Tag Archives: Gareth Bale

Transfer Window

10 Sep

The transfer window has once again, in the excitable vernacular of Sky Sports News presenters, “slammed shut”.  The sticking plaster of new signings is no longer available.  Managers will now have to rely on old fashioned constructs such as tactics, training and motivation.  Credit cards back in wallets, gents.  Cones out on the practice pitches.

But which teams had a good window?  And who got a bit spend happy in the hot weather?  Too Good give its two cents on the best and the worst of the business conducted in football’s summer marketplace…

It is one of the game’s great curiosities that everything gets done at the very last moment in the transfer window.  Whether this is due to the relative infancy of a restrictive window[1], brinksmanship, teams getting caught in a chain of purchases, or a combination of all three, you would struggle to find another setting where hundreds of millions of pounds are spent in a less orderly fashion. Investments that will make or break a season (careers, even) are thrashed out via the charmingly obsolete method of facsimile while the available hours and minutes ebb away.  Too Good knows little about the fast food industry, but we would be more than a touch surprised if, minutes before shop opening hours, McDonalds’ franchisees were still frantically scrambling around for beef patties.

It was therefore pleasing to see Manchester City do their business early and effectively this summer.  Whether you agree with their signings or not[2], City’s ability to get the job done long before the September 2nd bun-fight was most gratifying.  Less than a decade ago, “Manchester City” and “businesslike” would show up together about as often as the phrases “John Prescott” and “twerking”.  More and more, though, the club seem to approach things in a timely and professional manner.

By contrast, it is a testimony to Scottish thrift that the first new manager of Manchester United in over quarter of a century couldn’t seem to liberate his wallet from his trouser pocket until the very last day of the window.  Even then, like many of his compatriots, Moyes must have been at the malt when he finally managed to prise open the purse strings.

Rare are the days I look to Robbie Fowler for thoughts and inspiration on the beautiful game.  However, like a broken watch, the former Scouse marksman was bang on for a brief moment when he said that “Marouane Fellaini is a good player … just not a Manchester United player”.  I couldn’t agree more.  There’s something unseemly about the league’s showpiece team signing a player who is best known for “causing a lot of problems” for opposition teams and generally being “a bit of a handful”.  These are not the deft words of precision football that are synonymous with Manchester United.  These are mid-table words. Words that aren’t necessarily bad in the right context, but Moyes needs to recognise that a change in mindset is in order.  Managing Manchester United is only the same as managing Everton in the way that an evening under the bed sheets with Jessica Alba is the same as one with Kerry Katona.  On one level, they’re identical.  But, on a fundamentally more important level, they really aren’t.  You’re shopping in Waitrose now Moyesy; buy the best eggs available.

Arsenal have put all of their eggs in one rather delightful, if a touch pricey, basket.  Mesuit Ozil will provide lashings of guile and vision in the middle of the Emirates’ park.  It must have killed Arsene Wenger to sanction a cheque of that size.  But Ozil is no Francis Jeffers or Antonio Reyes.  This is a German international at the peak of his career.   Wenger is a border-town boy, only falling within the French boundaries by the width of one of his spindly fingers. With Ozil joining fellow international team-mates Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski, all of a sudden Arsene’s beloved Gunners have a distinctly Teutonic feel.  And Germans have a habit of winning football matches.

Too Good would like to have heard another bleep of Wenger’s barcode-scanner that ensured Olivier Giroud stayed in a tracksuit and on the bench for the forthcoming season.  Maybe Yaya Sanogo will do this.  Sanogo is a raw 20 year old without a full season to his name.  But with an eye-opening 10 goals in 13 league appearances for Auxerre last year, Too Good is pinning its rosette for “Potential Find of the Summer” on the lanky French youngster.  This year might still be a little early for Sanogo.  However, if there is one place you would want to learn your craft when you’re a young French footballer with buckets of potential, it’s ensconced in the warm bosom of Monsieur Wenger.  All in all, good job, Arsene. 

Rather than buying a youthful striker with bags of potential, Chelsea instead chose to get rid of one.  Romelu Lukaku was farmed out to Everton for 12 months and four-time African Player of the Year, Samuel Eto’o (now nearly 33), has been asked to do Lukaku’s job instead.  Chelsea’s quota of out-and-out centre forwards therefore remains at a paltry three (Eto’o, Torres and Ba).  One old, one crocked and one that was never good enough in the first place.  If this doesn’t concern Jose Mourinho, it really should do.  Eto’o is the only member of the triumvirate that can be relied upon.  Even then, whether Eto’o’s undoubted ability is still there despite his advancing years is a question to be answered.

