Archive for December 2009
There has been several times last season and this season that I’ve found myself watching Rangers and seen Madjid Bougherra steaming forward and in effect being the most creative and driven Rangers player on the park.
I’ve often thought that Smith et al are probably standing at the sidelines with their hands to their heads and an internal monologue of “here we go again, lets just hope he doesn’t Amoruso“. More often than not however, he’s been our knight in shining armour though; it’s like there’s a switch in his head and once he’s had enough of what’s happening in front of him he just dashes off like a Viking marauding off to raid a village.
You only need to think about his goal against Stuttgart (“he’s-away-ach-he’s-not-going-to-is-he?pass!go-on-then-big-man-he-won’t-he-is-what-a-strike!GOAL!” were my exact words) and his cross for Miller last week as examples of him getting forward and enforcing his influence on the game.
Is this purely Mr Bougherra having enough of what he see’s infront of him and deciding that he is off to take matters into his own hands, or is it maybe a little more by tactical design of Walter Smith and in football in general?
I believe the latter.
The concept of Walter Smith being a tactical revolutionary or even to be keeping up with the José’s in modern football is something that will have many taking a sharp intake of breath. He’s been branded a dinosaur, a traditionalist and far too stuck in his ways to even think about playing the game the “modern way”. I like to think differently and the role of Madgid Bougherra at Rangers is the perfect example of why I think I am right.
Firstly, it’s important to discuss the current trends in the tactics of modern football. Tactical Svenghali, Jonathan Wilson identifies that even though there has been a general shift back to a general 4-4-2 shape; a lot of teams effectively still play with a singular (main) striker with what he has coined a “false nine” playing behind and alongside the main striker (Kenny Miller of late anyone?).
“Football is like an aeroplane. As velocities increase, so does air resistance, and so you have to make the head more stream-lined.” Viktor Maslov (Dynamo Kyiv manager and the tactical tactical revolutionary credited with inventing the 4-4-2 )
According to Wilson, what this quote means is that whilst the velocity of players increase (think Cristiano Ronaldo, Aiden McGreety) it becomes increasingly harder for them to find any space, so attacking players have to come from deeper positions on the park to force the space; thus making them harder to pick up and more importantly, pulling defenders out of position.
The success of Novo and DeMarcus Beasley of late from wide positions is also an example of this and not a coincidence. As our ‘false nine’ comes deep (Kenny Miller) it creates space for Novo and DMB to cut in from wide positions to bolster the attack. This is especially evident with the wide play of the likes of Lionel Messi who scored over 35 goals last season alone.
Essentially, the primary role of the striker has changed (as has Kris Boyd) from being just about scoring goals to be also about creating space for others.
This is where it gets interesting. Think about table football – if you get to a certain point, the key attacking players are the back two as you have much more time and space to line up a big ol’ spin for a shot and the opposing strikers essentially become blockers of this.
Part of this became evident (again in the football of Smith) when we had Alan Hutton and Steven Smith before him rampaging down the flanks as the most free and attacking players on the pitch. This has quelled in football a little as the wide forwards are now a little more defensive to close them down (think Steven Naismith tracking back).
This is where we are now. At least one forward dropping deeper to create space ( think Wayne Rooney/Zlatan Ibrahimovic/Kenny Miller), full backs getting forward (think Patrice Evra/Alan Hutton/Kirk Broadfoot) to be met by defensive minded wide attackers that like to attack from deep positions.
With the full backs freedom quashed somewhat, it is no longer them that have the most space on the pitch. It is the second centre half that is reaping the rewards of the most space on the pitch. This is starting to herald the return of the libero.
Sweeper/Libero: (Italian: free) is a more versatile type of centre back that, as the name suggests, “sweeps up” the ball if the opponent manages to breach the defensive line. Their position is rather more fluid than other defenders who mark their designated opponents. The catenaccio system of play, used in Italian football in the 1960s, notably employed a defensive libero.
Many centre-backs have the ability to bring the ball out of defence and begin counter-attacks for their own teams, thanks to tactical (game reading, anticipation, positioning, tackling) and technical (passing, vision on the pitch) capabilities.
What? The Wattenaccio?
The much vaunted and chastised system that Walter utilised to get us to our first European final since 1972? Homogenised players playing homogenised football. Stuffy-ness was the order of the day and being the damp squibs of Europe proved fruitful in the long run.
