It has been widely reported that Jose Mourinho is set to return to Chelsea in the near future, but Matt Stanger ponders whether this is really a good thing for the Blues and the PL...
Roll up, roll up to have a good laugh at your Football365 scribes, as we look back on our pre-season predictions to see who was wrong, who was right and who was stupid...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Spurs And Liverpool Conclusions
Adebayor was quite impressive. Never really looked like scoring though.
Holtby looked quite good again. Very disappointing to see him replaced by Dempsey.
Dembele, apart from his goal, didn't have a good game. His form has taken a serious dip since he's stopped playing alongside Sandro or is it since he's started playing alongside Parker?
Parker is the main problem with Tottenham's play at the moment. He's so slow and indecisive on the ball. He actually did a 720-degrees turn with the ball at one point yesterday. His dribbling towards a player before he lays off a two-yard pass is infuriating. I cry a little every time Dembele passes him the ball. He's not disciplined enough to sit in front of the back four like Sandro so as to allow Dembele to play further forward. Livermore or Huddlestone could be better options, I'd chance one of them against West Ham.
I was a bit surprised at how defensive Lyon were, though to be fair, it very nearly worked for them. Spurs deserved to go through over the two legs.
Awful mistake for Carragher to make in last European game, felt sorry for him.
What was the wall at for Suarez's first free-kick, so so poor. His second free was unbelievable though, pure class.
Did Suarez and Hulk give the ball away more times than the other 20 players combined? Suarez is brilliant but he is very selfish. Hulk just tried to run through people.
Very surprised Rogers replaced Henderson with Assaidi. I thought Henderson was playing quite well, his cushioned lay-off to Enrique for Allen's goal was delightful. Not sure if Assaidi did anything worthwhile when he came on.
Nice of Suarez to show his class near the end again with that stamp. He didn't cause any injury but he it was clearly intentional. That is why he is hated.
Parker's Left Leg Could Cost Them Fourth
I was watching the Spurs game last night and something concerned me about their team and their potential for the rest of the season. Coincidentally, F365 posted an article about them with similar concerns, for me though, Scott Parker's point blank refusal to use his left foot could possibly cost them a Champions League place.
He is/was a very good player, he could have been great which is why Chelsea bought him many many moons ago but this lack of acceptance that his left foot can be used for more than standing on probably stopped him progressing there.
I cannot accept that a professional footballer is not able to pass a ball 10 yards with his 'wrong' foot, seriously, why is a professional footballer who gets paid more in a week then double the average annual salary of this country not able to use his left foot??? It may only seem like a small point but it is this refusal that causes his 37-point turns. All he has to do is use his left foot which would keep the pace of the play up and widen his range of available passes. When he tried to pass to a player to his left last night, it was either and inaccurate pass with the outside of his right, slowing play down, or, a slow and laboured turn to get the right angle to pass with his instep seriously slowing the pace of each move.
He has had probably close to 16 years as a professional and we are constantly told that footballers have too much free time leading to gambling, drinking etc. etc., why not use this time to kick a ball against a wall with his left foot to improve it? Even now, it would improve him as a player significantly. Surely it's not too much to ask for a professional to actually improve his weaknesses? I remember an interview with Jack Wilshere where he said his weaknesses are his right foot and shooting and that is what he has been concentrating on in his own time doing extra training since returning from injury.
Back to my original point, as a neutral, Parker's Peg Leg could cost Spurs their Champions League place and if I were a Spurs fan, I would be concerned about a genuine option in the absence of Sandro.
Annoyed By Drifting Bale
Just wondering whether I'm the only Spurs fan that gets annoyed by Bale's constant tendency to drift into the centre?
One of the criticisms levelled at Spurs before the January window was that we lacked a player that could pick holes in tightly packed defenses, so we duly purchased Lewis Holtby to fill exactly that gap in our squad. Now as much as Bale is comfortably our best player I can't help thinking he should be ordered to just stay on his wing more often, because whilst he goes to the centre it prevents Holtby from doing what he was bought to do.