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I’ve been on enough dates in my time to recognise the look of someone who doesn’t really want to be somewhere.  All the best restaurants and sharpest chat-up lines aren’t enough when the object of your affection just doesn’t have their heart in it.  Tottenham Hotspur saw Gareth Bale staring into the middle distance and rightly got down to the business of demanding the biggest fee possible to compensate for their jilting.  £86 million is a phenomenal figure and Daniel Levy is to be praised to the hilt for squeezing Real Madrid like a sponge. Madrid’s adolescent attitude to money is exactly how I would behave if I was implicitly backed by the Spanish government and, as a result, Spurs have been granted a fantastic war-chest.  Sensibly, they took a calculated gamble on the sale of Bale and brought in a wealth of talented reinforcements based on the expected proceeds.  It is now up to Andre Villa-Boas to mold his new team and heave them that all-important one step further up the premier league ladder.

A wise footballing prophet decreed in May of this year that James McCarthy and Aroune Kone would be shrewd buys, available at affordable prices.  Someone agreed and, as chance would have it, that someone was the very person who managed the pair of them last season.  Everton now have more than a hint of Wigan about them.  Let’s hope it was the good bit. 

The Toffees may benefit from something of a managerial portmanteau this season.  On the one hand, they should still have the defensive resilience drilled into them from years of management under David Moyes.  Now coupled to this, the incoming Roberto Martinez will seek to overlay the attractive passing style that has become his trademark.  It will be interesting to see if these two schools of football connect or collide.

A lot of anticipation this summer surrounded the premier league’s increased purchasing power (due to the improved TV deal) and how it would manifest itself.  This was to be the transfer window where the premier league flexed its muscle and gave the other European Leagues a good look at their big shiny cheque books.  In the end, the dominance at the cashier’s desk was most keenly observed not at the high table of the premier league elite, but at the clubs at the lower end of the division.  Southampton, Sunderland and Norwich all signed key players from larger teams abroad.  Pablo Osvaldo (Italian international from Roma, £14.6million), Emanuele Giaccherini (Italian international from Juventus, £6.5m) and Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Holland international from Sporting Lisbon, £10 million) each gladly dug out their passports and left bigger fish for the lure of the pound and the premiership.  A seismic shift, if perhaps not the glamorous one some fans expected to see.  Great news, though, for England when the inaugural Platini Plate gets off the ground.

It remains to be a farce that the transfer window does not close until after the season starts.  Clubs cannot be expected to begin a campaign while an all-out fire sale is being conducted on their most valuable assets.  The window should shut before the first ball is kicked and avoid this unseemly game of musical chairs three games into the season.  In any case, shut it now most certainly has.  Time to take the plastic off the new purchases and see if they were worth the outlay. Game on.

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Clubs ready themselves for the final twenty four hours of the transfer window.


[1] FIFA made the transfer window compulsory in European leagues at the start of the 2002–03 season (as a result of negotiations with the European Commission).

[2] My own view is that Navas will prove to be a great signing and the other big three (Jovetic, Negredo and Fernandinho) will prove to be good-ish signings.

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“Any goal’s a goal”

23 Aug

Do good things come to those who wait?  Or should I strike while the iron is hot?  Should I be wary of Greeks bearing gifts?  Or would it be foolish to look a gift horse in the mouth?  It’s funny how these titbits of advice so often come in polarising pairs.  Hindsight can be a virtue, but ex post rationale is unhelpful at best and actively misleading at its worst.  If I attempt a delicate chip shot and end up duffing it into the keeper’s arms, history may remember it as more prudent if I had just whacked it low and hard.  But this presumes my execution would have been any better with a low blast.  Believe you me, there is every chance I’d have shanked it wide.

I mention this because there seems to be an increasing trend in analyses that some goals are more important than others.  Specifically, the goals that prove decisive to the result.  These are the goals we should value above all others, prevailing wisdom suggests.  These are the golden nuggets of truth in an otherwise opaque world.  

The case in point is Gareth Bale.  In the 21 league games that Spurs won last season, Bale scored in 14 of them (nine of them proving to be the winner). Gareth Bale’s goals win football games.  Gareth Bale’s goals must be important, then.

