Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson

Fergie has never been shy about having a dig at the assembled media and has bullied nearly all and sundry in his time as ManYoo manager. Most of it is with a purpose which is to further the cause of Manchester United and his players, some is for personal and family reasons and some is out of sheer bloody minded vindictiveness. This week's latest comments on the power of television was however born out of sheer hypocrisy.

Ferguson spoke of football having sold its' soul to the devil and of TV having too much power and yet whilst not directly responsible for Old Trafford policy, Ferguson works for one of the elite of the elite European clubs that has gained far more than most from the huge influx of television money.

During the 1980s, ManYoo operated on a similar budget to the other clubs in the league and suffered in comparison to the likes of Everton, Aston Villa and of course to their fierce rivals Liverpool. With the arrival of Sky Sports in the 90s ManYoo were the first to exploit the new global opportunities and this jump start that the club took propelled it to the forefront of the game.

Whilst it would be churlish to suggest that Ferguson has not been a huge factor in their fantastic recent history, he was the benefactor of an extraordinary crop of youngsters and from the beginning of the Premiership he has been the recipient of an annual transfer budget that was the envy of all until Abramovich came along.

Year after year transfer records were smashed. Roy Keane, Andy Cole, Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastien Veron, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney as well as indulging Ferugson on other players such as Ronaldo (a fantastic investment it must be said), Dwight Yorke, Fabian Barthez, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Anderson and this Summer's latest spending spree.

Television has allowed United to exploit their global marketing phenomenon and in turn to hand Ferguson the money to build the great sides that he has presided over. Indeed they were one of the first to have their own in house television station of which Sky Television incidentally owns one third.

Now just because Ferguson uses all these tools and the money that comes with it doesn't of course mean he has to like it. It is however hypocritical to complain about it such a childish and spoilt manner. Future generations of Fergusons probably will not need to work due to the riches he has amassed from the television bank rolled football industry that provides his employ, there was no mention of how much wealth he has garnered from the arrangement nor complaint about that.

Ferguson complains that television makes too much money from football and that the clubs do not achieve a large enough slice of the pie. This is yet more nonsense and rank hypocrisy from a man that earns more than 99.99% of the population from the arrangement.

Media plcs exist like any other company, to maximise revenues for their shareholders, not to pass on profits to those who would not be able to make them without them. If the football clubs don't like it they can do it themselves if they so wish, the reality however is they cannot.

The media is not responsible for the gross mismanagement that goes on in most clubs and is certainly not in any way at fault for the greatest leak of wealth from the clubs, the movie star salaries that are paid out without any thought to both players and agents. It is the clubs that have chosen to pass on the bulk of their revenues to the players, not the television companies.

Lunchtime kick offs might be an 'inconvenience' to someone such as Ferguson but there are millions of people in Asia who pay vast amount of money through television subscriptions for whom they provide entertainment at a peak viewing time. Indeed, were it not for these early kick offs, many children (young Premiership fans to be) would never see any games due to the time difference and would not become those fans in later years to further line the club's pockets.

Good ol' Harry Redknapp suggested he'd rather be somewhere else during a pre season tour and it is this lack of respect and good grace to overseas fans that sums up the parochial attitudes on display. Clubs that wish to maintain their 'local identity' whilst at the same time greedily accepting cheques from abroad in any currency that they can find, it is the thin end of the wedge.

If Ferguson really finds the influence of television so impossible to deal with, we are quite sure that he could return to his managerial roots at St Mirren who rarely have their games moved for television. One suspects however that he would still prefer to be writing cheques for the likes of Ashley Young and Phil Jones - No Nonsense.

Carlos Tevez

There are many football fans who wish to see Manchester City's project fall flat on its' face. For that reason many will regard last nights' events with an unabashed glee.That being said, no fan of any club should be happy at the sight of a highly paid player disrespecting a club in such a flagrant and public manner because the reality is it could happen to any club nowadays. The players have far far too much power.

City in many ways have made a rod for their own back. It was clear early during last season that Tevez despite being made captain was agitating for a move. No one knows the real truth, whether it is money orientated, whether he has actual regard for his family situation or whether it is just that he feels City are not Barcelona, Real or even the team from across the city that he had just left.

Regardless of his unrest, City simply attempted to buy him off by increasing his already hugely inflated wage packet. During the Summer Tevez's situation became untenable after his public courting of any suitor that he could find. The reality however was that other than a left field bid from Corinthians of Brazil, no club came forward in a meaningful way to attempt to buy the player and this was in no way City's fault.

Tevez was accepted back in to the fold after the Copa America but was duly stripped of the captaincy and has been dropped to the bench which is the least that should have happened to him. Tevez would have to earn the renewed respect of his manager, his teammates and the fans after his Summer antics. The early form of Sergio Aguero coupled with the emergence of Edin Dzeko only served to hamper his cause of winning his place back.

It is clear that Mancini has problems within the camp. Dzeko's reaction to his substitution last night was extremely poor and Balotelli has had several public spats with his manager. Anyone can see that Mancini is a confrontational manager, indeed it is possible to believe he revels in it - after all he re-signed Balotelli from Inter. That being said it is imperative the club backs the manager and does so without reservation.

