It was no surprise that Liverpool lost the 214th Merseyside derby given their woeful start to the season. No Liverpool fan, not even the most pessimistic of follower, would have fathomed such baffling results and such perturbing performances on the field given the strength of their squad at the start of the season.
With some trading-up and trading-down from both Rafael Benitez and Roy Hodgson over the past couple of seasons, the majority of the Liverpool team still remain from the title challenging season of 2008-09. Crippled by the Hick’s and Gillett’s unwillingness to service the promises they provided when they took over the club, Liverpool stumbled around the Premier League last season, like a common drunk who is just about on their last legs before slumping face first into the bar.
Amidst an aura of optimism and calls of ‘reincarnation’, Romania were close to ruining Laurent Blanc’s quietly-impressive start to his reign as Les Bleus’ national coach this week.
Instead of opting for the 4-3-3 that got the French a formidable win against a Bosnia side, M. Blanc preferred the 4-2-3-1 system with the fleet-footed Samir Nasri picked for the role behind Karim Benzema, leaving Yoann Gourcuff, who, it has to be said, is lacking form of any definition at the moment, on the bench. France won this game two to nothing, which at first glance, is an adequate and expected result, but it was only through late goals and some much-needed changes late in the day.
Denmark’s victory in the Euro Championships in 1992 had all the ingredients of a unforgetful footballing fairytale. It is the story of a team who didn’t qualify for the finals who went onto win the thing, beating the World Champions, the French and the Dutch; surely this would be a story that was woven into the tapestry of footballing folklore?
In a week that has seen interviews, analysis and prose about the only manager who could comfortably be in a Kraftwerk tribute act, there’s little else to write about. Apart from one thing. To complete this trilogy of ‘The story and times Thomas Tuchel and Mainz in the 2010/11 Bundesliga season’ (working title) – this will examine the aspect of Mainz’s game that is the most interesting – their pressing.
“This World Cup is nearly as boring as Italia ’90!” was an often-heard quip by the doltish pundits. “Oh, I agree, it’s all defence, defence, defence. Thank God they got rid of the back-pass then, hey?!” Cue much chortling and cringeworthy, chummy back-slapping by everyone.
The 2010 World Cup was a World Cup that brought twenty-five year old men and above together for one reason – to collectively preach about how dismal the 1990 World Cup was. Such derision implanted an idea in this writer’s head that they need to watch the thing to let them know what they were missing out on. It is this apparent self-tortury that is all part of footballing character building, just what you know what boring, bland and characterless football is really like, or so I thought.
Of course, that Ajax team of ’95 was not ‘the’ Ajax team. For all its famous names and youthful exuberance it did not encapsulate and entertain as an Ajax team should. In some ways, that team suffered because of Ajax’s past teams – one particular team that played with a philosophy so enamoured and eulogised today.
Litmanen, Davids, Overmars, Kluivert, the de Boer brothers, Blind and Rijkaard. It is astonishing to think that Ajax team fifteen years ago contained such talented football players in their first eleven. That’s without mention of their manager, Louis van Gaal, who has since managed some of the largest football institutions in the world.
Up against them were names such as Gullit, Baresi, Maldini, Donadoni, Boban and Savićević. Manager of the Rossineri was Fabio Capello, who had been the mastermind behind Milan’s 4-0 defeat of Johan Cruyff’s FC Barcelona in the 93-94 Champions League Final.