Allardyce stirs the nationalism pot

Six months before the World Cup and already some folks in England are making excuses for why England can’t compete on an international level and, of course, the problem is all the damn foreigners. Sam Allardyce took one look at the Pompey Arsenal match and not counting any passports he liked decreed that the English game is under threat. But is it the foreign players who are to blame or is it something else? Could it be that the English managers and the English academies need to look at themselves?

By the time a player is 16 years old, he either has fundamentals or he does not have fundamentals. Heart, power, pace, pride, and the ability to put in a good tackle are all amiable qualities and it’s great to instill them in young men. But young footballers also need fundamentals like touch, dribbling, passing, using their off foot, efficiency, and vision. All of which just as important, if not more important, than power and heart.

To make a good international, then, you need academies and managers which teach players fundamentals other than lump and kick. Last time I checked on a “Big Sam” team the only two things he seemed to be teaching his English players was lump and kick.

English clubs are a bit hampered in this respect owing to the local boy rule which limits academy recruits to a small geographic area around the club. Spain has no such rule and as such the best and brightest students go to the best academies, like the one at Barcelona. If the FA were to abandon this rule then the best young players could go to the best academies, like at Man U, Everton, and Arsenal.

I understand why they don’t, they want to keep every club competitive. If all the young players went to Man U, then they would dominate the league in the same way that Real Madrid and Barcelona do right now. But given the fact that Man U already dominate the league I think that there’s at least one or two holes in the idea that limiting young men to a certain club has an equalizing effect.

But let’s not change that rule, what then? Well, I would do two things; first I would introduce a national academy and second I would reward clubs who brought in foreign players rather than punish them.

Could you imagine if 20 years ago England had a national academy, or even 9 regional academies, which took players from the age of 13 until they were 15 and taught them football fundamentals? Where is England’s Clairefontaine? Still being built, unfortunately. It’ll be 20 years before that academy will pay off, but if it’s done right, and if the managers teach the kids more than just lump and kick, it should pay huge dividends.

Second, foreign players are not the cause of the problems they are the solution. The English game is different and in a lot of ways, better, than the way football is played the world over. In fact, most countries have a distinctive style. Having a distinct style is a good thing, it’s probably the one thing that makes international football interesting. But while you want to have a style you also need to be adaptable, fluid in your playing style and have players who can change and play in unpredictable ways. And you can only get players, and thus teams, who have that ability by mixing them with other world-class talent. Playing at the top level, against and with top level opponents, who are different from you doesn’t make you worse it makes you better. Diversity is a boon, not a bane.

The simple answer and the answer that lazy managers like Allardyce want is to limit the ability of top clubs to sign top talent based on a player’s passport. Unfortunately what England needs is a revolution not a simple solution. France did it in the 70′s and it paid off with a World Cup and a World Cup, runner’s up medal. England could have one as well, in 20 years, but only if they turn their managers into world class managers, instill all of the fundamentals into the next generation of kids, and keep the diversity of the league the way it is.

Pompey 1-4 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Struggling Pompey thumped by Gunners

Telegraph: Facing bankruptcy off the field and pretty broke on it, Portsmouth were swept aside last night. Relegation. Administration. Winding up. It all looms. Can it get any worse?

Match Video

The Arsenalist always gets the videos up super fast. If you’re ever stuck somewhere and can’t get a good live feed, he’s usually the next best bet. He even did me a favor and recorded the video below!

Man of the Match

Eduardo started the scoring with free kick to make it our third straight game where Arsenal scored off a direct free kick.

Diaby was good for the third game running, he’s really starting to assert himself in the midfield.

Nasri got a great goal and an assist.

Arshavin did a ton of heavy lifting all by himself up front.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that there were a lot of good performances, as shown by the score line, and I don’t want to take anything away from those folks. But… Song and Ramsey were just flat out brilliant.

It’s hard to pick between them for MotM, both players moved the ball around very well in the midfield, tackled well, and tracked back when needed (Song more so than Ramsey) but that’s their job. What distinguished both was that they both scored, and great goals to boot!

Song’s header came shortly after I had publicly wished that he would shoot more, he must have his mobile phone set to my twitter feed. Nasri nipped in and lofted a soft ball toward Song who had made the move toward the far post. It wasn’t an easy header to put in by any stretch, the ball was so softly lobbed in that Song had to generate all the power. Which he did, rising up and powering the ball into the side of the net, just past the keeper. So, he was solid throughout, scored a goal, and left a big boot mark where his place will be when he goes away to the ACN.

But for me, the tipping point of the match was when Aaron Ramsey took the ball off a Pompey defender, sold another a dummy, put the ball on his left foot and fired in a left-footed rocket. At that point, Arsenal were looking like they wanted to take their foot off the game a bit and Pompey was looking like they wanted to get a goal. We all know that a 2-0 score line can easily become 2-1 and the importance of getting that 3rd goal cannot be underscored. It was an emphatic way to seal the points for Arsenal.

