Category Archives: World Football

Diaby-Essien

Chelsea and PSG commit 20 fouls each — Mourinho demands ironic justice

“Eden Hazard was fouled NINE times in Chelsea draw at PSG… Laurent Blanc’s men should be ashamed of themselves” screamed the Daily Mail
“Mourinho calls for cards to halt Hazard fouls” blasts ESPN.uk
“Yes but both Chelsea and PSG committed 20 fouls each and Mourinho has some gall demanding cards for fouls on creative players.” pined 7amkickoff

It was a welcome relief for Chelsea fans this morning as they woke up to the news that their player, Eden Hazard, has been fouled a record number of times both in the Premier League and in the Champions League. And that he was fouled nine times in their match against PSG on Tuesday. Most of the major shock-top newspapers have run with the story and are supporting Chelsea and their manager, Jose Mourinho’s, campaign “Justice for the 9 fouls”.

Chelsea fans have been under pressure since Tuesday when their supporters were filmed shouting racist abuse at a black man in Paris prior to their match against PSG. After they shoved the black man and refused his entry onto the train, they then started singing that they are Chelsea, they are racist, and they are proud of it. The man who was abused is pressing charges and police in the UK and France are actively pursuing a case against the fans in that railway car.

Also swept under the rug is the fact that Chelsea were abject in the match against PSG, managing just one shot on goal in 90 minutes as they elected to park the bus rather than try to attack PSG and win the match outright.Chelsea were so poor in this match that their goal was scored when a center back crossed the ball to another center back who flicked on for the fullback to score. After they scored the go-ahead goal, Chelsea sat back and defended. When they did try to get the ball forward, it was Hazard who was the main outlet.

PSG spent the entire match attacking Chelsea and when they did lose the ball often tackled the one Chelsea outlet, Hazard, to win the ball back. It is no surprise that Hazard was the most fouled player on either team, he was Chelsea’s lone outlet. I’m sure if Chelsea had taken a more balanced approach to counter attacking Hazard might have had a teammate to pass the ball to, instead he was often left to go it alone and the result was that he was involved in a lot of duels.

In fact, the stats show that both teams committed the exact same number of fouls, 20, and Chelsea’s two main central midfielders, Matic and Fabregas, combined to commit 9 fouls of their own. PSG’s Verratti has been singled out by Mourinho because he committed 5 fouls and most of them were against Hazard, but Chelsea’s opposite central midfielder, Nemaja Matic, also committed 5 fouls.

The stats show that yes Hazard was fouled 9 times but that both Chelsea and PSG fought equally hard and fouled each other an equal amount. As a Liverpool fan who was watching the game with me put it, “both teams were fouling too much.”

The biggest irony, however, is that Chelsea under Jose Mourinho have serially targeted opposition players who, like Hazard, play with the ball at their feet. These players who like to dribble, players like Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal’s Abou Diaby, and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, are routinely targeted by Chelsea midfielders not only for the same rotational fouling that Hazard suffered against PSG, but for absurd and over the top lunges.

cahillHere is Gary Cahill attempting to break Alexis Sanchez’ leg with a lunge that should have been a red card but instead was only called a foul.

Diaby-Essien

And here is Chelsea’s Michael Essien destroying Abou Diaby’s ankle. Another foul that didn’t receive a red card or command a peep out of the Chelsea manager.

What’s most incredible, however, is how quickly the British press lapped up Mourinho’s milk and uncritically published his remarks about the PSG match. Every single one of Jose Mourinho’s teams have been criticized for their brutality and ugliness. He was essentially fired from Real Madrid, he last job prior to returning to Chelsea, because he had turned them into the most expensively assembled Crazy Gang in the history of the sport and the players revolted against him. It was clear that the players were right, since they went on to win the Champions League playing a much more aesthetically pleasing brand of football.

In the end, this is just Mourinho doing what Mourinho does: redirecting the press away from a poor team performance, moaning ironically about how his team are cheated, and adding to the fan’s feelings that Chelsea are persecuted. The only wonder is why the British press publish this stuff uncritically.

