Archive for the ‘Association football’ Category

The Tale of Two Coaches

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

 

Please excuse me people, but I have been attempting to write this post for a few weeks now and it maybe a little out of date. Nevertheless I will write my thoughts. When Mauricio Pocchetino was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur in November, Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn’s head was also on the chopping block. Ironically their tenure and statistics at their respective clubs/teams almost ran parallel with each other, give or take some poetic license.

Pocchetino was hired by Spurs in 2014. He guided them to three top three  finishes in his first four seasons, culminating in a place in the Champions League Final in June 2019. However, they gave their fans very little to cheer by succumbing very meekly to Liverpool 0-2. The score doesn’t tell the tale of Liverpool’s dominance.

Pocchetino’s team selection was not without controversy. Lucas Mora scored a hatrick in the second leg of their semi-final with Ajax to secure their place in the final. Their star striker Harry Kane had missed a couple of months with an ankle injury, but demanded to play in the final to the exclusion of Lucas Mora. Pocchetino meekly succumbed to player pressure and  the rest is history.

Pocchetino claimed that he would have walked away if Spurs had won the Champions League because he felt he couldn’t take the club any further. In his defence,  he was hampered in developing the team by  lack of new signings in recent seasons caused in part by the construction of a new stadium which had drained their financial resources. Furthermore, the construction took much longer than anticipated and Spurs were forced to play their home games at Wembley for almost two seasons.

At the beginning of 2019-2020 season, Pocchettino resembled a man who didn’t want to be there, and several of the first team were looking for moves elsewhere none of which materialized. Consequently, the manager and team looked stale and devoid of new ideas. By November of last year, Spurs were languishing in 14th place in the Premiership and were humiliated at home by Bayern Munich losing 1-7 in a Champions League group game. Pocchettino was  summarily sacked. Not long before he had been touted as the next head coach/manager of Real Madrid or Manchester United, and perhaps of the Argentinian national team.  He is currently back in his homeland, Argentina, where he is a color analyst for one of the TV stations covering Argentinian league games.

On the other side of the pond, Dan Quinn was hired as Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons approximately around the same time as Pocchettino was appointed at Spurs. In his first season, The Falcons went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. In 2016, they finished 11-5 and clinched a placed in the Super Bowl only to lose to the New England Patriots. The loss decimated Atlanta fans because the Falcons were leading 28-3 entering the fourth quarter, but eventually lost in overtime due to what can only be construed as mismanagement by the coaching staff, not least by Dan Quinn.

Roughly the same time Pocchetino was sacked by Spurs, the Falcons finished the first half the NFL season 1-7, and Falcon fans and the local media were calling for Quinn’s head. The Falcons had finished 10-6 the season following the Super Bowl debacle but lost in the playoffs to the eventual champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2018 they were decimated by injuries and they failed to make the playoffs finishing 7-9.

Subsequent to the 2019 season, Quinn announced he was taking over the defensive coordinating duties which proved to be catastrophic. The Falcons conceded 40 points in at least three of their losses culminating in their 1-7 record entering the bye week. Falcons owner Arthur Blank claimed he would take the off week to review Quinn’s position as Head Coach. Meanwhile, Quinn decided to relinquish his defensive duties handing over to two of his assistant coaches, The Falcons faired better in the second half with a 6-2 record, but 7-9 overall, missing the playoffs in successive seasons.

Unaccountably, Arthur Blank announced before the final game of the season that Quinn and the hapless general Manager, Thomas Dimitroff would be returning next season. Blank explained that “it takes a big man to admit he was wrong,” meaning Quinn realized  he had made a dog’s dinner of supervising his team’s defense. But why should it take Quinn eight games to realize the error of his ways?

In contrast it was patently obvious to any Spurs fan that Pocchetino’s days were numbered, and the club needed a fresh start. Similarly, Dan Quinn and his cohort Dimitroff should have been shown the exit door. Quinn placed the blame of the previous season’s failure to make the playoffs by firing his defensive and offensive coordinators. He followed this up by placing his neck in the defensive coordinator’s noose, and was left hanging. He should have been put out of his and our misery. I was tired of his sound bites during  the first half of the season, and I actually felt he should have been fired after losing the Super Bowl in such a pathetic fashion.

