Sunday, October 11, 2009

EPL Review: Fergie Says Sorry, Sort Of...England Are Sorry, and Rafa is Blamed...

Just because there were no Premiership matches doesn't mean the league just stops.

So much for the Respect campaign, as Fergie waited a full week before issuing a strange apology to referee Alan Wiley, while England put in the type of performance that only apologies can cover and Rafa got blamed by George Gillett, who reckons Liverpool's finances are rosy...

Fergie eventually said sorry to Alan Wiley for publicly embarrassing the referee after his strange claims on Wiley's fitness, and his poor decisions...

“I apologise to Mr. Wiley for any personal embarrassment that my remarks may have caused and to the FA for going public with my view.

“In retrospect, I accept that this could be deemed as expressing those views in an inappropriate forum.

“It was never my intention to bring the focus of intense media attention on Mr. Wiley.

“I intend to contact him personally after I return from a trip overseas during the international break.

“I would wish it to be noted that I have always respected Mr. Wiley’s integrity and that I did not state or imply that Mr. Wiley is bad referee; that he was in anyway biased; that his decision-making during the game was poor, or that he missed any very important incidents during the game.

“My only intention in speaking publicly was to highlight what I believe to be serious and important issues in the game, namely that the fitness levels of referees must match the ever-increasing demands of the modern game, which I hope will now be properly addressed through the appropriate formal channels.”

This well judged statement from Ferguson is probably as close as the Scot gets to an apology, but it avoids the main part of Ferguson's attack on Wiley: his fitness.

Of course, Fergie's original tirade on Wiley was completely ridiculed after ProZone stats showed that the referee covered more ground (11km) than 21 of the 28 players involved in the match, and that he got all the major decisions in the game right.

Cynics might read that Fergie sees a big ban coming down the down the road and that he has moved to try and reduce its severity, but in reality it is too little too late, and a lesson learned by the United manager.

His poor choice in rhetoric, as he tried to take the spotlight from his poor selection and his team's poor performance, backfired badly.

On Saturday, England lost their 100 percent record to Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk. They more or less had to play the full game with 10 men after Rio Ferdinand's poor defending led to Robert Green charging from goal and taking Artem Milevskiy down.

The error by Ferdinand is yet another in a season full of them, starting with his howler against Holland, before going into club form and a series of mistakes against Manchester City.

Ferdinand is not match fit, no matter what he claims, and on the last three months' evidence he has work to do if he is to guarantee a starting position in South Africa.

Another position that is worrying for Capello is goalkeeper.

As it stands there are only four viable choices for the role in South Africa.

Ben Foster, who will soon be out of the United team.

Robert Green and David James who could both be fighting a relegation battle at their respective teams and Paul Robinson at Blackburn.

James is in the lead marginally, and with only three more games planned between now and the squad announcement, he should keep the role.

One team without goalkeeping problems are Ireland. Shay Given is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment, and he will seal his 100th cap on Wednesday against Montenegro.

He didn't have a whole lot to do in the 2-2 draw with Italy but what he did have to do, he did well.

The big problem area facing Ireland comes in the form of players outside the squad.

Andy Reid and Stephen Ireland.

One wants to play; the other doesn't.

One thing to consider is that Reid could merit a place in the squad, but you would have to argue if he would get into the starting XI, and at this stage, his reputation is growing more by being out of the team than in it.

Giovanni Trappatoni is an old-school manager, and the wily Italian will not bend to some of the Irish media's calls to bring Reid into the squad.

In the red world of Hollyoaks, I mean Liverpool, things are beginning to take a turn for the worst for Rafael Benitez.

“In the last 18 months, we have invested £128 million on top of what has come in. That means it should be getting better."

“Now if it’s not getting better, it’s not Gillett and Hicks, it’s the manager, it’s the scouting. You have to make sure you balance out your analysis. There was plenty of money, so if you have any complaints, take a look at the ins and outs.”

“The club has the lowest debt to each dollar of earnings of any major club in the sport.”

“The club is in extraordinarily good financial condition. Far better than Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.

We have invested massively, we have put more money in than anyone other than Manchester City, with the craziness they have got,” Gillett said.

Gillett insisted the “debt on Liverpool is very sound” and denied suggestions the club would struggle to meet interest payments without Champions League football. “The budgets are done very conservatively,” he said.

“They are based on a very limited success in the Champions League. Even without that, we have enough cash flow to pay the minimum interest and give Rafa what he needs to make us competitive.”

George Gillett's comments have raised many eyebrows across the footballing world. Not only for the way he has undermined his manager, but for the way he claimed that Liverpool are financially healthy.

Starting with Rafa, Gillett has attacked his manager's claims that he was restrained in the transfer market, the monies taken in for Alonso were put back into the transfer fund along with another £22 million.

But that beggars the question, why didn't Rafa spend it?

Perhaps he didn't want to?

The words can also be read as being quite vitriolic towards Benitez, because they so obviously question the wisdom of their manager's signings this summer, particularly Acquilani and Glen Johnson.

The next part about the clubs finance's being healthy, especially when the club owe some £300 million to banking giants Wachovia and RBS.

And to say “The club is in extraordinarily good financial condition" is funny in the extreme.

10 statements after a week where nothing happened

1) Harry Redknapp will be given SAS protection when he brings Spurs to Fratton Park. Didn't he win the FA Cup there?

2) Rio Ferdinand has much work to do if he is to guarantee himself a starting berth in South Africa.

3) FIFA's re-jigging of the European play-off system to suit the bigger countries is cynical.

4) Players should celebrate against their former teams; it's almost like not celebrating is the new celebrating.

5) Michael Owen should be treated like a returning hero at Anfield. He gave the club remarkable service. Schadenfreude?

6) Michael Ballack is the key player for Chelsea this season. He has only not started in two games, the 2-1 win over Hull, where he came on at half-time; and the 3-1 loss to Wigan, where he was rested.

7) Burnley only pay £9.6 million in wages a year. Chelsea pay £172 million.

8) Manchester City are now in debt for £137 million. Manchester United are £650 million in debt. Debt is now synonymous with football, and Liverpool are lucky to still exist after the banks re-financed their loan for 12 more months.

9) Half the teams in the Premiership are owned by foreign owners. In Germany, foreign owners are only allowed to own 49 percent of a club. The other 51 percent must be German-owned.

10) Diego Maradona is a spacer.

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