Tag Archives: The Drog

EPL Not Good Enough

Arsenal were nowhere near good enough and that clearly is a matter of regret. For all it says about where Arsene Wenger is taking Arsenal and what he offers now buying 2nd tier pros and letting 1st tier go with lots of youth development on display at other clubs I’ve said enough on.

More worrying is that rather than doubts on English teams closing the deal which has traditionally been a problem this year’s Champions League and last if you watched the games rather then knew the names of the winners shows a poor set of teams.

Last year Chelsea with Lampard and Drogba and all hands to the pumps with an inspired Cech and Ramires were able to burgle the tournament. However Drogba is gone and it has to be said Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea are too brittle at the back and too lightweight in midfield.

United carry the torch but even they at times seemed to be Moses holding back the waves against Madrid. They at least look fit to be at the top table the others not so much.

442 In 90s Was As Naive As Spurs Bus Parking

When you’ve lost anything that could have changed history is obviously important and worth grabbing on to if your fragile ego cannot handle that 95% of the time 1 action of a referee even a seemingly big one did not cost you the game. Fans and managers will never focus on the far greater mistakes their own players made. TV companies when the team is a UK based team abroad are only too happy to press the xenophobic buttons. Continue reading

Chelsea Decline Inevitable

Stan Collymore or someone purporting to be nailed it on Twitter

Embarrassing to suggest Wilikins had such an effect on multiple trophy winners and seasoned internationals.Cliche & convenient.And wrong.

It’s a measure of how infantile it all is such a theory gets an airing. Continue reading

Better Good and Lucky – A Mourinho Year?

When looking at managers it’s clear that sometimes it’s better short term to be lucky than good. Rafa Benitez could have done better overall and not lasted at Liverpool. Yet off the back of his tactical buffoonery and luck in Istanbul he stayed – they line 451 with Hamman and lose a tight game 2-1 to a better side most likely! Not sure a manager has ever got a big game as wrong before it started and I’ve see Mourinho’s Robben Wars and Ferguson’s Beckham Follies not to mention Wenger’s stubborn faith in failed players. Long term it was not good for Liverpool but then again I suspect most Scousers of a red tinge would take a Champions League over doing marginally better in the league over the following years.

Rafa and Jose Mourinho look to have Europe open to them. Rafa’s Inter (the side formerly known as Jose Mourinho’s Inter – FKJMI) may actually be slipping judged on winning what is a declined league by only 2 points from a Ranieri managed Roma. They certainly over 4 games were 2nd best to Barcelona, who was not last year, but did enough when it counted?

The main opposition to both in Europe Barcelona have compounded the seeming error of swapping 40 Mn Euros and Eto’o to get Ibrahimovic and less mobile by adding David Villa a seeming pure poacher whose understanding of movement only extends, based on the World Cup, to getting himself in position to score. A front 3 of Villa, Messi and Ibrahimovic might be an interesting dynamic or static even! Regardless if they move Ibrahimovic (Man City rumours!) they do have an island of classy youth coming through. Nonetheless whilst Villa is the preeminent poacher he’s not pacey or tall. Messi may find himself isolated.

Additionally the 75 Mn Euros cash shipped for 2 strikers to go from pace to height to nothing has left Barcelona back on their youth system. Now this means Jose Mourinho might be planning his 2 year exit when the England job becomes open but for now it’s a window of opportunity domestically and in Europe.

Rafa was Inter’s 4th choice apparently but he now has a chance to show he is good as well as lucky and a 2 year window with a good team. Inter whilst taking over a Mourinho team might seem hard I believe per game every Chelsea manager has done better than Mourinho’s last year, maybe even Big Felipe. None of them had the squad or budget Jose had either. This is an expensive Inter side who can already play Rafa like underdogs as they showed in their frankly heroic, if you hate football and support Inter, resistance in the Camp Nou.

The point being that Europe looks wide open. Man United have grabbed some young lottery tickets but can they get another season like the last from Rooney?

