Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Player Power Spiral of Destruction

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

Plenty will be written for the next few weeks about the wonder that has become Carlos Tevez’s affair with Manchester City. We know full well that Mancini believes he refused to play last night in their Champions League tie with Bayern Munich, and Tevez believes he was ready to play, and there was just ‘confusion’ on the bench. Well, there wasn’t a lot else, so Carlos was right either way.

But it does make you wonder if player power has become all too much. If the last twelve months in the Premier League has taught us anything , it is to keep the power away from the player and his agent, and treat him how any respectable employer would treat their employees. You breach your contract, you’re penalised and you’re out the door, and that’s what is happening less and less in the Premier League in this modern age of multi-billionaire owners.

This Tevez fiasco has been spiralling on for the last five years. Well, at least five years – God knows how many years beforehand. Admittedly, he is blaming his erratic behaviour on homesickness, with his daughters still living with their mother in Argentina. But, if it was homesickness, why not buy himself out his own contract? Or resign from the club? Maybe the £250,000 a week he receives is a little hard to give up…

He has done this before, too. He announced to the media he wanted to leave West Ham, whilst still under contract with them. He did exactly the same at Man United, knowing full well the blue half of the city were interested too. It seems to be a common theme that he tries to engineer a move from a club every two years – whether this has anything to do with his agent and the fees is yet to be discovered. But either way, his contract is meaningless, in his mind…

Even the Wayne Rooney saga at the start of last season sparked mass hysteria. Having decided he wanted to leave Manchester United just before the start of the season, he continued to play, then announced he wished to leave via a Sir Alex Ferguson press conference. Within five days, he was on a contract worth £250,000 a week, with massive image rights payments, and security in his deal. And all from saying he wished to leave the club – turning down a team who have reached the Champions League final three times in the last six years, and saying there was no desire to win trophies.

Player power has arrived at a point of no return – at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will see clubs spiral into millions of pounds of debt, and fold, because one player believed he was bigger than the club itself. These players will be the death of what made our game so brilliant, because they wish to line their pockets in gold, buy large houses and knock them down just for fun, and have massive shipments of technology brought into the country for his brother’s wife’s best friend’s mother-in-law’s dog. Apparently.

Power has become far too much for the standard, slightly idiotic football player. What we need is a man and a club that will rip players apart if they get too much. Step in Neil Warnock and co….

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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Apple Prepare For iPhone 5 Launch On October 4th

Originally posted on General Musings of an Idiot.

Having looked at the dates of upload to GMOAI the last few months, it’s fair to say it’s been a little neglected. Not a lot has ended up at the end of that URL. But that’s what happens when you have many fingers in different pies. So apologies to all, but I promise to get you something AT LEAST once a week.

Today, we’re gonna talk Apple. And we will do next Tuesday too. But tonight the official invitations for the iPhone event at Apple HQ in Cupertino next Tuesday were leaked to the world. They’re calling it ‘Let’s Talk iPhone.’ And not only has social media gone nuts, but so has every Apple geek across this planet – and I’m one of them.

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And there it is, in all its wonder. Now, let’s decipher it. Obviously, the ‘Calendar’ is the date of next Tuesday, the 4th of October. The event will begin at 10AM, as ‘Clock’ says. ‘Maps’ shows us it’ll be at Cupertino, but the most intriguing part is the ‘Phone’ application, with a big red ‘1’ button on it. Indicating a new phone? Just one?!

Having seen all the rumours and leaks over the last year or so of the new iPhone 5, we’ve also seen a growing number saying that we’re quite likely to see a cheaper version produced too, knows as the iPhone 4S. So why hasn’t that been listed too? Will it even happen?! All questions I’m sure we’ll see answered over the next seven days.

Equally, there seem to be plenty of rumours flying around about ‘secret’ features to iOS5, also expected to be rolled out just before the iPhone 5 is in a few weeks’ time. We’ve already seen the announcement of Twitter integration into the core software, but will we see Facebook jump on board too? There seems to be a deep hatred of Google between the two of the biggest companies in the world, and so it would surely make sense to come together and beat Android, and Google+ together. But we’ll have to see with that one.

Seemingly, Facebook may feature again next Tuesday, with the announcement of their very long-awaited iPad app. Supposedly ready since May, Facebook are ready to unveil what will be the most-used app on the iPad over the next two weeks, and thus increasing their own personal market share of the social networking market even further. Or so they hope.

