What game were you watching?

West Ham - David Cameron's a fan. Or maybe not.

West Ham – David Cameron’s a fan. Or maybe not.

I was watching West Brom v Liverpool this weekend and so, I presume, was Brendan Rodgers. He was certainly present on the touchline but the game he witnessed seemed to be a bit different to the one that was beamed into my living room.

Rodgers described Liverpool’s performance as “outstanding,” a claim that I would describe as outlandish. There was one genuinely outstanding moment when Ibe burst past several opponents and cracked a shot against the bar but otherwise Liverpool lacked the creativity to break down the massed ranks of Albion’s defence.

Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession (a whopping 74% apparently) but did little with it. Coutinho found himself dropping deeper and deeper in a bid to try and influence the game and West Brom were delighted to watch his gradual retreat away from their penalty area.

Gerrard was composed but not commanding while alongside him Henderson was demonstrating that a £100k/week footballer is not necessarily an outstanding footballer. To be fair, Henderson is much improved since his arrival at Anfield but he has a long way still to go before he starts bossing games consistently in the way that Gerrard did in his prime.

In the post-match interview Henderson said: “we’ve just got to keep playing like that until the end of the season.” That should please Hull ahead of tonight’s game.

Louis Van Gaal meanwhile only had to watch his side warm-up to pass judgment on their performance in the 3-0 defeat to Everton. “I had already the feeling and my colleagues Ryan Giggs and Albert Stuivenberg had the feeling because the warm up was not so good as usual.”

I wonder if Van Gaal watched the warm-up or just relied on reports from his assistants. It’s unusual for a manager to watch the warm-up and even more unusual for them to conduct it. They probably should though, at least every so often, just to keep the players on their toes.

Warm-ups have become more sophisticated over the years. I remember the days when they consisted of little more than a few leisurely stretches and then lining up to batter the ball at the goalkeeper (usually with about four or five people shooting at once). Now there’s generally much greater intensity and some small sided games to simulate what players are about to encounter.

I suspect that Van Gaal will at least have warmed his players’ ears up at half-time with some strong words on their performance.

Arsenal fans found themselves watching and chanting “boring, boring Chelsea” at the weekend as their side were held to a 0-0 draw by Mourinho’s champions-elect. The Chelsea manager’s response was classic: “Boring is 10 years without a title.” 1-0 to the Mourinho I think Arsenal fans.

John Terry later stuck the boot in again, saying: “Possession and tippy-tappy football’s great, but if you are not winning games you’re not going to win the league.” Tippy-tappy is one of the great insults of British football, often employed at youth games by the ‘let’s get it up the park’ brigade on the touchlines.

There’s no doubt that Wenger aims for Arsenal to play in the tiki taka style of Barcelona but the line between tiki taka and tippy-tappy is a fine one. Even Barcelona these days are opting for a more direct and muscular version of tiki taka. Arsenal should take note as the Gunners still lack the necessary firepower to win the league.

This weekend highlighted the fact that we all see games differently. It’s one of the things that make football so interesting. One man’s ‘outstanding’ is another man’s ‘mediocre.’ One man’s ‘boring’ is another man’s ‘winning.’ One man’s ‘tiki taka’ is another man’s ‘tippy-tappy.’

It can be difficult to agree what we’re watching, but at least we know who we’re watching. Right, David Cameron?

No way Jose


Jose Mourinho. Photo by In Mou We Trust, http://www.flickr.com

Mourinho is a master of tactics. He is particularly adept at using his post-match press conferences tactically in order to deflect attention from poor performances from his side. He was at it again on Saturday following Chelsea’s lacklustre 2-1 win against Queens Park Rangers.

He admitted that his team “did not play well” but he knew very well that the headlines the next day would focus on his comment that “at this moment it’s difficult for us to play at home, though, because playing here is like playing in an empty stadium.” The fans are a bit too quiet for Jose’s liking and it seems his players are suffering as a result.

“I was today looking around and it was empty, but not in terms of people because it was obviously full. That’s what is frustrating.” The emptiness of the full stadium? How very philosophical Jose, and frustrating. Perhaps Chelsea fans thought QPR stood for Quiet Please, Respect.

It’s a cheap shot though, especially aimed at those paying eye-wateringly expensive ticket prices. Managers are happy to laud the fans as the all-important “twelfth man” when they’re winning but as soon as they start losing or performances falter, number 12 is expected to stay behind for extra choir practice.

The cheapest general sale ticket for the game was apparently almost £50 and if I’d paid that much to witness a less than inspiring performance from my team I would feel quite entitled to sit in sulking silence, contemplating why some players who earn £100,000 per week seem to have difficulty in completing a 10 yard pass.

Recently I wrote about the BBC’s price of football survey and the increasing cost of watching football in the UK. Clubs are discovering that eating your cake is somewhat incompatible with having your cake. Higher prices means more money for clubs but as Chelsea Supporters’ Trust chairman Tim Rolls points out, many “young people – who are the most likely to sing and make noise – have been priced out of the game.”

You see Jose, the voice, just like the legs, starts to go a little bit with age. Typically, Mourinho was in no mood for backing down. He subsequently claimed that “we are the team to get less support in home matches. When compared to my previous time I think it’s getting worse.” Maybe the fans have got older compared to last time; maybe prices have got more expensive.

One fan took to Instagram to suggest that Mourinho’s comments were ‘bang out of order’ and received a sympathetic phone call from John Terry in reply. It was reported that Terry told the supporter that he ‘understood the concerns of supporters – but insisted Mourinho had deliberately spoken to stir the home crowd into more obvious displays of passion.’

In return, Chelsea fans might ask the skipper and the gaffer for some more obvious displays of talent.