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15 Dec 2010

Why Arsenal won't win the league

Arsenal won't win the league with their current crop of starlets.

Here's the why:
Arsenal are capable of playing some spellbinding football. Football that is easily equal to Barcelona's style of mesmeric passing football. On their day, Arsenal's midfield and attack can rip through the heart of almost any defence in Europe. It's when they meet the defensive powerhouses that things start to go a little pear-shaped for the Gunners.

Barcelona used to have the very same problem during the first half of last season. They have corrected that problem and now they sit with a 2 point lead in Spain. In just 15 games they have scored 46 times, conceding only 8. An incredible statistic and if they maintain this form (3 goals per game), they could destroy goalscoring records.

During the summer, the Catalan giants picked up Spain's World Cup winning striker David Villa for a cool €40million. David Villa does not conform to the Messi/Xavi/Iniesta mould. He is capable of the same tiki-taki football, but he relies slightly more on the traditional centre-forward's play style. Using power and strength to muscle through defences to score. When Barcelona's beautiful game fails to penetrate properly, they can always step up to the plate and bang a goal in from nowhere. Thanks to this, Barcelona have avoided a couple of draws or losses, specifically in the Champions League, where Barcelona have struggled with uber-defensive teams like Rubin Kazan.

Nicolas Bendtner: Poor man's David Villa?
Arsenal suffer from not having a player like David Villa. Robin Van Persie used to be a little like this, but has largely become more like Xavi, Iniesta or Messi. Arsenal can score goals (Beating Braga 6-0, Blackpool 6-0). But when they come up against solid defences, namely Manchester United (so far), they have struggled. United did play a more defensive style than usual, but it worked perfectly. Arsenal had to resort to crossing balls from the wing, which they have not had to do for a long time. 

Nicolas Bendtner is NOT in the same mould as David Villa. He has the build and probably the finishing skill, but he is devoid of the physical strength. He seems to fall over very easily compared to other players of his type, the Drogbas and Rooneys of the Premier League. If Arsene Wenger were to splash out (unlikely) on a better player than Bendtner, his team would be so much more deadly and a much bigger character in the title chase. With a true centre-forward, Arsenal should be able to deal with teams like Everton, Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion. These are the teams that tend to 'park the bus' against the 'Big 4' and have caused the Gunners the most issues - Arsenal have dropped points to all 3 of these teams - and this was largely down to the 10-man defences shutting out the gaps that Arsenal thread the ball through every Saturday. With a player such as Villa they could quite possibly have found a way through tough defences using a powerful, bullying player.

Suggestions? Unfortunately, Carlos Tevez doesn't look long for this country. Villa has just signed with Barca. There are very few of these 'traditional' #9s left in modern football. Fernando Torres has reportedly been uncomfortable at Liverpool and if they do not make it into the Champions League again this season he may well walk away from Anfield. 
 Surely Arsenal wouldn't pass up on the chance of a legit, world-class centre-forward?

Until then, Arsenal may find themselves dropping more points to teams that play with ten defenders.

10 Dec 2010

F1 Season Review 2010: Title fight comes to the boil! (PART 4)

Ferrari and McLaren had very different weekends at this year's Italian Grand Prix. Ferrari had very strong practice sessions throughout Friday and McLaren were up there with them, Red Bull were outclassed in a rare weak race for the team.

6 Dec 2010

Chelsea slump becoming a crisis

Chelsea have forgotten how to win. 5 points in their last 6 games: 1 win, 2 draws and 3 defeats against 6 teams that should have been 6 victories.

2 Dec 2010

FIFA: Brilliance or Bribery?

The 2018 Football World Cup will be held in Russia, largest country in the world, one of the biggest economies and military superpowers. Also one full of corrupt police officers, alcoholism is commonplace and bribery.

FIFA head Sepp Blatter and Russia's Depute
Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov after the nation's success
However, nobody can argue that Russia do not deserve a World Cup, they have qualified for a few of them before, they are a huge superpower and they have the money and manpower to create the infrastructure. Russia is a huge market that FIFA have never before tapped in to and would be a very interesting atmosphere to hold a major tournament. They had already proven their abilities by winning the rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics and have shown that they have already got several high-quality stadiums around their large country.