Chelsea are adding scraps but are starting more and more ordinary fare like Hilario, Kalou, Mikel and Anelka. The rest of the team is getting no younger. The Chelsea who dominated and drew to a better Barcelona under Hiddink is no more.

Domestically it’s a good time for Mourinho. Kaka’s 4 month injury must have been an early Christmas for the coiffured one. Fitting Kaka into any system would appear difficult especially with Ronaldo on the other wing. The fact Ronaldo is so well suited to set pieces and crucially counter attacking must be like a lottery win to Mourinho.

Of course I favour Mourinho over Rafa and not just because I am sure he is good, subject to a boat load of caveats that will not matter now. Mourinho has a team which recently cost a fortune in a domestic league of bankrupt teams. The English threat in Europe based on last year and players bought is down – Man City managed to avoid the Champions League and seem an incoherent mess of behind the striker options at present. Arsenal need a formidable leap of points domestically and play after their frankly lucky to only be 6-3 aggregate loss to Barca last year.

Will we(I) be able to take another European success with a record setting  3rd club for the Odd One?

Long term Barcelona and maybe Arsenal are the teams but for now Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez have lucked out.

Should Chelsea Sell Ashley Cole? Essien Aussi?

Ashley Cole best left back in the world coming off his best season at Chelsea where you finally saw what some of the fuss was about no one would want to lose him.

Ok that’s if the best left back in the world is almost useless as more than a 3rd post at defensive corners or stuck on the half way line offensively. That’s if the best left back in  the world averages 2 goals a year in a free scoring team. That’s if the best left back in the world stands off crossers so they cannot get behind him but have a free spoon into the box. My point I don’t think he’s the best left back in the world.

However let’s assume he is the best left back in the world and crucially that has some sort of real value.

Also if he’s the best in the premiership which he maybe is then the 2nd best is also at Chelsea – Zhirkov.

He’s 30 [in December] and relies on his pins.

In the last 6 seasons he’s played 30 or more league games once.

He’s owed 18 million over the next 3 years and earns more per game likely than Lampard and is a LEFT BACK. Should Heston Blumenthal pay the best plate washer the same per day rate as himself? Then again he might not poison as many people if he did!

If Chelsea are serious financially and bearing in mind what UEFA may enforce any offer of 25 million saves you 43 million with wages. Whilst Chelsea’s players have kept their rates of decline slow an injury prone 30 year old who relies on his pace for effectiveness is far more of a candidate for decline than players who rely on stamina, size and positioning.

It’s no accident Arsene Wenger has a production line at left back. It’s not cos he finds remarkable players. It’s not because they do anything clever. It’s because he puts an athletic left footed young player with a modicum of ability and an abundance of stamina there and that’s the trick. Job Done.

If they turn this down they are paying effectively 14 million plus taxes and bonuses a year to have a monikered bauble – best left back in the world.

Burning money?

A classic sell high on an aging player who may do well but as he’s a left back a big fee will mean Chelsea got fair value IF it goes well for Cole and his new club which as an England fan I hope happens.

Essien Chelsea  fans will probably trot out the best defensive midfield player in the year. He also adds goals at big times. OK you cannot knock the admirable Ghanaian can you?

Yes.

Sorry.

League Games  played last 3 years 27, 11 and 14 – why would you add 2 more years to his contract to take him to 32? Answer to Nut House Stamford Bridge. Chelsea just extended him for 2 more years.

Notice how with Lamps and Balls getting older and playing with the largely clue less Mikel in holding midfield Chelsea have been no worse last 2 years as Essien racked up a paltry 25 games. It’s not a premium position. Someone with positional discipline to play in front of the back 4 is admirable but over fetishised and like full backs you can create them and should be able with Arnesan’s expenditure to produce players who can step up.

Arguably if Madrid want as many short term aging signings as they can get Chelsea if they truly believe in re-building and developing talent should cash in. However I think ego and vanity will protect them from losing Lampard and Drogba. Selling people in non premium positions who are aging and injury prone should be a no brainer though.

50 million in the bank and probably 30 million in wages might be their route into Europe in 4 years time plus they will might even discover some good young players they already have. Or put another way Torres 40 million and 10 million a year for 4 years (not that I’d buy the injury prone lad but it’s illustrative).

