Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Arsenal lost the Carling Cup to Birmingham

There is no doubt that all the cabinets and trophy selves at the Emirates had been dusted and specially arranged to accommodate the new addition, the Carling Cup.  That is how the Directors, the club, fans and the players wanted it. The players could not deliver when it matters most. The pregnancy of expectation had actually split to other people who would not normally care who wins this cup. It had been a long 6 years since the last trophy, and the still born against Birmingham City may destroy Arsenal in their quest for glory this season, but it may actually spur them awake, but I doubt it. 

Arsenal played a Carling Cup final against Birmingham City with one hand on the Cup as if at worst, they will keep the half of the trophy, their most negative football in years. Either due to tactics or fear of losing, they adopted an inferior team complex usually exhibited by smaller teams playing for points away from home in huge capacity crowds oh the hosts.

It was quite embarrassing to see them sit and wait for City to come and get the other half of the trophy, which actually happened. The Gunners were expected to go all guns blazing and steamroll City. Not that I disrespect Birmingham, but it was the moist realistic Arsenal trophy this season and their lives should have depended on it.

The entire match, except on set plays, there was hardly two Gunners in the penalty area. More than twice each for Samir Nasri, Andrey Arshavin, Bascary Sagna and Nicholas Bendtner, they were on the wings soliciting for support in the box without success. Occasionally, the support arrived late. Second man running moves in the attacking third of the pitch were extremely rare and the efforts to play the 3rd man running were non-existant.

This inevitably caused desperation as the Gunners shot from distance, forcing Forster to earn himself the man of the match award. Nasri was never that much in the penalty box. As for Alex Song, we saw how he scored goals earlier in the season, but he was a defensive fixture with dead attacking duties. Jack Wilshire was the most versatile and a little fearless. The rest were so afraid to lose and that is why they lost.

Birmingham on their part, played like they were fulfilling an ordinary fixture. They went out to enjoy football and playing to their full potential without reservations. They would have lost the match and got much satisfaction out of their performance. Ferguson, Johnson and Zigic were crucial when it mattered most. Larson was the most effective player on the day and he was sublime and enjoyed his football.

Arsenal always played like they had to fight another day. That is exactly what happened as they had their minds on extra time. That was never the worry for City. Lee Bowyer, like Johnson, limped his way through, throwing his body on the line. For the poor way they played, it is good that the Gunners lost. Unless they put their act together, the wait for silverware will be really long.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

When lightining strikes

Lighting strike twice. In Africa, it can be purchased and be sent to strike. The female one is the dearer one because of its prowess and devastating cruel strike. It is even more dangerous if it is on heat. The buyer has to play the husband or purchase the male to go with it. Does the bill fit Manchester United's march to glory, Arsenal's glory at Wembley or Barcelona's dominance in La Liga?

The Gunners have earned their road to Wembley as they date Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final. It has been a long while that they were here. They are on course to come back twice more, in the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup if they dispatch Barcelona and League Two outfit Leyton Orient and then United and so forth. Do they have the pedigree to achieve the feat. I can only say that the 2 immediate obstacles standing in their way mirrors their fortunes to date; football giants Barca they beat and football minnows Orient they failed to beat. They still have to prove their brand of football is not a counterfeit version of Barcelona football.

In the Barclays Premier League, Manchester United are the wounded displaced champions. Of course Gunners here look a little dangerous. However, the Red Devils look multi-horned to gore all evil coming their way after their win against Wigan Athletic. They are on heat. Sir Alex Ferguson has forgotten who Chelsea and Manchester City are, and rightly so. The pretenders have since faded into their rightful places. On this front, Arsenal are unlikely to take the lead anytime this season. It is not easy to be inconsistent and then stand on the rooftop and scream for a donation of 4 points. United still have fixtures.

With an embarrassing draw 0-0 against Deportivo La Coruna, Real Madrid have kissed it goodbye. Jose Mourinho is an astute tactician of unequalled proportion. Barcelona beat Real Mallorca by 2-0. All the Galactico can achieve now is the Champions League. While The Special One will tell you there is still a chance for the title. Realistically, Madrid can only save face by glory in Europe. I guess this will be more sweeter to Jose than the title as this will set a record no one may ever equal. His bosses are fed up with the Catalan making them wives, but for the great one, it will always be more personal.

As for the road to Wembley, Arsenal are likely to panic and wilt under the heat of expectation. Apart from their pay masters and fans, they feel they owe it to themselves to win and put to rest the monkey that has been on their back for six years. One thing for sure, monkeys do not give up rides that easy. All the best to the Gunners.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Extra Time; Beauty of the Soweto Derby

I hid my face in shame and embarrassment upon hearing the news that a successive Battle of Zimbabwe encounter has been abandoned due to crowd trouble. It puzzles in that Bosso and Dembare, two of the most successful teams in the land could cause chaos and discomfort instead of jubilation and entertainment. It’s so unfortunate in that in our society we have to accommodate people who have a weakness of trying to have their way everywhere, people who can’t just accept defeat.

Most of these hooligans are not registered members who neither have knowledge on their club’s budget nor attend meetings. With this barbaric act, they discourage hard to get sponsors and puts clubs in unnecessary debts as they have to re-arrange abandoned matches. The fans must obey the referee’s decision because it is final. How can they justify the match officials’ pathetic performance by throwing in missiles? Supporters must learn to remain calm and unmoved even under the worst provocation. The League’s Disciplinary Committee deals with the match officials accordingly, as much as the referee cautions a player for misconduct. A bunch of fans mustn’t confront a match official for whatever reason. The unruly fans feel they are better match officials, coaches and have the better disciplinary committee.

Though the Battle of Zimbabwe and the Soweto Derby teams come from a different background, this is a chance to observe and emulate sportsmanship, love and peace demonstrated by Orlando Pirates and Kaiser Chiefs fans. Friendly war has erupted in cyberspace between these two sets of fans and whichever team wins this encounter will bless its fans with bragging rights. Though a few Chiefs fans threw in two vuvuzelas and a cabbage against Pirates last year, the situation was easily controlled and it never tainted the beauty of the Soweto derby. During the game you will find some Bucs and Chiefs fans mixed, cheering and dancing together. It’s such a spectacle to witness these fans using the same transport, blowing their vuvuzelas, enjoying their way to the stadium. Amakhosi have in their ranks four Zimbabweans whereas the Bucs have Makonese who’s not likely to feature in this high profile game.

