Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Trouble with Liverpool

Sitting back occasionally isn’t always a negative approach

Several years ago, while in America, I came across boxing on the tv. It was a fight between a talented up and coming fighter and a journeyman. It was meant to be an easy task. The up and comer was on the attack from the off, but the experienced opponent had a great defence, and no adventure whatsoever. Round by round went by, all going along the same lines. Attack against defense, but with no joy. The up and comer wanted to look good, the journeyman just wanted to survive. Then late in the fight the up and comer did something which I had never seen before or since, he feigned injury, pretended the journeyman had caught him and stumbled a step or two back. The journeyman attacked for the first time. Three punches later the journeyman was out cold, face down on the canvass.

I came to remember this fight towards the end of last season, when Barcelona played Chelsea in the Champions League. Barcelona had one tactic… Attack. Chelsea prevailed though, with dogged defending and some luck. Barcelona had so little space to play in. I began to wonder, what if Barcelona, just for a portion of the game sat back for a while. Let Chelsea on to them, and counter themselves, would the result have been different?

I had the same thought while watching the first half an hour of Liverpool against Aston Villa. You couldn’t have found a more one-sided match at that point. Liverpool attacked, Villa defended. Then Villa countered, attacked the space left from Liverpool’s attacks and they were soon 2-0 up.

Liverpool looked so vulnerable to Villa’s forays up field. Lucas looked lost, Agger and Skrtel exposed. It is well documented that Liverpool lack numbers in attacking areas, highlighted at the weekend with 18 year old Raheem Sterling starting on the left, his 16th league start in a row, and 20 year old central midfielder Jonjo Shelvey starting on the left of the front 3. But what was really alarming was Liverpool’s defending, and the transition from attacking in numbers to losing the ball and defending lightly.

On paper, Liverpool’s first choice back 7 looks very strong. Reina; Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique; Lucas, Allen. That’s a top 4 defensive block, so how did Villa, who aren’t exactly Barcelona, tear this lot apart (it wasn’t all down to Downing who started instead of Enrique)?

In the first half Liverpool committed lots of players forward, both fullbacks were high up the pitch for pretty much the whole half. Allen joined attacks on a regular basis. This left a recently returning Lucas, who has been out of the game for the best part of a year, Agger and Skrtel to hold the fort. Villa’s movement on the break, in particular Benteke, was excellent, finding the acres of space left. What needs to be asked of Brendan Rodgers is, why the urgency? Is this overloading of players in the attacking third over compensating for the lack of natural, experienced attacking players? Liverpool have been far from clinical all season. They let go 2 wide players who score goals in the summer (Maxi & Kuyt) and haven’t replaced them.

It is very commendable of Rodgers to try and attack, attack, attack, but Villa highlighted the problems of this. If it had been a Benitez’s Liverpool playing Villa, the full-backs, especially in the first half, would hardly have crossed the half way line. The defensive cover of 2 midfielders would generally have held their defensive positions. This does a number of things, it shows patience, a game can be won in the last minute as well as the first. It keeps the defense solid, and unexposed, and it could also frees up space, space which Suarez, Gerrard etc. would expose.

Maybe all will be solved with 2 or 3 big signings in the January window. Players who can create and score goals, to help Suarez and give Sterling a rest. These goals would then take away the pressure on the defense. If Liverpool had been clinical in that first 30 minutes, the game would have been won by half time, then the team can maybe sit back a bit, and not force it so much.

There is also the benefit of Lucas, who struggled at the weekend, getting better with the more matches he plays. A concern is the form of Joe Allen, the shirt has appeared heavy in recent weeks, and should have improved when moved into his best position, between Lucas and Gerrard. It would appear he needs a rest. Jordan Henderson has looked hungry in recent displays, and maybe deserves a run of games. Nuri Sahin, although he hasn’t set the world on fire, could also come in to freshen up what looked a tired midfield.

It’s not all darkness for Liverpool though, 4th place is still within their sights. No one has got a grip on 4th, Everton have won just 2 of their last 10 games, Tottenham and Arsenal have been ridiculously inconsistent. So January could be a massive month for all these sides. The one who gambles could gain all the riches. FSG have a lot to prove to the Liverpool fans after a problematic summer transfer window. They need to put up or shut up. The rumours of signing Tom Ince and Daniel Sturridge are a promising thought, but does this show a problem with the scouting system at the club. Surely there are cheap, talented options abroad. Jelavic and Cisse were bought by Everton and Newcastle last January and were very effective.

Rodgers cannot be judged yet though, he inherited a side which finished 8th last season, he had to cut the wage bill, and is trying to bring in new ideas. He should be backed in the transfer market; otherwise it could be a long hard drag to the end of the season.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Penalty - Crime and Punishment

By Lee Jaundrell   12/12/12

Sometimes in football you don’t get what you deserve, you play well, make chances, but the ball just doesn’t go in the net. You lose, it happens. Sometimes you get more than you deserve, and on occasions this is due to the rules, sorry the LAWS of the game.

