Last week may have seen the first significant news of the football off-season, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Following the retirement of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, and David Moyes’ arrival at Old Trafford as his successor, there has been plenty more big news in the past seven days.
After all, Ferguson had planned to retire back in 2001, only to recant. The venerable Scot was such a fixture in British football that the thought of him no longer prowling the Old Trafford touchline, while incessantly chomping on a stick of chewing gum, seemed a too absurd a prospect to countenance.
As I sat, as open-mouthed as the rest of Europe’s football fans, watching Bayern Munich ambush Barcelona in the Allianz Arena tonight, one question flickered through my mind: could this result happen next season?
It may seem a little early for pondering the future, but this article wouldn’t have been penned tonight had it not been for Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller, with his second of the night, putting the tie almost undeniably beyond the reach of Tito Vilanova’s crestfallen men.
In case any of you were too busy watching the relegation battles on Tuesday night, you may have missed the news that, after three straight years of play-off heartache, Cardiff City were promoted to the Premier League after a 50-year absence from the top flight.
The achievement has been heralded as a landmark moment in the history of Welsh football. Ten percent of next year’s Premier League teams will be Welsh… but is there really much that Welsh footballers stand to gain?
Why are semi-finals, the veritable warm-up before the main event, played at Wembley Stadium, once only a home to winner-takes-all matches such as domestic and European cup finals?
After all, a host of newspapers across all political and style divides have published articles in the past few weeks arguing that it detracts from the final and has a detrimental effect on both domestic cup competitions.
A poll by the Guardian newspaper found that 86% per cent of fans believe that FA Cup semi-finals should not be played at Wembley. That is a fairly conclusive figure by anyone’s standards. So why are they?
Sunderland made a bold decision yesterday in hiring highly flammable but little-tested Italian Paulo Di Canio as their new manager in the midst of a relegation battle. The first question that came to my mind, however, was: is Di Canio really the ideal candidate for a team fighting to stave off relegation?
There’s no denying that the controversial Di Canio is a talented manager; his Swindon charges certainly seemed inspired to greater things by him based on the club’s dip in form following his departure. But the Sunderland post presents new challenges to Di Canio.
The Premier League recently announced that goal-line technology will be introduced in time for next season. Action came swiftly after FIFA president Sepp Blatter finally reversed his steadfast opposition to technology in football.
He said that FIFA would appear to be “foolish” if it did not act on a series of embarrassing mistakes, such as the failure to award a goal to England midfielder Frank Lampard during a game against Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
Few things are more infuriating in football that dangerous tackling. Even more enraging, however, is seeing such conduct go unpunished.
Like so many in the game, the decision by the Football Association not to take retrospective action against Callum McManaman of Wigan Athletic, for his egregious challenge on Newcastle United defender Massadio Haïdara, left me disgusted.
Personally, I feel the criticism being aimed towards McManaman should focus solely on his challenge. One should look at what the player did, rather than make judgements on him as an individual.
Every so often a leading Premier League or major European outfit will, in a fit of generosity, offer one of its young prodigies to a lesser club in order to aid the development of their precocious star and equip him with the necessary experience to succeed.
Many of those loaned out to smaller teams, whether in the top flight or the Football League, perform well and improve as footballers, but every so often, Premier League giants and other European clubs let a genuine star go, for a while.
There is no doubt that football is an ever-changing, flexible construct, whose trends can change according to the demands of the game. In the Premier League, the place of the central midfielder is part of this.
Players now seldom operate in the so-called “Makélélé role”, named after former Chelsea midfielder Claude Makélélé, left.