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Week Two: Some Post-match Feuilleton

Arséne Wenger’s new project is to win the league with the reserve team; Kenny Dalglish needs to rethink his lineup; Manchester City proves the old addage that success can’t buy happiness, but then again who needs happiness; Manchester United’s experienced inexperienced youth; that Harry Redknapp sagging deadpan expression of being underwhelmed when overwhelmed sums up Tottenham nicely.

Benched Mario Balotelli unconsoled by the other unhappy benched City players.

Arsenal 0—Liverpool 2

Depletion and woe weren’t deemed adequate punishment for Arsenal, so the Furies decided to toss in an injury crises and bad luck just to be safe. The home opener at the Emirates was witness to an Arsenal squad comprised of reserves and tyros with almost no Premier League experience. Liverpool should have won this game handily, but encountered a spirited Arsenal side reduced to 10 men after an impressive Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off for youthful zeal, which proved Liverpool is far from formidable.

Andy Carroll played about seventy minutes. It wasn’t his fault that Liverpool’s strategy devolved into kicking the ball toward his head to see what would happen. It didn’t take long to see that nothing came of this, yet Liverpool continued for another sixty minutes. Liverpool finally took control of the game when Luis Suarez and Raul Mierieles came on late and scored an offside goal. It’s a good sign that Miereles has established himself in the league, because Jordan Henderson clearly isn’t ready despite Kenny Dalglish’s insistence to start him.

Arsenal are suffering from a degree of misfortune that exceeds the fair amount they have brought upon themselves, while the emerging belief of restoration around Anfield should be kept in the shorts until results prove decisively alluring. The match is a good example that a win, no matter how unimpressive, can boost  a club’s confidence, and that a loss, truly mitigated by handicap and misfortune, still can be a blow to the psyche.

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Week 1: Some Post-match Feuilleton

Liverpool is a bunch of signings who have all been given the same red shirt; Sunderland remind us that being stubborn won’t solve a problem (unfortunately); Arsenal and Joey Barton produce the most unconventional romantic comedy about rage and affection; Manchester United’s alchemy is a form of puppetmastery; Newcomers QPR and Swansea City need to understand when Ian Holloway’s Blackpool is an idol, idle, an idyll, and false idol; Chelsea is still an idea and Stoke is still Stoke

Englishness: the premium never dies.

Sunderland 1—Liverpool 1

The new Liverpool lacks cohesion, while the new Sunderland remains stubborn and difficult to beat.

The first opening day match featured two aspiring table climbers. It was important to show off their many new faces to make the claim that they belong in Europe the proof of clubs with serious aims and expectations to play in Europe.

Liverpool continues restoration under their re-anointed king. As an expression of rightful place and desperation, Liverpool followed the 58m spent on Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez with another 51m, spread among four players, including the market-bending16m for Jordan Henderson, which may just be the highest premium paid for “Englishness” in some time. Henderson doesn’t look unmistakably English and his name doesn’t sound unmistakably English (initially he could appear more American) as compared to the very English looking Phil Jones who, the market determined, is valued at the same price. The premium paid for English players is no less perverse than the market of which it’s a part. If Ashley Young is somewhat of a bargain at 16m, then Man U got another one with Phil Jones simply on the value of Englishness.

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Manchester united Fans’ Insight on the Green and Gold Campaign

Three members of the Talking Red Message Boards and Forum discuss the weakening of the Green and Gold campaign.

There is much more red than green or gold these days.

The Green and Gold campaign is hostage to the club’s success. If Manchester United continues to win titles and challenge trophies in May, then the case for the ouster of the Glazier ownership—along with anti-Glazer sentiment—will fail to mount a sustained and formidable campaign and eventually wither to a murmur. These fans will be forced to hope for the club’s failure as evidence for their cause, which could never be admitted. The conflict is too much to bear.

The members contributing to this thread appear to be pre-Glazer season ticket holders. This gives them a weekly on-the-ground and broad experience as participant-observers with insight to the Green and Gold campaign. On television, it’s easy to see streaks and patches of green and gold amid the smothering sea of red. So red that the green really speaks. But one member posts that the identification is more superficial than it was just a year ago. With season tickets in the Stretford Upper End, this member has noticed that anti-Glazer songs and chants haven’t been heard in some time. The campaign is reducing to a fashion.

Another member posts that the real campaign takes place outside the stadium. The most fervent anti-Glazer fans no longer go to home games, having given up their season tickets in protest. The unfortunate outcome of these fans’ principled boycott is that an equal number of new fans have replaced them in the stands. According to one member, whose information came from a “a girl I know at the ticket office” up towards 85% of current season ticket holders are post-Glazer. Without institutional memory, the big blotches of fresh red smother all alternative and threatening references.


Alex Ferguson on Tackling

Jonny Evans’ tackle on Stuart Holden received a straight red card. Holden was scraped off the pitch, carted away on a stretcher, and will be out six months.


Although Ferguson didn’t know that Stuart Holden would be out for the rest of the season, he did witness the player being carried off the pitch. Yet he is still unwilling to fully concede that Evans’ tackle warranted a red card.

The sending-off was a little unfortunate, he explains, because the foot was not high and the tackle was a fair attempt to get the ball. The referee awarded the red card after seeing that “the boy” (Holden) was badly injured. But Ferguson admittedly makes no complaint, since he acknowledges that any tackle with studs up, regardless of intent and outcome, is likely to receive a red card.

