So here’s a first on my blog. Wait for it….I agree with Arsene Wenger. There, I said it. Wenger has frustrated me greatly this season, but his comments surrounding Mick McCarthy’s team selection against Manchester United were spot on.

Wenger claimed that Arsenal were competing against United over only 37 games now, not the whole 38, and I don’t care how you look at it, the view is very solid. For those unsure what I’m talking about, manager Mick McCarthy changed his entire out-field 10 for the trip, leaving out every player who had played in the win at White Hart Lane. The 3-0 defeat then was somewhat inevitable.

Of course, there are some who will argue that McCarthy can pick any team he likes for the match. I’d like to see you argue that point to the 3,000 or so Wolves fans who made the trip north.”42 quid to watch the reserves” was belted out by most in that number, many of whom will have put a trip to Old Trafford in their diaries from the moment the fixtures were announced.

Whilst I understand McCarthy’s  thinking behind this move, wanting to give his players a break in a long, hard season, his actions are flawed at best. The beauty of the Premiership is that no side is invincible, yet McCarthy’s actions seemed very much like he was taking his side up there to lay down and get ran all over.

This league is supposed to have sides competing to the very best of their ability. Wolves proved they have that ability by winning at Tottenham on Saturday, a feat not too many sides will manage this year. Manchester United had also been beaten at home, proving that if a side showed some ambition, a victory was possible.

McCarthy’s attitudes reek of defeatism, and I would hate to see other managers follow his lead. How many would decide ‘Old Trafford? No chance, let’s send the kids up there’ I wonder? I’d like to think not many, but I’d implore the Premier League to act fast and fine McCarthy, with a suspended points deduction if he decides on a similar act when Wolves have to visit Chelsea or Arsenal.

However, the one biggest surprise for me here is Wenger actually saw the team list. It’s not like he sees anything else, is it?

Whose a silly Bhoy then?

August 30, 2009

OK, you may have seen my little rant at Arsene Wenger and co over Eduardo’s spout of cheating in Europe this week, and although I am writing this through gritted teeth,  in the interest of fair play it’s only right I address Aiden McGeady’s ill-advised tumble today.

I mean, what was the boy thinking? Surely he must have known Dougie McDonald was going to be all over any kind of ‘simulation’ after the week’s events? When I first saw the incident live today I like the commentators assumed he’d been caught. Apparently not. Not that you can see it in this video, but the look on McGeady’s face after the ref pulled out the red card said it all. He’d been caught out, and despite my affiliation to Celtic, the referee got it absolutely spot on.

What annoys me most though is that there was no need at all for McGeady to hit the deck. He was in the clear, and he had the full back in his pocket all afternoon. McGeady truely is the one exciting player in Scotland at the moment, but it seems he’s seen the Eduardo incident one too many times and decided to have a go himself.

The sad thing is, as Tony Mowbray has pointed out, both diving ‘incidents’ have gone against us this week, with Arsenal’s penalty and McGeady’s red card, but maybe this will let Aiden know he needs to stay on his feet.

Now I’m not saying he shouldn’t go down if there’s contact, ala Rooney yesterday, but at least wait until you’re actually touched, otherwise you just look like a nipple.

I hope once Tony Mowbray sees the incident he disciplines McGeady, because as I alluded to the other day, I believe strong management is the way to stop diving without any involvement from the governing bodies.

As for the match itself, I thought Celtic could have been better, but it’s the result that matters. Samaras put in a good shift, but if his last minute miss had cost the points he’d have been crucified. But the star of the day was Artur Boruc. Craig Burley described his late save as ‘save of the century’. Is that true? Probably not, but you don’t see saves like that every week.

Looks like the big man is back on form, which is good news for the rest of the campaign.

We often hear about the lack of funds in the Scottish game, and how this has left the SPL in the financial wilderness. Just this summer, the TV revenue invested in Scotland has roughly halved when Setanta went the way of the Titanic, and the difference in class was there for all to see when Arsenal spanked us all over the park in the qualifier. But is money the be-all-and-end-all?

Arsene Wenger was lucky to be able to rest two of his stars last Wednesday, in Andrei Arshavin and Robin Van Persie. Yet even without this pair, and the likes of Nasri, Rosicky and Fabregas, it was a stroll for the Gunners.

After a little glance at the BBC 606 site, I see that most Arsenal fans think their side wasn’t particularly expensive, coming in at a combined total of about £33m. Celtic, on the other hand fielded pretty much their strongest side, with the exception of million pound midfielder Barry Robson. Celtic’s full-strength side had a value of about £17m, or the price of Arshavin. You see where I’m going here don’t you? Just so you can see my figures, I’ve included the teams below, and the values I believe were paid. (If I’ve got anybody a million or so off, I apologise, but keep looking at the bigger picture)

Almunia- 1.5m
Sagna- £6m
Gallas- free
Vermaelen – £10m
Clichy- 250k
Song- 2m
Diaby- 3m
Denilson- 2m
Eboue- 200k
Eduardo- 8m
Bendtner- free

Overall-32.95m

Boruc- 1m
Hinkel- 1.5
Caldwell- free
Loovens- 2.5
Fox- 1mil
McGeady-home grown
Brown-4.4m
Donati-2m
Maloney-home grown
McDonald-750k
Fortune-3.8m

Overall- 16.95m

So that’s it eh? Celtic fans should just accept that European progress is now impossible and forget completely about the Champions League? Sorry, I don’t buy it.