At the weekend Joe Allen handled a Diame shot in the box. There was much debate as to whether this should of been a penalty, but as the laws stand it was a definite penalty. Allen was stood 2 yards away from Diame, the shot was hit with power and Allen had no chance of moving his arm out of the way. Not necessarily deliberate, but we are to interpret the law in such a way that because Allen’s arm was head height, it was in an unnatural position, therefore a penalty. If his arms had been down beside him and the ball hit an hand then this wouldn’t be a penalty.

Anyway, this isn’t actually the point I am looking to make. The shot from Diame was heading high over the bar if the unfortunate arm of Allen hadn’t got in the way. The punishment for this was a one on one shot at the goal from 12 yards. This is hardly fair. There was no danger of the shot of threatening the goal. The punishment does not fit the crime. The rule is plain wrong.

The week before Newcastle were awarded another debated penalty against Wigan, this time Maynor Figueroa shoved Papiss Cisse in the box has he was running onto the ball, and probably about to get a shot on goal. It was an harsh decision but probably the correct one to award the penalty, Figueroa was then shown a red card. Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, after the game questioned the decision, “I think a penalty and a red card is too much punishment. I thought it was harsh.” Basically, Wigan were punished twice, firstly with the penalty and then with the sending off. You may argue that the sending off is an added punishment to deter future ‘Willie Youngs”.

For all you kids out there, Willie Young was a Scottish centre half who played for Arsenal in the 70s and early 80s, and was famous or infamous for a tackle on Paul Allen in the 1980 FA Cup Final between West Ham and Arsenal. Paul Allen was at the time the youngest player to play in a cup final at 17 years and 256 days, and was one of the major stories leading up to the big game. Late in the game with West Ham leading 1-0 Allen found himself through on goal when Young hacked down from behind just outside the box. Young was booked, Allen didn’t quite have the fairytale goal. This was before it was a sending off offence to deny a goalscoring opportunity.

In my opinion, on that May day in 1980, West Ham should have been given a penalty, even though it was outside the box. It would have been the fair punishment. Or maybe, they could have been given a choice, a penalty or a free kick outside the box and Young sent off. Newcastle last week should maybe have been given a similar choice between a penalty, and a free kick and a sending off. What would you choose?

Everyone remembers the Louis Suarez handball against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup, and also the Phil Neville goal line handball in the Merseyside derby a few years ago, when Lucas’ goal bound shot was knocked away. Ghana by rights would have scored if Suarez hadn’t intervened with his hand. Suarez was sent off, Ghana awarded the penalty as the rules dictate. But, Ghana didn’t take advantage. In both incidents the referee should have the option of awarding a goal. Or again offer the offended team the choice, a penalty and a sending off or a goal. Again, what would you choose?

This is very important area of the pitch, and if the laws are wrong, you’re not going to get what you deserve. In the 2 Allen and Figueroa incidents the punishment was too harsh, whereas in the Suarez and Neville incidents the punishment plain wrong.

Friday, 14 September 2012

After the Truth Comes Justice

By Lee Jaundrell   14/9/12

Since that fateful day in April 1989, I have tried many times to put my thoughts and feelings of that day in writing, but have been unable to. The emotions I have are hard to explain, but they have made it impossible for me to commit it to the written word. Even in conversations with friends and family I have struggled to talk about Hillsborough. 

The 15th of April 1989 has shaped my life for over 23 years, for good and for bad. In those years I haven’t really known what I wanted. I have been asked several times during the years about what I was looking for from the campaign for justice, my reply would be generally along the lines of, “Who am I to judge how someone mourns a lost loved one? I want whatever the families of the 96 who died want. Whatever would give them closer, help them through the pain. If they want justice, I want justice.”

On Wednesday 12th September 2012, I was working a 12 hour shift, but followed the news coming from the HIP on the internet, twitter and television the best I could. I had to fight back my tears and emotions on numerous occasions, it was a hard day to struggle through, but I now know that it was the day I had been waiting for for 23 years. A cloud, for me, has been lifted. A weight which has burdened me for a long long time was gone. I feel cleansed. 

I woke Thursday trying to explain to myself why this was. Deep down I have always known the truth, that a catalogue of errors, mistakes and bad management by the authorities had caused the disaster, but due to the police/media smear campaign I now realise that I had a small nagging doubt. Had I somehow also been part of the cause? Was I somehow partly responsible?

There were four of us who travelled to Hillsborough that day, two of us with tickets in the Leppings Lane end, one with a ticket for the stand, one without a ticket who had come for the day out and no intention of trying to get into the match, and we did what we did for dozens of away games in the past. We always got to the towns/cities early. It was all about the (away) day out, something different to the normal visits to Anfield. We wanted to see some of Sheffield, experience the pre match atmosphere in the city. We got to Sheffield around noon, we ate, visted a couple of pubs, laughed and joked with Liverpool and Forest fans. I was driving so didn’t drink, my friends did have a drink but nothing excessive. We got to the ground around 2.30pm, and got caught in the masses outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles. It was chaos. We got through the turnstiles, tickets intact, and entered the only visible entrance to the terraces. 

