Then Saturday Comes… the half decent football blog

Champion’s League Special: Chelsea not included
February 25, 2009, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog
Should Rafa should have gone down the Mike Ashley route of dressing up like the fans?

Should Rafa should have gone down the Mike Ashley route of dressing up like the fans?


Bookmakers have stopped accepting bets on the next boss to be sacked after being flooded by bets on Rafael Benitez from tipsters ‘in the know’.

The odds on Benitez not being Liverpool’s manager at the start of the 2009/10 season have been slashed to just 2/5 by Sky Bet.   It seems that not even the excellent 1-0 away win over Real Madrid will save Rafa’s bacon, and he is all set to joing Big Phil as another midseason Top Four casualty.

To be honest, I have little sympathy with either.

Rafa and Scolari have done very little to get their heads around the Premiership.  They are either  two of the most stubborn managers in the world, or they abjectly fail to have any sort of ‘Plan B’ heading into Premiership games, treating them almost as an afterthought.

However, Benitez has the knack for pulling out the ‘big’ win that distracts  from the poor results that surround it.  Maybe that will happen this time as well.  To win at Real Madrid may be like Jonny Sac’s acceptance of Ralphie’s apology in The Sopranos – a huge public act just in time to avoid a pending bullet.

The only ‘big’ manager who has had his head screwed on this year has been Alex Ferguson.  Despite regressing from the halcyon days of the last three years, the Red Devils have trundled their way to a barnstorming lead at the top of the Premiership.

Although their defence has been phenomenal, don’t buy into the Manchester United hype.  They are the best by a long way, but this team would lose to their 2006-07 and 07-08 counterparts.  The Old Trafford boys have failed to hit the attacking heights enjoyed when Ronaldo was at his pomp, and Berbatov still seems a poor man’s Tevez.  Nani and Anderson have still failed to turn into players that will win a title, and games are still being won by the same players as 5 years ago (Rooney, Ronaldo, Giggs, Scholes).  How many 1-0 wins have they enjoyed this season?

The buck has to stop at Rafa for failing to improve to reach Manchester United’s dip.

Top by a fair few points, he decided to sell Robbie Keane and Jermain Pennant, presumably to make a point that they were players brought in by others at the club.  That would be fair enough if he bothered to look for replacements.  Instead he didn’t, and a club on the verge of a multi-billion pound takeover moronically exited the transfer window two attacking players not for financial reasons, but so Rafa could prove his point.

I’d say he underlined his point with home draws with Fulham, Stoke and Everton (twice).

The man was incredibly patronising in refusing to sign a contract only offered him due to sucesses in 2005.  Although they have enjoyed some good cup runs since then, he’s had enough time to stamp an imprint but, to my eye, they still have the exact same problems.  No wingers and not enough goals.

Should he go, who will replace him?  Kenny Dalglish is currently 3/1 favourite with Paddy Power.  Hmm smells a bit like Kevin ‘Messiah’ Keegan’s return to Newcastle… I’m sure Fergie wouldn’t dread that.  Surely you would wait for Mourinho in the summer.

Kolo and William's half-time activities spilled over into the second half

Kolo and William's half-time activities spilled over into the second half


Arsenal have often been accused of not realising they are a football team.  The identity of the club often errs towards that of a bunch swanning prima-donners who would be happier at the Royal Society For The Performing Arts than in a chaotic sporting arena.

Never was that case clearer than when their two centre-backs failed to report for duty in the 1-0 Champion’s League win over Roma.  William Gallas and Kolo Toure trotted back onto the field after the second half had got underway.  Neither bothered to ask for the ref’s permission, but only Toure was penalised (as Gallas was tying up his shoes).

Toure’s excuse after the match was that he always has to be the last to leave the dressing room, and his defensive partner was still receiving some treatment for an injury.  So he decided to wait until Gallas could get on before turning up for the second half.

Amazing professionalism!

The centre-backs are by definition the backbone of a team.  Even if just for a couple of minutes, taking both of them out due to a silly superstition is bizarre.  To do so in a Champion’s League knock-out game is outrageous.  To do so when conceding an away goal is catastrophic is an adjective I haven’t learnt yet, but it’s very strong.  A less verbose man would swear, but that would give the shambolic Toure the moral highground, something I cannot abide in this instance.

Although I am glad they won and want them to progress, it really would have been justified if Roma had scored and won the tie on away goals.  Supporting a rubbish club like Leicester, it is very frustrating to see the flippant attitude ‘top’ teams have.  You can guarantee that if Scunthorpe did that trick against Rotherham in the LDV Vans Semi-Final, they would have conceded at least four goals.

Football, unlike Slumdog Millionaire, is a cruel business where scummers prosper.

Is that Adriano or Ibrahimovic behind the mask?

Is that Adriano or Ibrahimovic behind the mask?


Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher’s house was robbed while he was in Italy preparing for the game against Inter Milan.

However, the real thiefs were the Inter forwards, who gave the best impression I have seen of a clueless and lazy strikeforce since the days of Akinbiyi/Benjamin at Filbert Street.

The English champions went to the San Siro with the game-plan Jose Mourinho predicted; defensive and conservative.  A 4-5-1 formation favouring  midfielders who prioritise ball retention over ambition.  However, it soon became apparent that such measures were not needed, as Inter Milan actually seemed to be pretty rubbish.

Manchester United dominated from the beginning.  Every Inter move broke down, often by the abject Sulley Muntari panicking into losing possession.  However, he could perhaps complain that the two lumps in front of him were also to blame for his lacklustre performance.

Adriano and Zlatkan Ibrahimovic are two of the most lauded players in the world, but they are also perhaps the most frustrating.  It was strange to see a team managed by Mourinho seemingly soley reliant on a moment’s inspiration from the admittedly highly talented strikers.

There was no graft, no desire to get into space or chase lost balls.  And this isn’t on the level of Alan Shearer punditry love for ‘desire’, ‘heart’ and other such buzz words.  They really were dreadful, completely disinterested in the game going on behind them.

Of course, this blog is partly inspired by my latent hope that sod’s law means they will turn amazing and both score double hat-tricks in the return leg.  The dread of a filthy quadruple is becoming all too realistic…


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