“It’s been a long time| I shouldn’t have left you
Without a strong rhyme to step to
Think of how many weak shows you slept through
Time’s up| I’m sorry I kept you”
Rakim “I know you got soul”
Firstly, I would like to apologise for my lengthy absence from the blog. Life has a habit of getting in the way, and I have learnt this over the past few months.
Secondly, some fantastic news to report – Mrs Goalmouthmelee, Mini Goalmouthmelee and myself welcome New Goalmouthmelee (another boy!) to the Goalmouthmelee family just as the Premier League season 2015/16 kicked off. The little guy was born just as Christian Benteke scored what would be the winning goal for Liverpool’s opening match against Aston Villa. For some strange reason Mrs Goalmouthmelee was not quite as excited at my suggestion that we give the newborn a first name of “Benteke”.
Onto the more important news – what’s been happening in the world of sport? Far too much excitement, so let’s start with the most recent.
We’ll miss those shiny white teeth!
Shortly after the Merseyside derby ended in a 1-1 draw, Liverpool football club announced that they were parting ways with manager Brendan Rodgers. If reports are to be believed, Rodgers’ fate was sealed after the 1-1 Europa League draw with Sion, and a win at local rivals Everton would not have been enough to save his job anyway.
There have been many reactions to Rodgers’ sacking with a large number of fans rejoicing at his removal, as well as more measured reactions from some quarters (such as this well written piece by Neil Atkinson for The Anfield Wrap) reflecting on the glorious, but ill-fated 2013/14 title race which brought Liverpool so close to that first elusive Premier League title.
Personally, I thought that Brendan Rodgers sell-by date was in May 2015 and he should have been replaced at the end of a dismal 2014/15 season, following a 1-6 humbling by Stoke. The Stoke result in itself was not a sackable offence, but the last third of the season following the limp defeat to Manchester United was a portent of things to come. There were probably reasons why FSG chose not to show Rodgers the door then – presumably not having a suitable replacement lined up being one of them – but that lack of action had consequences. Liverpool started and continued this season like they had ended the previous one: a lack of drive, urgency and even interest failing to ignite the team. For part of this, Brendan Rodgers must take the blame for his role in the transfer debacle that has seen so much money
spent wasted on average talent, which was exacerbated by a lack of defensive awareness on the part of the manager.
However, one thing that I will remember Rodgers for is that unforgettable 2013/14 season. Many people are keen to downplay Rodgers influence on the season and point to the fact that Luis Suarez was the mastermind of all good things that happened. Luis Suarez is a supremely gifted footballer (and a flawed human being) with the ability to not only create goals but also to bring other players into the game, as well as being a non-stop nuisance for defenders by constantly harrying them and not letting them get a moment’s rest. However, Rodgers deserves some of the praise for his attacking mindset and his introduction of Raheem Sterling to play alongside Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Liverpool’s style of play during the 2013/14 season was fantastic to watch as caution was thrown to the wind and the sole objective was to “out-Keegan” opponents – ‘you score 3, we’ll score 5’. Ultimately, the defensive deficiencies which were there throughout the season (it’s just not as exciting to report on goals conceded) proved to be the stumbling block in the final run of games.
Thanks Brendan for the memories and we shall never forge the unforgettable season.
Jose Mourinho says “Come at me bro”
I’m sure most of you have seen (or heard) the incredible 7 minute tirade from Jose Mourinho following Chelsea’s 1-3 loss to Southampton on Saturday. The Chelsea manager was asked one question by the reporter and then embarked on an incredible monologue where he pretty much came out swinging at any and everybody including referees, the media, the FA and Roman Abrahamovich.
The highlights included jabs at referees for being cowardly
“I want to repeat because I think my players deserve it, Chelsea fans deserve it, I am a Chelsea fan too, and I want to say it again: referees are afraid to giving decisions to Chelsea”
Jabs at Roman Abrahamovich
“if the club wants to sack me, they have to sack me because I’m not running away from my responsibility and my team.”
Jabs at the players and the Chelsea management
“I think this is a moment for everybody to assume responsibilities. I assume my responsibilities, I think the players should assume their responsibilities, there are other people in the club who should also assume their responsibilities, and to stick together. This is what I want.