What happened next is well documented, even more so after this week’s events. Then the smear campaign started. People believe what they see and read. If the first reports on the news and in the papers is that it was the fans fault, it sticks. There’s no smoke without fire. But it was all lies. 

What I needed was for everyone to know the truth. There are no longer any doubts. Nothing nagging me.

The families who have fought for this are remarkable and amazing people and I thank them unreservedly. They have acted with a dignity far beyond which could be expected. 

Although I have my closure, I now, more than anything, want the families to have theirs.


What has happened is much worse than an hit and run. At least with an hit and run you could argue the run was a spare of the moment action. The police smear campaign was far from that. It was a premeditated action to protect their own, and those responsible must feel the full force of this countries judicial system. 

I can look forward to my future with a renewed optimism. My wife is expecting a baby next month, and we will be moving house soon. I can finally move on, hopefully the families can move on too, sooner rather than later.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

FFF - Fantasy Football Facts

By Lee Jaundrell 16/8/12

It’s that time again, all the excitement. It’s all about to begin, the meaningless internationals are out of the way, and the most important league in the world is about to get under way. No,no, not the Premier League, the most important league is your Fantasy League with your mates and colleagues. 

Never mind that your favourite team, challenging for a Champions League spot, failed to score, you had oppositions goalkeeper in your fantasy team and that’s an extra 4 points. Result. Below are some of my ramblings, things I have noticed, read, digested and regurgitated. Some things that I have probably just made up. Take it or leave it, but these are the FFFs - Fantasy Football Facts;-

  1. Check the double game weeks.
  2. Chelsea and Reading have a double game week in week 1.
  3. Fernando Torres is Chelsea’s only fit striker.
  4. Fernando Torres has 2 games in the first week, against 2 of the favourites for relegation, away to Wigan and at home to Reading.
  5. Fernando Torres is £10 million, Rooney is £12m, Van Persie is £13m.
  6. Fernando Torres is Chelsea’s only fit striker. (Yes I know I’ve said this,but it deserves a repeat).
  7. Ivanovic is not suspended following his red card in the charity shield.
  8. Ivanovic is £6.5m, Luiz is £6.5m, Cahill is £6.5m, Terry is £7m
  9. Ivanovic will play.
  10. Chelsea have 2 games in week 1.
  11. I like to repeat things, in order to pad things out a little
  12. It can be worth having a cheap goalkeeper.
  13. At £4.5m, Reading’s Federici is as cheap as they come for a starting goalkeeper.
  14. Jaaskelainen is £4.5m, Davis is also £4.5m
  15. Reading have 2 games in week 1
  16. Vorm of Swansea was the cheapest starting goalkeeper last season at £4.5m
  17. Vorm got 14 clean sheets last season
  18. Cech got 10 clean sheets last season, Reina 12, Szczesny 13
  19. Vorm is £5.5m this season
  20. Some of you may have noticed that I have stolen the format of this fantasy list from   Matthew Berry of ESPN. If you enjoy Fantasy NFL and good fun reading material look him up.
  21. Imitation is the highest form of flattery
  22. Gerrard will be playing high up the pitch this season.
  23. Despite playing deep last season Gerrard scored 1 less goal than David Silva.
  24. Silva only scored 6 goals for the rampant Man City
  25. Silva is £10m
  26. Juan Mata also scored just 6 goals last season
  27. Chelsea have bought Hazard, Oscar and Marin this summer
  28. Mata is £9.5m
  29. When fit, Gerrard will be playing the second striker role this season
  30. Gerrard is 9.5m
  31. Ramires scored 1 less goal than Mata last season
  32. Ramires is class and will play
  33. Chelsea have 2 games in week 1
  34. Ramires is £7m
  35. Man City have made 1 major signing so far this summer. Jack Rodwell.
  36. Rodwell becomes another DM, along with Barry & De Jong in their squad
  37. Yaya Toure is a monster
  38. Toure will in all probability play the attacking midfield role, and terrorise defences with his marauding brilliance
  39. Toure is £8m
  40. Moussa Dembele is a future World Cup winner with Belgium
  41. Dempsey could be leaving Fulham soon
  42. A question, who will replace the goals provided by Dempsey in his absence?
  43. Dembele is £6m
  44. Sometimes you take a gamble, sometimes you play it safe.
  45. Dempsey is £9.5m
  46. I have just returned from lunch in the pub, I had gammon and eggs, and ‘some’ beer.
  47. Alex Song had 13 assists last season.
  48. Song is rumoured to be a Barcelona target this summer.
  49. Adam Johnson had 6 assists last season, Aaron Ramsey had 6 assists too.
  50. Johnson is £7m, Ramsey is £6m.
  51. Song is £6m
  52. Gervinho is £7.5m
  53. Newcastle kept 15 clean sheets last season, only bettered by Man City
  54. Tim Krul is £5.5m, Joe Hart is £7.5m
  55. Tony Hibbert has never scored a goal for Everton
  56. Hibbert did have 5 assists, 1 behind Patrice Evra and Ashley Cole.
  57. Hibbert is £5.5m
  58. Hibbert is a gamble.
  59. A. Cole is £6.5m
  60. Chelsea have 2 games in week 1
  61. A.Cole is playing it safe
  62. Stewart Downing didn’t score a goal last season, and had just 2 assists (not including the sacking of the manager)
  63. Downing’s position has changed from last season, from left midfield, to right sided attacking winger. He can cut in and shoot from the right.
  64. Downing has already scored this season.
  65. Downing is £6.5m, he is a gamble, but Gervinho is £7.5m
  66. Nikica Jelavic scores goals
  67. Jelavic will start every league game
  68. Jelavic is £8.5m
  69. Andy Carroll is £8.5m
  70. Carroll has scored 6 league goals in 18 months at Liverpool
  71. Carroll will not start every game
  72. Lukas Podolski is £8.5m
  73. Podolski scores goals, but.......
  74. In his first season at Bayern Munich he scored 4 league goals
  75. In his first season at FC Koln he scored 2 league goals.
  76. Podolski takes time to settle
  77. Jelavic scored 9 goals in 13 league games for Everton
  78. Torres is the only fit striker at Chelsea
  79. Matthew Berry’s 100 facts can be found here;
  80. The current strikers at Tottenham are Defoe, Giovani, Kane and Lancaster.
  81. Jermaine Defoe is £7.5m
  82. Danny Graham of Swansea scored more points than Luis Suarez last season
  83. Graham 138 points, Suarez 136 points.
  84. Grant Holt also got 138 points
  85. Graham is £6.5m
  86. Holt is £6.5m
  87. Suarez is £9.5m
  88. Jay Rodriguez is £5.5m
  89. Rodriguez would be a gamble
  90. Away from Fantasy Football for a moment, Man Utd will have 4 strikers next season, Rooney, Van Persie, Wellbeck & Hernandez. Man City have Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko & Ballotelli. Chelsea have Fernando Torres and Sturridge. Aguero, Rooney and Van Persie are all shorter price to be top goalscorer this season. Torres is 10/1.
  91. Dembele is 125/1. Defoe is 50/1. Carroll & Podolski are 33/1.
  92. Always check team news, as late as possible.
  93. Ba, Cisse & Sammy Ameobi could all be missing this weekend.
  94. Shola Ameobi is fit to play
  95. Cisse is £9.5m, Shola is £5.5m
  96. Always make use of your transfers, even if it costs you points.
  97. If the team is right, don’t change it
  98. When it comes to your captain, the obvious choice is the only choice, don’t try and be clever.
  99. Torres is Chelsea’s only fit striker, he will play 2 games in week 1 against 2 of the weaker teams in the league, he is the obvious and only choice for captain this week.
  100. Good luck

