A Minor Key
- I Keep Faith
- A New England
Grab it here.
A recent(ish) session from The Bard Of Barking, on US Radio. Enjoy.
Grab it here.
Today’s visitors to The Emirates are an improved Everton side, normally one that gifts us three points but more likely to prove stubborn as Villa and Middlesbrough were earlier in the season. That said, the current form of the team is such that I cannot see anything other than an Arsenal win and possibly a comfortable one at that.
In all likelihood, Everton will start with a defensive 4-5-1 line up, Andy Johnson playing as a lone striker. He and Joleon Lescott were two good summer signings by David Moyes, both playing pivotal roles in the team’s relatively good start to the season. Their away form has not been too good however. One victory on the road, at Tottenham, with draws at Newcastle and Blackburn accompanying a defeat at Middlesbrough. If they held realistic ambitions of a European spot this season, one of the two draws needed to be a victory.
Team news from Arsenal is well documented. None of the injured list of Ljungberg, Eboue, Baptista and Lauren is expected back before the Internationals in November with Ralph’s knee-knack well and truly scuppering any return before January. They have been joined on “Get Well Soon” bench but Emmanuel Adebayour, which gives Robin van Persie a chance to have a long run in the team in probably a supporting striker role. Jeremie Aliadiere ought to find the bench a snug fit during this time getting the chance for a runout or two. Phillipe Senderos and Gael Clichy are both in the squad although my feeling is that Wenger will take time to bring these two back to match fitness now that he has the luxury of a fit back four which means that I would guess at a line up of:
Lehmann; Hoyte, Toure, Djourou, Gallas; Hleb, Fabregas, Gilberto, Rosicky; van Persie; Henry
Much of yesterday’s blogsphere was talking of whether it will 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 or 4-5-1. My observation would be, does it matter? At some point in the game, all permutations bar 5-3-2 will be used as and when the match dictates. Kolo Toure has been adventurous as a Centre Half in recent games, charging forward in an attempt to support the strikers whilst Gallas has never been shy of joining in the party. Given it is a home game, the team will have more possession but more fundamentally, until they score it is not in their nature to sit back and defend so attack is going to be still the best form of defence.
The club have announced that the gates will be open at about midday so that we can enjoy Sheffield United v Chelsea on the big screens, which strikes me as the footballing equivalent of watching paint dry so I think I’ll give that a miss and follow the usual pre-match routine.
My prediction for this afternoon is a comfortable 2 – 0 to The Arsenal.
Short but sweet, a Johnny Marr session on KEXP Radio in 2003.
Grab it here.
Yesterday marked the inauguration of The Emirates stadium, Prince Phillip doing the honours as HRH had pulled out at the last minute due to a back injury suffered in the summer. In footballing parlance, it would be like turning up to see Thierry Henry and getting Emmanuel Adebayour; still good but somehow you feel slightly short-changed. In all seriousness, it is another indication of the importance that football has in this country and of the esteem that the club is held in within the game, Arsene Wenger genuinely looked like the “cat that got the cream” yesterday in news interviews.
The contrast to the management of this project to the shambles surrounding Wembley could not be starker. Costing half as much as the new National Stadium is it half as good? Somehow I doubt it. For once, I have to go along with the righteous indignation being shown in the media over the fiasco. £800m has been lost to English football through this. That is nearly £1 billion when you add in the losses incurred by Multiplex, the constructors. And for what? A stadium that will be used, at most, twenty times for football. Sure, it will look nice but was it necessary?
If you look around Europe, very few national stadiums exist purely for Internationals and Cup Finals. In fact, other than England and Wales there is possibly only the French who have such a set-up. The Italians, Germans, Spaniards and Portuguese think nothing of shifting internationals around the country, the opposition and the importance of the match dictating where it will be played. What on earth possessed the FA to rebuild the antiquated original? Had they not done so, more money could have been invested in Grass Roots and Youth Soccer. The Burton debacle would not have happened, meaning that the future of football in England would have been given the investment it deserved not the neglect it is getting.
The necessity for a national stadium even then was questionable, now it seems outright lunacy. Say what you want about Cardiff but I have no problem with the finals being held there. Sure there were transport problems after the game but are there guarantees that Wembley will be any better. With the success of England internationals around the country, now settling at Old Trafford with its 75,000 capacity, the need or requirement for games to be played in the outer rim of London has gone. With new stadia such as The Emirates completed or being built for the London Olympics in 2012, there is little point to Wembley. Had the wrangles in the early days not been so petty, the Olympic Bid could have incorporated Wembley as its centrepiece, getting larger funding for the project from outside sources would have lessened the Opportunity Cost (I knew ‘A’ level Economics would come in handy some day) to English football.