There’ll be plenty more to look forward to – the inevitable ‘One More Thing’, Tim Cooks’ first keynote as CEO, and all the new features of the new products – but until this time next week, we’ll just have to keep second guessing…

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Exciting Times For England’s Youth

Originally posted on Back Page Football.

There was a point last season when I thought that English football just wasn’t what it used to be – a mean feat for an 18 year-old United fan who had grown up with the Golden Generation of 1994. Nothing showed any class, or oozed pure technical wonderment. It all just ended in Route One smash and grab. And it certainly wasn’t pretty.

It says a lot when even Fabio Capello, master of the beautiful game at certain points in his career, has to adapt his tactical mind to play football in this way on an international scale. There was no one-touch passing like Spain, or tricky skills from the likes of Argentina and Holland – just hoof and hope. Leave Peter Crouch up top, drop the best ladders of the ball deep in midfield, play Rooney to run around like a headless chicken, and go mental.

But then we saw a different season – it changed for me after Rooney’s scissored wonder goal in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. From that point on, everyone tried to better the skills displayed in that manoeuvre. Everything just clicked, and England internationals, and aspiring national team players, were inspired to actually pass and play, rather than lamp the ball up field and chase onto it.

(To be fair, that was probably just me – knowing me and my eyesight, everyone had been playing well all season…)

The likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing at Aston Villa showed the raw pace and skill that we’d known to love about them, and began to do it regularly, rather than on rare occurrences. Their seasons became quite so good that they raked in £35m for their club in the summer, joining Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.

We saw Daniel Sturridge keep getting better and better with first-team football at Bolton, scoring eight goals in 12 appearances for the club. Linking up well with his new team-mates, he found himself spearheading Bolton’s attack on the top of the table, before their inevitable crumble toward the end.

Danny Welbeck had a great start to the season, with his form on loan at Sunderland causing many pundits and journalists to call for a main England call-up. Major injuries throughout the season limited his goal-scoring tally, but his 26 appearances did little to keep him under the radar.

The likes of Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones also had massive seasons for their clubs. Henderson, at Sunderland, showed power and awareness, with a killer attacking instinct that led to plenty of goals. His form led to recognition by FIFA, listing him as one of ’13 Young Players To Watch In 2011.’ This form led to his big-money £20m move to Liverpool in the summer.

Jones, on the other hand, had a monster season at the heart of the Blackburn Rovers defence. His partnership with Chris Samba, albeit a little shaky at times, was strong, willing to run with the ball, and also ready to pummel any attacker within a 10-mile radius. He was what one would describe as a nutjob – completely mad, but so driven by football that everything fitted into place. He was also rewarded with an England call-up, and then moved to Manchester United in the summer. Since his move, he’s been a monumental success, and everyone at Old Trafford hopes his momentum keeps on rolling.

So what names have we got to look out for this season? Well, watch Chris Smalling and Marc Albrighton’s careers keep getting better, and better, and better. Both impressed last season, and so far on this season’s form, we can expect more of the same. Tom Cleverley’s loan spell last season at Wigan proved he is already a top-quality player, and almost certainly on a shortlist for Euro 2012 at the end of the season. Henri Lansbury, on loan at West Ham from Arsenal, could be a big name by May, likewise Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has stayed at the Emirates and looks likely to gain plenty of first-team action.

Likewise, the old guard of England’s team will very slowly be phased out. Soon gone will be the defensive partnership of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, the midfield of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and plenty of others will be joining that list soon too.

The ‘old timers’ of Jack Wilshere, Gary Cahill, Joe Hart, Theo Walcott and Gabriel Agbonlahor will all be seen on the plane next summer. Between the five of them, Cahill is the oldest, at 26 in December. The youthful spirit within the England set-up at this point in time looks to be one that will continue for a while.

The last few years have not been ones to remember for England fans. Well, the last 45 years, if you’re going to be pedantic. But 2012 could certainly be interesting. There’s an excitement around English youth that there hasn’t been for a very long time, and that can only be a good thing.

Capello will be taking a young squad to Poland and Ukraine in the summer, that’s for sure. There’s far too much world-class youth in this country for him not to.

Agree? Disagree?! Contact me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309, or use the official site account – @bpfootball!

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Great Start To The Season – 1 Arse – 0

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

There aren’t many teams who can boast about the fact that they have won the Premier League. Four, in fact – Manchester United, Blackburn, Chelsea, and Arsenal. But does Arsenal’s apparent demise seem to show that all clubs can fall from the very top?

