Friday, 27 April 2012

Refereeing: So little to gain, yet so much to lose.

They say a picture tells a 1,000 words. Boy, didn’t that certainly happen a few Sundays ago.

Martin Atkinson was hammered home with criticism for his decision to give Juan Mata’s effort the green light to make it two nil to Chelsea. 

Everyone was having a dig at Atkinson’s decision. Everyone.

In the virtual worlds, in the pubs and in the stands, Martin Atkinson become the butt of jokes, irony and frustration to some.  

And let’s face it, everyone got involved. Everyone had a say on Atkinson’s decision.

Most were commenting on how the ref’s decision had cost Tottenham their final chance of silverware this season.  And this anger quickly transferred from the Tottenham stands at Wembley to all around the globe.
Yet when it was revealed during the game Martin Atkinson was to be a linesman for the euros, it was met with a chorus of laughter. People were questioning how can such a man be given the responsibility of checking whether the ball had crossed the line, when he failed at it when it really mattered.

I won’t lie, I had a chuckle when I heard that news during the game. 

But there is one after the semi-final which typifies just how much anger there was towards Martin Atkinson. Harry Redknapp in his post-match comments revealed Atkinson had apologised for his mistake. 

A referee apologising for his mistake? That is practically unheard of in the English game. No scratch that. It’s practically unheard of in any league, nation or even continent. 

But apologising for his ‘mistake’ paints a sad sad picture. It shows how emotionally hurt, damaged and effected Atkinson was for going with his gut. 

Just imagine what he was going through during the game.The incident must have been swirling again and again round his head, with him thinking, did I really get that right? Maybe I didn’t…

It’s crazy, one tough decision, could not only have broken his career at the top level, but it could have also broken Spurs’ chance for trophies yet another season. 

That’s the life of a referee, you can’t win, but you’ve got so much to lose.

But when THAT picture was revealed a few hours later, people were quick to lay into Spurs, for trying to hide behind the excuse of an ‘unjust’ decision at the time. It wasn’t just the fans who were saying this, it was football journalists too.

Indeed, Tottenham had got it wrong, it was a goal. But none of us can lie, we all got it wrong.
We all thought that goal was certainly not in. 

Yet when it turned out it was a genuine goal, no one praised Martin Atkinson’s fine decision. No one.

Call it luck, fortunate or whatever, but for Atkinson to make a correct decision within a split second with all that pressure, it shows what a decent referee he is.

Everyone had something to say about Martin Atkinson when the decision was up in the air. But when it turned out he was right, those who heavily damned him did not show an ounce of respect towards the broken Martin Atkinson.

There has been a lot of talk about the drop in standards of refereeing in England. The likes of Roberto Mancini have been quite vocal about it, but how can we expect the standards to get better if we keep criticising, every wrong decision they make?

Sadly, in modern football, there is little appeal in becoming a referee. All referees are subject to criticism, abuse and nit picking. 

I firmly believe referees need to be praised more and it should be emphasised just how hard their job is.
Think about it, they get one angle, one chance and literally one second to make a choice on a decision which could change a team’s fate. 

While we, get various angles, various chances and a good few minutes to see if the decision was right or wrong.

Indeed, Atkinson’s decision against Chelsea was justified by technology, but how many referees have ultimately made the right decision but because of the lack of technology have seen their refereeing careers being tarnished? 

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a support group for it.

The reality is, referees need help. They need technology. The game is so quick, so advanced and there is so much hanging on games that one small error could cost a team severely. 

But till then, I feel referees need to be given more praise, more respect and more empathy. 

Referees are humans just like us, believe it or not. And if we want the standards of refs to improve we have to reinvigorate the value of being a referee. 

Whenever we think of refs now, we think of middle aged men, making bad decisions. 

