Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m not crying…you’re crying.
Joe (NYC, CFC, RIP Emiliano)
Was that the shortest crisis of all time? An impressive 5-0 win….against Huddersfield, but still with our new striker scoring twice, with his second being a goal of the month contender!
Mikey, CFC (Expecting to see THAT Qatar goal included in the “Things we loved this weekend” section on Monday)
Leeds are done
Leeds won’t recover from this.
So much sterile, useless possession – and teams just know it’s coming. They sit back, wait for a mistake… then blammo… a few quick passes on the counter-attack and Leeds are conceding a shot on goal – and those shots seem to go in an awful lot.
Bielsa, FFS, get off your fracking bucket and make a change. This isn’t working anymore, and it hasn’t been since November. Why keep doing the same thing over and over and over and over again if it only works occasionally?
Adam Forshaw is one of the worst midfielders I’ve ever seen in our white shirt, and there have been some pretty poor ones come and go. Bielsa must stop persisting with Jack Fracking Harrison – this kid is a fair-weather player and just doesn’t show up. Tyler Roberts hasn’t got it, and if he’s playing alongside Harrison (like vs Norwich, today) the opposition just owns the midfield. Kemar Roofe has got an almighty chip on his shoulder and is suffering badly from ‘I-think-Im-better-than-I-am’ syndrome. Hernandez looks exhausted and doesn’t have an impact if he’s not given any space.
We’ve hung on to top spot for a while, now we’ll try to hang on to 2nd but we’ll keep falling. We’ve probably done enough to reach the playoffs, but with momentum all but gone, and the system not working, teams below us putting runs together… I think we’re done for the season.
And I’ve had enough of this crap.
First I really would not mind Ole staying on as manager at United next season despite the juicy Poch romours. There’s something about these two guys game plans that’s just fit for United.
Anyway whoever gets the job I would love them to possibly sign Dybala with lukaku moving to juve. The chemistry Dybala had with Pogba at Juve was insane and if you add Rashford and Martial to that mix an supplement it with lingard and sanchez to help in crisis would make a deadly attack.
Lukaku would perfectly fit at Juve with his physical game, no offense to him though.
P.S I can’t wait for City to thrash Arsenal
The Joker, Nairobi Kenya
Money’s on Houllier
If Liverpool manage to lose the title I think an enquiry should be made on all their past coaches to find out who Bela Guttmanned them.
Kayode Ajaja(excluding Hodgson though cos he was sh*t for them)MUFC
I walk a mile with a smile
Many great sporting moments have and continue to give the old shiver down the spine moment … Wilkinson’s drop goal , Redgrave’s 5th gold , the miracle at Medinah and so on but is extremely rare that words can illicit the same response…but having read Johnny Nic’s article on one Nobby Klopp and particularly the last line … “Simply a great man” my back certainly felt colder than before and it has nothing to do with the current polar vortex we are all dealing with.
Obviously as a supporter of Nobby’s team I am biased and love the guy to bits but Johnny really gets to the crux of the man and how he endears himself to the people despite the occasional fallibility which makes him seem even more human.
So congrats to Johnny for a brilliantly written article .
DL , LFC ( Norbert is just stupendous ) Geneva
Asian Cup conclusions
Despite it being a couple of days after the match I thought I might do a 16 conclusions for the recent Qatar v Japan Asian Cup final. It was an interesting game and an interesting environment in which to attend a match…
1) The final itself was held in Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi. For those not familiar with UAE geography and politics Abu Dhabi is the capital of the nation and one of seven Emirates (read states – as per the USA) that have combined to create the nation. Abu Dhabi is generally quieter, smaller and more conservative that the bigger, brasher neighbour Dubai – but it does have most of the country’s money.
For those thinking of how to enjoy the World Cup in Qatar, Abu Dhabi (one major airport and airline) is an hour’s drive down the road from Dubai (two major airports with Emirates plus a host of others). At the moment there is some political tension between the UAE and Qatar but I am assuming that the UAE will get over it by the World Cup because it would be a missed business opportunity to not do so. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are a short plane flight to Qatar. Should the situation ease I would expect a lot of people to stay in the UAE to take advantage of the more relaxed environment here and hop into Qatar for games.