This is a lesson hooligans should learn because they are a hazard to the community, they are a disgrace to the football fraternity. Hooliganism must stop, it must stop now. In 2001 a total of 141 fans were tragically lost in two separate incidents involving Ghana superpowers; Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko, DRC crowd pullers; TP Mazembe and FC St Eloi Lupopo. On both disasters, fans became violent, police fired teargas in a bid to control the crowd and fans, escaping the gas, the supporters rushed and scrambled for the exit gates ensuring a stampede. Precious lives were lost in a game they call the world’s most beautiful.

Perhaps some misinterpret Bill Shankly’s famous quote when he said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed in that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” He didn’t mean to condone violence or promote hooliganism. Hooliganism must stop, and it must stop now.

(By Vusumuzi Mourinho Ndlovu)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chelsea come right as Real show good signs

Chelsea scored two vital goals through Nicholas Anelka in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final away to Coppenhagen. It was a welcome relieve to the coach whose job hangs on a bigger thread than yesterday. Fernando Torres played way better for me and he may soon be a former self. He had a few chances squandered but the overall picture was that The Blues are still with us a day longer.

Real Madrid dominated the first half possession but were far less penetrative against dangerous Lyon in France. Bastos threatened with every touch and the dull first half was illuminated by the introduction of Kareem Benzema who replaced Emmanuel Adebayor and scored within a minute of coming on. Madrid will have to defend better to convincingly beat the French side at the Bernebeu.

While we await further matches tonight, it is worth our while to note how strong Tottenham Hotspur perform in Europe and their very next domestic fixture is a dull affair. Spurs were comprehensively thumped 3-1 by Blackpool in a league match last night. All but one of their post Europe matches ended up in embarrassing defeats. While their quality is dented by injuries, the whole thing is basically psychological.

Who is your money on tonight?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The beginning of the end for Musona?

Kaizer Chiefs marksman will soon be a former marksman. Thanks to high demands of the game to the coach and the whole set-up. The current team form and unconventional methods of play have arm twisted the coach and made things turn the wrong way they are turning to now.

Knowledge Musona was the most refreshing thing, not only for Chiefs, but for South African football after a long while. He can across with huge predatory instincts last seen in Collins Mbesuma. He reminded a lot of people of the late Lesley 'Slow Poison' Manyathela. His discipline and humility complemented his deadliness in front of goal.

Unfortunately, the pressure of chasing Orlando Pirates and trying to play catch up has changed things for the young goal scorer. Chiefs are 2 points behind the Happy People and hope to eclipse the Buccaneers in the Soweto derby scheduled for the weekend.

Amakhosi have since found the scoring prowess of Sthembiso Ngcobo, who I can say is very tactically aware but less technically gifted in comparison to Musona. I believe Ngcobo can be build and be replaced, and not Musona. Musona is one of a kind. Coach VV can really do much better and find a midfielder with a free role.

VV has since switched the Zimbabwean striker to a role he may like for now, but this has thrown him out of the kitchen, where he has a doctorate degree and placed him as a waiter. This is a big error and must be rectified soon. It may be the beginning of an end to a goal scoring machine Musona is.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Arsenal are a hard team to support

Arsenal are the hardest team to support and love, at least for me. Not so hard since I left doing so, though I still want to like them. The issue here is my realism. They play well, I agree and they do not get above a set bar, which I hate. That is why they will not be my favourite for a while.

It becomes easier for people who do not know the difference between heartache and joy to follow the Gunners. For those who can differentiate, they abandon the team, taking a sabbatical or keep a cardiologist next to them 24/7. How on earth do the Gunners beat Barcelona and draw a team 3 divisions below their league? Lucky, Arsene Wenger rested a few players. They could have performed worse.

There is no question on the quality of the passing game they play. My problem with it is, its effectiveness in penetrating the defenses. Their play sets up the opposition to be in good defending positions and then Arsenal will try to break this organised unit they helped to build. I have always made a comparison with Barcelona, which many wrongly believe have a similar style.

Barcelona play their football across field, drawing away the opposition from good defending zones. This creates ample space between the central defenders and the goalkeeper. Barca attract defenders into areas they are not comfortable with, and then pounce. They rip teams apart by sudden acceleration forward through the middle or wings. First, they create that space beforehand to run into. Their wing backs are caught offside more often that attackers.

Arsenal close the very space they need and then try to be geniuses in breaking down these walls. This is the reason why those who love the Gunners do. When this operation is successful, there is so much unbelief and joy. This scenario of success, unlike the Barca case, happens once in a while, and sometimes, like in the FA Cup against Leyton Orient, by chance. Arsenal depend merely on chance and it is now too often.

There is no doubt that they will crush the small team in the replay at the Emirates, but does it have to take so much labour and time? They scored that goal at their unlikeliest time, tactically, to get a goal the entire match. Twice the Gunners handed the title away due to this approach. It;s the Arsenal way, but sometimes they have to play football.

Bosso wins warm-up match

The weekend win by Highladers FC over travelling Shabanie Mine is a welcome gesture of things to come. Bosso beat the miners by a 4-1 score-line with goals from Graham (twice), Kangwa and new boy Matau.

It was a performance that had 'promise' written all over it. A few people were elated by the general quality of the match and specifically the goals as well as the performance of the new players and the goalkeeper. It is all shaping up well so far.

A sterner test awaits the team when they face Harare giants, Dynamos, next week in yet another friendly match. Highladers had a fine run at the end of last season and it is hoped that the momentum will see them challenge for the title if the team management raises their bar. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The State of Zim Football

Manchester United made a meal of dispatching non-league football team Crawley, out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. It is easy to say that Man U did not need a sledge hammer to crush an ant, but if you asked Sir Alex his thought at 10 minutes before the end of that encounter, you would have been nearer the truth. Now its water under the bridge.

There is fresh rumours basically meant to rock the Arsenal boat before their big dates with Barcelona in the Champions League, the Carling Cup final, the FA Cup and the Barclays Premeir League title quest. Inter Milan are said to want Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin for big bucks. The rumours are notorious in many fronts. They mention huge figures for the pair, playing into Arsene Wenger's appetite for good business. The 2 played a pivotal role in beating Barca a few hours ago. The Gunners are addicted to cheap under aged players. van Persie spent a good time sidelined by injury and Arshavin is an off-form one day wonder who turned up on Wednesday. What does Inter really want, really?

