Premier League Villains

November 17, 2009

The following fatuous nonsense is the First In A Series

The Premier League is a cesspool, a primordial ooze breeding greed and violence. But even within the ranks of hell, certain souls receive precedence. So just who are the Beelzebub’s of Britain’s premier football competition? In whose breast does a heart of darkness truly beat?

Chelsea – Not short of potential candidates.  John Terry is a lottery winner, thick and obnoxious, but there’s no real malice there. Ashley Cole is a greedy little man, a paranoid whiner, convinced that the world is conspiring to keep him from what’s rightfully his…. so just your average citizen then. Ballack is a thug and a bully, but no more than a henchman in the grand scheme of things. Didier Drogba is a foul mouthed sneak, a sleazy twerp. Actually rather likable. No friends, at the Bridge the true villain, the warped and twisted mind behind the vast criminal enterprise that is Chelsea F.C. is….. Branislav Ivanovic.

The Cold Dead Eyes of Branislav Ivanovic

Ivanovic is proof that the greatest villains are the ones you don’t even know exist. They walk amongst us, unnoticed, unhated, until one day they show up at your back post, unmarked.

Arsenal – The easy choice would be Manuel Almunia, but once we start discriminating against five o’clock shadowed goalkeepers with botched dye jobs that look like they’ve been done with purloined bleach in a prison 2-in-1  handbasin-toilet combo prior to donning a badly cut suit made from a sweat stained mattress cover and going over the fence while the bull in the SouthEast watch tower lights his end-of-shift cigar… then where does it all end?

Well, here it ends when I tell you that Theo Walcott is, or rather, is going to one day be, the man behind the wheel of the Jaguar Mark II.

Run while you still have the chance

Villains aren’t born, they’re made. Like Harvey Dent, Theo Walcott is a good man. But we stole Walcott’s youth from him, and eventually he’ll be driven to collect… with interest. Until then, don’t look too closely, lest you see through the artfully arranged veneer of youthful promise, and your blood runs cold with the horror of what lurks beneath. Why do you think Cesc wants to go to Barcelona?

Manchester United – Some villains, as they age, begin to acquire a certain air of dignity and respectability, usually false and misleading. Ryan Giggs for example, whose mere longevity makes us look back fondly on an earlier age of villainy, when men were men, and the bodies were buried discreetly in the woods, instead of in acid vats in the basement. So how much more troubling is the case of uber-villain Paul Scholes?

The nonchalance of a man who knows he's left no fingerprints

For even in his callous youth we ascribed to him the virtues of a more senior man, and looked the other way as he waded through gore, season after season. We stop in at the social club to give our regards to his family, grinning at his familiar jokes, while blocking out the anguished screams from the debtors being knee-capped in the back room. Just another day in the neighborhood.

Tottenham Hotspur – Harry Redknapp is no villain. Like Henry Kissinger or Cecil Rhodes, he operates at a higher level, where crime becomes policy.  Tottenham’s chief troglodyte is in fact Ledley King.

You can't kill him. He's already dead.

Like all great villains, Ledley King simply will not go away. The prison hasn’t yet been built which can hold him, and he’s never more dangerous than when his back is against the wall, his knees have fallen clean off his body, and his hands have been bound together with duct tape. Cause that’s when you will think that it’s okay to turn your back on him. Think again sunshine. You’ll never take him alive.

Aston Villa – Twenty members of the squad are merely play-acting. Pantomime villains, if you will. (Chuckles). But not Richard Dunne.

The Fallen Angel

The fallen angel

Mark Hughes cast Dunne out of paradise. But if he thought that was the end of the story, he had another thing coming. And that’s bad news for the rest of us, because as far as Dunne’s concerned, we’re just collateral damage. Richard Dunne intends to eat his omelette, and we’re the eggs which must be broken. See you in the frying pan.

Manchester City – The Manchester City squad have you strapped to a chair. They want the combination to the safe which contains the blueprints do a weapon so deadly, that if it fell into the wrong hands, it would mean destruction of the free world. As you look at Emanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez, you feel fairly certain that these are the wrong hands. Then they back away, and Stephen Ireland enters the room.

They aren't wings. They're leaves. And don't ever ask him why.

You laugh at first, at his clown cars and his facial hair. Then Gareth Barry shakes his head and says, “You shouldn’t have laughed at him. You really shouldn’t have laughed at him.” The laughter dies in your throat and a chill comes over your entire body, and for the first time you are really really scared because you realize that the man who wears that beard and drives that car is truly capable of anything.

To Be Continued…. so start despairing now.

