Catch Seventy7

Sports news and views, and other stuff in life…

Weekly Musings: The Apprentice, and the Champions League…

What Catch Seventy7 learned after another week of soul-destroying job searching…

The Apprentice: Beauty averse, and risk averse

The Apprentice: Beauty averse, and risk averse

The Apprentice: In an economic downturn, the risk averse need not apply

This week young Howard Ebison was despatched from Sir Alan Sugar’s minimalist board room. Coming the week before the remaining candidates have their CV’s hung, drawn and quartered in front of a national audience, that might not be the worst thing in the world from the likeable pub chain manager.

But the reasoning behind Howard’s departure might irk him for a few months to come. According to Siralan, Howard was too “risk averse”, and in the current economic climate Amstrad need people that take risks. Because, of course, it wasn’t brazen risk-takers that landed the economy in this mess in the first place…

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May 29, 2009 Posted by | Weekly Musings | , | Leave a comment

Josep Guardiola the Emperor as Barcelona Dominate in Rome

It was the Spanish Inquisition, and Manchester United just couldn’t find any answers. Barcelona boss Josep Guardiola must take the plaudits for an historic triumph…

Guardiola: Puppetmaster of one of the greatest Punch and Judy shows ever...

Guardiola: Puppetmaster of one of the greatest Punch and Judy shows ever...

Veni, vidi, vici.
They came, they saw, they conquered.
It may not be the most original summary of events in Rome, but it is the most accurate. Barcelona did not just beat Manchester United in Wednesday’s Champions League final, they demolished them.
They rendered their opponents mere spectators with their intricate passing game. They stood firm defensively as United probed desperately for an opening.
Like Spain in the Euro 2008 final barely 10 months earlier, the Catalan giants entered the game knowing that their opponents had a sizeable physical advantage. But by making the ball do the work, they exposed that advantage as insignificant and made sure the game was played they wanted it to be played.
From that point on, the comfortable 2-0 win was almost inevitable.
“I think the whole year we played the same way, we wanted to play well,” said Thierry Henry after the game. “We didn’t start well—United were better than us in the first 10 minutes—but once we had the ball we played the way we can.”
Once again, manager Josep Guardiola must take a huge amount of credit for the triumph. Like in the semifinal against Chelsea, he masterminded a tactical victory that belied his managerial inexperience.
Yaya Toure was again imposing as a make-shift centreback. But Guardiola gave him permission to push forward when necessary, and the Ivorian’s seemless interchanging of roles with the equally impressive youngster Sergi Busquets caused United a lot of problems.
Equally, Barca seemed to have done their homework in identifying Michael Carrick as United’s key distributor. For the first 40 minutes, Busquets surged forward to stifle Carrick whenever he got on the ball.
By half-time, the England midfielder was demoralised, and United were searching for other outlets.
In the second half, Barca had possession almost uncontested.
Carrick, like almost all of United’s players, will likely be forced to face some criticism during the game’s post-mortem. But it would be inaccurate to simply state that he didn’t perform—in reality, Barcelona just didn’t allow him to play.
“You’ve got to give credit to Barcelona, they played well,” admitted Rio Ferdinand after the match. “On a day like this you need to be able to play your best football, and today we couldn’t produce it. On today’s performance they were the better team.”
All the best managers seem to also be lucky managers, and there is certainly a case to say Guardiola falls into that category. “Pep” will no doubt accept that Barcelona enjoyed a crucial does of luck on Wednesday—just the sort of luck a team needs to win major finals.
Gerard Pique was lucky to get away with only a yellow after cynically blocking Ronaldo as the Portuguese winger threatened to bear down on goal inside the first 20 minutes.
And Samuel Eto’o’s goal—after only 10 minutes—came just as United had made an imposing start to the game, and immediately and irrevocably changed the balance of the tie.
If that first shot had not gone in, United might well have taken over totally.
Yet, even this critical moment was touched by Guardiola’s tactical hand. United seemed caught unawares as Barca started with Messi on the left, Henry in the centre, and Eto’o on the right—roles different from their traditional lineup—and Eto’o’s pace and quick-thinking enabled him to lose Patrice Evra, twist inside Nemanja Vidic, and poke it beyond Edwin van der Sar.
United were 1-0 down before they had tactically adjusted to the questions Barca posed.
“We started the game brightly and I thought we looked confident, played well, and could have been in front,” said Sir Alex Ferguson after the match. “But the goal was a killer for us. Trying to get the ball back off them is difficult, and they use it very well. They’re the better team.”
Guardiola, just 38 years of age, is 30 years Sir Alex Ferguson’s junior. But you wouldn’t have thought that from the action on the pitch. Blessed with the mercurial talents of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, two players built very much in his image, the former Barcelona captain was always going to know how to get his team purring.
Years ago, when Guardiola was captain of the first team, he took aside a young Xavi on the training ground, and directed his attention to a baby-faced Iniesta, who had just been promoted to the first team.
“Remember the first time you played with Andres,” Guardiola told Xavi. “You’re going to retire me; he’s going to retire us all.”
Little could he know that, almost three years later, the three of them would end up crushing United’s Champions League ambitions at the final hurdle.
Against arguably the best side in Europe over the last three years—lest we forget—the mercurial trio made sure the Spanish side played to the best of their ability.
That proved more than enough for victory.
After the game, Sir Alex Ferguson commented that Carrick and Anderson might have learned a lot from coming up against the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi. If United’s midfield did learn from the footballing lesson they were given, then they will be back with a vengeance next season.
But for now, Barcelona are the deserved champions of Europe.
And in Guardiola, they have a manager who already looks destined for greatness.