Fantasy football can be played at it is free and by far the best fantasy around, and if you want to join me in my league, the entry code is 418762-117593.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

England - The Squad

By Lee Jaundrell   12/5/12
On Wednesday Roy Hodgson will name his England squad, if he is struggling to choose the players, I’m going to help him. I am going to pick the squad for him, it will be a combination of the players I would pick, along with the players I think will suit Hodgson’s style of play and tactics. This won’t necessarily be my ultimate squad. Well here goes;-
Joe Hart
Ben Foster
Scott Carson
Joe Hart is an automatic choice, the best English keeper around at the moment. Ben Foster has improved since leaving Man Utd and playing regular football, he still has a tendency to push shots back into danger but is a decent back up. Hodgson will probably try and bring him out of his England self exclusion. Scott Carson was a bright, young up and coming goalkeeper, who had his confidence smashed by that fateful night against Croatia. He has talent, if that belief comes back, then he is a solid third choice keeper.
Glen Johnson
Micah Richards
Rio Ferdinand
Gary Cahill
Joleon Lescott
Phil Jones
Ashley Cole
I would like to see Cahill and Lescott starting in the centre of defence, they have both had excellent seasons, and are arguably the form central defenders. John Terry is left out due to the probable negative effect he would have on the squad. He caused problems in South Africa and his record isn’t great since. Ferdinand goes instead, he will probably start, and barring injuries I’d expect him to have an excellent tournament.
Johnson would be my first choice right back, with Micah Richards the back up. Kyle Walker is quick and talented, great going forward but with occasional defensive lapses, basically a younger version of Johnson. I’ve chosen Richards instead due to his ability to play in the centre, he has generally played second fiddle to the brilliant Zabaleta but when called upon he has been strong and aggressive going forward, while dependable at the back.
Phil Jones is the other covering player, who is versatile, and could cover right back, centre half, or play in midfield. This could be needed this summer. 
I have chosen just Cole at left back, as Johnson and Lescott can both cover. It’s a shame for Leighton Baines, but needs must.
James Milner
Adam Johnson
Theo Walcott
Gareth Barry
Scott Parker
Steven Gerrard
Frank Lampard
Ashley Young
I am presuming England will play 4-4-2, with the choice of Johnson, Walcott or Milner on the right, Young or Milner on the left. I actually expect Milner and Young to start, with the pace of Walcott or the trickery of Johnson being brought on if needed. In the centre for me it’s Barry plus another. The same Barry who looked like he was going backwards when Ozil sped past him in South Africa. He is one of the first names on Man City’s teamsheet, and holds City together with his defensive awareness and simple but effective passing. He may lack pace, but his anticipation and experience more than makes up for it. He is ten times the player of the press darling but headless chicken who is Scott Parker. Saying that Parker would go to the Euros too.
Gerrard will probably play as the second striker in the absence of Rooney in the first 2 games, so Lampard should start alongside Barry. Yes, lets go back to the future. Chelsea have turned their season around, and that is in no small part due to Frank Lampard. He was superb in both games against Barcelona, especially when going down to 10 men in the Nou Camp. If Jack Wilshire had been fit, Lampard may have been surplus to requirements, but needs must, and Frank’s in.
Wayne Rooney
Andy Carroll
Peter Crouch
Danny Welbeck
Daniel Sturridge
Hodgson has already stated Rooney will be in the squad, and will start when free from suspension, but who else goes. Who suits Hodgson’s tactics, who could cause problems for International defences? I’ve gone for big Andy Carroll. If you have read anything by me this season, you’ll know I’ve been quite critical of ‘ponytail’, but in the past few weeks we have seen glimpses of the beast unleashed. The player we all hoped he would be. Don’t get carried away they are only glimpses. A last minute winner against Blackburn, a late winner in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton, through in the barn storming cameo in the final against Chelsea, when he scored one and was unlucky not to have taken it to extra time. He also bullied Terry and Ivanovic in the league game the following Tuesday. Carroll is not only in the squad, he starts against France!
Crouch has his detractors and will always have them. But as target men go he is excellent. He holds the ball well, has great feet, and causes problems with his height. Throw in his record of 22 goals from 42 internationals, who else would you want coming on with 20 minutes play when you’re a goal down?
There’s a case to take Jermain Defoe, but I would rather take a couple of youngsters, who could prosper. Welbeck as shown some class at times this season, and for the most part as kept Hernandez out of the Man Utd team. He has a good playing relationship with Rooney, which may be needed.
Sturridge is young, greedy, a bad decision maker, doesn’t work hard enough for the team and wouldn’t fit well into a Roy Hodgson team. But he has time on his side, could learn to become the striker he thinks he already is. He scored 8 from 12 games during a loan spell to Bolton playing as a striker, and has 11 from 28 league games this season playing on the right of a front 3 with Chelsea. I’d take him, he may not get a game, but that could do him the world of good.
There you go, the squad for Euro 2012. I still think it’ll struggle to get out of the group but fingers crossed.

Friday, 20 April 2012

France and a Little Bit of Nick Faldo

By Lee Jaundrell   20/4/12
Euro 2012 is just around the corner, and now is the time to place your bets or rather the one bet. In a few weeks time, odds compilers around the world will turn their attention to the tournament, so place your bets now before they realise what a rick they’ve made. Get on France @ 14/1 while they’re not looking.
“France? Meh!” I hear your cry. Well come with me and lets see if I can persuade you.
Spain are the favourites, they won the last World Cup and also Euro 2008. The team is built around Barcelona, who are quite good at football. So, they are worthy favourites for the tournament. Well I disagree. I love this Spanish team, I backed them 4 years ago to succeed and again 2 years ago, but they won’t see any of my money this time around. There are 2 reasons for this, and I know you can prove anything with stats, but no team has won 3 major international tournaments in a row, ever! The second reason is tiredness. The Spain squad will likely be made up of around 9 players from Barcelona, 4 from Real Madrid, and 6 or 7 from Athletic Bilbao, Valencia and Atletico Madrid. All these teams are in the semi-finals of the Champions League or Europa League. Barcelona and Real are also fighting out a tight, titanic title race, and both are showing signs of fatigue. Most of you will of seen Bilbao play in the Europa League this season, with their high intensity game of pressing and man-marking all over the pitch. This must take it out of the players, the excellent Martinez, Muniain and Llorente must be feeling it now. For the first few months of the season, David Silva was the best player in England, his form has dipped recently, and Juan Mata also appears to be feeling the heat of a long hard season. Throw into the mix David Villa broke his leg in December and Fernando Torres has all but forgotten where the goal is, this makes Spain @ 5/2 a very poor bet.
This current German side is arguably the best they’ve had for years. In particular due to a strong central midfield of Khedira, Schweinsteiger and Ozil, and the goalscoring exploits of Gomez. They have dozens of good young players to choose from, in all positions. The one area where they might struggle is in defence. Experience can be vital, and apart from Lahm, they could struggle. Mertesacker is currently injured (though should recover in good time) and hasn’t pulled up trees at Arsenal this season while Friedrich is in semi-retirement playing for Chicago Fire. Saying that, Germany do have a great chance this summer, they qualified in a stroll, winning 10 from 10, and you just can’t write off the Germans (sorry!). The last friendly match, though, saw an home defeat to France. I’ll say that again, the last friendly match, though, saw an home defeat to France.
Nick Faldo was an excellent golfer, winning several majors, and was very popular with the British public. Every major he played in, you would be guaranteed to see a flood of bets on him to win, no matter what his chances were. He’d be priced up at a low price, which didn’t reflect his actually chances of victory. The money would still come regardless. This is what I like to call ‘The Nick Faldo Factor’. England suffer from The Nick Faldo Factor. Patriotic money keeps the England price lower than it should be, and it always has done. British bookmakers have dominated the world of betting for years, and therefore lead the way with the prices, foreign firms just fall into line. England are currently around 9/1 to win Euro 2012. 

