Category: Archive

Inter-ference at Highbury during FA Cup quarterfinals

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Joe Behan

Inter Milan’s billionaire president, Massimo Moratti, usually gets what he wants when it comes to luring players to the lavish life of Serie A soccer in Italy. Money is no object for Moratti, whose offer of _100 million for Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira is the starting price for a sky’s-the-limit world-record transfer deal.

Inter scouts run around Europe like maniacs offering ridiculous prices for players. In several cases, deals flop or, worse, the player signs but flops himself. Terraneo, Milan’s top scout in the EPL, has gone from chasing David Beckham and Paul Scholes at Old Trafford to Michael Owen at Anfield.

Inter want the finished product and gone are the days at Milan in taking a chance on potential like Robbie Keane. As the Italian giants attempt to win Serie A, their sights are set on the Champions League. The injury-stricken Ronoldo has been a major unlucky signing and now Moratti wants to forget such deals and execute an all-out assault on European football at the expense of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.

Whatever happened to youth systems within clubs? Then again, who needs them when billionaires own clubs? For now, the French garcons are going nowhere, with an EPL title and FA Cup a realistic double for Arsenal. There is talk of a treble with the CL, but such dreamers need to slow down a bit with such unrealistic predictions. It is not to say that the Gunners can’t do it, as they did increase their chances of a domestic double after eking out a replay with Newcastle in the cup, but the CL is a totally different ball game.

Arsenal could be considered lucky. Newcastle were the better team last weekend, but as we know all too well, it’s about putting the bulge in the onion bag. An Arsenal team without these French footballers would certainly mean a rebuilding process for Wenger, if not a collapse. The Gunners’ FA Cup quarterfinal selection against Newcastle was proof that Arsenal’s flair is limited when they leave out Henry and Pires. For now, Wenger may be pleased at getting such recognition for his players, but it is attention Arsenal could do without as they approach the busiest time ever at the club.

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Governor saddens Gazza

Middlesbrough pounced on Everton with three goals in the space of 7 minutes to reach the semifinal of the cup. Noel Whelan opened the scoring when he took advantage of Everton’s lack of communication in front of their own goal. The unpredictable Whelan found himself in the right place at the right time. Paul Ince secured the semi spot with Boro’s third as the Governor hit home from close range. Ince, the veteran captain, will be firing on all cylinders from here on as we may well have seen the last of his mate, Paul Gascoigne, in the Cup, and indeed Everton manager Walter Smith at Goodison Park. Poor old Gazza was yet again in tears as he left the field after the defeat, while the rejuvenated Ince did a cartwheel.

It was more the case of Everton falling apart rather than missing chances in the second half. The Blue Mersysiders must immediately make up for a lackluster performance by shooting out of the dangerous relegation zone. Escaping the drop may still not be enough to convince the boardroom and supporters at Everton that things will get better next year.

For Boro to avoid relegation alongside their magnificent cup run, it may well be deemed that Steve McClaren isn’t just an ex-Manchester United coach. Boro fans and staff will relish in looking forward to 2002-03 if they reach the cup final as they await the outcome of Newcastle and Arsenal for their semi.

Chelsea Revenge

Chelsea was all about revenge when the Blues beat Tottenham Hotspurs 4-nil in an all-out London battle. Claudio Ranieri admitted he lost count of how many times he watched the video of Chelsea’s 5-1 defeat in the Worthington Cup to Spurs. In the FA clash, seven players were booked while Gr’me Le Saux was sent off. The intense rivalry and behavior of the players on the field escalated into the stands as so-called supporters threw missiles at the participants.

While we question the madness of such supporters, we must also question the motivation of participants. Chelsea’s two-goal hero, Eidur Gudjohnsen, also spoke of retribution for that second-leg semifinal loss in the Worthington Cup.

“Everyone knows we wanted revenge after losing 5-1 back in January,” he said.

For Spurs coach Glenn Hoddle, it was lack of composure and motivational control that he was concerned about as he suggested that, “If anything, we were overcommitted.” Too much emphasis on “passion,” Hoddle said, took away from their “passing the ball.”

While Hoddle did admit that Spurs gave up soft goals, it’s not the first time it has happened to his team. Interestingly enough, in his playing days, he was world famous for his passing but not for his defending. The same could be said for his managerial qualities. The game is built on solid goalkeeping and defense, which Spurs do not have at the moment, and the finger does point at Hoddle; his excuses attest to this downfall and to an early end of season at White Heart Lane.

However, Mr. Hoddle showed his class when he said that Chelsea deserved to win. Indeed, his philosophy is about letting your football do the talking not your motivation. For Hoddle, it’s getting the back line right.

Romantic Fulham

While we wait on the Irish at Newcastle to replay Arsenal, Fulham and Irish international Steve Finnan have made it to the last four of the FA Cup. Fulham held off a brave effort by West Bromwich Albion to win 1-nil and reach the semifinal after a 27-year wait. That was in 1975 when Alan Mulery captained Fulham only to be beaten in the cup final.

It has been 114 years that the Cottagers have not won a major trophy and the lead up to meeting Chelsea will seem like another 114 years. It is fairy tale stuff at Craven Cottage these days and Fulham have turned out to be the Cup’s romantic choice.

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