Wednesday, September 28, 2011

England to get an English Manager?

This whole idea of having an Englishman is common in England, as is common to blame the foreigners for everything, it was like that after the World Cup, too many foreign players in the league no good young talent etc. Now I know I'm biased being foreign myself, and I think this idea of blaming the foreigners it's an easy one and more of a cop out. To be fair I would probably agree that national team players and managers should be local nationals but modern football is not like that, and I have no problem with getting the best man for the job.

Which leads me to who I think SHOULD be the next England manager but won't. Unfortunately I think the FA is what's standing in the way of England's success. One has only to remember the issue with Ferdinand's drug test years ago. The FA does not want an opinionated manager that wants control over the whole of the development of English football. If they did, Mourinho would have got the job before he went to Inter after Sven left, allegedly he produced a dossier over what he wanted and needed to take England forward, it was simply too ambitious for the FA. Similarly, a man that has great knowledge of English football and players, is a good tactician and a great motivator, Martin O' Neill was also disregarded before the appointment of Capello, Martin simply takes no prisoners, that does not sit well with the powers installed at the FA. Both Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson would bed the next two outstanding choices but once again they would want to oversee and have much more control than the FA are prepared to concede.

So England will not get the best manager they should get for the role. They will get someone from outside, like Capello, attracted to the money and a chance to prove themselves internationally but that are not going to be too much of a hindrance. But obviously, because the powers that be at the FA are spineless, England will get their English manager because that's what the press and fans are calling for, regardless of their suitability for the role. Redknapp would do well to motivate and lift the spirits of the players and deal with national press, but I fear he would be found wanting against the good teams tactically. Pearce, who is being groomed right now for job is I think the most likely candidate, he's an unknown quantity but he does have a lot of passion and has worked with good managers.

The other English managers, or British even, I fear are not qualified, simply because in fairness to most of them, they have not the chance to prove themselves, Allardyce, Pulis, Coyle, Pardew, even Moyes, all of whom have done great jobs but never at a top team. The most qualified is of course Steve McLaren who did well with Twente, but has once again self-destructed his career with catastrophic appointments at Wolfsburg and Forest.

England do really need a Mourinho or a Wenger, someone to think long-term, who can take risks, can handle big egos, and reform the system. But before that can happen the FA must change first.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The First Clássico FC Porto - SL Benfica

Eve though I didn't watch the first half I thought Benfica played pretty well. Prior to the game I had predicted a 1-1 draw, and I think the 2-2 draw reflects the parity of the two teams.

What most impressed me about Benfica was their composure, coming out of the interval 1-0 down, then equalising but going behind almost immediately, but never lost their cool just kept plugging away and plugging away and found a second to equalise, a pretty decent goal by Gaitan after a great pass by Saviola.

I was surprised Jorge Jesus replaced Nolito and Aimar when he decided to make changes and bring on Saviola and Bruno César, I thought he might replaced Witsel instead and perhaps Gaitan, as Nolito was looking quite dangerous and had just provided the pass to Cardozo´s first goal in the Estádio do Dragão. I guess the manager wanted to keep tactic discipline with Javi Garcia and Witsel in the middle and Saviola certainly plays closer to Cardozo than Aimar. Gaitan looks better on the left (after all he played there all last season) and his movement and finish for the goal was good, Jesus read the game well and his decisions worked.

But as I said what most impressed me was Benfica's calm approach to the game, away at Porto, simply kept attacking and playing their game, despite finding themselves behind twice. A mature performance from a good team that looked assured on the ball and with solutions on the bench. A good season could be in the offing for the Eagles.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The foolishness of the Press

We all know fans can be fickle and the Press can exaggerate but it's difficult not to be swayed by the myriad inundation of news and reports and opinions, and as a fan to be content with being patient and not be disgruntled when the team underperforms.

I don't want to over emphasise this point or labour on it too much, I'll just leave a concrete example of how wrong people can get it sometimes.

The idea to write this post comes as I depart for holiday to Portugal tomorrow, having had to postpone my trip that stopped me from being at Estádio da Luz for Benfica- Manchester United tonight, so I was reading on the result of 2005 when Benfica against all odds manage to stage an unlikely turnaround and win the game.  I have since found out that it was the only time Benfica had done so and I was lucky to have been present in the stadium that night, with friends, and the feeling of exultation was palpable, regardless of how transient and deserved it was.

A particular report, I was reading  just now, had launched a scathing attack on Sir Alex Ferguson. The year was 2005, Manchester United were in middle of a barren spell without wining the league, and the writing for this reporter was on the wall: "There will be a reckoning that takes place in private and it is likely to see Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure at Manchester United terminated at the close of the season."

These are strong opening words from someone at The Guardian, a newspaper I generally hold in high regard, but not reporter is free from doom scenarios and indeed being wrong. It's hard not to draw parallels with Arsenal's current situation. Manchester United were experiencing difficult years, stories of Ferguson's retirement abounded and the club had just recently been bought by the Glazers. Chelsea's dominance since the arrival of Abramovich and particularly José Mourinho meant that it was difficult to look beyond Chelsea for a credible alternative to the title, and it looked as though Manchester United were a club on the downside, a manager on the brink of either retiring or being sacked, a club in financial peril due to the amount of debt the owners that transferred to the club.

Well, two years later, Ferguson found the winning formula once again and the turned the club around, going on to win the Premiership three years in a row and last year also, managing to reach the final of the Champions League three times and winning it once.

It's true that Arsenal's barren spell has lasted longer, six years not four, the club has also been bought and it looks incapable of competing with the best teams in the league, moreover, Arsenal has to contend not only with Chelsea and Abramovich, but also Manchester City and their owners from Abu Dhabi who seemingly have even deeper pockets than the Russian in London. 

But, with UEFA's new financial regulations coming to play next year it could yet prove that Arsenal's sustainable model may prevail, and the team, though less apparently competitive than in previous years has shown last night that it is good enough for the likes of the German champions, which for a team that has had their confidence shattered by a freak 8-2 three weeks ago is no mean feat. 

In conclusion, do not believe all the press says at face value, and do not despair after one bad result, even a poor season. Sir Alex Ferguson is the proof that faith in a successful manager means that quite likely he'll know what to do to make the team return to glory and trophies.

Link to The Guardian report: