Sunday, 11 April 2010

El Clásico review

Barcelona were more than comfortable in victory in last night's Clásico, a game that played in an entirely different manner to a typical La Liga game.

From the moment that the Catalans took the lead, they looked unlikely to relinquish it. Real created little danger, and were unable to keep possession for any meaningful length of time.

Typically in the Spanish game, defenders give more space to the ball carrier, stick to positions rigidly, and only attempt win the ball when they are certain they can.
They wait until the attacker runs at them before engaging, and even then usually to shepherd the player away from the goal rather than leaping in with two feet.

From the attacking standpoint, this approach rewards precise passing and moving between the more static targets, perhaps best exhibited by Barcelona's midfield and attackers, who play neat one-two's and take only the minimum necessary number of touches before laying the ball off again.

This style of play encourages players to run at each other and attack players one-to-one, as long balls and hopeful passes that are hit without thought (a sad mainstay of the English game) are easily intercepted.

It also shows respect towards the attacking game. The space is there if you make use of it, and defenders will only challenge for the ball when they are certain of winning it. This combination of factors creates a game that has the easy-on-the-eye flair, whilst providing more pace and tempo than the Italian variety.

However, this all went out the window last night as soon as the whistle was blown. Players closed each other down aggressively all over the pitch, responding to the sheer pressure of the occasion and the baying of the fans.

As a result, we were inevitably treated to a less spectacular game, but not without its stars. Indeed, those players who adapted best to the rough and tumble game were mostly wearing the red and blue shirts, most notably Xavi and Messi.


Disturbing to see that we have already reached the stage where Messi is becoming deified. Every touch now seemingly requires the commentators to comment on his brilliance. After a blatant handball in the first half, Sky Sports' Terry Gibson said that the booking had been harsh, despite having just admitted that the player was using his arm to gain a deliberate advantage.

Messi of course, is not new to causing handball controversies. I wonder what our pundits would say about that goal if it had happened last night.

To summarise; it would be nice if pundits could admire players without fawning over them blindly.

Messi's goal though, gets better with every viewing.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Election overload

Whilst the media constantly asks the question of how we can engage an apathetic electorate in the run up to an election, it would be nice if they could occasionally take a look at themselves as being where the blame may lie.

On Tuesday, the day that Gordon Brown announced the date of the election that we had already known for a year, the BBC saw fit to fill the entire one o'clock news bulletin with an election preview, despite there being absolutely nothing of interest happening.

This is on day one of an exhaustive month that lies ahead. There is such as thing as election overload, and even as someone who has an avid political interest, I found it tiresome after 10 minutes.

This is the week that England may finally have fully awoken to Lionel Messi's true brilliance. Although this blog can not be accused of having been guilty of such ignorance, I find it frustrating and shameful that it has taken many of our pundits this long to appreciate his ability, as did Sid Lowe. In this age where it is so easy to access foreign football coverage with such ease, it seems strange that we have waited this long to crown him as the world's best.

After all, he ran rings around Chelsea in the same competition back in 2006. It's yet another example of Britain's short-sightedness when it comes to acknowledging foreign football. This was further in evidence last night following Manchester United's exit from the Champions League. Both Mike Ingham and Alan Green trotted out the usual lines about United having fallen to an inferior team.

However you judge their relative strengths, the facts are that Bayern won and United are out. Whether Bayern are inferior has nothing to do with it. It was another case of English pundits bristling with irritation that the Premier League had failed to produce a European Cup semi-finalist.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Richard Littlejohn

It's easy to criticise, and Richard Littlejohn gave a perfect example of this on Question Time, exhibiting the expected behaviour of the obligatory right-wing columnist (see Starkey, Mackenzie, Hitchens) on the show.

While the party representatives attempted to dissect and argue the issues, every time Littlejohn assumed that the audience were getting lost in debate going over their heads, he leapt in and targeted a populist response with the familiar 'they're all the same' and 'what the British people want' rhetoric.

At one point in the aftermath of his attack on the Liberal Democrats, Littlejohn rested his hand on Sarah Teather's in a slightly sickening manner, bringing to mind the image of a lecherous news editor drooling over his new intern. Teather, to her credit, waited the moment out, although did subsequently struggle to formulate her subsequent argument, as any human would given the same position.

The most absurd moment was when Littlejohn had to bully a questioner into silence when the plausible suggestion that he was the BNP's favourite columnist was raised.

The Guardian writer Victoria Coren was also a weak link on the show however, offering meaningless throw-away points and pathetic jokes on serious issues. This does raise the question of why we need anyone other than politicians on Question Time. Why can we not have representatives from the Greens and UKIP and debate real policy instead?

The issue is that in this country we have a big problem with failing to hold our media accountable. David Dimbleby bumbles through in the manner of a Boris Johnson without the pseudo-charm, interrupting and cutting off the politicians, but consistently fails to cross-question the newspaper journalists on the points they make. When, at the end he turned on Littlejohn over the Daily Mail's reporting of Joanna Lumley, Dimbleby for a moment realised he had the columnist on the ropes, and immediately retreated.