Well what can I glean from this? Professional sport in the 21st Century is success oriented. Spurs’s Chairman Daniel Levy is a shrewd operator on some levels and he realized that Pocchetino was done and dusted. In contrast Arthur Blank appears to run a” good old boys club” by admitting that he likes Quinn and Dimitroff. But I wonder how many executives he fired when he was co-owner of Home Depot for not producing the goods.

 

 

 

My Sporting Heroes

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

The title of this post is a contradiction really. Regular readers of my blog (if there are any) will know that the sporting teams I support include Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur on the football front, the Atlanta Falcons from the NFL, the Atlanta Braves from major league baseball and the Wales rugby team.

Why the contradiction? Well I have had more than my share of disappointments supporting these teams over the last few years. Swansea City were relegated from the Premiership about 18 months ago, but did survive seven seasons in the top flight whilst winning the League Cup (or whatever it was called) in 2013. Paying millions for over rated players, changing managers through a revolving  door eventually put paid to their elite status. Currently, they sit at the top of the Championship table after 10 games, but it’s a long season, so don’t hold your breath.

Where do I begin with Tottenham Hotspur? They overachieved last season by reaching the final of the Champions League, but played so flat that the late Donald Campbell could have broken the land speed record across their backs. The summer almost brought a wind of change through the management and squad. Manager Pochettino cast envious eyes towards Real Madrid, Christian Ericksen, Toby Alderwald, Danny Rose, and Jan vethongen wanted to leave. However, Real Madrid rehired Zidane as head coach, and Manchester United, another possible destination for Pocchetino, made Solksjaer their permanent manager. Meanwhile no suitable offers came in for the want away players, and they all remain members of the squad.

Rumors on the internet claimed that Vethongen had an affair with Eriksen’s girl friend, and several of the squad are not speaking to each other. I don’t know whether there’s any truth in the rumor, but Spurs suffered the worst home defeat in their history by losing 2-7 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Group Stage last Tuesday. They looked like a team falling apart at the seams, and perhaps Pochettino has them as far as possible. Rumors are also rife that Real Madrid intend hiring him next season, and he will take Harry Kane and Eriksen with him. Speaking of Kane, he looks to have lost a yard or two in pace, and he wasn’t the fastest greyhound in the first place.

This is painful to recall, but the Falcons were leading the New England Patriots 28-3 entering the final quarter in the 2017 Super Bowl only to concede 31 unanswered points and lose the game in overtime. Following an unsinspiring 2018 season when they went 7-9 Dan Quinn decided to part with his defensive and offensive co-ordinators, and too over defensive duties. A quarter of the 2019 regular season has been played and we are currently 1-3. the not so mighty Quinn claims the team lacks consistency and they can find the solutions to a season  which is rapidly sinking like the Titanic. I put their malaise down to the three Ts: tackling, timing and turnovers. They are simply an ordinary team that has an over inflated opinion of themselves.

The Atlanta Braves last won the World Series in 1995. They should have repeated in 1996, but shot themselves in the foot. In my opinion the franchise has never fully recovered from that damaging loss to the Yankees. Yes, they managed to return to the playoffs on a few occasions since, but couldn’t add another World Series. They won 97 games this season and comfortably made the playoffs. However they never learn from previous mistakes. They rested players during the last week and half of the season, and proceeded to be swept 0-3 by the New York Mets in the last series of the season.

Once again they are playing an opponent, St Louis Cardinals, who surged into the Playoffs while the Braves appeared to take their foot of the gas and have last their momentum. There are injury worries concerning Freeman and Acuna and they have two or three inexperienced pitchers in their rotation. Game 1 and 2 are being played tonight and tomorrow in Atlanta, so watch this space.

Wales are currently involved in the Rugby World Cup, and produced a superb display last Saturday to narrowly defeat Australia. If they can win their remaining matches in the group  against Fiji and Uruguay they will top their table and avoid New Zealand and England in the quarter finals. Wales have not done particularly well in the World Cup, apart from achieving 3rd place in the inaugural event in 1987. They have found the proverbial banana skin in previous World Cups having lost to Fiji once before, so I am not counting chickens just yet.