During the Eriksson years, England did actually stand a chance in the tournaments they played in, partly due to some good players, and partly due to there not being an outstanding international team between France 2000 and Spain 2008. Eriksson kept things simple with his England team, he played the best players. If fit you could guarantee the following would play, A.Cole, Ferdinand, Terry, Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham, J.Cole, Rooney and Owen. Right back was a bit of an issue, but meh! They weren’t a great team, qualified easily for tournaments, but never had that little bit extra to go all the way, maybe all they needed was a little bit of luck. Now can you name the England team for their first game against France in Euro 2012? Hart in goal, Cole at left back is about as far as I got for certainties. Will Terry and Ferdinand play? Or will Lescott and Cahill start? Centre midfield is actually all over the place, there’ll be no Wilshire, so who starts out of Parker, Barry, Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick or even Scholes? Ashley Young would appear to have dived into the role on the left, but who’ll play on the right? Walcott? And who plays up front? Wellbeck? Sturridge? Or possibly Fraizer Campbell? Andy Carroll is even making a late push. No wonder Harry Redknapp has looked lost over the past few weeks. 
England are 9/1, while France are 14/1. A France side which has been transformed by Laurent Blanc into a united, unbeatable force. They are on a run of 18 matches unbeaten, coming into form at just the right time. Their players are generally fresh, and have some very good, almost unknown players ready to set the world on fire this summer. No one really takes that much notice of French club football, except for maybe Graham Carr the head scout of Newcastle. This French team have a top goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris, every bit as good as Joe Hart, and probably better. There is experience in defence with Evra, Mexes and Sagna in particular. A central midfield which could include Newcastle’s Cabaye, one of the players of the year in England, following a season captaining Lille to the French title, and the new star of French football Yann M’Vila. M’Vila won’t be staying at Rennes this summer, a big money move to one of Europe’s giants awaits. He is being bigged up as being better than Viera. Out wide France can count on Ribery, Nasri and the well rested Malouda. Up front is interesting, firstly there is Benzema, the likely starter, but he is under pressure from this season’s revelation in France, Olivier Giroud with 23 goals from 35 games for unfashionable Montpellier. Throw in players such as Loic Remy, a possible inclusion of Hatem Ben Arfa and the creative midfielder Marvin Martin, and France are looking good for the summer. They are hitting form at the right time, including beating Germany in Germany recently.
England are 9/1, while France are 14/1.
The other major contenders include Holland, who at 7/1 are probably priced correctly, Van Persie will surely be popular for a top goalscorer bet. They were functional during the World Cup, and had Robben. They stand a chance in the summer, but have recently faltered against Sweden and lost 3-0 in Germany. Others appeal more.
Cesare Prandelli is a manager I like, but hasn’t set the world on fire with his Italian side, and recent back to back home defeats to Uruguay and USA have dampened expectations. Italy are likely to be Italy in the Euros. Solid, hard to beat, could improve as the tournament goes on, but will probably come up short.
Spain and Germany are entitled to lead the betting lists, but France are the value @ 14/1. Back it now while no one is looking. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Liverpool - What the future may hold