All in all, a glorious meltdown reminiscent of the infamous Kevin Keegan “I’d love it” rant where he was provoked into a response by Alex Ferguson. This is Mourinho’s worst spell as a football manager, and he is finding it tough to navigate as this is not a situation he’s been in before. As Adam Bate notes for Sky Sports, this is unfamiliar ground for the Portuguese manager accustomed to leading title challenges and competing for Champions League honours:
Put simply, turning things around for a struggling team is a different challenge altogether. And thus far, Mourinho has given the impression of a man floundering in search of a solution. There are only so many weapons at the disposal of a manager in charge of a faltering team and – unfamiliar with defeat – Mourinho has reached for most of them already. To no avail.
The craziness of the English Premier League
The season so far has been a roller coaster.
Manchester City started so well that everyone thought they would be crowned champions by the end of November – then came defeats to West Ham (!) and a thrashing from Tottenham to change that narrative. Not uncoincidentally, those two defeats came whilst David Silva was on the sidelines – I’ve said it before and will say it again – Manchester City appear to be overly reliant on David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure to drive their success. When one, or all three, are not involved the team seems to struggle. So far Kevin De Bruyne looks the part and has settled in quickly to the pace of the English game – let’s see how he copes with no winter break and the infamous games away to Stoke in the rain on a cold January evening.
Arsenal have Arsenal’d so far. They have started with a loss to West Ham (!) and then put in a couple of decent performances before coming a cropper against their bogey team, Chelsea (who as noted above have been horrible so far this season). They followed that up with a spanking of high-flying Leicester City and then issued another smack down to Manchester United.
Manchester United were top of the table heading into this last weekend, but ended up in third following the defeat to Arsenal. Although the Red Devils have played well in patches, there seem to be a number of lingering questions particularly over the poor form of Wayne Rooney who seems to have kept his place in the team purely because he is captain. The lack of cover in defence and the ageing legs of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinstager have been highlighted as weak points by Arsenal over the week.
Crystal Palace, Leicester City and West Ham United round out the top six at present, with all three teams playing some exciting football to delight their fans. It’s anybody’s guess if these three teams will continue to produce consistent results and perhaps challenge the top six hegemony of the Premier League.
I could not end this post without commenting on the events happening at FIFA (thanks for the reminder Thet!).
Sepp Blatter and his cronies at FIFA have finally been put under the spotlight as the organisation and certain individuals have been linked to a corruption scandal, which shocked pretty much nobody.
The background is described in this piece by Wired:
The Justice Department in the United States unsealed a 47-count indictment against 14 defendants—including FIFA bigwigs, sports marketing executives, and the owner of a broadcasting corporation—with charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. The Justice Department’s announcement primarily cites deals between FIFA, sports marketing groups, and broadcast corporations for the television rights to air the World Cup and other international soccer tournaments. Dating back to 1991, the indictment alleges, those involved conspired to receive bribes from marketing firms in exchange for exclusive television contracts—to the cumulative tune of more than $150 million. As Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated, “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”
A couple of points worth noting here:
Firstly, Africa and other developing countries seem to cop a lot of flack when it comes to corruption, as if it doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world. As noted in this piece by Africasacountry, this mentality is particularly prevalent among Western individuals who are keen to paint the African continent with a particular brush.
And so it’s the Africans who’re to blame for FIFA’s troubles, particularly “small African nations” for whom giving and receiving bribes is just part of the culture. Just look at all the revelations in the past week or so. The pattern is clear enough. Let’s run through some of them.
The small African nation of Germany reportedly did a massive arms deal to secure Saudi Arabia’s vote for World Cup 2006. Gerhard Shröder, then Chancellor of Germany and a classic African despot, is said to have been behind the deal. The Guardian reports serious allegations: “that the German government lifted arms restrictions days before the vote in order to make the shipment and help swing Saudi Arabia’s vote to Germany.” What else can you expect from a tinpot African country like Germany, eh? I guess they were just looking after the family. It’s a cultural thing.
Secondly, Sepp Blatter (and FIFA) were responsible for bringing Africa its first World Cup in 2010. For that, I shall always be grateful as I think the atmosphere and the general vibe during that tournament was something that I shall never forget as long as I live. I even managed to convince Mrs Goalmouthmelee to attend TWO live football games with me – something I do not take lightly as she is not the biggest of sports fans. Of course, we did get FIFA’d (definition: to pay exorbitant prices for food, drink or any product that is usually reasonably priced at any other time) when purchasing anything at the stadiums but such is life. Millions of dollars may have changed hands to make the event happen, but I think that’s a small price to pay for having the World Cup in your home continent.
Until the next post, remember to keep watching sport – particularly the round ball.