Menage a Trois

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Thanks to the overwhelming response to my previous post “Partnerships,” (I received one comment which was from my son) I am continuing a similar theme. Only this time I’m concentrating on trios that were linked in some macabre way. Let’s begin with a comedy act from America, “The Three Stooges,” Moe, Curly and Larry. They didn’t appeal to British audiences, but were very successful in America.

Shell Petrol sponsored “World of Golf” featuring Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and they became to be known as “The Big Three.” I mentioned in my previous post that Best, Law and Charlton dominated the stage at Manchester United in the 1960s. There’s a  statue of the three of them forever linked in bronze to commemorate their achievements. I also can’t leave out the midfield trio from Tottenham Hotspur: Blanchflower, Mackay and White, who were instrumental in Spurs being the first club to achieve the Double (Championship and FA Cup) in the 20th Century. John White was tragically killed by lightning sheltering under a tree on a golf course in 1965, and was never really replaced.

Turning to politics, Hugh Gaitskell, leader of the Labour Party died suddenly in 1963, and there were three contenders to replace him: Harold Wilson, George Brown, and James Callaghan. Wilson eventually won the leadership contest and became Prime Minister in 1964. Brown served as Foreign Secretary while Callaghan lived next door to 10 Downing Street as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Brown gained notoriety by appearing on television several times in an intoxicated state, and arguably made more sense when he was drunk.

Show business inevitably is littered with trios: The Bachelors, The Beverly Sisters, The Andrew Sisters, The Supremes, The Crystals, The Springfields. Dusty Springfield achieved  greater fame as a solo artist. Eric Clapton comprised for a short time one third of the rock band Cream, but he too achieved greater success as a solo artist. Emerson, Lake and Palmer deserve a mention as one of the first super groups. I could have included Crosby, Stills and Nash but Neil Young made them into a quartet.

Rugby has natural trios in the form of front rows, none more famous than Faulkner, Windsor and Price, They were Wales’s first ever one-club front row, and immortalized in a song by Max Boyce as the Viet Gwent. Comments on a postcard please if you believe I have misconstrued that phrase. Wales had a tremendous back row in the seventies in the shape of Merv the Swerve, Basil Brush Taylor, and Dai Morris, The Shadow.

Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention the “Three Tenors,” Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras. The 1990 World Cup brought them into prominence with the general public when the BBC used “Nessa Dorme,” beautifully sung by Pavarotti, as their theme song for televising the month long tournament. The Three Tenors gave a memorable concert towards the end of the tournament which propelled their careers to greater heights.

I could write a sequel on quartets where rock bands like the Beatles, Stones and The Who would be rich pickings. But I’m becoming rather bored with this theme, so goodness knows what it’s doing to my reader. So there you are. It only remains for me to wish y’all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Tottenham Hotspur-An Enigma Wrapped Up in The Old Onion Bag

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

The “Glory Glory Hallelujah” days  when Spurs won the Double in 1961 and rampaged through Europe are confined to history now. That was the last time Spurs won the Title (which became the Premiership in 1992.) Spurs have won nothing since 2008. They have enjoyed impressive moments over the past few seasons, but sadly they flatter to deceive.

Mauricio Pochettino was appointed head coach on May 27 2014, becoming their tenth manager over a 12 year span. In his first season they reached the final of the League Cup only to be beaten by Chelsea. Tottenham were in contention to win the league in 2015-2016, but in the penultimate game of the season they drew 2-2 with Chelsea, handing the title to Leicester City.

The 2016-2017 season  began with a series of 12 unbeaten  league matches that ended with a defeat away to nemesis Chelsea in late November. Spurs only won three of their 13 matches between October and mid-December, and went out of both the Champions League and League Cup. Results improved later in the season, but their earlier inconsistencies meant they fell some way behind eventual Champions, Chelsea, and had to settle for second place.

In 2018, Pocchettino signed a new five-year contract to keep him at White Hart Lane until 2023, at least in theory. In July 2017, White Hart Lane was demolished to be replaced by a new stadium. Construction began in 2016 and the new stadium is scheduled to open during the 2018-19 season. However, here lies the rub. Spurs were earmarked to play their opening fixture at the new stadium in October, but it appears that this will not happen until at least the new year.

There is no doubt that uncertainty over the new stadium has affected the manager and the players. But that would be naïve to lay the blame on their nomadic existence rather than their inconsistent performances on the playing fields. Some days the team resembles a well oiled machine while at other times they perform like a spluttering spark plug.

