What with all the big news stories out there—FIFA U20 World Cup action, Notts County’s shifty owners—I thought I’d ease you into your late Sunday news-gathering expedition with an irreverent look at what happens when a team many were counting on to fill in the role as the Big Four minnow destroyer du jour loses 3-1 to lil’ ol’ Wigan.
There are some fun press headlines to choose from, among them the Times’ caption for their Terry-Gets-Angry lead story: “Captain calls for improvement before Liverpool game after shock defeat at Wigan costs leadership of Premier League.” Laying aside the idiocy of the “costs leadership” bit, (a line perhaps meant to prod West Londoners into fits of terror that the league title is now gone for good, killed dead at the DW Stadium) it’s worth looking at how exactly losing to Wigan is a “shock.”
Wigan beat Aston Villa 2-0 on their opening day of the season, completely outplaying a strong side that went on to win four games straight. If anything, it was at least proof that Steve Bruce’s former side can kick a football against half decent opposition if they’re in the mood. Everyone forgot about that opening day win following Wigan’s nine conceded goals to Arsenal and Manchester United, but while the press can be forgiven for the oversight, Ancelotti’s bafflement is less encouraging: “Wigan were very good, very well-organised. I was surprised.”
To be fair to the Italian, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez also showed a fair bit of naivete in describing how the result, following a 4-0 loss to Arsenal, meant his players “…have learned that against the top four, you can do one of two things. You can be brave, play your football and try to beat them, or you can just defend and get battered.” In my experience watching umpteen Premier League games, teams that play their football and try to beat Top Four opposition tend to concede late goals on the break (see Sunderland last year).
But we get what Martinez is essentially after: in football, anything can happen. You’d think after Istanbul Ancelotti would get that by now, if not the hyperventilating press, especially after a handful of similar “shock” results to various other Top Four sides last year (Fulham’s 2-0 win over Manchester United comes to mind). Glad to see in the age of Mega Rich Man City and Uppity Tottenham, some things never change.
- Some interesting revelations to add to Gary Andrews’ marvelous piece on the situation at Notts County last week: a) Sol Campbell dubiously claims in an interview with NOTW he left the club because Roberto Carlos and Benjani didn’t arrive on the scene immediately after he did and b) the mysterious figures behind the Munto Finance group have been revealed.
- The Kartik Report gives us the good news first: despite a troubling political situation at home, Honduras is CONCACAF’s shining light in the FIFA U20 World Cup in Egypt. The bad news is all the other CONCACAF entries had until that match been outscored 12-1.
- One of those teams, the USA, lost to Germany in a limp 3-0 drubbing on Saturday. This weird Club Med-ish USAMNT video interviews the American players and manager on how they plan to respond to the loss. It’s all very drowsy sounding.
- More on the FIFA U20 World Cup: Gabriele Marcotti doesn’t think the tournament should be played during the European domestic season. *sigh*
- When Saturday Comes’ Ian Plenderleith thinks modern football managers should shelve all that “emotion talk.”
- The incomparable Dara O Briain informs us why El Hadji Diouf‘s “white boy” quip to a ball boy at Goodison Park isn’t racist at all: “When he allegedly said “white boy”, well it just reminded me of all those other times people called me “white boy” just to put me down, just to make me, and the other 55 million white people in the UK, feel small.”
- Selfish Plug: Do you have a personal story about your experience with MLS, whether as a supporter, observer or antagonist? Please come by A More Splendid Life because I’d like to hear it…
Richard Whittall Sweeps this space on weekends when he’s not taking on impossibly idealistic writing projects at A More Splendid Life.