Martin Atkinson decision against Spurs could have cost him his career as a top level referee. Fortunately for him it didn’t. But without technology, one wonders how many more referees careers will be instantly terminated by one error in the heat of the moment?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Wonder of Wigan’s New Tactic

Tom Moseley explains to The Football Front the beauty of Wigan's new system which has been reaping rewards instantly in the Premier League.  

Wigan’s new tactic has moved them away from the relegation zone, and 3 points clear from the bottom three, with a drastic turn in form, that’s put them 3rd in the Premier League form table, with four wins in their last seven. Their tactic can be ultra-defensive and be 5-4-1 with one striker left upfront, or it can be ultra-attacking and be 3-4-3, but the best part about it, is the fact it switches between the two in a matter of seconds.

In defence (especially against Arsenal) it very much looked like this…

Which, as you can see from the picture and presumably saw from the Arsenal game, it’s very hard to break down. Not only is there five at the back, the central midfielders also get back and defend deep, almost playing as holding midfielders. This results in almost a seven man defence and all practically on the edge of the box, meaning no space in behind for teams to exploit.

So Wigan can sit there and watch teams pass in front of them for however long before getting the ball and counter attacking. In a matter of seconds, and this is the main strength of this tactic. Wigan have the ability to turn a ‘backs against the wall’ situation to a ‘throw the kitchen sink at them’ situation and the most important people to do this are the full backs and winger, in my opinion. When they counter attacked against Arsenal, and got their two goals, the tactic went from the one above to something more like this…

I know it isn’t perfect or exact, but you can see what generally happens. The two wing-backs push forward down the line, providing the width, then the two ‘wingers’ from before, (if we’re talking about the Arsenal game,) Gomez and Moses, push inside and support the lone striker Di Santo. This works brilliantly as these two are inverted, so it’s similar to how Barcelona used to play, when their wingers were Henry and Messi or Ronaldinho and Messi and they used to be inverted, so they’d push inside and support Eto’o and then the full-backs, Alves and Abidal, would push up the line and provide the width.

But the only difference being Barcelona had one less defender and one more midfielder, but it's the overall same sort of mentality. Wigan's inverted wingers system works well because Moses and Gomez are two very creative players, which you can see from the game against Arsenal, with Gomez playing a lovely ball across the pitch for Wigan's first and Moses scoop turning then crossing for the second goal. It also leads to good passing as lots of channels would open up, if the opposing full-backs had to mark the attacking wing-backs because it means the inverted wingers could ‘float’ and get into the gaps between the full backs and centre backs, so that stretches defenders and also means there can be a nice bit of interplay between the wing-backs, wingers and forward in these kind of areas. However, the centre-midfielders are extremely important as well, as they provide the balance in the team, thus being able to control the tempo and help the team keep possession in attack. McCarthy and McCarthur had a passing accuracy of 94% and 88%, against Arsenal. Even though, they didn’t make lots and lots of passes, that is still tidy and crucial, especially when holding a lead, like they were. So, as you saw against Arsenal, the counter attacking ability of this tactic is amazing, with basically five attackers, which most defences, would struggle to deal against, as Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea all will tell you.

However, there is another transition, that’s different to these previous two mentioned above. This transition is in-between Wigan's ‘backs against the wall’ and ‘throwing the kitchen sink.’ The third system could be used when leading 1-0 and wanting to attack, but being balanced on not being caught on the break yourself and is basically a 4-2-3-1 and look like this…

This would happen when Beausejour pushed forward down the left, he would become the main left winger, then Figueroa would move over from centre-back and go left-back, creating a standard back four. Moses would then shift from the left to the right and Gomez would play just behind Di Santo, which is a good, relatively-attacking, formation, but also brilliant in my opinion, because Boyce wouldn’t push forward, he’d hold and play right-back, which means they can attack but still have a ‘normal’ back line so it would be hard to be broken against. As they aren’t throwing several bodies forward, then if they want to get back and go ‘backs against the wall’ again, it’s easy to do. All Wigan need is Beausejour to get back and Figueroa to move inside, then the two midfielders to track back as well.

