Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Chelsea Bandwagon Jumping the Gun

Following Chelsea’s second 6-0 win of the embryonic 2010/11 Premier League season every man and his dog seem to be jumping on the Chelsea bandwagon praising their prowess and ability to score goals, and score lots of them.

I agree, two 6-0 wins to open up a Premier League season is an impressive feat – beating the previous record of +10 after two games achieved over a hundred years ago by (I think) Sunderland – but before everyone gets over excited about Chelsea and becomes hypnotised by their prowess in front of goal, you have to consider the opposition.

West Brom, though noted for their valiant attempts to play good football rather than scrap and battle and bully their way away from relegation, were always going to come unstuck at Stamford Bridge, and if it wasn’t for their diabolical attempt at blocking free-kicks the arrears wouldn’t have amounted to six.

West Brom, simply put, are relegation candidates so a 6-0 defeat away at Chelsea is no disgrace, especially when you compare it to similar score-lines from last season when Chelsea only won the league by a single point.

Following on from their thumping of The Baggies, Chelsea travelled to perennial whipping boys Wigan Athletic, again coming away 6-0 winners. Impressive on paper. In retrospect, not so much. The fact that on the final day of last season Chelsea beat Wigan 8-0 at Stamford Bridge and only the week before, newcomers Blackpool won at the DW Stadium by 4-0 takes some of the gloss from an otherwise textbook performance.

A huge question mark would have been placed against Chelsea if they hadn’t of come out comfortable winners in both of their opening matches, and with a home games against Stoke – who have already lost their opening two matches – and Blackpool, either side of a visit to West Ham – who have also lost two from two – in their next three league outings the champions are not likely to face a real test until the end of September, when they travel to ‘Middle-Eastlands’ to face Manchester City.

The way the opening league fixtures have panned out for Chelsea couldn’t have been any better, even if Roman Abramovich had paid off the Premier League and let him pick them himself.

Chelsea had, by their high standards, and pretty sub-par pre-season and looked off the pace against Manchester United in the Community Shield at Wembley, the week prior to the Premier League kick-off. Receiving a favourable opening allows their players to find their form and, as we have already seen in the opening two matches, find the net as they prepare for much bigger tests ahead.

Last season Chelsea done the double over all of the other three ‘big four’ sides, Manchester United (1-0 at home, 2-1 away), Arsenal (3-0 away, 2-0 at home) and Liverpool (2-0 home and away) and it will be these matches against the bigger sides, which now has to include Manchester City also thanks to their bottomless pit of money, that Chelsea’s title hopes should be judged upon, and when their praise would be richly deserved.

To think that the title race is all but over based on two performances against sides that will mostly likely be in the Championship come this time next year, is jumping the gun just slightly, and suggestions that Manchester United are already on the back foot following their disappointing 2-2 draw with Fulham at the weekend, also reeks of prematurity as Chelsea WILL drop points.

If last season’s up and downs in the title race are anything to go by, plenty of points will be dropped by both sides as the best of the rest (Tottenham, Manchester City, Everton and Aston Villa) draw the ‘big four’ in, as they progressively have been doing season on season.

Chelsea are deserving of their pre-season favourites tag, they did win a league and cup double last year, but hold off on the praise just for the moment, at least until Chelsea have beaten one of the bigger fishes in the Premier League’s deep, deep ocean.

Friday, 9 July 2010

FIFA's Eureka Moment

A long time has passed since I last blogged on here, and as usual a lot has transpired in that time, in the world of sport at the very least.

The issue that has brought me back on here is what everyone else has been, again, battering on about since 'the goal that never was' in the World Cup 2nd Round match between Germany and England...goal line technology.

Time to batter on some more.

There are few that, honestly, believe that should the goal have been given to Frank Lampard the end result would have been any different. England were dismal the entire tournament - best we gloss over the Algeria game - and on the day Germany were, by far, the superior outfit. However, the England team's presence in the World Cup may have been abject, at least actions on the field will have spurred FIFA to finally fall in line with the other top sports across the world, by bringing in goal-line technology, with the hope of eradicating any further embarrassment for the sport as a whole, not just FIFA, who have been so against technology in the game for so long.

The arguments used by football's world governing body were, at best, outdated. Arguments such as, it would slow the game down and that it wouldn't fit into football played on the 'hackney marshes' have been surpassed, or at least disproved, for a long time now.

A blog entry by David Bond, a member of the BBC Sport team, noted that having this ideal that what happens at the top level needs to go on in the far flung, lower reaches, of football have gone the way of the Dodo. I don't know about you, but when I play football on a Saturday afternoon, I don't see Andy Gray and Martin Tyler on the side commentating at how awful we are...but I digress.

The television directors who are currently overseeing the coverage of the World Cup have proven that within seconds a replay can be shown, either on a big screen to the entire crowd, the players and officials, or simply to the fourth official on a monitor on the sidelines. Time is of the essence in such a fast paced sport, but no time will be lost if replays are that quick, and getting a fair and honest result must surely be the be all and end all for FIFA?

The only question that would remain then, should FIFA go ahead with technology in football, is what decisions should this technology be used for?

Personally, I feel that goal-line and offside decisions should be the only decisions referred to technology. If you want every single decision judged by a video replay then the fear of slowing the game down will, almost certainly, become a reality.

One of the great things about football is that it's a sport that will always create debate. Not everyone is going to agree on everything. Things such as penalty decisions, corner kicks and even throws are left up to a person's interpretations. Whether or not a ball has crossed the line and whether or not a player is in an offside position when the ball is played are, in the most part, clear cut decisions call - especially with the help of a replay. Bringing it in for everything will just make the game cluttered and more like our American counterparts interpretation of 'football', with stoppages every five seconds. I'm sure I'm not the only one hoping that that won't be the case.

Football will continue to cause debate, off the field as well as on. All of this has even caused a debate about something that's meant to eradicate debate, so in that sense the part of the game will never leave. Should FIFA bring in technology, it certainly won't make the beautiful game perfect, far from it, but it will make it better.

FIFA have finally seen the light. All we can hope for now is that this isn't just smoke and mirrors and that FIFA follow through. Providing the world with a fast paced, intriguing, enjoyable, and ultimately fair, beautiful game.