City Undone by Lack of Ambition


Tevez, Silva and Balotelli - all possess enormous talent

Manchester City have soared to new Premier League heights this season on the back of an impressive away record that is second only to Manchester United’s. On Saturday however, facing a resilient Villa side, the dour uni-dimensionalism of City’s style was stripped naked to its ugly core.

Roberto Mancini’s structured approach to building a top-four team has made many a dull 90 minutes seem like 180. The Mancini method is as follows: make a strong and disciplined base and decorate with flair and creativity later on. Judging by the evidence of Saturday’s game, he is still a long way from putting the cherry on top. -read on>

Spurs Searching For Their Killer Instinct


In Gareth Bale Spurs possess a frighteningly talented footballer

Spurs performed wonderfully against Manchester United on Sunday afternoon. At times, they completely overran their opponents, who remain undefeated in the league this season. They created the best attacking moves, and the best opportunities, but they could not land the knockout blow. Spurs are still lacking the killer instinct they urgently need.

This season has seen Spurs’ meteoric rise to the mantle of Europe’s great entertainers. Harry Redknapp has put his team permanently into the ‘gung-ho’ mode that even the most daring fan rarely flirts with on Football Manager. Top scorers in the Champions League; a stunning victory over the European champions; and in Gareth Bale, Spurs possess a frighteningly talented footballer.

But the success of the last 2 years is at risk of being a fleeting phenomenon. As much as their fans might like to deny it, Tottenham are not a big club. Two UEFA cup wins in 1972 and 1984, and a league and cup double in 1961 don’t hide the fact that this season is Spurs’ first outing in Europe’s elite club competition since the 1960s. -read on>

New Year’s Resolution: Show Some Integrity


Alex Ferguson and Dimitar Berbatov

Old Trafford; Sunday afternoon; FA Cup. King Kenny’s return to the fold in the Liverpool hotseat coincides with the game that the fans most want to win. Two incidents mar the game: Dimitar Berbatov’s blatant dive to win an early and decisive penalty, and Steven Gerrard’s reckless two-footed assault on Michael Carrick’s shins. To all TV viewers then, not a penalty and a definite red card. Surely Alex Ferguson and Dalglish had no option but to agree? No, wait, of course not. Silly me.

You see, the thing is that managers believe they must defend their players at all costs. “It was a penalty… he was definitely clipped… the momentum is enough to bring the player down”, said Ferguson of his centre forward, who appeared to take two perfectly balanced steps beyond Daniel Agger’s dainty challenge before collapsing to the floor (or perhaps Ferguson would have us believe there was a sudden gust of wind). read on

Chelsea’s Dying Breed


Chelsea's young and old; Kakuta and Terry, but where's the rest of the young talent?

For a moment, it was the revival. Finally shaken back into life after a long winter hibernation, and led by their inspirational captain, the Blues were back. When John Terry seemingly secured a comeback reminiscent of the Mourinho epoch against Aston Villa on Sunday, from 2-1 down to 3-2 up in a matter of moments, the natural order had been restored.

But, just as natural selection dictates the survival of the fittest, this Chelsea side were again proved to be a dying breed. Another defining blow to the weakening dynasty was, fittingly, landed by one of the Premier League’s new kids on the block. Ciaran Clark stole in with a late header, securing a deserved point for a tenacious Aston Villa side.

After a flying start saw them open a five point lead at the top of the table after ten games, this looked like being another successful season. Since 2004, a team held together by a stable foundation of Lampard, Terry, Drogba, Cech has won ten trophies, including three league titles.

But a less endearing number ten now hangs over a once great side. That’s the number of points it has secured from the last ten league games, the worst run since 1999. A run that suggests this is not just a blip. This is the beginning of the end for a team with an average age of over 28.5. And my, how quickly the end seems to be coming. -read on>

Alex Ferguson The Great; Arsene Wenger The Very Good


Wenger and Ferguson demonstrating their love hate relationship

Arsene Wenger will never be a great manager. To be a ‘great’ you must become a legend of the game, and sit alongside such masters as Shankly and Busby and, of course, the top division’s long-reigning king, Alex Ferguson.

One characteristic seems to define great managers more than any other: pragmatism. The ability to be flexible in approach and adaptable to circumstances, and to make the right choices at the right time. Pragmatism is the quality that allows great managers to keep adapting, and keep wining. Arsene Wenger has many qualities, and his ability to spot talent and nurture young players is arguably the best in the game. But his downfall is that his particular ideology – of wanting to play the game and build a team in the ‘right’ manner – gets in the way of success. -read on>

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