When they have their first choice eleven on the field firing on all cylinders they are a match for anyone in the Premier League, even in Europe. However, they haven’t learned the art of grinding out results when they are not on the top of their game. The squad has no depth compared to Manchester City or Liverpool. Indeed City could field two teams in the Premiership and hold their own.

Apparently, Pocchetino wanted to sign new players in the summer to strengthen the squad, but was told by ownership that would not happen until the Club was settled in their new stadium. It would therefore appear that the January transfer window will not be available to Pocchetino, and he will have to twiddle his thumbs until next summer before he can sign new players. But will he? Clearly Pocchetino is very unsettled by recent turn of events which is exacerbated by the fact that Real Madrid  recently sacked their manager. Pocchetino has always been on Real’s radar, and he has expressed a wish to manage them one day.

On the playing side, the problem lies with the formation of the team. It is too reliant on three players: Harry Kane, Dele Ali, and Christian Eriksen. The team doesn’t function half as well if any of these players do not bring their ‘A’ game. Take for example the recent match against Manchester City. Ali and Eriksen were on the bench recovering from injuries. The midfield comprised Sissoko, Dier, Dembele and Lamela; none of whom possess a creative bone in their body. Harry Kane was clearly out of sorts without the aid of his two amigos, and resorted to drifting out wide in search of the ball.

Clearly, several of the squad are not Champions League material: Davies, Aurier, Rose, Dimbele, Sissoko, Winks, Lamela, LLorente, Lucas, and Wanyama are reasonable players who would find a home at mid-table teams, but they will not win you any titles. Pocchetino is not blameless either because he was instrumental in assembling this squad. I get a sense that he doesn’t have a “Plan B” when a match is not going according to plan. The style of play is sometimes too predictable and occasionally fragile.

They are probably exiting the group stage of the Champions League very shortly, and could be outside the top four of the Premiership by Christmas. Maybe Pocchetino has taken the team as far as he can, and it may prove mutually  beneficial to  the flawed genius and the club if he was hooked by Real Madrid.

 

Three Games from Oblivion

Friday, May 4th, 2018

I may be repeating some of my thoughts from my previous post, but I have no editor to wrap my knuckles for flogging a dead horse to death. Last December, Swansea City were at the bottom of the Premiership table, five points adrift from safety. Following the dismissal of Paul Clement, Carvahal, who had recently been sacked by Sheffield Wednesday, was given the poison chalice of trying to preserve Premiership status. Against all the odds, he achieved a minor miracle and turned fortunes around. So much so, that a couple of weeks ago, the Swans were  five points clear of the relegation zone.

Unfortunately, they have not won a game since March 3rd, and have only picked up three points from their last six games scoring only two goals in the process. At the time of writing, they lie one precarious point above the relegation zone with three games remaining. They play Bournemouth away tomorrow, Southampton at home on Tuesday and Stoke at home on Sunday week in the final game of the season.

If I was to ignore the results from the month of April, I would be very optimistic of picking up four points from the remaining three games to secure another season in the Premiership. Regrettably, the last two losses against Manchester City and Chelsea fill me with foreboding. We failed to score a goal in those two games, didn’t appear likely to score, and conceded six.

Should they succumb to the inevitable or go down in a blaze of glory? Playing five at the back, as they have been doing recently, reduces your chances of scoring goals. A 0-0 draw gives you a point, but to win you have to score at least one goal which they appear incapable of achieving right now.

There are certain players who have been selected recently for the starting eleven  have no business pulling on a Swansea shirt.  Kyle Naughton, Nathan Dyer, Tom Carroll, and Sanchez should be given plane tickets and told to begin their summer holiday sooner rather than later. Ki is out of contract at the end of the season and a couple of suitors have shown interest in him. His play of later resembles a man whose his mind is elsewhere, possibly in Russia, where he will playing for South Korea in the World Cup.

I would select a team for Saturday in a 4-3-3 that at least as the possibility of scoring a goal or two. Assuming these players are fit, my starting eleven for tomorrow’s game would be: Fabianski, Roberts, Mawson, Fernandez, Olsson, King, Britton, Clucas, Andre Ayew, Abraham and Jordan Ayew. Ki would replace Britton if he’s not fit enough to play.