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Questions to ponder: dribblers like Hazard, Wilshere, Diaby, and Sanchez are often fouled because they tend to have the ball at feet more than any other player. Is this fouling “just part of the game”? Is this something that “needs to be stamped out” of the game? Consider the NBA and their movement in the early 90s toward a more dribble-happy sport. They changed the rules so that players could no longer put hands on the opponent when playing face to face. This encouraged dribblers and turned the NBA into a sport where one player would often be seen standing at the top of the key dribbling and trying to break down the opposition defense. Do we want football to go more in that direction? More leeway for dribblers? Or do we want to encourage teams to play a more team oriented sport, with passing rather than one-v-one dribble duels all the time. My feeling is that encouraging more dribbling will make the Mourinho tactic of parking the bus pay significantly higher dividends because you can sit back and hit the opposition with a dribbler, who is systematically protected by the referees.

I believe I can dive

Wayne Rooney’s patented dive beats Preston and sets up FA Cup tie with Arsenal

Manchester United got lucky cheated three times, to beat Preston North End in their FA Cup tie at the Deepdale on Monday: Rooney was clearly in an offside position and interfering with the keeper for United’s first goal; Fellaini clearly fouled his marker, pushing him in the back, to win the header for the second goal; and Wayne Rooney simulated a foul to earn a penalty for the third goal. Referee Phil Dowd allowed all three goals to stand and the end result is that the Football Association gets a big-name cup tie between Arsenal and Man U at Old Trafford in early March.

United were abject in this match. They got zero shots on goal in the first half and Preston North End harried and frustrated a team that is one of the most expensively assembled teams in the Premier League. Preston took the lead in the second half when fullback Scott Laird fired home the first goal but United stormed back through a series of fortunate incidents and eventually won the game.

United’s first goal was scored when Wayne Rooney stood in an offside position. The ball was shot at Rooney, he moved at the last second to get out of the way, the keeper was frozen by this little bit of movement, probably expecting the ball to ricochet off Rooney, and the ball nestled into the net as the keeper dived too late to get to the ball.

United’s second goal was scored by Fellaini. Since his move from Everton, Fellaini has ceased pretending that he was ever a footballer and has instead taken up the position of “Battering Ram”. His main function in the Manchester United lineup is to stand up front, win headers, elbow people in the face, and shove defenders to the ground. He shoved Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs to the ground in the United win over Arsenal in November and he did it again to Preston. This is what he does, he’s not actually a very good leaper and he’s also not actually very good at winning headers, what he is very good at is getting away with shoving defenders in the back. He does it every single game and somehow he keeps getting away with it. It’s incredible, really, to watch him shove a defender in the back and then not only not get called for the foul but have people defend him “there was hardly anything in that.”

And United’s third goal came from a now patented Wayne Rooney dive. Wayne Rooney has a specific way that he dives. He kicks the ball away from himself and then pretends he is going to chase after the ball. If there is a defender anywhere near him? He falls over, back curled, arms spread out in his Jesus Christ pose, legs in the air, and always (and I mean ALWAYS) looks back at the referee. Here is a short compilation of some of his dives:

He did the exact same dive against Preston and conned referee Phil Dowd into giving a penalty. He anticipates contact and falls over despite no contact being made. It was a shameful act of cheating.*

That is how I would report the facts in that game. There is, however, a debate over whether Rooney did dive. Which is incredible. If you watch the video, and know that Rooney always does this move where he kicks the ball away and then dives, there can be no debate: that is a stone-cold dive. But crucially, you have to be able to see the video of the dive and of his previous dives in order to make that connection.

That is how I did report the facts in that game on twitter and on Vine. I posted a clip of Wayne Rooney diving to win the penalty, with my voice-over, which went viral. Stan Collymore tweeted my Vine (without including my twitter handle) and within minutes of that happening, the Vine was taken down and my Vine account suspended.

But the video is still here:

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And here:

And I still have the video on my phone. And I have a right to post that video under the Fair Use clause of the Copyright Laws in the United States of America.

“quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

Boom… first sentence “excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment”. I am illustrating how Wayne Rooney dives. It is a pattern with him and he continued that pattern against Preston. I also had a clip of Marouane Fellaini shoving down a defender to score the second goal. Again, this is fair use, you cannot take that clip down, because it is illustrative of a pattern with Fellaini where he simply fouls defenders by shoving them in the back, in order to win headers in the box.

