*Rather than start this blog again, I will leave it as is. Fabio Capello resigning during the time it took me to write this article is quite funny really. Please replace Capello with (Redknapp).
While Liverpool and Spurs played out a 0-0 draw on Monday most notable for the cameo of a cat, England’s captain-in waiting was reminding Fabio Capello why he is second only to Joe Hart on his teamsheet this summer.
Not Steven Gerrard, alas, but Scott Parker. A superb performance, that showed off plenty of characteristics to the tenacious midfielder that could be vital for an England team wanting to believe it can actually make an impact in a major tournament.
Most impressive was his attitude and commitment, as always, but his possession under pressure from the Liverpool team was equally striking. Neat passing triangles across the Spurs half continually ensured Spurs frustrated the Reds and were able to mount a platform from which to attempt a smash and grab win.
His tussles with Gerrard were intriguing. The Liverpool captain was showing off his superior skills and flicks in the opening 15 minutes like an errant child attempting to gain his father’s approval in the stands. The burst of pace and flick for Carroll was inspired. A lot of the rest was unnecessary.
At one point in the second half Gerrard stood strong and ensured Parker bounced off him onto the floor. The fans cheered. This was Gerrard posturing, showing his rival for the armband there was only one man going to win Capello’s approval.
Later Gerrard crashed into a clean tackle on Parker (who had taken several knocks and carried on when others wouldn’t have) and the ball ran out for a throw. No playacting from Parker, rather an acknowledgement of a tackle he would appreciate with a pat on the back.
He had already won the battle at that stage, Liverpool were running out of ideas and Gerrard’s influence had long since waned. Parker was outstanding in possession and in temperament and is a must for England’s midfield.
What better way to exorcise the demons of captains and their indiscretions than to pick a man you could be proud of and is the closest bet to a sure thing in terms of not letting his country or fellow players down.
Gerrard is certainly a worthy choice, but hasn’t hit anywhere near top form as many pundits would have you believe. He may get there, and would potentially be a perfect partnership with Parker. And he is also probably going to be the captain. In truth Capello is struggling to keep the team together and can’t afford for Gerrard to feel snubbed and losing another senior player’s confidence.
By picking Parker he would also be ostracising Lampard, a key Terry ally.
But politics aside, surely the aim here is to progress through a major tournament. Politics aside, Parker should play and he should be captain.
If Manchester City beat Spurs and Arsenal beat Manchester United the title will be switching sides in for once in a blue moon.
That opening statement is a little controversial, but hear me out. The loss of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva in recent weeks, coupled with a tough, and strange, run of fixtures that saw City play twice in 48 hours at one point and then once in nine days afterwards, has left them in a rocky patch.
The linesman wondered why Platt and Mancini were singing opera – Pic from Daily Mirror
Don’t mind what Mancini or the players say. They have lost to Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester Utd in recent weeks. That can’t do anything but leave a niggling doubt as to their ability to consistently beat the big boys. Now it’s time for Spurs. This is a crucial game.
Adebayor is a massive loss for Spurs, despite Defoe’s better goal tally in spite of fewer games. Kompany’s absence would leave City vulnerable to Adebayor’s strengths and in particular his new-found attitude to playing for the team, from which Spurs have gained considerable reward this season.
Defoe is Defoe no matter who’s in defence. Might smack one in from 30 yards. Might smack six wide and keep on trying his luck…Savic will be happier competing against the man linked with a move away from White Hart Lane. His struggles against Carroll in the Carling Cup against Liverpool were washed away by a capable performance against trickier customers at Wigan in Rodallega and Moses.
So if City were to win on Sunday, in the earlier kick-off, piling the pressure on Manchester Utd as they travel to the Emirates, it would be a crucial result without their captain and would bring his league suspension to an end, before Everton the following Saturday with the Carling Cup second leg in between.
Man City V Spurs. 1.30. Sky Sports 1
Arsenal V Man Utd. 4pm. Sky Sports 1
And in other news…
(1): Manchester United’s trip to Arsenal fills me with a sense of foreboding for gunners fans. Maybe it’s because the last time these two teams met Ferguson’s troops racked up almost a goal a minute. Kind of. And Arsenal don’t have a defence to speak of.
