What’s the Mata With Mourinho’s Management?

Jose Mourinho, rightly, is known as one of the world’s top coaches. His reputation is so well-established that even people who know very little about the game know him, and the variety of leagues he’s succeeded in probably make him THE most obvious name when debating who the world’s best manager is.

Continue reading “What’s the Mata With Mourinho’s Management?”


Premier League Predictions

The Premier League has finally got around to starting their games, the lazy buggers, kicking off for the first time yesterday. To tie in with this, there was a new piece on BornOffside yesterday morning, we took a look at what we think for the season ahead.

Only pretentious people and things wear crowns.
Only pretentious people and things wear crowns.

Eight of us gave our thoughts on who’ll win the league, qualify for the Champions’ League, be relegated, and surprise expectations. A few times we contradict each other, which is proof that we shall be proven right on all things.

Click here to read the BornOffside Premier League Preview


Squawka: Benteke on the Move

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke handed in a transfer request on Monday, with a host of clubs linked with a move for the Belgian striker.

It’s always a risk when a player changes club – will he be able to adapt to the new environment, to his new teammates, to the new tactics? There’s a lot more to consider than just the paycheque on offer.

Christian Benteke, running away from Aston Villa
Christian Benteke, running away from Aston Villa

I’ve helped Christian to make his decision, by looking at the tactics of the four English clubs linked with him – Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool, and how he’d likely be used by those clubs.

Click here to read Where Should Benteke Go?


The Premier League is Up in The Air

A little earlier in the week, an article I’d written was published by BornOffside.

Following the abdication of Alex Ferguson, not just from the manager’s office at Manchester United, but as the working figure with the greatest influence over the English game, that role is now up for grabs.

Will Moyes, who’s never won a trophy, rise to the extra pressure? Will Mourinho recreate his earlier success at Chelsea? How will Andre Vilas-Boas and Brendan Rogers build on impressive but mixed first years at their clubs?

For years, the idea of Alex Ferguson and Manchester United being on top seemed to be the default status quo – if they didn’t win the title one year, the feeling was that they would next year.

But now, there is the possibility of real change. The landscape of English football could look very different this time next year.

Who will claim this trophy next year?
Who will claim this trophy next year?

This was before the fixture list revealed that Manchester United would play Chelsea on the opening day, and Arsenal made an ambitious move to sign Gonzalo Higuain – if anything, the points I made have been underlined since.

Click here to read Who Will Set the Standards for the Premier League?


Squawka – Who Should Be Arsenal’s Next Keeper?

Writing for Squawka earlier today, I’ve taken a look at some of the goalkeepers Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in pursuing, comparing their performances from a statistical perspective.
Rene Adler, Victor Valdes, Asmir Begovic, Pepe Reina, Michel Vorm and Petr Cech are amongst those who’ve been linked, and I’ve also looked at Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone – the three keepers used by Arsenal this season.
I’ve compared their goals conceded and clean sheets; their amount of saves made; success in claiming balls into the box and their distribution.

I'd forgotten how much I liked their old badge.
I’d forgotten how much I liked their old badge.

Click here to read my statistical look at who Arsenal’s next keeper should be.


Things I Forgot to Link To

You know how sometimes you plan to do something, keep intending to go back to it in just a few hours, regret not doing it yesterday, and then intend to do that thing in just a few hours for a second day in a row? Then a third?
Yeah, I meant to link to my Lower League Fortnight column when it went live last Thursday. I make it a principle of sorts to make sure everything I write is linked to from here, so I’m catching up, even if it is out of date.

Last Thursday’s Lower League Week (written before the frantic last two days of the transfer window) covered Swindon’s new owners, Bournemouth’s impressive form, Sheffield United hitting a rough patch, Zoko being a bit daft for Notts County, Keith Hill’s return to Rochdale, and a banana.

You can read all of that by clicking on The Lower League Fortnight – Of Money and Managers.