Russia's biggest disadvantage is it's sheer size. It stretches from Moscow, a few hundred miles from Poland, to bordering the South China Sea. The difference in time is vast.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter reveals the 2022 host
The biggest shock of the announcements was that the tiny Arabian principality of Qatar would host the 2022 tournament. Rank outsiders, Qatar pulled off a huge coup to win the rights and has already raised many suspicions of bribery. Qatar made no secret of it's spending power, they have access to some of the largest oil fields in the world.

Their slogan 'Expect Amazing' perfectly captures the reaction to their astonishing success. Qatar will have to build 12 new stadiums in just 12 years. The stadiums will only be built for the length of the tournament, and afterwards they will be dismantled and the pieces used to build new stadiums in other 3rd World countries. This is all very nicey-nice and all, but why has FIFA abandoned the old footballing powers so quickly? Germany was the last 'old power' to host, it will be at least 2026 when an old power (Italy, Spain, England) can host the tournament.

Qatar have many high-profile disadvantages. The country is a muslim country. Meaning alcohol can't be consumed outside the home and only on certain days. A big part of the World Cup atmosphere is being able to sit in a pub and watch the game with a pint. That can't happen unless Qatar organise 'Fan Zones' which throws up even more problems (see what happened in Manchester 2008 when things go wrong). Also, the game will take place in the middle of the Arabian summer, where temperatures can reach highs of 45C, games will need to be played during the daytime to compensate for the time-difference to Europe, FIFA's main audience. Qatar has one advantage for the teams playing: All matches will take place within 60km of the Capital. This does cut down travel time for players and fans, but does it really make any difference when planes can take teams from America to London in just a few hours?

Suggestions of bribery have surfaced, Qatar being a very rich country, and the English media uncovered a number of voting members selling their votes for cash to be used for their own countries. Could Qatar have bought votes for cash? Or has FIFA president Sepp Blatter managed to convince his members that 3rd-World development is a better idea than rewarding traditionally successful footballing nations?

BBC Panorama's investigation drew criticism from the English Bid team
Did the English media again cost their country success? It was well accepted that the English media were partly to blame for their national team's failure at the World Cup after they continuously built up and hyped up England's chances only to savagely criticise them for losing. And then BBC's Panorama program aired it's investigation into FIFA's corrupt members. This program was aired on November 30th, less than 2 days before the bid. Should the program have been held back until after FIFA had finished voting? Did the program make the FIFA members retaliate by refusing to vote for a nation who's state media unveiled their corruption? This would be unacceptable and morally wrong, but with members such as Jack Warner - A man who owes his country's international players hundreds of thousands of pounds in UNPAID bonuses with NO intention of paying  - nothing is beyond possibility. And Mr Warner has 3 bids out of the 22.

30 Nov 2010

F1 Season Review 2010: Part 3

Before the next race in Hungary, teams had already labelled the Hungaroring as Red Bull territory. The track's high amount of mid- high-speed corners suiting the RB6's high-downforce characteristics. Even though Red Bull were expected to be ahead in Hungary, nobody quite expected the gap between them and the rest to be so vast. In Free Practice 1, the fastest non-Red Bull was a full second slower. Come qualifying, Red Bull's Vettel was fully 1.2 seconds faster than the first non-Red Bull car. This domination was largely down to a new front wing assembly pioneered by Red Bull. The endplates appeared to flex towards the track much more than any other car. As the wing gets closer to the track, it generates more downforce and so the car goes faster round corners. McLaren and Ferrari immediately claimed the parts were illegal and should be banned. The FIA put the wings under tests before the race, and they passed them easily. The parts were deemed legal.                          
          Teams expected "70% of the final result" to be decided in turn 1. Alonso muscled his way through Mark Webber to P2 and Kobayashi moved from 24th up to 16th in an impressive first lap. Liuzzi was overly aggressive when overtaking a backmarker, turning across the front of the car and losing his own front wing in the process, causing the Safety Car to be deployed and the majority of the field to pit. Renault's Robert Kubica was released at the wrong moment and collided with Sutil's Force India, a crash that ended the German's weekend and earned Kubica a 10-second stop-go penalty. Webber led behind the safety car and Vettel attempted to back the pack up from 2nd to allow his team-mate to get enough space to pit and rejoin 2nd. Vettel backed up too far and was awarded a drive through penalty much to his disgust. Hamilton's gearbox cut out meaning he DNF'd for the first time this season. Webber eventually won the race from Alonso and Vettel.