Sitting watching the game against Lyon it's exactly the type of packed defense that Holtby should be utilized to break down but he's just being forced wide and therefore out of the game. I'd have no problem with Bale switching to the right with Lennon coming to the left but in the centre he offers little more than direct running and speculative shots from distance, neither of which are massively useful against such a tight defense. He'd still be able to come in and have a pop from the right wing much as Robben does so well for Bayern.
It's also worth noting that BAE was often getting loads of space down the left tonight; surely Bale could have had plenty of fun trying to exploit that.
I regularly forgive him because he can be so spectacularly good but it seems obvious that when he's not doing something incredible his movement is at best affecting the balance of the team and at worst actively forcing his colleagues out of the action. There's a reason he was our only scorer in four games in a row before tonight...
Rodgers' Substitutions: Appalling
I'm sure you'll receive plenty of mails regarding this subject today, but I feel the need to vent as my anger has yet to subside. I am a big fan of Rodgers. I love the way he goes about his business and the way he gets the team playing. Yeah, he's way too over-optimistic and praises his players too much, but I like him.
That set aside, the substitutions he made last night we appalling. Just after Luis Suarez hammered in a glorious free-kick to make it 3-1, not only did the most improbable comeback since 2005 look on, Liverpool had 30 minutes plus injury time to do it. Inevitable? Yes. But, as the Zenit coach sat there pondering his role in another glorious Anfield European night, he watched his counterpart inexplicably suck the life out of his team. Henderson, was having a superb night and has extraordinary work rate and stamina, was replaced by Assaidi (hasn't played since November) and Allen (who was out to prove and was doing it) was replaced by Zero the confidence Shelvey.
I'm aware hindsight is a wonderful thing but it wouldn't have taken a genius to work out what was going to happen next. Liverpool had virtually no chances after those changes and we limped about over the next 30 minutes. I really believe that if the Zenit coach could've made changes to the Liverpool side, those are the ones he would have made.
Furthermore, I'm getting so tired of Liverpool being the bridesmaid and everyone thinking it's okay, valiant if you will. In fact, we are no longer even close to the bridesmaid, we are quickly turning into the scaldy aunt down the back who no one wants to talk to.
Richie (loves a good bracket) Wormald
...Before all the hysteria kicks in and the entire 'Rodgers Out' brigade starts, I have to say that as a neutral last nights game was absolutely fantastic. Well, that is, right up until around the 60th minute when Rodgers made some subs and ruined the flow of the game. Rodgers out...oh, wait.
Tom C (love football, hate Chelsea)
...Fantastic match against Zenit, it's a shame that Carra's final European match had to end with that error.
I want to like Rodgers, and I really want him to succeed. However, I think ultimately he cost us the match. By continuing with his decision to substitute Shelvey after the Suarez's second goal, he failed to adapt to the moment. Shelvey is potentially a fantastic player, and has showed that he gets in to good positions in attack. But we were playing extremely well, and putting him on changes our shape and our rhythm. More congestion in the middle, and one more rash player. Far better would have been to put on Assaidi, who always does the same thing, namely stretching the play. Assaidi was the perfect sub, as he could put even more pressure on the left flank with the brilliant Enrique. Basically, what I'm saying is that when you're so close, and playing well, don't put in a player who will change the rhythm of the team.
Henry, LFC NY
The Fans Feed Liverpool Optimism
Over the course of this week of European football, I've come to recognise the difference between why I'm hopeful, even slightly confident, that Liverpool appear to be on the right path back up the table, and why other fans see us as the epitome of a fallen giant, languishing in mid-table mediocrity (yes, all those cliches were deliberate). Yesterday evening our fans were magnificent, amazing and I honestly can't describe how proud I am to be a Liverpool supporter after that and they are the reason for my optimism. They inspired the players to play to the maximum, leaving them distraught when they couldn't achieve what they wanted and I'm hopeful that that performance and the support from the fans, despite the overall result, will spur them on.
Contrast this to the relative silence around the Emirates every week, and subsequent 'crisis' Arsenal are in, and you can see how important a passionate crowd are. I don't think the only reason Wilshere was close to tears on Tuesday night was the poor performance but also the lack of support from the fans. The general mood around Arsenal is negative most of the time and that is solely down to the fans constant calls for Wenger's, the players' or the board's head. I understand why they do it but they have to make do with what they've got and support it, as majority of Liverpool fans have learned to do. Yes, some want Rodgers out or don't like the owners but they always try to get behind the players, or at least give them a chance to prove their worth, as last night proved.
