Friday, October 28, 2011
The once Charming Man
Premier League Spotlight previews the weekend's top-flight fixtures, highlighting the key points to keep an eye on as the action unfolds. Under the microscope this week: Andre Villas-Boas' criticism of referees, the good and bad of Luis Suarez, booing the boo-boys, and tackling Manchester United's defence.
Villas-Boas: Feeling let down
His initial charm is in danger of fading away, that auburn stubble growing from rugged to ragged. When Andre Villas-Boas arrived on these shores his eloquence in front of a camera coupled with what he had achieved at Porto painted him in a promising picture. Yet, as the season has unfurled, the Portuguese has somewhat tarnished his likeability factor, for he has been increasingly critical of referees, when, in all honesty, there has been little to grumble about. Most recently, Villas-Boas laid into Chris Foy as the Blues, reduced to nine men, slipped to a second defeat under his stewardship at QPR.
"I'm very disappointed with Chris' performance," he grumbled, when Foy arguably had got the big decisions right. "I spoke to him at the end and I was very aggressive to him. I don't care if he's okay or not."
Perhaps AVB should have focused on stressing to his players that another two-footed challenge like that which Fernando Torres executed versus Swansea would again result in a man dismissed. Perhaps he should have made it clear to the erratic David Luiz that keeping one's head and defending maturely will aid his side, otherwise impinge it. While, though, his post-match views opened him up to criticism, there is the argument that adopting the defensive style of Ferguson and Mourinho creates a 'them against us' mentality that could ultimately benefit their title charge. That, primarily, is his job.
But it's all just a tad disappointing. These are still early days, of course, and Saturday presents a chance for Villas-Boas and his players to do their talking on the pitch. Arsenal are their opponents, and Andre Marriner is the referee. Fortunately for the Blues, Marriner has yet to brandish a red card in any of his five matches thus far - Chelsea's dismissal count reached five after Ross Turnbull was handed his marching orders in the Carling Cup.
Regardless, the Blues will fancy their chances versus their London rivals, in spite of being without Arsenal's haunter-in-chief Didier Drogba. Should the visitors win, however, they will be within three points of Chelsea.
Luis Suarez: Jekyll & Hyde
Let's make one thing clear before Red bile is spilled in the comments section: Suarez is a sensational talent. What he can achieve with a ball at his feet is remarkable, and that makes him a deadly and vital asset for his team, Liverpool. He has, however, been guilty of profligacy of late - although his brace at a wet Britannia Stadium in the Carling Cup on Wednesday marginally takes the edge off this argument. Nonetheless, cold, hard facts expose the point: Luis Suarez has hit the target with 50% of his shots & scored with 10% since arriving at Liverpool. The intriguing matter is that many of those goalscoring chances are self-created.
Indeed, Suarez is capable of forging opportunities by virtue of his own skill, those wiggly runs at points undefendable. If only he could put the icing on the cake on more regular occasions. For £22 million, one would expect as much, yet, at 24 years of age, there is time on his side to polish the finishing. And his attitude, too.
Suarez is a rabid type of player, gums and teeth exposed as he snarls in anger throughout the 90 minutes. That aspect arguably makes him the footballer he is, but his barking at referees from not getting his own way needs to be muzzled, for it demonstrates a poor image to those young onlookers, who doubtless idolise the Uruguayan. Suarez is no superhero, but he must use his gift for good, not bad.
The boo-boys: Hang your heads
Those fickle, fickle fans. They leave a bad taste in the mouth, like a lemon pickled in self-entitlement. Take last weekend at Molineux when Wolverhampton Wanderers found themselves 2-0 down against Swansea City. Sure, it must have been disappointing to be losing against a newly-promoted team, and to be staring at a sixth straight league loss. But to chastise in the first half was an embarrassing act, only to be trumped by chants of "you're getting sacked in the morning" and "you don't know what you're doing", directed at manager Mick McCarthy. This the boss who led the side to promotion from the Championship in 2009, since keeping them in the Premier League. McCarthy had the last laugh on Saturday, his changes made helping to contribute to a two-goal rally, and a point salvaged. Deep down, his fist pump in response to the leveller was at the imaginary head of "mindless idiots".
What do supporters, for whom their purpose is in their label, expect their booing to achieve? For it to inspire the players they are supposed to be supporting? This habit of pouring scorn on your own side is becoming increasingly commonplace, the money parted with for a ticket not only purely providing access to a game anymore. No, the pounds spent must see a return of victory, even if you are a struggling outfit. Wolves travel to Manchester City this weekend, having been walloped 5-2 by the big-spenders during midweek. Those making the trip to the Etihad Stadium must be conscious their team are not favourites, not expected to get anything from the game. So, if/when they go one down, do get behind your men, please. It's what you are there for.
Manchester United: In defence of
It had already been highlighted prior to last weekend's astonishing six goals conceded versus their bitter rivals City: that the Reds Devils' backline and goalkeeper have been exposed far too often. It was odd, therefore, that Sir Alex Ferguson went with just two central midfielders against City, in spite of their opponents' ability to boss the ball, to pull and pick at a defence, with the just wonderful David Silva orchestrating a mesmeric tune.
The return of Nemanja Vidic for Saturday's midday trip to Everton should plug some of the gaps, while the club's midweek stroll at Aldershot Town served as a timely pick-me-up following their humiliation. Yet question marks still hang over Old Trafford and Ferguson's team, which appears to lack a midfield general, or certainly one that shields the back five. Indeed, United must convince of a defence for their own defence.
• Follow me on Twitter @JamesDallESPN
• Catch action from every Barclays Premier League match on your mobile for FREE on the enhanced ESPN Goals app (UK only).