Speaking of things I haven’t linked to, a couple of weeks ago there was a bit of a furore over the ballboy in the Swansea – Chelsea match. At BornOffside we wrote some quick reactions, myself included.

These can be reading by clicking through to BornOffside Reacts…

And… that’s me pretty much up to date for today!


Benitez: Boo or Back?

Rafa Benitez has been appointed Chelsea manager, and some of their fans aren’t happy to have him. Benitez was booed at the weekend by his own fans, and Trizia Fiorellino, chair of Chelsea Supporters’ Group, has been trying to organise a refusal to accept him as manager.

Why is Fiorellino so set against him?
When Liverpool manager, Benitez said

“We don’t need to give away flags for our fans to wave – our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need.
“It’s the passion of the fans that helps to win matches – not flags.”

Fiorellino, discussing that statement this week, has said

“I feel it would be best for the manager to come out and fully explain his comments about the supporters. When he was the Liverpool manager, what he said was more than banter. I don’t think managers should get involved in that kind of thing.”

‘More than banter.’ Presumably he means worse than banter?

This is from a supporter of a club whose most beloved recent manager was Jose Mourinho.

I get that sometimes attempts to wind up opposition fans go too far, into tastelessness. Just at the top end of the English league, Alex Ferguson has been taunted by opposition fans referring to him as ‘Taggart’, which Manchester United have made formal complaints about in the past. Arsene Wenger, as a result of his Arsenal team developing young talent, has received chants of ‘Arsene likes kids’ from opposing fans. Giving that chants directed at the opposing manager are almost always insults, whether strong or playful, it’s doubtful that opposing fans who sang that were merely making a factual observation.
During the recent London derby when West Ham play Tottenham, an historically Jewish club, West Ham fans chanted in support of Adolf Hitler and hissed – presumably in imitation of gas chambers.
I don’t believe that there are that many genuine Nazis in West Ham’s support, it was almost certainly an incompetent attempt at playful banter gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I don’t want to argue that because he didn’t invoke the Holocaust, anything Benitez wants to say is fine. But I want to illustrate how close to the opposite end of the spectrum Benitez’ ‘controversial’ statement was. He didn’t even say that Chelsea do need flags to help create atmosphere, which I can imagine Mourinho saying in similar circumstances. You have to really look hard to see the insult in that quote.

That is… Unless… Is a love of flags a deep part of Chelsea culture? (It’d make as much sense as the celery thing.) Is criticising the beloved and ancient Chelsea tradition of waving flags so deep a cut that it causes deep and lasting offence?
Or was the flag thing just some random boardroom attempt to create passion artificially, and was Benitez being more critical of this kind of artifice?

By all means, Fiorellino (and any Chelsea fans who agree with him), if your love of free flags is so deeply held that you want to force out one of seven managers to have won the Champions League in the last ten years, who won the Spanish league twice despite being in charge of the third horse in a two horse race, and came close to winning the league with Liverpool, go ahead. (He won the Champion’s League with a team that included Djimi Traore. Surely that’s better than what Di Matteo managed?)

There is in fact, a decent argument to be made that Benitez, who has been out of work for close to two years, is past his best, and shouldn’t have been given this chance. But I’ve not seen that argument weilded nearly as often in the past week.

Is it an absolute rule that whenever the media want quotes from a fan to ‘represent’ the fanbase, they seek out the most dangerously unhinged supporter they can find?


Dramatic Endings Good for England

Just a quick post to let you know I’ve written a post on Born Offside.

Today was the day of England’s first Euro 2012 match, and I’ve written a little thing about how the dramatic end to the domestic season could help England. The title was decided on the last day, Chelsea winning the European Cup against the odds, and Wigan going on a late run which was frankly unrealistic and badly written.

Click here to read Dramatic Endings

And, with Euro 2012 firmly underway, we at BornOffside have been covering the matches. My report of the Ukraine Sweden match is now up on the site.

My report of Ukraine vs Sweden