Veni, vidi, vici.

They came, they saw, they conquered.

It may not be the most original summary of events in Rome, but it is the most accurate. Barcelona did not just beat Manchester United in Wednesday’s Champions League final, they demolished them.

They rendered their opponents mere spectators with their intricate passing game. They stood firm defensively as United probed desperately for an opening.

Like Spain in the Euro 2008 final barely 10 months earlier, the Catalan giants entered the game knowing that their opponents had a sizeable physical advantage. But by making the ball do the work, they exposed that advantage as insignificant and made sure the game was played they wanted it to be played.

From that point on, the comfortable 2-0 win was almost inevitable.

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May 28, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment

Barcelona’s 4-3-3 Built For Champions League Success

They could have injuries to every striker on their books, and they still wouldn’t change formation. Johan Cruyff’s 4-3-3 is an integral part of Barcelona’s modern identity…

Barca: Everyone's happier in a 4-3-3

Barca: Everyone's happier in a 4-3-3

In football, 18 years is a long time.
Eighteen years ago, the Champions League was still just an idea being bandied about between UEFA board members. It would not replace the traditional format of the European Cup until the 1992-93 season.
Tomorrow in Rome, English champions Manchester United will face Spanish champions Barcelona in the final of the Champions League.
Eighteen years ago, Manchester United had not won a top-flight title since 1966-67. The Premiership—and United’s subsequent dominance of it—would only begin from the 1992-93 season.
In 18 years, however, things haven’t changed too much for Barcelona. In 1991, the Catalan giants were under the stewardship of Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, and about to embark on one of the greatest seasons in the club’s history.
Cruyff had introduced to club an attacking mentality, with a style of play centred around short passing, creativity, vision, and uninhibited expression. At the end of the 1991-92 season, Barca would win the first European Cup in their history, at the old Wembley Stadium.
At the heart of it was Cruyff’s innovative formation—the 4-3-3.
Eighteen years on, Barca still play the same way—and are still competing on the same level.
Back then, the stars of the side included Ronald Koeman (who scored the winner in the Wembley final), Hristo Stoichkov, Josep Guardiola, and Michael Laudrup. When Brazilian poacher Romario arrived in the summer of 1993, Cruyff’s side cemented its status in Spain as “The Dream Team”—a legend that exists to this day.
“The fact that Barcelona still play the way the Dream Team played says enough,” said Jordi Cruyff, Johan’s son, this week. “You can’t imagine Barcelona playing a different system to the 4-3-3, and that’s what the Dream Team brought about. Even today people speak about that team, it made a big impact in Spanish football.”
On the pitch, a new era of heroes fill the Dream Team’s boots. Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Carles Puyol—to name just a few—are at the forefront of the Blaugrana’s modern charge.
Led by Guardiola—who has re-established the tenants of the Dream Team’s modus operandi since taking the helm—the club now finds itself on the verge of winning the treble, something no Spanish club has ever achieved.
“Turning and passing, plus a good vision of the game, so that the team can move the ball well. If you’re playing for Barcelona, that is our main weapon,” was what Guardiola reminded the players when he took over. ”The main objective of this season is to make sure our fans are proud, more than ever before, of the team and above all that this season is a very good season in the history of Barca.”
