Two top coaches in the English capital crashed this week and are recovering from their injuries.
The first victim was a French national, Monsieur Qiu Qiu Arsene Wenger, whose vehicle ‘Arsenal’ (named after him), took the wrong turning from off a successful road to a league and European double, smashing into Liverpool in the Champions League, before being hit again by Manchester United in the Premier League.
Arsenal have for my money played the sexiest football around this season, but once more were outwitted by cannier clubs when it counted, teams who exploited the Gunners’ perennial inexperience and lack of grit when under pressure.
A wonder goal such as that conjured up at Anfield by the irrepressible Theo Walcott and lethal Emmanuel Adebayor deserved to win any game, but only seconds later, Arsenal were outmuscled and shocked by an English-style counter and Liverpool scored via a questionable penalty.
United exploited their home advantage and experience to dismiss the Gunners from the title race the following Sunday, sending Wenger into new depths of madness, as he bleated about referees having a conspiracy against his club.
The gleaming new Emirates Stadium is thanks largely to that man, who has transformed London’s top club into regular European contenders for the first spell in their long history. But Wenger, for all his tactical and inspirational genius, shames himself by his frequently one-sided post-match rants.
It ill-behoves a coach of his talent to claim refs are out to get his team, when replays prove the Gunners benefit from at least as many 50-50 calls as anyone else. Equally, can there be anything more ridiculous than the comical ‘I didn’t see it’ defence he trots out whenever the press needles him on such calls in Arsenal’s favour?
The second victim is Chelsea’s Avram Grant, who under withering pressure from success-bloated ‘fans’, reported player dissatisfaction and above all the tabloids, ‘lost it’ with the press on Thursday evening.
Grant answered in almost monosyllables alone to the press after his team won 1-0 at Goodison Park against Everton. It was terrific entertainment and I say Bravo, Avram! Managers should repay the contempt the press lob at them.
Memories are extremely short at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho was too combustible a personality for people to work with for much longer, and was fired because the results were poor at the start of the season.
Grant has done a fine job in taking over from such a legend and keeping Chelsea in contention for both the league title and Champions League. Anti-semitism has reared its ugly head this season amid the Chelsea-haters, but the Israeli coach may yet have the last laugh.
Another coach trying to keep the wheels on the road is Rafael Benitez at Liverpool. It seems crazy that the two American owners, who have fallen out incidentally, were gunning to replace the Spaniard with the untested Jurgen Klinsmann.
Benitez works miracles in the Champions League and like, Wenger, revitalised a big club which seemed to be running out of steam.
All three of the above managers, whose clubs are in the top four in the league and all reached the Champions League quarter-finals, have had their names mentioned in the UK press this week as possible summer axings.
That any of Benitez, Grant and Wenger should be facing dismissal is ridiculous, but also a telling comment on the insatiable and utterly unrealistic demands of the new breed of soccer investor-operators, who have no feel or real understanding for the game.
Only Sir Alex, high in his Old Trafford castle after 22 years of fortification, seems safe.
(c) Sean O’Conor & Soccerphile
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Posted by Sean O’Conor at 1:50 AM 0 comments
Labels: Arsenal, Champions League, Chelsea, English Premier League, Liverpool, Manchester United, Sean O’Conor
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THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2008
There Ste Goes Again
As a society, we’re obsessed with appearance. I blame teen magazines for perpetuating the myth that skinniness equals beauty. If I had to choose between a thin girl and a lady with a fuller figure, I’d choose the one with the better personality. Obviously, if they’re equally pleasant, then fatty’s out of luck.
Men are far less uptight about how they look. Petr Cech was happy to return to work when half of his face was hanging off; he wasn’t concerned that he looked like Steve Bruce’s better looking brother.
Cech was back between the sticks within no time, as he managed to borrow the necessary protection from Ashley Cole. Not many people own chin guards, but Cashley is always wary of bouncing balls. I’ll be jumping up and down when Everton beat Chelsea at 14/5.
Juande Ramos believes that his players should take pride in their appearance, and has banned cakes and sweets from the canteen. I agree with Juande on this one; I’ll only consider a muffin once a year. If Wigan get their head down against Tottenham, they can take a point at 5/2.
Gareth Southgate is far more relaxed with his players’ diet. In Mido and Alves, he has the fattest pair up front since a heavily pregnant Jordan. Bolton are about as pleasing to the eye as Peter Andre’s often visited partner; a relatively attractive Boro will overpower them at 11/10.
Thaksin Shinawatra is taking a real gamble in considering Phil Scolari as a future coach. Big Phil once punched an annoying player at the end of a match; there’s a real chance that he might raise a fist to Ashley Cole. Pompey haven’t won away at Manchester City since 1963, I’m going in deep on Sven’s men at 11/8 to gain revenge for being tucked up on the Benjani deal.
Steven Gerrard has suffered panic attacks ever since a gangster threatened to break his legs; he now collapses without warning roughly every 30 minutes. The precipitating midfielder and his pals have lost on their last two trips to the Cottage; current circumstances dictate that we back Fulham at 3/1.
Arsenal’s season can be compared to putting your hand up Lily Allen’s blouse: it’s been exciting, but the end result is a disappointment. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Gunners laid a marker for next season by pounding Reading at 4/11.
Paul Jewell’s move to Derby is officially the greatest mistake since I fell for the ‘I’m on the pill’ line. After a six goal humiliation at home to Aston Villa, the Rams travel to West Ham to face a side who beat them 5-0 at ‘Pride’ Park. Derby have two hopes in this one, Bob Hope and no hope; and Bob Hope’s dead. The Hammers are the weekend banker at 2/5.
Many people believe that Mark Hughes will be the next manager of Manchester United. I’m not sure if Hughes is ready to succeed Sir Alex just yet, he needs to work on his referee-haranguing. I’d consider offering the position to Fergie’s son; he would soon knock them into shape. United will pile in to Blackburn at 8/13.
I was shocked to receive an email suggesting that I was out of line for calling Karen Brady unattractive. I guess the old adage is true: one man’s meat is another man’s poison, unless you’re Ashley Cole. Aston Villa are one win away from their second straight double over the Brady bunch, and they’re guaranteed a goal start if Ridgewell plays. I’ve seen worse bets than the 5/6 for a Villa win; I tipped them up last week.
If Freddie Shepherd is to be believed, and why wouldn’t he, the women of Newcastle are not the best looking breed. No wonder Jimmy Nail, Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley left the area. It could get real ugly when the Toon Army host Sunderland; I’ll side with Newcastle at 5/6.
If, like me, your partner is less than pleasing aesthetically, feel free to use my adage to help them feel a little bit better about themselves. ‘Beauty fades, but a solid ironing technique will last forever’. I’m not sure how long the 13/1 will last about this week’s accer: Arsenal, West Ham, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Manchester City are the quite stunning selections.