Tag Archives: manchester city

Someone Should Make Howard Webb Talk

It’s been a bad week for Howard Webb. Fans are still parsing his controversial performance in Chelsea’s howard webb2-1 win over Liverpool, and on New Year’s Day, David Moyes called his failure to award Ashley Young a penalty “scandalous…an incredible decision, probably one of the worst I think I saw.”

It’s also been a bad week for Mark Clattenburg, whom Southampton has accused of  “insulting” playmaker Adam Lallana. (Never mind that, as alleged insults go, this one isn’t particularly offensive.) Clattenburg has been through this before. In 2012, John Obi Mikel accused him of racial abuse. It later emerged that Mikel hadn’t actually heard the abuse – he’d merely heard rumors in the Chelsea dressing room – and Clattenburg was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing. Mikel, however, received a three-match ban for using “threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviors” when he charged into Clattenburg’s office screaming bloody murder.

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Alan Pardew Is Right: Why The Transfer Window Should Have Ended Three Weeks Ago

In the past two weeks, Manchester United and Chelsea have played The First Big Match of The Season, a more-cabayeinteresting-than-most-people-think 0-0 draw; Arsenal has plunged into chaos, then suddenly recovered, almost as if the team hadn’t plunged into chaos in the first place; Aston Villa’s new defender, Antonio Luna (gangster nickname: Tony Moon), has established himself as one of the league’s most hilariously erratic players; and Swansea City’s new striker, Wilfried Bony (gangster nickname: Daddy Cool), has scored his first Premier League goal.

In short, a lot has happened since Liverpool kicked off the new season earlier this month. But because the summer transfer window doesn’t close until September 2, by which point every Premier League team will have played three games, transfer speculation – stuff that hasn’t happened, like Gareth Bale’s “imminent” move to Real Madrid, and David Moyes’ attempts to sign Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines – is still dominating newspaper headlines.

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Barcelona is the Best and You Know It: Graham Hunter’s 400-page Fanzine

FC Barcelona’s world-famous academy is no longer based at “La Masia,” the endearingly decrepit farmhouse in which Lionel Messi of Barcelonamany of Barca’s homegrown players spent their formative years. In 2011, the club moved its training complex to the shiny, modern Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, which contains, among other things, an enormous sauna.

Over the last decade, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas have graduated from the old, La Masia-based academy, where they learned drills like rondo, a kind of monkey-in-the-middle game that promotes quick passing and intelligent pressing. The place was legendary; as Graham Hunter explains in Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, it had become a byword for Barcelona’s unique philosophy, its more-than-a-club-ness.

In another era, the relocation might have provoked an angry backlash. But in early 2011 – a couple of months away from its second Champions League title in three seasons, cruising in La Liga, scoring brilliant goals just about every game – Barca could do no wrong. Twenty-eleven was also the year newly elected president Sandro Rosell decided that the club’s long-standing refusal to negotiate a jersey sponsorship constituted financial suicide, and quickly struck a deal with a Qatari airline – but not many people complained about that decision, either.

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First Day of School

What do Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Stoke have in common? New coaches.moyes

David Moyes (Manchester United): Over the past 20 years, Manchester United has consistently won domestic trophies, consistently filled stadiums, consistently scored stoppage-time goals, consistently mounted amazing comebacks, and consistently reached the Champions League elimination rounds. In short, United is awesomely predictable: both the best and the least interesting team in the Premier League.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement threatened that status quo. Jose Mourinho, the antithesis of everything that United supposedly stands for, was briefly rumored to be in line for Ferguson’s job, as was Jurgen Klopp, the up-and-coming German coach/rebel. But once it became clear that David Moyes – whose Everton team consistently finished in the top eight, consistently made the best of a meager transfer budget, and consistently caused United problems at Goodison Park – would succeed Sir Alex, Phil-Neville-to-United rumors began to outnumber Mourinho-to-United rumors and the dream of a genuinely chaotic season died.

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Why So Dull? The European Run-In

I once wasted a few minutes trying to convince some minor acquaintance that the 2010 World Cup final attracted RvPmore television viewers than the Super Bowl, and that therefore the World Cup is quantifiably better than the NFL play-offs. The argument approached yes-it-is-no-it-isn’t territory, and the fact that we both walked away more entrenched than ever in our respective positions says a lot about the stubbornness of sports geeks (and about arguments in general). Most serious[1] football fans are totally convinced that the sport they watch and love is superior to every other sport by every conceivable metric, and if you tell them they’re wrong, they get angry and defensive.

This is one reason so few football fans are discussing the Great Big Secret of 2012-13: for the first time in a long time, none of the five major European leagues has produced a genuinely exciting title run-in[2].

Earlier this month, Bayern Munich clinched the 2013 Bundesliga. In Spain, Barcelona is only a few games away from yet another trophy. Manchester United is strolling to title #20, and Juventus has surged clear at the summit of Serie A. In Ligue 1, nouveau riche Paris St. Germain is seven points ahead of its closest challenger.

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Wigan Athletic: The Coolest Team Around

The smallest club in the world’s most famous football league has pulled off more great escapes than Harry Houdini and Steve McQueen combined. The Premier League has never been kind to so-called little guys, but, then again, Wigan Athletic – the team from rugby-ville that plays in a half-empty stadium – has never been especially kind to the Premier League. These days, Wigan is irresistibly surreal, a mix of old-fashioned virtues and modern flare, like a 1930s Ford masquerading as Barcelona on wheels.

