It is hardly surprising that Chelsea spent 90 minutes struggling to pass a
football yesterday when their manager takes just as long to pass water.
Luiz Felipe Scolari soldiered through the 1-1 draw at home
to West Ham despite being struck down with a kidney stone - an affliction often
associated with stress.
Scolari claimed before the match he was not feeling any
pressure but, like Shakira's hips,
Big Phil's kidneys don't lie.
The Brazilian is so fed up with the situation that he is
planning to get Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou to operate on
Or at least that's
how Early Doors interpreted this post-match remark: "When I have two
players in front plus one winger, I open my middle. It is difficult for
The match was otherwise dedicated to Gianfranco Zola, who is
retrospectively being elevated to football deity.
During his seven seasons at Chelsea, ED never once thought Zola was anything
more than a hugely entertaining but lightweight and inconsistent luxury player.
Great fun to watch and massively gifted but not what you would
call world class, particularly as he was 30 before he pitched up at Stamford Bridge.
Successive Premier League
goals tallies of seven, seven, 13, six, four, four and 14 would back up Early
Doors's claim that Zola was less like Diego
Maradona than he was Italy's
Matthew Le Tissier.
Still, that flick from the corner against Norwich was pretty
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If Scolari wore a pained expression on the bench, it was nothing compared to Liverpool
striker Robbie Keane, who was subjected to a public humiliation equal to
a tar-and-feathering or an appearance on Jeremy Kyle.
Keane was consigned to the bench for the game against Hull,
and stayed there as Rafa Benitez brought on a succession of unlikely
substitutes including Lucas Leiva (recently booed by his own fans) and Nabil El
And this as Liverpool spent
an hour trying without success to conjure a winner at Anfield against opponents
with one of the most porous defences in the division.
If these were not deemed circumstances befitting a striker
who once upon a time was good for 20 goals a season, you have to wonder why
Benitez bothered putting him in the squad other than to embarrass him.
In fairness to Benitez, the Irishman has been truly dreadful
since his £20 million move from Spurs in the summer, weighing in with just two
league goals - both against West Brom.
It has been a tale of airshots and missed sitters for Keane
who reacts to a sight of goal with all the composure of Alexandra Burke doing a duet with Beyonce.
(Incidentally, if Cheryl Cole ever decides to give Cashley
the heave-ho she could do worse than link up with Burke, who has rather
troublingly described Cole repeatedly as "my backbone", and mouthed
"That was for you, I love you" after singing You Are So Beautiful on
Yet even with Fernando Torres out with a hamstring strain, Benitez
preferred to use as his lone striker Dirk Kuyt - a man who cannot be mentioned
without adding the adjectives 'honest' and 'hard-working'. That is to say, he's
good but not great - Liverpool Eoghan Quigg, if you will.
- - -
We won't see Manchester
United on these shores again until Boxing Day, as they have jetted off on the
in-no-way-pointless junket that is the FIFA Club World Cup, formerly the FIFA Club
World Championship and before that the plain old World Club Championship.
Whatever order you put the words in, it is an utterly
ridiculous tournament that only serves as the authorities'
way of ensuring teams cannot win the Champions League twice in a row.
misadventure in the competition came in 2000, when they withdrew from the FA
Cup in order to lose a game of head tennis to some urchins on Copacabana
beach and get stitched up by Romario and Edmundo.
The whole farrago was documented in the gut-wrenchingly
corporate documentary Beyond The Promised Land - which suggested that this bonkers
sideshow was a step up from winning the treble, since if offered more lucrative
Still, 10 days in Brazil meant Gary Neville has never
had such a healthy glow.
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The weekend's collective Big Four failure saw Aston Villa sneak into fourth and
raise the prospect that, for the first time since 2003, Manchester United,
Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea might not all qualify for the Champions League.
Although if there is any danger that UEFA might lose the
money-spinning power of a Big Four member, they might just do a Strictly Come
Dancing route and put everybody through.
And don't say it
can't happen - European football's governing body broke their own rules back in 2005
and let Liverpool in just to silence Rick
Parry's high-pitched whine.
had five sides in the Champions League draw - needless to say this was before
Michel Platini got his Anglophobe chaussures under the desk.
- - -
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: "Maybe now we are thinking it's
not our home. I don't know what has
happened." Big Phil Scolari is too busy dusting off his Muddy Waters impression to wax anything but baffled by
Chelsea's useless home form.
FOREIGN VIEW: If Juande Ramos learned anything from his time in England, it is
that Ashley Young is a mighty fine footballer. The Aston Villa winger is Real
Madrid's top winter transfer target.
Or so says Marca.
COMING UP: The excitement is palpable ahead of our live
webcast with Patrick Vieira at 11:30 UK time. Our very own Jim White
will be putting the questions to big Pat, and you can watch it by following
this link here.