(2) Joey Barton on Twitter (Jan 20):
“If I talked about Neil, he’d do well to get another job. Twitter cost him his job???? I can think of a million other things!
And: “Lost his job and the guy is blaming everyone but himself! Embarrassing, time to look in the mirror mate. Last thing we need right. Big week.”
And: “Not a big fan of people that try to make scapegoats out of others. If u live by the sword, u die by it.”
QPR manager Neil Warnock on Barton’s arrival (August 26)
“We’ve got a very, very good player on our hands, he’s very enthusiastic. People will say one or two things about him, but they’ve said stuff about me in the past too, so I won’t worry about that.”
Warnock on QPR chairman Tony Fernandes (Aug 27)
“I’ve been speaking to him (Fernandes) most evenings, I’ve never had that kind of support anywhere. I’ve given him the names and he’s said go for it – you can’t have any more than that as a manager.”
For the record Neil Warnock will be appearing on BBC’s football focus tomorrow.
(3): Carlos Tevez. I’ll give you a fiver to piss off.
The weekend’s talking points:
(1): Man City are eight points off the leaders Chelsea after Molineux shocker.
Wolves claimed a victory over Manchester City whose manager Roberto Mancini described his teams performance as the worst in his tenure as boss. City went ahead through an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty but were pegged back by Wolves who followed up a good Carling Cup performance at City’s rivals Manchester United in midweek with a deserved victory.
City ‘s mutinous dressing room shows no signs of breaking out in peace with Mancini reproaching first teamers including Joe Hart and Adam Johnson for a midweek drinking session in Scotland, after allegations of a bust-up between James Milner and Yaya Toure at half-time of City’s miserable 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last week. Adebayor and Vincent Kompany became embroiled in a row during Saturday’s defeat while big-money signing Mario Balotelli produced a shocking performance, compounded by a yellow card for dissent in the second half.
Verdict: Wolves get a much-needed win their performance deserved but are still lagging behind in the league. Mancini will be nervous after an awful City display and a non-existent team morale. City look nowhere near good enough to challenge for the title on this evidence.
(2): The goal that was. But shouldn’t have been. But was.
Nani scored a controversial second for Manchester United in their 2-0 win over Spurs in the late kick off on Saturday. The Portugese saw appeals for a penalty waved away before stopping the ball with his hand. Spurs’ keeper Gomes placed the ball down (nowhere near the hand ball it has to be said) as if he was taking a free-kick. Nani stopped rolling around and went to close the free-kick down, took a look at referee Mark Clattenburg who appeared to indicate nothing untoward as Nani rolled the ball into the net. Cue consultation with linesman amidst furious appeals and the goal stood.
United manager Alex Ferguson blamed Gomes, rightly so the keeper should have played to the whistle. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp blasted Clattenburg, rightly so, as not only did Nani take a theatrical tumble but he deliberately hand-balled and the referee should have blown his whistle. The goal took the gloss off a good win for United.
Here’s a better look, albeit without English commentary, at the goal.
Verdict: Good game, farcical end. Spurs should be worried about being a club that seems intent on qualifying from the group stages of the Champions League rather than retaining a place in the competition. They will probably qualify from the group. They will have a hard time qualifying for the competition via the league. A good win for United, who are staying in touch with Chelsea and Arsenal, despite not hitting top gear, or anything like it.
(3): Newcastle 5 Sunderland 1.
What a performance from Newcastle. Occasionally brilliant this season, sometimes woeful, a Kevin Nolan hat-trick and cracking performances all over the pitch, particularly from Andy Carroll and Joey Barton helped the Toon Army celebrate a famous win over their neighbours.
But it could have been a different story had on-loan Danny Welbeck squared to an unmarked Darren Bent with the game tied at 0-0 in the first half. A tap-in would have given Sunderland the lead. Newcastle never looked back. Barton was sublime, superb passing and leaving defenders chasing shadows. Carroll showed impressive movement and link-up play and was unlucky not to register a goal. Shola Ameobi scored a perfect penalty and a cracking second. And while Kevin Nolan’s annoying wind-up-the-goalie routine continues from his days under Sam Allardyce at Bolton, seven league goals already this season is an impressive return.