The manager whomever he is cannot ever have his authority challenged or it is the beginning of the end. Ferguson, no stranger to confrontation himself has had a string of powerful characters in his dressing room but all have worked on his behalf. The instant that they became disruptive or in any way undermined him, they were sold at the first opportunity. Beckham, Stam, Van Nistelrooy and even the fans' favourite Roy Keane were all jettisoned when the situation demanded it.

Chelsea as an example enjoyed the strongest of characters leading their club in manager Jose Mourinho. He formed an axis of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba in the same way that Ferguson had Neville, Keane, Giggs and Scholes that would walk through concrete walls for him. Once Mourinho left the players simply did not want to play for Grant or Scolari and they made it publicly known.

It is no coincidence that Chelsea won nothing in that two year period apart from the FA Cup. Indeed Chelsea can probably never really move on until that quartet is broken up. Mourinho did a smiliar thing on arrival at Real with the sale of both Raul and Guti, he knew the dressing room must belong to the manager and he alone.

Football clubs do not generally have the option to sack players given the huge writing off of a valuable asset that is trasferred for free to a rival. City have the resources however to make Tevez sit and rot away the best years of his career should they so wish. Whilst this might sound harsh, the lack of respect shown to the club last night beggars belief and he should be punished severely. For Tevez to be taken back there would have to be a full and public apology to all concerned and even then it should only be temporary until a bid is found that is acceptable to City.

Tevez was quick to take huge signing on bonuses, astronomical wages, the captaincy and all the acclaim that came with it. In return he has treated Manchester City in a truly disgraceful way and one that no football fan of any persuasion should find amusing. City must take the harshest of stances with regard to the player and let him and the others in their squad know that the authority of the manager and respect towards the club are sacrosanct - No Nonsense

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Champions League - Round Two

The group stages of the Champions League can prove a somewhat sterile affair but there are some attractive ties this week starting with Manchester City's visit to Bayern. It is a clash of the established European footballing aristocracy against the 'crass' new money from the Etihad Stadium. It is much the same in the rest of life where old money oft looks down on the new in the misguided belief that their little pieces of paper are worth more than those of the new kids in town.

For City it is the acid test having started with a slightly disappointing home draw with Napoli. Bayern are the type of club who will positively bristle at the arrival of City in their playground and Ribery and the like will be no doubt sent out there to hammer a message home.

For Mancini who has been so bold this season, it will be interesting to see which tactics he employs faced with such a potentially daunting tie. He has spoken about winning in Munchen and if he is to do so then he has to consider that City's success so far this season has come from attacking fluency and not from the ponderous defence minded performances of last year, his conundrum at least is clear.

Internazionale travel to Moscow to meet CSKA in a tie that they really need to win after their shock home defeat in the opening round to Trabzonspor. With a double header against French Champions Lille to come, they are much in need of three points and some respite for their beleaguered team.

ManYoo face what should be a straightforward home tie to Basel as they continue their progress through the easiest of the League groups. Two of the most famous names in European football meet at the Bernabaeu where Real Madrid host Ajax although the reality nowadays is that there should be only winner.

The tie of the round on Wednesday sees Chelsea face a very tricky away tie with at the always hostile Mestalla stadium. For Juan Mata it is a swift homecoming and Fernando Torres will also be wishing to put in a vibrant performance back on Spanish soil. A point however would be seen as a good result having already secured all three against Leverkeusen.

Arsenal will hope to make the most of Marseille and Dortmund taking points off each other by dispatching Olympiakos at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger could at the same time no doubt offer a cheap loan to the visitors to alleviate their debt issues as he clearly doesn't like to spend any of Arsenal's money himself.

In Group H, AC Milan and Barcelona will both be hoping to secure wins as they battle to finish first in a group that may come down to goal difference to separate the two, the possibility of Barcelona finishing second in the group would really set the cat amongst the pigeons despite UEFA's best laid seeding plans - No Nonsense.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Formula One - The Season So Far

Last night's race in Singapore was like so many others this season and was indeed a microcosm of the entire year. Vettel disappeared off into the night whilst Webber, Alonso and Button tried to cling on for dear life. Further back Hamilton and Schumacher scrapped and ultimately clashed with the cars they were racing against, thus it has been all season.

For Vettel, this has been his season plain and simple, he has dominated it in a way that no other has done since Schumacher was in his pomp, the similarity of the almost robotic Teutonic domination seems on the surface almost uncanny but there are certainly differences in the two drivers.

There can however be no questioning of the quality of Vettel's season. Mark Webber is after all in the same machinery and he has been left trailing in his wake. The Red Bull is clearly the class of the field as Adrian Newey once again proves himself to be the master of all things aerodynamic.

In the same way that Vettel has dominated Webber, Fernando Alonso has proven himself to be beyond the reach of Felipe Massa who is now no more than a good number two. Alonso has never given up this season trying to milk as much as possible from what is clearly not a very fast Ferrari. It has been a season to forget for the Scuderia.

Jenson Button was meant to be shown up when he arrived at McLaren, outpaced and outgunned by the burgeoning talent of Lewis Hamilton. There is a suspicion that the triumvirate of Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso are a class apart from the rest. Given a good car however, Button has proven beyond all doubt that the Prost like smoothness that he displays coupled with no shortage of speed means that he is a master of getting cars consistently on to the podium, indeed he is the only driver left with a mathematical chance of catching Vettel.

