After reading the comments on the previous review, it seems that some clarifications are in order. I started writing this as a comment but it got too long and it would get more attention from the RSS readers and site visitors if this was put up as a separate post, so here we go. If after reading this you still feel like trashing the site, be my guest, but why not send in your opinions via email at ahmed(at)soccerlens(dot)com?
If I’m screwing up, I’d like to fix things instead of engaging in a prick-waving contest and if your criticism can help me improve the site then I’m ready to take some flak with it. So hit me up on email (or add me on IM – MSN Messenger is a_bilal(at)hotmail(dot)com and Google Talk is godofdust(at)gmail(dot)com) and we’ll talk.
I’ll deal with the criticism on a team by team basis (going alphabetically) – seems more logical as I’m answering to different sets of fans. I’m also throwing in the two articles I wrote on United’s match with Everton and the problem (in my view) that United have at left-back because – well, because there are things there that need to be responded to.
I’ve been super-impressed with Arsenal this season – they’ve always had the talent but this season they’re delivering on it as well, which is good to see no matter which team you support. However, before the Tottenham game I noticed that several Arsenal blogs were apprehensive about the game, and after the game the result (and the game) were celebrated as a big win. I agree that beating Tottenham is always sweet for Arsenal fans, but let’s look at the bigger picture:
This was an Arsenal side top of the table on points and 2nd on goal difference before the weekend.
This is an Arsenal side that’s been playing quite well this season and grinding out wins where they would have trailed off last season.
Their opposition is a club whose management is under extreme – and I’d say unrealistic (you don’t expect Champions League qualification in the 3rd year after 2 seasons of being #5 with the same manager when the difference between 4th and 5th is so big over the course of the season) – amounts of pressure and as a result it’s hard for the manager to motivate his players. The defence is shot and their keeper has been poor all season. Creatively the team has been disjointed.
Apart from the fact that this was an away game, everything pointed to a dominating Arsenal win. However, the quality of all 4 goals apart (and they were good ones), Arsenal waited till the end of the game before looking ‘dominating’. The game itself was good – open and lots of chances created. However, we’ve had this debate last season as well when Arsenal were creating plenty of chances but not scoring. Beautiful football is one thing, effective football is quite another. It took something special to get Arsenal the win, and for that I commend them because this is exactly the type of result they’ve been getting this season which they weren’t last season.
However, I expected better from Arsenal. Maybe I was wrong – but deep inside I’m actually afraid that Arsenal will mount a serious title challenge this season and as a Manchester United that worries me because our club isn’t doing that well (although we’re still *there*). Time will tell and Arsenal’s injury problem could worsen – however, I still thought Arsenal would thump Tottenham – however two late goals and allowing the opposition to create several easy scoring chances (both Berbatov and Bent should have scored) does not qualify as a great performance. The goals were good but overall there were problems in Arsenal’s game that you expect a team of this calibre to minimize.
There was also a point about this game being the best of the weekend (instead of the Everton v Manchester United as I had suggested earlier). Fair enough – and I’ve discussed this more when I talk about Everton.
The goal that wasn’t given – the short answer is that I made a mistake, my bad. Kalou was not offside, he was behind the line of the ball.
My reason for pointing to the Everton-United game as the best game of the weekend (as opposed to the Spurs-Arsenal game) was purely because of the quality of football Everton played – whether I’ve under-estimated them or whether they just played several levels above of themselves I don’t know (I think that they’re really this good), but IMO they played quite well. Manchester United defended quite well and as a result shut Everton out.
It’s down to opinion and how you evaluate the game – my reasoning was based on the overall technical quality of play and not just the quality of the goals and for me defensive mistakes count against a team. However, this is one place where everyone has their own opinion, and I’m more than willing to pick up this debate with anyone who wishes to discuss it further.
Fratton Park is undoubtedly a tough ground to visit – but my point about Liverpool was to give Pool fans some perspective. Every team has a couple of match winners who, when missing, lead the team to struggle at times. Chelsea have Drogs and Lamps in goal-scoring stakes, Terry/Cech in defence. Manchester United have Rio, Ronaldo and Rooney (and Scholesy to some extent). Arsenal have Toure, Fabregas, RVP. Liverpool have Carragher, Gerrard, Torres.
