Posts Tagged ‘Benitez’

Predictable rubbish, an A League renewal, Milan sunshine, Chelsea’s chaos

March 1st, 2013 No comments

The most depressing aspect of Stoke City’s dreadful showing at Fulham is the predictability.  Yet another failure to impose ourselves on the game, yet another glaring display of tepid inadequacy on the road and inevitably, yet another predictable away defeat.  Sometimes when Stoke play I get a warm thrill of nostalgia.  If we get a corner and the Stokies present give a roar of excitement it sounds like an old friend.  A good Delilah still gets the blood pumping.  When the TV cameras scan the aforementioned Stokies I instinctively look for faces I recognise and smile when one is located.  Saturday night’s game at Craven Cottage was certainly not one such occasion.  From the start our team seemed set up to try and squeeze out a grim 0-0 draw.  Despite failing to sustain any pressure on our opponents we seemed relatively comfortable for most of the first half.  Those few seconds before half time exposed one of the great failings of the approach, Dimitir Berbatov’s volley was the kind of brilliance nobody can really legislate for and the original gameplan has to be altered to get back into the game.  From that stage, especially against a side as devoid of creativity as Stoke are, it’s pretty simple to hold onto a lead…. you just keep discipline and hold positions and play the game out.  Predictably, Fulham easily managed to stifle our laboured efforts to reach parity.  Some of us may choose to hide behind the fanciful notion that had Jon Walters converted his penalty we’d have rallied to win the game, but comfort in ifs and buts is as lame as it is desperate.  The point also has to be made that as Jon Walters stepped up to take the spot kick many of us had little confidence he’d score.  His miss was utterly predictable.  This wretched ‘performance’ also carried some absurd displays of indiscipline.  Steven Nzonzi was outrageously, undeservedly fortunate not to get a red card for smacking Ruiz in the mouth.  That Nzonzi was fired up and seeking retribution for his earlier elbow in the face proves his intent.  Robert Huth may not be so lucky.  His elbow on Senderos was sheer thuggery.  He now faces the prospect of a three match ban and he can have nobody to blame but himself.  Did he really think he could get away with it?  Surely he’s fully aware that every moment of every match is filmed. Hopefully Tony Pulis has asserted his authority and punished him appropriately.  Our next away match is at Newcastle.  Next time it needs to be different.  Our away displays are now worse than at any time since promotion.  For side known to be combative and resilient, away from home we are increasingly easy to beat, a soft touch, dull, insipid and utterly predictable.

There was good news for the A-league last week with confirmation that Alessandro Del Piero will stay with Sydney FC for at least another season.  Despite his clubs lowly league position Del Piero is a huge success for the game here.  His arrival raised football’s profile on the Australian sporting landscape and his decision to activate the second year of his contract increases the league’s credibility.   In addition to all this he can still show moments of intrinsic skill few others can match.  Many of us are already excited about seeing him next season!

Milan’s 2-0 victory over Barcelona was thoroughly deserved.  The Rossoneri played with focus and discipline and stifled Barcelona’s glittering collection of superstars.  Even Lionel Messi couldn’t get out of the red and black  cage.  Milan pressed, took their chances and emerged worthy victors.  At the final whistle the San Siro almost exploded with delight, 80,000  together as one!  The cameras scanned to manager Massimiliano Allegri who was most entitled to savour the euphoria.  At the start of the season Allegri was under serious pressure.  His employers indicated they wanted Pep Guardiola to replace him and his sacking seemed a formality, every match they played had the air of a public execution.  It’s a cliche, but Milan’s passage to the quarter final is far from guaranteed.  While they are in a strong position to go through, Barcelona are fully capable of overturning the deficit.  The point has to be made however, having weathered the early season storm Allegri must have cherished last weeks sunshine.

Next weeks Champions League 2nd leg between Real Madrid and Manchester United could prove to be a defining moment of Jose Mourihno’s reign at the Bernebeau.  The tie is finely poised with Manchester United securing a precious away goal in Madrid but knowing the sheer quality of Real Madrid’s players (one player in particular) suggests deciding to sit back and invite pressure could be football suicide.  The remains of the tie will be shaped by the next goal.  Most importantly Manchester United must make sure they aren’t in a position where they have to chase the game. When Real Madrid took the lead at the Nou Camp Barcelona were forced to press forward in search of an equaliser.  The visitors  played the ball forward with unerring accuracy to expose the spaces behind the hosts increasingly populated attack.  You can be sure Alex Ferguson will have taken note.

The malaise at Stamford Bridge continues.  Talking to the media after the FA Cup victory over Middlesborough, Rafael Benitez criticised Owner Roman Abramavic and the supporters.  During his press conference Benitez emphasized his disappointment at being given the title ‘interim manager’.  His contract only lasts until the end of the season but it’s hard to imagine him lasting that long.  Some may suggest his outburst was ill advised but if he is being undermined by his employer why shouldn’t he speak out?  It’s almost ten years since Roman Abramovic bought and bankrolled Chelsea.  Despite the bottomless pit of spending money, and the chance to work with some very talented footballers, Chelsea remains a very difficult club to manage.