High ambitions, indeed.
But with La Liga won and the Copa Del Rey already in the bag, Guardiola has so far seen his side more than live up to expectations. The Champions League is the final hurdle.
But Wednesday’s final with Manchester United will prove to be a touch proposition—as injuries and suspensions look set to cause Barcelona some problems.
With a change to the 4-3-3 formation proving unthinkable, Guardiola will have to improvise.
Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves, the club’s first choice fullbacks, are both suspended after picking up cards (red and yellows respectively) in the club’s semifinal triumph against Chelsea. Centre-back Rafael Marquez is injured, and niggling doubts still remain over the fitness of Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry.
As a result, holding midfielder Yaya Toure looks likely to have to deputise once more in the heart of defence. The 35-year-old Sylvinho will get a rare start at left-back, and club captain Carles Puyol will likely be forced to fill in at right-back.
Inevitably, with such a makeshift backline to attack, United will look to expose any frailities that emerge. With the likes of Ronaldo, Rooney, and Berbatov to fend off, just one mistake could prove fatal.
Replacing Toure in Guardiola’s former role in the 4-3-3 is likely to be Sergi Busquets, the 20-year-old cantera product. He will be given the task of winning the ball in midfield, and distributing possession to Xavi and Iniesta. For someone so young and inexperienced, it is a massive responsibility—but one Guardiola has little option but to bestow.
All to preserve the sanctity of the 4-3-3.
Crucially, however, such defensive reshuffling should enable the attacking quintet to continue as it has done throughout the season. With Messi, Thierry Henry, and Samuel Eto’o having combined for a staggering 94 goals in all competitions this season, United will have food for thought.
And with Xavi and Iniesta pulling the strings in midfield, United might find themselves preoccupied with finding a way to stop what Sir Alex Ferguson has described as their “dizzying carousel” of intricate passing.
Last year, when the two sides met in the semifinal of the competition, Ferguson implemented a defensive strategy that limited the effectiveness of Barcelona’s 4-3-3 and, in particular, shackled the intricate passing game that Iniesta, Xavi, and Messi thrive upon.
Paul Scholes scored a 30-yard thunderbolt that allowed the English side to progress 1-0 on aggregate. Messi does not believe that will be the case in Rome tomorrow.
“I think that when they played against us [in last year’s semifinal], they just waited for us to attack and played with a counter-attacking style—with Cristiano, Rooney, and Tevez, who are players of great quality and are very fast,” said Messi.
“But I think that a final is different; they’ll come to play more as they have been doing throughout this year and last year, so I think it will be an open match. We know that we are facing a great team, with the added experience of having played in the previous final—but we’ve also had a great year.”
Eighteen years ago, Manchester United were just beginning to reap the rewards of sticking with a manager named Ferguson. Tomorrow, that Scot might pick up his third Champions title and 26th trophy as Manchester United manager.
Eighteen years ago, Barcelona were just beginning their love affair with the 4-3-3. Tomorrow, it might reward them with a third European Cup title.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but tomorrow, two footballing dynasties will walk out at the Stadio Olympico with the hope of cementing their legendary status.
It is what Barca’s 4-3-3, and the Champions League, were built for.

