Invisible Man

Invisible Man

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Tevez: Footballs Imponderable

Carlos Tevez. Loved by many. Coveted by few.

Monday nights 4-0 victory over Swansea City must have been a weight lifted from the shoulders of Manchester City fans. Not only had a summer of high expectation started brightly, it was done so without want away talisman, Carlos Tevez. So often last season Manchester City had looked devoid of ideas without Carlos Tevez, and the first half against the Swans suggested they may be in for another season of anxiousness. However the introduction of instant hero Kun Aguero and reinvigorated Edin Dzeko, soon laid to rest the still present ghost of Carlos Tevez.

But the question begs, what now for Tevez? After a summer full of transfer speculation and gossip, Tevez still remains at City.

The story of Carlos Tevez is an interesting one. Vastly admired after 2004 Olympics, Tevez was handed the poisoned label of 'the next Maradona'. What happened in the intervening years was a bit of roller coaster. Tevez moved to Corinthians, where he was idolized, and subsequently hit the headlines at the 2006 World Cup. Then on the 23rd August 2006 Tevez found himself thrust under the lime-light in the metropolis of East London, where he endured a torrid start, only to save West Ham from relegation (idolized again). Following one of the most protracted legal battles (Sheffield United and Warnock & Co.) Tevez moved to Manchester United on a two year loan deal. Tevez helped United to a raft of trophies (again idolized) before a public rift between Ferguson and Tevez (or more likely Tevez's controller in chief  -  Kia Joorabchian) which saw Tevez move to their cross City rivals. Again Tevez led (as captain) City to their first top 4 Premier League finish and trophy in 35 years. Not bad for a player who is only 27 - no wonder he hasn't found time to learn English.

Although many scoffed at the possibility, the first concrete interest in Tevez this summer offered the desired return to South America. However it must be questioned how legitimate the interest from Corinthians was. An often negated fact is Kia Joorabchian  (Tevez's agent) is also a highly involved member of the MSI (Media Sport Investment) group who are involved in the ownership of the Brazilian club. It would not be implausible to believe the slippery agent of Carlos Tevez was simply using his connections to at Corinthians to generate 'interest' and subsequently to hurry along potential investors. This would certainly explain why the saga trundled on right up until the Brazilian transfer window shut, and a potential trans-Atlantic transfer descended from improbability to impossibility. Not that this deterred Kia Joorabchian who, in a last ditch attempt to secure a transfer, wheeled out the President of Corinthians to declare their desire to still bring Tevez to the club in the January transfer window.

Alas this tactical move backfired and served only to wind up Tevez, his current employers and headline writers across the footballing world. 

Ever since there has been persistent rumours linking Tevez with a move to the Argentina principality of Italy. However much like the suggestion of a move to South America there are far too many questions which cloud the potential of this move. The first begs the question why Inter Milan would splash over £40 Million on a player whose loyalty (not commitment) to his previous few clubs in questionable. Not only are the finances of Serie A perilous at best, Kia Joorabchian talks of a 5 year deal for Tevez, however it does not make financial sense to make such an offer to Tevez considering he has not spent more than 2 years at a single football club since departing Boca Juniors in 2004.

Secondly there appears to be no real logic for Tevez to move to Inter Milan. On footballing terms (despite their differing histories) Manchester City and Inter Milan appear to be on an even keel at the moment (unless you take the pre-season Dublin Super Cup as gospel). Both will be in the Champions League. Both will be challenging for respective domestic cup. Both will be competing for their League Championships.

If not for footballing reasons, then why? The only real advantage would be offering Tevez a slightly better selection of restaurants (as he claims Manchester only has two good restaurants), a hotter climate and significantly a substantial pay-day for his agent/master. Perhaps it is the former Mrs Tevez who is calling the shots, and if so (as previously pointed out by Roy Keane) Sunderland and Newcastle best put the cheque books away for now.

Manchester City have been public about their willingness to sell Tevez (emphasized by the recruitment of Aguero), however it is becoming increasingly conceivable he may remain in the Northern paradise. Not that Manchester City fans will be complaining about the possibility of a front three of David Silva, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, not to mention resident nut case Mario Balotelli, Santa Cruz, and the possible addition of Samir Narsi waiting in the wings. Tevez has never given anything less than 100% whilst at any of his English clubs and despite being frustrated off the pitch and their strained relationship Mancini will no doubt be pleased to have the selection headache should Tevez remain.

For the present time it is a good job Manchester has two restaurants which cater to Tevez's needs, at least in this instance he will have a choice. 