3 games…

September 27, 2009

Wolves away. Man City away in the cup. Arsenal at home. Three loses.

But very different beasts, eh?

Wolves away reminded me of that Malcolm Gladwell article about pressing. Was it Rich who posted it? Probably. Anyway, pressing all over the pitch can help less talented teams beat more talented teams. It’s the great equalizer. But it doesn’t come cheap or easy.

Pressing takes willpower and effort, and most teams don’t have the commitment or energy to press for 90 minutes. A lot of times you will see a team press like hell, and then fade away in the second half. Wolves took the gamble and it paid off.

My stream only lasted about twenty minutes of this game, but in those twenty minutes I saw Fulham lose possession again and again as Wolves denied them space. But it came at a cost: according to reports, in the second half Fulham were in the ascendancy, and squandered a few chances. Of course by that time Wolves were already up by two softish goals, so, again, their gamble payed off.

In a way, it’s somewhat flattering. That kind of pressing is such an exhausting gameplan. To chase, and harry and nip at the heels, usually it’s reserved for teams with a much more impressive resume than Fulham’s. But it worked, Fulham looked crap. End of.

City away. Gentleman Jim was my only companion so… exactly what happened will remain a mystery. But, it was an encouraging sign.

Arsenal at home. Really should have had something. 8 or 9 times out of 10, Fulham score some of those chances. But that keeper.

Also, an important article about why you can’t trust your eyes. It’s nothing personal. It doesn’t make you stupid. But really, you can’t trust them.

What the Bulgarians think of Fulham

September 13, 2009

Fulham travel to Sofia on Thursday for the first Europa League group game. With a dodgy Bulgarian to English translator in hand, here are some of the comments posted about Fulham here.


Hodgson looked confused for a Hero Amkar not an ogre. Before the game against Dynamo, some Russians disparagingly likened them our Very Happy

4 points from two matches are fully achievable.

They too recognize Hodgson’s heroic status.

Fulham have no experience in ECT, but have a good season igrachi.Minaliya took the scalp of United and ended at Siti.Imat Man of billionaires and a manager with great experience.
inglizite not playing full speed in older years will turnira.Poslednite successes Cup UEFA.Mozhem to rely on the arrogance of the tournament and exits from the British. Wink

In all seriousness, this is a real shame. I really hope that Fulham take this tournament as seriously as possible, because this guy is right. English teams have approached the UEFA Cup and now the Europa League with far too much arrogance in the past. And others have noticed.

Someone in tracking – Premiership detail to explain how the struggling team to survive 2006/2007 and 2007/2008, Fulam reach European tournaments last season. Appears to be untied bag of money?

No sir. Untied bag of Roy Hodgson.

Are good, will not lie. I would not say that superklasni but distsiplirano and play decently. Hodgson them very tight and fucking with the material, which has made a maximum. Have very good players and I would say that one of the nice clubs in the Premiership.

Typically each srednyak English (I do not think of a better season for Fulham after 5-6 years to make them more) and they have a powwow and weaknesses pobedimi. However strong in the air as far as I remember. Have a powwow and handsome players are pulling the midfield by Danny Murphy. Last season was the best host in the league after the big four. Able to surprise and have done it many times.

Emphasis mine.

Hear the roar of the Sector ‘D’ will feel shapely lower than the grass.

Poetic threats?

Here you must fight mandatory! This is a game that will decide whether to fight for rank or not.

Football fans are the same everywhere. I swear I read this exact sentence on TIFF before every game, albeit usually in slightly less coherent form.

Even fallen Newcastle and Boro had a higher imena.Fulam team worked well with a good manager. Wink

Good manager >>>>>>>>>>>> imena.

It is very good for us that Andy Johnson is aut.Barz player, which we would have problemi.Kotev Ivanov and Ivan should not have problems with Zamora.

Ha! Johnson’s back.

Dempsey is not anything special, Duff was a one-time terror. And this madzharin Dead Moroz will put it in a sack.

Pride goeth before a fall, I hope.

a man bearing a name Zoltan can not frighten me.

PGBAF II

I just know I have seen Confederations Cup this year and what Dempsey did in all matches?

This man knows?

A good team that will understand what it means to obey before CSKA.

Flattery? Threats? Insults? The joy of online translators.

People do not write off …. Every to4ka in the league is MONEY!
All three of our opponent is in a financial crisis and raz4itat much of that money. As we. We must take to4ki and this will become a hard struggle, because you can not ignore the league.

League, cup balance. Another universal.