Arsenal need their fans most right now if they want to remain in the top four, but, if they don't I can see them slipping away. That was what happened to Liverpool, albeit in different circumstances, and look what happened. So, Arsenal fans, actively support your team and watch them flourish again, or continue with the silent protest and watch the Champions League disappear. Your choice. All I hope now is that Liverpool fans have made this choice a permanent one.
A Chelsea Fan Writes In!
A few points from the Chelsea - Sparta Prague game and our season in general:
1. I'd say last night was our worst performance of the season but that would be a lie. The number of matches in which we have looked listless and headless this season is too high to expand on. This season has been an exercise in frustration with a variety of new lows being reached. Can't wait for it to get over.
2. If Chelsea can't find anyone stupid enough to purchase Torres or take him on loan, they should demote him to the reserves. Any hopes of salvaging his career have long gone out of the window and he is actively harming the team's chances of winning. He seeks out that part of the box which has the most defenders so he has a place to hide and barely seems able to even pass now. Sure, it will be a huge drain on resources to have Torres on the books doing nothing but at least he won't be doing nothing on the pitch.
3. I read Matt Stanger's Midfielders Who Divide Opinion wondering when Mikel's name would come up and was surprised when it didn't. Time and again, Matejovsky and Kadlec waltzed passed him and apart from a couple of nice long passes he offered almost nothing. I mentioned how useless he is on a popular Chelsea fan site but was promptly shouted down by others. One even went so far as to call him the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League, which is only partially true as none of the other top teams employ someone so one-dimensional.
4. Vaclik had an excellent game in goal for Sparta and looks to be a good prospect for the future. Also, his name is quite fun to say.
5. Manchester City will greatly benefit from this result. Starting Mata for this match was stupid and he looked exhausted at the end of the match. Given that he's our best player, we should have found time to rest him but instead he started games against the likes of Brentford and both the Sparta games. Luckily, Hazard saved us from another half-hour of football.
6. Will someone please wake Gary Cahill up?
7. The funny thing is, with the exception of Marin, all of our signings this season have been quite successful. Hazard, Azpilicueta and Oscar have been excellent while Moses has also had his moments. If we had a decent striker instead of an incompetent boob, I'm sure we'd have been much closer to United.
This season has been quite a disaster. At the beginning, we were in with a chance of seven trophies but look likely to end up with none of them. Hopefully we can get a decent manager for next season and actually stick with him. Well, I can dream, can't I?
Nikhil N, CFC
And A Newcastle One!
In case Brendan Rogers is reading, Newcastle just proved what a perfect away European performance looks like.
Joe C, Newcastle (NUFC)
Bigging Up Beglin
I'd like to second Rhys, CFC, in bigging up Jim Beglin. I had begun to wonder whether Jim was actually just a(nother) voice in my head, so little has been mentioned of him in the lengthy debates about punditry standards.
He doesn't necessarily set the world on fire, but he's an old school co-commentator who recognises that he's not the star of the show. There are no bad puns, no tedious jokes, not too much jingoistic bias and no rambling on just for the sake of hearing the sound of his own voice. He simply adds a brief observations when he feels it will add value to do so. It seems a shame to have to praise such a simple recognition of what the job should involve, but so many over the year have failed (Lawro, Big Ron, Andy bloody Townsend), that he really stands out as an exception.
As a Spurs supported I've really enjoyed enjoyed the roller-coaster ride of the Ropey League, but never more so that when the games are shown on ITV8 (or whatever it is) and I'm treated to Beglin instead of Townsend.
Chris Bridgeman (realising an unhealthy man-love for Jim Beglin), Kingston Upon Thames
Townsend On Tour
All this talk of Andy Townsend has me wallowing in self pity. I moved to Thailand about 12 months ago and was excited for my first Saturday being able go out at 6.45pm and watch live Premier League all the way through until 11.00pm (or 01.00am if there was a late game). So there I am, down at the bar for some pre-game food and who's on the TV but Andy Townsend. 'Calm Down' I tell myself, 'He won't be on all night'. He was. And he is every sodding Saturday or Sunday. So do spare a thought for me, who has to put up with his terrible analysis once or twice every week of the season!
