The Weekend In Football: The False False Number Nine & Other Stories

FBL-ENG-PR-READING-MAN UTD

Even neutrals are embarassed by how much United need this man… and how much his former club miss him. Image: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images.

Robin van Persie is a striker. So is Carlton Cole, on occasion. Fernando Torres used to be one, while Luis Suarez is a really good one when he’s not banned/rolling about on his back with his legs in the air.

Del Bosque has a hell of a lot to answer for, y’know.

England – Premier League

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Luis Suarez. Finally apprehended for crimes against football. Image: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images.

If Rafa Benitez proved anything this weekend, it’s that not all Spanish managers can effectively operate a formation that includes a false number nine. Benitez’ double bluff – playing Fernando Torres upfront with a remit to distract  opposition defenders by being in the wrong position for virtually every attack – resulted in a comprehensive and embarrassing 3-1 defeat to West Ham, and the hilarious, if unsurprising news that his tenure as Chelsea manager (currently 12 days and counting) is already under threat.

2ijtgd1Despite the warning shots, Rafa’s former club will be forced to operate a similar policy in their match at Upton Park next weekend. Luis Suarez received his fifth yellow card of the season for getting handsy in the penalty area in Liverpool’s 1-0 victory vs. Southampton and will not be available for Sunday’s trip to West Ham, leaving Brendan Rodgers frontline as spartan as Chelsea’s, although clearly not as pretty.

Rumours that both sides are planning a bid for Carlton Cole in the transfer window cannot be substantiated at this time.

While Arsene Wenger continues to stare blankly into the gaping  Robin van Persie shaped hole in his squad, the Dutchman is busy reprising his role for the club’s rivals. Arsenal slumped to a 2-0 home defeat against an inspired Swansea City, while an unholy first half scrap between Reading and Manchester United was settled in United’s favour by the now customary RvP goal. For the record, Manchester United would be thirteenth without his contribution this season. Since Arsenal are currently 10th, that probably counts as a positive for Arsene Wenger. One of the few.

Spain – La Liga

FC Barcelona v Athletic Club - La Liga

While Cesc may suffer similar penalties for crimes against facial hair. Image: David Ramos/Getty Images.

A 2-0 victory over Atletico has done little to dissuade the powers-that-be at Real Madrid that their manager is worth the hassle, according to Marca. The Spanish sports paper, known for it’s close associations with Real, have put English clubs on high alert with the news that Jose Mourinho and club prez Florentino Pérez have agreed that the manager will leave in June, regardless of what happens in between.

While we’re fantasising that the notoriously bloody minded Portuguese might challenge himself to relegate the club (for shits & giggles), it seems that Barcelona are taking no chances. Despite being eleven points clear, they thrashed Athletic Bilbao 5-1, Messi picking up another two and taking himself to within one of Gerd Müller’s record of goals scored in a calender year. Apparently this isn’t enough of a challenge for the diminutive Argentine though. He’s vowed to help Celtic qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League, because he really liked their supporters.

The man brings new meaning to the term ‘multitasking’. Expect news of a side project involving U2 soon.

Germany – Bundesliga

Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga

While a draw is obviously good enough for Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez is less convinced. Image:  Lennart Preiss/Bongarts/Getty Images.

Bayern Munich are another team used to notching up cricket scores against unfortunate opposition, but they won’t be ruing the weekend’s 1-1 draw vs. champions Borussia Dortmund too much – they remain eleven clear of their fierce rivals, and have a goal difference of +35.

Augsberg will be lucky to score that many goals during the entire season, but they will be a little perkier this morning too, having drawn 1-1 Freiburg and lifted themselves from the bottom of the table. It was a fairly popular result all over the Bundesliga this weekend; Schalke vs. Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg vs. Hamburg also shared 1-1 draws.

This made Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 4-0 victory over high flyers Eintracht Frankfurt look even more impressive. If you’re interested in that kind of thing.

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