By Lee Jaundrell  5/4/12
Liverpool could end the season with 2 trophies, which has to be considered a success. But, the league campaign has been a bit of a disaster, currently 8th, 16 points behind the Champions League placings, the target for the season. Being outside the top 4 for another season may mean Liverpool may need to cut their cloth accordingly. FSG threw money at the situation last summer but I don’t see them investing big again this coming summer, in fact, it wouldn’t surprise if they break even on transfer fees in the next window.
The investment since FSG took charge has generally been on talent with a future, players mid/low 20s, with 5-10 playing years to come, such as Carroll, Henderson, Suarez, Downing, Enrique, Adam and Coates. FSG having spent big to be in the Champions League and failed, and now must take a very long term view on the future, which could mean looking for slow improvement of the team and the squad. Trusting the players already at the club, in the first team squad, and the young ones coming through. This could be a project that could take years to place Liverpool back where they belong.
There are already noises that older, high earning players such as Kuyt and Maxi will leave in the summer, Bellamy another year older and Carragher will surely be spending more time coaching than playing. This will leave holes in the squad, and with Liverpool not being an exciting prospect for top class players, the coming seasons could be a struggle. Commolli will really need to earn his corn. Good players are available. Newcastle are being held up as the true ‘Moneyball’ team, with the excellent purchases of Tiote, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Ba & Cisse and prove that the talent is there.
So next season will see experienced players leave, and be replaced by young players coming through the club, and also 2 or 3 ‘gamble’ signings which need to work. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Lucas has been sorely missed and will be back next season. Downing and Henderson will hopefully improve on their debut season, and if Agger stays fit, Liverpool’s defence is strong and well balanced with 2 good attacking full-backs in Johnson and Enrique. 
Liverpool seem blessed with talented youngsters at the moment, Shelvey has talent and will improve, Kelly solid when given his chance and Flanagan and Robinson have some experience now. Others who will surely make a mark over the next few months, Suso, Eccleston, Coady, Wisdom, McLaughlin and the very exciting prospect Sterling. It would be foolish to think all 10 of these players will prove up to the standard required, but if 2 or 3 make it, the club could have a solid base from which to build.
In conclusion, it is doubtful Liverpool will get a short term fix to their problems in the summer, but things are not as dark as been made out. While the top 4 may be out of reach for another season or 2, progress can and will be made. 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Dalglish - Above Average Reds

By Lee Jaundrell   29/3/12
‘If you buy above average players, you end up with an above average team.’
I don’t know who actually said that about the current Liverpool team, but I think they got it spot on. Kenny Dalglish (and Damien Comolli) have spent a lot of money (also recouped a sizeable amount) on players in the past 15 months, but have Liverpool really had a chance of a top 4 finish with the quality of player bought? Dalglish has been fighting a losing battle to be honest. Throw in some bad luck, a few poor performances and you have a team currently lying seventh in the league, an above average position.
This is a season which has seen Chelsea struggle, Arsenal play poorly until a recent upsurge and Tottenham falter lately. It is a season with top 4 places were up for grabs. Next season I believe will be tougher, at least 2 of those 3 will improve, if not all 3. The top 5 will look impregnable, maybe for some time.
So where did it all go wrong (to steal a bellboy’s question to George Best) for the Carling Cup winners/FA Cup Semifinalists? The above average signings!
Andy Carroll;- A cult hero in Newcastle, big, strong, great in the air, are all the things we expected from big Andy (or ponytail as my wife calls him) but have seen very little of this. The odd good flick on, a couple goals but thats about it. The stat doing the rounds on Twitter of Liverpool’s record when he starts recently is astounding, won 5 and drawn 2 of the last 7 games he’s started. It would appear he brings the best out of the players around him. If he is to prove successful, surely he needs to start every game. But to date at the price paid I’d rate him a 5 out of 10 signing. Average
Jordan Henderson;- A lot of money was spent on this up and coming midfielder. Young, English, good one touch player, plays with his head up and obviously has ability, but maybe he hasn’t done it for the reds so far this season is because he doesn’t have game intelligence. He seems lost being played out of position on the right. He never makes the right run, he receives the ball, plays a quick one touch pass then looks lost to what to do next. 