Verdict: Newcastle were arguably better in this performance than the 6-0 drubbing of Aston Villa earlier in the season. Chris Hughton’s future had been the source of great speculation in recent weeks. Today they sit seventh in the league. A decent run recently comes to an end for Sunderland and with just eight points separating Newcastle from bottom-of-the-league West Ham, Bruce knows it will be tight at the bottom and Sunderland could find themselves in trouble if the allow themselves to be torn apart like they did.
(4): Hodgson’s Maxi delight
They left it late and it wasn’t pretty, but Liverpool have won back-to-back games for the first time under Roy Hodgson and gone to a stadium where it is tough to get wins against a well-organised Bolton team under Owen Coyle. A win for Bolton yesterday would have left them joint-fifth with Spurs. Liverpool’s win now leaves them level with Coyle’s men in mid-table.
That said, Torres and Gerrard, the men Liverpool fans hope will fire them up the table were awful yesterday. Gerrard hardly managed to complete a pass in the first half while Torres was worse, missing a one-on-one in the early stages that he normally found so easy in his first three seasons at Anfield. That Liverpool managed to win will be a mighty tonic for Hodgson with his star men so off-form. Excellent performances from the likes of Kyrgiakos, Lucas and Meireles helped, but David Ngog’s appearance from the bench will give the manager food for thought. The French man opened up the game as Liverpool applied some belated pressure late-on with Torres limping and out of form. It should of course be noted that bad game or not, the Spaniard’s back-heeled through ball for Maxi to score was sublime. Chelsea next for Liverpool after Napoli in the Europa League. The star duo will miss out on Thursday and Hodgson knows that his team are beginning to grow in confidence and if his stars show up on Sunday it could be a big test for the visiting league leaders.
Verdict: For Bolton, Gary Cahill showed once again why he is capable of performing on the biggest stage. Outstanding throughout, he was unfortunate to be nutmegged by a piece of brilliance from Torres but will have caught the eye regardless. Forwards Davies and Elmander played well without truly threatening Pepe Reina in Liverpool’s goal, but Bolton will fancy their chances of a top-half league place on this performance.
Thank god for that we can stop talking about Rooney and his effect on the England team and can start talking about…Rooney and his effect on the Man Utd team…
Everton V Manchester United
After surprising no-one here at TheFC100 by scoring first against Switzerland, Rooney will be Man Utd’s star man against Everton tomorrow in the early kick off on Sky Sports. The Everton fans quite rightly get stuck into Rooney whenever he returns to his boyhood club due to the fact he buggered off just after breaking onto the Everton first team in a big money move to Manchester. However he has stuck the boot in several times since with the usual badge-kissing, Moyes-bashing shenanigans and now the Everton fans will be relishing their chance to chant several brands of filthy at the former Toffee.
This game is more interesting in determining Rooney’s state of mind. The England fans gave him a great reception on Tuesday but tens of thousands will be doing their best to wind him up. That Everton have had a nightmare start to the season makes the pressure fall on both Rooney and Everton. A good start to the game for the home side is crucial, if they can get their noses in front and get Rooney and company frustrated then this could be a bad day for Man Utd fans. In fact, despite their problems so far, we fancy Everton to nick something here and we’ll throw in a card for Rooney at the same time
Prediction: Everton 2 Man Utd 1
Arsenal V Bolton
Arsenal have lost another few players for their game against Bolton (what are they feeding them at Arsenal, cereal with barbed wire?). Walcott, van Persie and Thomas Vaermaelen all miss out this weekend, however Samir Nasri could return from injury sustained against Liverpool on the opening day. Bolton are missing their inspirational keeper Jussi Jaskelaainen though, after the Finn was sent off last time out.
Kept forgetting to look at this. Now that I have, thought everyone else should. (Video taken shortly before Harry signed Van der Vaart with seconds to spare at a bargain rate…
Rafael van der Vaart is an exciting signing for Spurs, but how will he line up in Harry Redknapp’s team this season? The midfielder is joining a club with a wealth of talent across the middle, including his fellow left-sided teammate Gareth Bale who has been one of Spurs finest performers in recent months.
Van der Vaart was made captain of Ajax at a young age where he made his name as a prodigal attacking midfielder. However despite the prestige associated with his name, the Dutch footballer has yet to make the impact that his precocious talent suggested he would as a young footballer.