For Hamilton there is clearly work to be done. He is as quick as anyone and his rumbustious and aggressive driving style make him a huge hit with the F1 fans conjuring images of Nigel Mansell's swashbuckling drives in the 80s and 90s. Mansell however only won one World Championship (granted he was competing against Senna, Prost and Piquet to name but a few) and there was always the feeling that he could have won more had he spent more time looking after his cars.

Senna and Schumacher are probably the greatest examples of winners who drove in an exciting, rapier quick and entirely uncompromising manner. Hamilton has the potential to win multiple World Championships but he has to find the right balance. Invariably when you strike another car in F1, you do as much damage to your own car as you do to theirs and you cannot win races if you are back in the pits.

This second incarnation of Schumacher had an a-typical race, jostling behind the front runners before crashing into another car whilst racing for position. Drivers used to simply give way to the Schumacher of old but he does not carry the same aura or hold the same respect on the track now and he is in danger of becoming a dangerous mobile chicane with a tainted legacy. It is time for him to retire with good grace.

His team mate Nico Rosberg continues to etch out good performances from the Mercedes and there must be a chance of a seat in a Prancing Horse should Ferrari decide to release Massa at some stage. Of the rest, Paul Di Resta drove an excellent race in the Force India to finish sixth with his team mate Sutil finished a credible eighth.

Next it is on to Suzuka, a real driver's circuit after the heat, dust and concrete barriers of Singapore. Vettel's repeat coronation should only be held up until then - No Nonsense.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Premiership Saturday

The Premiership table is beginning to take familiar shape with five of the top six now from the anticipated front runners. Only Newcastle United currently exceeding all expectations and dispatching Blackburn Rovers yesterday are bucking the trend with Arsenal currently finding themselves in mid table after their September horriblus.

Stoke City continued their excellent early season work with a hard earned point at home to the Champions who proved a little toothless without the so far superlative Wayne Rooney. Tony Pulis backed by his board is moulding his Stoke side into far more than a kick and rush side, they should achieve a strong finish in the Premiership this season.

Arsenal enjoyed a comfortable win against a Bolton team that must now be having some serious concern about their Premiership well being. Bolton had an excellent season last year but since their hammering in the FA Cup semi final by Stoke results have been on the slide and they find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table. Whilst it is still relatively early days, they need to start winning some points very soon and next week they host Chelsea.

Chelsea themselves earned a comfortable 4-1 home win against Premiership novices Swansea. It was a day marked again for the ups and downs of the headline printing Fernando Torres who scored a well taken goal before being shown a red card for an awful lunge at Mark Gower. Torres is however continuing to look sharper and another goal will help his cause and confidence.

AVB must grasp this as an opportunity to employ some forced rotation and with Drogba fit again it may work out to his advantage. Torres will certainly start in Valencia this week but he has proven throughout his career that regularly playing two games a week is beyond him.

In the battle below the top three, Liverpool got their season back on track with a home win against Wolves and Spurs doomed Wigan to yet another home defeat to increase the pressure on the highly likeable Roberto Martinez.

Fulham and West Brom earned a point each which didn't really suit either of them and Manchester City beat hard working Everton with Balotelli getting on the score sheet again. Bayern Munich await them this week in the Champions League and the test however will next weekend to see how they follow that tie.

The headlines currently seemed to be reserved for criticism for Torres and the man who replaced him, Andy Carroll. It is to the chagrin of both their respective managers and whilst the two do appear to be improving, it is only goals that will provide the antidote to those headlines. After all, strikers are bought to score goals, with the exception of Emile Heskey of course - No Nonsense.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kenny Dalglish - The Scorecard So Far

This blog was fairly scathing with regard to King Kenny's appointment mid way through last season but it is clear that Liverpool have made progress since his arrival. What is arbitrary however is how Roy Hodgson would have fared given the same backing from the new owners but it is possibly a non sequitur in any respect as it would never have happened.

The suggestion that Hodgson could have done a comparable job will have the Kop faithful apoplectic and it does look on the surface at least as if Dalglish has done a decent job since his return to Liverpool. Hodgson was doomed from the outset as he was never accepted by the fans, indeed he never really understood the size of the undertaking in managing Liverpool, that no matter how bad the situation was or how poor the squad was by comparison, that finishing 2nd - never mind 5th or 6th - to Manchester United was entirely unacceptable for a club that had been Britain's and at one point Europe's finest by some distance.

It is clear that since his return to the club in a managerial capacity, Dalglish has been a master of the media and of PR with regard to the fans. Dalglish has at every opportunity talked of 'respect of the club', played up players who have an understanding of 'the club'.

Even last night after the Carling Cup match he spoke of the players performance being 'a great credit to the football club'. Lets be clear, he was talking about a win over Brighton in a meaningless cup competition yet he never misses a chance to rally the fans around 'the club'.

Dalglish is also more than happy to bristle with subdued anger when the press question his version of events, he is fostering a siege mentality, all centred around 'the club'. He refuses to talk about referees' decisions that hurt 'the club' but at the same time sows the seeds of henious injustice against 'the club' that he knows will be lapped up by the loyal fans as they close rank against outsiders with him.

In doing so, Dalglish has done two things, firstly he has given Liverpool fans back their self respect and returned the identity of Liverpool FC to the Merseyside faithful. Liverpool are still owned by an American sports tycoon but they no longer feel like an offshoot of a baseball or a hockey team, they are themselves again and for that Dalglish should be much praised.

