Friday, December 28, 2007

This Week in the Prem

Looks like a pretty solid line-up of matches for this weekend in the BPL. There will probably be no shockers (unless Ashley Cole tries to ram his finger into someone's junk again), one mild suprise, and two results that, after the fact, make perfect sense.

Everything else will follow form.

With that in mind here are Unprofessional Foul's innaugural predictions, these for the Prem's last fixtures of 2007.


We'll own up to our mistakes on Monday.

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Getting to Know: Luka Modric

With so many foreign players landing on England’s shores like V2 rockets from around the world, we would like to introduce you to some of the names and faces that might soon be making Frank Lampard obsolete. And so, we proudly present:

The First in a Series in Which Your Humble Spectator Assesses a Foreign Player with the Help of Grainy Clips Found on Youtube

Luka Modric is a Croatian midfielder who at this very moment plays for Dinamo Zagreb. Dinamo’s manager will soon be holding an auction for Modric’s services on the steps of the English Premier League home office in Slough, Berkshire, where it is believed that Chelsea and Manchester City as well as maybe Arsenal and Spurs will each be competing for young Modric’s services. But who is Luka Modric, really?

Luka Modric is best known for his strong play against the very greatest team in the world, who are sometimes known as the English national team, when Modric helped Croatia defeat England 3-2 in the European Cup qualifiers (Steve McLaren and Scott Carson also having something to do with the result). Luka Modric has been compared to Tomas Rosicky, in that they both prefer to play on the left side of the midfield, although it is not yet known if Modric also has a penchant for firing shots wildly off-target and looking disgusted with himself. Modric is quite short and slight of build, meaning that he will become excellent fodder for Joey Barton and Robby Savage tackles.

Nevertheless, Modric is said to have the ball-handling abilities of a Messi or Rooney. Perhaps the reason that English teams are so interested in Modric is that he has the potential to slot into the number 10 position and create plays for a team’s strikers. Certainly the fact that Modric is equally adept with both feet will come in handy in a country where left-footers are as rare as a Man U holiday party without rape.

As this video shows, Modric is “a genius” and “like a football wizard.” He is also very talented at looking pensive -- although most people would look pensive when staring out at Zagreb while some crappy U2 song plays in the background:

Which brings me to another point. Why does every single footy highlight reel on Youtube have the worst fucking music ever? I mean, U2 was actually a decent choice compared to most of the Euro trash pop or weird, pseudo-“epic” music. Like this clip, which is “only a trailer for the upcoming Luka Modric Complication”:

So there you have it, the Luka Modric Complication can be yours for only 20 million pounds. My guess is that Modric will soon be a member of Roman Abramovich’s army of rich yuppie scum. Modric will soon be doing Hairclub for Men advertisements (do they have those in England?) and laughing at Michael Ballack’s collection of vintage Porsches. Over time, however, Modric will become increasingly jealous of Steve Sidwell’s tattoos and will grow fat from eating meat pies. Modric will descend into a deeper and deeper funk until he is finally offloaded on Blackburn on a free transfer. Croatia will never seem so far away.

(Oh, and by the way, yes, all U2 songs are pretty crappy.)

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In other news: the sky is blue, Maradona loved cocaine, and Ronaldo is fat

Dear, oh dear. Joey Barton's in trouble again! From the BBC:

The court was told that CCTV operators tracked Mr Barton and a group of his friends in Church Street at 0530 GMT on Thursday.

A confrontation was said to have taken place in a McDonald's restaurant.

The player, of Widnes, Cheshire, was outside when an unknown man made a gesture towards him.

Gwyn Lewis, defending, said he was the victim of a "great deal of provocation" and was being "goaded" in the street.

When will he ever learn? I've grown oddly fond of his miscreant behaviour over the years, because amid the violence and lack of self-control, he'll occasionally say something quite profound.

In 2004, he started a brawl during a friendly pre-season game with minnows Doncaster Rovers. Over christmas of the same year, he started a fight at his own club's Christmas party, where he stubbed out a cigar in a teammate's eye. He punched a 15-year-old in the face while Man City was on tour in Thailand. He fought another teammate during pre-season training sessions in early 2007, detaching Ousmane Dabo's retina. [I would argue that Dabo's injury surely couldn't make him much worse as a player]

Add to that a string of arrests for assault, criminal damage and even an incident where he broke a pedestian's leg while driving his car through Liverpool, and you have a soccer player trying to emulate the likes of PacMan Jones and Elijah Dukes.

