Monday, April 30, 2012
Wigan, in recent seasons have played a type of football which is pleasing to the eye. Since the appointment of Roberto Martinez, he had taken the blueprint he developed at Swansea and imbued it onto the Latics DNA. Their passing was amazing against Newcastle last weekend. Rarely kicking a ball in anger, the Latics players played the ball out of defence into midfield, down the channels and finally exploiting the openings with quick one-two wall passes. It was delightful to watch. If Wigan were any other Big Four team, they would have been the toast of English football.
But the current flavour of the month is Newcastle, and that's no surprise with the way the Toon Army has been making its way to a potential Champions League placing. However, that wait may have to be longer as Wigan brought the high flying Magpies back down to earth. With Shaun Maloney pulling the scheming strings, Wigan are all set to stage the great relegation escape that had seemed impossible back in January.
What had seemed like a hellish run-in - games with Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea became the catalyst for a Wigan revival. Who would have thought Martinez' men could pick up nine points against these clubs?? And the results were achieved by playing the right way and with positivity.
When Luis Suarez was accused of racially abusing Patrice Evra, he retorted with the quote,
"I go to the field with the maximum illusion of a little child who enjoys what he does."
I finally understood what he meant by that last Saturday against Norwich. Suarez looked very much the sure-footed striker who had scored over 100 goals for Ajax. El Pistolero is a player who is either stunningly brilliant or woefully frustrating, there is no middle ground. But then it would be hard to expect him to be anything else. Hence it seemed somewhat fitting that Suarez should liken himself to a little child doing what he loves in a playground. Football is fantasy for the Uruguayan and he plays the beautiful game with a sense of child-like joy and freedom that is rarely found in the Premiership.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Roberto Di Matteo has been another inspired decision by Roman Abramovich. The perceptive Italian has managed to solve the old and new divide within the Chelsea squad. There is finally a distinct feeling of squad harmony not seen since the happy times of Mourinho. Winning matches usually helps, but more importantly, man management is the key.
While Chelsea try to revitalize their playing squad this season, the old guards of Frankie Lampard, Drogba and Terry have stubbornly refused to concede their starting places to the young stars-in-the-making. Conversely, the young stars of Mata, Torres and Sturridge have found their performance on the field stifled by the legends.
Against Spurs in the FA Cup semifinal, it was apparent that Chelsea old and new have begun to develop a symbiotic relationship within the team. Frank Lampard commented that Di Matteo should be credited favourably for that.
Andy Carroll started the last two Liverpool games, and they were important games in some respect. Liverpool ended a four game win-less streak with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Blackburn Rovers. The Reds followed that up with a come-from-behind FA Cup victory over Everton, thus maintaining their hoodoo spell over the blue of Merseyside. In both these games, Carroll scored late winners to emerge as the hero for Liverpool. That the winners were both headed goals made everything all the more sweeter.
When asked about the 87th minute winner, Andy Carroll told ESPN,
"It's the best feeling ever. We worked hard and getting the goal right there at the end was great. I had a few chances and should have probably scored earlier. But I kept at it and it was a great ball in by Craig, and I just had to score with that one and I did. It's a great feeling. I've had some criticism but I've just kept on going. I get the winner here and it's a great feeling. I believe in myself every day."
It's been a while since he had felt the love of the fans. And he certainly felt it after that superb header against Everton.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
"Super" Mario Balotelli is always an accident waiting to happen. I thought that he had matured quite a bit this season. Unfortunately the talented Italian is still a ticking timebomb on the football pitch. Much of his goalscoring genius stems from that right-brain thinking which also courts disaster by the busloads.
Against Sunderland, Balo once more showed his madness and his genius in equal measure. With City 3-1 down, he chose to get into a childish argument with Kolarov over who should take a freekick.
As though to prove a point to both City and Kolarov, Balotelli went on a run at the edge of the Sunderland box and curled a shot past Mignolet. The curious thing was that the shot took place in roughly the same area as the disputed freekick. Coincidence? With Balotelli, I doubt it. I am sure the Italian wanted to prove a point.
It is a known fact that Roman Abramovich goes into panic mode when his Chelsea team stumbles either in the Premier League or in the Champions League. He has done so in numerous occasions during his ownership of the Blues. With the inevitable departure of Andre Villas Boas, Roberto Di Matteo was entrusted with the task of seeing the current Chelsea players through the season. RDM as he is now known, has shown that a temporary manager fare a whole lot better at Stamford Bridge.
RDM has done fantastically well since taking over from AVB. From impossible situations and player power, he has guided Chelsea into the Champions League quarterfinal and FA Cup semifinal. Overcoming a 3-1 deficit against Napoli and victory over Leicester have earned RDM the player's respect and the chance to improve on Chelsea's poor season. Under Di Matteo's Chelsea, the enigma who is Fernando Torres is even beginning to regain form and goalscoring touch. El Nino has scored three goals and made four goals since AVB's sacking.
Abramovich clearly knew what he was doing when he sacked AVB. The owner was sure that results would improve once the manager was gone and he dealt his ruthless hand. It wasn't a risk, in his mind, after all he had done it before, sacking Mourinho and Scolari, bringing in Avram Grant and Guus Hiddink. The previous temporary assignments had brought immediate results to Chelsea.
It is easy to back Steven Gerrard in any game as a potential match winner. However, this season has been a little bit harder. Having said that, he has shown that just his presence on the pitch adds a significant star quality in the matches that Liverpool have played in this season.
Even in a more restrained role this term, he has been the most influential player in a Liverpool shirt. With Luis Suarez a marked man and unable to repeat his performances of last season, even a half-fit Gerrard looked far more a match winner than Andy Carroll or Suarez or Adam or Henderson or the whole Liverpool team put together.
He has been the one Liverpool midfield player who has played with purpose and direction every time he stepped on the pitch this season. The Reds need goals from midfield, something that we know Gerrard can provide in abundance, so it's time for the captain to be at his marauding best, starting with Newcastle.
Four seasons ago, Steven Gerrard scored two amazing goals in Liverpool's emphatic 5-1 win over Newcastle in a match best remembered for its post match incident.
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