Friday, 27 April 2012

Paul Lambert - Stay Where You Are!

These days I have little time on my hands so my blog posts tend to last no more than 400 words, if that. One day I'll set aside some time to write something exploratory, detailed and very interesting, but now it's all commentary. 

Paul Lambert to Villa? What has changed over the past year that makes this particular post more desirable? Mark Hughes truly mugged himself off by dumping Fulham then not getting the job, Roberto Martinez point blank knocked them back, so they settled for Alex McLeish, a solid, predictably-styled practitioner of the clumpy game. Paul Lambert has some fine skills indeed and brought a team to the premier league who are universally respected and admired by the neutral fan. It is hard for promoted teams to 'fit in', premier league snobs expect a certain type of football these days and it really is a lion's den of judgement and speculation. Fortunately, Swansea brought some haute couture footballing fashion up with them last season, enough to leave Barcelona lovers drooling at the mouth. 

As every discerning football fan knows, it really is 'all about the money' so should Paul Lambert choose to migrate westward one could assume the renumeration is a major driving force. When Chelsea disposed of Villas-Boas, the Swan's Brendan Rogers uttered something to the effect of 'I wouldn't touch your fickle bastard club and its politics with a 10 foot barge pole, I want a career, not a prison sentence'. Maybe, just maybe we are entering an era where building a club with a footballing style and identity might be more important than a glory job, that's how I hope things pan out for Lambert and the Norwich City fans anyway. Norwich have a kind of understated cool status anyway these days, with Delia and Stephen Fry in the box, all they need now is a more Brazilian-styled kit, (the only way to do yellow) and a decent cup-run next season. 

Hot Score's verdict, should Paul Lambert stay or go?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Those Italians, They Know How To Defend! Barcelona v Chelsea

I'll leave all the technical analysis to the top chalkboard bods but Chelsea's miraculous result at the Nou Camp was one that really did simulate computer gameplay. Tonight you could see the Barcelona attack repetitively broken down into its component parts, over and over again, similar patterns of thought and play were repeated and Chelsea stood firm and efficient. They didn't worry about having to maintain possession, they just had to focus on repeatedly stopping Messi, Sanchez and co, working their way through. Ashley Cole was magnificent in holding the left hand side of the field together, his coverage and anticipation made it very difficult for Messi to make his trademark twisting runs through. It must've felt like one of those games where an adult is stopping a bouncy child from passing for Barcelona, and it can't have been fun for Chelsea!

The danger spot for drawing out all of the Chelsea rear guard was when that fast and direct ball was played to the top of the 'triangle' from just wide of the box, it naturally draws even the most steadfast lines out, a great method that any team with superior attacking players can use against a deep line.

The result is quite unbelievable, Chelsea scoring two goals with only 27% possession. We all hear the pundits and analysts saying "possession doesn't always equal goals" and that is often the case but not usually when the stats read 73:27! There is no way to keep hold of the ball when you have committed in such a focused way to stopping a team like Barcelona who have an incredible proclivity for scoring goals. Roberto Di Matteo set out with the intention of containing and frustrating Barcelona in a way that only Italian managers know how to. To maintain that level of focus is incredible, Chelsea looked like they were hypnotised by Barcelona's passing groove and were programmed to react so simply to stopping it from advancing, it worked.

Every substitution worked for Di Matteo too, each serving to re-enforce and tighten the hard work established by the makeshift back four. Ivanovic served very well in central defence, holding the line like a general and utilising all of his interception skills in nullifying Messi's splurges towards goal.

We all know feel it week after week with our own teams but these huge games really do highlight just what an amazing game our football is, completely addictive, fascinating and all-consuming at times.

The bookies will be quids in for sure!