Archive | January 2015

Mystic Matt’s Premier League Predictions

Well, it’s been a while since Mystic Matt has been able to post anything (apparently it’s quite hard to type when your fingers have been broken by burly men DEFINITELY NOT UNDER ORDERS FROM PUTIN), but after a lengthy recuperation at

I see... Matt, stop doing that, you'll go blind!

I see… Matt, stop doing that, you’ll go blind!

Nigel Farage’s house (where no Russians are allowed. Or Albanians, Romanians, Poles, Indians, Pakistanis, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, or Presbyterians, but Germans are apparently fine)… he’s back!

So without further ado, some predictions for the most exciting ties in the Premier League this weekend. Which necessarily precludes any mention of Aston Villa, since there’s more chance of Mystic Matt actually getting one right than the Villains scoring any time soon…

 

Manchester United vs Leicester City: 2-1 (Rooney, Fellaini; Nugent)

Let’s have a look at the facts for a moment. The last game between these two teams ended 5-3 to Leicester, after a United collapse that made the Twin Towers look fairly sedate in comparison, and United have not improved at all since then. It is one of life’s great mysteries how the Red Devils are fourth (if you turn to the last page of the book you might see the words “David de Gea” in bold print, right before “off to Madrid”); their midfield is insipid, their forward line one-paced and their defence laughable. Then again, Leicester aren’t exactly pulling up trees; with Uchoa’s goals drying up of late, Kasper Schmeichel nursing a broken foot and Paul “2 England Caps” Konchesky anchoring their left flank they may not be able to capitalise on United’s shitness. The difference between the two teams will be Fellaini, who seems to be excelling in Louis van Gaal’s “lump it up from the back” system; United to once again edge a result and continue their mystifying rise up the table.

 

Liverpool vs West Ham: 1-3 (Lallana; Carroll (2), Sakho)

Sturridge is back! STURRIDGE IS BACK! But will probably only feature from the bench, and after such a long injury will probably barely touch the ball, let alone score. The mid-week game with Dirty Chelsea (which I’m definitely not still bitter about, no sir, not me) left pretty much all of the central midfielders in the squad exhausted (save Can, now a centre-back, and Allen, who has severe talent-knack), and perhaps just as worryingly Mamadou Sakho, the subject of my latest player-crush, has a groin injury. This may mean Glen Johnson takes the field to slow down every Liverpool attack, or possibly Dejan Lovren, who plays like Djimi Traore without any of the lovability. Meanwhile, for West Ham, Andy Carroll will be relishing the chance to batter some weary defenders about, Alex Song (why is he at the Irons again?) is poised to boss the midfield and Adrian is relishing a quiet afternoon of shots whistling past the post from various diminutive Liverpool players. West Ham won the reverse 3-1; expect them to strive for that scoreline again.

 

Southampton vs Swansea: 1-0 (Pelle)

Southampton are third. I’ll just give you a moment to process that-third. And, what’s more, and unlike a certain red-shirted Mancunian team, they actually deserve it. With a superb defence marshalled by the excellent Jose Fonte and screened by the considered strength of Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin, it’s hard to see Swansea scoring. The loss of Wilfried Bony will hit the Swans hard; Batefembi Gomis might have a physique like the Ivorian but seems to lack his killer touch in front of goal, not to mention Bony’s understanding with their other attacking threat Gylfi Sigurdsson. Of course, where Saints fall down is in the lack of depth in their squad; with Wanyama injured (along with Toby Aldeweireld, another major factor in their defensive solidity), Swansea might feel a little more optimistic. Still, Saints should have enough to beat the Welsh team, and stay ahead of Man Utd in the process.

 

Nasty Chelsea vs Man City: 1-1 (Hazard; Lampard)- 3 broken toes, 1 bruised ankle, 3 stamps missed by the referee

And, finally, onto the game that many are billing as a title decider. We know how Mourinho approaches these games; expect Ramires and Matic in front of the defence kicking anything that moves, surrounded by teammates who also kick anything that moves, with a couple of sly elbows thrown in for good measure (not bitter!). Facing the massed ranks of the Chelsea bus will be a team that had struggled somewhat without Yaya Toure, the lack of verticality in their midfield making it too easy for teams to nullify David Silva and leaving Sergio Aguero isolated. Vincent Kompany has been shaky since his return from injury, though he should be confident of keeping 90-year-old Didier Drogba quiet with Costa (probably) out for his cowardly stamp on the magnificently hirsute Emre Can. Honestly, I’m not expecting much excitement from this game, though there’s always the chance that Mourinho, Dr Evil-style, will renounce his wicked ways and allow some form of entertainment to seep through…

Here we go again, Jose…

Everybody who watches football has a favourite player. Everyone has someone whose skill, vision, dribbling ability, eye for a goal or, in the case of Andy Carroll, enormous thigh-like neck elevates them above all the rest, who they’d cheer for even if (heaven forbid) they transferred to another team. And, likewise, everybody who watches football has someone they really, really hate (which is, let’s face it, much more fun).