The system was fit for purpose. Contain teams and squeeze a goal wherever possible. Yet the system (and it’s name) obviously has it’s origins in the Italian system of Catenaccio and one of the most important players in that system was the libero. When we think of the libero we think Mattheus, Sammer and Beckenbauer.
Madjid “Libero” Bougherra is the perfect exponent of the tactic.
By the definition of the position above, a libero is the combination of tactical and technical capabilities. Reading further, the more detailed descriptions of each fit Bougherra perfectly: game reading, anticipation, positioning, tackling, passing and vision.
Yet it is obviouslly not only Bougherra that is taking advantage of this extra space and heralding the potential for a return of the libero.
Gerard Pique, is making great strides at Barcelona this season, Lucio did it to great effect at the Confederations Cup for Brazil, Pepe is performing a similar job for Portugal, Vermaelen is flourishing at Arsenal, Ignaschevich was very important for Russia in the side that beat England and Miranda is one of the most saught after defenders on the planet after capturing three Brazillian championships with São Paulo.
This list of course is nowhere near exhaustive as there are players cropping up everywhere that are playing in these kind of roles.
Tactics are in football to answer questions posed by other managers, teams, yet at the same time, importantly from changes in the rules of the game. By this notion they seem to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary in nature. Much as the latest incarnation of the offside rule brought about the insurgance of the poaching striker, the appearance of the ‘false nine’ has aided the resurgence of the libero.
It’s the chicken and egg debate on another level. Did Bougherra make the realisation that he had more space and could flaunt it or did Walter Smith make the realisation and give him the impotice to run into the space (perhaps since Lee McCulloch can drop a little deeper whenever he does go?).
Whether Walter Smith came upon this by accident or by design is further cause for debate and a question we won’t know the answer to.
However in my opinion the current trends in football tactics are very evident in the shapes, players and positions that Smith uses. It seems to all have came together in recent weeks for us. Football, whilst being at the cutting edge with primadonna footballers, bumper television contracts and astronomical debts is far more insular and introspective when it comes to tactics.
“To resurrect an old line, you don’t win games by scoring goals, you score goals by winning games: by playing the game where you want it to be played, thus maximising your team’s strengths and minimising those of your opponent” Jonathan Wilson.
Maximising your teams strengths and minimising those of your opponent. Walter Smith is the master.
Smith a tactical magician and revolutionary? What next? Kris ‘purely poaching’ Boyd being a rounded footballer under his tutelage? Kenny ‘Misser’ scoring goals for fun? Kirk ‘everyman’ Broadfoot being a marauding full back? Twitters DaMarcus Beasley being the most important footballer on the pitch in a Rangers jersey? Smith having a seventeen year old youngster that is ready to replace the possible outgoing libero Bougherra?
It could never happen….could it?
I follow my heart right up to the end,
As far as the eye can see
I’m faithful and true and living up to
Your sacred trust in me
Yes, I have just started a football blog by quoting the quintissential bawbag bogus boyband; One True Voice. Something tells me that not many of you will remember let alone care who or what they are. For those that don’t, One True Voice are the group of lads that were put together in the same faux talent programme that created Girls Aloud.
The talentless and tawdry yang to the irrepressible and insatiable ying of the ten legged popsexual girl group juggernaut, the band are easily forgotten but I’d bet there are a few out there that were humming along in their heads to the quote that I started this article with. The song might have been as bad as listening to a pub full of smacked up Celtic fans in the Gallowgate singing You’ll Never Walk Alone with the only accompanyment being scraped out onto a plate with a fork, but the lyrics are somewhat applicable to Rangers.
Rangers seem to be missing a singular voice of the people; one that is faithful and true to what we all believe in. Essentially, there is not a voice that comes from Ibrox to defend itself, everyone and everything that our great club stands for. The fans don’t have something or someone that we can stand united behind and all have our faith pinned to.
The fissured Rangers support simply doesn’t have a person that will step forward and cast away any dissenters and doubters that come to try and put us down. More often than not, these people are allowed to say whatever they like about our club and support without reply and without reprisal. That is not good enough. An institution like ours should be able to stand on its own two feet and put up more of a defence for itself than the limbless Black Knight in Life of Brian could muster.
Sadly, we need only look across the city to the paupers paradise at Parkhead to hear the persistant warblings of Dr Reid defending the undefendable. For all the mans obvious failings in this world; we cannot say that he hasn’t tried to add some shimmer and shine to the rusted and morally bankrupt exterior of the club he follows.