In Dalglish’s first spell as Liverpool manager he had the out and out winger on the left John Barnes and the more flexible Ray Houghton cutting inside to help the midfield from the right, unfortunately Downing and Henderson are not Barnes and Houghton.
The big hope for Henderson is that he will blossom playing as a box to box central midfielder, he reminds a bit of David Platt but without the goals. Saying that, was David Platt really that good without the goals? 5/10. Average
Stewart Downing;- Liverpool needed a left winger, they went out and bought the ‘best’ available English left winger, and paid what was needed. That’s part of what the Moneyball principle says,‘fill what’s needed, pay what’s needed.’ But Downing has been, for want of a better word, pants. Bought, you would think, to provide the service from wide for Ponytail, sorry big Andy Carroll to thrive on. Downing this season couldn’t cross a road. I don’t have the stats. but the number of crosses that reach a Liverpool player in the box is minimal. In some quarters Downing was made Man of the Match in the Carling Cup final against Championship Side Cardiff, but in the whole of that game, I can remember only one cross which reached it’s target. Maybe he’ll improve, but will he get the chance? Raheem Sterling came on against Wigan and looked bright. Dalglish has a decision to make between now and the end of the season, 2 of Downing, Bellamy, Maxi or Sterling to compete for the left sided role, in my opinion, Downing is forth on that list. 1/10. Poor
Charlie Adam;- Oh Charlie, Charlie! £6million isn’t a lot of money is this day and age, Liverpool should of had a bargain, but it hasn’t quite worked out. Adam has talent, an excellent range of passing, a good dribbler and £10million’s worth of corners. Firstly, those corners, Liverpool have scored 4 goals from 247 corners in the league this season, read that slowly 4 from 247! Adam had had some good games, but the bad ones far outweigh them. Poor decision making, especially after a good surging run has been part of the downfall, and talking of downfall, why oh why do you fall over so often looking for free kicks. 6/10. Slightly above average considering his cost
Not one of the above 4 signings would get close to getting into the sides in the top 5, how can we of expected Dalglish to make Liverpool a top 4 team with these 4 in the heart of the team?
There have been good signings too; Bellamy has been an excellent free transfer, his performance against Man City in the Carling Cup Semi Final was just immense. Enrique has been part of a very strong defence (Johnson, Skrtel & Agger included), and offers variety going forward. He is quick, strong, good on the ball and is very confident, though at times he hangs onto the ball a little too long. That leaves the one major successful signing, Luis Suarez, for effort, skill, and will to win you couldn’t ask for more.
This leaves the question of whether with these signings, and the unfortunate injuries to key players, did Dalglish have a chance of taking Liverpool back into the Champions League?
The squad appears deep in above average talent, but seems to lack a very strong first 11. Which seems to be the complete opposite of the time under Benitez, when the first 11 was very strong, but underneath there wasn’t much. At times Liverpool have been excellent, the defensive partnership of Agger and Skrtel is arguably as good as it gets in the league this season, with Skrtel, in particular, putting in a player of the season performances, well until he was moved from right side centre back to left side to accommodate Carragher in Agger’s absence, and has looked quite shaky against QPR and Wigan.
In attack the team has produced chance after chance, though not always clear cut. Suarez being at the heart of these chances, either creating of trying to finish, and in most cases both. He is trying too hard, if that’s possible, that when a chance comes is way, is finishing has been poor due to the effort used in creating. Gerrard is currently Liverpool’s best finisher, as the game against Everton again proved, but he has been playing far too deep for most of the games he’s played.
Lucas has been a big loss, Spearing, although committed, wouldn’t get into most Premier League sides, he was shown as a level or 2 below by Man Utd away earlier this season, buying a defensive midfielder last January was imperative if the top 4 was to be a realistic target.
So, in conclusion, the signings are not up to top 4 class, blame can be apportioned to both Dalglish and Comolli for this. The side has also lacked direction at times, are we a pressing side, or a sit back and absorb side. At times it has been both, at times neither.
If Liverpool are to get back into the Champions League soon, radical changes are needed. Whether that is massive investment in players during the summer, or a new radical, progressive manager is put in place instead of Dalglish to push the side on, or maybe both is in fact needed. One thing is for certain, if things stay the same, and above average players are again bought in the summer, another season of being above average is in store. Dalglish 6/10. Comolli 3/10.