Zaendno Hughes prevented with a few goals. Schwarzer is class, how many years do in England ..
Bobby Zamora is a typical ram, Clint Dempsey was the discovery of the Confederations Cup – a very quick and very accurate kick and pass.
Danny Murphy years ago was one of the best playmaker in England, …  now their captain.
And took Griyning of UBA, which is also technically strong players in the center.

Despite everything, however, mentioned as a top English clubs do not give much elbow grease in the UEFA Cup (le moment).

C’mon you Whites! ELBOW GREASE!

Fulham have these hyper-ugly forum! Disgusting! There and there regvam deeea carpenters and British!

Painful but true.

Dat Ass

August 16, 2009

One of the major mysteries of last year was how, when Bobby Zamora came in for so much abuse, did his ass escape criticism?

Anyway, now that the ass has broken it’s duck, maybe the rest of Bobby can come good. I think it’s been holding him back. Snigger.

This is so stupid…

August 14, 2009

You were warned.

Inspired by the excellent “Ghost Stories of European Footballers” series on Run Of Play.

Big day tomorrow.

The New Value

August 13, 2009

One of the key tasks for any football team operating on a budget is finding good value. A team that wants to be successful, that wants  to build the kind of holistic and balanced squad that has the strength to outdo expectations must not waste their most valuable resource on players who are a) not good enough and b) fill redundant positions.

Obviously for your Manchester City’s of the world, this isn’t really a problem. But for Fulham it is.

Ten or twelve years ago, the value buys in English football were clear. Foreigners. The teams with comprehensive scouting networks on the continents and in Africa and South America could be assured of finding good value, simply because there wasn’t the same level of competition. Exhibit 1, Arsene Wenger. Wenger has a lot of skills, but the one most responsible for transforming Arsene Wenger from a football manager, into Arsene Wenger, a football prophet was his scouting networks, and his eye for cheap foreign talent.

Here’s the thing. For virtually anybody who has been following football for more than three weeks, the above paragraph is not new information. It has become scriptural. It has become one of the underlying truths of Premier League Football in the 21st Century. Wenger changed the paradigm, sure. But now everybody is living in his universe, buying up his cheap foreign players, dirtying his dishes, and leaving the toilet seat up.

Wenger’s struggles over the last few years are, I think, comparable to Billy Bean’s struggles over the last few years. Both changed the rules of the game, but now that everybody has started playing by those rules, both men, while still held deservedly in high regard, have struggled to find the new fulcrum that can move their worlds.

Are there still values to be found overseas? Of course. Our own Brede Hangelaand will attest to that. But I submit that they will become harder and harder to find.

I have a point to all this, and I will get to it soon. I just want to take one, maybe two little detours first.

The other great value has traditionally been youth. Buy them young, sell them on for a profit. It makes sense. But youth is also an inflated market. One gets the feeling that some clubs would rather spend 5m on somebody with the potential to score 20 goals, than 8m on somebody who has already scored 15. Potential is extremely tempting, it is a heady brew. And depending on the players involved, sometimes the above example would make sense. But I think that it probably makes sense much less frequently then we think. The reason you get the discount on youth is that so much can happen, injuries, loss of form, etc. And these things happen all the time. The real value nowdays is, oftentimes, with the tried and true.

One other small point. Youth players developed at the club. Everybody wants to see players developed at the club, come up the ranks, and make the first team. Sure, I’m one of them. It can be a good value. But most of the time it isn’t. There just aren’t enough protections on youth players. In baseball, the team that develops a player is guaranteed seven years before free agency. Seven years! They get the player at less than market value for seven years, and there is no incentive to sell  or trade unless they are getting back something excellent in return. And players can’t get disgruntled about it and put up a stink, because thems the rules and everybody plays by them. In football, there aren’t any protections. So developing youth players is something that has to be its own reward.

Finally, my point. In a system where all your competitors know the up and coming players in the Maltese 2nd Division, in a system where everybody has a network of scouts buying up 14 year old Ghanians in bulk, in a system where everybody is drunk on the allure of youth and potential, where are the true values to be found?

Failure.

Failures represent the last true values in football. You find a player who, for whatever reason, has so much unholy stink on him that nobody in their right mind wants to get within a mile of him, you dust him off and you give him a new home. This works best if you have a healthy football team, with a true team ethic and an organized, comprehensive managerial philosophy. Like Fulham. So, when Mark Viduka comes stumbling into Motspur Park, with pie crust smeared across his face, unwashed, reeking of sweat and fear, Fulham can hose him off and give him a cheap contract and restore him into the prolific goalscorer that he is underneath all that filthy Newcastle coal dust. Failure. It’s the new youth.