Whatever your position may be on whether the Scottish media morons, the chouncil and assembled detractors have an agenda against our club, one thing is not up for debate and that is whether we have a figurehead who will represent us and our team – one that will always represent us faithfully and with honour.
Martin Bain seems to be emerging tentatively from the shadows of David Murray’s tenure like an Orange Tipped Butterfly from it’s cocoon. Incoming (for incoming, read caretaker) Chairman Alastair Johnston gave a strong rebuttal to media speculation without really inspiring the masses or convincing anyone that he was there for the long run. How much of a voice of the people can a Chairman be that lives in Florida be anyway?
We used to have a figurehead, a staunch defender of the people. Our own personal knight on a white horse. One that would try to fend off anyone attempting to tarnish or sour the name of our world famous and regal footballing institution.
That man was senior advocate and Queen’s Council in Scotland, Donald Findlay QC. I don’t wish to go down the route of making this piece of writing a lament for an ex-Chairman, but I’d rather like to use Findlay as an example of the kind of man that we all want to be stood at the gates to thwart the encroaching enemy. Findlay was someone who would look anyone that wishes to harm Rangers Football Club in the face and tear them a proverbial new arsehole with his wit and intelligence.
Findlay was forced to quit his post as vice Chairman of Rangers over ten years ago. In that decade much has changed at the club and in football in general. But Findlay has never been far from home though as he is one of the most respected speakers on the Rangers after dinner circuit. Anyone that has ever heard him speak will know that his knowledge and wit are two of his finest attributes – exactly the type of man we want in the trenches alongside us. The persecution Findlay faced from as many angles as a hall full of mirrors was unjust and in retrospect, completely unfair.
In a time in Rangers history where we are surrounded by cretins that have it in for our club, Rangers need a man with a strong true voice. For far too long the media and more have got away with chastising our club at every opportunity. It’s tumultuous times for all. We all need someone and something that we can believe in. Hopefully the club will be bought by a man or men that fully understand what it means to represent Rangers.
I know for one that if it was me , Findlay would be the first phone call I’d make; to plead with him to pack his pipe and get back down to Ibrox. His voice is certainly strong and true and he would act to galvanise the fractured support, pin everyone’s shoulders back and make everyone associated with the club believe that the club support us as much as we will always support them.
We are the people, but it’s time we had back our man.
It’s a much discussed topic on football forums, social networking sites and in blogs by sad moaning wannabe writers like myself: Do footballers, managers and owners of football teams actually look at online supporter opinion?
I suppose the extension to that question is do they actually care? You’d think that in earning a four or five figure sum, having the adulation of millions, the cars, the holidays, the bling (especially if you’re a jeweller like DaMarcus Beasley), then you really wouldn’t be caring one jot just what some internet geek thinks of you.
However apparently it seems that increasingly they do.
The crossover of internet geekery into the mainstream, thanks to the exponential growth of social networking and fecundity of technological capabilities (any footballers reading now will have stopped doing so), has lead to people engaging with online content that would never of traditionally dreamed of doing so. There is a reciprocal relationship now – fans can now interact with players and celebrities at their will through sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Celebrity gossip rags and the blood thirsty west of Scotland media morons have circled upon this as a quick fix to get a story from no where. One only needs to look at the way in which the story of the racial slur on Maurice Edu was broken after his 140 character or less, micro-blogged Tweet; which obviously carefully detailed exactly what happened on that fateful night after the game against Gonorreah FC.
Wait, no, he said; “Not sure what hurt more: result last nite or being racially abused by couple of r own fans as I’m getting in my car…smh (shaking my head]…off to rehab”. Conculsive. There might of as well have ben HD video of it. Because he said it, it became fact. News of the Tweet filtered onto fans websites where it was then picked up by the lurking media morons and it was being reported on the radio and on news websites within the hour.
Essentially, the dynamic between player/celebrity and Joe Public has changed and will continue to change.
However this goes back to the original question – do players look at or care about online supporter opinion? The majority of the time these Facebook and Twitter pages are nothing more than one big backslapping mission from fanboys that want the recognition of one of their idols replying to something nice that they have said about them. But forums and blog posts are different. Whilst blogs tend to hold the opinion of an individual, it is forums that hold a broad spectrum of opinions, both positive and negative, on all things related to football clubs.
