Rants and musings from the magazine team
1. Roy Hodgson is king of the roadIf West Brom can win at Tottenham on Saturday, Roy Hodgson will have already won more away games with The Baggies than he did during the entirety of his ill-fated stint at Anfield and his generally successful final season with Fulham combined – a total of 29 trips. Hodgson's solitary away success with Liverpool was a 1-0 win over Bolton, while Fulham’s only away victory in 2009/10 was an opening day 1-0 victory at Portsmouth; Uncle Roy has already equalled that record in just three away matches at his new club, winning 3-1 at Birmingham and 3-2 at Sunderland.
2. If you score goals you won't win Dutch titlesWhile you might expect the Dutch league’s top scorer to come from the likes of Ajax, PSV or FC Twente, this season the leading marksmen have come from teams either wallowing in mid-table or at best looking to scrape a Europa League spot. With three games to go, Roda JC’s Mads Junker (leading with 19 goals) and NEC's Bjorn Vleminckx (18) go head-to-head this weekend; also on 18 is Dimitriy Bulikin of fifth-placed Ado Den Haag, while PSV midfielder Balazs Dzudzak is the first top-three representative with 16.FEATURE Half-time Oranje: Eredivisie European battle hots up
3. Everybody puts Avi in the cornerWest Ham should be defending from corners in training this week. Chelsea have won the most corners so far in this season's Premier League with 232, while Avram's 'Appy 'Ammers 'ave 'app-'azardly 'anded ...errrrrm ...their opposition a table-topping 245. Expect flag-kick fun aplenty at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
4. Enjoy the smooth taste of CroydonCrystal Palace fan and former celebrity Neil Morrissey have 'joined forces' to launch their very own real ale at the first ever Crystal Palace Beer Festival on May 14. The Selhurst Park festival will give Eagles supporters the chance to quaff the brew concocted by the Homebase-hawking homebreaker. Expect a rush to market similar branded brews. Blackpool's would be a refreshing amber blend that fizzes heartily before going worryingly flat, while Arsenal's exotic continental blend would only be available in cans as they don't have the bottle(s). ROFL!
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So we’ve reached that part of the season when everyone’s seemingly ‘cup-crazy’. Just flick on Sky Sports News and it’s wall-to-wall coverage of domestic semis, continental finals and classic ‘every game’s a cup final’ clichés as far as the eye can see.
The first trophy-winner wasn't even a team – Gareth Bale was named PFA Players' Player of the Year, Jack Wilshere the Young Player – but elsewhere, trophy droughts neared their end. In the FA Cup semis at Wembley, Yaya Touré (or was it Michael Carrick?) helped Man City overcome their unusually quiet neighbours to reach their first major final since 1976, before Stoke humiliated Bolton 5-0 to reach only their second ever major final.
In Big League Arsenal slipped up against Liverpool, irking the traffic-avoiding early leavers by scoring a penalty in the 98th minute and conceding one in the 102nd. Meanwhile, in Spain's super-sexy sunshine world of excitement, Real Madrid and Barcelona ground out a drab 1-1 in the first of four Clasicos in a fortnight.
Those two met again in another Cup clash in midweek, this time the Copa del Rey. Cristiano Ronaldo’s extra-time header won it for Madrid, breaking their 18-year duck, but during the open-top bus celebration that night (they don't hang about in Spain) Sergio Ramos quite literally dropped a clanger, letting the cup slip from the top deck and under the wheels of the bus.
Back in North London, Arsenal dropped another two points thanks to another penalty, Van Der Vaart's spot-kick leveller sending White Hart Lane wild after the Gunners had been 3-1 up within 40 minutes. Across London, Chelsea beat Birmingham 3-1 to jump above Arsenal in the table. No, that fella didn't score.
In uglier news, hatred and idiocy reared up again in Glasgow as it emerged that Celtic manager Neil Lennon had been sent parcel bombs last month. There's nothing clever or funny about that.
Why Man City should concentrate on the CupRead now >>
Valery Karpin half-resigns as Spartak slump to the bottom of the pileRead now >>
"New Mourinho" Villas-Boas impresses but Porto are the real "Special Ones"Read now >>
Americans come to Roma's rescueRead now >>
Politics, WAGs and cup semi-finalsRead now >>
End of the road for Nice keeper Letizi as Lille look to make historyRead now >>
Torres will be back… in four monthsWhile it isn’t at all surprising to see the nation’s football media obsess over Fernando Torres’ barren run in front of goal since joining Chelsea in January, it is perhaps more so to see so many already so willing to write him off entirely as ‘finished’. The Spaniard has now gone 724 minutes without scoring for his new club, but the problem isn’t entirely of his own making – and will certainly not be permanent.
At Anfield, Torres regularly thrived by hanging on the shoulder of the last defender and bursting on to neatly-threaded through-balls, particularly from Xabi Alonso before his sale to Real Madrid in 2009. Beside a string of injuries slightly diminishing his pace, Chelsea’s tactics and squad generally prevent him from finding these kind of opportunities. For all its power and efficiency, Chelsea’s midfield lacks a player capable of regularly picking those eye-of-the needle passes Torres would pounce on at Anfield – although he may be relieved by the return of his former Liverpool teammate Yossi Bennayoun after a prolonged injury.
Despite their successes, Chelsea’s ageing attack – Didier Drogba is 33, Nicolas Anelka 32, and Frank Lampard will be 33 in June – means the club would be well advised to change to suit Torres’ needs rather than cling to what has worked before.
While they spend summer doing that, Torres should spend it taking a well-earned break. After two seasons peppered with nagging injuries, he spent last summer trudging through a full World Cup campaign – unquestionably a factor in his uncharacteristic sluggishness since. It was understandable that a struggling Liverpool kept selecting the struggling Spaniard, but perhaps he is now feeling the cumulative effect of never fully recovering before being thrown back into action.
He wouldn’t be the first to suffer in such a way, nor will he be the last. This time last term, Manchester United were perhaps guilty of rushing the previously excellent Wayne Rooney back from injury, while Spurs' dependence on Gareth Bale might have lead to a string of niggling injuries over the second half of the current campaign.
Despite the disappointingly gleeful claims of his detractors, Torres will be back – just maybe not until August.
– James Maw, FourFourTwo.com features editor
"I don't wanna pick up a seagull. F*** that" – One-on-One, Sep 2003: Harry Redknapp
"Wash 'n' Go? I've got bags full of it, mate" – Ask A Silly Question, May 2010: Jimmy Bullard
"It's not quite the same as a one-two with Le Tissier"– What Happened Next?, Mar 2007: Hassan Kachloul
This Weekender was brought to you by James Maw, Gary Parkinson, Huw Davies, Steve Norman, George Bouras, Matt Wilson and Les Dennis
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