2) Having jumped in the car and taken the hour drive to Abu Dhabi from Dubai we arrived early. Parking near the ground (try doing that at most grounds in the UK!) we located the nearest hotel with a sports bar and settled in for a few beers and a burger prior to the game. In the Middle East hotels tend to be the places where you get alcohol. There are plenty of hotels with bars but its still not quite as easy as pitching up at any ground in the UK and locating a local pub. Prior research on where to locate a beer helps. I believe there will be fan zones for the Qatar World Cup so that should make that task a bit easier.
3) Having found a sports bar in the nearest hotel we were treated to wall-to-wall BeIn Sports tv coverage – the home of exiled football trolls Keys / Gray and recent mouthpiece of sacked Jose Mourinho. As the region’s version of Sky this is to be expected. However, one wrinkle, BeIn is effectively Qatari State owned so we had two hours of non-stop replays of their thrashing of local rivals (and hosts) UAE in the semi finals. I couldn’t tell you what the Japanese semi final goals were like as they weren’t shown once.
4) Zayed Sport City Stadium is a 45,000 all-seater. It’s a bit of a concrete bowl and is a running track stadium so it sprawls a bit. There was definitely less going on around the stadium than most Prem grounds I’ve been to and organisation was distinctly lacking. Dodging the traffic to make it to the main gates was entertaining but not ideal. Also on the organisation front, there were some pre-game concerns on a few things, but they all worked out fine. Other matches in the tournament had issues of crowds without tickets rushing the gates, causing them to be closed, so then fans with tickets had not got in. I heard rumours that Qatar fans might be blocked from entering the stadium though I understand Fifa had stepped in to ensure this didn’t happen. We were also worried that had the UAE got to the final the Sheikh was going to issue a mandate that all tickets were to be compulsorily purchased and gifted to Emirati (which didn’t happen, for obvious reasons).
5) Another pre-match taking point (not on BeIn obviously) was the origin of a number of Qatar’s players. In order to not be embarrassed at its own World Cup Qatar has invested around $1bn in its player development program, recruiting coaches from around the world to train the team. They’ve used their influence at various clubs to see Qatar players brought through youth systems and, most controversially, stand accused of taking young players from other nations (notably Sudan, I believe).
As it stands I think an official complaint has been made that Qatar have fielded players who have lived in Qatar for less than the requisite five years. I imagine this protest will be waived away. Aside from any moralising about this kind of spending personally I don’t see any problems with this. France has won two world cups with a united African nations and many countries field teams with players whose heritage is varied. That’s how the world is. The argument about what makes a person a national of a country is decidedly shades of grey in my view.
6) All the above entanglements dealt with we made our way to the seats (£60 for Cat A if you were wondering). The stadium was pretty full (34,000 seats sold) and there was decent representation from both teams’ supporters. I’d guess there were a few thousand overt Qatar fans, mostly off to our left, which isn’t bad given that there are only 200,000 Qatar nationals and the political issues between the nations. They spent most of the game being fairly noisy and they had a stand sized national flag that came out before and after the game and each time they scored.
The Nippon were also excellent value. Probably a few thousand of them as well. The hardcore fans were mainly below us and they banged an enormous drum and chanted “Nippon” for 90 minutes solid. There was even a chap in full samurai gear (minus blade).
7) And so to the game… Japan were the pre-match favourites, I assume on the basis that they are five times winners, and no team from the Middle East has ever won the tournament before. Though we all felt this massively under-priced Qatar who had the tournament top scorer and were yet to concede a goal. If I had been able to bet here I might have been tempted to find a local bookies and back Qatar.
8) The opening ten minutes were fairly scrappy with both teams failing to settle or so much as string three passes together. It looked like the pitch didn’t help with this because, despite being doused with what looked like a fire hydrant up to kick off, it seemed to be playing like a concrete school yard. I expect much gnashing of teeth over any similar problem if it occurs at the World Cup. Injured players, unplayable games etc etc.
9) As the game settled it became clear why Qatar were so defensively sound. Three very tight centre backs flanked by two moderately adventurous wing backs. In front of them the catenaccio of three central midfielders with the central one almost standing on the toes of the defenders. The other two shuttling out wide when needed to support the wing backs. The two more forward players tucked in to make a compact and deep lying 5-3-2 when Japan were on the ball.