In football, 18 years is a long time.

Eighteen years ago, the Champions League was still just an idea being bandied about between UEFA board members. It would not replace the traditional format of the European Cup until the 1992-93 season.

Tomorrow in Rome, English champions Manchester United will face Spanish champions Barcelona in the final of the Champions League.

Eighteen years ago, Manchester United had not won a top-flight title since 1966-67. The Premiership—and United’s subsequent dominance of it—would only begin from the 1992-93 season.

In 18 years, however, things haven’t changed too much for Barcelona. In 1991, the Catalan giants were under the stewardship of Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, and about to embark on one of the greatest seasons in the club’s history.

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May 26, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , | Leave a comment

Alan Shearer Simply Cannot Be The Messiah for Newcastle Now

Newcastle fans love him. Mike Ashley arguably had no choice but to turn to him. After relegation, however, Alan Shearer simply cannot be the answer to Newcastle’s Championship challenge… 

Shearer: Did what he could with what he had, but Newcastle need more.

Shearer: Did what he could with what he had, but Newcastle need more.

Can you blame Alan Shearer?

Can you blame Joe Kinnear?

Can you blame Mike Ashley?

In the wake of Newcastle United’s devastating relegation on Sunday, fingers will be undoubtedly be pointed. Blame will have to be attributed.

As interim manager, Alan Shearer doesn’t believe one single individual is to blame. “Over 38 games, we all have not been good enough,” he said, in the wake of the club’s 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

But, having gained an average of 0.63 points per game from his eight games in charge (a statistic that would have amounted to 24 points over the full course of the season), he cannot — however much it might pain Newcastle fans — be absolved from all blame.

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May 25, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Blame Daniel Sturridge For His Outrageous Contract Demands

He’s 19, has only started a handful of Premiership games, and wants £75,000-a-week. Catch Seventy7 is 22, about £15,000 in debt, but still doesn’t blame Daniel Sturridge for his actions….

Ireland & Sturridge: Close on the pitch, but Manchester City clearly value them miles apart

Ireland & Sturridge: Close on the pitch, but Manchester City clearly value them miles apart

In the pantheon of stories about footballer’s greed it may never rank at the top, but Daniel Sturridge’s recent contract demands with current club Manchester City have certainly raised a few eyebrows.

The 19-year-old striker, who has started just three league games for the Eastlands club this season, looks destined to leave the club after rejecting their final contract offer. According to reports, Sturridge turned down the club’s final offer of £45,000-a-week as it fell short of his £75,000 demands.

It should be patently obvious to anyone who watches football that Sturridge is not worthy of £45,000-a-week, let alone £75,000, at this stage in his career.  After all, Stephen Ireland — the club’s player of the year — is about to put pen to paper on a deal ‘only’ worth £65,000-a-week.

The temptation, because it is Manchester City, is to make sweeping generalisations about Sturridge’s intentions.

But his outrageous demands should not be simply written off as pure greed.

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May 24, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment

Newcastle Fans Forced To Place Faith In Unreliable Players For Salvation

Last game, away from home, perhaps only a win will do. It’s down to Newcastle’s players to pull the club out of the mess they created…

Newcastle have the fans, but not the players...

Newcastle have the fans, but not the players...

It is said that pride comes before a fall.

For Newcastle fans, pride is perhaps the one commodity they possess in abundance.  Perhaps the most devout fans in the Premiership, they follow their team with great passion.

The other commodity they have is faith.

Over the years, tangible success for the North East club has been fleeting and rarely satisfying — they haven’t won a major trophy since the 1969 Fairs Cup. Managers have come and gone, chairman have failed to deliver on their promises, and big name players have, more often than not, failed to live up to expectations.

