Thursday, May 31, 2012

Brendan Rodgers - The Right Man for Liverpool

Many Liverpool fans will be waking up this morning wondering why a Northern Irishman with only one season's experience in the top flight is going to become manager of arguably the most successful English team of all time. Only time will tell but at the outset it seems a prudent move (at last) from the fallen giants of the English game.

Liverpool have done what so many top clubs fear, promoting a young domestic manager with little experience but huge potential. Rodgers' Swansea City have defied the odds and predictions (including here) with a fantastic first season in the top flight winning friends to boot with some excellent passing football.

Rodgers will need time to shape Liverpool but that is exactly what Liverpool can offer if their fans are realistic about the current prospects for their club.

Under Dalglish, Liverpool went backwards due to a poor transfer policy. Liverpool spent a fortune on players despite bringing in 50M from the sale of Torres yet ended up further from the title and Champions League places than they have ever been.

The reality is that even if they spent a huge sum of money again this summer, Liverpool are years away from challenging for the title as they are no longer able to attract the calibre of player that they need. A club can sign as many Downings, Adams and Hendersons as they like but it will never bring the title nor success as they are simply not as good as the players playing for the teams above them, the money is simply being wasted.

What Liverpool need is a long term plan with an aim to win the title again several years from now with Champions League football in the slightly nearer future. Liverpool could and should be able to overhaul Spurs and the aim thereafter must be to rein in Arsenal assuming that Chelsea's projected spending pushes them back towards the Manchester clubs.

Rodgers is only 39 and must surely have been recruited with a long term time frame in mind. Whilst the current cliche of choice is that football is a 'results business' it is honestly hard to see him guiding Liverpool to worse than Dalglish's 8th place of last season. The Carling Cup is an irrelevance.

Liverpool have much hard work ahead of them if they are to return to the top table but it is essential that both Fenway and the fans accept that they are currently not a team with title credentials and that a long term plan is needed even if it means a few seasons in the relative wilderness.

FSG have made many mistakes since taking over at Anfield but on this occasion, they must be commended for making what will hopefully be an inspired choice, one must hope they have made it for the right reasons - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba yesterday announced his much anticipated departure from Chelsea. Whilst there will be sadness on behalf of both sides of the split, it is for both unquestionably the right thing.

Drogba's contribution to Chelsea over the years has been considerable and in the past few months of this most amazing of seasons it has been positively immense. Drogba has always provided theatre and lately has been no exception.

The 24M that Jose Mourinho paid Marseille for him after an incredibly dogged pursuit seemed over inflated - as many of the fees that Chelsea were paying then were - and it certainly took time for Drogba to earn the affections of the Stamford Bridge crowd.

Drogba has been notorious for the amount of time he has spent on his backside, the victim of apparent sniper fire which was all the more galling given that he is such an immensely strong physical specimen, the ruin of many a top class defender.

The other problem with Drogba is that he has typically picked and chosen the matches in which he wishes to 'perform' in. Cup finals have been his forte with 8 goals in 9 matches for Chelsea yet it has sometimes been lost on him that you actually need to get there first.

For all the highs that Drogba has experienced, there has been a negative balance. He entirely lost his ahead against Barcelona several seasons ago and was also sent off against ManYoo in the Moscow final giving rise to rumours that he simply did not want to take a penalty - which seems unlikely given what just transpired in Munich.

The good is the fabulous goal that started the routing of Spurs in the FA Semi, the goal against Liverpool in the final as well as the winning strike against Barcelona in the first leg. In the final itself also he pulled Chelsea back from the brink in normal time as well as scoring the decisive penalty.

The bad is the fact that in both the Nou Camp and in Munich he needlessly gave away penalties that inexplicably Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben both missed. Had either scored, Chelsea would have almost certainly been out.

All of that being said, Drogba has ridden his luck and made some fabulous appearances for Chelsea. In eight seasons he has collected three Premiership titles, umpteen FA and League Cups and now finally the Champions League. Drogba will be remembered as a club legend and rightly so - No Nonsense.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Next For Chelsea?

The swing of Didier Drogba's boot that secured the Champions League for Chelsea was in many ways bigger for the club than the actual securing of the famous trophy for the first time.

Chelsea have been a prominent European player for some time now but the truth is they lack the stature of a Bayern or an AC Milan or a Barcelona. A sixth place finish meaning Europa League football, the reality of financial fair play and the elderly state of the squad would have put Chelsea's medium term prospects in dire straits.