The second thing he has achieved is to buy himself time by having the fans so firmly onside. For all his public proclamations about ambition and the desire for success, Dalglish privately will know that this Liverpool team are years from challenging for the title, indeed with the resources available to the teams above them it may be a harsh reality that Liverpool cannot challenge for the title again until something changes regardless of the progress they make.

The relative affluence of ManYoo, City and Chelsea are outside of Dalglish's control and indeed  that of John Henry the owner. The measure of Dalglish's success as manager can only be done so by the progress of his team and on that we can deliver a verdict so far.

In terms of League position, Liverpool have improved for certain and that is the bottom line. Matches that were drawn or even lost previously are now being won. Their record against their peers and sides above them is a mixed bag with excellent wins against ManYoo last season and away to Arsenal this. This is offset with a tendency to receive hidings from Spurs - who rarely it must be said hand those out to top six sides.

In the transfer market, things are less positive it would seem for Dalglish. Whilst probably Comoli's fault rather than his, Liverpool missed out on the apparently excellent Phil Jones. Dalglish did not wish to to sell Torres (which would have been another mistake) and then invested the money in 35M Andy Carroll who has not fired since his arrival. Luis Suarez has been excellent so far but again he does not look like someone who will score a huge amount of goals despite his undoubted ability and overall contribution. Downing is a solid enough signing but does not spark the imagination and Jordan Henderson is a leap of faith at best with Charlie Adam only slightly better off than that.

With the exception of Suarez, Dalglish has mainly 'bought British' again conjuring images for the fans of former glories and the many home nation greats that Dalglish played amongst such as Souness, Hansen, Rush, Whelan and others that he brought to the club such as Barnes and Bearsdsley. It is a policy that has served Liverpool well in the past but the reality is the game has changed.

That is not to say that British players are necessarily sub standard but there can be no doubt that there is a technical deficiency at large within British football. If you are buying the very best, the likes of Rooney, Gerrard and Ashley Cole then you are buying real world class players but comparing the relative abilities of the players he has bought versus the competition he wishes to emulate the picture looks bleak.

For Carroll you can compare Edin Dzeko or Didier Drogba, for Henderson try Michael Essien or Anderson, for Downing you could suggest Nani or Valencia and for Adam there is Juan Mata, Luca Modric or David Silva - it is not pretty reading. It is also worth nothing that Carroll is far and away the most expensive player on that list, Downing cost more than Nani and Henderson only 6M less than Michael Essien.

What Dalglish has achieved is to return Liverpool's backbone in terms of mentality, but on the pitch the manner in which they were brushed aside at both Stoke and Spurs suggests that a 'British mentality' and 'understanding and pride and in the club' will not be enough to return Liverpool to the summit of the British game. It has been a reasonable start for Dalglish but more is needed than simply a dry wit and Kop friendly soundbites - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Queens Park Rangers and Tony Fernandes

QPR might not seem like the most obvious subject for a blog but there have been a couple of requests for one and the club is potentially at a highly exciting juncture in its' current evolution with the arrival of Tony Fernandes as owner of the club. He has a proven track record of business success as well as being a football man.

This blog's first memories of the club were with Phil Parkes in the 1970s and whilst not professing to have a detailed knowledge of the 80s, images are conjured of Terry Venables, promotions and plastic pitches and the FA Cup final replay against Spurs.

The 90s saw the arrival of Gerry Francis as manager. QPR had several quality players in the ageing pass master Ray Wilkins, the likes of England internationals Trevor Sinclair and Andy Sinton and of course the mighty (Sir) Les Ferdinand. In addition to all this, Andy Impey had a fabulous right hook for those with a memory for the more pugilist side of the game.

With the sale of Ferdinand in 1995 so QPR's fortunes waned and relegation followed soon after. QPR dropped down the divisions and well over a decade in the wilderness would follow suffering all manner of financial mismanagement and woes for a club that had been a top tier stalwart for so long.

In 2007 an eclectic mix of Flavio Briatore, Bernie Eccelstone and then laterally metals mogul Lakshmi Mital purchased the club. This led to much fostering of hope for QPR that significant and much needed investment would come in but despite the personal wealth of the protagonists, very little real investment was made and little was done within the context of their global influence to raise the profile of the club. Some owners buy teams because they love football and the club and because they believe they can make a difference. Some do it possibly to move money out of reach of the Kremlin, some to systematically bankrupt them (step forward Peter Risdale) and others to turn a fast buck. With the above combination of movers and shakers and the evidence on offer we must presume the latter.

Moving on to current affairs, QPR won the Championship last year in fine style under the guiding hand of the controversial but highly effective (in the Championship at least) Neil Warnock. Much to the chagrin of QPR fans, little or no essential investment in the squad was made during the Summer (adding to the suspicion that the club was bought to merely be sold on) whilst ticket prices were hiked.

On the 18th of August and after a heavy opening day defeat came the news that Malaysian tycoon Tony Fernandes had bought the club. It was news that was welcomed by all associated by QPR and whilst Fernandes will have long term plans for the club, in the short term the key factor was the takeover was completed before the close of the transfer window.