 In the final few laps, Barrichello caught up to the back of Schumacher and pulled along side, prompting the German to pin him right to the pit wall, incredibly close to a huge accident.

Every year, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa never fails to provide an exhilarating event. 2010 was no different. The setting, deep in the Ardennes forest, means unpredictable and frequently changing weather conditions. Qualifying arrived and rain was expected just 5 minutes into the first session and with the long lap-time there were chaotic scenes as all 24 cars took to the track at once. The first moment was when Vitaly Petrov ran across a wet kerb, spinning through 720 degrees before colliding with the wall and red-flagging the session. Thanks to the adverse weather, both Heikki Kovaleinen and Timo Glock made it to the second part of qualifying, at the expense of both Saubers who also span out. The final session saw another rain shower right at the death cause Alonso to fail to move up from 10th. Webber grabbed pole from Hamilton for Red Bull's 12th pole in 13 attempts. The race itself began in dry conditions and Mark Webber's anti-stall system kicked in, meaning he dropped to 6th by the first turn and promoted Hamilton into 1st. By the end of lap 1 however, rain had began to fall at the final turn, catching the entire field out who all overshot the turn into the run-off area. The biggest loser was Barrichello, who ended up colliding with Alonso's Ferrari and retiring. The Ferrari would somehow survive the heavy impact and continue. A group of drivers pitted for intermediate/wet tyres hoping the rain would continue, however a few laps later it had stopped almost completely, and all those drivers had to pit again for dry tyres. This cost Alonso most, already near the back after his crash with Rubens, he had to pit from wet to dry and lost another load of places. Vettel in 2nd began to reel in Button and attempted to pull alongside going into the Bus-stop chicane, however he lost grip and T-Boned into the radiator of the McLaren, earning a DNF for Jenson and a drive-through penalty for Vettel. Having served the penalty he made good headway cutting through the pack before he tangled with Liuzzi's Force India. The Italian managed to pit for a new nose cone, but Vettel continued another lap before realising he had a slow puncture, costing him yet more time. The chaotic weather came back with a twist near the end of the race, unleashing a downpour that so nearly caught out Lewis Hamilton as he slid through the gravel and clipped a tyre wall but recovered still 1st. Alonso, having a nightmare race, made a rare mistake and ran wide out of Les Combes and span into a wall, triggering another safety car and more pit-stops. A messy stop from 2nd place Kubica saw him drop to 3rd behind Webber. The front-runners held position for the final few laps after the Safety Car, with Hamilton taking his first win since Turkey.

Up next, Hamilton's title challenge suffers fatal damage.

19 Nov 2010

F1 Season Review 2010: Part 2

After that chaotic Monaco GP, the party moved to Istanbul for the weekend. And boy they did not disappoint. Providing one of the moments that defined 2010.

Red Bull yet again got a pole position, a running theme in 2010. Shortly after the start, Lewis Hamilton managed to get the jump on Sebastian Vettel into second spot. However a slow pit-stop at the wrong time cost him that place when Vettel emerged from his own stop ahead of Hamilton and promptly started to drive away towards leader Webber. Then the mayhem began. Vettel began to reel in his team-mate pretty quickly, and eventually he was right behind him which resulted in the single biggest talking point of the season:

Webber drives into Vettel? Vettel drives into Webber? You decide. The general belief is that Vettel caused the crash. Sebastian then went on to blame Mark Webber, a move that won him huge amounts of criticism from across the sport. He later retracted this statement but the damage had been done. This prevented Red Bull from collecting a certain 1-2 finish and gifted that to McLaren with Hamilton in first ahead of Button, but not without the two Brits having their own very tense and very nearly identical battle. Webber managed to recover and finish 3rd.

Canada came along next, and presented McLaren with their first real chance of stopping the Red Bull monopoly of pole position. And boy was qualifying a treat. Webber and Vettel were both right up there before Hamilton posted the fastest lap with the final lap of qualifying, running with so little fuel that he couldn't get his car back to the pitlane after his effort. The race itself was not totally spellbinding, but it gave the 2008 champ his second win in a row, and McLaren's second straight 1-2 finish.