Given that the penalty went in, Chelsea have been catapulted from Premiership also rans into the elite group of Champions League winners and with the financial benefits that come from next seasons' participation allowing for squad rebuilding. Chelsea have trod the finest of lines this season.

Regardless of the personnel changes on the playing staff, the most crucial decision Chelsea will make is whom should be at the helm next season. The immediate and emotional choice is for Di Matteo to be given the job on a full time basis given the heroics of Chelsea's European run under him.

The decision however is a difficult one that needs closer inspection. There is little question that should Chelsea be faced with the cup fixtures they had in Europe this season again there would be a very difficult outcome. Chelsea have been entirely outplayed twice by Barcelona and given away huge statistics to Bayern also, it is impossible to keep doing so consistently and to keep winning.

Abramovich is a huge fan of attractive football also and whilst he will delight in the victory, the manner of it will not cause the same glee given that Chelsea seem incapable of playing Europe's elite without being serious underdogs and playing ultra defensively. This should not be the way for a team so expensively assembled.

The other question being raised of course is who is buying the players? Eden Hazard is being heavily linked with the club this morning yet with no full time managerial appointment, who exactly is responsible for the planning for the team? It is this kind of dysfunction that has led Chelsea into such a swift and obvious decline which even this incredible win cannot paper over.

Chelsea fans everywhere can revel in the victory and what has been an amazing climax to a quite bananas season but one only needs to look at Liverpool's victory in Istanbul and their subsequent fall from grace to know that stability and a more long term approach is imperative if Chelsea wish to remain at the top table. Were it not for some incredible luck - matched with fantastic endeavour - then Chelsea's prospects this Summer could be very very different - No Nonsense.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Champions League Final

Bayern and Chelsea crashed the all Spanish CL final by knocking out Real and Barca in two keenly contested semis. It's left a final that Europe will in all honesty be feeling a little underwhelmed by given the domestic performances of the two sides and the numerous absences from the match due to suspension.

Bayern, 'at home' and clearly the better team will start as strong favourites. Their attacking triumvirate of Ribery, Robben and Gomez (not to mention Thomas Muller) would be a handful for anyone never mind a rookie CL centre back pairing of a barely fit Cahill and Luiz with the every hazardous Phil Bosingwa likely to be lurking somewhere on the right.

Despite the suspensions, Bayern have quality throughout their ranks and there feels an almost Germanic inevitability about the whole proceeding, indeed Bayern should win fairly comfortably one could expect.

The problem however is Chelsea's results in cup competitions under Di Matteo juxtaposed against their league form would indicate some kind of extreme schizophrenia making any logical diagnosis impossible.

Chelsea it seems are a team with something to prove. Lampard, Cole and Cech are rejunivated and Drogba is performing exactly how you would expect a world class 34 year old looking for one last fat contract to perform. Even Fernando Torres, so miserable and marginalised for so long has been reborn with several goals and a new found zest for the the game.

This wave of euphoria has carried Chelsea through a rollercoaster return leg against Napoli, seen off a lively Benfica and then allowed them to do the impossible against Barca. The problem is that the German stereotype doesn't allow much for emotion or nostalgia and a typically stoic and efficient Bayern await them at the Allianz this Saturday.

Whilst Chelsea will feel the script is written for them, Bayern will no doubt feel the same given the final is in their home stadium and whilst Chelsea's heroics will not have gone unnoticed, they will not have caused undue concern but merely ensured more adequate preparation.

The suspensions should hit Chelsea harder than Bayern given the paucity of their squad and the lack of defensive replacements in particular. Chelsea have a chance and certainly still have quality but the bookies are backing Bayern strongly and they are rarely wrong, except when Chelsea played Barcelona - No Nonsense.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The King is Dead...........

Kenny's spring sojourn to Boston ended abruptly in the termination of his second term as manager of his beloved Liverpool. Given their abysmal performance in the league, there can be little criticism for the decision from Fenway with only nostalgia lending any sympathy to Dalglish, Liverpool finished eighth.

With the exception of the wholly misguided handling of the Luis Suarez situation, Dalglish has always acted with dignity with regard to Liverpool and yesterday was no exception. The timing and manner of the sacking also shows an element of foresight and intelligence from the Liverpool owners that they didn't show when hiring him in the first place.

Fenway in their US ventures have a reputation for holding on to their head coaches/managers but in this instance they have seen that Liverpool - despite large investment - are going nowhere. Also cognisant of the legend that is Dalglish, they have axed him with the maximum time possible before Liverpool play another match at Anfield. The Summer will have more comings and goings and the fans will have time to digest the news and quell much of their first felt ire.

