Shorts: Ancelotti the New Scolari?; Liverpool and Zonal Marking; Rich Lists; Lists; Watch England Online; Uncle Avram’s Back!

Deeplinks have been renamed Shorts, for obvious reasons. I considered Deep-lying Links, but I prefer Shorts.


Prior to Sunday’s defeat of Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, and on the back of the poor performances against Wigan and APOEL, a couple of newspaper pundits expressed doubts about Carlo Ancelotti and the team.

In the Independent, Glenn Moore asked: Is Ancelotti the new Scolari at Chelsea?

Less than two months into the season and the spectre of Groundhog Day already looms at Stamford Bridge. Just as last year a storied foreign manager arrived and made an immediate impact, delivering a team which has won matches and played attractive football, all without antagonising everyone. Maybe, it seemed, Roman had found his man at last. But now the performances have started to slide.

The Daily Mail’s Ian Ridley went further.

How powerful they looked, how relentlessly and ruthlessly they began the season, retaining under Carlo Ancelotti the spirit and optimism that Guus Hiddink instilled in them anew in the second half of last season.

“But the way they are set up and with the way the season is unfolding, Chelsea are just not going to win the Premier League title.

“It is not just hindsight of the past week, with defeat at Wigan and an eked-out win in Nicosia over an average Apoel, that has fostered doubts.

“Scratch the surface of their eight-game winning start to the season and all was not what it seemed.

It would be nice to know what the two of them think now, three days after a pretty impressive victory over a side that many consider to be serious title contenders.

Ancelotti is closer to being the new Hiddink or Mourinho than he is the new Scolari. I wouldn’t rule out the old Hiddink returning to the Bridge in some capacity in the not too distant future, though.


Also in the Mail before the match, Liverpool old boy and most annoying man on Sky Sports News Phil Thompson looked at the pros and cons of zonal and man-to-man marking and how each one works.

Managers choose [zonal marking] because they think they are covering all the major areas. For me, the biggest flaw is players don’t have accountability. You can come in after a game and someone’s scored from a set piece and everyone can shrug and say: ‘It’s not my fault.’

In my opinion, zonal marking makes it too easy for the attacking team: allowing opposition players to attack the ball while defenders mark areas of grass strikes me as crazy. The stats listed in the article seem to bear this out: prior to Sunday’s game, 90% of the goals Liverpool conceded were from set pieces. And who can forget Scolari’s flirtation with zonal marking last season. It was a disaster.


While we’re on the subject of Liverpool, the Guardian’s Patrick Barkham writes about robbing, specifically the 21 Premiership footballers’ homes that have been burgled in the north-west in the last three years.

When Carl Bishop smashed his way into a grand house on a leafy avenue in Formby, Merseyside, successfully evading the security system, he was delighted to find a bounty of champagne and whisky. But there was one 6ft 4in item of anti-burglary technology that he had reckoned without: the Everton striker Duncan Ferguson. Bishop tried to smash a bottle of vodka over the footballer’s head, before feeling the full force of “Big Dunc’s” fist in his face – the thief was confined to hospital for two days. It was the second attempted robbery that Ferguson had foiled in his home; two years earlier, in 2001, he had sat on a thief until the police arrived.


A Swiss court has temporarily suspended Adrian Mutu’s £15m fine for testing positive for cocaine five years ago.


John Terry has vowed to win the Champions League with Chelsea and taste genuine success with England before he retires, with the memory of his penalty miss in Moscow and Cristiano Ronaldo’s wink to the Portugal bench in 2006 still painful.

It would 100 per cent always annoy me if I retired without a Champions League winners’ medal with Chelsea or some real success with England. To end my career without either of those things is unthinkable.


Nuno Morais, who lined up for APOEL last week, says that Jose Mourinho was smuggled into the dressing rooms when Bayern Munich visited the Bridge in 2005.

I played the last three minutes of the second leg but was on the bench for the home game. It was very different to go into the dressing room and see Jose hiding in the skip that night.


Mateja Kezman makes it into the Daily Mail’s top 50 worst strikers to have played in the Premier League list at number 40. Numbers 50-41. 40-31. 30-21.

My money’s on Shevchenko being number one.


More lists. The Daily Telegraph lists its top 25 football websites. Surprisingly we were overlooked. OleOle made it into the 15 nominated by Telegraph readers.

Another US-based site but with a truly global outlook and a broad community. A social media site where fans can meet to debate/argue/fight about whatever is occupying their minds at any given time with much of the debate sparked by regularly posted blogs on a wide variety of topics.


The Independent lists its ten best international sporting rivalries. England versus Scotland is included.