Valencia held it's third F1 race in 2010, and it was slightly better than the previous two years' offerings. Albeit only a little. The major moment of the weekend was Mark Webber proving that Red Bull really can give you wings, he launched his car off the back of Heikki Kovalienen's Lotus before completing a full 360 degree flip through the air at over 190mph, taking out an advertising hoarding for good measure. IF this accident had happened in the 80's, we would have been burying the Australian in a matchbox. The scariest crash I have witnessed, and the first for a long time to seriously make me fear for a driver's life. After the Safety Car was deployed, Hamilton hesitated too long before overtaking it after the time he was allowed to do so. The FIA took fully 20 laps to decide to award him a drive-through penalty, by that time he had already pulled out a big enough gap over 3rd-placed Alonso to retain it after he served his penalty, enraging the Spaniard and Ferrari. Vettel would go on to win from Hamilton and Alonso.

Formula 1 returned to Silverstone, the home of F1. It held the first Formula 1 championship race way back in 1948, and has been a permanent feature on the calender since 1987. It did not disappoint. Even before qualifying, the Webber/Vettel argument had turned into a full-blown conflict between the two - not even on speaking terms according to some sources. During practice, Vettel and Webber ran brand new front-wings. Vettel's suffered a failure causing it irreparable damage. The usual solution is to do nothing, the other driver is equal and deserves his new parts. Red Bull decided not to follow the usual solution and took the sole remaining new wing and gave it to the young German. Vettel went on to take pole position using the wing, just ahead of his angry team-mate. Immediately after the start lights went out, Vettel tried to force Webber to the wall before turn 1 and make him back off, this failed and Vettel ended up being forced off the track, picking up a puncture in the process. Enraged Vettel then had to pit and managed to crawl back through the field to 7th following a decent series of overtakes. Alonso got himself into even more trouble with the stewards after he cut Club corner to pass Kubica and did not give the place back, winning a drive-through penalty for his troubles. This would leave Alonso 47 points behind the championship leader after this race. Webber coasted through to the win, with Hamilton and Rosberg completing the top 

Germany provided probably the second biggest talking point after the Turkey incident. Alonso stole ahead of the Red Bull of Vettel, showing again that he can't do starts, and Felipe Massa soon followed him and made his way past Alonso into the lead. Two thirds of the race had passed when Felipe's engineer, Rob Smedley, sent him the message: "Fernando is faster than you, do you understand the message?" Just a couple of laps later, Massa coasted out of the hairpin and appeared to let Fernando past, prompting Smedley to reply "Good lad, now stick with him. Sorry." The apology issued gave away the obvious team orders at work here. This resulted in the Team Orders scandal being dragged back to the present (last mentioned in detail: 2002) and earned Ferrari an official warning from the World MotorSport Council. Alonso would win the race, Massa second and Vettel third.

Part 3 will be available, right here, before Monday.

15 Nov 2010

F1 Season Review 2010: Vettel and Red Bull do the double!

It's been a Marathon at times. After 257 days of spellbinding competition. 19 races in 18 different countries, 24 drivers in 12 teams fighting it out for a total of 1,919 points.

In the end, the championship was decided at the final race of the year by just 4 points. Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing became the sport's youngest-ever world champion by some 2 months. An incredible achievement that will surely be the first of many championship wins.

The season started way back on March 14th, in the deserts of Bahrain. The race itself was a dull affair, marked only by Red Bull confirming that their 2009 push was not just a one-off. Taking pole position in qualifying was the best possible start for the team. Their joy soon became despair as the RB6's engine had it's first failure of the year. A broken spark plug cost Vettel 4 seconds a lap and he became easy prey for the Ferrari's of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa and the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton. The weekend sparked huge criticism from many experts, pundits and fans over new regulations and a track layout that appeared to cut overtaking to a minimum.

On to Australia, the traditional starting point of the F1 calender. And the season really did start here. A sprinkling of rain on the morning of the race threw everyone's set-ups to the wind. The action kicked off when returning legend Michael Schumacher, 2009 champ Jenson Button and 2-time champion Alonso tried to get through turn-1 at once. Button tapped Alonso who in turn hit Schumacher, the end result was the Spaniard facing the wrong way, Schumacher taking to the grass with a damaged front wing and Button falling backwards into the clutches of his team-mate. The Safety Car made it's debut in 2010 after a front-wing failure on one of the Saubers sent the car crashing through Buemi's helpless Toro Rosso and Nico Hulkenburg's Williams got caught up too. The race was won by Jenson Button after a brave call to change to slick tyres paid off and he cruised to the win. Vettel's troubles returned as a brake failure sent him into the gravel and Mark Webber made a mess of an overtake on Hamilton which left both further down the field.