Bringing back Dalglish was a gamble given his time out of the game. Comoli was meant to be the conduit to the modern day transfer market but after his January sacking, Dalglish made it clear that the signings were his alone.

Daglish has it seems been in a time warp obsessed with 'buy British'. The problem is that Andy Carroll is not Ian Rush, Stewart Downing is not John Barnes, Jordan Henderson is not Steve McMahon and Charlie Adam simply has a large backside.

Fenway have invested heavily in Dalglish's transfer policy and the results in the league have been shocking. The Carling Cup is an irrelevance as unfortunately in many ways nowadays is the FA Cup even, a nice day out for the fans and little more.

The battle for the fourth Champions League spot this season was an abject lesson in mediocrity with Spurs eventually finishing 20 points behind the winners. Liverpool were a further 17 points back and may as well have added the words 'So what?' under the 'This is Anfield' sign such was their home form.

Liverpool have huge problems in that their revenues derived from Anfield are significantly lower than those from the Emirates or Old Trafford and they lack the benefactors of Chelsea or Citeh. Building a new stadium is also a hugely costly exercise.

Liverpool need to build from within and for that they need the right manager and not a hired gun. The likes of Paul Lambert and Brendan Rogers would be attractive options as would Roberto Martinez. Ironically the best choice could possibly be Davie Moyes but that cannot happen for obvious reasons.

Two other interesting names being tipped are Andre Villas Boas and Rafa Benitez. In the case of AVB it might be an intriguing proposition. He is clearly a man of some intellect and talent and may well be much the wiser for his brief but harsh English education at Chelsea, it would remain a risk for FSG however.

Benitez would be an even higher risk stratagem for Fenway given that their first attempt at rekindling an 'old flame' has ended so abruptly. Benitez was heavily linked with the Chelsea job also and one wonders if it mere publicity and wishful thinking on behalf of his no doubt zealous agent.

Firing Dalglish will signal the end to the honeymoon period for Liverpool's owners following their populist takeover and subsequent PR exercise. A lot of money has been spent and there is no guarantee that they have learned much so far about owning one of Europe's proudest and most famous clubs - No Nonsense.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Premiership - End of Term Report

So the season has ended, Citeh are champions and ManYoo's premature but brief gloating put a smile on most people's faces. Newcastle missed out on the Champions League and Bolton were relegated but at least still have Fabrice Muamba's decapitation followed by spontaneous combustion and miraculous Easter resurrection to blame (so that's alright then Owen Coyle). All that is left to do is hand out the end of season report card (for Premiership performance only).

Champions - Manchester City - A
Little else can be awarded to the winners as the job has been done. City sailed as close to the wind as could be and given the club's traditional penchant for disaster it was all the more incredible. Much work needs to be done to remove the disruptive influences in the dressing room and a top quality centre back to partner Kompany is still required. Mancini has been through the ringer this season but the quality of football was often excellent and the title is well deserved.

Runners Up - Manchester United - A
Again, hard to award much else given they finished with 89 points and given that the team is punching above its' weight due to the presence of Ferguson. Europe showed up their true level however right now and quality reinforcements must be found to compliment the likes of Rooney and some promising youngsters, central midfield is a priority.

3rd - Arsenal - C
Little to like about Arsenal's season given that they finished so hopelessly behind and for much of the season were even further off the pace. The team needs substantial investment to rectify the long standing deficiencies that everyone but Wenger is able to see.

4th - Spurs - B
A good season for Spurs who even enjoyed the illusion of a title challenge for a few months. The club has good attacking options but a soft centre and the Summer will be highly interesting to establish whether the club moves forward or has reached its' maximum.

5th - Newcastle - A+
Confounded most pre season predictions with some fantastic performances and a wonderful final position. Will have to endure predatory raids for the crown jewels in the team this Summer but this season is one that the Geordies can finally be proud of.

6th - Chelsea - F
The first 'fail' is awarded to the Stamford Bridge side who have been utterly dreadful for nearly the entire season. The ill judged appointment of Andre Villas Boas belies a wider problem of almost no long term planning due to the manager merry-go-round that they have endured. The reality of financial fair play may have draconian implications for their rebuilding, food for thought for the owner.

7th - Everton - C+
The mark might seem harsh but the reality is that Everton give themselves such an impossible task with their form in the first half of every season that they can never aspire to anything better. The Jelavic signing gave the club a huge lift but another Summer of soul searching awaits the blue half of Merseyside with Moyes' future also being debated.