Ramsey’s goal was also the 50th goal of the season, at the half-way point of the season, and ensured that Arsenal got all three points, bringing us to within 4 points of leaders Chelsea. It was easily one of my favorites of the year and for all of that, he gets the tip of the scales and Man of the Match.

The Good

It really was the perfect way to see off 2009 and end what is pretty much universally seen as a terrible decade.* In the ground and on the twitterverse it was a party atmosphere. One of those moments where you know you’re seeing something really special from a team which has been up and down lately but looks like they might have finally gelled.

The away supporters (which included the Arsenal America tour bus) were in amazing voice and were shouting down the Pompey faithful, no small feat. To be fair to the Pompey supporters, their team is utter garbage and they still sang at every turn which I doubt many other clubs could boast, if they wanted to make such a boast.

But even the Pompey faithful have to admit that there was something special about last night. Something about the Arsenal team and fans that had them in such fine form and such fine voice. If I were to take a crack at it I’d say it was a bit of a hangover from the win over Aston Villa combined with three bits of individually brilliant play which seemed to amp them up more and more until it culminated in the entire Arsenal away side signing about Alex Song after his brilliant header made it 4-1.

Hell, it was such a party atmosphere that Vic Akers lost his pants!

(Seriously, what’s going on here? It’s 37 degrees out, why does he have on a goose down jacket and shorts???)

Whatever the cause, the fans were singing and my favorite two songs were one about Arshavin and one about Song. Both were loud enough to hear over the television, clear as a bell. The Arshavin song started up after he held up the ball off one of their mammoth defenders, out muscled the guy, went on a blinding run and unfortunately his pass came to nothing. The crowd was so enamored that they started singing “He’s 5 foot 4, he’s 5 foot 4, we’ve got Arshavin, F*CK Adebayor” to the tune of the old Adebayor song, punctuating each “F*CK” emphatically.

The Song, erm, Song is simple and brilliant. It was sung throughout and extra loudly when he scored his awesome header, it goes “One Song, We’ve only got one Song, we’ve only got one song” sung to the tune of Blue Moon.

Over on the twitterverse, the feeling was similar and a sort of effusive jubilation poured out as we watched our beloved Arsenal pass, move, shoot, and score on Pompey pretty much at will.

It was a night to remember and hopefully the harbinger of many more to come. The fans reportedly left the park signing “we’re going to win the league” and on yesterday’s form, you’d have to believe it.

The Bad

It would be fair to call me a wide-eyed optimist about this team. In fact, I would go as far as saying that I’m a wild-eyed optimist at times. But you’ll have to forgive me if I take a moment and say that Arsene Wenger needs to sort out the goalkeeper situation, stat.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Almunia has the capability of being a solid keeper if he would just STOP thinking. Case in point, he made a terrific reaction save yesterday and often does, don’t forget he saved a penalty just the other day. He’s got the physical skills, but then when called upon to punch a cross out, or claim a high ball, you can see him physically shudder as his brain engages and he then sets about a deliberative process which would make a French bureaucrat proud and inevitably ends up flapping at the ball like a pelican.

It’s hard to watch. It’s always been hard to watch. But if Mooney doesn’t sort this out and either turn his damn brain off or get a new brain then I’m afraid that Wenger will sort it out for him.

In fact, at this point I’d almost rather that Arsenal buy a keeper than a striker. Sure, I don’t know how much longer Arshavin can do the job up front by himself, but I equally don’t know how seriously our title challenge can be taken with Almunia making glaring gaffes at the back every other game. After all, we’re getting plenty of goals from midfield.

Plus, Arsenal already signed a striker, putting pen to paper with Wellington Silva, 16 year old Brazilian wonderkid. He can’t play until 2011, but he’s a striker, and when he does come on, he’ll be like a new signing.

The Ugly

I’m serious, has anyone asked Vic Akers why he was wearing shorts???

The other ugly was that there were reportedly ugly scenes after the match with the Pompey faithful calling for the board to be sacked. On the one hand, I don’t blame them one bit: they are faithful, loyal, even rabid supporters and have given the club a ton of their time and money. But on the other hand, they had to know that something was seriously wrong when their previous owner was buying up tons of talent at huge prices in order to get the FA Cup. I suppose they looked at Chelsea and assumed that they had a similar owner (a guy who at least still seems like he’s interested in soaking up billions of dollars in losses) but that right there is why assumptions are stupid. They didn’t and he bailed when the burden got too big and now you’re left with what you’ve got; some seemingly shady guys who owe a ton of money, a club which is probably going to sell off its final asset in Younes Kaboul, relegation looming, and administration in mid season a real possibility.

