Arsenal v Olympique Marseille - UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday Five Group F

Any games on today?

Yep, Champions League Part Deux. Before I get into the particulars, this is when you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the group standings.

The early kick off (12:00 PM EST) is CSKA Moscow vs Bayern Munich, which is only important insofar as it will determine the first place finisher in Group D. Unless some crazy things happen.

Then at 2:45 PM EST we have Bayer Leverkusen vs. Man Utd, which is quite important for United’s European ambitions (and Bayer’s as well), particularly if Shakhtar manage to get a result against Real Sociedad.

Elsewhere Juventus is in desperate need of a result against Copenhagen as second place is very much up for grabs. Then PSG and Olimpiacos will tussle for points at the higher end of Group C. Neither will want a draw lest Benfica defeat Anderlecht.

Then there’s Man City vs Plzen. Tumble weeds unless the early game is interesting.

What’s the big story today?

Well there are a couple of stories about that rascal Mathieu Flamini cutting off his sleeves in the Champions League in defiance of a nonsensical club tradition in which the players must wear the same shirt as the captain, but that’s not QUITE as interesting as what the Guardian’s David Hytner dug up late last night:

André Villas-Boas is clinging to his job at Tottenham Hotspur after Sunday’s 6-0 hammering at Manchester City prompted the north London club’s hierarchy to question whether he remains the manager to establish them in the Premier League’s top four.

The Portuguese was cut to evens by bookmakers on Tuesday to be the league’s next managerial casualty, with the City result being considered not as an isolated blot but as the most worrying sign of a malaise.

Now, I’m a bit sensitive on the subject of Andre Villas-Boas, so permit me a short sermon. First, I think there may be some good, empirical evidence that AVB hasn’t taken full advantage of what should be one of the more exciting, dynamic midfields in the Premier League. It maybe something worth sacking him over. But there is something else behind the venom in some circles for Villas-Boas that goes beyond any mistakes in the technical area or the training ground.

I’ve heard recently that Villas-Boas is not the most, well, earnest manager in the business, and may even be a little duplicitous when dealing with the media and even those within his club. But there is a certain paper, let’s call it the Daily Mail, that has had a target on the Portuguese gaffer since his Chelsea days. Maybe it was anger at the man for being a self-serving bender of truth, but it may also have to do with their slavish dedication to the cult of ‘Arry, a much more charming megalomaniac at White Hart Lane than AVB, but a megalomaniac all the same. So I hope you’ll forgive me for dismissing almost everything Martin Samuel has to say on the man.

As for Hytner, who played his own small part in Gareth Bale’s eventual departure from Spurs in his columns for the Guardian, I understand he is in a difficult place with regard to his sources within the club. But there are aspects of the above story that verge on editorializing, and while yes, it’s just sport, the report has the air of public subterfuge on behalf of elements at WHL who don’t want their names made public–as was the case with the Bale columns.

For all of football’s largesse, it is a small sport in which the tail can wag the dog. Spurs are well within their rights to sack AVB, and on the evidence, they have a strong case. But there are aspects of this that are drifting toward something a little more ugly.

Any other news?

Zahir Belounis, the footballer “trapped” in Qatar, will finally be able to leave the country reports the BBC.

Joe Cole, cheesed at his early substitution at West Ham in their 3-0 loss to Chelsea on the weekend, may be looking for a way out.

Man United have a rough landing ahead of their Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen.

Defoe to Toronto FC is a thing that is happening apparently maybe we’ll see.

Jose Mourinho takes blame for Chelsea’s loss to Basel in the Champions League yesterday.

Any fun stuff?

Jack Wilshere has fun against Marseille last night:

Any good reads?