Today, the FA Council meets to vote on the Burns Report. Media coverage suggests that the Amateur and Professional Games are at loggerheads over whether or not to implement the report whole or piecemeal, the latter seeming to be the compromise solution put forward. And for what reason? Rapacious egos and self-interest. Nothing to do with the general welfare of football, more protecting the personal fiefdoms that have grown over the years in an archaic committee structure that makes the Civil Service look sleek and streamlined.
Not only are the recommendations of the Burns Report under fire from within, not one individual or sector has publicly come out with an alternative to this, a peg upon which the future of the governing English football could be placed with the supporters and other “stakeholders” safe in the knowledge that the status quo is not being preserved simply because of internecine factional warfare. Not once have the various sides come together to draw up a solution that would prevent the politicians from interfering in the Game, keeping quiet a Minister for Sport whose sole weapons are Government Regulation (against FIFA statutes, Dickie) or withdrawal of funding. The latter may actually not be such a bad idea in principle for the FA have shown little inclination to using money wisely in recent years although it could be argued when have they ever done so?
The outcome of today’s meeting ought to be to put English football into the 21st Century with its Corporate Governance. The timing is as per usual destined to embarrass the FA. The European Football Review has recently criticised the emergence of Billionaire investment in clubs (“it’s bad for football” being their insightful opinion), the Regulations for Fit And Proper Directors brought in over the past couple of years at club level seemingly not applying to the FA. The likelihood is that nothing meaningful will be resolved today, leaving the two Games at odds. The money generated by the Professional Game seemingly giving it the upper hand but should nothing happen, what dies the future hold. At some point, one side or the other is going to pick a fight over an inconsequential issue that leads to a schism. Things never come to head in football over important matters; it is always the little things that cause the grief, blossoming into bigger rows as time goes by.
And a schism is the last thing English football needs for the Professional Game will not lose out; it will be Grass Roots and Amateurs who suffer simply because of the financial muscle that their Professional counterparts possess. Make no mistake; all that the Chairmen care about is their clubs welfare. Anything that threatens that will be dealt with and cast asunder.
For the sake of English Football, the FA Councillors are beholden to implement the Burns Report and ensure the relatively peaceful Governance of the Game. Failure to do so will ensure that the FA is continually portrayed as the bungling incompetents that they are. Time Gentlemen, please, for some sanity to prevail and to recognise that the collective importance of the Organisation far outweighs your individual egos.
In a way that is by no means unusual for this blog nor is this co-incidental, here is The Damned (which is exactly what the FA Councillors will be if they do not decide to act constructively today) from The Top Rank in Sheffield 1979.
Grab it here.
As a player, the opportunity to move falls into two distinct transfer windows. Nice and simple, allowing some relatively long-term planning to take place for the domestic life, unless of course you fall out with the club in which case even the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.
As a manager, there is no such certainty. If the team is underachieving then you know you are no more than a vote of confidence away from unemployment whilst overachieve at a lower level and the big boys can come a-knocking to whisk you away to more of the same. Its been a part of the game since it began and will be so until the end of time (including four minutes for time wasting). Yet should it be so? Why are managerial staff treated differently from players when ultimately they are subject to the same transfer considerations?
Take for example Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet accepting positions at Leeds United. Barely three months into their tenure at Swindon, and it has to be said, doing a good job with the team currently third in the table. It appears that their contracts included provision to talk to other clubs if they were in the Championship or higher, with Swindon due the equivalent of twelve months salary as compensation for both. Straightforward enough, as I am sure that the club did not envisage the pair upping sticks after such a short time in control. Matters in Wiltshire have not been helped by events off of the pitch, Wise falling out with one director and a couple of others being seriously injured in a plane crash, to the extent that one of the major funders of the club has pulled out due to ill-health. Mix into that a perilous financial situation and it is not hard to see that the lure of moving onwards and upwards was not difficult to resist. In this instance, the club has lost out not financially although negotiating with Ken Bates appears to be as difficult as taking sweets from a Grizzly Bear. It will lose some momentum in the short term, being a rudderless ship even with a caretaker in charge.On the flipside of this though is the habitual rush of blood, leading to early season dismissals for managers. Where is the logic after two months or so in sacking someone. This weeks opponents WBA were a good example of this. Whilst the club were not charging away with the division, the Board required that success; the Premiership or bust. Since he has left, the same squad have outperformed their previous efforts which leads to some pretty low opinions of the efforts they must have been putting in during the first half a dozen games. The clubs clearly as Employers treat managers shabbily in this respect with an early dismissal.
