“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more….”
Henry V – Bill Shakespeare
It seems like such a long time since a football was last kicked in competitive anger, but it was only mid-July when Germany were crowned champions of the world.
From my side, it’s fantastic to have the best (and only) reality show back on our screens. I’m fully aware that Mrs Goalmouthmelee (and many others) are not as overjoyed as I am with the return of football, but I shall keep trying to educate her until she sees the light. The youth are a lot more receptive to learning and Mini Goalmouthmelee is doing well with his football schooling – he has a lovely goal celebration, but unfortunately he got used to accompanying it with “Suarez!” last season and now he has to change it…
I guess that I’ve re-learnt a good lesson about not following players and how the football teams we support are always more important in the greater scheme of things.
So after the opening two rounds what have we learnt?
– Tottenham Hotspur will be challenging for the title this year.
– Arsenal have learnt about resilience and will not crumble if they go behind in a football match.
– Cesc Fabregas has provided the assist of the season in the first game of the season, and is the missing midfield link for Chelsea.
– Manchester United are a mid-table team and will struggle to make 7th again.
– Liverpool will struggle for goals and are looking suspect defensively.
– Harry Redknapp should have been England manager instead of Roy Hodgson.
– Mario Balotelli will make headlines during his time at Liverpool.
– It’s impossible to draw any certainty from any results as we’ve only had two games!
Possibly the only statement above that could be true is the last one.
The start of the season always has the “top of the table” conversation thread running through it, which is entirely pointless. What I mean is that any discussion about who’s top of the table in August is utterly ridiculous. The same goes for “Team X has a 100% record”. It’s two bloody games! And it means bugger all unless you can continue that run after January and into the “business end” of the season – just ask Arsenal.
This is all part of what I refer to as “Twitter analysis”. The constant barrage of information and statistics now means that everyone has an opinion about everything all the time.
Take the Arsenal – Everton game as an example. Admittedly Everton started extremely well, took an early lead and Arsenal huffed and puffed their way through the opening 45 minutes. Judging by Twitter reactions, the game was over by half time and Wenger didn’t know what he was doing. In the second half Everton ran out of steam and Arsenal clawed their way back into the game, partially driven by Wenger’s substitution bringing on Giroud for the ineffective Alexis Sanchez.
My main point here is that as a manager or a team you don’t even have the luxury of 90 minutes to prove yourselves, never mind a run of 5 games or a season to get some semblance of form.
I feel that Manchester United’s Van Gaal will have a similar problem due to the big expectations for the club to immediately get back to winning ways – especially given the disaster that was the Moyes era. Van Gaal has tried to dampen any enthusiasm about the coming season by stating it will take time to get the team to any sort of consistency but are the supporters listening? Van Gaal is still working out his best team, trying to implement a new formation and firm up on transfer business – the one aspect he will need a lot of is plenty of time to assert his influence.
Due to the unexpected title challenge last year I also think that expectation will be high at Anfield – but one cannot ignore that Suarez’s contribution, work rate and most importantly, goals, will be sorely missed. Daniel Sturridge is a good player and has an eye for goal, but he doesn’t have the same vision and technical ability as his former Uruguayan strike partner. Hence the move for the unpredictable Mario Balotelli – Rodgers is taking a gamble that he can do what all other managers have failed to do and tame the Italian. It’s similar to buying Apple shares before the iPhone came out – if it works out you look like a genius.
Manchester City have changed imperceptibly from last season. They’ve brought in Fernando just to confuse the commentators because they already have Fernandinho in the team. Yaya Toure is happy (for now) as long as the club remembers his birthday and David Silva will add the creative spark, but they do need Nasri to step it up a notch and unlock defences in tight games.
The results of each match are certainly important – whether it’s one point toward avoiding relegation or three points closer to the title, each fixture contributes to the football story line.
However, as crucial as the outcomes are I’m just happy that we’ve got another ten months of reality television to look forward to.
Viva football viva!