Given the context of QPR's tenuous position in the Premiership, their transfer dealings in the final few days of August were possibly the best in the country. Barton on a free would have been a steal for nearly any team in the league. Wright Phillips although often mocked is a quality Premiership winger and the likes of Armand Traore and Anton Ferdinand whilst not the best individually will add experience and know how at this level.

QPR as demonstrated by their fine win at Moulineux should be good enough to stay up this year but for Fernandes, the hard work starts here. Judging by his recent interview with Mark Chapman of BBC Five Live he has a firm grasp of what is needed. It was incidentally an incredibly well polished interview and whilst clearly a master of soundbites and PR, there is clear evidence that there is ample substance behind the more obvious style.

Fernandes has proven business acumen honed by early exposure to Richard Branson. He has enjoyed fabulous success with Air Asia (tackling the Malaysian Government and the dominance of Malaysian Airlines is no mean feat) and has gained sporting experience by his involvement with Lotus and Formula One.

It is hard to imagine QPR ever being a 'big club', their proximity to the already highly established Chelsea and to a lesser extent Fulham and the restrictions of Loftus Road mean they will always have to punch above their weight. To do that it is essential that the people running the club are of the highest possible calibre.

The issue of Neil Warnock as a long term appointment in the Premiership may be a thorny one as his record at the top level is patchy at best. There are many examples of fine Championship managers who fall short in the top division, Steve Coppell, Dave Jones, Kevin Keegan and Bryan Robson are all examples and like the last two, Warnock is a great motivator but lacks the subtlety and tactical nous at the top of the game.

Regardless of this and with what looks to be the right, dynamic man at the helm of the club and with secure finances going forward, there is much hope for QPR's fortunes in the medium term and West Ham's loss may well be QPR's gain - No Nonsense.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard

Both of the above Chelsea players are much maligned and certainly in the case of Torres' contribution since his transfer it is to a large degree well justified, there is however a case for the defence of both.

Torres' return of two goals since his 50M move from Liverpool is abject to say the least. Last season the malaise that had affected him during the World Cup had not departed and whether the reasons were psychological or physical or both, it was clear that Chelsea had not signed the same player that Liverpool had done so from Atletico Madrid.

With a relatively restful Summer, the hope was that a rejuvenated Torres would re-emerge for the new season and in part he has, the problem is the goals are still not flowing. That being said the performances have been improving no doubt and that is more than just wishful thinking on the part of Chelsea supporters. The problem is that it was almost impossible to play any worse.

Against ManYoo on Sunday, Torres scored one, should have absolutely scored two and could have had four missing two other good chances in either half aside from his howler at the end. That miss will ensure much mirth amongst the press and opposition fans but the key for Torres is to focus on so much that was good in his game on Sunday in much the same way that Rooney will have already forgotten about that penalty.

Chelsea have indulged Torres and spent a huge amount of minutes on the pitch trying to get the Spaniard firing again. Physically he looked excellent against ManYoo and having come this far AVB now needs to persevere with him and tinker with the tactics to suit him. The 4-2-3-1 in the second half seemed to suit Torres far more than Chelsea's usual 4-3-3 and that may well be the key along with the arrival of Juan Mata to add some creative urgency to the side. So far it has been 50M atrociously spent but there might just be light at the end of the tunnel.

Frank Lampard has for some reason never been a particularly popular character. He was disliked intensely at West Ham in some misplaced belief about favouritism due to his father which he then compounded by crossing London to Chelsea (netting West Ham 11M in the process). Whilst generally adored at Stamford Bridge he has never been popular with the England support either despite being a steady if not spectacular performer and a generally likeable person both on and off the pitch.

Despite all this, no one ever really had questioned his contribution - until now. Season after season he has provided Chelsea with match winning performances with a regular goal tally that would be the envy of most strikers. Until the last couple of years he was almost entirely injury free, playing game after game without a rest prompting Sir Alex Ferguson to once call him a 'freak' and more recently to call him 'exceptional'. One would argue that Ferguson knows a thing or two about fine midfield players.

There is no question that at 33, Lampard's legs will be starting to fail and as a player that has made his name as a box to box midfielder he is in a position that will expose that to the utmost. The key for Lampard now is like so many great players before him to reinvent himself now that his physical attributes are on the wane. There are countless examples of players before him that have done so.

Roy Keane is his most obvious peer and example. Keane once a swashbuckling, marauding box to box midfielder had suffered way too many injuries to his knees and more seriously to his hip. Keane reinvented himself as a fine holding midfielder and was oft mooted by Ferguson as a potentially great central defender.

Alan Shearer after his second serious injury went through an incredibly tough period when he found he could no longer bulldoze through defenders with pace and power as he once had. Instead he turned himself into one of the finest back to goal strikers of his generation in the mould of Mark Hughes.

John Barnes went from one of the finest wingers England has ever produced, if not the finest to a central midfielder both for Liverpool and then Newcastle and played successfully for many years. More recently, Giggs and Scholes bereft of their legs have turned themselves respectively into a cultured central midfielder and a fine deep lying playmaker.

For Lampard, it is clear that he has to realise his new limitations and has to start adapting his game accordingly. One huge service that Lampard could do for himself is to retire from International duty as the likes of Scholes and Shearer have proved that the extra rest at that age is hugely beneficial.

