Monthly Archives: April 2012

It’s Up For Grabs Now! – The Title Decider

[Including: Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week: Arsenal Legends… 1988/89]

With Premier League leaders Man United set to face second place Man City on Monday night in a match that could decide the fate of the title this season it seems like a good time to look back at another title deciding bout from the season I was born. In 1988/89 however, due to the Hillsborough disaster the meeting between the top two clubs was postponed until the very end of the season.

POS Club Pld W D L F A GD PTS
 1 Liverpool 37 22 10 5 65 26 +39 76
 2 Arsenal 37 21 10 6 71 36 +35 73

Anything other than an Arsenal win by at least two clear goals would see Liverpool clinch the title, the problem for the Gunners was that Liverpool had not lost by two or more goals at Anfield in three years, Arsenal hadn’t beaten them there since 1974/75 and Liverpool had never lost a match with both John Aldridge and Ian Rush up front!

“Now I’ve heard of Liverpool. They’re famous for being good, aren’t they? Gary Lineker, Peter Shilton, all that lot.”

– Jo in Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch

Despite Lineker and Shilton never having played for Liverpool, Jo had it about right.

Over to Mr George Graham…

 

“Arsenal come streaming forward now in surely what will be their last attack. A good ball by Dixon, finding Smith, for Thomas, charging through the midfield… it’s up for grabs now… Thomas, right at the end!!!”

– Brian Moore

Level on points, level on Goal Difference, Arsenal had won the league on goals scored:

Pos Club Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 1 Arsenal 38 22 10 6 73 36 +37 76
 2 Liverpool 38 22 10 6 65 28 +37 76

Which brings us to the Premier League Stickers of the Week: the Arsenal team that started that day and brought the Division One trophy back to Highbury (although O’Leary features as an 80’s Panini because I somehow failed to collect him as either a player or a manager!)

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From 1993/94: John Lukic (Leeds United), Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, David Rocastle (Leeds United), Kevin Richardson (Aston Villa), Alan Smith (repeat)

From 1994/95: Steve Bould

From 1995/96: Michael Thomas (Liverpool!!!)

From 1996/97: Paul Merson

[Panini 1987/88: David O’Leary]

[All these (and more…) can be found in the Sticker Archive]

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Categories: Arsenal Legends, Flashback, Merlin Premier League Stickers of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three and Out for Pep’s Barça?

Pep following defeat in El Clásico at the weekend

“The third year,” the great Hungarian coach Béla Guttmann always said, “is fatal.” If a manager stays at a club more than that, he said, his players tend to become bored and/or complacent and opponents start to work out counter-strategies…

– Jonathan Wilson

Back in January I read this Jonathan Wilson piece for the Guardian Sport Blog that outlined how at the very highest level the greatest teams in history often only last a maximum of three years (especially those who played a pressing game) or ‘Béla Guttmann’s Three-Year Rule’ as also mentioned in Wilson’s excellent book Inverting the Pyramid. The piece was written following a draw against Espanyol that saw Barça fall five points behind Real Madrid in La Liga but having comfortably defeated their rivals in El Clásico in December and with them still being most people’s favourites for the Champions League.

Fast forward three and a half months and with the end of the season approaching Barça now find themselves trailing by seven points in La Liga having just been defeated in El Clásico and having been knocked out of the Champions League by 10 men from a team that are currently only sixth in the English Premier League (twenty-five points behind Man Utd).

(left to right) Béla Guttmann, Victor Maslov, Johan Cruyff, Arrigo Sacchi

Dynamo Kyiv 1966-68 (3 consecutive Soviet titles under Victor Maslov)

Ajax 1970-73 (3 consecutive European Cups)

AC Milan 1987-90 (1 Scudetto & 2 consecutive European Cups under Arrigo Sacchi)

Barcelona 2008-11 (3 consecutive La Liga titles & 2 Champions Leagues under Josep Guardiola) ?

Decay can have numerous causes. A shape-based game saps players because it requires constant thought, and because training to get the shape right is boring and repetitive. Pressing is physically exhausting, demanding perpetual running. Players living and working in close proximity for three years will start to get on each other’s nerves. And then there is hunger: when you’ve won a league title three times, does the fourth really matter as much as the first?..

…Yet in many ways, Barcelona are a side set up to endure. Like Ferguson, who reflected last week on how those who have been brought up at a club have more instinctive loyalty, Guardiola has a stock of homegrown talent. The impression is that most players play for Barcelona because they want to rather than because it’s a convenient way of paying for the cars and clothes and rounds of Jaegerbombs…

If they can kick on, if they can overcome Guttmann’s three-year rule, then their achievement will be truly historic; if it does all slip away, then they will merely have been another excellent team.

Chin up

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Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week: You Played For Darlo!!! (Part 1)

Division 3 Play-Off Finalists 1995/96

A footballer’s career can be a funny thing, whether essentially a one-club man or the consummate journeyman you can find yourself playing at the very highest level of English football as well as Feethams football ground over the years (or if you’re really lucky the Reynolds Arena / New Stadium / Williamson Motors Stadium / 96.6 TFM Darlington Arena / Balfour Webnet Darlington Arena / Northern Echo Darlington Arena, soon to be the only 25,000 seater stadium in the Conference North).

Here is handful of players who did just that: Premier League players who also ran out for the mighty Darlington F.C.

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From 1993/94: Gary Pallister – Darlo (loan) 1985/86 (also appointed operations director in 2010)

From 1994/95: Neil Maddison – Darlo 2001–2007

From 1997/98: Matty Appleby – Darlo (loan) 1993/94, signed for 1994-96 and 2005/06

From 1998/99: Julian Joachim – Darlo 2006-08 (club record signing of £100,000); Phil Stamp – Darlo 2005–2007

[All these (and more…) can be found in the Sticker Archive]

 

As an extra treat here is some semi-unrelated but absolutely fantastic Pathé News from 1957/1958…

Can we start referring to Chelsea as The Pensioners again? What a nickname!

Categories: Merlin Premier League Stickers of the Week, You Played For Darlo!!! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Beckham, take a bow son.

Becks celebrating his goal on Saturday

Still got it.

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Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week: Internationals… World Cup Winners (Part 1)

Continuing the Juninho Paul-Easter celebrations today is a selection of World Cup winners who graced the Premier League including the Brazilian maestro himself.

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From 1994/95: Jurgen Klinsmann (with West Germany in 1990)

From 1996/97: Juninho Paulista (with Brazil in 2002)

From 1997/98: Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira (both with France in 1998)

From 1998/99: Stéphane Guivarc’h (with France 1998)

That’s right, France won the World Cup with Stéphane Guivarc’h up front… No, honestly they did!

[All these (and more…) can be found in the Sticker Archive]

Categories: Internationals, Merlin Premier League Stickers of the Week, World Cup Winners | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HAPPY Juninho Paul-EASTER!!!

It takes one hell of a player to be capped for Brazil whilst playing week in week out with Phil Stamp, not to mention winning the World Cup whilst playing your club football alongside Dean Windass but that is exactly what Juninho (Paulista) achieved.

It is at this time of year that we remember what this player did, returning seemingly from the dead to pull on a Middlesbrough shirt not just once but three times! (If you count the 2011 farewell match.)

So kick back and enjoy eating some chocolates to mark the occasion as first established by Juninho’s former team mate Ugo Egg-iogu (apologies).

Categories: Flashback, News | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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