This censorship, however, is a pattern with the FA and with fans. They don’t ever have a problem with videos of players scoring goals but if you post a single video of a foul or of a referee getting a foul call wrong, your video will get taken down for copyright infringement within seconds. It’s a blatant attempt to expunge the records of any foul play. Rooney is a serial diver. He has a pattern to his dives. But because the record has been expunged of most of the evidence for his diving there is still some debate about whether he is a diver or not. In fact, after the match, several of the pundits on Sky (including his former teammate) claimed it wasn’t a dive. And on twitter, and among fans, there is a debate over whether he took a dive or not.

But there can be no debate. Wayne Rooney performed his patented dive in order to win a penalty against Preston North End. It is a shameful moment from the England captain. He should apologize and Man U should offer Preston a replay. A replay not just because of the dive, but because of the obstruction, the shove, and the dive.

But it won’t happen, because there is no honor in Manchester. Instead, the cover-up will begin, the FA will expunge the record, and people will debate about whether Rooney took a dive — even though that’s not really the debatable point.

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*It was a shameful act of cheating which would have been caught if the FA implemented my idea of having two referees on the pitch. One in front of the play and one behind the play. Players get away with so much of this cheating because the referee is almost always behind the play. The simple solution is to have two referees, one in each half, each responsible for calling fouls as they see them.

fat-cat-money

Influx of money into Premier League will probably hurt the fans

The 20 teams currently in the Premier League spent a combined £1.06 billion on transfers this season. That number includes a net transfer loss of £530 million pounds. In other words, Premier League teams bought £530 million worth of players more than they sold. To put this in context, the second biggest transfer spenders were the Primera Division in Spain and their net spend was £480 million pounds, though they sold a combined £497 million and had a balance of +£18m. And to put this into further contrast, the league with the second biggest net loss was the Bundesliga who spent £143 million more than they took in on transfers. The Premier League spent 70% more than any other league, lost more money in transfers than Spain spent net, and lost £377 million more than the Bundesliga in transfers. What we saw here in this season’s transfer market are the effects of the last international TV deal which saw the Premier League’s total broadcasting revenues top £5bn. It’s not hard to imagine what will come next now that the Premier League’s domestic broadcasting rights alone top the £4bn mark and the foreign rights will likely tack on another £4bn.

The biggest effect is going to be in transfers and wages. The English media have fanned the transfer flames for decades such that now any money in any coffers at any club are seen by the fans as their money, which they demand be spent on buying the best players. In the early part of Arsène Wenger’s career, journalists lauded Wenger’s insistence that spending money wasn’t the only answer. After the Invincibles team was disbanded, the journos turned against Wenger’s frugal philosophy and after every transfer window Wenger and Arsenal were taken to task for their lack of spending.

But even Wenger has joined the spenders. In the last two seasons Arsene has spent £130m in transfers. And if you had asked me eight years ago if Wenger would spend £44m on a single player I would have laughed in your face. Arsenal don’t buy £40m players, we make them. But this fact that even Wenger is spending, and spending lavishly, should give you pause. That frugal Wenger spent £130m in two seasons has to be the surest sign that the Premier League is about to get a huge injection of transfer spend.

Injection is the right word here too. I’ve often compared transfer stories to porn because they are unrealistic fantasies meant to titillate fans; quick, dirty, easy, buy someone, they come in and fix everything that’s wrong with your club. And if the regular transfer stories are porn, what we are going to be getting over the next three to five years is silicone injected, fake eyes, fake hair, fake bodies, 20-women on one man porn. You’re going to drown in wild stories, wild transfers, crazy transfer fees, and absurd salaries. It has already started and it’s only going to get worse.

West Ham spent £30m on transfers this year. Is it unrealistic to think that they will spend £50m next year? I don’t think so. If the television increase is 70% why wouldn’t they spend 70% more?