Sunday, 15 May 2011

"Avram, it's not us, it's you": The demise of West Ham

"You're fired" - Apprentice side-kick Karen Brady must be sick of hearing those words. She may well have had to take a double take to check the two gentlemen alongside her weren't Lord Sugar and Nick Hewitt. 

Less than one hour after Avram Grant watched West Ham capitulate once again, he found himself in the unfamiliar surroundings of Wigan's boardroom receiving his marching orders from deadly trio, Gold, Sullivan and Brady. 

The irony of it all is that everything wrong about West Ham's season once again reared it's ugly head again today.

Firstly, and importantly, West Ham threw away such a promising position. If all games this season had ended at half-time West Ham would currently be sitting on 42 points and be safe. Where the blame lies is multi-faceted no doubt, but surely Grant must accept some of the blame for a lack of motivation? Don't forget it took an impassioned battle cry from Scott Parker to ensure West Ham avoided complete humiliation whilst 3-0 down at West Brom. 

The second element which sums up West Ham's season is big name stars failing to perform. Why is it that every time West Ham see themselves relegated they manage to do so with a squad full of internationals?

Carlton Cole, upon introduction, a completely different player to the one who nearly went to last years World Cup and was linked with a January move to Englands elite?

To think Matthew Upson, once again missing through injury, started in the England V Germany game at the last World Cup seems more dream land than reality. Once again West Ham filled round holes with square pegs, drafting in youngster Spence, and once again forcing Gabbidon to adopt an uncomfortable full-back role. Madness when up against the pace of N'Zogbia.

Battleworn Scott Parker, admittedly brilliant this season, did his best to make an impact coming off the bench but, barely able to walk, delivered a performance lacking the panache, tenacity and mobility which saw him win the Football Writers Player of the Year. 

However, perhaps ironically, it was Robert Green, all to often the fall guy and never the hero who let N'Zogbia's whipped shot go right through him to seal West Ham's fate.

Thirdly, the obtrusive input of owners. Sacking the manager before he'd had time to put his bag on the team bus is classlessness of the highest variety. No doubt Gold, Sullivan and Brady's ruthlessness has just made the recruitment process to find another manager just that little bit harder.

Gold and Sullivan (below) in particular have too often this season been too quick to make hypocritical demands and crass comments of the manager, players and fans. Whereas Brady has often used her newspaper column to air laundry best dried indoors.

Firstly, in January, they effectively made public the desire to get Martin O'Neill to lead the fight against relegation, but still expected Avram Grant to lead the team later that day. 

Secondly they decided to enjoy television coverage rather than attend a crucial away game at Manchester City then criticized fans for not getting behind the team. 

Thirdly he publicly stated the big stars would be free to go at the end of the season, right before a crucial game Blackburn. 

Finally today. Everybody knew that Avram Grant was unlikely to lead the side in the final game of the season, let alone the Championship the following year. However the manner of which the board took the decision deliberately made Grant a public scape-goat, and subsequently rubbing salt in the wounds of not only Grant but also the thousands of fans making the long journey south. 

Perhaps this will be a decision which will come back to haunt the owners in the final home game of the season (if they choose to attend), as fans, without the fall-guy of Avram Grant, may rightly choose to direct their anger towards those who rule with the iron fist.

No doubt Grant has to accept the majority of the blame (to be fair he was backed with signings in January), but horrendous decisions have plagued West Ham at all levels. 

The outlook could be very bleak for West Ham. The standard of the Championship has been incredibly high this year, and three of the current play off teams (Cardiff, Nottingham Forest, Reading & Swansea) will still be there next year. Furthermore teams such as Wolves, Blackburn, Birmingham and Wigan could potentially be joining the Hammers down there. Tough competition.

With a move to the huge Olympic Stadium on the cards getting out of the Championship will be a priority, but will be by no means easy. However they have been there before recently, and will with such a loyal fan base they will certainly be favorites. 

Its time for a fresh start at West Ham starting with a new manager (Allardyce? Di Canio? Bilic? Curbishley?) There are some promising players such as Hines, Tomkins, Sears, Noble and Collison and West Ham must retain players of this calibre to stand a chance to go back up.

For Grant? Talk of director of football at Chelsea are almost certainly wide of the mark, but with two successive relegations in successive seasons it may be time for Grant to step off the emotional roller coaster. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Manchester: The new epicentre of English Football?

14/5/2011: 14:30 - Manchester United win their 19th League Title (to over take Liverpool).

14/5/2011: 16:50 - Manchester City win FA Cup final (their first trophy in 35 years).

Not bad. 

