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Outmanoeuvred in phases but thankfully snoodless

We weren’t outplayed by Blackpool.  We were outmanoeuvred.  Against Liverpool we left lots of little traps for them to fall into and fall they did.  this time we were the trap victims.  They stifled the potent thread of Etherington by keeping the wings crowded and they broke through our middle with pace and purpose.  We didn’t handle their movement off the ball and they call the bluff of teams by attacking in numbers.  Despite our huffing and puffing Blackpool rarely looked rattled.  We were fortunate that the linesman gave an offside when they were clean through, however this piece of good fortune wasn’t acted on when our defence were flat footed again and only some rapid action from Begovic saved us from going in 0-1 down at HT.  We started the second half on the front foot but some poor decisions from Fuller led to Blackpool breaking and 22 seconds after we lost the ball in a scoring position we were behind.  The remainder of the game was spent trying to break down a resilient defence and regularly being forced back when they broke with confidence and precision,  the swift fluidity of their play outnumbered us in midfield.  It was far from a disaster.  We did have chances and for spells we did put them under sustained pressure, Fuller’s long range chip that hit the bar was an inch or two from providing us with one of the seasons great goals, in any month but December that would have nestled snugly in the back of the net!  But for all that it’d be foolish to deny that the best team won this game.  Particularly frustrating because the only thing we are likely to get in the next game is filthy looks from Arsene Wenger.    For Stoke this season is one of phases.  One of alternate peaks and troughs.  One of the quirkiest statistics is since promotion we are yet to win a game in December.  We should have known that a trough would commence as the world starts echoing to the sound of Christmas carols! 

The Chelsea v Spurs game was a cracker.  End to end and played with skill and at high pace it showed everything that is good about the Premier League.  After the recent FIFA fiasco it’s uplifting to be reminded why we all live this football life!   And for all the drama of Drogba’s penalty miss (why didn’t Lampard take it?) it would have been a fitting climax if Spurs had bagged the winner when they broke upfield.  Arry has flabbergasted everyone with his transformation of Spurs.  Successful football incorporating the style they have always been associated with.  The one problem is the leaky defence.  They have only kept one clean sheet this season and the injuries to centre halves hardly suggests they can maintain a title challenge.  It wouldn’t be a shock if they pushed the boat out to buy Diarra.  A new option in the holding role could be a big step to much needed increased solidity. 

It isn’t a huge shock that Carlos Tevez has handed in a transfer request.  He’s made several mutterings in recent months about wanting to retire, rumours of issues surrounding his family in Argentina being to the fore.  Manchester City,  understandably, are desperate for him to stay, Tevez has been vital in their climb to the top.  When they offered him the chance to get a big pay rise and a large one off payment he rejected it saying that money wasn’t the issue at stake.  If he leaves Eastlands his next employer will determine how he is viewed forever.  If he returns to an Argentinian club, taking a hefty pay cut in the process, he’ll be remembered as a man of substance who put his family before financial gain.  If he has been ‘tapped up and turns up at The San Siro or the Bernabeu his legacy to English football will be very different indeed.

Apparently the big thick scarves players are wearing are called, er, snoods.  They are meant to keep the neck warm whilst playing in winter.  Now, I don’t consider myself to be a football luddite, quite the opposite in fact.  When the Brit was built I was one of very few Stoke fans who was totally in favour of Port Vale ground sharing.  If certain conditions can be adhered to I would approve of a winter break for the Premier League.  BUT, despite being a modern progressive open minded innovator I draw the line at snoods.  They are unnecessary as a warmth aid.  I prefer the old fashioned method of running around to get warm!   Does this make me a grumpy old man? 

Is anyone remotely interested in the World Club Championship?  How can the winner seriously claim to be the best team in the world, for heavens sake, have you seen who is in it?  It’s just a sporting white elephant in the middle of the desert.  Has this competition been created so the administrators can enjoy a fresh round of favours and hotel rooms?  There is little else to justify it’s futile existence.  Another of Sepp’s  brilliant ideas. 

To much relief the group stage of the Champions League finally reached their dismal conclusion.  UEFA must realise that the competition desperately needs a revamp.  When the knockout ties come around in March it means top class players playing in pressure situations with high stakes.  Often the intensity of the matches serve only to demonstrate how pointless and over hyped the first phase of the competition is.  

Brisbane Roar remain on the inexorable march to A-League glory.   Another win, this time against Sydney, cements the position seven points clear on top of the league.  http://www.brisbaneroar.com.au/default.aspx?s=aleague_ladder  What we need now is for the next home game against Gold Coast on Boxing Day to attract a few thousand more fans!  Come along if you can make it, we can meet for a pre match pint!

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