That being said, his comments in the wake of England's exit from the 2006 World Cup were spot-on.

"England did nothing in that World Cup, so why were they bringing books out? 'We got beat in the quarter-finals. I played like shit. Here's my book'."

Can't fault brutal honesty like that, even if it comes packaged in his diminutive, trouble-causing frame. Sure, it rubbed the primadonnas of the England squad [I'm looking at you, Lampard] the wrong way, but that's sorely needed from time-to-time.

When it's all said and done, Joey Barton is a square peg in a round world. Misunderstood, and he simply doesn't fit. Let's at least hope the rest of his long and promising career is filled with more quality tidbits like these.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh Rafa, why do they call you Big Rafaaaaaaa

Derby 1, Liverpool 2
[McEveley 67, Torres 12, Gerrard 90+1]
I am constantly confused by the team we call Liverpool. Maddeningly inconsistent, frustratingly schizophrenic, and seemingly no end in sight. The return fixture of a 6-0 thrashing back in August, and we get treated to this turd of a game. All the chances, all the possession, all the effort, and we need a right leg reflex from Steven Gerrard to secure three crucial points. Sure, it sounds ridiculous to call points crucial at this stage, but honestly: how many slip-ups do the big clubs make with just under half a season to play?

After watching this game, I'm convinced of three things:
1. Fernando Torres will be the Premiership Player of the Year
2. Xabi Alonso's health is the key to our midfield running smoothly
3. Rafa Benitez needs to go

1 and 2 might be obvious, but 3 is where the match review ends and the rambling begins.

Rafa Benitez is stopping this team going where they need to go. In his constant tinkering and rotation, he's not only alienating the key players at the club, but he's annoying the fans and his superiors by failing to get the quality and class out of an expensive, well-constructed squad.

Turning up for work every matchday, the players have no idea whether they'll get to do what they're there to do. Torres might sit out a trip to Birmingham, and then rest again if Fulham visits Anfield, and yet is it any wonder he can't get it done against Manchester United at home?

The big difference between us and the other members of the Big 4 is that nobody else fucking rotates. It's a fool's errand. They play the best team they have, time and time again, switching personnel only through injury or patently obvious fatigue. Rafa doesn't seem to let his players decide that, and with lineups changing almost daily, it's no wonder we're unable to string together a cohesive, smooth 90 minutes.

Time to piss off, Rafa.....

Taking all his woes and sob stories to the media didn't exactly help either. By not coming to the likes of Rick Parry and Gillett/Hicks when he began getting disgruntled, he set a precedent that he cannot be trusted to keep things within the hallowed halls of Anfield. That whole display of back-and-forth name-calling was laughable, and frankly, embarrassing. Rafa can't play the media game like Fergie and Arsene can.

I am CONVINCED that they're actively shopping for a new skipper, with the following hints:

1. After that recent "11th hour" meeting with management, they announced that Rick Parry's in charge of upcoming transfers, NOT Rafa.
2. His squad rotations and lineup tinkering has been less drastic in recent weeks.

By not giving Rafa what he ultimately wanted, and by his noticeable reduction in Napoleonic squad mixing-and-matching, surely I have to believe that Rafa's auditioning to keep his job longer than the end of the season.

He's not only been publicly censured and restricted in what he can do in the January transfer window, but he's stopped doing what he so vehemently imposed at the beginning of the season, in terms of day-to-day management.

I'm drunk, I'm tired, and I'm disheartened by our win today. Sure, it's 3 points, but they didn't really deserve it. Players were admonishing one another on the pitch, there was bickering after that Derby equalizer and near-miss from Giles Barnes at the death, and Rafa's meek gesturing and communication of tactics on the sideline demonstrated that all is obviously not well.

I put it firmly on Rafa's head. Show him the door by the end of January.

[Of course, it's not all doom and gloom. It's another win, and Arsenal's draw today keeps us in the hunt. 9 points back from Man U with a game in hand on Chelsea, Arse and Man U, so it could be worse. Still, if Rafa's going to go, get him gone now and we can still have a sniff of the Premiership come season's end.]

