Posts Tagged With: chelsea

ACID TESTS AWAIT MAN UNITED

By Mike Njoroge

The mixing and matching is evident. Like a Chemistry lab professor mixing his elements, it still looks as if Sir Alex Ferguson is trying to figure what his favourite combination for a starting XI is. Tinkering and tampering has occurred. Changing and switching. All the while, it has led to Manchester United having indifferent games. Dominating then dominated. Conceding, then scoring. It has been difficult to determine just what Manchester United will produce, or how they will produce it.

For one, it seems as if Sir Alex this season has started by building his team from the front. Ordinarily, teams are built from the back. You start filling in the defensive positions first before moving on to midfield and then ultimately the attack. Where Manchester United is concerned this season, the inverse seems to have been happening.

This is the only reason that can explain how three strikers can start, with an attacking midfielder, and a winger. Most team sheets this season have featured; both Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney; either Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck; Shinji Kagawa has also been on the pitch, then out wide either Luis Nani or Antonio Valencia. This means that in essence, there are 5 attacking players. That leaves room for 5 other players. Considering that a back four is a certainty, that leaves room for only one central midfielder.

It really looks like the Maradona confusion that Argentina played with at the FIFA World Cup in 2010. A wonderful array of attacking players, with as little midfield cover as possible for the defence. That little midfield cover has led to the defence being exposed in more situations than is necessary. And it is no wonder Manchester United has been leaking goals.

However, some common sense has been restored in recent games. A midfield diamond has been deployed, meaning that width has been abandoned. The midfield diamond still looked shaky when introduced against CFR Cluj in the Champions League. But against Newcastle United, it glistered. In the first 22 minutes, Man Utd were averaging 70% possession. In that period, the pressure on Newcastle’s goal had produced two goals. To avert further disaster, Newcastle had to change tact and fill the midfield. It worked as it reduced United’s momentum. But what it did was to also reduce Newcastle’s strengths. Now, they did not have two strikers up top to aim at with crosses. Furthermore though, it meant that Newcastle, the home side, were now playing on United’s terms. That is what control is all about.

But that control has been lacking. In subsequent games, United have fallen behind. Luckily, they have had the firepower to always bounce back. And against Braga in midweek, the stakes were raised a bit higher. They stretched and dug deep to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. Then however, their most dominating period did not include the diamond, but rather Kagawa’s injury had necessitated the introduction of Nani. Width in place of the diamond, and still the victory was acquired. It doesn’t look that much confused now as Maradona’s model was. Sir Alex’s model can morph into the circumstances it finds itself in. A case of Plan A and Plan B working in tandem. There is no set standard, and that is why it looks all confused, while all the same fulfilling its eventual purpose of winning.

Major questions still linger though. What happens when, as Maradona found out against Germany, this model meets up against a well organised team. Can Man Utd continue to come back against the better organised teams of this world. Can they afford to continue conceding? Can they still score more than their opponents can? Those are questions that will probably be answered in the coming weeks. A run of fixtures that sees United face Chelsea twice, then Arsenal, and then a trip to Braga in the Champions League. This is bound to set things into perspective. United faces major tests here. The diamond and the width will now have the chance to prove their worthiness.

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Categories: Sports | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Schadenfreude

Cry baby JT is gonna retire without the Champions league. Aaaah....bliss.

One of the most intriguing aspects of being a football fan is the joy you get from seeing a rival going through a rough patch. The kind of sadistic joy that Germans coined a word for; schadenfreude. Such emotions are usually triggered by the fear, real or imagined, that said rival will deny success to your team in a winner takes all sport. That, plus the repulsive persona of the poster boys of these teams serves as fuel for the burning hatred.

Over the last fifteen years of supporting Manchester United, it has become second nature to hate whatever team challenges us for top honors. And Liverpool. Apart from a few occasions, it has largely been a period filled with much joy out of seeing the enemy fail.

With two of my most hated rivals in the doldrums, now would be as good a time as any to indulge in some schadenfreuede.

Steven Gerrard is a player I hate with as much passion as Liverpool fans adore him. He is a physical embodiment of Liverpool FC, a dinosaur trying to stay relevant by virtue of success in a long gone era. You see Gerrard is no spring chicken, cruising towards his 32nd birthday with a big monkey on his back pointing and laughing at a big failing of his.

In a recent interview, Gerrard confirmed what he and Liverpool fans fears most as he approaches the end of his football career; the lack of a Premier League winners medal for a club legend. Said Gerrard in a November interview: “It’s something I think about almost every day. I always think about the dream of winning it – or the disappointment if I was never to win it.”

“To have played at Liverpool for 14 or 15 years by the time I finish and not win it would be hugely disappointing. It would be an awful shame.”

And therein lies the source of so much joy for Reds around the world. As I write this, Liverpool are struggling in the league as they are 14 points off the top of the table past the halfway stage of the season. The return of Dalglish was supposed to mark the return to the days of glory but has been typified by their consistent mediocrity. With United a force to reckon with at all times and City looking stronger with every passing season, the likelihood of Steven George Gerrard lifting  the league trophy is looking slimmer with him being in the winter stages of his career. Somehow that thought creates a warm fuzzy feeling for me and countless reds worldwide as the bastard slips into oblivion.

Speaking of slipping, the father of all cry babies offers another avenue to indulge in some sadistic bliss. Step forward John Terry aka The British bulldog. I don’t need to go into details as to why I hate this repulsive thug of a player. The hatred I feel for the guy can only be matched by the joy I get whenever I remember his Russian escapades in May 2008.

Fed by the obsession of the club owner to win the Champions league, Chelsea have tried all tricks in the book to achieve this end. They came so close to finally achieving this dream only for their dear leader, captain, legend to bottle it. The delight United fans got from that day was immortalized when a terrace chant at Old Trafford was quickly put up, mocking the Chelsea captain for his fuck up at the most crucial of times.

Viva JohnTerry, Viva John Terry…could have won the cup, but he fucked it up..Viva John Terry’ sing the United fans, forever reminding him of his failure.

Gerrard’s inability to lead his team to the title was never in doubt given how poor the team has been in the last two decades. For Terry however, it seemed a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ he is going to lead his team to European glory given the strength of the team under his leadership and the several near-misses. But as Jonathan Wilson puts it in Inverting the Pyramid, success is a nebulous quarry. Luck retains its place in football, and success can never be guaranteed, particularly over a thirteen game continental tournament. With an ageing squad and a manager trying to find his feet in a new league, Chelsea are as far from winning the European cup now as they have ever been at any time during Roman’s ownership of the club. Again, JT as they call him is no young turk in football terms. Like his team, he has become slow and ineffective and hopefully soon enough, irrelevant.

Steven Gerrard and John Terry; one club men, club captains and legends. Bar a miraculous upturn in fortunes, its looking almost certain that both will  bow out of the game with much regret having missed out on what they wanted most. In another part of Northern England, one Ryan Giggs is challenging for what would be his 13th league medal with two European gongs and numerous other medals.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer mentioned Schadenfreude as the most evil sin of human feeling, saying famously “To feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is devilish.” At the end of the day, I guess we are all devils. Red devils.

Categories: Sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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