Soccerlens: Week In Review – August 28

The top stories of the past week, a premiership round up and the latest transfer news.

Ben Thatcher and THAT Elbow

The Ben Thatcher incident cannot be swept under the rug by saying that “it’s a contact sport”, that “these things happen in the lower divisions”, “that he’s a nice guy otherwise and I’m sure he didn’t mean it”, etc etc.

Yes, football is a contact sport and at the top level of any sport you should expect the unexpected. But running into a player at full speed and smashing your elbow in his face is not just unexpected – it is deliberate AND far beyond what would be considered ‘unexpected’ on a football field.

What is worrying is that both the FA and Manchester City seem to have acted on public opinion and reaction more than on their own initiative. This is my personal opinion and I may be acting cynical but the FA has set precedents for acting to protect the image of football rather than carry out justice or to deal fairly with players. In the case of Rooney’s highly outrageous 3-match ban, the FA hid behind rules and regulations and said they couldn’t do anything about it.

But when football’s image is threatened, the FA feels it has an obligation to step in and take action. One harsh decision is allowed to stand because of rules, but an utterly incompetent one is then punished. Some balance please.

The referee from that match was pulled from his weekend officiating duties and will be demoted to the lower leagues – the incident only serves to highlight that if the ref had been able to ask for a video replay of the incident Thatcher would have gotten his marching orders immediately.

Instead of blaming the referee (as we all have done this week), how about making their job a bit easier?

And why would a club punish one of their own for a foul that has been, as far as they are concerned, dealt with on the pitch by the referee? The police became involved on Thursday, and the backlash from the media was so quick and widely critical of Thatcher that City had no choice but to suspend and ban the player. People tend to try to get away with as much as they can without getting caught (evident in football as well as in real life) and it is not inconceivable or unlikely that Manchester City on their own would have taken little action against Thatcher.

Pedro Mendez is a decent chap for saying that he won’t pursue the matter further against Thatcher.

Guilt after the event (as Thatcher has reportedly shown) is not cause for forgiving the offense, nor should it mitigate the punishment.

Should the police intervene? Both Pearce and Redknapp have spoken against it and the general tone from the two clubs is that it is in football’s best interests that the FA handle the incident internally.

Kevin Nolan

It is ironically appropriate that one of the most under-rated midfielders in the Premiership had the start of his new career overshadowed by the huge spotlight shining directly on Thatcher.

Kevin Nolan has started a weekly column for BBC, and from first impressions, the man appears to be literate and has his feet on the ground. Then again, he’s had to use his mind more than than the glamour stars releasing their autobiographies this summer, and he hasn’t gone to the World Cup so it’s not as if he’s fond of speaking out of his ass.

But let’s reserve our judgement till he makes a fool out of himself, shall we?


Chelsea haven’t had the best of starts, and while they have 6 points from 3 games they look woefully short of width and cohesion. The 4-5-1/4-3-3 Chelsea played last season would suit both Ballack and Lampard, but leaves Mourinho with the difficult decision of playing just one striker up front.

In a 4-4-2, the players don’t fit either. Fact is, unless Chelsea are willing to play a 3-5-2 system (something that they will need Gallas for), one of the big names has to face sitting on the bench.

If Chelsea keep playing this 4-4-2 diamond formation, that puts Cole and Robben sitting on the bench regularly.

Still, it would be foolish to write Chelsea off – Mourinho is one of the best tactical minds around and his team, thanks to Sheva and Ballack, are definitely a stronger (you will not find two better ‘professionals’ in football – even if both were prone to diving in the World Cup, they at least make it look really good) team.

I’m still waiting for Mourinho and Chelsea to find their ‘balance’ – because Man Utd aside, I don’t care who else Chelsea beat and watching some of the best players in the world turn out every week makes me want to watch the team-formerly-known-as-mediocre – and you can only say that about a handful of sides in the world.

Transfer Boredom

The bravado from Bayern Munich is great for their public image and helps them save face over Ballack’s tame departure, but in the long run it will really hurt Bayern. They had the opportunity to cash in on Hargreaves and to use that money to bring in at least two new players (they are using the ‘Ruud’ money they had put aside for van Bommel, so he doesn’t count). Instead, they are insisting on keeping an unhappy player in the side and haven’t taken the chance to bring in more players.

4 days till the transfer window ends, and I’m still hoping the move goes through. Darren Fletcher, in the last two games, has had only 20 minutes of brilliance (what a goal!) and that’s no-where near enough when you need a strong ball-winner to play alongside Carrick and Scholes. I wouldn’t put much stock in van Bommel’s comments about Hargreaves though, because I doubt he knows anything more than the rest of us.

Reo-Coker? Possible, but not likely.

Interesting bit coming out of Spain with Senna claiming that AIG were forcing United to go for ‘English’ players. Conspiracy theory, methinks, or maybe just a coverup to let Senna down easy? And if they are going for English players, get Kevin Nolan, dammit!

Football News Roundup

England’s squad for the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Andorra and Macedonia was announced – Andy Johnson comes in for Ashton while Carrick returns to the fold as well (and Gary Neville drops out).

Will McClaren finally see reason and use Wes Brown at right back (now that Ferdinand is fit to play at centre-back)? Brown’s done well for United, and can only improve with regular exposure.

The issue of the week – Manchester City’s Ben Thatcher knocks out Portsmouth’s Pedro Mendez and puts him in hospital. Hopefully there is no permanent damage and Mendez should return to playing football, but anything and everything must be done to stamp kick elbow remove such behavior from the game.

See the Ben Thatcher – Pedro Mendez video.

Roy Keane doesn’t waste any time, does he? The Manchester United legend is back in football, this time as manager. The team? Sunderland.

In many ways, that’s a blessing. Under Keano’s guidance Sunderland couldn’t possibly do worse (bottom of the Championship).

Keano to Sunderland.

The draw for the 2006/2007 Champions League group stages was held earlier this week. You can read our preview of the four Premiership teams here.

Transfer News

Really, not much to report on, as Arsenal kept playing hardball over Reyes and Cole (something they should be doing) and Bayern Munich kept saying that Hargreaves would only be able to move in 2010.

However, as they are going to sign van Bommel, maybe Hargreaves will be allowed to leave?


    • Mascherano to Arsenal? – stranger things have happened, but Arsenal do have a long-standing interest in him.



  • Manchester United and Arsenal are in for West Ham’s Reo-Coker – doubt it will happen as in both clubs Reo-Coker will be sitting on the bench.

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