Today in the Guardian, a mountain has been made from a molehill on just this topic.
At the weekend Bobby Zamora scored a goal. I know, it’s been a while for the big man and I too was a little bit shocked to hear it. I’ve read this occurrence compared to the notion that even a blind hen sometimes pecks the odd piece of corn. Zamora suffers from Kenny Miller (or is it Kyle Lafferty) syndrome of looking pure dead busy and holding up the ball perfectly for strikers and advancing midfielders. “Harry them Kenny, Harry them!“. Before passing it the opposition.
Anyway, upon scoring, Zamora went radio rental and refused to celebrate with his team-mates, pushing them in a right old strop (in fairness I would push Gordon Ramsay lookalike Damien Duff given half the chance). Instead, he went running to the Fulham supporters furiously pumping his chest and spitting out an invite them to “shut their effin mouths“.
Subsequently, the Guardian today has ran with a story written by David Hytner with the lead “How The Bloggers Got The Better of Hot Headed Zamora“. The article explained Zamora’s behaviour somewhat. Essentially, there is an odd situation at Fulham that is different to that of Rangers, in that the club run a forum for supporters to talk about player and club issues. According to Hytner, the players at Fulham quite regularly check out what is being said on the forum and after the incident the effervescent Fulham boss Hodgkinson said; “Maybe he reads too many of these blogs that people write in to.”
So it does happen. Players are just as internet savvy as any other teenage or twenty something and the extra kudos that their footballing profile gives them on the internet means that anything that they do online will be scrutinised – just ask Ever Benega of Valencia about Webcams or Andrei Arshavin about his trip to the waxworks…
However, it surely isn’t widespread. Is it?
If the Rangers management read only a portion of some of the supporter opinion, then they would be surprised if not disgusted. The negative voice is more often than not the loudest voice and its for that reason that sometimes online supporter opinion is ignored or sadly pigeonholed as being the collective belief, when the truth is that opinion is usually much more divided and in the large part supportive. That is what keeps these forums going. If everyone agreed then what would the point be? Well, it’d be a collective backslapping like Maurice Edu’s Twitter page of course.
Articles like the one released about Graeme ‘TOSIT’ Duffy (or is that ‘TOAST’?) by Boss on RangersMedia pertaining to his business interests and information gathered from Companies House draws the attention of a wider audience. With national news agencies picking up the story and further interview questions paying particular reference to the exact title the article, it would be silly to not think tha Mr Duffy has been passed a copy of the article – never mind actually communicating with the site?
The ease at which people can remain anonymous whilst using football forums is always going to hinder a quantifiable understanding of whether Rangers staff use fan forums to garner opinions or to just plain be nosey. There’s not many people out there that would be silly enough to sign up to a website with an email address that gives away their identity (although you would be surprised).
One thing that is for certain is that the increased interaction would be welcomed by the masses. Edu’s aclimitisation to life in Scotland was in no doubt aided by the fact that the Rangers support could interact with and get to know him before he was even playing the first team. Also, Walter Smith said yesterday at the AGM that Rangers could adopt the European technique of hotelling and schooling youngsters which is an idea that was discussed and poured over in detail in the Setting The Standard Campaign.
So perhaps it might actually be a good idea for the club and the players to integrate themselves with the supporters via whatever means possible in this technological age. We’re certainly ready and waiting for them.
Where have all the real men gone?
Hard working men that don’t care what they look like when they’re working at their job. They return home smelling of blood, sweat, dirt and sometimes with a nip of whisky on their breath. Men who toil, scrape and work their hands to the bone, fighting for their very lives every time they set off to earn a crust – no matter what it is that they do.
A certain brand of man. Cast from the sturdy mould of the hard working and dogged men of days gone by. Men that used to spend more time beneath the ground in dark, damp mines. Men that worked in the smokey ship yards of Govan and men who risked life and particularly limb to work in the industrial age factories across the West coast of Scotland and up and down this fine country of ours.
This same mindset was filtered into the men-only world of football stadiums, smokers nights and secret handshakes.
The football stadiums across Britian were places of sanctuary from hard working British men for an hour and a half every second Saturday. The pictures of thousands of men filtering patiently into the great stadiums across this land with their flat caps and trenchcoats on was a sight to behold. Spotting a woman in their midst would be like studying a Where’s Wally for that red and white striped jumpered moron. Whatever paltry wage they may have been earning was at least in part taken up for their ticket, pie and bovril at their stadium of choice.