For these reasons, the monger seem to strike a good cord to make good reason that Wenger will sell high and buy low. Frankly, Arsenal can afford to play without the 2. They can even do without a below Cesc Fabregas at the moment. They need to grow a new leader, and hopefully, they will be welcoming Frimpong in the new season. His relationship with Jack Wilshire and Alex Song will be very interesting to watch.

As for replacing van Persie and Arshavin, Wenger can do that by walking the streets of Paris and sign African French players for a song, of course. Moruane Chamakh and Nicklus Bendtner are good enough for target men. They will be finishers of repute in their class. For a teaser, Knowledge Musona of Kaizer Chiefs is one player the Gunners can do with. The Zimbabwean has an eye for goal and may benefit greatly from the supply of Wilshire, Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Song.

Talking of Zimbabwe, one of their traditional clubs, Zimbabwe Saints are back in Premier League after purchasing a $32 000, 00 franchise from Eagles Football Club. It is a welcome development for the country's marginalised second biggest city as that brings to 3 the number of top flight teams, after Bantu Rovers were relegated and Chicken Inn promoted. Faded giants, Highlanders FC are expected to continue a good run under new coach, Mkhuphali Masuku, who had a good last minute sprint at the end of last season.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This Chelsea side is tired, completely fatigued.

When the 2010/2011 Barclays Premier League started after the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup in August, instead of building up the conditioning and technical qualities, Chelsea were already in peak condition. For aging warriors, the physiological nature of the locomotion system is taking its toll. Over and above, the mature team is mentally fatigued.

The situation is neither helped by the lack of form by Didier Drogba and a bad business idea by purchasing the spent force in Fernando Torres. There is an unbelievable amount of unbelief in self for Frank Lampard, John Terry and Flourent Malouda. Body language tells me lack of confidence in the coach by the players. They will not break a leg for Carlo Ancellotti.

Basic principles of training will tell you the need for progressive loading and for a team like Chelsea, age of the material at your disposal plays a vital role. Italians are usually hard on physical conditioning. Actually, they believe in mental discipline which they enforce by physical training. This is the last thing The Blues need. Arsenal would do well with that, bur Arsene Wenger being French, will cater for the physical condition with the ball. This develops both the technical and tactical aspects of football as a side effect and by-products.

The attitude of the Spanish, Portuguese, French and eastern Europe is to have fun playing football. It is still sport more than it is business. Germans and Italians are still rigid while the English are suffering the dilution of the good with the bad. Chelsea are the obvious beneficiaries of the ugly side of it.

Chelsea are well over a period when they should have stopped training or even camping before matches. They should just be meeting on match days at the match venue ready to play. These players are increasingly getting frustrated on the pitch. A few of Chelsea players have been injured for a while. In many of these cases, the injuries take far too long to heel. This is a matter of bad physical conditioning and training methods as well as the excessive fatigue, mentally and physically.

After making a bad decision to buy Torres, they went on to loan Daniel Sturridge away to Bolton. For the young striker, that was the best thing that could have happened as he is guaranteed first team football as long as he is fit. To prove a point, he is scoring regularly. Chelsea, who could not pull off an FA Cup 4th round result out of the bag against Everton at Stanford Bridge today, now depend on divine intervention. Their legs cannot carry them anymore.

If Roman Abrahamovic, Chelsea billionaire owner, fires Ancellotti,  it will not surprise any one at all. Actually, we are all surprised it has not happened. Any names for potential candidates? Rule me out.

Kennedy Ndebele appointed PSL CEO

The Zimbabwe Premier League has appointed Kennedy Ndebele as the substantive Chief Executive Officer of the league. His hands will be full, given issues concerning the level of professionalism in the league, sponsorship, recovering fines levied against offenders (clubs, players or officials) when they are either promoted or demoted, player transfers, footballers playing for two leagues in one season due to poor registration and ensuring players are cleared by the club and their affiliates during transfer-window periods to avoid wrangles.

It has been mentioned that this will be achieved by centralising the player register to monitor players, but it will not be easy meat. That is why in South Africa, the PSL runs the First Division as it is feeder league. There are players who by-pass this league of course. Ndebele has always wanted Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches Association (Zisca) to come on board to clarify the licensing system among other things.

A refreshing way forward will be the interest the league will take in awards that are voted for by the Sports Writers Association of Zimbabwe. This will clarify the criteria for various awards. A huge step in getting things above board is their intention to have feel the referees and coaches’ associations must be involved in selection of their members for their respective accolades. I feel coaches must also have a huge say in who become the best players in the league.

There were plans to PSL to have security officers trained by a Fifa security expert on football related crowd control. This will be hard given that the police can be over zealous sometimes and go over board to ignite trouble from attention seeking youngsters. Crowd trouble marred a lot of last season's main matches threatening the image of the game and scarring away existing and potential sponsors.

Friday, February 18, 2011

THE Academy of Wingers

The Sporting Lisbon Academy’s never ending conveyor belt of world class wingers yielded them the ISO 9001. It is the only academy in Europe to receive this quality certificate awarded by EIC. The academy was recently renamed the Sporting\Puma Academy to reflect the sponsorship.

Amongst the wingers who came from this academy, the legendary Luis Figo. He is Portugal’s most capped player and was the ring leader of the so-called golden generation which included the likes of Rui Costa, Joao Pinto and Nuno Gomes. Figo went on to reach dizzy heights playing for Real Madrid where he won the European and the World Player of the Year accolades. He later joined Inter Milan.

Luis Boa Morte hasn’t really reached his full potential, in Lisbon, his form tempted Arsenal to sign him but failed to perform as many thought he would. He is now playing for West Ham United. Simao Sabrosa played his best football for Athletico Madrid. He has been a regular for the Portuguse national team and recently joined Turkish giants Besiktas alongside Ricardo Queresma.

Queresma might have flopped at Inter he shined very brightly for archrivals Porto, inspiring them to successive league titles. The trio of Figo, Simao and Queresma left Sporting for Barcelona but it was Figo who lived up to the expectations, in match winning displays resulted in a move to Real Madrid.

