Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Fun with Punditry

The new Boy Band debuts... meet Bland in Demand: Shearer, Lawrenson, Lineker and Hansen

[Far be it for me to imitate Fire Joe Morgan, but let's face it, there's so much FJM-ing to be done in the futbol world]

Alan Hansen, come on down! You've been writing a regular column for BBC Sport for some time, and yet your imagined New Year's resolution to make sense when you write/talk is already showing signs of failing.

Today, your Carling Cup semi-final preview gave us just enough of your heady journalistic blend: a teaspoon of technical knowledge, a pinch of prediction, and a gallon of complete aimlessness. Sure, the Carling Cup isn't that prestigious anymore since it became swamped with branding and the Sir Alex-led practice of putting out 2nd XIs throughout the competition, but make no mistake, Hansen's got his finger on the pulse:

"But when you get to the semi-finals and there's a place at Wembley at stake, then suddenly it becomes a much bigger competition. The players involved on Tuesday and Wednesday will certainly be feeling that way."
Genius. The competition becomes more important, the closer you get to actually having a chance to win it!

But there's more. Hey Alan, what can we expect from the Everton v. Chelsea encounter?

"Don't forget that Everton have already drawn 1-1 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this season, so there will be no question of David Moyes's side going into the game with any fear. It will be a lot tighter than a lot of people are expecting."
Brilliant insight! I was fully expecting a 7-0 whitewash, statistically defiant in the face of current form, injuries and the results of previous fixtures.

Regarding Arsenal v. Spurs, Hansen offers several other, utterly useless nuggets of insight:

"If, as we expect, Arsene Wenger perseveres with his policy of playing the youngsters and reserves and Tottenham play their full-strength first team, then you'd expect Spurs to win.
But then again, you might have thought that last year.
On paper, Spurs should have won those games, but the kids at Arsenal are no mugs and should not be taken lightly. I don't think Spurs will make that mistake this time around."
Dare I ask the expert for a score prediction?
"Ultimately, if Spurs defend properly then they've got every chance, but if they play poorly at the back as they have done at times this season, then there's nothing there for them."
Amazing. If Spurs prevent Arsenal from scoring, they themselves have a chance to win. But, if they defend badly, they will lose.

It's a frequently-witnessed event in punditry: the column that meets word count targets and yet fails to deliver any information that isn't common sense or plainly obvious. Everton/Chelsea is apparently too close to call, whereas Spurs' hopes of victory are directly connected to their ability to defend properly.

Alan Hansen was a tremendous player for my mighty Reds. He defended with aplomb and tenacity, and yet, any effort he made to push forward and dribble the ball frequently ended in disaster and embarrassment.

I dare say Hansen's record with the written word is following this same trend.

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