Malaysia, Round 3. Red Bull's 3rd pole position in 3 races and their 2nd consecutive front-row lockout. A cautious start from Mark Webber let his team-mate into the lead on the first turn and the pair never looked back, dominating the race. Hamilton was lucky to escape with just a warning for 'excessive weaving' down the main straight as Petrov's Renault followed him closely. And with just 2 and a half races done, Alonso became the first big-name driver to lose an engine after a spectacular blowout ended his Grand Prix.

In China, another rain-shower caused a chaotic and exciting race. Red Bull's 4th pole position and 3rd straight 1-2 start. Alonso appeared to have a lightning quick start until replays showed a jump start gave him the advantage. A pileup at turn 6 called for the safety car and almost every driver pitted for intermediate tyres as the light rain became heavier. A second safety car and mayhem on the restart as Button slowed the pack down too much, the result being Webber losing 6 places after having to take evasive action. Hamilton stormed through the field, picking of driver by driver thanks to his car's superior straight-line speed. Button collected his second win of the season with Hamilton close behind, completing McLaren's first 1-2 finish since the 2007 Italian Grand Prix. Rosberg scored another podium with Alonso 4th, Vettel 6th and Webber down in 8th on nearly bald tyres.

The F1 Circus arrived in Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya. Red Bull's ownership of Saturday continued as Webber led Vettel in Q3 with Hamilton edging local boy Alonso on the 2nd row. The top 6 made their way through in order at the start. Contact between several cars caused a change in the order down the field and Pedro de la Rosa into retirement with damage. In the pitstops, a delay for Vettel cost him a position to Lewis Hamilton and a similar problem for Button allowed Schumacher to overtake him. With just one lap remaining, Hamilton suffered a wheel-rim failure on turn 2 which became a full on blow-out which ended in the tyre wall at turn three. Hamilton's loss allowed Alonso up to 2nd ahead of Vettel who lost out when he pitted with brake issues and crawled home. Schumacher scored his best result after his comeback after holding off Button for 4th.

The crown jewels of the season came up next with the circus moving a few hundred kilometres up the Mediterranean coastline to the tiny principality of Monaco. The prestigious event has been held around the streets since 1929 and is regarded as the most sought-after victory of the year. Alonso made a rare mistake during third practice on Saturday morning that resulted in his Ferrari grating along the barriers near Casino Square and causing a cracked chassis. The team decided that the car was damaged to much to be repaired for qualifying later that day and Alonso was forced to start from the pitlane. Webber took a 6th Red Bull pole position out of 6 with an amazing lap from Robert Kubica giving him a front row start ahead of Vettel and Massa. On lap one, a huge accident for Hulkenburg in the tunnel saw the safety car out for it's first trip of many. Alonso stole the chance to pit early, a call that would ultimately decide every other car's strategy. Button's race ended on lap 2 when a cover was left on his radiator by accident. Further into the race, and the sister Williams car of Barrichello suffered a catastrophic suspension failure that sent him backwards up the hill and into a massive crash. The safety car had to be brought out for a 2nd time. Just a few laps later it was back out after a loose manhole cover was discovered near the start of Barrichello's crash, this was eventually found to be the cause. Chandhok and Trulli decided to park on top of each other at the final corner of lap 70 sending the safety car out for the 4th time in the race. Webber eventually won the race ahead of team-mate Vettel and Kubica's Renault.

Check back later for the 2nd part of this bumper review!

11 Nov 2010

Football and War

On the 11th day of the 11th month, on the 11th hour of 1918, the Great War came to and end. Millions had died and millions more would carry the battle-scars for the rest of their lives.

For many of the young soldiers, football was a large part of life pre-1914. The sport had just begun to take off into the international sport it is today. The war forced all of that to come to a halt. Many footballers signed up to join the army, even whole teams would sign up together. Eventually, the Army formed the 'Football Battalion.' The Battalion of 600 of Britain's footballers fought alongside each other in Europe.

500 of them died.

There were around 5,000 professional footballers in the UK at the beginning of WW1, it is not known how many died. Celtic FC lost 7 of it's best 11 players, Brechin City lost 6. Bradford City lost 7 of their best 11 too. Almost every club in Britain was affected by the fighting in one form or another.

