Friday, February 6, 2009

Phil's Notebook: Chelsea go wobbly, Platini speaks sense

Another week has passed. If you're looking for information on David Beckham, please look away from the information herein.

Chelsea in trouble

Who would have thought that the well-oiled machine bequeathed by Avram Grant (credit where credit is due!) would disintegrate so fast? Scolari's latest Portuguese signing, Ricardo Quaresma, is only 25 yet has already flopped at Barcelona and Inter. He is so remarkably one-footed that he uses the outside of his right foot, the trivela move to cross and shoot, all the bloody time. It is as bizarre as it is sad, highlighting a remarkable deficiency in a footballer once on a par with Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of potential. Chelsea take on Hull at Stamford Bridge this weekend, but I think Hull are in with a chance here especially as Hilario will be in goal due to Petr Cech's injury. This could be the upset of the weekend.

Italian football returns?
Looks like AC Milan can still attract big names (and big offers), and the Serie A itself is as competitive as it has been in some time. Roma and Genoa are competing for 4th spot, and Cagliari are on fire of late. Diego Milito, a striker I rate extremely highly, is back from injury for Genoa to face Roma on Sunday - it could be a decisive encounter. I don't think Italian football is in a renaissance: one only needs to look at Roma's finances to see a microcosm of the general situation there. A more organised method of selling TV rights as well as ensuring safer stadiums - a la Premier League - might be a start.

A sentence or two on Fulham (I want to get this over with as much as you do)
Their oft-overlooked manager Roy Hodgson was silly to let go of Jimmy Bullard, but he's stabilised Fulham remarkably and made one or two good loan signings this January. They play far more attractive football now and thoroughly outplayed and beat Arsenal earlier in the season.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, Sunday 1330 GMT
This is going to be a very good game involving two sides with a lot to prove. One is a talented squad unexpectedly battling for survival, the other a club which has seen its perennial challenges for honours wither away in the Abramovich era. Predicting a result for this one looks near-impossible, but a win for Tottenham is a real likelihood. Debuts for Robbie Keane and Andriy Arshavin look likely, so goals should be plentiful. An atmosphere of civility and healthy banter in the stadium and outside it (and 3 points for Arsenal) would make it a perfect Sunday.

Marek Hamsik
The young Napoli midfielder is getting attention from Juventus and Real Madrid, after impressing for two seasons in Serie B and Serie A and coming close to joining Inter in the summer. I rate Hamsik alongside Lassana Diarra and Daniele De Rossi as a top class ball-playing central midfielder. He is ready for the step up to the elite, in the €30million fee bracket most likely.

A word from Michel
As the debate rages about the merits of having a transfer window at all, UEFA president Michel Platini has echoed one of my own concerns, asking:
"What next? Clubs signing a player for one game? The Champions League final?"

He has gone on to say that a system will need to be devised to prevent such excesses, but that the transfer window itself does not look viable in the long term. Good man.

Premier League Punditry
is back on Sunday, same time same place. I'll bring you a post on underrated midfielders some time soon. That's all for today, enjoy the weekend!