Surely the answer here is our scouting network. If clubs like PSV can make the Semi finals, as they did in 2005, then why can’t we? PSV spend pretty much nothing on transfers, but sell players players on to the bigger leagues and then reinvest the profits. If we use PSV as an example, here’s a list of their players over the last few years, most of whom were signed for nothing or almost nothing….

Ronaldo (the original one, the one with a minge on his head, not the ‘winker’), Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Jaap Stam, Arjen Robben, Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Mateja Kezman.

Compare that with some recent Celtic players and you’ll see my point. Surely a club of Celtic’s stature should have a scouting network that can uncover some similar gems? And if not, somebody needs to be sacked.

PSV aren’t alone. While Arsenal were struggling to make ‘marquee signings’, they were able to sign the likes of Adebayor for £3m, and sell him for £25m!

Now I accept my philosophy would make us a selling club, but it’s only by adopting this attitude that we’ll be able to generate the kind of money and with that, any chance of any real European success. Controversial, yes, but sadly, I think it’s essential.

Hello world! Welcome to my brand spanking new blog, I’m going to try and pick up the big talking points from the sporting world, and I hope you’ll join in too.

Right then, the big topic of the week clearly took place at the Emirates,  so I felt what better place to start than here.

What can I say about Arsene Wenger? Brilliant coach? Clearly. Protective of his players? Absolutely. Hypocrite? You better believe it!

In 2006, Arsene Wenger told the world he wanted to see players who dived punished. In Monsieur Wenger’s own words, he said;

“We have to fight it and there is only one way to punish people diving obviously: suspension.”

Yet here we are, three years later and he feels it is an “utter disgrace” that Eduardo has been charged by UEFA. What gives? Whilst most of us who watch the game acknowledge Wenger has roughly the same eye-site as David Blunkett on a dark night, Wenger generally is respected by most fans throughout the country. However, he is now taking protectionism of his players to a new level, from where he’ll struggle to claw back any of my respect.

OK, Eduardo is coming back from a horrendous injury and is lucky to be playing again. But do you really buy that he was protecting himself? Is that why he threw himself to the ground, arms flailing? Was that why he had a Ronaldoesque grin on his face when the ref gave the pen?

Yes, Eduardo may seem to be a new case, a ‘precedent’ if you will, but trust me it’s happened before. That time it was the former Hearts winger, Saulius Mikoliunas who did his best Clark Kent over an outstretched leg at Hampden. The net result was a penalty, but also a two-game retrospective ban. But if you look at the bigger picture, Mikoliunas stopped diving. That should have been a light-bulb in the head of governing bodies, and Football Associations everywhere.

But what it should also have been, particularly now in the days of TV coverage, is a message to every player and every manager in Europe that if players dived there was a chance they could be punished. And at the end of the day, these are the two most important groups.

When players dive, managers should take disciplinary actions. Am I an idealist? Probably. But can you imagine if Eduardo had played for the late, great Brian Clough? He’d have been substituted, publicly reprimanded, dropped, fined and possibly placed on the transfer list. And managers are the the people here who can stamp out diving, so UEFA wouldn’t have to get involved.

Compare that to Wenger’s response, or Sir Alex Ferguson, or Rafa Benitez.

Now the chief of the SFA has waded into the argument, but it’s fair to say he should concentrate on cleaning up the SPL from the same problem. Glass houses comes to mind. However, Celtic manager Tony Mowbray has kept a dignified silence, despite the attempts of us ‘hacks’ to drag him into the argument, and he deserves a lot of credit for his stance.

Wenger, meanwhile has announced he will personally challenge ‘every decision made against his team in Europe’, stating that UEFA have changed the goal posts for this ‘witch hunt’, and that the referee’s decision is no longer final. Altogether now…wah, wah. Nonsense. If the decision was no longer final, the match would be replayed. And have we not been rescinding red cards for years? Or upgrading yellow cards to red ones (Ben Thatcher anybody)?

UEFA now have to demonstrate a degree of consistency, but what better place to start than in a Champions League game? Does this not send out a message we’ve all been crying out for? This act will have sent alarm bells ringing in the heads of Europe’s serial divers. Look at the bigger picture, and this move is just what European football needs: a sense of fair play. A sense that diving is out of order, and players WILL be held accountable.

Wenger could have nipped the issue in the bud with a simple ‘it’ll be sorted in house’ comment. He now looks like he’s losing the plot, blaming UEFA, the media, Scotland and my nan for the ‘attack’ on Eduardo. Here’s an idea Arsene. Blame Eduardo, and then yourself. Tell your players to stop cheating, grow some testicles and ‘man up’.

Then you’ll not only be a great coach, but a manager we can respect. A bit like Mr Clough.