Football was not just a casualty, it provided one of the most memorable and beautiful moments of the war. On Christmas Eve, 1914, the guns along the trenches in Northern France and Belgium stopped firing for the first time since the war began.

The Germans began singing Carols during the evening while attempting to decorate their trenches as best they could. The British could hear these, and decided to "Fight back" by singing their own. Eventually, Germans and British were singing Silent Night (Stille Nachte) to each other across the divide. Both nations singing the same Carol in the middle of the bloodiest war.

On Christmas morning, 100,000 soldiers dropped their guns and went out to meet each other in the middle of mess and the blood of No Man's Land. Enemies and friends ate Christmas 'dinner' together, they sang carols, held Christmas Services and had a chance to bury their dead in proper funerals.

“Soon most of our company (‘A’ Company), hearing that I and some others had gone out, followed us... What a sight—little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman’s cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs. Where they couldn’t talk the language they were making themselves understood by signs, and everyone seemed to be getting on nicely. Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!”

Then, from somewhere, a FOOTBALL was produced. And a mass game took place between two bitter rivals:
“...from somewhere, a football bounced across the frozen mud... Immediately a vast, fast and furious football match was underway. Goals were marked by caps... Apart from that, it was wonderfully disorganised, part-football, part ice-skating, with unknown numbers on each team. No referee, no account of score. It was just terrific to be no longer an army of moles, but up and running on top of the ground that had threatened to entomb them for so long...”

On December 27th, the soldiers shouted warnings to each other, and the guns came back to life. In other parts, the celebrations lasted right through until New Years Day.

In 2008, Ancestors of soldiers who took part in the games played a match on the same spot, 94 years later. Germany won 2-1.

In 2005, the last known survivor of the Great Football Game that Christmas Day, died. He was 109 years old.

In Remembrance of every soldier killed from the Great War to the present day. Long may we remember how they gave up their own lives so that we may live in peace and freedom today.

Never Forgotten.

8 Nov 2010

F1 climax approaches

In 7 days time, we will have a new Formula One world Champion.

Either Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Mark Webber or Sebastien Vettel (Both Red Bull) will be crowned champion at the sport's season-ending race in Abu Dhabi this Sunday. Alonso heads into the weekend 8 points clear of Webber and 15 ahead of Vettel. Lewis Hamilton is still in with a shout, but at 24 points behind with just 25 maximum available, it would take an extreme set of events for him to turn it in his favour.

Fernando Alonso would become the youngest ever 3-time World Champion if he can come out on top on Sunday, while Webber would cap off a fantastic career if he won it, and Vettel would prove himself as the greatest young driver for a number of years.
The maths is a little confusing when it comes to who must do what to win the title. This years scoring system:

If Alonso wins the race or finishes 2nd, he is Champion regardless of all other contenders.
If Alonso finishes 3rd or 4th or 5th, Webber and Vettel need to be 2nd or lower.
If Alonso finishes 6th or 7th, Webber must finish 3rd or lower, and Vettel 2nd or lower.

Webber must win the race with Alonso lower than 3rd.
If Webber finishes 2nd, Alonso must be 6th or lower and Vettel must not win.
If Webber finishes 3rd, Alonso must be 7th or lower and Vettel must not win.
If Webber finishes 4th or 5th, Alonso must 9th or lower and Vettel must not win.
If Webber finishes 6th, he cannot win the Title.

Vettel must win the Race with Alonso lower than 5th
If Vettel finishes 2nd, Alonso must finish 9th or lower and Webber must not win.
If Vettel finishes 3rd, he cannot win the title.

Hamilton must win the race to have any chance.
If he wins, Vettel must be 3rd or worse, Webber 4th or worse and Alonso 6th or worse.

So, very likely for Alonso to win, 7-11 with some bookies now. Webber is the best placed challenger, but he has the not-so-small problem of his team-mate to overcome, a team-mate who is unlikely to pull over to help Webber to win the title.

Just the usual simplicity of Formula 1 then.

19 Sep 2010

F1 title fight reaches boiling point.

After Lewis Hamilton's disaster at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, Formula One is poised for it's greatest title run-in in decades.

Mark Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, 2009 Champ Button and Sebastien Vettel are all within one race win of each other. With just 5 races to go and 125 points on the table, the title really is anyone's game.