When Gerrard Houllier tried to sign a 16 year old boy from Sporting, Liverpool told him the boy was still young and needed time to develop his skills. He had seen an extra-ordinary talent in Cristiano Ronaldo. CR7 was so talented such that he played for the U-16, 18, B team and the senior team within one year. Alex Ferguson lured the boy to England to become the first Portuguese to play for Manchester United and the rest is history. He went on to win the European and World Player of the Year awards whilst still at Old Trafford.

His 80m Pounds move to Real Madrid is and will for a long time be biggest amount paid for an individual. In 2007, Cape Verde born Nani followed CR7’s route to Old Trafford where he has force his way into the starting line up and is now a key player as well as a crowd favorite.

Manchester United’s relationship with Sporting took a turn when Queiroz’s pursuit of Miguel Veloso didn’t please Sporting and was seen as unsettling him and disrespecting the agreement between the two sides. Sporting later cut ties with United and romped in across town rivals Manchester City to have first preference on their upcoming stars.

I’m still looking forward to the much promising Academia Sporting Africa, an initiative between Sporting Lisbon and the South African Premier League team, Bloemfontein Celtic. The academy will be based in Bloemfontein, its set to boast local talent as Celtic will be given a chance to loan or sign players. Sporting will then send a technical director, chief scout and a U-19 coach. Currently Sporting has agreements two other academies, Al Ahly Club Academy of Saudi Arabia and the Belgian side, The Cercle Brugge Academy.

The Sporting Lisbon Academy was the camp of Portugal on their road to the final of the European Championships in 2004. Popularly known as Sporting Lisbon, the club has accepted the name to avoid confusion with teams like Sporting Braga, Sporting Gijon while UEFA use Sporting CP. Their real name is Sporting Club de Portugal.

By Vusumuzi Mourinho Ndlovu and

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nedbank Cup draw; Pirates and Sundowns again.

Orlando Pirates preserved a log lead in the ABSA Premeir league in the most dramatic of circumstances, making light work of heavy weights in fellow title aspirants, Mamelodi Sundowns, with a 2-0 victory during the weekend. Katlego Mashego coolly placed a penalty kick at the corner with Sandilands diving the other way. Thulasizwe Mbuyane headed in the final goal to seal the deal.

Kaizer Chiefs were made to look pedestrian against Platinum Stars in the first half. Thank God, the Tycoons lost shape and composure and will nilly gave away the ball and were second best to every ball until Amakhosi were 3-2 up. It was just. Thank God they dispatched Moroka Swallows to go second on the log behind the Bucs.

Given their fortunes of the weekend, they found favour of the football gods in drawing lower division opposition in the Nedbank Cup's last 32 draw. By contrast, Pirates are dating the team they would have preferred to meet in the final, Mamelodi Sundowns.

It was an unfair affair as most Premiership teams will face each other and chances of minnows reaching the finals are very high. The complexity of the draw means that Chiefs will have an advantage in competing in the league for a short moment. Then Pirates and Sundowns will have an excuse of concentrating in either the Cup or title depending on the outcome of the match. Going for both would be sweet if the double is achieved, but the embarrassment of getting neither may lead to technical department changes, especially for Pirates.

I would like to express my disappointment at how Chiefs gave a lacklustre performance against Stars. Simphiwe Tshabalala and Reneiloe Letsholonyane dropped their heads when they were on the back foot and their mega star experience failed to show when needed the most. The win had nothing to do with their prowess but rather the ineptness of their opponents. Pirates, by contrast were benefactors of lucky moments they made. They kept going and hoped for cracks to develop and they did.

Sundowns were so unfortunate, but they did everything they could. Their biggest letdown was trying to play beautiful football with a lot of class. Class does not always win you games, unless you do it progressively. Pelembe was outstanding and tried a little too hard. On a good day, such a performance gets rewarded with a goal. Had Sundowns got a goal anytime before Pirates's second, the result would have changed. Downs are suffering the Chelsea syndrome and the sooner they forget about money and think points, the better.

A 4 point lead with a 10 games to go is not a big gap at all. Ajax can be the silent recipients of the coveted title as the Soweto giants try to wrestle points off each other and Sundowns grinding results off big teams and failing to fry small fish.

Full draw
MP Black Aces vs Hanover Park
United FC vs Future Tigers
Maritzburg United vs Moroka Swallows
SuperSport United vs Golden Arrows
Bloemfontein Celtic vs Platinum Stars
Orlando Pirates vs Mamelodi Sundowns
Amajuba United Killers FC vs Vasco Da Gama
Black Leopards vs Thanda Royal Zulu
AmaZulu vs Real Madrid
Baroka FC vs Mighty Mega Force
Witbank Spurs vs Chippa United
Bidvest Wits vs Santos
Carara Kicks vs Cullinan FC
Free State Stars vs Ajax Cape Town
BTX Liverpool vs Blackburn Rovers
Nathi Lions vs Kaizer Chiefs

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Arsenal beat Barcelona 2-1 at the Emirates

Arsenal began the UEFA Champions League match taking the initiative and pushing forward very well and at the required pace at every opportunity. They were far more penetrative than their usual selves, motivated to win and trying to score early. Theo Walcott was the architect of their moves but it all ended in barrenness in front of goal.

Barcelona started cautiously in going forward but they made sure to press from upfront but they were content with slowing things down to break Gunners momentum. The Gunners should have been rewarded for their first 15 minute spell, but Barca came back strong settling and taking the initiative. Their intentions were underlined by Messi's dink missing the upright and then David Villa getting vital touches and spaces behind defensive lines.

Abidal's vital touch put off Robin van Persie after a flowing move involving Walcott and Cesc Fabregas. Messi set up Villa who beat the goalkeeper with a low shot in the 25th minute for the first goal. Pedro's back heel was well saved 3 minutes later before van Persie wasted a golden chance to equalise on a counter. Barca sieged the Arsenal half like a swam of bees, posing as much danger. A 37th minute goal attempt by Messi looked a genuine goal but was ruled offside, but Messi is class.

Gunners coach, Arsene Wenger, did well to have Emmanuel Eboue and Samir Nasri. Walcott's fine form and Jack playing with amazing maturity was a refreshing site. Arsenal should have compacted midfield with Fabregas, Wishire and Song anchoring play to close off all spaces for Messi. Messi played from almost a central defensive position and when the man comes with an attacking momentum from that deep, there is not much one can do. Villa and Pedro were running rings and tearing the Gunner defence to tatters.

