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As the Agents Ruin Things…

The shocking news story of the week was the disclosure that some Premier League managers might actually be taking bungs–that is, taking money for themselves from agents to make transfer deals. This nothing story shouldn’t surprise anyone, except for the lack of any real bombshells. For me, they’re going after the wrong side anyway. It’s the agents that are the evil bastards and need to be stopped–the more painfully the better. They are right on the cusp of doing serious damage to the game. Especially with these new companies owning the rights to players. Agents already have entirely too much power in football and the weight needs to be shifted back. Quickly. It’s going to get very ugly very soon, and it’ll be too late to ever make it right again.

With that backdrop, the season rolls merrily along with a week of coming routs. Most of the big guns have easy matches and they’ll make quick work of their hapless opponents. Sheffield Utd, Fulham, Reading–better luck next week. The match to watch this weekend is Liverpool/Tottenham. Unfortunately, I can’t owing to my vow not to contribute to the Spurs demise by personally witnessing it. Although, it’s beginning to be apparent that they struggle whether I watch them or not. Defoe must play. They miss Carrick. Keane is overrated. But, that team is too good to be as spotty as they’ve been. Liverpool is only slightly less spotty due to Tinker Benitez constantly fiddling with the line-up. Should be an interesting match. Things will start to look very serious for the loser.

But, that’s the great thing about the Premier League. Every match means something. Even the Wigan/Watford match is worth a look.

Ipswich gets to take on Roy Keane’s Sunderland in the Championship. The novelty of that might be better than the match. A match I will be forced to miss due to uncontrollable convolutions of the universe. Good luck Town–I’ll be thinking about you.

Mostly Baffled, But There Are Some Answers

I’m big enough to admit it. I have no idea what the hell is going on. Does Rafa Benitez have any idea what he’s doing at Liverpool? By almost everyone’s estimate, he came into the season with the second best team in the Premiership. They’ve struggled for their form to say the least so far. Everton just dusted them in the derby at the weekend 3-0. I can understand perfectly well that he may have been less than thrilled with some of the perfomances.

Tonight in the Champions League he sat most of the usual suspects and PSV Eindhoven held them to a 0-0 draw. They used to accuse sweet Claudio Ranieri of being too much of a ‘tinker’ when he was at Chelsea, but Benitez is taking it well beyond even that. Liverpool is much stronger this year, but still not Chelsea-like–being able to field an entire second team with enough talent to beat just about anyone. Liverpool has to field the likes of Gerrard, Alonso, Hyppia, and Crouch to have much of a chance against a quality team. He sat them all.

Maybe he had a point to prove, but it seems like lately every time a manager decides to drive home a point it costs them a big game. There must be better way.

No such slip-ups for Chelsea. They took care of Werder Bremen fairly easily, 2-0. That was the one team in the group good enough to surprise Chelski, especially this early, if they looked past them, but Mourinho had them awake and ready to play. Looks like they’ll get through along with Barcelona. Their chances look much better than they did when the draw first came out. It was wonderful to delude myself into thinking they could get knocked out in the group stage. It’s not going to happen, but I still don’t think they’ll win the thing either.

I also can’t begin to figure out Tottenham. I’ve kept up my end and have been avoiding watching them live. No matter. They still look shaky. Actually, they look fine, they just can’t seem to be able to score. Not playing Defoe is obviously not wise. He wants out, but play him while you have him. Of course, he only wants to leave because Jol, for some reason only he must know, doesn’t use him much.

Ipswich has always been beyond me. I’ve decided to just ride the wave and not get too bothered about where they’re going. They looked awful to start the season, but have managed to win three on the trot now. They are a mid-table team, through and through. They’ll be streaky all season, I’m afraid. Just when I start getting my hopes up that they may be good enough to contend, they’ll drop several points to teams they should easily beat. I blame Magilton for some of that, but the reality is they’re just a very average Chamionship side.

One manager that can easily be blamed for his team’s up and down performance is Gareth Southgate at Middlesborough. They look absolutely great one week, and absolute rubbish the next. Southgate is a great guy and I hope he eventually succeeds, but you can’t tell me ‘Boro wouldn’t be better off with practically anybody else at the helm. He should be learning the ropes somewhere in the lower leagues. Well, he may have ‘Boro down there where he belongs soon enough anyway.

One other thing that has become glaringly obvious is how great Martin O’Neill really is. He won’t be out-coached by anyone, and Aston Villa already look like a completely different team. Randy Lerner should be very pleased with his English football team, unlike the American one.

Is the US ever going to name a national coach? One should have been hired as soon as Arena left. I don’t think they’re cannily waiting to land the one they want. I’m convinced they have no idea what they’re doing at all. I think they want an American, but none strike me as being capable of taking the team beyond where Arena had them. They had a quick chance to do something dramatic and make a difference right after the World Cup. That moment looks to be gone.

Keane to Sunderland

What a Wednesday. Great stories abound from the world of football–at least the part of the world that is England.

What soap opera writer is penning the Sunderland script? Whoever it is, a hearty thank you. Just when you think it can’t get any crazier, a completely novel twist comes flying out of nowhere. The latest installment is sure to supply interesting storylines for months. Or until the murder (probably set for Christmas to boost the ratings). Niall Quinn’s big-name coach has turned out to be none other than one Roy Keane. Put aside the fact that they reputedly hated one another while playing for Ireland, Keano is simply a lunatic. Hard as nails and about as clever. This is going to be brilliant.

If you’re unfamiliar with the profundity of Roy Keane, or just want a quick laugh, football365 has helpfully compiled a list of some of his deeper insights.