Japan were the more adventurous – at least in formation. A back four with very forward thinking full backs (when in possession), two central midfielders, and almost a front 4. When defending they dropped into something resembling a 4-4-2 but to be honest their formation wasn’t particularly rigid. In quite a few moments it was a little hard to figure out exactly what their formation and game plan really was other than ‘chuck players at the defensive wall and wait for some inspiration’.
10) It soon became clear that the front four / fluid formation wasn’t really helping Japan. Qatar’s midfield three swiftly took control of the middle of the pitch. And Qatar were the first team (always an important sign I think) to get a couple of moves going where the ball kept finding feet. Japan, by converse, were left making forays down the flanks (their best opportunity for space was behind those wing-backs) but any room found out wide resulted in some rather hopeful balls launched into the box – easily swatted away by the Qatar central block.
11) Just when I thought the game might turn into a bit of a stalemate of Japan having blunt possession interspersed with Qatar counter-attacks it opened up. A surge up the left and a cross slightly behind Qatar’s top scorer was deftly controlled with a couple of keepy uppies and a bicycle kick. Perhaps not quite the same level of technical merit as Bale or Zidane in CL finals – but that’s being churlish – because it wasn’t far off. If you’re going to put your nation 1-0 up in its first ever final that is how to do it.
12) Qatar’s attacks weren’t frequent, but from one incisive move on 12 minutes played (to go 1-0 ahead), another materialised on the half hour mark. Clearly Japan haven’t ever watched Arjen Robben play as they ushered Hatim inside and onto his left on the edge of their box. Just like Robben, Hatim fixed his sights on the top left of Japan’s goal and delivered a curling thunderbolt to the top corner. 2-0 with half an hour gone and Japan were sinking without trace.
13) The rest of the half was fairly without incident. Qatar decided a two goal lead was sufficient and began to concede territory and possession. The second half was ever more so as Qatar channelled their inner Mourinho to sit deep and compact. On around 60 minutes we looked up the stats and Japan had 60% possession but not much by way of threat. Their one consistent bright spark was Doan (on their right) who wanted to inject some pace and engage in some take-ons but that was about it.
14) Just when we thought Qatar would simply squeeze all life from the game – a lifeline for Japan. Minamino (the No. 9) wriggled free in the box and provided a tidy finish for 2-1. Suddenly there was hope. Japan were energised and kept up their bombardment but often looked short of inspiration and final touch quality. Moments of opportunity lacked precision and chances were squandered in the face of some resolute Qatar defending. Too late (in my view) Inui was sent on to challenge the increasingly tired looked Qatar midfield three.
15) And yet, there was still time for VAR controversy to rear its head. A Qatar breakaway led to a corner, which was cleared, before confusion… the whistle had gone, no one was sure why. Then suddenly the ref was trotting over a VAR monitor, notices flashed up on the big-screens that there was a review in process. Japan players protested, a couple of Qatar players appeared to be kneeling and praying, and the stadium held its breath. Penalty.
From the replay on the big-screen it looked fairly clear that Yoshida (of Southampton) had his hands up and had handled the corner. I’ve read reports subsequently which raise some doubt – a classic VAR replay interpretation issue. Anyway, the penalty was tucked away and everyone Qatar related duly went nuts. Another fifteen or so minutes of relatively blunt Japan attack came and went before Qatar got their hands on the trophy.
6) So, what to think? Stepping away from the politics (other people can argue that another day), and remembering that this game was in the UAE, I do wonder what the fan experience will be like in Qatar. It was not the kind of experience many readers will be used to from England nor traveling to most European destinations. Fan Zones will be needed and better infrastructure / organisation will be necessary. Though I’m sure the corporate slug fest will step up to ensure everyone is sated with Coke, McDonalds, Fosters, Nike and the products of every other ‘official sponsor and partner’.
On the pitch I’ll stick my neck out and say that Qatar will be a dark horse. A young team with lots of resource will play at its home World Cup as the Middle East’s first Asian Cup champions. They’ll be backed by their own passionate fans and will fancy their chances of giving some bigger nations a bloody nose. Organised, well drilled, with some pace and a striker who can nick a goal from nowhere sounds like a decent cup recipe to me. I’m not saying they will win it, of course, but maybe a kind draw leading to a tilt at the quarters. You heard it here first.