Friday, 20 January 2012

I am Waving an Imaginary Red Card....

By Lee Jaundrell   20/1/12
I am waving an imaginary red card to all the fools who are in so much outrage at players/managers who wave imaginary cards.
Apparently waving this imaginary card is worse than an out of control two-footed tackle which could finish a players career. Why are you so outraged? Is asking for a player to be booked or sent off so wrong, even worse than the offence which this card is being asked for?
I heard Andy Gray on Talksport even go as far to say that Mancini asking for a player to be sent off on the sidelines with suitable Italian hand gestures was worse than Rooney running and screaming hands raised in a referees face. How? Why? Where? When? etc.....
When I was 14 or 15, due to a couple of players being late, I was asked to turn out for a local pub side. The basic instructions I was given, was to run around a lot and claim for everything. Every throw in, every corner, every foul. “REF” was being screamed all game long, but this was the norm of sunday league football. If the referee wasn’t sure, he may just go with the side that screamed the loudest. Claiming for a corner which you clearly know is a goal kick is surely much worse than asking a referee to book someone who has hacked you down for the tenth time.
Mancini is doing nothing wrong in my eyes, nor is any player who asks a referee to take action for an offence committed. But we’re English and we don’t do that, do we? It does feel that there is a bit of little englander about the whole commotion caused by this, which appears to be what this season has been all about so far.
I am still waving an imaginary red card. Now shut up and get on with the game.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Quiz Show Dilemma

By Lee Jaundrell 10/01/12

Picture the scene, you have just got through to the final round of a major quiz show, and you now have the chance to win £1million. To win this prize you have the choice of 3 boxes, in 1 box is the £1million, in the other 2 boxes is a dusty bin and a blankety blank cheque book and pen. Now choose your box; 1, 2 or 3.

After making your choice, Terry Monkhouse (the host) then takes away one of the other boxes saying the million pounds is not in it that one, and then offers you the chance to change your mind on which box you want. For example, you originally choose box 1, the host then takes away box 3. Do you keep box 1 or change to box 2?

What would you do?

I'm guessing you would probably stick to your original choice, but I would suggest 100% that you should always swap for the other box. And here's why;-

When you have the choice of 3 boxes, there is a 33.33% chance of the money being in any box, or in betting terms each box is a 2/1 chance, so as the example goes you pick box number 1;-

Box 1 - 33.33% chance

The host takes away box 3, leaving the chances of the money in each box as;-

Box 1 - 33.33%
Box 2 - 66.67%

Or in other words, it is odds on (1/2) that the money is in box 2, and a 2/1 chance of the money being in box 1. But, you will forever regret changing your mind if the money is in fact in box 1. That's the Quiz Show Dilemma.

What would YOU do?