Yet despite historical evidence to the controversy, the “Toon Army” still believe. Without past success, it is perhaps all they can do.

This season, however, the faith of the fans has often been proven to be misplaced. Performances have ranged from the tepid to the downright abysmal, and as a result it is hardly surprising the club finds itself in its current predicament.

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May 22, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | 2 Comments

Floyd Mayweather Jr. Urges Ricky Hatton to Retire

Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is back, and he’s still got advice for vanquished foe Ricky Hatton…

Mayweather: Certainly dishes it out, and can take it too...

Mayweather: Certainly dishes it out, and can take it too...

Floyd Mayweather Jr. believes that Ricky Hatton should bow out of boxing after the Englishman’s disappointing defeat to Manny Pacquiao earlier this month.

Mayweather, who beat Hatton by technical knockout in December 2007, believes it is time the Manchester-born “Hitman” thinks about preserving his health and looks to new goals outside the ring:

I think Ricky Hatton’s career was over after our fight,” Mayweather told Sky Sports News. “When I faced him he was a great competitor, but the best man on the night won. He worked his whole life to get to that point and he came up short, and it’s hard to then keep getting to that level.

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May 21, 2009 Posted by | Sport | , , | 1 Comment

New iPhone Slated for July 17th Release, According to Reports

It’s massively anticipated, yet Apple have resolutely refused to divulge details publicly. But the secret might finally be out…

The iPhone and an opposable thumb: Both pretty impressive

The iPhone and an opposable thumb: Both pretty impressive

The much-awaited release of the new Apple iPhone will be on the July 17th, according to reports from an unofficial Apple website.

Although Apple are yet to formally announce even the prospect of a new iPhone, AppleiPhoneapps.com is reporting the news of the release date — among other details — based on information received from an inside source they believe to be reliable.

“Recently we were approached by a source who is closely connected to Apple’s hardware development team,” reads the article on the website. “The source was willing to provide detailed information on the specs and release date of the next generation iPhone. We have checked the source’s credentials to the best of our ability and at this point deem the source as reputable.”

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May 19, 2009 Posted by | News | , | 1 Comment

Manchester United’s Success Built on Craft of Carrick

It’s a cliche, but he really is the heartbeat of the side. Don’t overlook Michael Carrick’s importance to arguably the best side in world football…

Carrick: Pretty happy

Carrick: Pretty happy

When the decisive moment in the title race finally came, everyone knew it.

Patrice Evra certainly did.

Sprinting across the turf at the JJB Stadium to join his celebrating teammates, the Frenchman exuberantly crossed his arms in an obvious imitation of Rafa Benitez’s controversial gesture made a month earlier, when Liverpool beat Blackburn.

Back then at Anfield, the Spanish manager was reported to be indicating in the action that the game was over, Liverpool had won. This time Evra was indicating something more final — that the title race was over.

Manchester United had won.

Four days later, in a game that for the majority resembled the formality it ultimately was, Manchester United got the point they needed at home to Arsenal to clinch their eleventh Premier League title.

That Saturday afternoon, on the Old Trafford pitch in front of their adoring fans, was where the title victory was formally celebrated. But, to all intents and purposes, it was in the 86th minute of a turgid game in Wigan that the trophy’s destination was sealed, with a 20-yard drive from Michael Carrick that whistled past ‘keeper Richard Kingston.

Arguably, the scorer of that goal could not have been more fitting.

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May 18, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