The last time both Manchester Clubs had reason to be so joyous in the same season was 1999. Two last minute goals clinched Manchester United the Champion League Final against Bayern Munich. Similarly two last minute goals by Manchester City saw them take Tony Pulis Gillingham to penalties and see promotion from Division 2.

If you'd told both City and United fans what would unfold 11 years later then you'd have experienced open mouths and disbelief from both sets of fans, for very different reasons!

However today will be one which will live long in the memory perhaps not only for Manchester, but maybe for English football on the whole.

Ferguson, the wily old manager, yet again observed Manchester United demonstrate that 'never say die spirit' which they have demonstrated so often throughout the Scot's tenure. United came from behind against relegation threatened Blackburn to snatch a 1-1 draw, courtesy of a Wayne Rooney penalty (below), which saw United grab the point they needed for that coveted 19th league title.

Once again the turning point for United was the two old inspirational heads of Giggs and Scholes, combining to turn United's fortunes. It was the resilience of Vidic at the back and the introduction of mid-field maestro Scholes which added much needed stability in United's mid-field and it was the pin-point ball from Giggs which sent Hernandez tumbling under the challenge of keeper' Robinson, only for Rooney to convert to send United fans into ecstasy.

For City and Mancini, 228 miles away at Wembley, it was a similar resilient performance that saw him end the club's 35 year wait for a trophy, courtesy of a emphatic finish from Yaya Toure. Much like Manchester United, it was the reliable spine of Manchester City's team which propelled the team to victory. 

Joe Hart (above), who broke the clubs record for clean sheets at Wembley, showed strong command of his area even under long throw/ball bombardment and also made a crucial save from Jones mid-way through the second half which proved a catalyst for City's cup triumph. Vincent Kompany once again provided a defensive masterclass, mid-field enforcer Nigel De Jong broke down almost every Stoke attack and David Silva provided a magical touch, and showed great composure to set up the goal.

Although Ferguson had the luxury of picking a slightly weakened team for Mancini it was all about getting it right, and he did. Balotelli, who is never far away from a tabloid headline or booking was perfectly well behaved (he even asked politely if he could swear on ITV) and had his best game to date in a City shirt. 

This surely guarantees Mancini place not only his place in the City hot seat next year, but also in the hearts and memories of Manchester City fans, much the same way Ferguson had written himself into Manchester United folklore many years ago.

Between them both Manchester United and their Blue counter parts have enjoyed reasonable success over their over 'top 4' rivals. United enjoyed success over both Arsenal and Chelsea in the league (and the latter in the Champions League). City on the over hand have succeed in gatecrashing the top four and have still fixed their sights on catching Arsenal to finish 3rd.

City will no doubt strengthen considerably in the summer. United on the other hand have a more than promising squad developing, which may see a few key additions (e.g. a goalkeeper) over the summer. What the other title chasers will do is yet to be seen.

United have a proven track record of winning and for City the clique 'the first is the hardest to win' will be true. The two Manchester clubs will now face up again at Wembley in the Community shield. That may not be the only time the two Manchester clubs lead the fight for silverware next year.

For Arsenal and Chelsea? A season of emptiness.

London and mid-lands: Be envious.

Football Leagues Peter Pan Penalty Expert!

Over 1,000 professional first team appearances. 125 goals. Only four clubs. This may well be one of my favourite ever players never to play for City.

It can only be one player (no, no not Tony Ford). It is of course Graham Alexander.

What is even more impressive is that Alexander has amassed this record only playing for four clubs, a feat impossible to imagine in the current transfer climate.

Beginning his career at Scunthorpe (over 200 appearances) he moved to Luton for around £100,000 pounds where he went on to make a similar number of appearances. 

However Alexander's career really took off following his transfer to Preston and latterly Burnley. He also has 40 Caps for Scotland to boot. Not bad Graham, not bad at all. I think if a visual dictionary needed an image for 'consummate professional' then a picture of Graham would suffice.

He also isn't a half-bad player. He is what I would term a 'managers dream'. At certain points throughout his career he has accommodated right back, left-back, centre back, right mid-field, left mid-field, holding mid-fielder and centre mid (And to be honest I think he may have accommodated all those position just in the game against City). 

However the real fascination about Alexander, and the reason he will go down as a cult hero (in particular in Lancashire) is his penalty taking ability. Anybody not familiar with the penalty taking ability of this man, let me give you the key facts he has a penalty taking record of over 90%. From 77 penalties. 'Ice in his veins', 'cool as a cucumber', 'nerves of steel', 'unflappable' what ever metaphors you can think of just slap them on this man.