Josh, AFC, Dubai
The Asian Cup final last night, won 3-1 by Qatar over Japan was a high quality, entertaining match.
Qatar deserved the win, defending deeply to protect the two goal lead they had at half time. Their first goal was a corking overhead kick. Some of the first touches to bring the ball under control would have Lukaku spinning into convulsions.
Whilst Japan’s attack was often predictable, EPL clubs could do worse than have a scout look at the Qatari back line.
But to the VAR. Qatar were awarded a late penalty for handball. In my mind an absolutely appalling decision, yet one I was sure would be made. I couldn’t help thinking I had just seen the first political use of VAR. I even imagined good old Sepp Blatter hiding in the VAR room whispering to award the penalty.
That said, Qatar were good value for the win, and will be no push over in 2022.
Ged (hoping Vietnam make it to a WC, they love football so much) Biglin.
Just wanted to say huge congratulations to the winners of the Asian Cup, Qatar.
I live in the UAE and before that in Qatar, so I have a soft spot for the winners. I went to two games – Qatar v Saudi (the first ‘blockade derby’) and yesterday’s final. Tickets for the group game were 5 quid! And for the final 15 quid. It was an excellent occasion each time. The goals yesterday were all great goals, though the penalty, given on VAR, was a bit dodgy – far more ball to hand than the other way around.
The Qatari striker, Almoez Ali, broke the goals record for the tournament with 9 in 7 games. I can see him getting a move to Europe in the summer.
Qatar’s win is all the more impressive when you take in the political situation. UAE, are one of the countries blockading them, so to play and withstand the local hostile pressure right through the tournament, with not a single Qatari fan allowed into the country to support the team was a remarkable achievement, including beating the hosts 4-0 in the semis. Luckily yesterday there were thousands of Omanis loudly supporting Qatar and, it was a great atmosphere.
Simon, LFC, Abu Dhabi
I am actually loving the Diamond Geezer on-going Champ Manager shenanigans, bringing back so many memories of a game that took up inordinate amounts of time and energy with equal parts anger, frustration and ecstasy. Thank you F365 for the wonderful trip down memory lane.
Paul Murphy, Manchester (Ibrahima Bakayoka was the GOAT in Champ Man 95)
I want to be the first one to say that it’s refreshing reading Mike Paul’s adventures is CM 01/02. From not turning to the drink and cigarettes after 2 losses in a row to being flexible enough with his formations to get the best out of his players, I think we can all agree he’s no Iain MacIntosh. And that’s a very good thing. Poor Iain was Maurizio Sarri before it was cool. I had to stop following him on Twitter because it did my nerves in wondering if he’d do something desperate while I was sleeping a few time-zones behind him. Steven Chicken is much more my speed these days.
Really enjoying Mike and his championship manager articles. I see a lot of people in the comments section complaining it’s going to take too long though. What’s the problem with this? Let’s say every few days he sticks up an article that has four or five matches and what not. That’s ok. There’s no rush. I would gladly read it for the next few years but wouldn’t it be even more true to championship manager if he just had to abandon the bloody thing half way through?!?!
Also, do you or the other visitors to this site, feel that the comments section adds anything? Personally I think they are terrible. So much negativity and just going out of your way to complain.
“The site hasn’t been funny for years”
“It should go back to the old way”
“why can you swear in the article but I can’t in the comments”
“Liberal bleeding heart blah blah blah”
“I certainly hope Mediawatch will Mediawatch itself”
“Something, something Sarah blah blah women whinge whinge whinge”
“Mishap Matt lists grr…”
None of that adds anything. It’s boring to read. Why post it? Especially the ones that go on to Mediawatch every single day with the same comments. Please stop.
There are some good commenters and perhaps it’s not fair to take it away because of a few but it is infuriating at times.
Ye are doing an excellent job. I have been coming here for years and will continue to do so. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t. But that’s ok.
John (also Degsy has a betting column and ye don’t like gambling company’s and Johnny Nic’s a HYPOCRITE snarl, snarl, snarl) Ireland.