Barcelona always attack starting from the back, with all offensive option flat and square before the attacking 3rd of the field. Defenders are drawn off good defending positions and then the acceleration from the forwards and midfielders explodes like a spring loaded effect with lethal effect. It is safe to assume they play a 1-5-5 formation with 2 extra guys beefing up attack to make 7 strikers at any given attacking move and the same happening when possession is lost, to give 7 defensive men in defence. So you can safely say Barca play a 1-7-7 formation if you like. They have extra personnel in each phase.

It took Andre Arshavin's introduction and artistry on the left to interplay with Gael Clichy to set up van Persie. The Ducth beat Valdes in the 77th minute at the near post with a clinical first touch strike to level matters. Arshavin came in with a classical finish with 7 minutes of play remaining, after receiving a neat pass from Nasri. Wilshire and Fabregas exchanges passes and sent through Nasri on the right. The Gunners smelt blood and became relentless in pressuring a rattled Barca, who did not know what hit them.
A late threat by Barca was smothered by the Gunners and it was such an incredible turn around of events. Arsenal now know Barcelona are beatable and the stage is set for the return leg in Spain in the 2nd leg. Today is celebration night but it is still a tall order to face a Barca seeking revenge.

In the eyes of a Warrior

The Zimbabwe Warriors went, played and were knocked out in the preliminary rounds of the CHAN tournament currently taking place in Sudan. It’s not the first time that the Warriors have crumbled on the grandest of them stages.

What really went wrong? A lot of soul searching was left to be done after the Warriors were booted out by South Africa’s developmental side. Starting from the preparations, all was not well with the Warriors staying in a lodge instead of a hotel. And as if that was not enough, the Warriors were coming from the feastive season and had to shed off the extra few kilos they had gained over the holidays.

The Warriors are in serious need of a playmaker of repute. During CHAN it was evident that the Warriors lacked vision and creativity that the likes of Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda and Johannes “Tshisa” Ngodzo brought to the team a couple of years back. The current crop of midfielders does not live up to the expectations or standards that have been set by their predecessors.

They was not clean supply of balls to the strikers, as the stage proved to big for the likes of Joel Ngodzo and for the maturing Denver Mukamba who has a bright future ahead.. One wonders what the score line would have been had South Africa brought most of their Premiership players, the like of Teko Modise, Simphiwe Tshabalala and company, when we succumb to unknown players who ply their trade in the Mvela first division.

Is it that the South Africa league is now more competitive than the Zimbabwean league? It’s anyone’s guess. Our league has gone for sometime without sponsorship and we guess that has also affected the quality of players playing in our local league as all or most of the good players have been snapped up by the better paying South Africa league.

The other major thing that led to the Warriors downfall could have been technical or tactically awareness. The defence was shaky and seemed unsure of how to defend or they were not sure of their zonal areas. And they seemed vulnerable when under attack and the midfield kept losing the balls unnecessarily and the strike-force did not look sharp enough to lead us into the next round.

A lot of work has to be done for the Warriors to recover the lost ground that, that saw them tumbling in World ranking thanks to Asiagate. When Mali comes to town, the Warriors coach needs to have come up with a winning team, that will be brimming with confidence and supplying the likes of Knowledge Musona and Nyasha Mushekwi with clean balls and creating clear cut chances.

Failure to address the shortcomings witnessed at CHAN will lead to the Warriors missing out of AFCON 2012.

(By Bulawayo Vibes)

Barcelona are in town. Can Arsenal handle them?

As if it will have much impact on the game, Samir Nasri is reported to be available for tonight's Arsenal clash with Barcelona in London. The Gunners' most exciting player has been injured for a while and his form may have suffered the time off lag. Alex Song, Theo Walcott and a revitalised Andre Arshavin will be key.

Feelings aside, Arsenal are second rate to Barca. They play a swift passing game that is less penetrative. They are often mistakenly likened to Barcelona in their style. The difference is huge. Barcelona keep possession for longer awaiting the moment to dissect the defence. The always probe looking for an opportunity for an element of surprise to slice open the central channel.

The Gunners patiently hold onto the ball well but in a blunt way. Teams that get themselves frustrated and try to win the ball back quickly usually leave their back exposed for Walcott to race for goal. For a change this season, Theo can either finish or play a weighted pass.

Given both scenarios, Barca may fall into the hype and craze that equate Arsenal to them and then start to panic. They may push a lot higher up the field and Walcott may expose them badly. They have proved they are beatable and their recent draw will spur Arsene Wenger's grown up kidsnet. Carles Puyol is a workaholic with less pace. The main man is Gerard Pique. He is the defensive brains of Barca.

The English title aspirants have 2 huge problems to deal with; the artistry of Messi and the porousness of their defence. This is the worst concoction one can have. The Argentinian magician drifts way back to be tracked down full time. A worse problem is that he approaches the defences in full flight in war cry fashion. The ball just sticks at his feet. Wenger will have to assign Djouru to monitor his movements closely in his radar.

Unless Arsenal can produce a Spurs-like performance, and put the Iniesta and Xavi combination under surveillance, the best they can get is a draw at home. The memories of the damage Messi caused the last time around will haunt them in the return leg at the Nou Camp. The fact that an ordinary Spurs team overpowered European giants, AC Milan, parading Nesta,­ Serdoff and Gattusso, Robinho and Ibrahimovic, will give the Gunners hope and inspiration. They will draw strength on the fact that anything is possible.

Arsenal will need to be at their very best to match Barca. Defeat may even dent the domestic title hopes for the English side as moral may take deep. I will putting my money at the end of 90 minutes on this one.

Spurs fairy tale continues against AC Milan

Aaron Lennon picked up the ball, got on his bike, accelerated at 500 miles per hour, skipped a hump. attracted unnecessary attention, checked his rear view mirrors and spotted Peter Crouch, played the ball square and Crouch unleashed a low curling shot into the bottom left corner in the 80th minute. Cometh the moment, cometh the man.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic wrestled Dawson down and attempted a Wayne Rooney acrobatic bicycle kick and fired past Gomes and the officials caught the act and disallowed the cheating. Flamini and Gattuso were lucky to be in the pitch the entire match. Milan survived 2 obvious penalty cases. They are not out yet but their task at White Hart Lane is the worst any team has had to face this season.