A message to Middlesbrough

April 16, 2009

To all my love slaves out there, Thunderlips is here. In the flesh, baby… ha ha ha.

The ultimate male vs. the ultimate meatball, ha ha ha.

Scourge of the Greater Manchester Area

April 12, 2009

212wqyq

Zoltan Gera: ?

March 25, 2009

Prior to his wonderful goal last Saturday, Zoltan Gera had to be the dissapointment of the season. People can talk about Simon Davies poor form (though now improving thankfully), or Jimmy Bullard’s “greed” or Bobby Zamora’s finishing or even Andy Johnson’s pricetag, but Zoltan Gera was the real loser here.

At times it can seem to be impossible to be dropped from a Roy Hodgson team. The great man’s greatest strength is his patience, and while it does make it tense for scoreboard analysts and knee-jerk reactionaries, it has proven to be an admirable trait. He never panics, and he doesn’t lie, and when he says, “We played well but unfortunatley..” you know that it’s not an excuse, and that calm extends itself to the team. How great is that? He is not perfect. But nobody is. He makes mistakes but everybody does. But as far as Fulham goes, I wouldn’t trade him for any other manager in the world.

But Roy dropped Zoltan Gera. And he still hasn’t clawed his way back.

Zoltan was a fairly early summer signing as far as I recall, and it seemed like he was a big part of Roy’s plans. But his form never really came together and while he showed promise… it just wasn’t there. And eventually Clint Dempsey got his chance and grabbed it by the forelock. And that was pretty much it for ZG. He’s been a reserve ever since.

It’s easy to see why Mr. Hodgson brought Zoltan Gera in. In theory he’s exactly the player this team needs. Rich keeps drilling it into our heads that one of the reasons that our attack looks so anemic and our defense looks so great is that that is the way it’s built. The midfielders’ emphasis is on positioning and defense and ball retention and short passing and possession rather than getting forward.

So to play up front Roy bought a nippy, intelligent finisher, and he got a big, strong, burly center forward to hold up the ball and distribute it from the front and he made sure they both defended and pressed worked for ninety minutes, and to help them he got Zoltan Gera.

The idea is that Gera can do the short passing, the possession, can handle the defense, but can also ghost in to the back post, can cut inside and curl in a shot to the far post. Can slip in up front and use his head. Can be the third man to join the attack, can add fluidity and dynamism and take advantage of space and be the third heat.

And he did some of all that from time to time but he didn’t put it all together, and then Clint got angry and trimmed the fat from his game and the rest is history.

I don’t know who the better player is between Zoltan and Clint. They have similar games, although Clint’s is a little more physical and Zoltan tends to glide a little more. What’s clear is that Clint has raised his game and that’s good for Fulham. What’s unclear is whether Zoltan would have done the same given more time. We have to assume that Roy knows what the two of them bring to the table, and I’ve got no complaints about his decision.

But it seems a shame to waste him, so when Zoltan sprang Andy Johnson and then received the return pass and twisted his body in the air and drove the ball past Edwin Van Der Sar, well, I was happy not just that Fulham had won, but that Zoltan Gera, the Magic Magyar, could be a part of it.

Zoltan Gera day is past now. The streamers have fallen down, the cake has been eaten, the last bottles put in the recycling. Sammy Davis Jr. and Gera Sr. have been bundled home. But I like to think that it won’t be too long until we celebrate again. Because Zoltan’s got a taste now. He’s started it and finished it and he’s done it against the BEST TEAM IN THE WORLD, and hopefully, somewhere out there, he’s waiting, like a coiled spring, for someone to take him for granted.

Happy Zoltan Gera Day. Hands on your hearts please

March 23, 2009

And now we bring you something a little different, here on Zoltan Gera day. Something just to change the mood a bit. Please join me in a warm welcome for Mr. Sammy… Davis… Jr!

Thank you. I’m going to do a little number for you. It’s a bit of a departure for me, but I hope you like it. Hit it

Sings:

And did those feet, come just in time

to walk upon Fulham’s pitches green

And was the holy Roy Hodgson

On Fulham’s pleasant pitches seen

And did his managing divine?

Shine forth upon our muddled team

And was Man United beaten here

And all their red Satanic dreams

Bring me my Konch my Aaron Hughes

Bring me my Schwartzer and Zamora

Bring me Dan Murphy, and Etuhu

Bring me my Clint and ZOLTAN GERA!

Andy Johnson and John Pantsil

Simon Davies Brede Hangeland

Will come and beat United Two NIL

On Fulham’s green and pleasant land

APPLAUSE

CURTAIN


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