I have to admit, I love this tactic.

I’ve always wanted a team to play with 3/5 at the back in the Premier League, as it’s what Cruijff did with Total Football. I've always been intrigued to see if it would work in the Premier League. And so far it has. Martinez has got it spot on.

I love the versatility of it, the way you can be defending for you lives, and then attacking at will in a matter of seconds. The middle transition, just makes the system that one bit better as you can be balanced as well and don’t have to go between the two ‘extremes’. The tactic has also been effective, with wins against Manchester United and Arsenal, I think, if they start better next year and continue to use this tactic and generally don’t do a ‘Wigan’ I think, they could have a comfortable finish. Well done Martinez, I think you’ve got it spot-on.

This article was written by Tom Moseley, you can follow him on Twitter: @PlayedOfThePark .Check out his website too:

More of Tom's work can be found here

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Flavour of the Month Ideology in Football

What do Louis Van Gaal and Rafa Benitez have in common? Both have won the European Cup as managers, yet both managers find themselves out of work. 

In football, managers don’t seem to last that long. Indeed, they can be very successful in one season, but if that is followed by a season of failure, this can often lead to the sack. Take Van Gaal at Bayern, the Dutch tactician, won the double in his first season at Bayern, getting to the final of the Champions League.
What’s sad is that a manager can have 5 or 6 years of success, but this past success can be virtually forgotten if the manager falls from the limelight. 

Though in football this flavour of the monthism (if I can call it that) is hilarious. Especially in English football.
When a vacancy opens up at a big club or when a manager is on the ropes, all types of names pop up as managers who could ‘do the job.’ I recall Owen Coyle being touted for Arsenal at one stage. I recall, Neil Warnock being linked with the England job and recently we’ve even had Alan Pardew ruling himself out of the England job. Yes, Alan Pardew. (the same guy who was managing in League One 18 months ago.)
Indeed, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but reading some of these names now are just hilarious. It’s crazy, far more qualified, experienced and better pedigreed managers are often forgotten for managers who are having a good spell at their club during the time a vacancy opens up.

Perhaps this is agents come in handy, especially for those managers who are out of work. The more publicity means the more awareness the manager gets. And the more awareness a manager gets it means fans, press and club boards will remember the manager and his brand as it were.

But often with some fans, and even with the press, if a manager has 5 years of success and two years of failure, this can lead to the manager’s reputation to be crushed. And if a big job comes up, people are quick to dismiss him, and they point to his recent failures, saying he is not up for the job and will ‘destroy the club.’  I feel this is a harsh mentality to take when determining if a manager is good enough to manage a certain club.

After all, failure often leads to learning, a development of a managers skills. Also its basic human desire, when someone fails their desire for redemption is high. Look, managers in ANY sport have a huge competitive streak in them. Why else would they take jobs which such intensity and pressure?
In England, flavour of the month has been dominant for decades. 

But has it really worked? Its seems that most managers are given some jobs as they are going through a great moment with their previous club, rather than being right for the club and the culture of the club.
Take Roy Hodgson’s tenure at Liverpool. Prior to his move to Liverpool, Hodgson had just taken Fulham to the Europa League, and narrowly lost to Athletico Madrid. 

Hogdson a man, with vast experience, as he often tells the world, was linked with all sorts of jobs. He was seen as a bigger contender than Harry Redknapp for the England job during his final season at Fulham.
But Hodgson had a woeful time at Liverpool. And now the West Brom manager is seen as a huge outsider for the England job.

While former England boss, Steve McClaren, is a unique individual in regards to this manager of the monthism in England.

Let's make no bones about it, Steve McClaren transformed Middlesbrough.

He won the club their first major trophy in the club’s history. While he also took the side to the Uefa Cup final. This success inevitably lead him to be linked with the England job. And when he did take the job, he failed.