Next weekend in Singapore won't go very far in deciding anything, unless Vettel has a no score. The track looks set to be another Red-Bull-athon similar to Hungary, unless McLaren's latest "big" update proves more successful than their last. Ferrari are still in the hunt after Alonso's 3rd victory of 2010 7 days ago. However Ferrari may struggle after using their 8th new engine of the season, and using any more new one earns an instant 10 place grid drop, basically ending any chances of winning that race.

The Red Bull team will also hope that their early-season unreliability doesn't return. They would have been over the hill by now in both driver's and constructor's championships by now if they hadn't had Vettel's engine trouble in Bahrain, Vettel break failure in Australia, Vettel failing to finish in Turkey and causing Webber to miss out on a win. Webber's crash in Australia and many more problems too.

McLaren have both drivers at the sharp end of the grid and Hamilton will look to banish the demons of Monza that saw him retire after 4 corners of the race with a broken steering arm following a brush with Massa's Ferrari. He will also look to recapture the form that he had in Belgium when apart from one little adventure in the gravel, he put in a 10/10 performance. His team-mate Button can't be counted out either, and he could benefit most from the engine rules as his smooth driving style takes much less out of the engine than his 4 rivals.

5 races to go, and if anyone tells you that they know who will win, check how much they've had to drink.

4 Sep 2010

And they're off!

Football is back.

Just 8 weeks on from the end of the 19th World Cup, the Premier League and all the other European nations kicked off with a bang last month.

Chelsea kicked off with the biggest bang of all, and they deserve a special mention from me. In their opening two games they managed 2 6-0 thrashings, and then won their 3rd 2-0. Still the only team with a true 100% record (they haven't conceded either)

Across in Italy, the league started 2 weeks after the English, so the early running is still to be made, but currently it is the newly reinforced AC Milan sitting atop the pile after a sound thumping of new boys Lecce. Roma and Inter, last season's protagonists both limped to drab 0-0 draws that will do little to reignite the burning, passionate battle between the two.


The summer Transfer window was busier than ever, with the Premier League's 25 man squad rule introduced, it meant many more players were sold than previous years. The biggest winners were clearly Manchester City, AC Milan, Juventus and Roma.

City with their new-found and never ending wealth signed a massive amount of stars including Yaya Toure, Kolarov of Lazio and a certain bad tempered Italian, Mario Balotelli.
AC Milan lucked out with the Premier League's new rule when Man City were forced to rid themselves of Brazilian Robinho, who they picked up for almost half the price City paid for him 18 months ago. AC also profited from Barcelona's interesting selling policy, by picking up ex-Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for a fraction of the £60million-plus-Eto'o deal a few seasons back.

Juventus and Roma showed their power in the summer, with the Turin side adding Fabio Quagliarella, Alberto Aquilani (loan), Simone Pepe (Italy's only good WC2010 player), Jorge Martinez and Milos Krasic from CSKA Moscow. Roma added to the team that pushed Inter to the final weekend of Serie A 09-10 by adding returning giant and possible powerhouse Adriano on a free transfer from Flamengo. They also poached Fabio Simplicio from Palermo, another free signing.

Roma's biggest deal came on deadline day last week, when they managed to capture Marco Borriello on loan from Milan for just £2million, with the option to buy him at the end of the year.

Europe is shaping up very nicely for another exciting season.

27 Jul 2010

Never mention Team Orders in Formula 1....

Hockenheim, Germany. Ferari have just told driver Felipe Massa, currently in 1st place that "Fernando (his teammate, in second) is faster than you, do you understand the message?"

So what, the casual fan would think.

Not in Formula 1. Teams use coded messages to tell their drivers to switch positions, usually because one driver is already further ahead in the championship and needs the points. Usually, nobody complains because it happens in the last few races of the season.

Not with 7 races to go. And never is it as obvious as this. And it has (rightly) been compared to this, also involving Ferrari, which lead to the whole ban on team orders coming in in the first place.

What we are all angry about is this; We all admit these orders happen all the time all over the pit lane, but never this early or this blatantly. What makes matters worse is that Ferrari and Alonso are doing everything they can to prove this was Massa's decision and Massa's alone, despite Massa's in-car data proving he held off to let Alonso through.

