Monday, 23 April 2012

Welcome to the bubble. Let me just deconstruct that sentence for you, because first time it sounded a bit like an intro to a teatime game show on channel 4 were middle aged women and students are locked in mortal combat inside a massive Perspex sphere. You know the kind, contestants answering general knowledge questions to accrue enough points for weapons, poisons and the like (or something along those lines anyway).

I say “Welcome,” by force of habit as I would do usually to any visitor. Force of habit rather than necessity as I don’t think anyone is reading this yet. I think that until I receive some concrete evidence of intelligent life out there, until somebody shines a light into my little hole I might have to acknowledge the basic absurdity of what I am doing but not dwell on it. Something akin to telling myself, aloud, “You’re talking to yourself you silly man,” before launching into a massive epilogue about Ashley Young’s diving but then still being able to function afterwards as a semi normal member of society. Let’s see how that goes, this blog could well be a document of one man’s gradual descent into insanity which will prove to be interesting only after I have been shot for trying to clamber into the Queen’s Jubilee parade car whilst stark naked and singing ‘row, row, row your boat’ backwards in Hebrew. At this rate it may only take a couple more posts before that inevitable, crazy fog fills my vision...

The second part of that opening sentence (putting aside for a second ‘to’ which is more significant than you could ever dare to dream...)  “The Football Bubble,” is the title I’ve chosen for this blog (don’t believe me? Check the top of the page...see?), it wasn’t entirely random. My contention is that the world of Football exists within a bubble, a different neighbourhood of our universe which closely resembles the world we inhabit with some crucial differences. Reason, rationality, perspective, the laws of gravity and basic human decency are among the things that are distorted within the walls of the bubble. Walls that enclose us all, players, managers, club staff, fans, the press and the officials, thrown together and against each other in a mad, colourful Hadron collider of opinion, outrage and, let’s face it, temporary insanity. I guess I will try to sift through the mess for my own perspective.

Which brings me to my point, I have a lot of problems with the way that football is covered in this country and though I don’t have too much experience to back this up I imagine that the standard is the same across the world. The standard of punditry in television coverage is atrocious and there is a fair amount of the written coverage and opinion in mainstream media which is just as bad. In January, and before that even, there was a queue of hacks and television ‘experts’ itching to tell anyone who would listen that the title was City’s and a few short days ago the same had already handed the crown back to United.

Well, look what happened, another round of fixtures and all of a sudden everything has changed around again. Now it seems that the oracles have polished off the smudge that was distorting their crystal ball and realised that that the magical force of momentum is back with City. Well, starting with Manchester United 4-4 Everton: What a game this was! Usually a score line such as this between 2 teams which are generally considered competent is indicative of the kind of defending personified by Titus Bramble in a Newcastle shirt. Not so today, I honestly can’t remember the last time that I saw so many high quality goals in one game. Starting with Jelavic’s superbly aimed header to open the scoring and followed by Rooney’s bullet header reply (all about Nani’s cross), Welbeck’s shuffle and stroke into the top corner, Welbeck and Rooney’s psychically linked interplay, another deadly finish from Jelavic, and finally a precise passing move for Pienaar to stroke home. 8 of the best and a thoroughly entertaining game, United were good but not as good as we have seen in seasons passed...something our friends in the media forgot when they proclaimed United’s lead unassailable after Arsenal 1-0 City. City did the business beating Wolves 2-0 as you would expect from a squad with the amount of talent at their disposal. Rumours of a Balotelli inspired implosion now seem like the mad ravings of a special brew fuelled lunatic. All of which demonstrates to those who had not already realised that pundits just don’t know, nobody does. The best pundits admit that, talk about what they think will happen and point to historical examples to back up their claims. Unfortunately though there are (I’m looking at you Talksport, the Sun and ITV)  others who seriously don’t have a fucking clue. They cover their ignorance by proclaiming nailed on certainties so they can brag if they get lucky and hope you don’t remember if they are wrong. Don’t they remember Arsenal coming from behind to pip United in 1997-1998? There are many more it just me that expects the experts to remember and share them?

All I’m saying is that we need to get some crossbows, camouflage paint and gear, find these people and hunt them down in the streets (only the really bad pundits I mean, I’m not a monster...Motty gets a pass) I really don’t think that’s too much to ask?

Ahem...excuse me whilst I fight the fog I mentioned earlier for a minute...

...and that’s better. Anyway, some talking points...
Best Game of the Weekend- Manchester United 4-4 Everton: no contest I think, for the  reasons listed above but honourable mention to El Classico with a dramatic finish leading to Real Madrid’s victory over Barca, effectively clinching the title and finally giving us a game to live up to the hype.
Worst Game of the Weekend- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Worst one I watched anyway. Like El Classico expectations were high for 2 teams fighting for Champions League qualification but little invention or excitement in the play from what was basically a League Cup team from Chelsea (with a £50m striker...goddamn you, modern football). Arsenal didn’t move the ball fast enough in midfield without the injured Mikel Arteta and were wasteful in front of goal with RVP out of sorts still.
Team of the Weekend- Newcastle: That ‘M’ word, momentum is all theirs out of the contenders for the Champions League and you have to fancy them with the form they, and particularly Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Cisse have been showing. The former was exceptional on Saturday and the latter 2 have been playing like they belong in Europe for weeks. They have tough games with Chelsea and Manchester City to come but they are capable of getting the results particularly if Manchester City are out of the title race by then (they play United before).
Winners- Got to be Manchester City I suppose...IT’S BACK ON!!!!!!!!! (Excessive capitals and exclamations for emphasis of the sensational nature of football reporting alluded to earlier and in no way endorsed as an acceptable form of written communication by this blog)
Losers- Wolves: Down they go, never nice to see but the club did it to themselves. A lot of the sympathy they may have receive left with Mick McCarthy I suspect. Tough on the fans though.

That’s that then back on Wednesday to talk about the 1st Champions league semi, I expect Chelsea to get found out finally but only time will tell...

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