And now, although he transformed Middlesbrough and made them a solid fixture in the Premier League. Something which the club would crave for now, Steve McLaren is now deemed as highly unfavourable by most English clubs and their fans. 

But what’s more frustrating about the harsh reputation Steve McClaren has is that the former Boro boss  has furthered his career abroad with success at Twente, winning the Dutch title with them.

Yet even with his success across the continent, when McClaren returned to manage in England, he was quickly rejected by Aston Villa fans, who saw him as signs of the club 'lowering their ambition.' And when former Boro boss when he DID get a job back in England, he only managed to get a job in the Championship with Nottingham Forest.

For me this is absurd. 

Yes he isn’t the best manager in the world, but by no means is he the worst. McClaren’s achievements show he is a manager who at the right club, can achieve a fair deal of success.

This manger of the month mentality or perhaps even ideology in England has done the clubs and the national team in England no real favours at all. 

It’s more far more important that a manager is right for the club. In terms of the clubs culture, values and expectations, rather than the manager ‘deserving the chance’ at a certain club.

This mentality is sadly hindering the chances of some of the best managers in the UK or even the world from managing in the Premier League and other top leagues.

Why diving needs to be eradicated immediately

Welcome one and all, I’m Callum Rivett, and this is my weekly blog for The Football Front. 

It was a hammering for my team Norwich this weekend, but I would like to say the score line was not a fair reflection on the game. We lost 1-6 if you’ve been living on Mars this past week, but even with a few minutes to go, us Norwich fans were still singing and also applauded the team off the pitch. One last thing, then I’ll get onto my main blog: please would all the Norwich fans who constantly abuse Steve Morison and call him ‘lazy’, ‘disinterested’ and a ‘failure’ please leave my beloved club; we back our players, not bully them.
My article this week is about diving. 

 It is cheating, and divers should be punished. One high-key player who is very prone to diving is Ashley Young. He cheated QPR out of a game, and earned Shaun Derry a three match ban for minimal contact. Then, against his former club, he dived in the penalty area again, and fooled the referee into giving Manchester United a penalty. Diving is unacceptable full stop, but against his former club makes it worse. The club that gave him his big break in the top flight, and he treats them like this.

There was a person I was talking to on various message boards during the week on this topic, and he said his German PE teacher told him that German children were taught to dive whilst playing football at school. People could say that the ‘foreign art’ of diving has crept into the English game, but Ashley Young is English. Kevin Davies was diving earlier in the year, he’s English. 

Sergio Busquets is the most famous player to regularly be considered a diver, but Barcelona play arguably the best football in the planet, and I can guarantee that Busquets does not dive every game, and this assumption is based on two, maybe three, high profile games.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez (most games) have all committed the act of diving. 

Players don’t have to dive to be a good player. Look at Robin van Persie, Lionel Messi, Xavi, all brilliant players, they never feel the need to cheat their team to victory. 
My idea is this: punish players who dive or commit dissent by either sending them off in the game if it is seen/heard, or ban them for one or more game afterwards. This would soon get rid of the cheats, as if there is the possibility of them getting sent off, they would be more hesitant to dive to gain an advantage. The amount of games banned for depends on the effects the dive had: Ashley Young’s versus QPR would earn four, one for diving, one for the resulting penalty which was scored, one for getting Derry sent off, and the final game for the eventual Man United victory.

You could say that if Young dives in the European Cup and earns England a penalty which wins us the game, people will be singing his praises. This should not be the case. He should be punished for it. I do not want the rest of the world viewing our country as cheats.
To help the referees out, FIFA need to introduce video technology. There is a rumour that neither the referee nor the linesmen saw Zinedine Zidane’s head butt in the World Cup 2006 final, and was only sent off because the fourth official saw the it in a television replay that was nearby. FIFA denied this, but I believe it to be true.