European Tour’s Ryder Cup Compromise Ultimately Helps No One

MontThe announcement this week that the European Tour had agreed to give Ryder Cup captain an extra wildcard pick—raising his total to three—has been greeted by muted acknowledgement  by most of the golfing fraternity.
In the overall scheme of things, it appears to be of little real significance. Therefore, in the overall scheme of things, very little has been written about it.
This is because the move is nothing but a compromise, and compromises never make for big news.
Most of they time they don’t make for good news either.
The move will not have been greeted with much enthusiasm by Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie. The Scot, keen to stamp his authority earlier in the Ryder Cup qualification process, initially requested four wildcard picks in a move that would have mirrored the US system that seemed to work so well last year.
Montgomerie believed the change would have allowed him to pick players based on recent form, rather than on performances over a year or two-year period. The examples of Anthony Kim and Ian Poulter—both successful wildcards at Valhalla—would no doubt have been cited.
For the European Tour honchos, however, the opportunity to qualify for the Ryder Cup by regularly playing the tour’s events is a massive carrot with which to entice the continent’s top players. Removing two such opportunities, to be replaced by the unpredictable choices of a captain, would have massively diminished the incentive for the best players to stay on the tour, when fame and riches could be theirs over on the PGA.
Indeed, it was the attraction of America’s main tour that forced Nick Faldo to ‘spend’ a wildcard on Ian Poulter last year—as the Englishman opted to play US events at the business end of last season to retain his tour card rather than attempt to engineer his way back to automatic Ryder Cup qualification by staying in Europe.
Paul Casey, Faldo’s other wildcard pick, hardly bothered with the European Tour the whole year.
Those two, along with committed PGA Tour man Luke Donald, make up arguably the three best English players in the world. But they no longer prefer to play on their home tour.
The European Tour knew that this exportation of talent could not be allowed to continue, for the long-time viability of the tour. They can work as hard as they have done to make the tour truly worldwide, and bring extra money into the tour with the Race to Dubai, but ultimately that would all have been undone if the big reward of Ryder Cup golf was removed.
It is telling that the extra wildcard has been taken from the world ranking side of the qualification process (now only four qualify from that list), while the European money list remains untouched (five will still qualify from it).
If putting the best team out was the only criteria, then arguably the European money list should have had to sacrifice a place.
Whatever the case, in reality the European Tour should have shot down Montgomerie’s request completely.
Montgomerie’s plea was more than understandable—in the modern media environment, when captaining a team to defeat can cause huge (and often undeserved) damage to a reputation, it is reasonable for the Scot to want maximum control over the personnel that might decide his destiny.
But Europe have won five of the last seven Ryder Cups utilising the two-wildcard system, and one defeat should not have been a reason to totally change it. Montgomerie might have evoked the memory of Antony Kim’s performance or Boo Weekley’s efforts, but “form” is something intangible that cannot be predicted by the very best—of which Montgomerie may or may not be one.
Harrington won two consecutive majors last year, and Sergio Garcia pushed him close in the final major of the year, the USPGA. Yet both men were fairly abject when it came to Valhalla. Poulter had been average (the Open apart) all year, and Kim had given little indication in the run-up to the event that he was about to announce himself on the worldwide stage.
Form means nothing when it comes to the Ryder Cup.
The European Tour should have said no to Montgomerie, and protected the integrity and prestige that it’s events struggle valiantly to maintain. As it is, they have hit upon a solution that satisfies almost no one.
They have managed to diminish slightly the value of their product, and subtly weaken the position (and mindset) of their captain.
If Europe lose at Celtic Manor in 2010, then the only winner from the decision will be whoever gets that third wildcard in a year’s time. And if that golfer doesn’t go on to win three points at least, then the media might point the figure at more than a few losers.

But with compromise, that’s often the way it pans out.An e

 

A

One less wildcard than Monty wanted, but a loss of relevance for the European Tour. Does anyone win as a result of this Ryder Cup compromise?

Montgomerie: Won't be happy not to have got everything he wanted

Montgomerie: Won't be happy not to have got everything he wanted

The announcement this week that the European Tour had agreed to give Ryder Cup captain an extra wildcard pick — raising his total to three — has been greeted with muted acknowledgement by most of the golfing fraternity.

In the overall scheme of things, it appears to be of little real significance. Therefore, in the overall scheme of things, very little has been written about it.

This is because the move is nothing but a compromise, and compromises never make for big news.

Most of they time they don’t make for good news either.

Continue reading

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Golf, Sport | , , | Leave a comment