November 24, 2007

Fergie bungles at Bolton.: With the "Big Four" teams playing mostly drop-zone teams today, defending champions Manchester United lose a shocker 1-0 to Bolton, who were the top of the bottom three at the start of the matchday but scrabbled out of the relegation zone with today's upset. Ferguson decided to rest Ronaldo (after he played two Euro qualifiers for Portugal in a week), his top performer this season, by not even naming him to the squad. This, with firebrand Wayne Rooney also out, turned out to be a bad gamble. Fergie also got sent into the stands by the referee after a prolonged outburst. Arsenal went on to beat second-from-bottom Wigan 2-0, and now heads Man U and the league by three points, with an extra game to play. Chelsea is, in the meantime, leading bottom-boys Derby 1-0. Also, Liverpool thumped Newcastle 3-0 to move into fourth. Has Ferguson lost the plot?

posted by worldcup2002 to soccer at 12:30 PM - 16 comments

I'm also a little pissed because Ronaldo was the captain on my fantasy team. But, he should've been on the bench, at least, with Rooney out. Fergie's decision was almost McLarenesque. I say "almost" because Bolton's physical play may have given any manager pause when considering the selection of star players.

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:32 PM on November 24, 2007

I love football, but is this really post worthy? Manchester United loses a game in the middle of the season? Surely something more interesting is happening in the world of football.

posted by sic at 12:33 PM on November 24, 2007

Has Ferguson lost the plot? No. Manchester United loses a game in the middle of the season? In WC2K2's defence, this doesn't happen that often.

posted by owlhouse at 02:31 PM on November 24, 2007

sic: normally I would agree with you, but as you know this site is rather US-centric; and I think that WC2K2's (and many others!) footie posts have been helpful to the community. Plus, as owlhouse said, (holders) ManU losing to a relegation zone team is not an everyday occurrence. At least WC2K2 didn't yammer on about Liverpool this time, the homer. ;)

posted by scully at 04:11 PM on November 24, 2007

leading bottom-boys Derby Yes, but he seems to be having a go at me. I've been called many things before... :-)

posted by owlhouse at 08:10 PM on November 24, 2007

See, here's the problem I have -- sitting here in the middle of the United States of America -- with soccer. Just what influence does the *coach* have on any game. He can substitute, or not. He can tell his team to "go Go GO!" But when it gets on the pitch, ... WHAT?! A baseball manager can call for a squeeze play. An NFL coach can decide on a double-reverse. Just what is the in-game basis for any soccer team's coach? I admit. I don't understand a lot of the nuances of the game, but I've seen a bunch of 'em and it still seems to me that it's up to the players on the field that respond to the situations in front of them. For the life of me I can't figure out how a soccer coach has anymore credibility in any soccer game than, say, a referee in professional wrestling.

posted by Monkeyhawk at 08:58 PM on November 24, 2007

Hi Monkeyhawk. Good to have you on board. Soccer (football) is a wonderfully complex and fluid game, and therefore it looks a lot of the time that the play is spontaneous. But there's a time and a place for spontaneity. Apart from preparation (training, drills, skills development) and people management (selection, psychology, talent identification), once the team takes the field the coach still has a lot to think about. Team formation and tactics have to respond to what the opposition might be doing, and changes in the score also require responses. Should we play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1? What about a deep lying midfielder? One of the strikers playing off the other? Fullbacks advancing down the flanks? Which of our players are marking which of their players. And so on. These decisions rest ultimately with the coach. So it's not just substitutions. You will frequently see coaches on the sideline yelling instructions during the ebb and flow of the game. Unless it's Steve McLaren, it's probably something tactical along these lines.

posted by owlhouse at 10:05 PM on November 24, 2007

owlhouse has covered most of the ground. If you play Pro Evolution Soccer, it furnishes you with all kinds of coaching options: how deep to hold the defensive line, whether or not to leave the strikers out for counter attacks, how wide to play the wide midfielders, whether the fullbacks should push up, and so on. It's the easiest way, I think, for a spectator to appreciate the coached element of the game. You'll sometimes see a top-league coach/manager start in the directors' box rather than on the touchline, to get the elevated view of the formations, though nowadays there's usually an assistant upstairs to handle those duties. And if you want to read a coach's perspective, David Pleat's Guardian columns are a good place to start, and the BBC News site often has tactical explanations on its football pages. (All this is good distraction from another rotten performance, which means that Boro's traditional Christmas slump will be hard to distinguish from the rest of the season. It really comes down to the question of whether there are three worse teams in the league, and I don't see that happening, particularly given that we're just not built to fight for survival.)