Played five, won one, drawn one, lost three. Arsenal’s current record in the league is a sight for sore eyes. Big-name exits in the summer, notably Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Gael Clichy, have seen their regular starting XI lose a certain something. The late signings of Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta will work wonders, but will take time to settle, and until then, fans can expect to see horribly scrappy performances, and plenty of goals conceded.

Some horror results, like the 8-2 drubbing from Man United, and the 4-3 loss to Blackburn, have left the once ‘Invicibles’ as mere mortals of English football, and in a lowly 17th in the league table. Just six goals have been scored by the Gunners so far this season, asking the question: what’s gone quite so wrong?!

First up, Arsene Wenger’s tactics have been quite extraordinary. Playing a team of very inexperienced players against Man United was football suicide, and as a United fan, even I felt sorry for the young squad whilst we banged in further goals. It became quite painful. He seems to be playing quite defensively, relying on van Persie up top to put every ball in the net. But Arsenal’s strong point, at this point in time, is certainly not in defence…

There is also far too much reliance on the youth of the club. Yes, they are clearly the future of the club, but there needs to be the correct balance of experience and youth for success to prevail. The 2003-04 unbeaten season was such a feat, because of the squad build-up. Alongside the experienced heads of Patrick Vieira, Jens Lehmann, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, was the youth of Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure, Ashley Cole, and Jose Antonio Reyes. The perfect mix, that led to perfect results.

The final possibility is that the loss of big players has caused massive morale and confidence issues within the squad. The combined total of the Fabregas and Nasri deals topped £60m, of which only £20m of this was re-invested on the final day of the transfer window. Two midfielders lost, one gained, in the form of Mikel Arteta. However, this was nowhere near enough for Arsenal’s squad to regain that vitality and hunger that they once had. A world-class striker is needed, alongside another centre-back and a quality goalkeeper, and then they can start to consider winning things again.

I really do hope I’m pleasantly surprised, because even as a United fan it’s difficult seeing such a big part of the history of English football fall behind. Wenger will need to really think long and hard about how his squad will work, and whether or not Top 4 is now a realistic target. But it’s certainly early days, and we’ll see plenty of activity in January. Whether Arsene is still at the helm is another thing…

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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Our Midfield Needs Shape, Not Support

Anderson gets beaten. Again.

Originally posted on Stretty News.

There were a few moments on Sunday afternoon against Chelsea where you’d have found me shouting, screaming and swearing at the telly when we just kept giving the ball away. Anderson was the main culprit – you’d think he was playing in blue the number of times the ball miraculously got hoofed to a Chelsea player.

Even Fletch gave the ball away more times than he should do. Now we can excuse him a little because of his lack of game time, but for the ball to end up with a blue shirt usually isn’t how United play football. Ever.

So it begs the question: What the hell is going on?! Is it the fact that our midfield has no experience left? No chance – Fergie has been bringing through players like Ando, Fletch and Carrick for the last five years to make sure they know how to play big games, and play them well.

Is it the formation we play? Nope – we’ve played 4-4-2 for years, and the new 4-4-1-1 formation was introduced properly last season so Chicarito and Rooney could play off each other. And did we give the ball away this much then? Not a hope in hell. So we can’t blame the fact that the ball keeps ending up with the opposition on the tactics chosen.

Is it this new ball? Penalties galore have been missed this season – I think that’s 10 now in the first few weekends of the season. It is apparently Nike’s ’roundest ever’ ball, but surely that can’t have anything to do with it? It’s technique, not the equipment used. A craftsman never blames his tools.

The only thing I can put it down to is the lack of shape in our midfield. Previous seasons has seen Scholesly drop further back, but attack when he’s needed. This season, the experience of the Ginger Prince has been missed, but playing two very static central midfielders doesn’t help. It means that Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick and Tom Cleverley have to attack from defence, and vice versa. So the natural thing to do is boot the ball 10 foot in front of you and chase onto it. In Anderson’s case, anyway…

And what’s been happening is Wayne drops back, so we play almost a 4-5-1, meaning that he can attack, whilst the two other central midfielders stay and defend when needs be. Wayne seems to be the most experienced in the starting XI this season – something that shouldn’t be happening.

