So, I am watching Chelsea vs. Manchester United and I see David Luiz on Chelsea. As a result, Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons came into my head. Coincidentally, the man who I call Sideshow Bob, Anderson Varejao, is also from Brazil. So, who looks more like Sideshow Bob? Anderson Varejao Or David […]
Article written by Michael Cox (Zonalmarking.net)
Before Alessandro Nesta‘s slide tackle had ended, he had raised his arm in apology. Lionel Messi had been hurtling toward the Milan goal from an inside-right position, and Nesta, returning from injury, couldn’t keep up. He only had one option — to bring down Messi.
It was the second time in the match he had deliberately fouled the world’s best player — in the same position on the edge of the box. Nesta’s raised arm in the second instance was surely not a pre-emptive appeal against a booking (it was the most blatant card you’ll ever see) but a genuine apology that he’d been forced into chopping down an opponent in such a cynical fashion. Nesta knew the card was coming — indeed, he happily took it rather than let Messi get past him.
No one would characterize Nesta as brutal defender. Like many Italian center backs, he can be crafty with giving away fouls, but he is more stylish, more composed than his contemporaries such as Marco Materazzi or Fabio Cannavaro. In a way, it was sad to see Nesta forced into the foul — at Camp Nou earlier in the season, he stopped Messi with one of the best tackles you’ll see all season. But in choosing to foul, Nesta was profiting from the situation.
Little instances like this are extremely frustrating. Wednesday’s Champions League first-leg quarterfinal was a superb game of football, featuring great technical quality in midfield. Only some poor finishing meant it finished goalless. But a key feature of the game was the way both sides were able to break up opposition attacks with “clever” fouls, controlling the tempo of the game and preventing quick counterattacks.
There’s nothing new in this type of tactical fouling, of course, but in recent years it’s become particularly obvious. Pace has become a key part of modern football, and the speed of the game is higher than ever before. Attacks can switch from one end of the pitch to the other at a quite astonishing swiftness, and since so many recent European champions have relied upon counterattacking (most obviously Porto in 2004, Manchester United in 2008 and Inter in 2010), attacking quickly through the center of the pitch is of paramount importance.
The problem is that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. In a lot of cases, the offending player knows he will pick up a card and is happy to collect it to prevent the opposition breaking quickly. His side can get back into a good defensive position, and the attacking side has been robbed of a potentially crucial situation. By committing a foul, the defensive side is better off. Why should it be rewarded for committing a foul?
Jose Mourinho has been particularly vocal about the problem with tactical fouling. “It’s a foul they don’t punish enough here in England,” he said during his Chelsea days, in Gianluca Vialli’s “The Italian Job.” “It’s the foul whose only objective is to kill the attacking situation. It’s purely tactical. I remember facing Everton, who had Thomas Gravesen and Lee Carsley. It was tactical fouling, over and over, for 90 minutes.”
In fact, Mourinho has even complained about Milan doing it. “Milan have a lot of experience, and they know how to control the tempo, commit a tactical foul,” he said when his Inter side was defeated in the derby in 2008.
But Mourinho is a clever strategist rather than a beacon of footballing morals, and he has exploited the lack of punishment in these situations as much as anyone. In the Clasicos since he took over at Real Madrid, such situations have been a key part of his game plan — they stop Barca’s attacks and allow Real to get men behind the ball. Since the start of 2010-11, the most booked player in Clasicos is not Pepe or Sergio Ramos butXabi Alonso. The midfielder clearly isn’t a dirty player, but he’s been forced into fouls to prevent being exposed. Like Nesta, he always knows what his punishment will be.
“Mourinho’s side had gone out with a game plan he used to great effect at Chelsea: constant tactical fouling,” former referee Graham Poll said after one of these meetings. “I find it outrageous that deliberate fouls in neutral areas of the pitch … are seen as acceptable.”
But let’s not pretend this is some kind of Real Madrid versus Barcelona or Mourinho versus Pep Guardiola debate, because Barcelona does the same. Seydou Keita did it by bringing down Massimo Ambrosini Wednesday after he’d been dispossessed. Often, Barca does it in a much more subtle way — it fouls as soon as it has lost the ball, stopping a counterattack before its origins have even become obvious. Back in the Supercup win over Real Madrid,Alexis Sanchez was its most prolific fouler. In this season’s Champions League, Messi has committed the joint-most fouls among Barcelona players, along with Dani Alves.
But it’s not a problem with these two clubs, or in Spain — it happens over Europe, and beyond. ESPN freelance writer Tim Vickery has touched on the issue in South America. “Just over a decade ago, some in the coaching fraternity were convinced that part of the secret of victory was to commit more fouls than the opposition,” he wrote in his BBC blog earlier this year. “Indeed, it was argued, a foul is not exactly against the rules. Rather, it is something dealt with by the laws — a resource of the game rather than an offence.”
Even if you accept that definition, it’s clear that the laws are not dealing with it well enough. A yellow card is often not a fitting punishment in these situations, because it’s not acting as a deterrent. It’s difficult to know what the solution is — sin-bins (aka the orange card) have been suggested to make the penalty more severe, but this is an alien concept in football. Red cards would generally be too severe.
But referees must be stricter on deliberate fouls. There should never be an instance in which a player deliberately infringes an opponent and receives no punishment — this means that every shirt pull, push or intentional trip should be a yellow card, even if in a completely nonthreatening area of the pitch. Miroslav Klose felt harshly dismissed when he was shown a red card against Serbia in the 2010 World Cup after two relatively innocuous trips when Germany lost possession, but this was fantastic to see. Germany was the counterattacking master at that tournament, and as Mourinho has demonstrated, those who play on the counterattack know the value of stopping the opposition from doing so.