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Have Gun, Will Travel

Perhaps the Boxing Day Match at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Aston Villa could have used a referee better able to control the match. Somebody like this guy in Malaysia that won't take guff from anybody.

A Malaysian referee took out his gun and fired warning shots in the air after a local soccer match turned unruly following the suspension of a player, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

The referee, who was also a policeman, ran to his patrol car to get his gun after players mobbed him for showing the red-card to one of them, the New Straits Times said.

This ref could probably even get Ronaldo to stop flopping.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Usually, this column is used to bring back the horrors of the past. The kits so bad you can't even sell them on the eBays. You know what I'm talking about--think Jorge Campos at USA '94, but for the whole team. Day-glo abominations and "interesting" patterns will rule the day.

Today, though, in the spirit of Christmas, or whatever winter solstice holidays you observe, I'm going to play nice. Doubly so since it's a Tottenham shirt. I mean, even if they can't ever beat Arsenal (see below post), they can at least look nice (3rd jersey/Europe 2nd only).

This may sound odd, and there may be plenty of objections, but I loved the 06/07 brown Tottenham jersey. Unlike the usual English pastiche of red, white and/or blue, this brown really stood out. Here, have a look:

Swank, huh? I like the over the top gold script and badge as well. Because if any English team deserves it, it's (not Manchester United, not Arsenal, not Liverpool) Tottenham.

Here's what it looks like with UEFA Cup badges. Of course, it could have been Champions League iron-ons, if not for the unfortunate food poisoning.

Brown shirts aren't found too often on the continent, either. Unless, of course, you follow a militant left-wing German club. I love St. Pauli, and I love that they do things like elect cross-dressing presidents. I also love that, for some reason, they are amenable to bringing over American players. But I have no idea why the beautiful brown shirts (heh) decided they could get away with camouflage. Football's a battle and all, but not like this.

Besides, the all-brown look is a definite step-up from this year's UEFA Cup (again!) change-strip, the horrendous two-tone 125th anniversary look. I'm guessing they've worn this more than once, but the only time I saw it featured was the Martin-Jol-is-already-fired match against Getafe. Pay special attention to the long sleeves and revel in this shirt's stupidity.

Thanks to,, and for the images.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

And That's Why You're Tottenham

See that? That's Niklas Bendtner. And he's white. And the Tottenham defense—cough*oxymoron*cough—has managed to make him look like the Michael Jordan of Denmark.

Really, has anyone of Danish origin ever gotten that much air?

Answer: Probably not.

Checking the high jump results of every Olympics since the War, not a single Danish person, male or female, has ever sniffed the podium. There have been a couple of Swedes and a Norwegian (and even an American whose name was actually John Rambo) but no Danes. So this is not a country of jumpers we're talking about. Ski jumpers, maybe, but the shoes on Bendtner's feet are about 2 meters too short to qualify. And the grass at Emirates is, well, grass and not snow.

Still there he is. If Spurs midfielder Jamie O'Hara wants to shove his head up Bendtner's ass, all he has to do is take about half a step forward and wait for gravity to do the rest.

Even better, this is Bendtner's first touch of the match. Oh, and what you can't tell from this picture is that the ball ends up in the back of the net. It's the deciding goal in Gunners' 2-1 win. So Bendtner spent the previous 75 minutes collecting splinters on his ass, then needed all of about two minutes to make Wengner look like a genius and make Tottenham look like, well, Tottenham.

Because what you also can't tell from this picture is that Keane missed a PK for Spurs just a couple of minutes before Bendtner's Darrel Griffith impersonation. So Tottenham again snatched zero points from the jaws of three.

Well played, gentleman.

Doesn't one of the sides have to win every now and then for something to be considered a rivalry? Tottenham is working on an 0-fer-20 overall and an 0-fer-14 streak between Highbury and the Emirates.

A friend with a graduate degree in philology assures me that the word "Tottenham" comes from the Middle English as translates roughly as "will never see the Champions League." I don't even know what philology is, so I'm more inclined to think that "Tottenham" is English for "Buffalo" and “Bendtner” is Danish for “Watch me get my genitals up to Berbatov’s eye level.”

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