The rise of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling has seen our flanks gain extra pace and extra width, but can leave us exposed to counter attacks. Which is when our static defensive central mids come into play, which is very clever and very shrewd tactics from SAF. But it won’t work forever, and Chelsea seem to be the first team to have properly exposed that. Mata and Bosingwa played beautifully together at the weekend, and that’s why Chelsea’s total shots were much higher than ours. (No pun intended, Mr Torres.)

What we need is some solidity in midfield. Anderson seems to be a starter this season, as did Cleverley till Kevin Davies thought he’d take his hacksaw of a leg to another player. Ando is naturally a very attacking player, so put him in front of Carrick or Fletcher – both of whom play quite deep and get the ball forward via other players. That way, we’ll be playing more of a diamond midfield, giving us more depth, and a better dynamic to get the ball to our front two.

And if all else fails, let’s get those Sneijder rumours reignited.

Agree with me? Something else to add? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309. Or get in touch via the official site feed, @StrettyNews!

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What A Difference Three Months Makes…

Originally posted on Stretty News.

It’s been a long time since I was last here, typing for Stretty News – nearly three months, in fact. Since then, we’ve seen the transfer window close, the Premier League season begin, and this week sees the start of the Champions League. So what’s happened in the last three months then?

Well, in actual fact, not a lot. We toured the US, we signed a couple of players, and we’ve played a few games to kick off the season. Doesn’t sound like a lot when it’s written like that, so let’s get more descriptive.

We toured the US, picking up thousands of fans along the way, and showing America that ‘soccer’ can be played to a standard where you are in awe of every kick of the ball. We signed three world-class young players, all of whom have started their United careers in the way of future legends, showing every team in the Premier League why we’ve won 12 PL titles. We’ve also played four games in the PL – dismantling Bolton, running circles round West Brom, and putting three past a very mediocre Spurs. Oh, did I not mention the total destruction and annihilation of Arsenal’s ‘youngsters’ – whose average age was in fact actually older than that of United’s?

At this point in time, we really do look unstoppable. We’re playing with a hunger and a drive that hasn’t been seen at Old Trafford for a very, very long time. Some say this could be the foundations for Fergie’s greatest squad. Others have in fact stated that this could indeed be the team to beat the mighty Barcelona. Most United fans are, however, waiting with baited breath, just hoping and praying that this really could be the year.

We’ve settled very quickly into the Premier League season, but so have the blue half of the city we call home. It’s looking like Manchester will hold the top two clubs in the land – certainly if this pace continues. Chelsea have started slowly but will almost certainly pick up once Villas-Boas begins to tear that ‘auburn’ hair out, and John Terry finally stops throwing his toys out the pram and gets on with playing for a team that quite rightly is regarded as a top two club.

But what about the Champions League? Come Wednesday night, that music will start to play and goosebumps will be across the necks of United fans up and down the country.  Benfica are looking lively so far this season, sitting second in the Primeira Liga with 10 points from a possible 12. There are plenty of players that could cause United problems, especially bearing in mind we’re playing away. The Estadio da Luz becomes a cauldron on European match nights, and can become more fiery than the inevitable flares we’ll see in the week.

As a club, we’re knows to always strive for more, and never rest on our laurels. This season, the wave of high morale could drop at any moment, and leave us floating back to square one, and we know full well Fergie won’t allow that. I mean, everyone knows hairdryers and waves don’t mix well…

I’ll be retiring that water analogy right now – I apologise profusely…

The point of this article though, is that we can’t measure quite how far we’ve come so far this season, because we’ve just continued exactly where we left off last season. Yes, we were picked apart by a Barca team widely regarded as one of the greatest football teams of all time, but look at the success we had domestically. Look at the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Chelsea.

Measure this team on how well they’ve become one. They’re a unit, not eleven nutjobs running round the pitch. They’re at the top of their game, and right now, they can only continue to grow, impress, and continue to become a wonderful team to watch.

Agree with me? Want to make your own opinions heard? Contact me on Twitter via @Adam9309, or via the site’s official account – @StrettyNews!

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Food Revolution #358 – Adam’s Spaghetti Bolognese

Originally posted on My Food Revolution.

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Just a week to go! Was dead excited to make this. Browned the mince, loads of seasoning, then in goes a bog standard tomato ragu – makes more sense when you’re gonna play around with it! In goes two spoons of Marmite, a half bar of dark chocolate, some chilli powder, touch of lemon juice, a handful of dried basil and a glug of red wine. Really beautiful and thick, and rich too – piled high on some peppered spaghetti and the world disappeared into my spag bol…

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