Friday, January 31, 2014

CHANrity begins at home

One African Nation Cup (CHAN and not ANC) concept has been a revolutionary football ideal I hope will never die. The football and African politics are always a threat to the great good that the motherland always comes up with. It is a ‘kill them before they grow’ greed and hatred driven-debacle externally brewed and internal bred.
The idea, as known to all, is that African local league players are selected to represent their countries. This exposes the amateurs to the world. The same concept should have restricted the coaches in charge of these teams, to allow local mentors and in cases where the senior coaches are local, to allow only their local assistants to steer their local national teams to glory.
There can be an argument that the senior mentors have to be responsible to see potential graduates to the first teams and impose their style of play in the players involved in CHAN, but that is an excuse that football associations may have to stunt the growth of coaching education and practice. It can never be acceptable.
Stephen Keshi, the Big Boss, of Nigeria could have trusted Daniel Amokachi with the Super Eagles. South African Gordon Igesund could have taken a back seat and as it is, his effectiveness as a trusted Bafana coach took a knock with the failure to reach the final, increasing the ‘audibility’ of those baying for his blood. The issue is never to trivialize the tournament, but give it as much credibility as possible with development of both players and coaches in mind. It should be a complete package.
Congratulations to Libya for booking their final spot against Ghana after they dispatched a timid and na├»ve Warriors of Zimbabwe, and I hope they can win. I agree they play ‘anti-football’ but for their history and levelling of the playing ground, there is need for the absence of Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Morocco or Egypt at the top of African football. It could have been a dream case to have Zimbabwe and Libya playing the final, with Zimbabwe winning it.
It must be said that Zimbabwe themselves gave a good account of themselves but paid the penalty by losing on penalties in a match they should have killed in full-time. They wasted further opportunities to do exactly that in extra time and squandered a few vital spot kicks at the end. The southern Africans enjoyed success in the past in the SADC region, winning the COSAFA Cup several times and, transferring that form in this tournament would have shifted the balance of African footballing power southwards, albeit for a moment.
African football has seen the dominance by the Arabic north and then the west. The central zone, represented by DR Congo and Zambia, faired reasonably well compared to the south and eastern regions. As I have always said about the concept of CHAN before it began, I hope one day, a South African man or company will rescue the national league, the ABSA Premiership, and southern Africa as a whole, by sponsoring the club Southern African champions’ league to challenge Zamalek, Al Ahly, Esperance, Asec Abijan, Assante Kotoko and the rest of the club heavy weights.
Charity begins at home.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Two pronged Liverpool dangerous but inadequate

Statistically, when teams play against Liverpool, there must fear and rightfully so. The duo of Luiz Suarez and Daniel Sturridge is the most lethal in more than scoring ways. It would have seemed that the injury to the former would retard the progress of his amazing new found form of this season.
I was skeptical myself and I still believe their play now is the momentum of their game rather than the combination they were before the injury to Sturridge. Right now the undoubted quality of finishing of Suarez and Sturridge is carrying the Reds above the waves, but their defence does not compliment the performance of the two pronged attack.
Their central defence has been a one man department, Skrtl working his socks off. Toure has been out of sorts and the Johnson and Sissoko have been less relevant as their attacking power was effectively a responsibility of Coutinho and Sterling
This has been good in keeping the team shape but the problem with that is that both the midfielders do not pose a dangerous scoring threat as, say Johnson. With a little more accurate finishing, the duo would make Liverpool have the latitude of Manchester City who have Aguero and Toure doing well in that aspect.
Despite their envied partnership, the Reds’ quest for top four gets threatened by every point dropped. Were it not for the sterility of Coutinho and Sterling, they could have been title contenders, but as of now, they are scrapping for the Champions’ League spot.

Why you should consider Manchester City champions in waiting

The Citizens score for fun but need to defend well. Champions defend well and beat fellow contenders. Maybe not as crisp as Barcelona, City can excite you. Their biggest weakness is consistency. One moment they send chills down the small teams by beating bigger clubs, the next, they faulter in their travels.
They have shown some acceptable maturity of their unit over time this season. They suffered the loss of Samir Nasri and never shown their lack. Sergio Aguerro was also missing for a while and they never lost shape. The same goes for the absence of David Silva. It is a manager’s dream to have such a complete side.
Edin Dzeko always acted an impact player’s role, but he has stepped up to the plate to be as key as the main man, Negredo. So far, they are satisfying flowing forward and Vincent Kompany is a defender we saw in the championship winning side a few seasons back. As solid as they are, their leakage against set pieces may be a concern but my opinion is the absence of Lescott, whom I think either Arsenal or Liverpool should sign before a shine comes off his paint.
Otherwise, City have this championship wrapped up already and it is theirs to throw away.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Is it a Mata United should bank on?