Follow Callum on twitter: @calriv97. You can find more of Callum's work here.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Why Refereeing decisions cost teams a lot of money

I’m Callum Rivett, and welcome to my regular blog on The Football Front. First of all, I appreciate every single person who reads this, and I’m only fifteen so any feedback will be extremely helpful and taken into consideration!

Over the Easter weekend and what seems to be continuing into this week, we’ve seen some dreadful refereeing decisions. Whether it be the lack of penalties at White Hart Lane for Norwich (two stonewalls), the two goals that Chelsea scored that shouldn’t have counted or the “foul” on Ashley Young by Shaun Derry on Sunday.

The FA have once again proved how ignorant they are of these continuous mistakes by their officials, upholding Derry’s red card which he received for minimal contact on Young who went down like, well, a Manchester United player in the penalty area. There are people who say the bigger clubs get the big decisions, and I for one could not agree more, with this “penalty” further adding ammunition to their argument.

As I was at Carrow Road on Saturday for the visit of Everton, I shall tell you how bad the officiating was in that game. However, many of you will not have heard or seen these incidents since Match of the Day didn’t show them, because that would be favouring Norwich.

First of all, Leighton Baines should have been sent off. There is no disputing that. I counted that he made five fouls that were all bookable offences, yet he only received a yellow card. The referees today seem scared to send off players who play for the bigger clubs, possibly for the potential backlash from those fans or the respected manager.

Next, we had a clear penalty denied. An Andrew Surman shot was deliberately blocked with his hands by Phil Jagielka who dived in front of the ball. Jagielka was inside the area when he handled it, and could have been booked. This would have made it 2-1 to City just before half-time, and in that position you would have backed us to win the game.

But the most controversial incident was still to come. Steven Pienaar clearly trapped the ball between his legs, even laying on it at one point. This was deemed obstruction by the Norwich players, who stopped and shouted at the ref, who thought it was perfectly acceptable. Everton then scored to put themselves 1-2 up.

When questioned on the decision by Grant Holt, the referee said he “didn’t see it.” But, if you look at replays, you can see the referee a mere six yards away at most.

The FA have two options, either: A) Fine or suspend referees who have continuously made poor decisions in a game, or B) take the money out of football so finishing 9th rather than 10th doesn’t mean an extra £500k. Moving up one position in the Premier League earns you about five hundred thousand pounds, and if you stay in the Premier League you earn considerably more than a Championship team, and rightly so, but if your team gets relegated by one point that a referee cost you, you would be livid. The club would lose out on a lot of money, and you could never see your team in the Premier League again due to an error by the referee.

Now, if the FA decide to drop a referee down to the Championship or League One, they may think it’s all well and good, but what about the two teams in those leagues who get stuck with a terrible ref for a game?

They don’t deserve that.

To end, I would like to say, “have some of that!” to Mark Lawrenson, who continues to write off Grant Holt for an England call up, despite being the second top English goal scorer in the Premier League behind Rooney. 15 goals this season for Holt, and happy birthday to him as well!

=Follow Callum on twitter: @calriv97.

You can find more of Callum's work here.

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Europa League is it really the Mickey Mouse Cup?

On his debut for The Football Front, Tom Moseley explains why the Europa League deserves more respect than it currently gets.

For a while now, people have been regarding the Europa League as ‘The Mickey Mouse Cup’ or ‘A Mickey Mouse Cup’ saying they don’t really care about it and it doesn’t mean anything. However, does it really deserve this title? Especially this year, there seems to have been a general increase in the amount of people watching and enjoying the Europa League, for a few different reasons.

Firstly, I find the Europa League much more entertaining than the Champions League, because I think that the Europa League is played at a higher pace than the Champions League and fewer teams settle for draws, leading to end-to-end and potentially high scoring games. You can see this if you compare the Champions League and Europa League Quarter Final first legs and seeing the difference in the amount of goals. In the Europa League there were 15 goals in the four games, which is an average of 3.75 goals a game, which is quite high to be honest, whereas the Champions League is different. In the Champions League there were 6 goals, which is an average of 1.5 goals a game, so on average, you get 2 more goals a game in the Europa League, which backs up the fact the Europa League is better for entertainment than the Champions League.

