Monday Moan: Reds' reason to complain

Mark Holmes blasts the scheduling that has hurt the likes of Liverpool, dismisses Tom Huddlestone's England chances, and talks Nicolas Anelka.

Last Updated: 30/12/13 at 12:35 Post Comment

Luis Suarez: Tough Christmas period for Liverpool

Luis Suarez: Tough Christmas period for Liverpool

Nightmare after Christmas

It is often said that the order of a team's fixtures does not matter a great deal as everyone has to play everyone at some point.

There is some truth in that - managers bemoaning tough runs of games will benefit from an easier run at some stage - but the two sets of Premier League fixtures over the last week have gone a fair way to disproving the statement.

While half of the league landed back-to-back home games, the other 10 clubs were handed successive away trips in the space of three or four days.

Manchester City, for example, were able to rest a host of players for Saturday's home game against lowly Crystal Palace having beaten Liverpool a few days earlier, also at the Etihad.

The Reds, however, followed up that game with a trip to London to face another of the title challengers in Chelsea, who had rested some key players in their home game against Swansea a few days previously.

The festive period regularly proves crucial in deciding the destination of the title, and the size of the advantage City and Chelsea were given over their rivals cannot be underestimated.

Arsenal and Manchester United were able to win both of their away games but Liverpool, having topped the table at Christmas, now find down themselves in fifth. Unable to rotate his squad over the past week, Brendan Rodgers must now choose between fielding tired first-team players or second-rate reserve ones in the now-crucial home game against Hull City on New Year's Day.

Liverpool, of course, are not the only club to have suffered from harsh scheduling over the last week. Stoke were handed unenviable trips to Newcastle and Tottenham, Southampton went to Cardiff and then Everton, while Swansea travelled to Chelsea and Aston Villa.

At the bottom, while Villa, Norwich, Cardiff and West Ham stayed at home, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Fulham and West Brom all landed back-to-back away games.

There is no comparable week in the fixture list to the one which has just seen teams play on Thursday and then Saturday or Sunday, and it is quite frankly a joke that the schedulers were not able to organise one home and one away game for every team or at the very least ensure travelling times were kept to a minimum as has been the case in previous seasons.

Throw into the mix some of the worst refereeing performances witnessed in a long time, and this has been a Christmas a few sides will want to forget.

Hudd no good for England

Although he will largely stick with the players that got England to the World Cup, you would hope that Roy Hodgson is keeping an open mind regarding his final selection for Brazil.

Raheem Sterling, for example, would not have been under serious consideration until recently, but Hodgson was quick to mention the Liverpool winger as a possible candidate for the squad when quizzed on potential wild cards.

The England coach also mentioned Ravel Morrison, Nathan Redmond and Wilfried Zaha, suggesting there are still plenty of places up for grabs, but hopefully he will not be swayed by the calls to take another look at Hull City's Tom Huddlestone.

Steve Bruce dropped a strong hint after the Tigers' 6-0 win over Fulham that he feels the 27-year-old, who last appeared for England in November 2012, should be considered, but it's worth pointing out that Huddlestone's midfield opponents that day were Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis.

Given time and space, Huddlestone can pass the ball better than most, perhaps even Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick. On his day and against the right opposition he can appear a world-class player.

Against top-class opposition, however, when there is less space and much more tracking and running to do, Huddlestone has proven over the years he is not good enough. It's why Tottenham let him go and why suggestions that the likes of Paulinho are not an upgrade on the former Derby man are ridiculous.

Huddlestone was a fantastic signing for Hull and will no doubt continue to stand out in certain games this season, but he is not good enough for Spurs and not good enough for England.

No place for politics in football

Nobody in football should ever abuse their position to make political statements, and anybody that expresses any sort of extremist view should be punished as harshly as possible.

However, it would be dangerous of the Football Association to punish Nicolas Anelka too heavily for a gesture which he insists was a "special dedication" to his friend, the comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala.

To hand Anelka a lengthy ban would be to say they believe he did indeed intend to offend, and the truth is that nobody knows whether or not that is the case.

It has, of course, caused offence, in France at least, and for that reason Anelka does need to be punished. Ignorance was not accepted as an excuse for Luis Suarez and nor should it be accepted in this instance.

A three or perhaps four-game ban is surely sufficient in this case, though. That would reiterate the FA's zero tolerance approach towards racism without accusing Anelka of motives that nobody can be sure he had.

Unfortunately, one suspects this will be another row that persists for quite some time, once again dragging football into a spotlight it should never find itself under.

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