If I were Roman Abramovich…

I’d keep RDM and let Drogba leave as a legend – along with half a dozen other squad members.
And then if I was RDM…
I’d make Terry a player-coach (simply because, politically, you couldn’t sell him).
I’d make Lampard captain, Cahill vice-captain.
And I’d build the side around Torres – solid base, fast counter-attacks, Mata, Marin, Ramires – maybe Modric and Hazard as well – providing the ammunition.

I’d also make my kids ball-boys for the next home match…

If I were Roman Abramovich…

I’d keep RDM and let Drogba leave as a legend – along with half a dozen other squad members.
And then if I was RDM…
I’d make Terry a player-coach (simply because, politically, you couldn’t sell him).
I’d make Lampard captain, Cahill vice-captain.
And I’d build the side around Torres – solid base, fast counter-attacks, Mata, Marin, Ramires – maybe Modric and Hazard as well – providing the ammunition.

I’d also make my kids ball-boys for the next home match…

A few pointless thoughts about Hodgson’s squad

– I’m glad he’s not taking Ferdinand; and I’m sure Sir Alex is too.
– I wouldn’t have taken Terry either; it’s been a long time building but this Chelsea fan would actually be quite happy for the club to sell him off to the Middle East in the summer. I deeply hope that CFC will win on Saturday night, but if that happens, the sight of him lifting the cup…
– I would have made Lampard captain – experience and form, proven performer when it counts.
– Not sure about Gerrard being captain – look at stats for his performances for Liverpool, he seems to intimidate the others – but that might not be a factor for England. Depends entirely on what Hodgson’s plan is (see below).
– Downing? I’d rather have taken Joe Cole, who has had a good season playing on the left in France and has tournament experience (or Adam Johnson – presumably this isn’t a first choice pick so we’re looking at an impact player?)
– Forwards, hmm. I was minded not to take Rooney at all, but the reduction of the ban to 2 matches did change that calculation. Yes to Carroll, but Defoe? – the thing is, Hodgson clearly has a plan – and we don’t yet know what that is. For what it’s worth (not much) I’m glad Hodgson is the manager and most of the criticism of him is unmerited. Let’s see where we are after Brazil 2014; he’ll have my backing until then. Unless he sets us out in a 4-4-2.
– Given the squad, my choice for a starting XI in the first match (4-2-3-1): Hart; Cole, Cahill, Lescott, Johnson; Parker, Lampard; Young, Gerrard, Walcott; Carroll. That would be quite a decent side – but if we get to the quarter finals, I think it’ll count as a successful start for the manager.

A few pointless thoughts about Hodgson’s squad

– I’m glad he’s not taking Ferdinand; and I’m sure Sir Alex is too.
– I wouldn’t have taken Terry either; it’s been a long time building but this Chelsea fan would actually be quite happy for the club to sell him off to the Middle East in the summer. I deeply hope that CFC will win on Saturday night, but if that happens, the sight of him lifting the cup…
– I would have made Lampard captain – experience and form, proven performer when it counts.
– Not sure about Gerrard being captain – look at stats for his performances for Liverpool, he seems to intimidate the others – but that might not be a factor for England. Depends entirely on what Hodgson’s plan is (see below).
– Downing? I’d rather have taken Joe Cole, who has had a good season playing on the left in France and has tournament experience (or Adam Johnson – presumably this isn’t a first choice pick so we’re looking at an impact player?)
– Forwards, hmm. I was minded not to take Rooney at all, but the reduction of the ban to 2 matches did change that calculation. Yes to Carroll, but Defoe? – the thing is, Hodgson clearly has a plan – and we don’t yet know what that is. For what it’s worth (not much) I’m glad Hodgson is the manager and most of the criticism of him is unmerited. Let’s see where we are after Brazil 2014; he’ll have my backing until then. Unless he sets us out in a 4-4-2.
– Given the squad, my choice for a starting XI in the first match (4-2-3-1): Hart; Cole, Cahill, Lescott, Johnson; Parker, Lampard; Young, Gerrard, Walcott; Carroll. That would be quite a decent side – but if we get to the quarter finals, I think it’ll count as a successful start for the manager.

Why I wouldn’t take Rooney to Euro 2012

He’s not the Messiah he’s a very naughty boy…

So Fabio is being put on the spot by Rooney’s suspension (and why were people surprised that it was for three matches?) and now there is the question of whether to take him to the Euro’s at all. The argument for taking him goes something like: he’s our best player, he can turn a match around, he’ll be fresh and raring to go if we make it through the group stage.

I think it would be a very bad idea to take Rooney. To begin with it would cast a shadow over building a team with the capacity to get through the group stage. That by itself we could probably live with, but let us just pursue what might happen. I think there are three possible outcomes:

1. We don’t get through the group stages – in which case taking Rooney has wasted one space in the squad, a space which might conceivably have given Fabio another option to respond to dire circumstances.
2. We sail through the group stages in great comfort – in which case adding Rooney in would mean disrupting a team that has successfully gelled without him.
3. We struggle through the group stages and look to Rooney to raise us up to a higher level – in which case the pressure upon Rooney to perform becomes all the greater.