The match started well with Tottenham Hotspur controlling the UEFA Champions League match with quick and incisive passes into the attacking area and out-shooting the host in the opening 15 minutes. Spurs looked like the side at home and defended efficiently. The end of the half was a balanced affair and Spurs were the happier of the two teams.

The second half saw the change in fortunes and Milan took the game to the visitors but the Spurs defence, for the first time ever, was really water tight, giving nothing away at all. Robinho was beginning to get too much space and finding Ibrahimovic. Spurs cracked a few times and Gomes was to be at his best to keep them out.

Spurs will be taking home a comfortable 1-0 win and will be welcoming back Gareth Bale in the second leg. It will be folly for them to rest on their laurels. They carry an advantage of a great coach and playing without pressure as they play the masters of Europe.

The fairy tale of Harry Redknapp's team continues and hopefully they will be at full strength in the return leg. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Barclays Premeir League: I have dying to tell you this

I spent a lot of time being humble and taking a back seat in life. You know by now that those times for me are gone. When it comes to football, I can tell you to put a trillion bucks on me because I am just good. Regular readers will know how much I successfully differed with Arsene Wenger's opinions and predictions during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. That was not the reason why I stopped sympathising with Arsenal and went for Tottenham Hotspur. You must appreciate that as a high profile coach, supporting a team is not an option.

It sounded crazy how I could give Spurs all the praise and support. After looking at who they are and the way the did things, I was sure they were destined for great things. They reached the FA Cup final, got the UEFA Champions' League spot and actually did better than many thought. All these were a surprise to many but not me.

I must admit that in my criticism of Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, totally on footballing grounds, I was almost eating a humble pie. The aborted arrival of one Frimpong who got a pre-season injury for the whole season, the incredible sudden polished finishing of Theo Walcott, the discovery of Jack Wilshre and the incredible form of Samir Nasri and the best player in the league so far this season, Alex Song, almost made me forget the Gunners' character. It took their 25th fixture to remind me why they will never have my backing until either they overhaul the actual team or the technical department. This pairing is too old to work, period.

If you are worth your footballing salt, you will know this line by now, that, champions win both home and away. They beat fellow contenders themselves. They brush aside small teams. Arsenal blew away a 4-0 half-time lead against Newcastle. If the Gunners go on to win the Premiership title, it may be a universal record. I still think that they are taking solace that they have won the Carling Cup, which is yet to take place. That is a child's mentality they need to shed off. They still have Barcelona to contend with in Europe. Revenge of that embarrassing defeat should be a priority. If they do not change the mindset, it may be lightning striking the same post twice.

Elsewhere, it's days after the transfer window. This blog mentioned how much Liverpool scored in selling one of my former favourite players of all time, faded and now over-rated Fernando Torres. For his ineffectiveness, they got Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Torres continues with his sterility at Chelsea while Suarez has scored once and stroke the cross bar twice and the post. Carroll is still to make his debut. Either Chelsea feel duped or realise their folly. It was a lot of money spent on a spent force. They could have paid less for Kenwyne Jones of Stoke City. The man has not team-mates to play with.

Manchester City have the cleverest player I have seen in years. David Silva is a dynamite in a small package. The man toils and is intelligent. Carlos Tevez does not take lightly to being out shined. This will make City ordinary to the benefit of both Manchester United and Spurs. As for Chelsea, only God knows.

Speaking of United, the Wayne Rooney wonder goal is the talk of the week. I guess, there is more to who scored that acrobatic than the goal itself. I see many such goals daily and there is not much much fuss. Such is life and sometimes you wonder why. That is why it is necessary to know you are not Rooney and no matter what you do, no one cares. You must know how good you are and let the world know. Otherwise everyone is busy trying to see what Wayne does and they have no time to tell your story. I like good and finer things in life and I am good at doing what I do. I am the best in football.

Mourinho's African Connection

By Vusumuzi Mourinho Ndlovu

To many, the Real Madrid side that started the season was complete and ready to take the bull (Barca) by its horns. There was a missing link, the final part of the Los Merengues jigsaw. The team might be inspired by a Portuguese born Galactico but in Mourinho’s past glories, African strikers have been the mainstay.

Mourinho had his way when super-rich Manchester City agreed to loan out Togolese football icon and may work on getting him permanently. Mourinho’s greatest African partnership has been the strikers.

It was under the Special One's watchfull eye when South African goalpoacher Benni McCarthy first reached his full potential. Amongst other goals he scored, his brace against Manchester United was fundamental in securing a historic UEFA Champions League triumph for a club of Porto’s calibre. Benni rippled the nets 20 times in 23 games to walk away with the Portuguese Golden Boot award. Though Mourinho tried to sign him for Chelsea when he was at Ewood Park, his efforts proved futile.

Upon arrival at Chelsea, his 24 million pound purchase of Drogba was seen as a waste of money for a less known Ivorian hitman. Drogba proved his critics wrong, leading Chelsea's strikeforce with power and precision. The African predator fired in 33 goals to land the English League Golden Boot award in May 2007, having scored winning goals in the FA Cup and the Football League Cup.
Under the tutelage of Mourinho, Drogba took home the highly –prized African Footballer of the year award in 2006. On his unceremonious departure from Chelsea, Mourinho spoke highly and boldly about Drogba. “You are the one who have made me most proud.“ said Mourinho. When things went sour at the Bridge, Drogba lamented; “I want to leave Chelsea, something is broken with Chelsea, the damage is big in the dressing room.”

At the San Siro, Mou welcomed “the lion of Africa” by saying; “I wanted him at Chelsea but failed to have him, I m very satisfied to have him with us.” Playing on the right side of the frontline, Eto’e’s class and mobility was vital in helping Inter conquer Europe and stop an insatiable Barcelona side that was attempting to run riot again. Jose Mourinho guided the Nerazzuri to a record treble and Samuel Eto’e once again won Africa’s best individual award.

With Adebayor now on board, Mou has an African striker he is confident of. The Portuguese tactician spoke highly of Adebayor; “We decided to give him a chance and he demonstrated why he is here, Adebayor saw his dream come true, he scored the first ball he touched at home.” Adebayor has already scored 2 goals in 3 games.