As mentioned before Lampard has a tendency to attract the brickbats but these people are doing a huge dis-service to a player that has been nothing other than the consummate footballing professional playing with a decade long level of consistency that few in the game have ever achieved. This is not the end of Frank Lampard, just the beginning of a slightly tweaked one - No Nonense.

Steve Kean

Steve Kean on Saturday endured a match day protest from the restless natives of Blackburn. Typical North Lancashire weather meant that the pre game march was reduced to a few hundred die hard fans, nevertheless it is troubling for the manager in the question. The issue however is whether the fans are directing their ire at the correct target.

Blackburn as everyone knows were taken over by the chicken loving Venkys' Group from Pune in India last year. The Premiership has grown used to its' burgeoning group of foreign owners, everyone from Russian Oligarchs to dodgy disposed ex Thai Prime Ministers, Saudi Oil Barons, highly leveraged Americans and slightly unhinged Egyptian shop owners, we will take anyone it appears.

There is however a world of difference in the effect that it has on a club. For Chelsea and Manchester City, they have been instantly propelled from years of looking upwards to the forefront of European football. Tony Fernandes it appears has made an instant and positive impact at QPR. Fans of these clubs are generally delighted with the result despite the grumblings of some who hark back to the 'good old days' of crap football, crap facilities and most importantly crap pies.

Other clubs such as Portsmouth in particular, Liverpool under the previous regime and even Manchester United who despite being consistently successful still rankle hugely at the American ownership have seen their fans revolt against the perceived selling down the river of their club and communitys' heritage. Foreign ownership is clearly a two edged sword and the direction of that blade is decided in most cases by how much money these new owners have.

In the case of Venkys, there is little to suggest that have any intention to invest in any material way in Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn in any case was a strange club to have purchased. It is a town with a population of around 100,000 and with huge competition for a fan base from the twin clubs in both Liverpool and Manchester. That being the case one must question Venkys' motivation for buying the club other than to try and flip a fast buck.

Since the purchase, little or nothing has been done in terms of investment in the team despite nonsensical talk of buying Ronaldinho at the outset. The biggest error by far however was to sack the proven Sam Allardyce and replace him with the inexperienced Steve Kean.

And here lies the rub, it is not Steve Kean's fault that the team is in the predicament that it is, it is the owners' fault pure and simple. Steve Kean was offered an opportunity that anyone with an ounce of ambition would have grabbed with both hands, he is simply trying to do the best job he can under the circumstances. It is Venkys' fault for hiring the wrong guy in the first place.

This blog is not attempting to say that Kean is the right man for the job or is of the calibre required to manage a relegation threatened team in the Premiership, he does however appear to be a decent and honest chap who is trying his hardest to do his job well. Regardless of the result he conducts himself in an honest and dignified manner.

The fans of Blackburn should realise that even a few halcyon years in the early Nineties cannot disguise the fact that they are in no way a big club and that the lower half of the Premiership is on a consistent basis probably the best they can hope for. If they wished for better then Venkys should have probably not sacked Sam Allardyce so randomly and for that reason they are whom the match day protesters should be aiming their anger at, not Mr Steve Kean - No Nonsense.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Old Firm Derby


The Premiership Weekend - What did we learn?

There was much to be gleaned from a highly entertaining weekend in the Premiership, lets start with the events at Old Trafford.

Despite riding their luck to a large degree in a match that could have finished 5-5, ManYoo proved beyond all doubt that they remain the yardstick this season by dispatching Chelsea 3-1. Ferguson looks to have bought extremely well this Summer with even the much maligned De Gea enjoying a good performance. Once Vidic is fit again the backline will tighten up and they look a formidable outfit. Wayne Rooney has clearly been reinvigorated by the new arrivals and they have attacking options to burn.

Chelsea are what we already knew, one or two players short of a title challenging side. Mata has made a difference but too many of the old guard remain. Torres, that shocking miss aside looked back to his absolute best with great movement and a well taken goal. Chelsea should at least take heart from that and also from the bold attacking conviction that AVB showed in his tactics. On another day it could have been a different result but they remain off the pace and Lampard may have reached a nadir in his career in being substituted at half time, he is no longer the fulcrum of the team it would appear.

City probably should have beaten Fulham but they didn't by blowing a two goal league with fatigue or lack of focus after the Champions League potentially a factor. City face five more away fixtures after their remaining CL group stage fixtures and Mancini will have to find a way to navigate those more effectively. City can and probably will push ManYoo hard for the title but it appears that they are still learning at this level and this season may prove one year too early.

The race for fourth place is wide open with Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool all harbouring realistic hopes to finish in a Champions League spot. Spurs' new additions of Adebayor and in particular the economical and excellent Scott Parker have jump started their season and helped to reintegrate the previously unhappy Luka Modric who scored a fantastic goal yesterday and played with a smile on his face again.

It is easy to be too harsh on Liverpool as they were down to nine men but there is certainly the first suggestions emerging of a false dawn at Anfield. Back to back away defeats to Stoke and Spurs have killed the early season momentum and unlike Ferguson, Dalglish's transfers have not had the same impact. Carroll is yet to score in the Premiership this season, Adam got himself sent off and Jordan Henderson is of questionable ability to put it mildly. Jamie Carragher also has to be careful that he doesn't morph from begin a club legend to a liability during the twilight of his career, his alarming lack of mobility is becoming highly problematic. Liverpool have made progress under Dalglish but they are still a long way short of a regular Champions League berth.