If anybody needs more convincing about how cool this man is watch the below video;

A similar penalty was taken by a Spanish Under 21 player and the world went mad, yet when stead Steady Eddie Alexander did it the world didn't bat an eyelid (took me ages to locate that video online!). The wonderful thing about this penalty is; not only did he do it once, Burnley were awarded a penalty later in the game, and he did exactly the same thing again!

I've also been lucky enough to see Alexander score in the flesh in a 3-3 draw between Manchester City and Burnley (in the Premier League years). It is very surreal feelings watching somebody step up to take a penalty 'knowing' they will score. His ability is the sort John Terry could only dream of in Moscow, the sort of 'ice in your veins' approach Waddle was lacking at Italia 90'.

Reports today are linking Alexander with his first management job at Morecambe. I can't comment on his management ability, but I'd hate to meet them in a shoot-out.

On the theme of penalties here is one more which is defiantly worth a quick watch;

Despite his impressive record I would say at 39 this may be a new trick the old dog may not learn.

King Kenny's return sparks Premier League 'Game of Thrones'

So with ‘King Kenny’ being etched back on to the managers door at Anfield, and John W Henry seemingly ready to splash the cash, could next seasons title race be the most exciting yet?
Lets have a look at the five main reasons each team could win the title;

1) Alex Ferguson – Even with a potential Champions League and League double on the horizon, the canny old Scot has no intention of throwing the towel and has inexplicably created another team capable of ruling the roost for the next five years.
2) Ryan Giggs/Paul Scholes – Despite their ‘Peter Pan-like’ fitness and timeless reading of the game, it could well be next year is the last we see the mercurial mid-fielders grace Old Trafford. Will they want to go out on a high? You can count on it.
3) Rafael/Fabio – Everybody said Ferguson could never find two players as versatile and combative as the Neville brothers. How wrong were we? He went one better and found a pair which are identical.
4) Javier Hernandez – 20 goals in his debut season, and a bargain at £8 million. Next season will be a massive one in the development of the Mexican, but if Manchester United are going to win the title then goals likeHernandez‘s against Chelsea will be massive.
5) Darren Fletcher – Manchester United have somewhat missed the drive and big-game mentality of Fletcher. With Fletcher in mid-field United would almost certainly be in the FA Cup final. The Scot will be massive if United want to beat Barcelona in a fortnights time.
1) The price of oil – With a £70 million plus outlay in January on Torres and David Luiz any lingering doubts Abramovich was losing interest in the Blues have soon been dispelled. Will almost certainly look to spend more to end Champions League misery.
2) Insert manager here – With Carlo Ancellotti set to be shown the door, the man Chelsea bring in will be key to whether they challenge for the title or not. Guus Hiddink is the preferred target. Talk of Zola is just madness.
3) Fernando Torres – The Spaniard will no doubt spend his summer shopping for a new pair of shooting boots. With rumours of Drogba and Anelka on the way out, Torres will have to be at his best. When he’s good, he is very very good – just ask Liverpool Fans.
4) Frank Lampard – Was sorely missed in early part of season with a hernia injury, and took a while to find his form again. His goals from mid-field have been key in all of Chelsea past successes.
5) Champions League Draws - Abramovich’s long standing dream. Be under no illusion what ever manager comes in their main goal will be to secure Europe’s main piece of silverware (in particular if Manchester United Win it again).
1) A goalkeeper - Must surely be top of Wenger’s shopping list. Talk of Ben Foster is madness. He didn’t make the grade at United, and they know a few things about goalkeepers.
2) A centreback - After browsing the goalkeeping isle Wenger will most likely shuffle to the defender section of the transfer market. Has never really ever replaced Gallas, Campbell or Adams. How Arsenal have gone so long without replacing such key players is remarkable.
3) Robin Van Persie – When the Dutchman is fit and firing there aren’t many strikers in Europe let alone the Premiership who are much better. Must sort out his fitness issues.
4) Thomas Vermaelen – It is hard to remember the big Belgian actually plays for Arsenal. The lack of his physical presence at set-pieces has been so often Arsenal’s downfall (a casing point is the loss against Bolton).
5) The fans – Arsenal have not quite got back into gear following the move from Highbury. If the fans can turn their ground into the fortress they will certainly be in contention. Don’t forget Manchester United’s away form has been questionable, but nobody can hold a candle to the Champions elect home form.
Manchester City
1) The never ending depth of Sheikh Mansours pockets - With Champions League Qualification secured the money will start rolling again. Expect high profiling signings.
2) Roberto Mancini - Despite a successful season, all to often Mancini’s defensive tactics on the road have led to key losses against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and at home to Arsenal. No doubt Mancini will be aware of the phrase ‘if you want to be the best you have the beat the best’.
3) Carlos Tevez - If he leaves Manchester City then they will need to find somebody else to supply those goals.
4) Edin Dzeko – Could he be that somebody?
5) The Champions League – Just take evidence from Tottenham this season of the effects of competing at Europe top table.
1) Kenny Dalglish - Is he the main to restore the glory days to The Kop? Or will second season-syndrome kick in early?
2) Andy Carroll/Luis Suarez – Have shown massive potential in several games this season – including against Manchester City. If they can fire together then the sky may be the limit.
3) Europa League – Even with a star studded squad, competing Thursday-Sunday and sustaining a push for the title is impossible. Just ask Roberto Mancini.
4) Steven Gerrard – The talismanic mid-fielder has struggled with injury this season. Will be instrumental next season under ‘King Kenny’ as it may represent his last chance to push for the league title.
5) John W Henry – Will he spend big this summer and back the manager as promised? Although so far so good for the Americans, this summer will be a big test of their commitment at Liverpool.
1) Harry Redknapp – The canny old manager has been unfortunate with injuries this season, but even so has persisted with attractive attacking football and won some big games. Experience against Europe’s elite will only benefit. Conversely he may just plod along until being given the keys to the England team bus.
2) Luka Modric – Although Gareth Bale has been the poster boy of the season, this man makes them tick.
3) Gareth Bale – Aforementioned poster boy, but is only going to get better from here on in.
4) Money – Without Champions League Qualification there will have to be some assessment of certain players on big wages, and will have to rethink some transfer policies.
5) Key Transfers – Spurs need to strengthened in some key areas;
(i) A goal keeper – they cannot go on with Gomes and his high profile gaffs. They. Just. Can’t.
(ii) Centre back – I don’t think pinning hopes on chronically injured Woodgate and King is the way forward
(iii) Strikers – Lack of goals from Crouch and Defoe in particular has led to too many draws. Why did they sell Bent?