Despite his rare tactical shrewdness, Mourinho is a supreme motivator, philosopher and a role model. Drogba could’nt hide the pain of losing him at Chelsea and said plainly; “Mourinho’s departure destroys a certain familiarity we had at the club, many of us used to play and foremost for the manager, now we must forget the feeling and find another source of motivation.",

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Bigger Picture

I  am going to call this column the Bigger Picture because I believe as a coach one needs to look beyond the beautiful dribble a football player does (though it is an important part of the game), to the effect it has on the rest of the team, the supporters and the game as a whole! We need to be aware of the confidence levels of the given player at that stage and how the move translates itself into the team’s game strategy…….! I recently also learnt that one needs to look beyond the guy sponsoring the team as not all of them are endowed with the necessary technical acumen and sadly most are not aware of that fact!

Sorry I forgot to introduce myself. Well it all starts in New Lobengula, Bulawayo, home to a few boys that had a lot of football going on eMbejini or kuMoney Game as it is known in H! Bongani Mafu played juniors football for eMhlangeni a youth club in Makokokoba, for Ascot Menton, and for PTC in the city of Kings before migrating to Plumtree where he played for Plumtree FC and Border Kings FC after a stint in a French University. Plumtree FC provided a bit of playing experience but Bulawayo was always calling! In Bulawayo, Christian Brothers College provided a beautiful launching pad for an educated attack on the art of coaching. He attained Coaching Certificates Level 1, Level 2 and hoorah…level 3 and then the Advanced Level all taught by the then Gurus of coaching in the country, ROY BARRETO, BENNEDICT MOYO, REINHARDT FABISCH, BOB LINES and the ‘prophet’ BEN KOFFIE of Ghana who we thought mad in his predictions of what the country’s football would need to bridge the gap. Was he??? Sorry I am not getting involved!

Involvement in the Bulawayo Coaches Association as secretary with BARRY DAKA chairman, KEUTSEPILEMANG NDEBELE treasurer and the late RIOT NCUBE as a committee member saw a lot of work to produce qualified coaches most of who are coaching in the Premier League and some who have actually coached the National Team! Not bad for an association that was inexistent at the start of our term in office I must say. This all culminated in Mafu being sent in 1998 with the late NEWTON MARUWA of Mutare, to Germany to do the DFB Coaching Licence in Hennef September 1998, where he came tops in the whole group’s written exams and attained an excellent result in the practical! Back to Zim and Mafu brought Mr HOTSTE KRIETE (actually) to run a level three coaching course for our coaches held at Ross Camp with the current National Team coaches CHARLES MHLAURI and WILLARD KHUMALO attending.

Zimbabwe Saints took a liking to Mafu and he was offered the job of Head Coach and worked with GIBSON HOMELA manager and LAZURUS ZIMANGI assistant coach. That year 98/99 season as Head Coach Mafu’s Zimbabwe Saints beat Dynamos 3 – 1 at BF to come third in the League! (Sorry mdara MHOFU but you being the epitomy of our local coaching standards I just couldn’t resist!)

In 2000 to 2001 Mafu made the mistake of leaving Zim for the so called green pastures of Bots where he was Head Coach of Gaborone United. There were 5 games to go in the league, the team needed 6 points to stay in the league and Mafu got the team 7 points after recruiting MANDLA BALANDA and CHRIS KAHWEMA but Gaberone United were still relegated due to points deducted for an early season misdemeanour of fielding an unregistered player! Mafu had done his job he felt, but the authorities wanted a far reduced contract and Mafu who had a good teaching job at Phakalane was not going to get involved! Blah blah blah! The league was good and Mafu had good Batswana players like Kabelo and Dipsy Selolwane who went to the States that same year.

What is this you must be thinking?  A self promoting column? Well the editor did not say otherwise and the last thing we need here is people saying who the biscuits is this guy? Now you know! Call him Coach! That’s it. Coach. In 2002 Mafu went to the UK and joined Dorchester Town under 16s as Head Coach. The team had not been that impressive but we managed to change the training ethics and the boys are flying now and most play in the reserve side! Now he comes back every summer to do some real ‘on the ground’ football coaching. He has been to Italy, France and is going to Holland to continue learning football coaching approaches and strategies. (Mdara Mhofu and Gidiza are still to give him the address to enable him to go to BRAZIL!)

Mafu has two footballing sins that you need to know about. He absolutely loves Arsenal FC in the UK and thinks they have the best example of how football should be played! Mafu also thinks his little brother RONALD ‘GIDIZA’ SIBANDA is the best natural ball player he has ever seen, and predicted the boy will be playing National Team when the boy was in Form 1…. Those told are still alive! And those two sins Mafu has no regrets about!

Mafu currently lives in the UK with the Mrs and has a son Alvin who plays for Compton Rovers FC under 15s, a daughter Natasha who is pretty talkative.

Now the article, starting from the top, I strongly believe we (with ZIFA leading the way) need a mission statement readily recognisable by all stakeholders from the school player, the casual player, the parent in Mvimvi (that’s where my wife hails from) or Mphoengs and the Zifa Chairman! If we had a mission to produce the ‘best player to represent the country at the highest level possible’ maybe we will start having the best district player representing his/her region, the best player in a schools tournament being whipped up to the next level then the next till the highest possible level!

Why all this drivel about mission statements? Well we need to have a direction, a ‘raison d’etre’ clearly spelt out; for I have watched on many occasions our Junior National teams having brilliant players who disappear into oblivion soon after the age group is knocked out! Why is this I have always wondered? Well my assessment of the situation is that because the coaches and players involved are not looking at the BIGGER PICTURE, the players chosen are not the right age, passports are altered and Johnny Comegood plays a blinder in a game meant for his younger brother only to fade away when snatched up by a hopeful club hoping to come up with the surprise find of the season!

A few years ago I was selector in chief, for want of a title, (fresh from Germany) when we selected the Under 17 team. Age mattered in that selection and coaches from all over ZIM were involved: the result? That squad produced long lasting National Team and Premier League players, the likes of TAPIWA KAPINI, SAGEBY SANDAKA (any chance of staying your age?), SILENT KATUMBA, CEPHAS CHIMEDZA and Ernest Gava  (what happened to you?) among others!