May the force be with them. I will be biting my nails down to the quick.

 

 

Capitulation in Transition

Friday, April 27th, 2018

I know that Manchester City are deservedly Premiership Champions, and Swansea City are in 17th place, four points above the relegation zone. But that is no excuse for the abject embarrassing performance they produced last Sunday. From the moment they formed a guard of honour  for the newly crowned Champions, they resembled Welsh lambs going to the slaughter.

Their body language revealed to me that they were resigned to defeat and their goal (one measly shot from a defender in ninety minutes) was damage limitation. Well, how did that work out for you fellas, 0-5 which could have been double that score if wasn’t for Fabianski in goal.

Carvahal has done a great job since he was appointed on December 28th. They were bottom and five points adrift from safety when he replaced Paul Clement, and currently they are four points above the relegation zone. But to claim it was a good performance when you have laid down and died is delusional.

Didn’t it escape his notice that Liverpool have beaten Manchester City three times this season by defending from the front?In contrast we allowed them to bring the ball up to the halfway line before attempting a challenge. Sheer lunacy!!! What’s the point in playing a back five when none of whom can tackle properly? City have some great playmakers, but they utilize a holding midfield player in the shape of Fernadhino. None of the Swans midfield trio know how to tackle or mark an opposing player.

There’s a reason why City appeared to have 15 players on the pitch compared to the Swans’ pathetic outfield players. They pass the ball accurately, they control the ball instantly, they don’t give the ball away needlessly, they are constantly on the move finding space, they defend in numbers when the opposition occasionally has possession of the ball. It is embarrassing to reveal that City enjoyed 83% possession of the ball.

Neither do I understand a system where the Swans utilized three center backs to mark one player, Jesus, when the main danger was emerging from the flanks. Speaking of which, the full backs Naughton and Olsson, were completely outclassed by their opponents. The Swans’ three midfield players, Ki, Carroll and King were overrun by the ingenuity and skill of De Bruyne and Silva, but what has happened to basic man marking? Ki looked disinterested and was mercifully substituted in the second half. The diminutive Tom Carroll looks totally out of his depth. On the rare occasions he had possession, he continually passed the ball to the opposition.

Now for my pet peeve this  season. Americans commentating on football overuse the phrase “in transition.” Definition of transition: ” the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. Isn’t that what football is all about? Moving the ball from defence to attack is the primary concept of football. The late great Danny Blanchflower once said that football is a simple game where it only takes a second to score a goal. In contrast, American commentators are determined to treat the game as almost a science. What on earth does playing between the lines mean?

I was quite optimistic  a month ago that the Swans could preserve their Premiership status, but recent results have cast a grave doubt in my mind. They have not won a game since March 3rd although three draws have yielded 3 points keeping their heads above water.

There are four games remaining to save their season. Chelsea come to town on Saturday, and based on last week’s performance I don’t expect any return. Bournemouth away will follow. They are a good mid table team capable of playing the Swans off the park. Then comes the crunch. The final two games of the season are at home against Southampton and Stoke, both of whom are languishing in the bottom three who will be fighting tooth and nail to take maximum points from the Swans.

It is fairly obvious to anyone who has followed the Swans that the squad is in need of a major overhaul irrespective of whether they are playing in the Premiership or Championship next season. Whoever has been responsible for transfers over the last few seasons should be shown the door before rebuilding is contemplated.

 

You Can’t Make a Silk Purse from a Pig’s Ear.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

I guess my favorite topic appears to be Swansea City AFC, appertaining to the vast number of posts I’ve written on the subject. Well, It was a unique experience for my home town team to climb from the depths of the football league to the elite of the Premiership and survive 6 years.

Unfortunately, the last 18 months have proved to be a bit of struggle. In 2016 we were lying 15th around Christmas and decided to part company with Gary Monk who had led the club to 8th position in their previous season. We subsequently finished a comfortable 14th under the tutorlage of Alan Curtis and Francesco Guidolin. This time last year we were languishing at the bottom of the table. The American, Bob Bradley, who replaced Guidolin two months into the season, was sacked after a disastrous few months. Paul Clement was hired to perform a miracle by walking across the River Tawe into the Liberty Stadium and duly saved their precarious Premiership status.