I’m not talking the kind of low-level hatred one might reserve for, say, traffic wardens or Jeremy Kyle viewers or anybody even remotely associated with Chelsea FC; no, I’m talking full-blown wouldn’t-piss-on-them-if-they-were-on-fire-hatred, hatred usually only reserved for people who have repeatedly run over your mother, the kind that burns you up inside until your soul is nothing more than a black and twisted lump of molten fury.

I really hate Jose Mourinho.

My soul: Something like this...

My soul: Something like this…

Now, before the cries of “just jealous” and “obviously, coming from a Liverpool supporter” and “steady on, old chap, you can’t use that many hyphens in a sentence!” from my imaginary audience (sob), let me clarify. Yes, I am jealous of his success, in the specialised sense of jealous meaning “my life is shit so anyone vaguely successful attracts my ire and envy”; yes, I am annoyed that Chelsea just beat Liverpool, even if it was largely thanks to an inept refereeing performance and the far more grievous inability of anyone in a red shirt to just stick the round thing in the net. I don’t see why either of those things are a problem-after all, they are just fuel to the hate-flame, or, if you prefer, kerosene to the bonfire.

No, whilst there are a number of rational reasons to hate Mourinho-success, yes, but also arrogance, incorrigibility, smugness, his army of press-sycophants lapping up his every bullshit word- I think the biggest one is that, despite invariably having the best (or at least most expensively-assembled) team in whichever division he is in, the style of football he makes them play makes watching their games like watching a big fly and a little fly have a throwing-up contest on a massive rectangular cow-pat. Oh, don’t get me wrong; they tend to play some nice football against the clubs from mid-table and below, and they invariably have some excellent players who may not exactly be described as “flair” players but certainly have stupendous amounts of power and pace.

But as soon as it gets to a “big game”- basically against anyone in the top 4 or 6 of the table, or Liverpool- Mourinho always, always decides to park his Jose-bus and try and ruin the spectacle for everyone.

It’s not that defensive football isn’t entertaining on its own merits. It really can be-look at Southampton’s victory over United earlier this month, or Arsenal’s win over Man City. There’s nothing inherently wrong with playing defensively, although one could argue that playing some attacking football might be a nice change occasionally. But in both of the above cases, the teams which ended up winning played defensively for a very good reason-the other team, on paper, was far superior, and to have any chance of winning a defensive performance was probably necessary. Mourinho’s teams rarely fall into that category, certainly in the Premier League (and arguably in La Liga, but more on this later). And, perhaps more importantly, they did so without resorting to tactics that make the New York Patriots look positively angelic.

The biggest problem I have with Mourinho parking the bus, to push an already-tired metaphor further (puns: the last refuge of the unfunny), is that his particular many-wheeled transport is filled with timewasting, unsportsmanlike behaviour and more often than not deliberate attempts to injure opposing players. This sort of thing happens too often in big Mourinho games to be an accident. In almost every game he’s played against Liverpool, for example, in the last few seasons, there has been a stamp or a bad challenge by a Chelsea player in the first ten minutes; every time Real Madrid under Jose played Barcelona, the games descended into farcical scenes as Mourinho’s players tried every nasty trick in the book to get under the Catalans’ skins, and were greeted in return by over-simulation and so many handbags that alligators everywhere were running for cover.

It actually gets to the point where I feel sad for the players, most of whom are supremely talented (except Jon Obi Mikel, who moonlights as a traffic cone), and are apparently instructed to focus on kicking the opposition instead of showcasing what made them expensive professional footballers in the first place. More than this, though, it ruins what are supposed to be the pinnacle of football viewing; games where two giants face off against each other, league deciders or cup semi-finals or even games that mean nothing in the long run but should-should-be rip-roaring belters that remind you why you fell in love with football in the first place. They should be packed full of excitement and skill and beauty; but when Mourinho’s in charge, all this is thrown by the wayside, left broken and sobbing in the shower while bad-tempered men scream at each other outside. Success is all that matters for the man, and this comes only, in his view, by dragging both his team, and any that he faces, down to the level of Millwall supporters. Really, one should feel sorry for him as well.

But then you see him speak, farting out smug arrogance from his mouth while the press breath it in and, choking, ask for more. And the hate returns.

One day, in the distant future, archaeologists will  find this image and use it to prove man has no soul

One day, in the distant future, archaeologists will find this image and use it to prove man has no soul

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