As mentioned earlier, the laws of football are gloriously simple and barely change from decade to decade. But rules must adapt to the nature of the game, and at the moment the balance is in favor of those who want to foul, rather than those who want to play.
Martin Rogers: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s quick trigger — he’s had six coaches in six years — is costly for him and unsettling to the team.
By: Martin Rogers
The full scope of Andre Villas-Boas‘ disastrous reign as Chelsea manager was unearthed Monday when it emerged the freshly sacked boss had cost the club more than $1.7 million per game – making him the most expensive managerial mistake in soccer history.
Figures leaked to the English media put the price of the 34-year-old Portuguese coach’s acquisition and severance package at just over $68 million, a staggering cost for a stint that spanned only eight months and 40 games.
Villas-Boas, widely known as AVB, was fired following a defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, and departed with Chelsea on the brink of being eliminated from the Champions League and in severe danger of failing to qualify for that competition again next season.
For Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, such an outcome was more embarrassment than he could bear, but the Russian oil billionaire is far from blameless in this sorry saga.
Abramovich has always struggled with deciding whether the club is his business or his hobby, fluctuating from trying to make smart financial decisions to getting all gooey-eyed at rubbing shoulders with superstar players such as John Terry and Frank Lampard.
Perhaps from the moment when he allowed Lampard and Terry summer use of his multi-million dollar private yacht four years ago, a culture pervaded at Chelsea where player power was a potent and damaging force.
Last summer Abramovich realized that had to change, and tasked Villas-Boas with the challenge of ushering in a new era with a focus on youth and a power structure that was not centered on the likes of Terry, Lampard, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole. Abramovich found out the hard way that entrusting a 34-year-old coach with the responsibility of limiting the power of established stars similar in age to himself was a mistake – a brutal lesson that cost the owner a chunk of his fortune to learn.
In order to get Villas-Boas, who was dubbed as the new “Special One” in deference to his fellow countryman Jose Mourinho, Abramovich first had to get rid of previous chief Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti’s failure to win another English Premier League title and Chelsea’s exit from the Champions League proved to be his undoing, but sacking the Italian veteran didn’t come cheap, costing $22 million in payoffs.
Then there was another $20 million that Abramovich gave Portuguese club Porto to gain a release of Villas-Boas, who had just lifted the Europa League trophy in his first full season with the team. Now, with AVB on his way, Chelsea is liable to pay out his entire contract, estimated at $26 million.
No one is blameless in Chelsea’s mess. Villas-Boas certainly did not help his own cause, alienating his players and the powerful British media with his aloof, arrogant approach. Forcing senior players Nicolas Anelka and Alex to train with the youth team and park in a separate lot when they refused to sign new contracts angered the likes of Terry and Lampard, who did not appreciate seeing their friends snubbed. Mutinous seeds were sown, and by the time Villas-Boas so desperately needed a win to save his job at Napoli in the Champions League two weeks ago and at West Brom last weekend, his players had no desire to fight for him.
Those same players must carry their share of the blame for Chelsea’s dire season. The level of entitlement many of the Chelsea squad appear to feel is staggering.
Players paid astronomical sums of money have failed to show the proper application because they didn’t like AVB’s methods. Such excuses do not wash, and whoever the new boss is – assistant coach Roberto Di Matteo has taken over in the interim – would be well-served to issue a swift reminder that the players are employees who owe commitment in exchange for their paycheck.
Abramovich, too, is in many ways the architect of his own frustration. He is discovering now that for all his money, there is no quick fix to problems that he allowed to manifest for far too long. His troubles began when he pulled the trigger by getting rid of Mourinho in 2007, but he has only piled on the problems by repeatedly ditching managers ever since. From the time Mourinho left and Villas-Boas was hired, four other managers were hired and discarded. The five coaches – Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Ancelotti and Villas-Boas – were from five different countries.
No club in the history of the game has enjoyed success with such a Steinbrenner-esque revolving-door policy and Abramovich needs to realize that building stability requires some element of patience.
With every firing, the job becomes more of a poisoned chalice, and as things stand, it will need a mightily strong character to have any chance of making a success of it.
Mourinho is the bookies’ favorite, primarily because he is unhappy at Real Madrid, but there must be doubts as to whether he would consider returning to Stamford Bridge, where he led Chelsea to back-to-back EPL titles in 2005 and 2006.
However, British soccer correspondent Rob Beasley told me in an interview on my radio show, World Football Daily, that Mourinho had discussed the issue with him in an email conversation. Beasley said Mourinho felt that despite his previous personality clashes with Abramovich, he would be confident of overseeing significant improvement at Chelsea.
Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has been strongly linked, while Joachim Loew, current manager of the German national team but out of contract after this summer’s European Championships, is also thought to be a contender.
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Today there is a huge match in the Barclays Premier League between Manchester United and Chelsea. I am excited for it not only because, football (soccer), is my favorite sport, but it’s the perfect prelude to the Superbowl.
Chelsea this year have been as weak as they’ve been in a few years, and somehow against all odds United are still in the thick of the title race.
Chelsea according to the bookies are a slight favorite which is understandable although they’ve already lost three times a home this season. On the other hand, United have the best away record in the league.
Prediction: This reeks of a 1-1 draw which both teams wouldn’t be too upset about prior to kickoff. Bring on the snow!
Goals for Torres (yea I said that!) and Rooney.
Bring on Super Sunday!
- Chelsea vs. Manchester United: Live Blog, Commentary, Goals as They Happen (bleacherreport.com)
- National Sport: Chelsea game on (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Chelsea Manchester United Odds : Hernandez and Berbatov to fire Reds (footybunker.com)
- Chelsea Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Despite Snowy Conditions, Match Is On (sbnation.com)
- 2012 Chelsea Vs. Manchester United WAG War [PHOTOS, POLL] (coedmagazine.com)