Friday, May 28, 2010

End of an era

There were some good, great, fair and balanced articles on Rafa in the last few days. Here are ones I liked from Rory Smith, Dion Fanning and James Corrigan.

This is a final reminder of the man's class. I hope we do but I fear we won't see a man of his stature here for quite a while.

The phrase "safe pair of hands" has cropped up an awful lot in recent times. I read that as uninspiring, cautious and boring. You're right that we could have done worse but that's damning with faint praise. Given the choice between Stan, Bryan Robson, Sven, David Platt or Roy, I would make the decision we did. But there are much better managers out there and we didn't go for them which is annoying. I don't think exciting/exotic name comes into it. I'm more interested in past record or signs of managerial potential, neither of which Roy has. His record away form home is shocking. 3 away wins in 2 years with Fulham. I don't think his teams play good attacking football either. His transfer record is hit and miss. Don't think he set the world on fire at Blackburn or Inter when he had cash.

He's a mid table manager in my view and that's where I see us going. Curbs was interviewed for the job when Rafa got it as he was flavour of the month then too. Thankfully he didn't get it as the owners made the right appointment. RH is superior to Curbs but given a similar choice here they went with Roy over Pellegrini and I think it's the wrong appointment. Don't see him kicking up a fuss when the Americans break their promises about funding/stadium etc. That might go down well with the board but not fans who think.

I wouldn't give us any chance of making fourth as things stand. We have Arsenal at home first game and then have City away, Utd away and Everton away in our first 8 matches. Baptism of fire. I hope to be proved wrong and for him to turn out an unqualified success.

The one big difference with him and Rafa is he'll have the press onside. There'll be no more talk of bizarre selections, rotation, zonal marking, even if Roy does all three every game.

It sounds like Roy won't get any money bar what he raises from sales. Don't think there is any money knocking about. Sales of Babel/Degen look likely and I wouldn't be surprised if a few others leave too. Mascherano has been talking up a move for around 18 months and would raise a good bit of cash, especially if he turns out to be the world cup winning captain. As I said before, I would have no problem with Gerrard leaving as long as we get a good price for him, but I'm probably in a minority there among fellow reds.

Here's another great article from Paul Tomkins. It's an analysis of Hodgson, his strengths and weaknesses.

Fabio Aurelio has left L4 as his contract has ended and we couldn't agree a pay as you play deal. He was a top player when fit, which wasn't that often unfortunately. But his quality was there for all to see and we can't complain too much considering we signed him on a free. A model professional. Thanks for the memories.

David Moores has written a letter to Hicks and Gillett telling them they should do the decent thing and sell up. Rumours abound of a takeover but nothing concrete as yet. To be honest, I've lost a lot of interest in the club while the two Americans remain in charge. Rafa getting sacked was the final straw. I don't think that I'll be writing this blog while they remain in charge. I may think differently if they leave but I'm going to scale back on this and just go with occasional updates on twitter instead.

The BBC get a lot wrong but this is a great piece by them on the history of the Spion Kop in South Africa.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dull Hull

A 0-0 draw away to Hull was a suitably drab way to end to finish what has been a dour and depressing season. We did manage to hit the woodwork through Gerrard and their keeper made a string of good saves. But we didn't have it all our own way and Pepe had to stay alert to keep us in it. In the end we got what we deserved, 1 point. Our dire away form continued, we've only 5 "road wins" this season which is a damning indictment. The only notable aspect of the match was the fact that 16 year old full back Jack Robinson made his debut as a second half sub to become our youngest ever player. He's being tipped as one to watch but it'll be a while before he's ready to challenge for the first team on a regular basis.

With the season now over and no games to look forward to, some might say thankfully, it's time to take stock and figure out what went wrong this year. It's been shocking, on and off the pitch, in a year in which I expected us to challenge or even win the league. Obviously we needed to strengthen the team with the departures of Xabi, Sami, and Arbeloa. Their replacements had mixed results. Johnson had a pretty good season, injuries aside. Kyrgiakos did well, better than expected for a £1m signing. Xabi was sorely missed. Mascherano and Lucas isn't a midfield that can dictate play. Aquilani was a big gamble by Rafa and it didn't come off. I think he's shown some good form since Christmas but he was much more badly injured than initially expected and took a long time to gain match fitness. Rafa could and should have given him more game time this year. I expect we'll see the best of him next year and he'll prove to be a good signing in the long run. His problem is that he'll always get compared to Xabi, which is a high standard to meet. Maxi was a great signing and has slotted in perfectly. We got a bargain there for £1.5m. It's a pity we didn't buy him in the summer as we could have used him last Autumn.

I was and remain a Rafa fan. I still think he's the best man for the job. Some fans, in growing numbers, think sacking him would be a panacea for our ills. I think that's pretty short sighted and misses the point. The only reason to sack him is if you think we can get somebody better in to replace him. Who might that be? As long as the two Americans remain our owners we're fucked. Whoever the manager is will have to cope with debt repayment squad sales and being undermined at board room level. My fear is that they will push Rafa out and get a yes man in who won't call them for the cheat, lying theives that they are, like Benitez has since Athens. He's the only one in there fighting for the club and the fans. Yes, he's had a bad season this year, really bad, but I think he's enough credit in the bank to deserve another go next year. If next season is as bad as this one then it's time for a parting of the ways. For now, I'd keep him and keep hoping that we get investment sorted before the September 1st.

Mascherano is putting contract talks on hold. I fear he'll be sold and he probably won't be the only one. Sad and sobering times.

I'll be taking a break over the summer unless there are some big transfer deals or a bit of investment news over the summer. Keep it red.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Europa knockout and Chelsea collapse

What a week it's been. FIrst we crashed out of Europe on away goals with a 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid. We played pretty well for 60-70 mins but ran out of steam and ideas. We did get to see some nice goals for Aquilani and Yossi but when Forlan scored in extra time we had nothing left in the tank. Pretty disappointing.

But nothing compared to the way we surrendered 2-0 to Chelsea at Anfield last Sunday. We did a decent enough job of suffocating the Londoners for the first 30 minutes. Then Gerrard decided to try another one of his suicidal back passes, ala France in the world cup, and Drogba pounced to given them the lead. We had no response and Lampard added a second to given them no more than they deserved. Some fans were happy to see us lose but I wasn't one of them. I want us to win every game regardless of the consequences.

We travel to Hull City tomorrow for our last game of the season and it's hard to give a shit about a nothing game like this. The only hope of it being mildly interesting is if we get to see a bit more of the youngsters like Pacheco and Ayala who's been doing well in recent games. They both have talent and could really kick on and become regulars next year. put together a montage of Maxi's play this month. He's been one of the few brights sparks in a dull second half of the season. I expect him to build on this and give us even more next season. His quality is plain to see and the likes of Gerrard, Aquilani and Torres love playing with him.

Yossi doesn't know if he'll stay around this summer. I wouldn't be surprised to see him sold. He's a salable asset and isn't young. I rate him and want him to stay but we've got debts.

Rangers teen Danny Wilson is expected to complete his move to L4 in the next week according to the BBC. They reckon the fee is £2m plus future conditional payments. This seems very cheap for a highly rated young British defender but his contract is running down, hence the value for money. You can see him score a header for Rangers here.

Things continue to get worse off the pitch. The annual accounts were released this week and they it turns out that we're in a worse state than expected. The always reliable Tony Barrett in the Times breaks down the implications of the debt and the extent to which the stateside leeches are bleeding our club dry. If we don't get sold soon we are heading the same direction as Leeds United.