It was clearly obvious to anyone that followed the Swans that the squad was not good enough to survive another season in the Premiership. They had two outstanding players in Sigurddson and Llorente who could walk into any other team in the Premiership, and Clement was anxious to strengthen the squad in the August transfer window. However, Sigurddson did not want to endure another season at the bottom end of the table, and made it perfectly clear that he wanted a transfer.

Everton made a sizeable offer for his services, but the Club haggled over the transfer fee for weeks until he eventually signed for Everton. However, Clement was given little time to find a suitable replacement, and to make matters worse, Llorente was sold to Spurs on the transfer deadline.

Clement had ratified the signing of Roque Mesa from a Spanish club who performed adequately in La Ligue, but has underwhelmed in the Premiership. Former fan favorite Wilfred Bony was purchased from Stoke City, but he hadn’t played regularly for 18 months, and one TV pundit claimed that “his legs had gone.” I tend to agree. I believe he has scored one goal in the Premiership this season. Hull City was paid 15 million pounds for Clucas’ services which brought the number of players in the squad  who had been relegated with their former clubs to four.

Clement acquired the services of two young players on loan: the much heralded Sanchez from Bayern Munich and Tammy Abraham from Chelsea who last season scored 24 goals in the Championship for Bristol City. Neither player has adjusted to the rigours of the Premiership which at the same time has not affected their over inflated egos!

Okay, to recap let’s take an overview of the nucleus of the squad:

  • Four players, Fer, Olsson, Ayew, and Clucas were with previously relegated clubs,
  • Two players, Carroll and Naughton, were Spurs reserves,
  • Two players, Sanchez and Abraham, who are on loan are immature, flatter to deceive and not effective in the Premiership,
  • One player, Mawson, showed promise last season, but appears to have regressed,
  • Two players, Ki and Bony, are injury prone,
  • Two or three players, Britton, Rangel and Routledge, are past their sell by date,
  • Fabianski and Fernandez are adequate but would benefit with better players around them,
  • The other players, Fulton, McBurnie, and Mesa (he cost 12 million remember) for example, are fringe players and have yet to make an impact on the Premiership.

Twelve months on and Swansea City find themselves bottom of table again. Last season’s miracle worker, Paul Clement, was ushered through the exit door on December 20th, and Carlos Carvalhal was appointed as the new manager on December 28th. He was previously manager of Championship side, Sheffield Wednesday, who dispensed with his service on Christmas Eve. It’s a strange appointment because Wednesday are lying 15th in the Championship, so what makes the Swans owners believe that the new manager can right the ship which is now in very murky waters.

That brings me to the two new American majority  owners who remind me of shifty second hand car salesmen. Need I say more?

 

 

The Britton, The Iceman and The Spanish Armada

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Swansea City have begun another season in unconvincing fashion. Manager/Head Coach Paul Clement (whatever title he deems to call himself) blames the late activity in the summer transfer window for their inept start. Gylfi Sigurdsson, the Icelandic international was the one truly class player in a team that narrowly avoided relegation last season. Clearly Sigurdsson had expressed a desire to play for a top six club in the Premiership which he deserved, for he alone, with a vital contribution from Llorente was instrumental in keeping them in the Premiership.

In the summer, Leicester City made a derisory offer to acquire his services which the Swans quite rightly rejected. However, Everton pursued their man and by increasing their offer  eventually matched the transfer fee of 45 million pounds that the Swans were demanding for their best player. Sigurdsson had earlier refused to go on the preseason tour of the USA which prompted the Swans to accept Everton’s offer. Quite why Sigurdsson agreed to join them is a matter of conjecture because they are not a top six club, and are currently languishing  in the bottom third of the table along with the Swans.

Meanwhile Everton signed Wayne Rooney on a free transfer and the prodigal son has returned home creating a dilemma for Sigurdsson and their respected manager Ronald Koemann. Both players prefer to play in the “No 10” slot, and Sigurdsson currently resembles a fish out of water with Everton hovering over the relegation zone.

Clement signed three midfield players, Clucas, Mesa and wonder kid Sanchez to replace Sigurdsson, none of whom have set the Premiership on fire. They overpaid for Clucas who admittedly was quite effective for relegated Hull City. But 15 million pounds for an average player? Do me a favor!!! Mesa was the first to be signed in the summer for 11 million pounds designed most probably to replace the aging but very effective Leon Britton. Let’s not forget, Clement was pressured into recalling Britton for the relegation battle, and he duly delivered adding calmness, solidity and direction to a struggling team.