I think the next main reason why the Europa League is starting to appeal to a lot more people and is being dismissed as a ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ by more people is because it’s ‘refreshing’ because in the Champions League, you see those same sides on TV every week. I mean I always say that if you have SkySports you have a Real Madrid and Barcelona season ticket, so when the Europa League is on, it’s a welcome chance to watch some different teams. You can see different managers, players and styles, instead of the same thing every week. This could appeal to people even more if they want to learn more

about the game, because they are finding out about new players and managers they never knew before, meaning they’re learning more and more out about different aspects of football, which they might not necessarily find out when they watch the same kinds of teams. An example of this is mainly Athletic Bilbao. I have learnt a lot about them from the few Europa League games of theirs I have watched. I knew most of their players and I knew Biesla was their manager and that he managed Chile in the World Cup and is nicknamed ‘El Loco’ but I didn’t know exactly how they played, which is probably the main reason why I enjoyed their game at Old Trafford, because they play an exciting brand of football. They press high and play at a high tempo with lots of men attacking and lots of good movement/runs in and around the box, which is good football for entertainment and if you’re watching as a neutral.

For me, this is the biggest argument for why the Europa League is getting better and not necessarily better than the Champions League, because technically, the Champions League teams are better, but more entertaining and could possibly become a ‘Peoples Cup’ which may not always be the best in quality, but the games are always entertaining, open and played at a fast tempo.

I also think the ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ isn’t a right title for the cup as well, because if you go by popular opinion that the two Manchester Clubs are the best in England and the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the World, then they wouldn’t have been knocked out so early in the tournament, for the point they entered in. If it really was as bad as it is made out, then I’m pretty sure the two Manchester clubs would have walked it and there would have been a Manchester Derby final, which a couple of people I know said there would be.

However, again this could be due to lack of knowledge of the game as well, as they don’t know a lot about the teams they’ll be up against, so they assume that the Manchester Clubs will walk it, because nine times out of ten, if you know next to nothing about a team in the Europa League, but know a lot about a decent Champions League team, you’re going to back the Champions League team, aren’t you? I mean, a couple of people I was talking to didn’t really know who Bilbao were.

Another way to look at it is to think, if your team won the Europa League, would you play it down and say ‘well, it’s only a Mickey Mouse Cup’. My guess is no, you wouldn’t. I’m pretty sure when Fulham got to the final, they wanted to win it and wouldn’t be calling it a ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ if they did, or take the League Cup for example as well, that’s classed as a ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ by a lot of people, but every Liverpool fan I’ve talked to hasn’t called it the ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ they’ve defended their club by saying ‘Yeah, but we won the League Cup’. So everyone that calls the Europa League a ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ answer this question, if you’re team, whether it be Liverpool, Wolves or Wycombe, won the Europa League, would you say it’s only a ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ or would you celebrate? Most supporters would pick the second. So this is something people should consider when writing cups off as ‘Mickey Mouse Cups’.

Overall, what I’m trying to say, is the Europa League is a good competition, it’s entertaining and although there isn’t as much quality on show as the Champions League, the entertainment factor makes up for it, which is what football is all about, entertainment, football is a form of entertainment. So, I don’t think it is a ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ and I hope more people start to see this and it grows as a tournament, which it looks like it could.

This article was written by Tom Moseley, you can follow him on Twitter: @PlayedOfThePark .Check out his website too:

“King” Kenny

Welcome, I’m Callum Rivett and this week I tell The Football Front why Kenny Dalglish isn’t so royal after all. And any Liverpool fan that says otherwise is starting to look rather disillusioned.