Barney Stinson, Thailand (Curbishley and Dowie in the studio isn't ideal either)
Top Ten Potentials
Having just read the top 10 regrets for the season; it got me thinking of 10 potential outcomes at the end of the season that would surprise us all considering the current state of things:
1. Newcastle win the Europa League
Imagine if you will the insanity that will engulf the Toon if they win the Europa League considering the shoddy form of the first half of the season and the suggested rush of signings in January. Ben Arfa will be returning to fitness at the right time to assist the push. It may sound far-fetched, but I've seen crazier things happen...Chelsea last year per chance?
2. Bradford win the League Cup
I love Swansea. No, I really do. The attitude of their squad and players is a sight to behold. But just imagine the Bantams lifting that trophy on Sunday. There's a smile there (unless you're a proper fan of the Swans). It would be equally mental imagining Bradford competing against some random former European great.
3. Van Persie Injured - City storm to the title
Van Persie goes in for an innocuous challenge. Bang, out for the remainder of the season. United's season is rocked. City sense a wounded beast at its mercy and take great satisfaction in storming to another surprise title with the former United fave Carlos banging in the winning goal. Mancini is celebrated in Manchester and given the key to the city (if they exist?).
4. Swansea takes a top-four spot
Riled by the failure in the League Cup final and Bradford causing a big surprise, we see a different side to Laudrup and an angry Dane picks his team up and motivates them to a surprise top-four finish; Michu finishing the season at top scorer with 31 goals.
5. Arsenal overturns Bayern but Wenger still walks
No one, apart from Wenger, knows exactly what could happen at the end of the season if they fail/succeed in Champions League spot chasing. Despite a phenomenal 4-0 win in Munich following the sending-off of Jerome Boateng, Arsenal are subsequently knocked out in the semis of the CL. Wenger, frustrated by constant media abuse and inquisition, walks from the Emirates in a dramatic spin to a final-day victory. Talk of Tony Adams taking over quickly emerges and in equal time submerges.
6. Real Madrid win Champions League and Mourinho takes the opportunity with Arsenal
Ronaldo scores the winning goals against United to take them through, and they never look back. His tears after scoring become an everlasting image of the Champions League. With an easy run all the way to the final after Arsenal knock out Bayern and Milan the same with Barcelona, Madrid have no difficulty whatsoever. Mourinho takes the plaudits and swiftly takes the call from Stan in June.
7. Chelsea finish the season and start the next managerless
A close call on the way to the Europa League and the previous year's Champions League winners are out at the semis. Their attention on the Europa League results in lost form in the PL and a loss to 'Boro in the FA Cup (yeah, I'm feeling optimistic) mean that Chelsea get rid of Benitez before the season finishes. No high-profile manager is available and any names mentioned quickly refute any desire to take over. Limited summer signings due to a rudderless ship and the former trophy hungry giants begin the new campaign with no direction. Chelsea fans scream for Guus Hiddink to come back again.
8. Bale moves to Bayern, sending Robben the other way
The obvious transfer saga of the summer is resolved early in the summer window, with Spurs accepting £28m and Robben the other way. AVB quickly snaps up the striker all Spurs fans have been screaming for (Who, you ask? I can't see THAT far into uncertainty) and bolsters up the defence.
9. Everton fail in their charge for Champions League Football - Moyes commits to another three years
An inconsistent season by Everton, but a final finish of 5th is not enough. Moyes is still committed to the club, however, and Everton manage to retain Baines, Jagielka and Fellaini for another season despite continuous rumours.
10. 'Boro get promoted
It's my mail so I can dream! Marvin Emnes hits fitness and form for the final run in of the season. Four hat-tricks are bagged along the way with the smoggies snapping up the second automatic promotion spot in dramatic fashion. They celebrate with a party on the Transporter Bridge. We can all dream.
Phil Pearce (hoping to see the Welsh destroy the Italians this weekend!!), MFC, London