Chelsea are defying aging but it’s hard to escape what Hiddink and Ancelotti have concluded that decline is happening and imminent. The aging  does not mean on their day they are not still a great team it just means they have more bad days each year.

Hanging on to expensive injury prone players in fringe positions would be a mistake financially and that might actually matter one day.

Chelsea Worthy Champs : Next Year?

John Terry had his Clegg moment and said Chelsea would dominate for years. Well let’s look at next year.

To be positive it’s hard to see how the rest of the division can improve much as they are cash strapped or there really are not the players readily available to improve teams – the world cup will just lead to money wasted on people who look good against lesser competition. Arsenal would appear to have the most organic growth and the scouting network to actually find some players.

United got within a point but that was off Rooney having an outlier. Now you may think he can repeat but he broke down physically whereas in the past metatarsals aside he has often come on strong late. At 25 in Oct has he had a dramatic step forward or is this unrepeatable? The rest of their squad has been helped by Scholes producing 10 good games and some contribution from van der Sar (40 this year), Giggs and Neville quite how long that can last is the question. The last 6 big signings are Valencia, Berbatov, Hargreaves, Anderson, Nani and Carrick which is over a hundred million just in fees for what? The two wingers are Ok but more of the same will hardly set the team alight without a strong Rooney season. The pattern of buying players who are limited but look good when the game comes their way seems fixed. It’s a buying policy that won’t unearth another Ronaldo. Nani is a wild card but shockingly inconsistent.

Man City spent a fortune and if I was building a title winning side I am not sure how many I would pick. Coalesce the Chelsea team. Given or Cech is a wash. Ashley Cole and Ivanovic/Bosingwa easy choices. Terry and Alex/Toure/Lescott/Ricardo Carvalho. Lampard, Essien, Ballack pretty much takes out their midfield. Up front Malouda with Drogba/Anelka  leaves a wing open where I would choose Bellamy most would choose Tevez (more wasteful with the ball and nowhere near as good when asked to play for team as a starter at United).  So that is basically maybe the 2nd centre half, definitely 1 winger and maybe the cat (albeit Given’s size will make him look better than Cech but the bigger man is probably as good). All the star players would be Chelsea (Terry, Lampard, maybe Essien if he comes back, Drogba and Malouda). Who is there for them to buy when behind the strikers players is all they have at the highest domestic class? They need a top class striker, full backs, another centre half in the mix, 1 or 2 better midfielders and those players are not available or half season players like Torres. There was talk of Joe Cole but he would only be their 3rd best behindthestrikeramejig player and United would benefit more from him – there is also a strong chance he is shot and the wrong age to give 3 or 4 years to off his injuries.

Chelsea could have been 5 points better albeit winning every big game. They looked poverty stricken against an Inter side who overall are no better than Inter have been for a few years (they lost 2, won 1 and drew 1 against Barcelona and barely got out of the group stages. Struggling to beat a lousy Roma team in the league – even if they win their last game will only have won 24 games and 82 points in that league!!) .

So with the following caveats Chelsea could improve and retain the title until Arsenal are ready and maybe improve in Europe:-

  1. Start using the cups to blood players and rest their best players in competitions that are not worth winning – Mourinho won both cups and left. This year could they have been helped by early exit from Carling and Champions League this year? 3 games a week wears them down for me with this year’s tactics and squad. Even one or two signings will not improve them greatly if they do not start to blood youth and pick formations stronger in midfield.
  2. They may have finished the season with 4 forwards, Lampard and Ballack but that could barely retain the ball against Wigan before they gave up. If they want to win in Europe back to the 4321 or 4231 – it’s better defensively and less wearing on 32 year old midfielders.
  3. Don’t play Anelka and Drogba together even in a 442 Anelka just disappears mostly. Without a reserve it’s easy and results suggest starting either is a wash for the team even if intuitively I favour The Drog.
  4. A poor placeholder like Mikel is surely replaceable and upgradeable from – will Essien ever be back? 28 in December. Regardless they do not need to play 2 such limited and defensive players. Mikel is a sell frankly albeit he is younger.