This is all very well.  But did that make Bale’s goals any harder to score?  Does anyone know at the time which goal in a game will be the most important?  When Borussia Dortmund went 4-1 up against Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League semi-final, which was the most important goal?  The first?  Or the ultimately decisive fourth?  History would have little remembered Gerrard’s “consolation” goal in the 2005 Champions League final were it not for the two more that followed it up.  Now it forms part of one of the greatest comebacks ever.  

Any goal’s a goal.  Making sense of their importance after the event forgets the context that they were all scored in the instance of being.  Nobody knew ahead of time which egg would prove to be golden.  For every team that ran away with a game 5 or 6 nil, there were many other games where a team went 3 goals down then battled back. 

Orator and former goal-hanger of considerable esteem, Gary Winston Lineker, noted that, while the glory often lay with strikers, it could also be most dispiriting position on the pitch.  Even a great striker, averaging a goal every other game, essentially spends 179 minutes not doing what he is supposed to be on the pitch to achieve.  And anyone who’s ever tried to chat up a staunchly Christian girl in a bar will know exactly what three solid hours of failure looks like.

There’s a reason why people go utterly loopy after scoring a goal[1].  It’s because they’re all bloody hard to score.  They’re all, in the words of a famous shampoo peddler, worth it.  Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

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That goal you scored in 5-aside last night? Jennifer’s very proud of you.

Nice guys finish first

3 May

I was the victim of a crime last night.  I shouldn’t grumble too much; it’s well documented that misdemeanours even themselves out over the long-term.  After all, I was a beneficiary of the greatest pickpocket of all time last May

However, last night my Barclays Bike was stolen as I nipped into Tescos to buy some chicken breasts.  I’d left the bike leaning against the glass shop-front, unattended.  So, in fairness, I only really have myself to blame.  On a similar note, Luis Suarez would probably concede that he, too, only has himself to blame for missing out on the recently announced player of the year awards.  But that makes the voting no less of a robbery than the theft which left me in tatters and without transport on a sunny evening in the Aldgate area.

For reasons yet to become clear, the journalists at Too Good Towers did not receive their ballot papers in time to vote for this year’s Football Writers’ Player of the Year.  Despite this oversight, Too Good can exclusively report that a mere two of the 400 journalists who made the cut plumped for Luis Suarez.  These journalists, many of them earning above the minimum wage, ought to expect their editors to wield the tactical axe in the coming days.  For there has been a clear dereliction of journalistic duty.

Suarez has scored more goals (30) than Robin van Persie (29) and Gareth Bale (24) this year and he’s done so with a better goals-to-game average.  One might be tempted to assume that Bale, a (nominally) deeper lying player, has more assists than Suarez.  Not true.  Suarez has 5 to Bale’s 4.  To put that into perspective, this means that Suarez has managed to get Liverpool players to score goals on five separate occasions this season.  Still not impressed?  One of them was Jordan Henderson.

It’s not just the bare statistics either, which never tell the full story.  Suarez is probably the best penalty-box dribbler currently in the game.  He’s as good as Messi at it.  Time and time again this season we have seen Suarez wriggle through massed ranks of opposition defenders in the most lethal area of the pitch.  His ability to emerge from seemingly impossible positions rarely seen this side of a Where’s Wally? annual.  He’s the slipperiest eel in world football.

Robin van Persie plays for one of the best teams in Europe.  Gareth Bale plays for a team that should still end up in the Champions League.  At the risk of exciting the flared nostrils and righteous indignation of Liverpool fans, Luis Suarez plays for Liverpool.  An average side who, but for his goals, would be staring at a bottom-half finish this season.  Goals of a stunning quality, including a moment of pure genius that few players on earth can produce.

I’ll lift the veil of innocence now as we draw to a close.  I do know why people didn’t vote for Luis Suarez.  They didn’t vote for him because he’s a dickhead.  They didn’t vote for him because he says ignorant things and nibbles on centre-backs.  None of which is likely to make him a Knight of the Realm any time soon.  That said, previous winners of the two player of the year awards include human beings who have committed all manner of impropriety, moral and legal (including, sadly, incidents of both racism and assault).  It’s a nice idea to give the award to the most upstanding chap on the pitch, but that just isn’t the criteria.  If it was, Gareth Southgate would have won the Ballon d’Or.  The player of the year award is for recognising the season’s best player.  The best player in England this season, for all his faults, was Luis Suarez.

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 Gareth Bale

Lovely Gareth was quick to show there was no hard feelings between him and Luis.