For Arsenal it is difficult to be harsh enough as they again showed an entire lack of character, quality and belief to blow a lead at Ewood Park against a poor Blackburn team. Arsenal are already playing like a side that know they have little to play for this season as the Premiership and the Champions League trophies are so far out of their reach. Wenger seems to have few ideas as to how to arrest the slide and they would appear to be facing a long hard season of trying to hold on to fourth place.

Wenger's overall demeanor is also proving unhelpful towards the team as his public distress and level of despair is so obviously apparent to all. The players, fans and board have always placed absolute trust in him and to see him utterly ruinous could start to incubate panic. One must wonder whether another month of this type of result and performance might see him walk away from the club.

Blackburn's victory will have earned Steve Kean at least a temporary reprieve and so was the case for Steve Bruce who enjoyed a thumping 4-0 home victory against high flying Stoke, you always know it is going to be your day when Titus Bramble gets an early goal for you - and even manages it at the correct end of the pitch.

Saturday was the day of the new boys with Norwich, Swansea and QPR all enjoying fine wins. Swansea having previously failed to score this season helped themselves to three against Hodgsons' much fancied West Brom. Norwich enjoyed a surprise win at the Reebok where Bolton usually provide stiff opposition. QPR however probably earned the biggest plaudits with a fine 3-0 away win at Wolves. They in particular look to have benefited from deadline day transfers and they will be aiming to move up the table from here. In Barton and Wright Phillips they have two proven quality Premiership players who will provide points for them this season.

Newcastle proved once again how hard they have become to beat with a point at Villa Park with Agbonhalor showing again why he should be in everyone's fantasy team until November at least. Everton meanwhile secured a much needed three points against the relegation fodder that is Wigan.

The title looks very much a Mancunian two horse race, Chelsea should have a relatively dull journey into third place whilst the two North London clubs and Liverpool fight it out for fourth. At the bottom, Wigan, Norwich, Swansea, Blackburn and possibly Wolves face a long hard season whilst the rest fight it out for mid table mediocrity although with mediocre being the key word, there is always the potential for one or more of those teams to drop into the relegation battle - No Nonsense.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Premiership Preview

Another Premiership weekend looms so it's time to analyse the fixtures. First up is an early season relegation battle at Ewood Park where Blackburn host Arsenal. The home fans are planning a protest against Steve Kean and should Rovers suffer a heavy defeat then the Chicken Chiefs from Pune will surely pluck him from the managerial coop.

Villa entertain Newcastle with the Geordies currently enjoying the giddy heights of 4th place. Both sides have huge supports with unrealistic ambition and mid table mediocrity surely beckons for both regardless of the result.

Bolton host a Norwich team that despite gaining many plaudits has to start gathering some points. Everton have the chance to gain a confidence boosting 3 points at home to relegation doomed Wigan and Swansea face West Brom in an intriguing fixture in Wales. Swansea are much in need of a win but West Brom can push their claims for a mid table finish should they win this away fixture.

QPR travel to Molineux in another interesting fixture. Wolves have enjoyed a good start to the season but the visitors have been much boosted prior to the transfer window deadline, both sides will be expecting a win.

On Sunday, Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool travel to White Hart Lane in a fixture that can do much to shape the order of the top 6. Liverpool are fresh from defeat at Stoke and another defeat at an improving Tottenham would take much of the wind out of the early season sails at Anfield. Dalglish has typically started with one upfront -  Suarez - with Carroll on the bench in away fixtures but with Spurs' depleted defensive numbers it will be interesting to see if he decided to be more bold.

Manchester City ran riot on their last trip to the capital but Fulham usually provide tough opposition for Mancunians at the Cottage in what promises to be a tight affair. Sunderland host Stoke in what is rapidly becoming a must win for Steve Bruce. Stoke fresh from their mugging of Jamie Carragher and Liverpool will fancy their chances at the Stadium of Light where Sunderland have lost 9 of their last 11 matches which is relegation form.

The game of the weekend is unquestionably at Old Trafford where the free scoring Champions host a Chelsea side that still seems entirely unsure of itself. ManYoo's approach to the game will be as ever so much of the pattern of the match will depend on how Villas Boas sets his team up. Chelsea currently do not have the players to overpower teams as they used to so he may choose to fight fire with fire by picking an attack minded line up. Much of the focus for Chelsea as ever will centre on Fernando Torres and in particular this time whether AVB keeps faith with the non scoring Spaniard. For the sake of his confidence and for building the understanding with Juan Mata it would seem prudent to do so. Regardless of the team that Chelsea put out, ManYoo should at this juncture have too much fire power for them and a home win is surely odds on - No Nonsense.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Champions League Opening Skirmishes

Tuesday saw opening night in the league stage of the competition which has become almost a processional march for the traditional big guns.

Tuesday's game of the night was at Camp Nou where AC Milan provides book ends to Barcelona's usual grass work masterpiece in achieving a 2-2 draw. Much has been debated about the current brilliance of this Barcelona team and where it sits amongst the pantheon of the great club sides. It is also hard to be in anyway critical of Pep Guardiola given the sweeping of all before them in such irresistible style.