After spending about £69.1m*in the summer and £57m** in January 2011, Liverpool had to finish in the top six in the 2011-12 season to prove that the big spending was worth it. Currently, however, they sit 8th, with teams such as Sunderland, Swansea, Fulham, Norwich and Stoke with a real chance of overtaking the Anfield club.

The £35m spent on Andy Carroll has since proved to be a waste of money, he doesn’t look close to fulfilling his potential, and his pathetic dive at Newcastle (see here: has surely ruined his remaining status that he had at his former club, despite saying how much he loved Newcastle and he was, in Layman’s terms, apparently forced out of the club.

I understand that, yes, as a player, Kenny Dalglish was fantastic and rightly considered a legend. But perhaps as a manager, his methods are out-dated and he frankly doesn’t have a plan. If you go to a top club, Chelsea, Man United, Man City, Tottenham, Arsenal, etc. you know what to expect: Arsenal pass the ball, Chelsea go mostly all attack and hit you on the break, Spurs are speed demons and rely on Bale and Lennon, United look to experience and City try to buy the league and hope Silva is on his day and Balotelli isn’t being a sulky child. But with Liverpool, it’s not like that. It seems the team lack an identity.

Now, I’ve only watched Liverpool live once this season so if you want you can completely ignore my opinion and that’s fine, but when they played against Norwich, they only really started playing when we equalised. We hung on a bit towards the end and some world-class saves from John Ruddy and brilliant defending helped us survive and rightly earn a point. Bellamy has been the star performer this season for Liverpool, and is always a threat and I’m sure he’ll receive a warm welcome from Carrow Road in a few weeks, since we gave him his break in the footballing world and played well for us, and included a few practical jokes along the way***. I’ll put the asterisked parts at the end, you’ll soon understand it.

Kenny Dalglish is, like I said, an out-dated manager and a man without a plan. It’ll pain Liverpool fans for me to say this, but he needs to be more like Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson has changed his game plans at United when needed to, got the right blend of experience and youth and it’s won him and United many trophies by doing so.

That about sums it up, so here are the asterisks:

*Wales forward Craig Bellamy from Manchester City, free; Uruguayan defender Sebastian Coates from Nacional for a fee of £8m; Spanish defender Jose Enrique from Newcastle for a fee of £8m; Brazilian goalkeeper Doni on a free transfer from Roma; Midfielder Stewart Downing from Aston Villa for a fee of £22.8m; Scottish midfielder Charlie Adam from Blackpool for a fee of £8.3m; Midfielder Jordan Henderson from Sunderland for a fee of £22m.

**Andy Carroll, £35m; Luis Suarez, £22m.

***Apparently, in the late nineties, about 1998 I assume, on a long coach trip to an away game, Bellamy was either locked or locked a team-mate in the toilet for the entire journey whilst playing for Norwich. I think Bellamy got locked in, as he’d been playing practical jokes on the team for most of the time he was there.

Follow Callum on twitter: @calriv97.

You can find more of Callum's work here.

UEFA - will common sense ever prevail?

Arsenal fan Reuben Lewis highlights to The Football Front, the inconsistencies in UEFA which are rife.

If anyone needed confirmation that Uefa are unable to see the wood for the trees, so to speak, then here it is.

Following Arsenal's Champions League 2nd leg against AC Milan, Arsene Wenger criticised the Slovenian referee Damir Skomina, claiming he awarded Milan too many free kicks. He took this matter onto the pitch at full time, as well as in his post match conference - a heinous crime in the eyes of Uefa. What followed was perhaps inevitable, knowing Uefa: a three match ban and a ridiculous £33,000 fine. And we've been here before; in 2011, after Arsenal’s Champions League exit to Barcelona, Wenger confronted referee Massimo Busacca over some of his decisions. A one-match ban given, for 'inappropriate language'. What followed was nothing short of farcical, and was branded "a joke" by Wenger himself. Whilst sitting in the stands during the Gunners Champions League qualifier against Udinese, serving his ban, he was adjudged to have communicated illegally with the bench. Guess what happened next? A further two-match ban. Arsene had this to say:

"The first time was not justified. The second time was a joke because they told me what to do and afterwards they told me 'no, sorry, that was wrong'."