The record Mata move to United brings with it some sense of relief to a desperate Manchester side’s quest to implement damage control measures that may be beyond repair by now. All hope is not lost given that the brand , despite the vertical downward spiral, is massive domestically and internationally. Furthermore, David Moyes is threatening more purchases.
The best part of the Juan Mata move is the hunger of the player to proof one of the best coaches wrong. He fell out with Jose Mourinho for his mediocre interest to play without the ball and the two have been the worst best friends.
Manchester United’s ship sank fast and their desperation got them to buy Mata from the team highly interested in United’s best player, Wayne Rooney. The fact that they can do business with matter underlines the extent of United’s concerns. The price tag was one thing and to me, the louder message is that Rooney is going nowhere very fast. If ever he moves and does so to Stamford Bridge, Roman Abrahimovic will have to break a bank, if he still banks his cash.
Regardless, how much impact can Mata make, as an individual and who else would complement the Spaniard in the resuscitation efforts of the ailing champions. I got neither belief nor answer in the process or its success. A complete overhaul is needed, not the five Matas muted by the English press. The wish-list DM has, does not impress me to make United potential champions.
Besides, the cost will not be worth the while. These players will naturally cost more and worth less at this point in time. United needs just to play enough just to avoid relegation and build a proper team in the new campaign.
The good intention of Sir Alex Ferguson of building a team and believing the inheritance was going to help DM failed as a natural turn of events followed the script. Great managers build their own teams and success is never inherited. Once in a while we ride the crest and get the accolades after all has been forgotten about the predecessors, but that happens once in a blue moon.
Some managers I admired built teams and destroyed them several times. Brian Clough of Nottingham Forest relegated that team and promoted them again and again. It is that level of understanding and ability that a Manchester United needed. This is not to say that DM cannot or will not build United again. He can and he will.
All he needed was to do this building himself right from the start. The shortcut could have worked, had Wayne Rooney and Robin van Piersie been well and at their level best. That was not the case and the domino effect’s impact is causing the present pressing of panic buttons. Is this a Mata United can bank on? Time will tell.

Arsenal are a good limping horse.

Fa Cup fever is down after the weekend fest. Arsenal’ Arsene Wenger is a true realist. Do not confuse that with his known modesty. Despite the Gunners’ greatest start in the league for ages, he never openly said they have the league championship in the bag and this is because he does not think so, as much as you should not
This is why. Despite the arrival of Lukas Podolski, Santi Karzola and Mesuit Ozil – some real serious talent, at the Emirates, Arsenal have remained just an ordinary Gunners’ side which plays the way they think is Barcelona football. The thing is, they huff and puff to grind results, as any other team aspiring to be crowned. They have not blown any mind by the way they play or score.  
What has been a difference or a revelation, to the surprise of all and sundry, has been the early tearing form of one Aaron Ramsy, to many for many years, an outcast that Wenger dangerously trusted. Ramsy has been injured for a while and the momentum of his performances carried Arsenal thus now. The ascendance of Ramsy rubbed off to the Englishman in Theo Walcott in both form and now unfortunately, injury.
Their recovery will be vital to how Arsenal finish in the Barclays Premier League. How much more they will be grinding off points before the duo comes back remains to be seen but putting your money on Arsenal as champions is betting on, literally, a limping horse.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The English Premier League is coming home

 One of the hardest things in my football is dealing with the undeniable ascendance of Arsenal as real. The greatest thing in the English Premier League right now is the undoubted Luiz Suarez performance. Do not crucify him for his antics, but the professionals that he fools, should be the ones ashamed. Let us remember that Liverpool already have passed their cloud number nine, and seem to have hit the ceiling. It could be the resurgent Tottenham Hotspur that dwarfs their good run, but their scoring habits have shaken the league greatly. They could have been above the Gunners and duly claimed the ‘title contender’ tag, had their defending been sounder.
It sounds unrealistic to write so much positivity of the game without mentioning Manchester United. Since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, or is it the arrival of David Moyes, the wheels have come off the wagon. Depending therefore, it could be that SAF went with the wheels or DM is not skilled enough to fit them on. All is not gloom and doom as Manchester has City to fly the flag of town.
Manchester City are a safer bet by far to land the title, despite their questionable away performances, especially their defending. I am not a Manuel Pellegrini and I believe it is more of the quality of Aguero, Silva, Toure, Negredo, Navas, Nasri and the rest of the gang than the class of the manager. I am not saying he is bad, but his material is a universe more superior to any other in the league.
Spurs had the material before Gareth Bale left, and they added what I could have never bought, with all due respect to their purchases. AVB failed to formulate a system of any kind and he tried to play a game that I could recognize. It does not surprise me Tim Sherwood is reaping the results this easy. Jermaine Defoe is nowhere close to being finished and he never used him, Aaron Lennon was fading – injuries aside, Dembele was being sidelined. I will not mention Adebayor.
What interests me as much as it should interest you is the Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. I was as sceptic about The Special One’s return Stamford Bridge as I was about both AVB’s pedigree and expenditure, as well as David Moyes’s suitability to Manchester United’s quest. Mourinho has proven me wrong. It is normal for him to cut, chop and change with amazing success. He has kept and used most of what he found there and the same players work differently.
There will be a lot to discuss but the obvious stories are ever the rise and rise of Roberto Martinez, the shrewdness of Brendan Rogers, the perennial troubles of Sam Alladyce of West Ham United and Paul Lambert of Aston Villa. As stingy as Arsene Wenger is, it would be a given to win the 2013/2014 title is Cristian Benteke arrived at the Emirates. As it is, the Gunners are pretenders. We will only call them zebras after we see the stripes.