Indeed he has often been a controversial player, having fallen out with fans in the past as well as being accused of liking the nightlife too much during his time at Ajax. However as a married man his off-field distractions have been reduced but his recent time at Real Madrid was better off forgotten. Despite a good goalscoring rate, Van der Vaart was never a first choice player under Juande Ramos and although Manuel Pellegrini tried to sell him, he eventually stayed at the club and managed to stay within the fringes of the first team.
Slightly early perhaps, but as Italy beckons for a week they will have to do.
An interesting weekend to come, an interesting weekend indeed.
While the Premiership has already begun to assume a familiar leaderboard at a worryingly early stage of the season, there may well be slip-ups this weekend.
Starting with Blackburn Vs Arsenal. Wenger’s men never liked a face-off with Sam Allardyce’s Bolton teams of the past. And why would they, starting with Big Sam himself there were some real bruisers.
But now the man who would be England manager (unless the FA start taking things seriously) will put out his Blackburn team against the Gunners, high from a 6-0 rout of Blackpool.
There may be a surprise here though. Blackburn, as expected, are well organised under Allardyce and after a good opening day win were unlucky to lose to Birmingham having taken the lead and missed a penalty.
Fabregas and Van Persie should start (finally) for Arsenal, but may still lack sharpness. While Nasri misses out for Arsenal, they are slowly coming back to their best, but this will be a nice early test to answer the usual criticism that they can’t handle the more physical side of the Premiership.
Man Utd will be confident of getting back to winning ways against Arsenal, likewise Liverpool over West Brom, but Man City may be brought down off their perch following an exhilarating win over Liverpool on Monday.
City will be up against a team desperate for its first three points of the season, and while they were superb against Liverpool at home, City were woeful away at Spurs the week before. Steve Bruce has been arguing that he may have made too many changes to the squad leading to an unsettled atmosphere in the team, but Darren Bent’s two goals in the Carling Cup in midweek will get a bit of confidence flowing again and on Sunday they will look to bounce back, while City have another game tomorrow night in the Europa League to get the team playing as a unit.
The most intriguing game may be at Villa Park, where two teams arrive short on confidence after unsettling starts to Premiership life this season. Everton have only registered a point from two games they would expect to win, while Villa took a 6-0 hiding from Newcastle on Sunday, a game in which debutant Stephen Ireland barely got a kick.
While it is far too early to say it is a must-win game, the clash will tell us an awful lot about the future of both teams.
For one thing, Kevin MacDonald is rumoured to have been given two games to land the Villa job on a permanent basis. This then, is a must win for the man who would be boss. Everton meanwhile are fully fit and would have expected to set a blaze early on. However the blue side of Merseyside tend to be bad starters and this is a very tough game to try to get their season going. With Manchester United their next opponents, David Moyes will be itching to register three points while defeat would leave Everton looking sorrowfully into the distance at the top of the table.
Elsewhere, the focus hasn’t really been on Spurs yet, despite their solid start to the season Their next four fixtures are against the four Ws: Wigan, West Brom, Wolves and West Ham. All four are games Spurs will expect to win, meaning they could be looking pretty come October. For Wigan however, and boss Roberto Martinez, this game is needed like a kick in the nads. Spurs may have had a tough Champions League tie to get out of the way but despite injuries and any fatigue, they will expect a win. Injuries and fatigue may not even matter. Wigan have been woeful to-date and the fans are staying away as the half-empty JJB Stadium showed against Chelsea. Defeat could leave Martinez in big trouble, especially after the lacklustre comments in support of him by chairman Dave Whelan.
Predictions in a semi-serious sort of fashion:
Chelsea won’t beat Stoke 6-0. In fact they will struggle, but yeah of course they’ll win.
Liverpool will thump West Brom by three goals or more. West Brom fans will sing tributes to Javier Mascherano.
Wolves bring Newcastle back down to earth to continue their impressive start to the season. Andy Caroll will be sent off.
Man Utd thump West Ham, including a penalty not taken by Nani. Ferguson will thump a BBC reporter.
Blackburn will beat Arsenal. And Wenger will not be happy with their “physical style of play.”