The first two outcomes argue against taking Rooney, but it is the third which I think is in fact the most problematic, simply because Rooney has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to cope with intense mental pressure. This would be the worst environment in which to pitch a volatile player. If English football is ever to get the best from his immense talent then perhaps the salutary lesson of not being taken to Euro 2012, and the experience of watching from the sidelines, is the best opportunity for him to conquer his demons.

I think Fabio should build a team without him, and leave the task of integrating Rooney to his successor. A front four (in a 4231) of Young-Gerrard-Sturridge, with Bent converting the chances, should surely be enough to get us to the traditional quarter-final elimination, and there are other options around too who could cover for injuries in that quartet. We need to stop relying on talented individuals, and start building a proper team, and a proper system.

Why I wouldn’t take Rooney to Euro 2012

He’s not the Messiah he’s a very naughty boy…

So Fabio is being put on the spot by Rooney’s suspension (and why were people surprised that it was for three matches?) and now there is the question of whether to take him to the Euro’s at all. The argument for taking him goes something like: he’s our best player, he can turn a match around, he’ll be fresh and raring to go if we make it through the group stage.

I think it would be a very bad idea to take Rooney. To begin with it would cast a shadow over building a team with the capacity to get through the group stage. That by itself we could probably live with, but let us just pursue what might happen. I think there are three possible outcomes:

1. We don’t get through the group stages – in which case taking Rooney has wasted one space in the squad, a space which might conceivably have given Fabio another option to respond to dire circumstances.
2. We sail through the group stages in great comfort – in which case adding Rooney in would mean disrupting a team that has successfully gelled without him.
3. We struggle through the group stages and look to Rooney to raise us up to a higher level – in which case the pressure upon Rooney to perform becomes all the greater.

The first two outcomes argue against taking Rooney, but it is the third which I think is in fact the most problematic, simply because Rooney has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to cope with intense mental pressure. This would be the worst environment in which to pitch a volatile player. If English football is ever to get the best from his immense talent then perhaps the salutary lesson of not being taken to Euro 2012, and the experience of watching from the sidelines, is the best opportunity for him to conquer his demons.

I think Fabio should build a team without him, and leave the task of integrating Rooney to his successor. A front four (in a 4231) of Young-Gerrard-Sturridge, with Bent converting the chances, should surely be enough to get us to the traditional quarter-final elimination, and there are other options around too who could cover for injuries in that quartet. We need to stop relying on talented individuals, and start building a proper team, and a proper system.

Football predictions

Time for my annual speculation, in the form of a table with added notes

1. ManU [1]
2. Chelsea [2]
3. Man C
4. Liverpool [3]
5. Arsenal
6. Spurs
7. Everton [4]
8. Fulham
9. Sunderland
10. Villa
11. WBA
12. Newcastle
13. Bolton
14. Stoke
15. Naarwich [5]
16. Wolves
17. Wigan
18. Blackburn [6]
19. Swansea
20. QPR

Didn’t do too badly last year – I thought that Hodgson would be more successful at Liverpool, and I didn’t expect WHam to be such a disaster, but reasonable. Anyhow:

[1] They are the team to beat – by some distance. I hope SAF retires soon.
[2] Blind optimism.
[3] Highly dependent on Andy Carroll being injury-free.
[4] Not much to choose, as always, between the next several teams.
[5] Paul Lambert is obviously an excellent manager, simple as that.
[6] More blind optimism.

Well that was woeful

One the one hand, it’s great that Chelsea have climbed back as far as they have – on the other, that was a scarily poor performance. Chelsea didn’t lose the title yesterday, they lost it back in the autumn. We are very much in transition.

– I hope Ancelotti stays, even though I think he is culpable for some of what has gone wrong. I just don’t see yet more upheaval as being beneficial in the long run.
– We need to sell Drogba, not because of any inherent fault or weakness in him, but because we now have Torres and lots of other players who can play in a similar fashion (eg Sturridge, even Anelka) – in other words, we can make the team independent of any single player, however good they are. That seems to be ManU’s distinctive strength – and certainly what has enabled them to claim the title this year.
– We need someone to generate spark in the final third (doesn’t every team?). So as my final thought, why don’t we ring up our old boss and say ‘would you accept Drogba plus a large wodge of cash for Kaka?’

Mourinho’s bitter legacy

So Rafa has been sacked. Well how do you follow the special one? Similar problems with Avram Grant and Big Phil.

Is it not the case, though, that a true measure of greatness is less how much success you are able to drive through by force of personality and talent, but rather how much success others are able to enjoy once you have gone?

In other words, rather than be proud of a large catch of fish, is it not better to leave a legacy of many fishermen?

(I’m not doubting Mourinho’s innate ability, just saying that he needs to stay somewhere for the long run.)

Mourinho’s bitter legacy

So Rafa has been sacked. Well how do you follow the special one? Similar problems with Avram Grant and Big Phil.

Is it not the case, though, that a true measure of greatness is less how much success you are able to drive through by force of personality and talent, but rather how much success others are able to enjoy once you have gone?

In other words, rather than be proud of a large catch of fish, is it not better to leave a legacy of many fishermen?

(I’m not doubting Mourinho’s innate ability, just saying that he needs to stay somewhere for the long run.)