Unaccountably Britton was omitted from the starting line up in the opening matches of the new season. Mesa didn’t replace him because in Clement’s opinion the little Spaniard was not ready to play at the pace of the Premiership having starred in La Liga  last season. However, it is more than a coincidence that the Swans recorded their first victory in over a month against Huddersfield when Britton was restored to the team.

I don’t quite know why the Club’s scouts could not have prepared a better assessment of Mesa’s talents commensurate with the Premier League. They can’t use the feeble excuse of not knowing what a Spanish player is capable of  in the Premiership when Mesa is the twelfth Spanish player signed by the Club or has featured in the team since they won promotion to the Premiership.

Angel Rangel was the first Spanish player signed way back in 2007 by ironically a Spanish manager, Roberto Martinez. The other Spaniards to follow in his foot steps are Jordi Armat, Michu, Andrea Orlandi, Pablo Hernandez, Chico Flores, Jose Canas, Alvaro Vazquez, Alejandro Pozuelo, Borja Baston, and Fernando Llorente.

The impact of the Spanish Armada on the Club has met with mixed fortunes. Rangel has proved to be one of the stalwarts of the team costing next to nothing. Chico Flores formed a formidable defensive partnership with Ashley Williams and his transfer fee didn’t break the bank. Michu proved to be one of the bargain buys in Premierhip  history. He cost 2 million pounds and in his first season scored 22 goals from midfield. Unfortunately he was plagued by injury and didn’t complete another full season before returning to Spain.

On the negative side, the Swans paid 15.5 million for Borja Baston in 2016 on the basis that he scored 18 goals in his last season in La Liga. Unfortunately he failed to replicate his prowess as a goal scorer in the Premiership, achieving one solitary goal in 20 appearances. During the summer, he was packed off on loan to a Spanish club the name of which escapes me. However Llorente, a striker with World Cup pedigree and 3 Serie A titles  on his resume was snapped up for 5 million pounds around the same time as Baston was travelling in the opposite direction, and repaid the Club by scoring 15 precious goals to help secure another season in the Premiership.

Nevertheless, 26.5 million has been wastefully spent on Baston and Mesa with little return for the money. A Club of Swansea’s size can ill afford to spend that amount of money and receive precious little in return. I have no idea who is in charge of scouting for new players, but he deserves a kick up the backside. Better still, it’s time he received his P45.

 

A Premiership Devoid of World Class Players

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

What constitutes a world class football player? He is someone who can change the game in a split second whether it’s through a defence splitting pass, scoring goal from nothing, making a defensive stop to prevent a goal, all of which should be executed on a consistent basis. Basically a world class player can spin on a dime and light up a stadium with one phenomenal movement, creating one breathtaking moment never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. He is a match winner; a game changer.

For example, Gordon Banks’ spellbinding save from Pele in the 1970 World Cup, or one of Jimmy Greaves’ goals from a scissor kick, maybe a tantalizing run through the opposition’s defense by George Best or Ryan Giggs leading to a sublime goal, or the proficiency of a goal scoring machine like Ian Rush.

I maybe a couch potato, but I have seen many Premiership matches over the past few years, and rarely does any player in the Premiership have me  jumping out of my seat in excitement. Ronaldo (Manchester United) and Luis Suarez (Liverpool) had that effect on me, but they were unfortunately sold to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Gareth Bale had a hint of greatness in his time at Tottenham Hotspur, but sadly he was also sold to Real Madrid.

There are twenty clubs in the English Premiership and in my opinion less than a dozen world class players. Manchester City have spent millions of pounds on players, but I would only describe Silva, de Bruyne, and Aguerro as world class assets. Chelsea possess one in Eden Hazard, and potentially their new striker Morata. Liverpool have two: Coutinho and Mane. Harry Kane at Tottenham is quickly  developing into a world class striker, capable of scoring goals with either foot or his head, and inside or outside the penalty box. His colleague, Dele Ali has the potential to reach world class, but can be a little head strong and a tendency to drift out of games.