On the pitch, the football when compared to today was agricultural in the large part – a large exponent of the ploughed field surfaces that the British climate brings. The men playing the beautiful game were much more robust; athleticism was not a the correct vernacular to describe the majority of players. These men were troopers on the football field. Each and every one of them proud to be representing the club crest that was emblazoned across their chest. It meant a different life than most.
These committed and determined men that would fight tooth and nail with their chest puffed out proudly, more often than not trudging on through the pain barrier, seem to have left modern football in the large part. They most certainly have at Rangers Football Club.
Taking a cursory look through the first team squad at Rangers as we reach the teenage years of the twenty first century, we see a bunch of primadonnas and players that put simply, just don’t look like they care.
Ask yourself, how many of our first team would sweat blood for our club crest?
They may say all the right things when it is time to give vox pops to their pals in the media. Yet when it comes time to step onto the plush grass that has been lapped with whitewash, they seem to wilt under pressure like Chris Burke in the Aberdeen sunlight. There’s no leader in the midst. Not one man will grab the players around them by the scruff of their collar, dust them down and carry them back into battle. These kind of men were last seen gracing the pitch at Ibrox in the times of the band of brothers in the 1990′s – but that is too long ago.
There’s no cutting edge at Rangers. There’s no one willing to be the bad guy for the good of the cause. The fact that the only player there is in our squad that stirs the green and grey hatred from across the city is a 30 year old substitute and impact player in Nacho Novo speaks for itself.
We need players that will get in the faces of our opponents and be willing to die for the men that are around them.
There is one man that I’d love to see back in a Rangers shirt who could stir the hatred in our enemies and the pride in all of us. A real man on the pitch that would fight till the death or at least until the jersey he had on his back had to be torn from his body – and he now lives in Milan.
Rattling around the San Siro on a weekly basis these days is the worlds smallest ton on bricks, Gennaro Ivan “Rino” Gattuso.
Gattuso is the man that crashes through the wry, self-seductive confidence that is apparent in the Gucci wearing, cologne dripped and tailored trousers of the AC Milan squad. The best description I’ve read of the man is that he “looks like a gardener and plays like a gardener’s shovel”.
Off the pitch, Gattuso looks like the epitomy of a modern cosmopolitan man. He dons the sheer cut and expensive suits, poses in the finest magazines and moves with the calm assurance that he is a man in possetion of a World Cup winners medal. Even his ragged beard is kept that way with much preening.
On the pitch, he is a completely different animal. He adopts the gait and defiance of a rabid, snarling pitbull that has been backed into a corner. He always leaves an early impression on the shinguards of whatever opponest he plays against, regardless of reputation, to let them know that the next ninety minutes are not going to be easy.
There’s a manic elegance to his football. He smiles like a cheshire cat as he involves himself in battles across the pitch – like someone that gains energy from confrontation and a test of wits and strength of character – a footballing succubus. Football purists might say that his best days are behind him and that the brand of football he plays is hard to love, but there is no doubt that he commands respect and can be a man to inspire and exactly the kind of man you would want by your side in a footballing war that simply had to be won.
Sometimes we are asked whilst in our locals with our aquaintances, that if we were Chairman of the club we love and given a blank cheque, who would we sign to rid the club from its current ails. Well I’d weigh in with a hefty support for the cultured man that has grown from the wide-eyed boy I remember being introduced onto the pitch in front of the fans with a compatriot when we won nine in a row.
It is a much debated thought and one that is more ‘pie in the sky’ than ‘aye’, but Rino Gattuso would be the perfect kick of paprika in our Pasta Piccante. Gattuso is not being played at Milan under Leonardo, perhaps as he is returning from injury, but it may also be that the distinguished Brazillian football gentleman just doesn’t see a battle hardened, Wolverine faced warrior as part of his plans.
Let me be straight. I am not suggesting for one second that I think Rino Gattuso will play for Rangers Football Club again. However, some of the veins that pump through his Roman arteries, servicing his adrenelane craving heart will forever be tied to the city of Glasgow and our club. We as supporters are forever tied to him too as he has once worn the royal blue of the mighty Rangers.
In a time where modern footballers are far too often concerned with Bentleys, broads, bank accounts, buffed up egos and bumper contracts, Rino Gattuso is a real man. I for one woul’d love it if he would once again become our man.