To date this season, sixteen clubs have changed managers. That is 17% of the professional clubs with roughly the percentage of the season gone. The extrapolation of that seems quite ludicrous when you consider it over a full season. Of those sixteen, only two have moved voluntarily. Some of the remaining fourteen paid the price for the 2005-06, e.g. Hoddle at Wolves, O’Leary at Villa, whilst David Hodgson was fired for allegedly breaching Football League rules, something that is pending an appeal / legal action. But for eleven clubs to have panicked so early on seems to be incredible. As a comparison, only eight managerial changes had occurred by the same stage last time round, 2006-07 representing a 100% increase. Does this mean that clubs are less tolerant in achieving their ambiti0ns?
The answer seems to be a resounding “yes”. A few weeks ago, I saw a statistic which beggared belief. The average Premiership Manager gets about 3 1/2 years in the job before leaving. Their League counterparts get 18 months. Just over a season and a half. What exactly can a manager achieve in that time? Well, obviously achieving relegation gets you the sack but in the case of Nigel Worthington and Bryan Robson, it appears that not running away with a division is also enough to get you the sack. I can understand if a club such as Norwich has been relegated and not promoted back for what two seasons now, that the Board may be getting a little antsy about wanting the lucre back. Perhaps they did not have the foresight to peg playing contracts to divisions, enforcing pay cuts if relegation occurs. That is the Boards responsibility, ensuring the fiscal welfare of a club should be outside of the remit of a manager. Unfortunately for the Managers, the inadequacies of a Chairman are easily disguised in the short term, results aren’t good? Sack the Boss. No-one need ever know that the club’s inability to pay for better players is a result of the financial acumen of the Chairman, overambitious in the early part of their reign, paying the price later on.
At Arsenal we have been spoiled for the last decade by the success with Wenger’s and it has been unusual for the club in the last thirty years not to give a manager a fair crack of the whip – Rioch is the only one who was not and I still believe he was a stop-gap for Wenger despite the rumours of player dissension. It is noticeable that before Chelsea came along and bought their way to the title, the previous winners of not just the Premiership but the old First Division title generally had longevity of service on their side. It seems that these days instability is the watchword, the lower the league the more likely the sack.
Carling Cup Fourth Round is a trip to face Everton. I expect that Arsene will keep with a similar line-up for that match as the one that played at The Hawthorns although probably including one or two senior players to give a bit of balance. On the subject of the West Brom game, Adebayour is apparently out for three weeks giving Jeremie Aliadiere the chance to push his case with the first team given that Le Boss is quoted in this mornings papers as saying that Theo Walcott is still two seasons away from playing as a central striker in the Premiership.
The marvellously talented Neko Case showcases today, a 2002 gig from Mojo’s. Tracklisting as follows:
Grab it here.
Dear old Sky cocked up last night, not yet managing to translate the multiscreen Champions League coverage that is useful for away games, to the Hokey-Cokey Cup, so aside from the snippets on Sky Sports News there was absolutely jack in terms over highlights. What can be gathered from the reports was that decent enough West Brom were made to look extremely ordinary to the point of poor by probably the youngest ever Arsenal team to represent the club in a competitive match. When the oldest player is 27 and in goal, the next youngest being 23 you kind of get the drift.
I was pleased for Aliadiere scoring twice; earlier this week there were a number of unconfirmed rumours that he had been transfer-listed. Whilst his career at the club has been blighted by injury, it would be good to see him be given a chance as a regular squad member, something that could happen if Adebayour fails to recover for the weekend.
The press reports indicate that Song had a good game in midfield although Goodplaya disagrees. The nub of Song’s problem is that Fabregas raised the bar of expectation so anyone coming through the ranks in central midfield has his performances as a precedent. Personally, I believe Song is probably a more natural replacement over a longer term for Gilberto although he faces stiff competition from Denilson and Diaby but they will all need some time to bed into a team at this age.
A good win, following on from the news that Kolo Toure has signed a contract extension (of undetermined length) made it a good day for the club
Elsewhere, West Ham continued their freefall bless ’em by losing at Chesterfield and Sheffield United’s poor season showed no sign of ending with a 2 – 4 home defeat to an out-of-sorts Birmingham. Aston Villa scraped through with a last minute winner at Leicester, Notts County dumped Southampton out 2 – 0 whilst Wycombe and Port Vale triumphed on penalties against higher division opposition. Watford and Everton both won against Championship teams with the press suggesting that Everton should have doubled their scoreline against Luton.
A Clash boot for today’s offering, 1st March 1979 in London, entitled “Flash Bastards“. Tracklisting as follows:
Artwork included. Enjoy – grab it here.