Wigan is fundamentally unattractive. It’s not that it’s an ugly part of the world, though it is, nor that it’s never boasted an established football team, though it hasn’t, but that a kind of glorified boredom hangs over the place. In Wigan, you suspect, it always rains, even during the Olympics. Current West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame says the town is “crappy” and the girls aren’t great either. Wigan has always been associated with the classic meat pie, a footballing delicacy that has little to do with actual meat but is nevertheless the food item every proper fan eats at half time. The place is a shithole – only you can’t help but feel affection for it.

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A Blue Revolution Powered By The Green Stuff

“In soccer, money is destiny,” Brian Phillips wrote in 2011. “And destiny’s not distributed equally.”

At its best, the Premier League is an exhilarating spectacle sustained in part by a moneyed elite that spends millions on superstar players. At its worst, the Premier League feels like a lame excuse for the moneyed elite to play for more money. In the early 1990s, English clubs broke away from the old Football League and formed their own competition designed to realize the commercial potential of a new, streamlined league that would fully embrace live television. Since then, a small band of financially empowered teams has dominated. Sometimes they’re a “Big Four;” sometimes they’re a “Big Three;” once in a while they’re even a “Big Five.” While those clubs vie for major honors, the rest of the Premier League invents and then competes in a series of phony battles, the most notable of which is “The Battle To Avoid The Drop” and the most banal “The Battle To Finish In The Top Ten If, By April, We’re Too Good For The Drop But Not Good Enough For Europe.”

Occasionally, it’s possible for traditionally weak teams to break into the top tier; however, such maneuvers require the type of money that Chelsea, traditionally a promising but never truly successful club, has enjoyed since 2003, when Russian billionaire and celebrity yacht-owner Roman Abramovich decided, virtually on a whim, that he rather liked Stamford Bridge. After a couple of seasons of steady investment, self-proclaimed “Special One” Jose Mourinho secured Abramovich’s team the Premier League title. And last year, after numerous failed attempts, Chelsea became the first London club to win the Champions League, or European Cup — as it was known before a certain fascination with the green stuff necessitated a rebranding.

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The Beautiful Weirdness of the Community Shield

Every August, one week before Premier League kickoff, the previous season’s FA Cup winner faces off against the reigning league champion in the FA Community Shield. Manchester United has won the annual curtain-raiser 19 times, more often than any other team, but Sir Alex Ferguson, who engineered half of those triumphs, doesn’t consider it a legitimate trophy. (Then again, Fergie can afford to dismiss ten victories; he’s the game’s most decorated coach.) The Community Shield is probably the most ambiguous thing football has ever produced, and, in a sport that still hasn’t settled the handball rule, that’s saying something.

Originally, the Community Shield wasn’t the Community Shield at all; it was the Sheriff of London Charity Shield, and instead of pitting two money-grubbing big-time teams against each other in a sponsored-by-McDonald’s spectacle, it served as a 90-minute diplomatic necessity, fought between a team from the Amateur Football Association and one of its professional counterparts. Scottish whiskey distiller Baron Dewar, an early promotional expert who also founded the Theatrical Sports Five Miles Cycling Championship Shield, is credited with conceiving the event. The first-ever Sheriff of London Charity Shield match finished in a tie: at the end of regulation, Sheffield United (the professional representative) and Corinthians (the amateur representative) had each scored a single goal. With United unwilling to play extra time, the two teams elected to “share” the six-foot trophy. It was all a far cry from Mickey D’s.

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Arsenal Crisis? It’s That Time of Year

In the weeks leading up to Premier League kick-off, fans know to expect a few things. Newspaper pullouts, gigantic fixture lists and billboard advertisements are all necessary reminders of the approaching excitement, without which we might begin to doubt the once reliable word of the kitchen calendar. But even if Sky suddenly gave up on football montages, we’d know it was August, because now there’s an even surer sign. It’s always exactly this time of year that Arsenal’s off-season rumblings become painfully audible.

Arsene Wenger must be getting a little discouraged. In 2011, he watched Arsenal’s two most dangerous players, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, join rival Champions League teams. And then, earlier this summer, Robin van Persie sensationally refused to sign a new contract.

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Nasri Seeks Redemption

On the face of it, Manchester City’s thrilling title success looks like Nasri’s plan come to fruition. Despite the claims of Gunners fans, he left Arsenal not for money, but for a shot at the trophies that have eluded Arsene Wenger for eight years. To Nasri, Manchester City, with their Arab riches, represented an enticing chance for sustained, silver-lined success.

Nasri had enjoyed a productive spell at Arsenal. He missed out on major honors, but his goals – especially a brace against Fulham – solidified his reputation as one of Europe’s most dangerous creative midfielders. Come summer 2011, he was a hot property. First Manchester United and then Chelsea chased his signature. Eastlands, though, was always his preferred destination: “That’s all I wanted since the start,” he said after sealing the move. “I’m happy to be there in this dressing room.”

Perhaps some of the success went to his head. In his first interview with Manchester City’s official television channel, Nasri claimed that Arsenal fans are “not that passionate”. The remarks quickly backfired.

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