This has caused widespread criticism across the sport for a few reasons:
  • Spectators paid huge sums of money to see a race, not a fixed result
  • The whole idea of a race is that the best driver wins, not the one who needs it more
  • Ferrari's denial of any wrong-doing is what seems to be angering most
However, it can be argued that what they did was logical and the right thing to do for the team:
  • Massa was 31 points behind Alonso before race started, so Alonso should have won the race to help his championship
  • Massa has little chance of winning from where he is, let Alonso claim the points
  • Ferrari do not want to have their cars crash into each other while fighting for the lead.
So really, the argument can be fought for both viewpoints. Ferrari though, have made their bed and have to lie in it. They have to defend the indefensible, a job I will never want to do.


What's your view on the whole "scandal?"

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14 Jul 2010

Half-time Report: Formula One 2010

Sunday 11th July saw the 2010 Formula 1 season reach the halfway point. And if the second half is anything like the first, what a fantastic season we would have.

So far, we've had 5 Winners from 3 teams, F-Ducts, Teams falling to pieces, cars falling to pieces and plenty of accidents.

At the halfway point, a British one-two is how the Driver's Championship looks, Lewis Hamilton (145-pts) with a 12-point lead over McLaren team mate Jenson Button. The Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel lie 3rd and 4th, followed by Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.

One thing never far away from Formula 1 is controversy. This season is no different.

The latest issue to grip the sport is that of the Red Bull driver's relationships with each other and their team. In Turkey, Mark Webber was comfortably leading Vettel, only for the young German to attempt an overtake that resulted in disaster: Vettel out and Webber losing 2 places to the McLaren drivers. This broke the one rule that drivers have, never take out your team mate. Never. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner initially blamed Webber for the accident, despite all evidence pointing at the German.

With their relationship stretched, the team arrived at Silverstone with 2 new front wings for the cars. During final Free-Practice before qualifying on Saturday, Vettel's new front wing had a failure, damaging it "beyond repair."

Tough luck Seb,

But no, Red Bull decided that they would take the other new wing from Webber's car and give it to Vettel. Something like this normally happens when one driver is the 'Number 1' and the other is seen as not as good as the #1.

Not clever, Red Bull.

That decision set off an explosion within the team. Webber was absolutely furious after qualifying, (Vettel set quickest time, Webber 2nd) and this anger carried over to Sunday's race. The two Red Bulls lined up side-by-side and that meant war.

Vettel and Webber almost collided at turn 1, but avoided with Vettel getting a puncture that ultimately ended his race, which Mark Webber easily won.

Webber's message to the team after he took the win?

"Not bad for a number 2 driver."

This will continue to burn, watch this space.

12 Jul 2010

World Cup 2010 - Was it really that good?

How many matches do you actually remember for having lots of footballing genius?

Portugal's 7-0 destruction of North Korea..... ranked 105 in World football?
Italy's 3-2 defeat at the hands of European new boys Slovakia, with Fabio Quagliarella's incredible goal?

There are just 2 games, possibly 3 that stick in my mind. And each of them involved the young German team given no chance by their own country. After a storming start against lowly Australia, a set back followed with a loss to dark horses Serbia. After clearing Ghana, they came against the English.

Believing they could sweep aside the Germans after an awful start was their undoing. Along with some Sunday-league defending from Terry and Co. This was a display in counter-attacking football at it's best. And rarest.
Another was Germany's 4-0 beating of Argentina. Again, fantastic flowing football from Die Mannschaft, but nothing incredibly spectacular from the South Americans.

And the only other match I can remember, that was probably the best, was the 3rd place playoff on Saturday past. Uruguay and Germany were both determined to get the bronze medal, and played like it was the show-piece final in Jo'burg. Brilliant pass and move football from both sides led to 1-1, and then again to 2-2. Then of course, up popped one rusty German in the right place and that was it all over, 3-2 to the young pretenders.

Apart from that, there were plenty matches completely empty of any sort of creativity, skill or simply good football. Algeria v England? France v Uruguay?

However, the worst in my eyes are the Spanish. World Cup winners too. They won their last 16 game 1-0. Their Quarter final, 1-0, their Semi final vs Germany was 1-0. As was the final. This was the team that promised amazing passing football that would rip defences in two, instead, we got Iniesta, Xavi and Alonso passing the ball to each other for 5 minutes, then Villa would miss. And repeat.

To say they deserved to win is almost wrong, they did play the most consistently. Consistently boring. In all, they scored just 8 goals in 7 games. Compared to Germany's 16 in 8, they were poor shooters.

Just a thought amongst all this Spanish praise.