Also of note in the post-match interview was his explanation for bringing Dimitar Berbatov on to replace Javier Hernandez once the team was reduced to ten men.

Without Evans, the team was at a height disadvantage against an aerially strong Bolton. Berbatov was not brought on for his scoring potential, but to rebalance the height ratio without having to go to an overly defensive 10-man formation.


Manchester United 1-Arsenal 0

Arsenal lose again to a top team, but again lose differently.

Both teams converge on the margin of difference in the match.

Aside from the loss, the most painful experience of the game for an American Arsenal supporter was the acceptance that ESPN has provided a platform, equipped with microphone and satellite, for Steve McManaman to talk. The game he was announcing began with the banal talking points of the recent narrative of this fixture, game notes plucked from headlines and highlight reels, possibly compiled by a wonky young production assistant ashamed to be dropping twice-chewed tidbits down McManaman’s gullet.

One may have expected McManaman to stick to these talking points and dramatic arcs as a clumsy attempt to be easily digestible to a new U.S. audience, as well as compliment Ian Darke, the anointed voice of the Premier League in the US. The subtle pandering is not his fault.But nonetheless, one expects more. McManaman isn’t so green. His daily in-studio presence during the World Cup offered him a summer intensive course, a diploma conferring the right to pass through proficiency and into confident color announcer with opinions and heart-of-the-matter criticism (this was the same degree awarded to Alexi Lalas, whose absurdity by the late rounds of the World Cup was comedic*). As a player and nonprofessional broadcaster, McManaman would have been much more effective contributing anecdotes about the two teams from his experience as a player.

By the second half, the depth of McManaman’s analysis plunged the level of repeated summary: Arsenal was mediocre on the night. Technically, this would be considered as having conveyed zero information content. Anyone watching the game could see that Arsenal was not having a good game. Andrei Arshavin played poorly and was substituted; no Arsenal player shot from the outside, except Arshavin, who launched two limp rollers wide; Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, and Robin van Persie were late substitutions, and had too little time to break down United’s fibrous defense; and with a congested middle, Arsenal didn’t get the ball wide to Clichy and Sagna with any consistent threat. But this is irrelevant since no Arsenal player was positioned in the penalty box to receive crosses.

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Javier Hernandez Asked to Skip Prayer Ritual on Visit to Rangers

Javier Hernandez knows that his manager is his co-pilot.

Javier Hernandez prayer ritual still Wayne Rooney, also known for his brand of suffering piety, standing close by Javier Hernandez. Maybe a little much-needed aura will rub off on him. 

The Lord is on the pitch at some point in every game around the world. With fixture lists growing each year due to more international friendlies, qualifying matches, playoff rounds, or some new and inconvenient world tournament, God's omnipresence is getting a real test.

Most often He is seen before games and in second halves. Watching Serie A, God descends the sideline with each substitute who crosses his chest, crosses his forehead, kisses his thumb, and looks to the sky. How many times has the fourth official born witness to this ritual? Still, it is a private moment between man and his god. The acknowledgement is quick and somewhat inconspicuous.

Javier Hernandez takes this to an unprecedented level. Just before kickoff, when attention is given to the center circle, there is Hernandez, prostrate, arms extended, eyes closed. The ritual is drawn out either because Hernandez must recite a lot of text or he needs the time to achieve altered consciousness. The holy swoon is rapturous. Manchester United fans don't mind if their new signing continues to impress. One wonders what Wayne Rooney is thinking standing there beside him.

In the U.S, the spectacle has its equivalent in American football when teams, mostly at the high school or small college level, come together before the game to pray. In the more secular European arena, the sight must be odd, but since Europeans love Mexico, there may be some anthropological curiosity and tolerance for it.

In Edinburgh, far more benign symbolism has been known to deeply offend or incite violence. No one wants to endure twenty seconds of the little pea ratcheting up the tension, no matter how innocent his intentions. Sir Alex Ferguson, who has a history of honorable sensitivity to local religious tensions, has made the right decision by asking Hernandez to tone it down, a lot.



Sir Alex Ferguson’s Press Conference

Has there been a high profile, high quality public sparring in recent memory like the mid-week round between Sir Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney?


Ferguson’s disdain for the press conference as firing line has led to a successful control of his media access. Fergie logic dictates that if the media is out to get him, then he has every right to defend himself through avoidance or bearishness. Calling a press conference to address the Rooney rebellion/insurrection indicated that the situation had reached a severity no longer served by entrenched distance. The obligation to publicly address the situation became an opportunity to reassert authority.

Ferguson spoke for six absorbing minutes. A grave seriousness carried something somber within it. Those brief downward glances were subtle expressions of a wounded man’s exasperation. Thirty-seven years of hardened managerial experience couldn’t hide a sense of powerlessness. As his version of the story wove its way through the course of events, it became clear that there was no intention to hide his solemnity.

His stated intent was to set the record straight, but it would not have been possible for his version of the story to so masterfully take control of a crisis with multiple fronts without the emotional content of his words. History, identity, and legacy were at stake. Presenting the facts as “we understand them” addressed the immediate circumstances and framed the future by anticipating the questions and criticism that would certainly follow in the aftermath, regardless of outcome.

The first front was the defense of club’s position through the tradition of paternal benevolence of which he is the pillar. Every Manchester United player is an equal part. They will be taken care of, looked after, and supported in difficult periods on and off the pitch.

Ferguson spent almost a third of the press conference addressing Rooney’s recent “ankle injury” through the context of this familial bond as policy.

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