Alexis Sanchez wasted too much time in the summer attempting to engineer a move away from Arsenal which affected his game considerably. However, on his day he can touch the considerable heights of a world class player. One could argue that one player cannot make a team, but his absence can undoubtedly affect its performance. A case in point is Gylfi Sigurdsson who was transferred from my club, Swansea City to Everton. Gylfi Sigurdsson has the ability to create and score goals and is arguably the most effective dead ball specialist in the league.

The Swans bought  two or three fairly capable players in the summer transfer window, but with the loss of Sigurdsson the Club is playing like a ship without a rudder. Notwithstanding the dearth of world class players in the Premiership, I believe that not one of the Swans 25 man squad would earn a place in any of the top ten teams in the league. Indeed, Swansea are continuing to select three or four players (Naughton, Fer, Carroll, and Olsson) who are not of Premiership standard.

The transfer fees that are paid for mediocre players is outrageous. Liverpool paid 40 million for Oxlaide-Chamberlain who is an athlete masquerading as a football player. Manchester City paid 50 million each for Raheem Sterling and John Stones. Is that the price you pay for potential these days?

 

 

A Bit Like a Curate’s Egg

Monday, September 4th, 2017

An American friend of mine asked me where I was yesterday because I wasn’t in work. I told him I was playing golf. He asked how was my round. I said it was a bit like a curate’s egg. He exclaimed: “What the hell does that mean?” I said that it meant it was good in parts and bad in places. In my mind that was a perfectly accurate explanation, but unfortunately not in the American idiom and therefore lost in translation.

Come to think of it, a curate’s egg would also describe Trump’s presidency. Trump is actually the reason I haven’t written anything over the past few weeks. I had planned to write a review of his first 100 days as President but the whole period was dominated by the Russian connection to the Trump family and the alleged Russian influence on the Presidential Election. I then decided to review his first six months in office but his presidency continued to be mired in potential scandal, North Korea, firings, resignations of his Cabinet and White House staff, and now Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact on Houston.

During his election campaign, he promised to “drain the swamp” which he attributed to eradicating Washington of political corruption. This is all very well but he alienated politicians on both sides of the house, and therefore its no surprise he failed to have sufficient support to repeal or scrap Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare and make other positive changes to the nation’s health care system. Recently Trump commented that the swamp had now evolved into a sewer! He probably extended his colorful rhetoric to include most of the media who he constantly condemns for producing “fake news.”

One of his nemesis is Senator John McCain who Trump publically insulted by claiming “real heroes don’t get captured,” referring to McCain’s long internment by the Vietnamese when he was shot down over enemy territory. McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, but made a remarkable comeback to the senate to provide the decisive “no” to block the repeal of Obamacare.

One could argue that Trump has made progress with illegal immigration, the economy and other issues since he took office. There is almost a 50% reduction  in illegal crossings on the southern border, consumer confidence is at a 16 year high, and CEO confidence is at a 20% high. He has also achieved some success in Congress approving in principle to build the wall on the border between USA and Mexico. Could this wall rival in time the history, notoriety and infamy of  Hadrian’s Wall, The Great Wall of China, or the Berlin Wall?

When Congress returns from their summer break, the major item on the agenda will be tax reform which was ranked high on Trump’s election platform. Meanwhile he has to deal with the contentious issue of North Korea firing nuclear missiles across Japan, and recently producing a hydrogen bomb. Trump has threatened North Korea with some aggressive rhetoric, but he may have to rely on international diplomacy to take the heat out of a risky situation.

Swansea City have had  what could be described as a curate’s egg of their own in the summer transfer window. They sold last season’s  two top goal scorers and chief creator, Siggurdson and LLorente to Everton and Tottenham respectively. Only to make one of the more audacious loan deals of the transfer window by signing 20 year old Portugese international Sanchez from Bayern Munich for the remainder of the season. This was quickly followed by the return of former favorite Wilfried Bony who hopefully can recapture his form that he produced in 2014-15.

On a final note, I found it ironic that Georgia’s Governor unveiled a bronze statue of Martin Luther King at the Capital Building in downtown Atlanta last week amidst the protests and outcry nationwide to remove countless Confederate statues. These protesters claim that the statues are racist and offensive to their delicate countenance. When will the Silent Majority stand up and tell them the statues represent a part of America’s history and do no harm to anyone with an iota of intelligence?