It’s not a bad thing per se two have star players who can bail you out of tough situations – it’s the same with every side. The difference comes when someone points fingers at other clubs calling them a one-man team while conveniently forgetting that their own side is pretty much the same, and so are many other top sides (Milan without Kaka, Pirlo, Gattuso and Nesta would be where exactly?). Pepe Reina’s comments midweek were his personal opinion but lacked perspective and I took the opportunity to point that out.
5. Manchester United
I’m a Manchester United fan – shoot me for that if you want to. There is bias – sometimes more, sometimes less. In my view Manchester United came up against the toughest side out of the 2nd four (this weekend was basically first four sides vs next four sides) and were given a hell of a game. The value of the win was big for United, and I was excited because while we were good defensively we were crap offensively and Nani usually doesn’t deliver peaches (at least he hasn’t done that much this season) like he did on Saturday.
Everton played really well and made few mistakes defensively so I thought that it was a good tactical game even if there weren’t any great goals.
Tottenham have been hyped up but have some basic problems that Jol hasn’t been able to sort out for over a season (I’ve been talking about them since summer 2006, in case you wish to raise the point that I just thought of this) so I don’t think they’re as good as they’ve been made out to be. There’s talent, there’s just not enough conversion of that talent.
Both Arsenal and Manchester United scored valuable wins, in dramatic fashion (and in Arsenal’s case, in emphatic fashion). Your opinion over which match was better or on which team played better will depend on who you fancy (or who you hate). I think both teams could have done better, they’re capable of much better.
How do you expect Martin Jol to work in the environment he’s in? The whole 4th place thing has obviously affected him – the injuries haven’t helped and going up against Arsenal (a good Arsenal at that) wasn’t going to help. I’ve been crying myself hoarse that Tottenham need more steel and experience in midfield, and they need a better tactician and man manager than Martin Jol. Maybe Jol will improve and get to that point, but it’s hard to see that when nothing happens over the course of a season (last season, in case you were wondering).
Tottenham have a great core of talented players (for the record I don’t think Lennon is hyped, he just needs to be injury free for a while and he’ll come good) and they are capable of a lot more than what they’re doing at this point. They will definitely improve (there’s no where to go but up), but they were not playing like a team vying for 5th spot. If you disagree, well, see the start of this article so you know how to get in touch and vent.
7. Manchester United’s left back position
I got some stick for criticising Sir Alex about not replacing Heinze adequately in the summer when he knew that Heinze wanted away from Manchester United – apparently there’s always someone who takes a criticism of the gaffer personally and makes it into an argument where the debate turns to who is better, the manager or me. That’s not the point.
Tactically I’m not convinced by Patrice Evra and I don’t think that his work rate is grounds enough to warrant a place as the first choice left-back of a club like Manchester United. It’s personal opinion and I don’t mind being wrong, but I also don’t think that we can blindly follow the manager – everyone makes mistakes, and if you start accepting everything and question nothing, you are bound to be fed a lot of crap and call it sunshine.
Still – opinions are like arseholes (and you know the rest). Something that always amuses me is that people take any criticism of their club, player or manager personally. Even if I’m talking about a particular decision by a manager or a referee or a player, that in no way implies that the person himself is any less worthy of respect – if we’re going to talk about football rationally then we have to separate individual situations from generalisations.
So…if you think Evra is better than Baines, more power to you. Ultimately all we can do is talk shop, so why not do it without making it personal?
I got a few things wrong in my analysis – and I admit that in a way (due to a lack of time more than anything else), I’ve let a few things slide on the blog that wouldn’t have happened, say, 6 months ago. The Kalou goal for starters, and the lack of clarification on all accounts – I stated my mind without explaining my reasoning fully, and perhaps things did need to be explained more.
The rest – well – I’ve answered the rest in the long(ish) article above. If you’ve stuck with me so far, you deserve to be congratulated. Like I said at the start, if you have anything to say, feel free to comment but if you wish to take it up with me personally I’ve left my email and IM details at the top. Hit me up, I’m up for a chat on footy anytime.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this clears up things a bit.