Well, ahead of the Champions League, Musa Okwonga is worth a read on Man United’s challenge against Bayer:

The question for Moyes is whether he retains faith in this combination or brings in Phil Jones, who is set to make a quicker-than-expected recovery from a groin injury, either as a replacement or an extra man in midfield. Jones and Cleverley played together in one of the team’s most impressive passages of play this season, the opening stages against Fulham in the Premier League when they took a three-goal lead in 22 minutes, and though Cleverley was outperformed by Fellaini on Sunday he is a far better complement for Jones’ disruptive talents. Rafael , who has declared himself fit for this match, could usefully return to the side. If he were selected, he would replace Chris Smalling, who has occupied that right-back role with no little diligence but also, it must be said, no little discomfort.

Comments (16)

  1. The thing with firing AVB is there isn’t really a shiny candidate waiting to take over and “rescue” Spurs from their terrible…uh…9th place standing. They’re a brand new team. Find me one instance where as many new starters as at Tottenham were brought into a team and gelled instantly. Just ONE instance.

    • Twelve games does not qualify as”instantly”. They’ve gotten worse as the season has gone on. They’ve scored six goals in open play. Six!
      Why not play your wingers on their dominant foot side and swing in crosses for Soldado rather than doing that inverted nonsense and have your 25m pound striker wandering around the pitch with his finger up his ass?
      They played a high defensive line against a team like Man City, even though they’re forced to use terrible defenders like Dawson and Walker. Why not give these guys a break and back up a little bit?
      Why did AVB phase out BAE, whom Spurs fan seem to adore, instead of use Vertongen out of position?
      Why not play Defoe?
      What exactly is Paulinho’s position? He’s not a striker, not a #10, certainly not defensive…just profoundly average.

      So many problems. I’m loving every minute of it.

    • Wait do you think 9th place is good?
      Furthermore, there are tons of better managers than AVB. Laudrup, Pocchettino, De Boer, Malky Mackay…

      Malky Mackay would be absolutely perfect. Cardiff’s owner is insane and is basically pushing him out. Spurs should start sweet talking this guy now.

      • 9th place 2 points out of 4th. It’s a lot of overreaction and not much else.

        Last I checked, all those managers have jobs.

        • It doesn’t matter if they have jobs. Managers jump ship for money, just as readily as players do. When a good job opens up, everybody wants it. You’re telling me Spurs couldn’t convince Mackay to come over?

          I know it’s a different sport, but I got two words about how having a job is not an obstacle for a coach switching teams: Nick. Saban.

    • inter milan 2009-10 new signings: lucio, thiago motta, wesley sneijder, diego milito, samuel eto’o, marko arnautovic, goran pandev, and they won the quintuple

  2. Bob Dole likes AVB. He’s a handsome, cultured, slightly funny talking man – just like Bob Dole. Definitely vice president material.

  3. Were the Daily Mail upset with AVB for being a self-serving bender of truth, cause that’s their racket?

  4. Before he got canned at Chelsea, AVB was boldly guiding an eventual Champions League winner out of the Top 4. They won the CL specifically because the new manager overturned AVB’s coaching philosophy. I can’t think of a bigger indictment against one’s managerial skills than that.

    Regarding the “so many starters, not enough time to gel” line, who forced Sp*rs to buy so many average players? Why not buy a couple of really good ones who will bed in more naturally rather than seven crap merchants? What, exactly, is the point of Nacer Chadli? Besides, doesn’t AVB tend to use the same players over and over, so he’s not really using that big squad effectively anyway?

    I get no shortage of joy from the fact that of the myriad of midfielders that Spurs bought and spent so much money on, not one is as effective as Mathieu Flamini, who we signed for literally nothing.

    Spurs are damned if they fire AVB and certainly damned if they keep him. He’s just not a good manager (winning with Porto doesn’t count; hasn’t that team won eleven of the last thirteen Portuguese titles, or something? Anyone could win with that team in that league). Forever in our shadow.

    • Okay.

      1) Chelsea still finished in 6th place after firing AVB. Their CL win was anti-football at its finest, and they had to fire the guy who took over after AVB and hire Rafa of all people to save their skin the next go around. The team really, really wasn’t that good, and while AVB shares some of that blame, it isn’t all on him.