A 1987 nightmare and stand by your man(ager)

December 22nd, 2010 No comments

It’s always a disappointment to have a match postponed.  However rational and understandable, the decision not to  play a game is always met with an initial air of contempt and references to modern players being over indulged and pampered.   On Saturday, despite knowing that much of Europe was at a snow enforced standstill, I got that compulsory  feeling of disgruntled bitterness.  The rare chance to get to bed before sunrise on Sunday morning faded into insignificance when compared to the chance to watch us probably get beaten by the Wenger conspiracy!   I used to get nerve induced stomach cramps in the build up to big games.  The night before we we played Coventry in the FA Cup 5th round in 1987,  the anxiety manifested itself by way of a nightmare that was frighteningly realistic and I still remember it clearly to this day.  The aforementioned nightmare involved walking to the ground to watch the game but as the ground came into view nearly being run over by a fleet of  fire engines speeding down Leek Road and under Glebe St Bridge.   In the distance, I saw plumes of smoke rising, obscuring the glare of the floodlights and merging into the leaden sky.  Getting closer to the stadium there were swarms of people  watching in fascinated terror as  flames were  being thrown up the  streets adjoining the ground.  Stoke armageddon.  Climbing into the stadium over a wall, the pitch was on fire and as thousands of supporters were screaming to escape, the flames rose with ever increasing ferocity.  After a while, the pitch suddenly opened up forming a vast canyon, from that gaping wound emerged some giant mechanical bears chasing away the fire brigade, whose engines fell into the canyon, exploded and fell out of view.  Nightmare it may have been, but to any football supporter preparing to watch a game, that pitch was an adequate playable surface!  

One game that did take place was Manchester City’s doomed attempt to secure the Christmas number one spot by beating  Everton.   For all the millions  spent they still lack the resilience required to  lead everyone to believe they can reach the summit and stay there.  It seems Mancini will have funds to invest in January.  A disciplined holding midfielder would be a useful acquisition.   Someone who can organise lead and make sure everyone is where they should be.   With the milli0ns at their disposal it shouldn’t be too hard to find one. 

Another one bites the dust.  What  was actually expected from Sam Allardyce?  Since taking over at Blackburn two years ago he staved off the threat of relegation, helped them to finish in  healthy 10th position last season and had made a steady start to the current campaign.  Much of the mindset was understandably based on strong home form.  All in all, two years of stability and quiet progress.  So what are the new owners expecting?  Who do they think has the experience to sustain the recent progress?  One rumour was that the owners lined up Kris Boyd and Geovanni to sign,  Sam said he didn’t rate them and didn’t want them so he was sacked. Good way to run a club eh?  One factor could be that despite being a progressive manager who always embraced the games new developments, he doesn’t look as if he does.  Being 56 years old and achieving success based largely on pragmatic methods doesn’t have the panache some seem to crave, but it’s a football team not a beauty contest.  Foolish owners inflict yet more unnecessary pressure on managers. 

Could Rafael Benitez have been angling for a dignified exit from the San Siro?  Rafa made a little outburst on what he perceived as Inter’s lack of ambition.  Having won the white elephant that is the World Club Championship he left with a hint of dignity, not to mention a hefty pay off.  Jose Mourinho was always going to be a big act to follow… with or without the support of the board.   One significant question remains unanswered …. why did Moratti choose Benitez in the first place? 

Brisbane Roar won again, this time away to North QLD Fury in a display of steady efficiency.   17 games unbeaten which is seriously impressive form.  Pre- season, Everton played a friendly here.  During that game I was irked by that legendary figure all football fans have encountered….. ‘The Bloke Behind Me’.  In this instance the bloke behind me was bullishly boasting about not renewing his membership for the season.  Apparently, he’d been contacted by the club regarding his lapsed membership and he’d given a volley of abuse about the manager, the unfortunately named… Ange Postecoglou.  So vitriolic (and unjustified) was his attack I felt compelled to stick my nose in.  I told him that considering the state of the team when Ange took over in November 2009, he’d done a decent job.  Some stale old rubbish had to be thrown out of the club and some of the playing staff were, simply, too comfortable.   Ange had shown the required strength in dealing with some of the clubs over indulged stalwarts and making unpopular decisions for the greater good of the club.  The current form vindicates my impassioned defence of Ange.  Another salient point is that, particularly taking over a struggling team, managers can’t be fully judged until they have spent an entire pre season with the players so it becomes their squad.   That is the time when a manager can impose on a squad of players what is expected,  as individuals and collectively.  That principle applies to football everywhere. So hopefully Ange can continue the great work, and if the bloke behind me can’t get a ticket for the grand final, a 52,000 sell out crowd on a  beautiful late summer evening, I hope he doesn’t come crying to me! 

Italy’s 1982 World Cup winning manager Enzo Bearzot has died.  Despite an awful group stage Italy came through the pack by defeating Diego Maradona’s Argentina and the Harlem Globetrotter like Brazilians to prove themselves the best team in the competition.  Their 3-2 victory over Brazil is one of the most gripping games ever played, jack in the box Paolo Rossi justifying the decision to lift the ban on him by scoring a hat trick.     Marco Tardelli’s contorted face after scoring in the  final  celebration remains one of the most iconic moments in football history. 
RIP Enzo Bearzot