Mancini's Manchester Summer Wishlist...

“But they tell me they’ve got one or two players signed already who’ll blow your brains out. I mean, that’s where they’re going” – Harry Redknapp.
Wow. Big words.

It has never been a hidden fact Champions League qualification would lead to a new plethora of stars gracing the turf at Eastlands. With qualification secured it is now time to turn our attention to these players who will, as Redknapp eloquently put it, ‘blow your brains out’.

1. Alexis Sanchez: The pacey Udinese winger (below) has formed a lethal partnership with fellow forward Antonio De Natale, and City no doubt will be hoping for a similar combination with Silva and Tevez/Dzeko/Balotelli. At only 22 he could be seen as ideal competition for Adam Johnson, who has been largely inconsistent for this season. Udinese will certainly look to cash in with a price of £25 million rumored.

2. Kaka: The formed Ballon d’Or winner was allegedly subject to a £100 million pound bid from Mark Hughes in 2009, but ended up at Real Madrid instead. Following several injury hit years in Madrid the mercurial Brazilian will be available at a much lower price. It may be time for the ‘marquee signing’ to pitch up at Eastlands. Could cost as much as £30 million.

3. Gonzalo Higuain: With current top-scorer Carlos Tevez and bad-boy Emmanuel Adebayor linked to Real Madrid, could Higuain find himself part of a cash + player deal. At only 23 years old the Argentinian has already amassed an impressive 69 goals in 127 league games for Los Merengues.

4. Jussi Jaaskelainen: With City almost certain to lose dependable understudy Shay Given, and with Stuart Taylor not quite at the standard of a Champions League number two, could the experienced Bolton keeper be convinced to head down the road for one last pay day?

5. Jan Vertoghen: City fans shouldn’t need much convincing about Belgian centre backs, following the meteoric rise of Vincent Kompany this season. But the impressive form of Lescott in the latter half of the season and the possible return of Kolo Toure will mean there is no guaranteed starting place. City as face fierce competition for the Belgian from Arsenal. Would cost in the region of £15 million pounds.

Mancini also faces several headaches over outgoings at the club with current loan players Adebayor, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Wayne Bridge and Santa Cruz likely to see the exit door, most certainly coupled with injury plagued Michael Johnson and maybe star Carlos Tevez.

However, no doubt, this will not be a headache Mancini will lose any sleep over. In the meantime City fans will be well aware of the threat of Stoke at the weekend, but bigger challenges loom ahead, including a potentially tricky Champions League qualifying tie.

Missing Blogs

Apologies. The blogs which were posted over the previous days appear to have been deleted during Bloggers recent problems.

Good job I saved them.