English football fans love to hold a grudge. Although Scotland have been picked for this countdown, Argentina or Germany could easily have sufficed. England’s rivalry with their nearest neighbours is steeped in history, with the first game between the two sides in 1870 also being the first ever international match to take place. The two nations would play one another on a regular basis, in the British Home Championship and latterly the Rous Cup. The annual meeting between the two nations came to an end in the late 80s under the shadow of England’s expulsion from European football and problems with hooliganism. Although resurrecting the fixture has been mooted, the hassle of security and general hysteria that would surround the game makes a regular return unlikely.


The Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman lists seven reasons why the Premier League season has started with a bang.


Fabio Capello is included in the Independent’s “Sports’ year of the greats” list.

[The England players] have learnt quickly enough that in Capello they have a leader who has set a single standard of effort and football intelligence for all his players. Capello, as quickly as you could imagine, recognised that some players were inherently superior to others but this would not entitle them to any special consideration.

Not before time.


Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack make it into’s top ten Football Player Rich List with £16m, £18m, £21m and £22m respectively. David Beckham tops the list with £125m. You can see the full 100 Football Rich List here.

You’ll be pleased to learn that Roman Abramovich is third with £7.8bn. Apparently he has recouped his Chelsea investment in the last nine months alone.


Several footballers are included in the Independent’s list of sportsmen who failed to reach their potential.


The Daily Telegraph lists the funniest online soccer videos.


Enough with the lists.

ProZone analysis proves Sir Alex Ferguson got it wrong when he claimed that referee Alan Wiley is ‘unfit’. Statistics show the ref covered more ground than all but seven players.


The profound stupidity of football: Prospect Magazine reviews Why England Lose and Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski.

Anyone who spends any time inside football soon discovers that just as oil is part of the oil business, stupidity is part of the football business.

Buy the book from Amazon UK.


England’s World Cup qualifier in Ukraine on Saturday will be shown exclusively live to pay-per-view subscribers on the internet. If you subscribe either today or tomorrow, it’ll cost you £9.99. Leave it until Saturday and it’ll cost you £11.99. Crazy.

Sports rights agency Kentaro, the company behind the decision to show the match exclusively on a pay-per-view basis, says it represents the future of broadcasting.

I’m sure it is the future of broadcasting. But £11.99? For a meaningless match (England have already qualified remember). BBC Sport ran a poll on its website in midweek: 97% of respondents said they would not pay to watch the game. And neither will I.

Owen Gibson in the Guardian says Kentaro’s experiment is more important than the match.

[B]y stoking up opposition among those who may have already shelled out for a TV licence and subscriptions to Sky and ESPN and feel aggrieved at having to pay again, Kentaro might end up limiting their options in future negotiations. The eventual audience will be measured in hundreds of thousands rather than millions but this could turn out to be one of the more pivotal England qualifiers of recent times – off the pitch, at least.

England supporters’ spokesman Mark Perryman has criticised the decision to show the match on the internet only.

I find it outrageous. FIFA and UEFA should make it a condition of entry to World Cup and European Championship qualifying campaigns that games must be sold only free-to-air, both to the home market and the away market.

“At 5.15 on a Saturday night, most of the England fans I know will not want to be sitting in front of a computer, even for an England game.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with watching football matches on my computer – I watch quite a few Chelsea games online every season (thanks, – no, what I have a problem with is the amount of money they’re charging. £11.99 is extortionate. £9.99 is too much. Even £4.99 is excessive. I’d pay a fiver to watch an England World Cup game or a meaningful Chelsea fixture online. The maximum I would pay for a meaningless England World Cup qualifier? £1.99.

Talking of, the Independent asks: Should football authorities try to stamp out illegal streaming of football matches – or join the trend?

One regular online viewer, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains the attraction: “There are hundreds of web services out there – but it’s incredibly easy to find the match you want to see. I’ve bookmarked a handful of websites that act as middlemen, pointing me in the right direction to find the match I want. Before a game, all the usual football fan-sites are full of people swapping the addresses of sites showing the action. Picture quality is poor, and the stream often goes dead during a game – but I get to watch almost every Arsenal match, often taken from a French channel for some reason. I can look past quality issues – after all, it’s free.”

England’s European Under-21 Championships qualifier against Macedonia on Friday will be broadcast live on Chelsea TV after Stuart Pearce’s side attracted no interest from rival broadcasters.


Last but not least, Uncle Avram is back! He’s wangled his way into the director of football role at Portsmouth. As if Pompey fans don’t have enough to worry about.

Don’t have nightmares, Pompey fans, do sleep well.