If a National Team coach believes he has to win a given tournament to stay in charge, he will do anything to win, sadly most have turned a blind eye on the age factor and they and their cooked up teams have lost! An older person in any age capacity seems to be less daring than a younger person. Look at how they dress at 15 or 16! Definitely not like the 21s, so if you play a 21 at a 15s match he will be superior in his mental stability but not necessarily daring enough to come off his shell when the team is losing and for him, having travelled with the team on a trip might be the pinnacle of his life…. He has achieved at last! A proper 15 year old might be looking forward to making the next age group next year!

With the same Mission for everyone, the country will see an aim for playing the best available at all levels being a priority and the production of a feeder system that should see at least 4 or 5 of the players in our Senior National Team coming from given age groups. I say 4 or 5 because some will then hopefully join in from the legion of players playing in reputable FOOTBALL leagues around the world, note that I did not use the word foreign based footballers because that implies playing away from home and does not necessarily mean playing quality football (we will address this issue soon) or simply coming from other local clubs.

Sustained continuity should be the name of the game.

The BIGGER PICTURE will endeavour to discuss issues relevant to improving the thinking behind our game, so, till next time, and please do go to the stadiums; it is one of the few things that you as football supporter can do to improve the quality of football played in our land!

(The simpler the better)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The most fireable managers of the Premiership

The 2010/2011 season transfer window has spectacularly changed the landscape of the Barclays Premier League managers’ job security, even if only just. As we have seen with the movements of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll to Liverpool and Fernando Torres, the focus at the bottom side of the table will lose some shine.

Arsene Wenger remains the manager number one to lose his job under the circumstances. Arsenal will need to win the FA Cup to drop him from the number one spot. This is basically because of his tired young side that desperately needs to win something. Until then, unless some senseless chairmen exhibit their rabies infected decision, Wenger heads the list. Frankly, at this point, Arsenal are not championship material, and you cannot put your money on them winning the champions league, but if they win either, Arsene will drop way below even Sir Alex Ferguson.

Chelsea's Italian Carlo Ancellotti is a close second. The reigning champions brought in Fernando Torres for a good sum. He gets paid well too. Ancellotti leans on the argument that Torres’s arrival came a little too late. It depends on how much money left does Roman Abrahimovic to buy that story. Otherwise, Chelsea will have to retain their title and/or win the champions league. They have the pedigree to achieve either or both feats, albeit with some difficulty.

Italians are usually a closely knit society and Roberto Mancini is just as close to Ancellotti in this index. For now, he will be buying time based on their current position and the fact that they did not enter the market to increase their firepower. His employers however, already have a huge wage bill and their big investment in the names they brought to Eastlands should be bearing fruit by now. They are within touching distance of the championship but Mancini needs both luck and the championship to keep his job. It will boil to the volatility of the character of his employers to remain there until May 2011.

Next in this list is Liverpool legend, Kenny Daglish. The new Liverpool manager wisely made sound business deals that will make both fans and employers happy. They offloaded under-performing Torres for red-hot Suarez and Carroll. The two have not much time to settle and need to hit the ground running. That is a possibility and I believe they will. However, should fortunes not turn and luck abandons them, any slide down the ladder will render Daglish unemployed by the end of the season. One would expect The Reds to be close to their best with the new-look side.

Following that trend, Harry Redknapp has an excuse to his employers. They failed to secure all three of his targets. Tottenham Hotspur had Diego Forlan in their shopping basket. They signed Bongani Khumalo and Steve Pienaar when I think they should have gotten very solid central defenders. Khumalo will need to get experience to secure a position in the team. William Gallas is dependable but his pace is coming to question now and then. Redknapp is the hottest manager in the league and he is making history at White Hart Lane. People and his employers love him. It remains to be seen how the team will tackle the champions' league safari. After such a long break, the team may implode and glide down. Their experience players are old war horses you cannot put your money on. The rest are either novices or injury prone. His job, until he decides he wants to be English coach, is the second most secure in the league.

There is little doubt of the intentions of Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson is the most experience and astute manager in the league. He once threatened to quit, citing lack of challenge, wanting to rest and all. That is all forgotten and United are on their way to winning the umpteenth championship and the champions league. SAF will remain the top manager no matter the form of The Red Devils. His team is not playing anyway near their best and yet they are where they want. On his side, there are no likely candidates to replace him if he left. For that and more, he has the most secure job in football management, today and probably the rest of his career.

The rest of the managers, for different reasons, fall somewhere in between. Some have the problems of their undoing while others are in low budget teams. Usually, either way, it does not matter. Those in the precarious relegation zone are likely to keep their jobs until they have sunk the teams to the reef. They usually bounce back with promoted teams to sink them again.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Transfer deadline; Liverpool the biggest scorers

Thank God, all the speculations of transfer deals and all have been concluded. It is time to talk football once more. Without any doubt, the big news for many, is Fernando Torres joining Chelsea. Striker Torres cost £50million from Liverpool.

This is a huge figure for anyone, but for billionaire, Roman Abrahimovic, it is worth what he believes in. I personally think that while the transfer is a record fee between British clubs, the tag is on the wrong product. Torres is a faded top striker, maybe not because of his making. This opinion is solely based on his record; what he was and what he has been of late.

While his contribution to Liverpool has been very insignificant, it was the best in the team. Hopefully, Chelsea are praying for that new broom status that Torres brought to the English game when he joined Liverpool a few seasons back. Carlo Ancelotti will have to see who warms the bench among Didier Drgba, Salomon Kalou, Flourent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka.

Chelsea also paid Benfica for defender Luiz a cool £25million. This is a necessary cover for the erratic and injury prone pair of Alex and John Terry. Chelsea will be hoping for a change of fortunes and any lack of immediate revival signs will see the technical department heads roll for sure.

Among a long list of completed tranfers, Liverpool got Uruguayan, Luis Suarez, a cunning striker of note and fine finisher, from Ajax Amsterdam. Liverpool's biggest coup is that of striker Andy Carroll from Newcastle United. This is were they scored big time. Carrol is in terrific form and has been scoring goals for Newcastle and earned himself an English cap recently. For half the price of Torres, it doesn't take Albert Einstein to do the maths.

Both deals are five-and-a half-year long and by any measure, getting in-form Suarez and Carrol for the price of off-form Torres, the happiest manager today is Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool are showing they want to reclaim their position as a top 4 club. That has even been made easier for them by Tottenham Hotspur who failed to secure top central defenders and a striker. It may be time Spurs kissed their fairy tale flirt with the top 4 goodbye.