And they are all going to be foreigner’s too. When Arsenal bought Gabriel for £10m in January everyone wondered how he was going to get a work permit. It turns out that the FA are going to relax their rules on granting players an exceptional talent visa and from this summer forward, any player who costs more than £10m is going to be granted a work permit in England. I’ll let you speculate on whether the FA knew about the impending TV deal and influx of cash or if they just knew that the League needed to be able to recruit from further afield than the old rules allowed. But suffice it to say that English football is about to have a gold rush of players from the Americas. The colonists are about to return to Latin America and once again plunder their natural resources.

And not just Latin America. The salaries in places like Ligue 1 are so tiny that Premier League teams will be able to cherry-pick the very best players from all of the leagues in Europe. Leaving behind the dregs to play in empty stadiums in leagues where only one or two teams will ever win.

Along with the foreign players are going to come foreign managers and probably even more radical, foreign owners. Already 11 of the 20 Premier League teams are owned by foreigners. I not only see that trend continuing but penetrating deeper into English football. If you look at the top 20 capacity stadiums in England, there are already foreign owners of Man U, Arsenal, Sunderland, Man City, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds, Derby (partly), Sheffield United (partly), Southampton, and Leicester City.

But stadium capacity is only part of the equation in the calculus for foreign investment in English clubs. The TV money is more important for most of these clubs than the gate receipts. And speculation on future growth of all levels of the English game will probably see a lot of investment in lower division teams.

And finally, ticket prices. I know that there is a movement to lower ticket prices and I applaud the idea. Ticket prices in England, especially for top flight matches, are absurd when compared to the ticket prices in the Bundesliga.

But go back and re-read what I’ve written so far and show me where it’s possible for teams to slow down the spending on transfers and wages and invest that money back into the fan base? The base facts are that each club has a finite amount of money (including debt) that they can spend and they are going to be forced to spend it all on players, agents, and scouts.

This is just simple inflation. If every club can suddenly afford £10m players then £10m players become the norm. Arsenal bought Patrick Vieira for £3.5m in 1996 and just this January bought a backup center back for £10m.

Meanwhile, every team has more and better players on the books and competition for Premier League places is heating up. How many teams are fighting for fourth place?

As the competition heats up, the transfers heat up, mediocre players suddenly cost more. You’ve seen this happen already with the transfers of Downing, Carroll, and virtually any player that Liverpool has bought over the last few years. It’s the same story as before: Chelsea drove up player transfer costs when they put money into the game, Man City drove up player transfer costs even further and now Liverpool, Man U, and Arsenal are spending big. The more we spend the more expensive players become and the more important it becomes to buy the best players.

And the fans pay the price for the players. The average salary in the Premier League is almost £45k a week. The average salary in the Bundesliga is £28k a week. Ticket prices reflect this difference. It doesn’t matter whether the model is Man City where ticket prices are heavily subsidized by owner debt or whether the model is Arsenal where the fans are asked to pay an unsubsidized ticket. Even if you don’t go to the games, you’re still paying for the players. Your television subscription prices and other costs are going to go up as the player’s fees go up. It’s a never ending spiral of costs passed on to the consumers.

Worse than all of that, the away fans are treated with what looks like contempt already and I don’t see that getting any better. TV dictates kickoff times and if you think Sky isn’t going to demand further concessions over kickoff times or whatever else they want so that they can recoup maximum revenue you’re living in La La land.

It’s that simple, really. These rich people just paid a lot of money for your favorite pastime. That pastime is about to get more expensive as the players in it are about to get much richer and competition for places on the stage gets hotter. The clubs are now going to be seen as ripe for the plucking and foreigners looking to abscond from their backwater countries (like Russia) are going to put their money into the league. Meanwhile, the fans are going to be asked to pay more for their tickets, for their hot dogs, and for their officially sponsored player’s shirt.

One positive thing: the level of play *might* get better. There is no guarantee of this. Just buying players for more money doesn’t make them better, as we saw with QPR this season. But, there is hope. Southampton are a good example of a foreign-owned team who bought well in the transfer market, installed a foreign coach, play a decent brand of football, and have managed to keep ticket prices down to a dull roar. They have done all that (while developing players from their academy) and mounted a fairly serious campaign to get into the Champions League.

But even if the League does get more Southamptons and fewer QPRs the other problems are going to remain. The league is about to get silicone injections, and they are going to be paid for by the fans.

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