In apparent emulation of Mr. Keane, ManCiteh’s Ben Thatcher tried to remove the head of Pedro Mendes with a brutal elbow in the match against Pompey. It was as cheap of a shot as I can remember seeing, but somehow was only worth a yellow from the ref. It might have been some sort of cruel karmic fate, giving a Portuguese player an actual real reason to dive to the turf for all their disgusting play-acting in Germany. In any case, Thatcher needs to go. English football is rough, but that’s uncalled for.

Finally, a double shot of happy news from the Chelsea camp. First, the shocking loss to lowly Middlesbrough made the day for billions around the world. There was much laughing and partying in the streets–you probably missed all that revelry while you were at work. It’s not going to be so easy this time around for the Real of the North. I suspect Ashley Cole will now be bought for the ransom Arsenal is demanding. If I were them, the ransom would have just doubled. Chelsea will pay it–whatever it is. The millionaires are too good to bother playing defense, so something must be done. The only answer for that team is to throw more Roman money at the problems. I hope Abramovich is having a good time. I suspect he’ll be getting tired of this expensive toy soon, and Chelsea will revert back to their inocuous selves. What a day that’ll be.

Then, just as hoped, they managed to draw Barcelona in the group stage of the Champions League. They’re clearly not living right at Stamford Bridge.

A Busy First Week of Action

The Premiership season is only days old, but all of a sudden the world is wall to wall football. Finally. Thankfully.

Two matches featuring new sides are on tap for today. I will not watch Tottenham play Sheffield United tonight. Promise. Call the bookies now and throw the money at Spurs. They will win today. They really are much better than that first match. That was my fault.

I will watch West Ham and Watford instead. Watford are going to struggle for any points at all this season. An absolute sure bet for relegation. West Ham have managed to do things the right way. Despite the financial knock when they went down, and actually needing a bit of good fortune to win promotion when they did, they have built up a solid team again. On an aside worth mentioning concerning West Ham, I recently watched the movie ‘Green Street Hooligans’. It’s not much in the way of a football movie, but warrants a look if only to give the uninitiated a look at the firm culture that once abounded in England.

Lovely Ipswich will surely notch a win today. Unfortunately, it’s in the Carling Cup against lowly Peterborough instead of league competition, so it’s not going to move them out of the drop zone. Still, at this point, I’ll take anything.

Desperate Manchester United are just about to get slapped for topping-up with the whole Owen Hargreaves situation. Bayern Munich says he’s not for sale, and that’s that. Stirring that mess, trying to steal the newly popular Hargreaves isn’t going to be helpful. That, and a loss or two, could start the troubles at Old Trafford.

As an added treat, the second leg of some Champions League qualifiers take place today as well. The disreputable AC Milan will officially get back into the competition proper after tonight. Also, suddenly financially stretched, Liverpool are in Kiev to face Maccabi Haifa. The Ukraine deemed a much safer place to host the match than Israel, despite the cease-fire that has already been going on for many, many, many hours now. A loss by ‘Pool will bring about some worry for the one side that can challenge Chelsea back at home–and their form has been decidely hit or miss so far. No time for a slip.

Week One Sets the Stage in the Premiership

While I’m grateful for the return of the league, it was one of those weeks where almost every result was a poke to the heart.

Man United barely looked bothered and showed absolutely no problems up front after sticking 5 (well 6, actually) into the net against a hapless Fulham. Good-bye Chris Coleman, it was nice knowing ye. Even Christiano and Wayne seemed delighted to be playing in the same sandbox. It was so bad, Rio Ferdinand felt obliged to knock one in for the visitors in an apparent attempt to keep the Cottagers hopes up enough to stay on the pitch until the final whistle.

Chelsea looked all-world against a struggling Man City, thrashing them 3-0. This is the sort of match Roman’s millionaires would have slept through and won 1-0 last year. I’m praying they get bored quickly and go back to that tactic. I won’t be able to stand seeing them playing up to their sizable abilities. It’ll make for a long season.

I was so over-confident that I broke my promise and watched the Tottenham match. As could be expected, they looked horrible and went down to Bolton 2-0. So the curse remains intact. They are incapable of winning any match I see. Big Sam looks to be just ticking off the days until he can find a decent way to exit a Bolton side he has strengthened into a solid Premierhip team, but they’re just not capapble of rising to the next level. Sooner or later, it all comes down to money. Allardyce has done the best with what he was given.

One of my other favorite teams, Charlton, looked absolutely awful. Their relegation battle began Saturday, and they’ll be in that battle all year.

Liverpool were given a very dodgy penalty late in the match to rescue a point from lowly Sheffield United. That was 2 points dropped. They can’t draw with minnows and have a prayer of challenging for the title. Week One or not. Those were important points left on the pitch.

Arsenal also dropped 2 as Randy Lerner’s (or soon to be) Aston Villa nearly stole the opening match in the Gunner’s sparkling new stadium. Martin O’Neill will be enough to keep Villa in the middle of the pack. If Lerner can add some quality, they’ll rise from the ashes and surprise many teams this season.

In the believe it or not catagory, new boys Reading came back after going down 2-0 to beat Boro 3-2. That match was just a pleasure to watch. Reading’s only mode is full forward and attack. They won’t be able to hold a lead and don’t bother trying. They just continue to try to add to one. That’ll result in some lopsided losses against the better teams, but more power to them. I’d be happy to watch them play every week.

In the Coca Cola Championship match that matterd, the glorious Ipswich Town finally earned point number one in four attempts after a snooze 0-0 match against Hull. Mid-table obscurity and safety look to be completely out of reach for now.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this week’s results have been off the scale for me, personally. Wouldn’t have been good to get my hopes up early anyway. I hate when I do that–at least I think I would.