A bit hubristic from Terry but if Chelsea drop the hubris and concentrate their resources they could dominate domestically for at least another year. They would also do better in Europe but unless they can infuse a lot of new blood those three game weeks will kill them.

If I was cheeky I would say as Roman gets better at picking the team they should improve.

5 Footballers of the Year

Unlike the PFA I do this when we’ve most of the season to make the vote worthwhile. Unlike the football writers it’s not who my alter ego is as the absence of my boy and one of the best ever English footballers Frank Lampard will attest. Also this is timed not to be influenced by who wins the title as 1 point seems in the media to be the difference between 16 world class players and having serious problems all through the team.

Unfortunately Lampard only dated skinny burdz, scored, tackled, passed, ran and made goals as usual. He’s probably still the 2nd most valuable player in the division. Frank was great but he did set a record for Penalties plus Cream On Top scoring which falls short for me.

Anyway TWSI’s 5 in no meaningful order.

Darren Bent. I do not fetishise goals but 24 league goals unnoticed for that team tick one up for The Bent. Defoe the loved and caressed talent boy of some media types got 18 and whilst he is subbed and injured more that includes 5 in one game, a true Cream On Top special by Spurs. When I looked earlier in the year they had similar goals to shots ratios and thus Bent is unreservedly a player of the season.

Carlos Tevez. So poor in his first few English seasons a few crucial goals aside. Looked a natural sub for United unable to play on his own up front. Proved he could start for Manchester City and whilst his public comments put him in the vile category definitely made the season more interesting. One thing I have to say if you took Tevez off field comments and combined them with Mascherano’s on field behaviour short of a criminal would you not have an über cunt?

Wayne Rooney. The most valuable player period in the division. Like the others on this list as much for confounding my expectations as anything. A constant source of movement. A constant outlet for his team. Goals more goals. If he did not insist on taking free kicks and shooting from distance I’d get a prayer mat out. Injuries the only other blemish on a big season from The Big Man. 5 years of over rated mostly tripe gloriously consigned to history this year. Internationally when he is playing England look balanced like a team that knows what it is doing. Without him it’s a 442 and just as scrapingly staccato as the crudy sides of Venables, Robson, Svennis and McClown. Now officially My Boy.

Sol Campbell. Never  rated Sol. Thought he was over rated and could only play deep with play happening in front of him. The fact he is the 2nd quickest player over 30 meters still at the Arse’ more reflective of the lack of team speed. However let Notts County off 10 million it would have had to pay him. Came back to play above average centre half for Arsenal. A rare player picked for experience who shows the benefit of it. I am 15 years too late for the bandwagon but Sol you were a champion unlike the midfield in front of you. Amazing comeback in spite or maybe because of the break he had.

Cesc Fabregas. If he were English the bulldog spirit he showed playing through injuries would lead to him be lionised. Leading a comeback against Barcelona with a broken leg. Did I mention added goals to class. Big goals at big times. No accusations he is looking to be playing elsewhere after that season.

Other players who have defied my lower than accepted wisdom view of them Shay Given a champion and maybe even Milner although I refuse to accept he is more than the dull runner he always has been. Richard Dunne must be sending Man City “Miss Me” cards. Malouda that acclimatisation over the Channel took a long time but you’re not shite indeed you are pretty good.  C’Ash went from all time over rated to being decent for a short full back with limited technique and might have been one of the 5 players of the year but for injury.

Players who lived up to my relative over rating: Craig Bellamy: Brad Friedel so good no one notices or comments on him so we will:  The Fletch had a strong season in parts albeit tailed off but he made the PFA team of the year. Gallas before injury that tackle aside.

Disappointments to me, more personal than bad seasons.

The Drog nice goals total but Chelsea were at least as good without. Played really well lately and may be best when he goes wide and opens the pitch up for the team. His crosses v Stoke and Blackburn exemplary.