posted by etagloh at 12:27 AM on November 25, 2007

Fergie kept his top-scoring and top-assisting player off the team. His team, the defending champions, are trying to keep pace with a team of youngsters (albeit, top-class, silken-passing, goal-scoring, and now battle-toughened youngsters) who lead the table despite being without their top striker, are still unbeaten almost at the halfway point of the season, and still have played one game fewer than Man U. On top of that, the other big teams also had relatively easy games against bottom-of-the-league teams. Fergie gambled, and lost both the match and the chase against a side that have only just recently into a month-long relationship with their new manager. Fergie gambled to protect his star player rather than on securing the points, and he didn't even get a point. From the looks of it, nobody on his team looked capable of scoring yesterday, and the one guy who has done it consistently is wasn't even on the bench. Does the coach matter? I think so.

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:31 PM on November 25, 2007

btw, sorry, owlhouse, I couldn't help but tweak ya. Having said that, I did think Miller was robbed yesterday. The replays showed that Kenny timed his run perfectly, then exhibited excellent vision and control to beat Cudicini. But the officials stole that goal away. Derby is in such a deep hole nowadays, every bit of bad luck is as good as a goal against them. As for Bolton, Anelka, who scored the match-winner against Man U, used to play for Liverpool. So, nicely done, mon ami. Nicely done.

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:37 PM on November 25, 2007

Derby did get robbed, but things like that happen to everyone. It's just that other sides have the wherewithal to get those breaks back elsewhere. This year, Derby just don't. The season isn't really long enough to drop too many of these games, especially in the horse race at the top of the table. Arse is the only team that has yet to stumble, and they probably will drop a game somewhere (not that I hate the Gunners, I just hope they don't separate from the pack), but the big problem for Manure is their confidence moving forward. Rooney is becoming Eric Lindros; miles of talent, minimal (at best) awareness of the world around him, and he can't stay on the pitch. The Pretty Portuguese Pony isn't the type to get tough when the tough gets going, and after that, who's there to finish consistently? Tevez? I guess. It's just my sense that there's nothing stopping another few games like this from happening to Man U at inopportune times. And I will gleefully dance for every last one of them.

posted by chicobangs at 01:49 PM on November 25, 2007

Liverpool are the only other unbeaten team in the EPL, apart from Arsenal. They've won three fewer games than Arsenal, but are only six points behind, with the same number of games played as the Gunners, which is one fewer than most of the rest of the league. If they win the extra game they have in hand, they'll be level on points with Man U, with a superior goal difference. That would've put Liverpool in second this week, but instead, they're fifth. That's the margin of difference in the top five this week. Anyone in the top six can be in the top three in the space of one match. In fact, teams #3 through #9 are separated by only one point from their neighbor on either side. It's what's kept the EPL interesting. No sign of any runaway winners yet, and the slim (or zero) margin for error is what makes Man U's loss so notable.

posted by worldcup2002 at 02:16 PM on November 25, 2007

Arsenal's game in hand means a win would put them six points clear of the field. That's a pretty sizeable margin, all told. And just because Liverpool have yet to lose doesn't mean they've been what I'd call consistent. They look good moving forward, but optimism is free, and Rafa is at least as susceptible to brain farts as Fergie is. The EPL is interesting because the EPL is interesting. There's no shortage of drama avywhere, and with the season one-third over, everyone still has something both meaningful and attainable to strive for. Even Derby.

posted by chicobangs at 02:37 PM on November 25, 2007

I am so happy that turtlegirl and I get to see Fulham/Wigan on 22 December in London! I need to plan a London SpoFi meetup.

posted by scully at 04:57 PM on November 25, 2007

We arrived here in Cairns late Saturday night. TS1 was falling asleep but I wanted a little telly to cool down from the two three flights and what popped on? The Liverpool-Newcastle pre-game! So I kept my eyes open until that sweet Gerrard blast off Lucas's semi-misdirection before tapping it over. Sweet dreams indeed!

posted by billsaysthis at 10:47 PM on November 25, 2007

Hi Bill. Get used to late nights/early mornings in this part of the world if you watch the EPL. At least here in Jakarta the early game is on at a reasonable hour.

posted by owlhouse at 07:12 PM on November 26, 2007

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