8th - Liverpool - F
In a word, rubbish. Dalglish can whip out as many soundbites as he likes and make references to 'respect for the club and fans' (ad tedium) but the reality is that Liverpool have been dreadful and have finished a staggering 37 points behind the winners and 17 points behind the Champions league places despite a huge financial outlay since the departure of Torres. They are only 5 points ahead of two of the newly promoted teams and the West Brom of the manager they sacked last season. Enough said.

9th - Fulham - B
Fulham continue on their merry way as the least offensive club in the Premiership with even their closest neighbours Chelsea still quite liking them. Martin Jol has enjoyed a good season at the Cottage after the parting of the ways with Zamora. Clint Dempsey's future will be paramount to their Summer.

10th - West Brom - B+
Woy has again done a good job with a mid to lower table team and given that is England's position at the International table he might not be the worst candidate for manager after all. A top half finish for the Baggies is an excellent return and the fans must surely be happy. The choice of new manager will be an important one.

11th - Swansea - A+
Phenomenal season for the newly promoted club winning points as quickly as they won friends with their attractive passing play. The second season always remains a perilous proposition but the Welsh club are another surprise package that have confounded pre season predictions and should be lauded for doing so.

12th - Norwich City - A+
A slightly more pragmatic approach has been no less successful for the Canaries with Paul Lambert looking to be the latest Scottish managerial success story. Resources are limited and life in the Premiership will remain tough but with the right purchases in the Summer, they like Swansea can harbour hopes of a longer top flight stay.

13th - Sunderland - C-
Big investment at the Stadium of Light has not been translated to results which have again been poor after the initial O'Neil honeymoon period. Hard to see where the club goes from here although given time, O'Neil will ensure they remain competitive if uninteresting.

14th - Stoke - D
It's a measure of how far Stoke have come that 14th place is seen as vastly disappointing. Stoke failed to build on their breakthrough season last year and their one dimensional style is seemingly being figured out despite additions of quality in the Summer. The board need to make sure that Pulis is not jettisoned having 'taken the club as far as he can' as the likes of Charlton will testify to the folly of such decisions.

15th - Wigan - C+
Wigan are a hard team to evaluate as 15th place and 43 points are a tidy return for such a small club. The problem is however that like Everton, their form for most of the season is so poor that they offer little hope of anything other than a relegation battle. Unlikely the club can progress further.

16th - Aston Villa - F
It was always going to be tough for McLeish and it has proven so. Shorn of Downing and Young, what little attacking verve there was could not be replaced by the likes of N'Zogbia who has been massively disappointing whilst Stephen Ireland remains a poor man's enigma.

17th - QPR - E
Given the investment made at the start of the season and again in January, avoiding relegation on the final day is poor. Neil Warnock is not a Premiership manager and with a full Summer to work on matters, it must be hoped that Mark Hughes can get the squad in to some kind of order. The club would do well to dispense with the poisonous influence of Joey Barton however.

18th - Bolton - E
Hopeless for much of the season after losing some of their better loan signings and admittedly some injuries to important players. Some late form was too little too late and one can't help but wonder how different things might have been had they not become so self obsessed over the hopelessly exaggerated Muamba episode. Coyle's stock has not risen since he left Burnley.

19th - Blackburn - F
Few points and even fewer clues at Ewood it seems as to how to sort out the mess that is Blackburn Rovers. The fans turned on both the owners and the manager - seen as their stooge - long ago and the club has been in a downward spiral in truth since Allardyce was so stupidly sacked. The prospects are grim up North.

20th - Wolves - F
Dead last says it all for the doomed club from the Black Country. Large investment was made in the Summer but it derailed the club rather than enhancing performances on the field. McCarthy was powerless to stop the rot but even then his sacking with no better alternative was ludicrous. Uncompetitive for most of a season that became embarrassing.

Manager of the Year - Alan Pardew (Newcastle Utd)
Hard to see it being repeated but Newcastle have been the unquestionable success story of the season narrowly missing out on the Champions League whilst playing some excellent football. Pardew's star has risen again after some failures and it will be interesting to see how he builds on it next season.

Player of the Year - Yaya Toure (Man City)
Other players have caught the eye more but Toure has proven he was worthy of having come from Barca with a level of influence and quality that was unmatched in central midfield this season. City lost their way badly after he was injured yesterday and their form dipped around and after the African Nations. He has proven to be a player of the highest calibre.

Worst signing of the season - Roger Johnson (Wolves)
Fernando Torres, Andy Carroll and Carlos Tevez were all signed in previous seasons so the least coveted award must go to Roger Johnson. 7M was meant to buy Wolves some defensive solidity but instead he has been a disruptive influence and shown awful form, more to blame than anyone for their relegation.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Settling of Premiership Accounts

Sunday sees the climax to one of the most exciting if not quality laden seasons in Premiership history with the title, Champions League spots and the final relegation place still undecided.

At the top, Manchester City have the outwardly straightforward task of beating Q.P.R at home to end their long wait to get the upper hand on the red half of their city. City have been in fantastic form since their loss to Arsenal and under normal circumstances one would expect them to steamroller their seemingly doomed opposition.

With the title at stake however one can expect a tight game given the nature of Q.P.R's predicament also. City should however just get over the line given the array of attacking talent that they have.

For ManYoo, victory at the Stadium of Light may not be enough. Also going against them is that Steve Bruce is no longer in charge given that he has always laid out the welcome mat soaked in drool for the old boss he so reveres.

This is not a vintage ManYoo side and the array of talent that City have up front puts them in the shade but it is a sign of the enduring strength of Ferguson that his team has not gone the same way as the likes of Chelsea this season in the league. More rebuilding will be required regardless of whether they snatch the trophy from under City's noses.

The Champions League race has an added twist in the shape of Chelsea's upcoming trip to Munchen which could jettison the fourth place team into the Europa League. Arsenal are in pole position for third but face an away tie whilst Spurs take on Fulham at home.

Newcastle are the rank outsiders and face a tricky game at perennial fast finishers Everton who will be eager to finish above Liverpool. Arsenal should be able to get the points they require to finish a deserved third after such a woeful start to the season, again much work to do there.

At the bottom, Q.P.R as previously mentioned face a daunting trip to the Etihad but also knowing that a point will certainly be enough to keep them in the division. The likes of Joey Barton and Mark Hughes will have much to prove against their previous employers but the reality is they lack the quality to match City and only final day title jitters can gain them a result.

Bolton's task is little easier as although Stoke are not City, Bolton have to win plain and simple. Stoke's form has been miserable for much of a season that promised much with only 44 points amassed leaving them behind Norwich and Swansea. Much will depend on Stoke's motivation for this game but we take Q.P.R. to stay up with Bolton failing to win.

It has been a highly exciting Premiership season but one shorn of quality as has been shown up by the early exits in Europe. Chelsea's run in Europe has been magnificent but they have rode their luck to the extreme and could have so easily been out against Napoli. The Premiership's condition is not one of rude health and with mounting debts for most, the quality may not be quick to return - No Nonsense.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Apocalypse in Piccadilly.

Now the No Nonsense blog is first and foremost a sports blog and will always be so. There are however times when matters in the wider world dictate the reach of the blog must extend to fight global injustice. Recent matters in Denman Street, Piccadilly are of such a cataclysmic proportion that this is one such instance.

Ahmed Faruk has been a veritable doyen of British curry running for many years the World famous Maharaja Tandoori, home of peerless lamp chops and a top meat vindy as well as an unparalleled cellar collection of Mateus Rose including the superb '76.

Before we get to the bones of the issue at hand, it must be clear that this blog holds Faruk blameless for the catastrophic evens that have unfolded.

Faruk is an honest businessman and restaurant owner who has always charged nothing but the fairest prices for his fine cuisine as well as giving away a lot of free zambuca and fine chocolates. He cannot be held accountable for the global financial crisis and the ensuing meltdown in the world of fine British curry.

Alas, the Maharaja is no more. It has been re branded 'Piccadilly Spice' with red carpets replaced by strange white ceiling fittings and fresh curry replacing the vindy from a tin that we all so loved. Mateus Rose (including the NV) was not found to be even on the menu. It is the end of an era, like Maggie leaving No10, Mourinho leaving Chelsea or the Spice Girls breaking up, disaster for all.

Who is to blame for this hideous and heinous crime? Look no further than Channel 5 and a fraud, self publicist and utter charlatan, Fernando Peire.

His name alone should render him ineligible to interfere with a great British vindy. If people want posh nosh they can go to the Ivy, why fix what was not broken? The vindy was not the problem, it's the sub prime crisis that has triggered the sovereign debt crisis in Europe leading to the UK's double dip recession.

When the economy stabilises and people are ready to go forth and spend, proper British vindy will be the cry but who will be there to serve it we ask? Fernando Peire, what you have done is attack the very fabric of society with your crude attempts to tailor curry to your 'delicate palate'. You Sir are responsible for the death of these curry houses and long may it live on your conscience - No Nonsense.