      2) If you think Paulinho, Soldado and Eriksen are “average” players, you need therapy. He isn’t using his midfield effectively. I think he knows that.

      3) Porto was ruthless in 2010-11. Had he stayed the next season and they hadn’t sold Falcao, they would’ve been a serious dark horse for the Champions League. I think his problem at the moment is his desire to create a team in that mould, and he simply can’t get all the pieces he needs for that (a workhorse midfielder like Moutinho, a deadly winger like Hulk, a striker who hasn’t forgotten how to score goals) and hasn’t been able and/or willing to adapt.

      It’s also worth pointing out that they’re two measly fucking points out of 4th place right now, and after United this weekend 4 of their next 6 games are against lower-half opponents, with the other two being against two teams they need to pass in the standings (Liv and Southampton). By the end of December, we’ll know if Spurs are on the right course or screwed.

      • Regarding 2), it’s about reputation vs. result. Is a player good because everyone says he’s good, or because of what he actually does? There’s no reason to praise these guys based on what they’ve done. As of now, Soldado looks a big waste of money, but not as big as Lamela or Chadli.

        Eriksen, maybe give him time. He’s injured now, depending on how long, this year could be a write off for him. He could pull a Ramsey later in life who knows.

        Soldado was effective in Valencia, but that has nothing to do with England. Sometimes players just aren’t suited to certain countries or leagues. Soldado was going to be on the Spanish national team before this season; now he has very little chance of making that team. He’s not good right now, maybe he’s not good at all, maybe he’s being utilized incorrectly, who knows? Players don’t really flourish under AVB. Chelsea came in sixth in their Champs League year; under AVB they would have been midtable or worse.

        Paulinho: I mean, if your happy I’m happy, but Sp*rs fan shouldn’t be happy. He’s flashy, but does he have a good connection with his teammates? In the Arsenal game (the only game of Sp*rs I’ve watched), he was an appalling freelancer. It’s like he was playing a different game than everybody else. Has he improved markedly since? Given that Spurs have scored nine goals out of twelve games, I really don’t think so.

        Spurs have played a lot of crap opponents before now, and they still haven’t scored many goals. They got beat 3-0 by WEST HAM; West Ham doesn’t have a striker! They haven’t scored a goal in their last three PL games. They fact that they are only two points out of fourth is irrelevant: who’s on top of the league?

        Sp*rs were supposed to surpass us this year. Everybody thought so, even I thought so. Before we signed Ozil, they were the smart, forward thinking, proactive, manager & football director having, wave of the future… I and many Gooners were scared that this season would be our ruin. Thank god for AVB and his genius managerial skills. Two points out of fourth! What a joke.

  5. just think maybe spurs couldve had ozil and still had 50+mill in there pockets to spend but no according to media and fans they did such great business before a ball was even kicked at thestart of the season and spurs were laughing at arsenal fans when ” all they signed was flamini on a free transfer” the 6 nil pasting they got was not just a one off they got beat the week before to newcastle who have been patchy this year and they just cant score soldado doesnt get it done (unless its from the penalty spot of course) y not give defoe a go? bring a more creative presence in midfield? its only a matter of time for avb

  6. “Isn’t using his midfield effectively?” I’d say forwards, defense and substitutions too.

    There is no shame losing to Man City at home. There is a lot of shame when your relatively healthy, “100m pound spent in the summer” squad quits on you and you lose 6-0. They quit on him; that’s a fireable offense right there.

    (when Utd beat us 8-2, that was down to a perfect storm of losing Nasri and Fabregas a few weeks earlier, being in the midst of a years-long spiral of not spending any money, and having eleven first team players out injured. Ozghan Ozyakup was one of our bench players and saw action in the game. Who? Exactly.)

  7. Spurs problem is that the let Dempsey walk…. I kid!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *