Foreign club owners, to put it politely, continue to be a mixed blessing. Last Sunday at Stamford Bridge, it was surely inconceivable that a manager as experienced as Rafa Benitez would willingly have kept the sadly struggling Fernando Torres on the field for some seventy-eight minutes while keeping that prolific new arrival Demba Ba on the bench. All too predictably poor Torres was firing blanks again, one flagrant miss when he sliced his shot embarrassingly wide the symptom of his lost confidence.
By sharp contrast as soon as Ba at last came on further Chelsea goals – to the two they had somewhat controversially scored – were in the air. How close indeed he came to getting one, near the end, exploiting a rash exit by the Arsenal keeper, thwarted only by a resourceful save on the line by Thomas Vermuelen.
The only reason for such a tactical absurdity must be the influence of the club’s oligarch billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. Who for some bizarre reason seems never to face the fact that his £50 million outlay on Torres has been an ill judged disaster. That the experienced Benitez should have pandered to his delusion tells you why a manager of the calibre of Pep Guardiola, now snugly at Bayern Munich, was never going into the revolving door which awaits a Chelsea manager.
At Southampton there is another demanding and deeply controversial foreign owner in the shape of Nicola Cortese. His sacking of Nigel Adkins who had taken the club to consecutive promotions, hot on the heels of that remarkable 2-2 draw at Chelsea, was made all the more capricious and autocratic when his appointed successor is an Argentine Mauricio Pochettino who does not even speak English. There might perhaps have been some shred of logic in dismissing the unfortunate Adkins after Chelsea had thrashed the Saints 5-1 on their own ground, but to delay the dismissal till they had redeemed themselves at The Bridge seemed illogical.
As indeed seems the appointment of Pochettino with his linguistic bypass. True, his regime began quite well with a goalless home draw against Everton, before which he had contributed a fulsome declaration of over modest intent to the match programme. But on the face of it his appointment is a great gamble. And not give the unfortunate Adkins the smallest mention in that programme surely plumbed the depths of discourtesy and common decency.
I for one shall not be mourning the departure of Colin Murray from Match of the Day 2. The wonder to me was that he was every appointed. I am all for the Ulster accent, with pleasant memories of the fluent tones of Danny Blanchflower and Jimmy McIlroy, members of that glorious Northern Ireland team, which eliminated Italy to reach the World Cup finals of 1958. Murray’s accent however grated on me from the time he was to be heard on Channel 5 commentating upon secondary European club games. Exacerbated on BBC Match of the Day 2 by his increasing tendency to project himself somewhat verbosely.
On Match of the Day Saturdays, Gary Lineker seems to me the ideal presenter, perfectly entitled to present his own view in common with fellow ex professionals, as a former player of high renown. Desmond Lynam, his predecessor, was an accomplished and urbane broadcaster who never attempted to project himself as an expert on the game.
That De Gea doesn’t catch crosses should surely not have come as a surprise to Manchester United and their hierarchy, Alex Ferguson included. And he has in fact made greater mistakes before; remember that forlorn Italian who let through disastrous goals at Chelsea? Maybe Ferguson had hoped De Gea would adjust to crosses as did Peter Schmeichel who admitted his early problems.
Subscribe today to World Soccer Magazine - The unrivalled authority on the game of soccer