Most of the young Arsenal team who seem to have learned nothing bar how to run and control a ball. Campbell, Gallas and Vermaelen covered a lot of dreck but against the best were unable to stem the tide of unmarked midfield runners. Almunia was worse than I thought.

In the end an interesting season. No great teams in Europe none at home. Exciting in terms of unpredictability but the league missed Ronaldo even if Rooney did not and I suspect he misses us.

Chelsea : Less Strikers More Goals

Really reactionary today but I am convinced most pundits merely restate trite pre-determined opinions and ignore facts or FACTS as Rafa might call them. Andy Gray was wittering about Liverpool needing 2 strikers and Gerrard in midfield. No doubt he was wittering all last year and this about no problem playing Drogba and Anelka. Then he casually mentions Chelsea have won the 10 games without their leading scorer – more evidence than his other points have to back them up.  It’s interesting that Andy Gray whose ignorance has inspired all today’s blogs can claim something about Gerrard on 1 faux stat and then contradict his entire understanding of football and not spot it.

Indeed in the 2 league games I know The Drog missed they have scored 14 and conceded 3. Lampard alone has 6. Indeed with only Drogba they beat Portsmouth 5. In those 3 games Lampard with 7 goals is only 1 behind Anelka for the season (Anelka got 2 of them as a lone fronty v Sunderland so in games with 2 strikers he has less goals than 3 Lampard games with 1 striker!).

I’ve argued playing Anelka and Dogba has merely taken goals from elsewhere. I’ve argued Chelsea cannot play game in game out with their older players and a 4 or worse mere 3 in midfield. Of course for whatever reason Chelsea rotated this week and played 1 striker – you should have heard the fans bleat at the team that lined up on Saturday to the BBC Live blog bet those guys feel like morons. Yet you see the advantage with Anelka often out of the picture a Chelsea attack had Joe Cole, Lampard, Malouda, Deco and later on Ballack all marauding over the opposition back line in classic Chelsea style.

Chelsea less strikers more goals? Less Drog more wins? It’s not about how well the striker and Gerrard perform it’s about the team. It’s why people do not get Frank Lampard the sheer accumulation of goals, assists, tackles, passes, ever present, few suspensions and on field leadership. It’s not flashy. It does not take your breath away. It merely builds on a good team. Terrible a journeyman striker like Anelka has been used to push him into a support role – who despite being almost same age and a forward has 28 less career goals than Lampard 192 (666 Games – deal with the devil that 4 goal haul?) -164 (469 Games for the wastrel). In a good team not focussed on strikers he’s the business.

Chelsea now have 1 midweek game left and ironically can forsake rotation that would have wrapped the title up by now. It will be interesting if Ancelotti has the say and sobriety to choose between The Nelk and The Drog from here on in. The payoff is more goals from midfield, better defence and fresher midfielders.

Chelsea are lucky this year championship is available to them still after wasting the year tiring their key players out. Now they have a tough run in but will be the freshest team. A point at Old Trafford next week and they go favourite for me.

Chelsea will likely be even older next year the prescription will be the same will Ancelotti still be there and will he have learned anything?

Man City’s Conundrum

You can make a lot of comments on Man City but their real problem is that for all their spending Siddy do not seem to have the basis for a title winning team. This at a time where none of the teams above them bar Arsenal are progressive. Spurs maybe but they have much the same problem as City.

The problem is one of balance. If I asked people to name City’s best players no doubt many would agree with me, Bellamy and Tevez. Sadly both have the same downside they both play off a striker. Now whilst some would say 4321 then like the top teams. No as neither is a midfielder or a winger. Sure they will track back to a degree but both are aggressive forwards. For a good team the two City star players would make great bench options but not starters. They also have a village of players who are Bellamy and Tevez lite.

It’s possible to argue Barcelona play a similar set-up but even they have stumbled and are being carried by Messi the kind of player no one else has. They also have a core of midfielders who keep the ball and work their arses off not Barry, de Jong and Ireland.

In addition the City stars are not playing off Eto’o or Ibrahomovic but Santa Cruz and Adebayor.

A lot of their top forwards miss games as well such as Bellamy, Tevez, Adebayor and Santa Cruz.

At the back they have spent money on Toure and Lescott (out for 5 weeks) but centre halves without midfield cover can only do their best. Top teams main method of defence is midfielders who keep their discipline and the ball not Ireland. If you have 3 pure forwards it’s hard to defend without a stellar midfield.

Mancini seems less than inspired so far leaking credibility with each mumbled press conference. However talk of replacing him with Mourinho misses several facts: Mourinho is not the force of 2003 even if he is not the wreck of a man who left Chelsea set up for life: Mourinho appeared to have no real ideas when it came to buying players either with his best acquisitions Cech, Essien and Drogba on their way so only Carvalho who played at Porto was a strong addition: Mourinho arguably cemented the fall of Chelsea by not setting priorities and wearing out his fringe players and wide player core mentally with his personality, rotation and substitution policy. Thus reducing their squad that the man who introduced 14 man teams ended up with 8 core players un-rotated padded with junk.

Chelsea are not a template as when Abramovich arrived they already had a core with Terry and Lampard coming into their prime. City have no players of that level and none seem readily available to any amount of money in the rest of the world. Like Chelsea to ditch the players they should like Wright-Phillips, Adebayor and Robinho will require them to subsidise their wages as Chelsea did with Veron and Crespo.It will  be hard for the owners to dump expensive players.

I would look for up and coming players and be prepared for attrition but to develop and wait for the development of players needs the kind of stability and barren years Man United to a degree and Arsenal have been through. They need to find a stable back 7 and switch the focus from wingers who are lightweight defensively to a defensive core who retain and win the ball.

Personally I think they need a 3 year plan to get into place to challenge. They need to get the best from what they have to start. That would need Mancini to step up or to replace him with someone who will build a club and for that I would rather a Moyes, but probably not Moyes, than Mourinho who has not improved Inter notwithstanding his one good European result over an over rated Chelsea.

Most of the players they could buy like Villa and Ribery are ludicrously expensive and at the wrong stage of their career. They would still be behind a Man United entering the 5 best years most likely of Wayne Rooney and The Fletch.

Teams are built from the back not the front. Indeed City fans can at least comfort themselves they did not entrench their dysfunction with a player like Kaka. Kaka is a joy when playing but has no position and does not even play wide. His Milan did not exactly threaten the league every year and their one title likely from the power of Shevchenko more than Kaka.

Where the 20-25 year old players outside Rooney and Messi are is a good question for me. Almost all teams outside Arsenal appear to be getting older without any organic improvement. Indeed top teams seem to struggle to even find or produce simple things like holding midfielders and full backs increasingly.

City have to realise that money is only part of the answer.

Stability and long term vision is needed not an orgy of handing money to spivs.

The best team money can buy is not necessarily the best team.

Arsenal Déjà Vu : Chelsea Dread

It’s a shame I used a movie metaphor yesterday as the response by Arsenal to last week’s shocker at the Emirates was very reminiscent of a horror sequel.

The game had a similar but less exciting and inspired script. The cast of Arsenal victims contained some young people never to be heard of again and lots of jobbing older actors acting juvenile. Instead of sticking together and using strength in numbers the Arsenal team broke into small groups of isolated individuals to picked off like models by John Terry (at least his cast of women is far better looking and classier then Tiger’s). Indeed the big unstoppable killing force was played with some lustre by The Drog.

The short story again is this yes Arsenal are inferior. However if at 1-0: you keep your shape:  do not over attack: keep providing an outlet for the ball carrier: then at some point the other team will let you back in. Indeed if that team: plays 1 light in midfield: has lots of old players: a manager unused to English football who has not mastered substitution: throws  in 3 quick subs in the 85th minute and beyond: then you have a good chance if you hold it to 1 of getting at least a draw.

Again Arsenal have failings but so do Chelsea and Man United. Those failings are compounded by a seeming inability to learn, a fear of the ball in key situations and a lack of commitment and thought at times.