Any criticism these Uefa appointed referees receive is treated like a personal insult to the body's integrity. Arsene Wenger sums this up himself:

"I believe that they have transformed Uefa competition referees to be untouchable icons, where you cannot even have a word."

There is a big difference between a personal insult and a perfectly valid criticism. The latter is what Arsene is being punished for. If you ask me, this is hypocrisy at the highest level; Uefa can say what they please, yet Arsene Wenger - not your average man on the street - is punished for expressing his views.

Now surely, if anybody, one of the world's most respected managers should be allowed to voice his opinions without being at risk of reprisal. It reminds me of when I was 11 years old playing for a local Sunday League team, and my father was in charge of the match reports for the club website. Our keeper - who would make Gomes look like Casillas - had a shocker, and my dad told the truth in the report, that all twelve four of the oppositions' goals were goalkeeping errors. Uproar ensued among some of the other parents, and, to cut a long story short, I left the club.

They were shit anyway.

But in all seriousness, this anecdote is reminiscent of what Uefa are doing today. They seem to take everything as some kind of personal insult. What ever happened to freedom of speech? Let alone the benefit of the doubt.

It is no secret that Platini, was once friends with Wenger, now Platini has a barely disguised dislike of him. Platini, the head of Uefa, publicly stated his contempt for Arsene in an interview with a French newspaper a few years ago:

"I do not like the system of Arsene Wenger", "I like to talk about football, him (Wenger) about business".

This frankly bizarre outburst got even more sarcastic and personal when Platini went on to say:

"It would make me happy that Arsene Wenger never sees it (goal line technology)". Arsene is a known advocate for the introduction of technology in football, and Platini, to put it eloquently, takes the fucking piss.

And that's not all. Amidst all this, there have been various other incidents which were actually heinous, with consequences far softer than those meted out to Arsene Wenger.

Firstly, Porto were recently fined a meagre £16,000 after their fans racially abused Man City's Mario Balloteli. £16,000? For racial abuse? Really? I'd love to hear Uefa's justification for this.

Oh, but don't worry, there's more. Russian club Zenit St Petersburg were fined a total of just €50,000 for two separate incidents of crowd trouble, in last year's Champions League group stage. They brandished illicit banners, set off fireworks, and carried out a pitch invasion. A PITCH INVASION! And they were fined just €10,000 more than Wenger was for criticising a referee!

Celtic were fined just €15,000 after their Europa League match last year against Rennes, after illicit chanting from their fans. Shortly after, in their match away to Udinese, fans brandished a banner saying: 'Fuck Uefa'. Good on 'em, I say. However, as one would expect, this clearly offensive and personal message directed towards the body itself would result in a hefty fine for the Scottish club. Oh, according to, Celtic were fined just £21,000 for this? £12,000 less than what Wenger was fined? This must be some kind of mistake. Right?

I wish it was.

The above highlights the inexplicable inconsistency shown by Uefa in their disciplinary actions. Admittedly, nothing is ever 100%, or black and white, even the foolish and blinkered approach of Uefa. Moreover, I'm not saying they aren't allowed to punish Arsene for any offensive comments he may make, but when we see racial misconduct sanctioned to a lesser extent than that of perceived "inappropriate remarks", one must question the competence of those supposedly running the game.

At least now Wenger knows he can criticise the referee's performance, and racially abuse him whilst he's at it, and get fined half the usual amount. Sound system they have going on there, eh?

'Til next time, RL.

This Article was written by Reuben Lewis, you can find more of his work at The Wonder of Wenger. Reuben is on Twitter too: @Rlewisafc.

You can also find all of Reuben's work at The Football Front here
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