There are a lot of clubs who have been toying with this same model, the Leeds model if you will, and there’s a real chance we could see a really big club like United, Villa, or Liverpool (or even a small club like Chelsea) follow Leeds and Pompey into serious problems. Personally, I don’t care, I’m more laisse faire than most of my readers, but I would like to point something out: according to the last financial report Arsenal have over £100m is cash lying around. And as long as we have Wenger, we know that this Arsenal club will play beautiful football, get into the Champions League, and do so on a realistic budget.

You could all learn something from that.


Tomorrow is the two year anniversary of this blog and in that time we’ve had 500,000+ visitors. Not a lot but if you consider that I spent over a year and a half in NewsNow obscurity then the growth over the last 5 months is actually pretty good. In my time on I got 300,000 visitors. Since August we’ve had 200,000 and this last month alone we had 60,000!

It’s been a good year and if I can double that number over the next year I’ll be very happy. But the point isn’t traffic, you’ll notice that I basically have zero ads and rarely do I link to a product that I like. No, the point is that you all keep this site going with your comments and your friendship. It’s you guys and girls that keep me getting up at 4:30 am and writing a blog or two every day. So, thank you and I hope you all have a wonderful year and stick around for another good year from 7amkickoff.

One last thing, I’m working on a project for the new year and hope to have it ready some time next month. Oh, and yes, I’m thinking about a site re-design, I too have a hard time reading the gray text on a gray back ground.

What numpty thought that was a good idea?

*Please, let’s not start with the idea that the decade starts next year. I WAS JOKING

Chelsea cook the books, Who’s your caddy?, WWJD?, and more!

As an American I can confidently say…

I know a thing or two about how to cook the books. It’s basically a genetic condition that came with our Pilgrim Heritage, but all Americans know how to hide debts, fake income, and pretend that things are all right when in reality you’re losing millions of dollars a month in income.

So you’ll pardon me when I see a story about how Chelsea claim that they are “virtually debt free” yet posted an annual loss of £45 MILLION and say “pfff, rank amateurs.”

They didn’t wipe out the debt, they securitized it. Remember that word? “Securitized?” Does that word ring a bell, like an alarm bell? It should, because now instead of IOU’s that say “I owe Roman Abramovich £500m” he has stock that says “Roman Abramovich paid £500m for this stock.”  See the difference?

But when you cook the books, the last thing you want to do is do it so publicly. Typically, what you do is get some big accounting firm to make it look like the “security” you just “created” is actually “worth something” and isn’t just a piece of paper with IOU scratched out and COMMON STOCK penciled in.

At least that’s how we’d do it over here. Now, pardon me, I have to securitize the debt on my house. Anyone want to get in on the IPO?

Notlob in free fall, Megson gets the axe

Bolton are a despicable pack of Hunts. That’s mostly down to the fact that a sum total of two of their players have the talent to make a top side and their manager was completely out of ideas.

Gary Megson made this team and, well, this is pretty much what I expected to happen to someone who’s entire playbook includes two plays: kick and lump.

Personally, I’m pulling for Gareth Southgate to get the job. He’s a proper manager, as evidenced by the fact that since his foolish firing Middlesbrough have gone from one point off the top of the table, to “never going up, ever again.”

Who’s Your Caddy?

Arsenal manager Wenger admits Bellamy attraction — Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As I said in yesterday’s comments I rate Bellamy highly as a player and lowly as a human being. Wenger demands high ratings in both categories so while he might flirt with the idea of a Bellamy, I’d be shocked if he brought such a disruptive influence into his creche of young players.

Maybe Wenger needs a caddy?

WWJD: What Would Joey Do?

Have you been wondering what ever happened to Joey Barton? Well, wonder no more! Joey, who makes £65,000/wk, has been out injured for a few months and has spent that time contemplating the proper life for a footballer. Now that he’s a better person than the rest of us, he has some life lessons that he’d like to pass on to fellow footballers:

A lot of them are so detached from reality it’s untrue and there was a stage when I was like that. It’s only the fact I’m grounded by the trouble I’ve been in (my emphasis – Tim) that’s forced me away from being in the football world. Driving round in flash cars and changing them like you change your socks, wearing stupid diamond watches and spending money like it’s going out of fashion in the middle of a recession when some people are struggling to put food on the table for the kids – it’s not the way to do it.

See, kids? Joey Barton doesn’t do all those bad things like buying cars and stuff, because Joey Barton learned his lesson by getting into fights at every opportunity. So, learn from Joey and stub a cigar out in your teammate’s eye at the company Christmas party while yelling “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

It’s up for grabs now podcast

Seriously, if you’re not already listening to the It’s Up For Grabs Now podcast, then there’s no hope for you. You might as well go support Crystal Palace.


Follow me on Twitter during the game today, if you’re in to that!