That being said, it is hard to believe that the teams they wish to emulate such as the great Liverpool and AC Milan sides would have had transfer policies that would have allowed them to start with two central midfielders - Busquests and Mascherano - at the heart of their defence in the absence of only two injured players. Barcelona have strengthened their midfield where they already had a plethora of options yet have neglected their defence badly, only time will tell if they will come to regret this.

Arsenal's draw at the hugely intimidating Westfalenstadion was a worthy one but their soft centre was again exposed by conceding a late goal. Chelsea enjoyed a routine but unspectacular victory over Leverkeusen and there were wins for Marseille and Porto.

Moving on to Wednesday, Manchester City took their Champions League bow and endured some opening night nerves in requiring a fabulous Kolarov free kick to rescue a point against Napoli. There is no lacking of quality in this City team but this years' Champions League will be a learning process for them. Bayern Munchen away await them next who themselves enjoyed a good away win at Villareal. City will probably have to win one of their away ties now to ensure qualification.

Group B was thrown wide open as Internazionale suffered a shock home defeat to Trabzonspor. In Group C, ManYoo enjoyed a highly agreeable 'friendly' in Portugal as they played out a 1-1 draw with Benfica. With only FC Basel and Otelul Galati to come it certainly looks by far the easiest of the draws.

Real Madrid took charge of group D with a solid win in Zagreb despite having yet another player sent off. Lyon usually provide tricky opposition for Real but with Ajax the other opposition in the group their qualification should be assured.

As a foot note, ManYoo fans and Sir Alex are oft prone to complaining about the fixture computer being entirely against them. It is worth noting that they have a home league fixture after EVERY Champions League game, the resultant police regulations meaning that City will follow all theirs with away fixtures, who says there aren't conspiracies in football - No Nonsense.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Transfer Window Closes

Premiership clubs shrugged off the woes of the financial markets with a hectic final day of the latest transfer window. There were several eye catching deals but the question is whether there was any method amongst the madness?

Arsenal, fresh from their weekend humiliation at Old Trafford signed reinforcements with the signing of Mertesacker in central defence surely a much needed one. Brazilian left back Andre Santos also joined but it will remain to be seen how he settles in to Premiership football.

Given that Arsenal already have Wilshire, Ramsey, Rosicky, Arshavin and Walcott, the signings of Arteta and Benayoun are curious ones at best. Arteta is a quality player but surely further lightweight and injury prone attacking midfielders were not the priority for Arsenal at this juncture. The departure of Bendtner on loan to Sunderland merely depletes their centre forward options whilst not bringing in any funds whilst the incoming Chu Young Park remains a very unknown quantity.

On a separate note, Bendtner should possibly consider replacing his father as his agent after he failed to secure any of his highly anticipated moves to either Inter, Bayern or Barcelona that his parent had so publicly trumpeted. The Nou Camp, Sunderland is not Nicklas.

Spurs it would seem have largely stood still in terms of balance by moving on Crouch whilst bringing in Adebayor and bringing in Parker whilst selling Palacios. Crouch will be 31 later this year so 12M looks like decent business and Parker should instill more discipline than the card prone Palacios. Hutton and Jenas have also been moved on to Villa Park, the prior on a permanent basis as Alex McLeish continues his policy of buying Scottish which served Birmingham so well. Much for Spurs this season will depend on how Adebayaor settles down and on rehabilitating the deeply upset Luca Modric.

Chelsea, duly unable to shop in Harrods moved their attention to Tescos as they picked up a cut price alternative to Luca Modric in the shape of Raul Meireles from Liverpool for 12M, it is hard to envisage he will have the same impact as the Croat would have done and the title should be now well beyond their reach. They also have the considerable problem of keeping Torres, Drogba, Anelka, Kalou and Sturridge and Lukaku happy after turning down loan approaches for the last two.

Stoke appear to have done possibly the best business. Crouch looks expensive for his age but with their much maligned style of play he will be a real handful and Palacios will add further steel to an already abrasive side. Stoke should have a good season.

It is hard not to fear for Everton after the sale of Mikel Arteta. Jermaine Beckford was not a regular but he was at least an attacking option for a team that has so few. Royston Drenthe and Denis Stracqualursi will add numbers to the squad but the cupboard looks increasingly bare.

Like Stoke, QPR have used the last days of the transfer window to recruit players that can have a material effect on their season. In Barton, Anton Ferdinand, Wright Phillips and Armand Traore they have signed four players of Premiership quality and experience and their prospects of survival are now much improved.

Fulham splashed over 10M on Bryan Ruiz from FC Twente but it remains to be seen whether the striker will be able to replicate Eredivise form in the Premiership, certainly the bigger European clubs showed little interest in the player.

Of the rest, Bolton increased their attacking options with David N'Gog and Chelsea's Gael Kakuta who completed his obligatory seasonal loan move. Blackburn signed Scott Dann and Yakubu and Newcastle have signed young defender Davide Santon from Inter Milan in what may prove to be a bargain purchase.

The most interesting piece of business however may prove to be Manchester City's signing of Owen Hargeaves. It is not beyond the realms or reason to suggest there is a large element of mischief regarding this transfer as should he not be fit enough to play, City will have lost nothing and should he prove his fitness and form, it will be seen as one in the eye for their neighbours in the red half. Hargreaves has undoubted quality and a huge amount of experience, he may just turn out to be an excellent and shrewd signing, should his knees fail him however, City will have lost nothing - No Nonsense.