BTW I refer to Chelsea as a 442 below. Arguably Malouda and Anelka were deployed in a genuine 433. The difference is irrelevant as of course they had little or no width and a 433 where there is little tracking back from the 2 fringe  front players it is even lighter in midfield than a 442. It’s a formation with 2 strikers one of whom is a poacher not playing in the front position – as close to the definition of a wasted selection as I can get.

Chelsea fans of a more critical nature must have some dread as after 5 games in 2 weeks suddenly they look old and United are just getting going. In the 2 striker formation Anelka is scoring no more goals than Lampard did from open play in a 4321 and Lampard is scoring less to balance that (penalties excluded). Yet it forces a light midfield and a lack of width  which is not a clever tactic for a team with so many old players. Compounding this problem is the almost limitless capacity of Anelka and Malouda to return the ball to the opposition.

Chelsea for much of the 2nd half looked like England under the managers bar Hoddle leading up to Cap’. Unable to pass the ball through the opposition getting deeper and deeper. There were pluses for Chelsea with Cech clearly told to dominate more than the dismal Almunia and as good as he has been since Berkshire’s Hunt crowned him. Drogba is still motivated.

The other issue was the Chelsea bench which reflected a top heavy squad. Ancelotti had not made a substitution even as Chelsea lost shape and the ball. One could understand it and maybe why he has Anelka start as an ornament. Kalou and Joe Cole are the only things that approximate to width. Zhirkov and Alex defensive replacements. No pace on that bench and no great height. Mere more of the same replacements and the adaptability of Joe Cole – it’s definitely unclear what Cole has left and indeed he always seemed more suited to continental and international football anyway.

Both could win the title as at times this season United have looked less than a juggernaut. However I don’t see it as a positive for English football if they do as neither side is advancing.

1 more game and Arsenal have the run in from heaven. They really need to beat Liverpool but if they do they can still do it unless United run away with it for me.

Hoddle’s Andrew Cole Delusion

Stats quoted below from Sky Text and are for League games only.

The common prejudice against Andrew Cole started by Glenn Hoddle was Cole needed 4 or 5 chances to get a goal. Interestingly the one year [2000] I had the OPTA stats  Cole was one of the better converters at 30% – which is very good as we shall see.

You’ll hear a lot of people say how Wayne Rooney has crossed some Rubicon and Carlos Tevez is having a terrific season and they will quote all the goals they score. That the lighter skinned Wayne Rooney is therefore considered a great finisher compared to Andrew Cole.

Rooney has 19 goals in 92 shots? That’s a similar ratio to the maligned Agbonlahor 8 in 38. Or the over praised Tevez 12 in 60 (exactly one in five).It’s about what Hoddle accused Cole of, nearer 5 than 4 to boot.

This season Defoe he has 14 in 64 which is very good – the opportunity cost of Defoe to Spurs Darren Bent is 14 in 53 for Sunderland and as he heads the ball more, I assume, that is even better. Saha 11 in 55.

Drogba 14 in 86!

Fabregas is 11 in 44 now is he having a better season or an unsustainable strike rate – much as Defoe had last year?

The point is almost all strikers need 4 or 5 chances to get a goal. The goals/shots stat is less meaningful than it would appear and one would need to scout the players more. Nonetheless some broad mockery of the Hoddle position is available to us and some tentative conclusions.

Since Sky quote only top scorer and top shooter the only thing I can say about Torres is 12 goals in under the 43 shots Dirk ‘Shite’ Kuyt has had. Having said it’s meaningless Torres if he could stay fit he’s just not human!

There are many aspects to assessing strikers: line leading: defensive value at set pieces: assists: when they score (easier at 3-0 than 0-0): defensive work as good team’s strikers are the first line of defence: getting into position to shoot: playing alone up front: decoy running: etc.

Rooney is having his best season and his plateaus seem behind him. For a young player he’s had a lot of false dawns but I am tentatively hoping he’s shown a real shift of his Bell Curve considering the World Cup this year. This is not because he has a huge goals total but because he’s scoring more goals that count and his all round play makes him arguably the best forward player in the country now.

However it’s clear for almost all players large goal totals are clearly a function of the large number of shots.