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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 5 hours ago
Read
Oct 11, 2010

The Fifth Official: The Liverpool soap opera continues

Few of us like Mondays but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from the past week in football.

Carry on Liverpool

Even the most gruesome and depressing episode of EastEnders wouldn't be a patch on the gory goings on at the soap opera that has become Liverpool Football Club. It's been riveting to watch, and every time I see a stressed board member being interviewed on telly I can't help but picture an imaginary axe dangling over his head with the word "administration" illuminated in dazzling bright lights.

Such a spectacular boardroom fall-out I can't remember since the distant, dark days of the 1980s, when nicking someone's biro was likely to result in all-out war. It comes as no surprise, though, with Tom 'muppet' Hicks and George 'puppet' Gillett at the helm. I wouldn't trust those buffoons with a potted plant, let alone a football club.

After chairman Martin Broughton revealed the club had agreed a deal with NESV at a conference call board meeting last week, Gillett and Hicks put the phone down in disgust. But far from scrapping the call, Broughton and co kept the line open and battered on regardless - much easier to reach a consensus with the deluded pair that way, apparently. I've rarely looked forward to High Court action more. I may even pop down on the off chance of witnessing the demise of a once proud football club.

Going, Going, De Jong

The curious case of Nigel De Jong rumbles on, though the tough-tackling Dutchman does deserve some credit as it appears he made it through an entire week without snapping someone's leg in half with a groin-high lunge.

Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa has now had his double leg break set and begins the lengthy rehabilitation process, but his parent club, Marseille, are so incensed by De Jong's challenge they want to instigate legal proceedings, with the bold intention of "getting rid of this type of individual from European grounds". Quite a pronouncement from a club who only recently launched similar action against Ben Arfa himself.

Quite how they intend on banning De Jong from Europe is not explained, and their task would seem to be particularly stiff given that, however wrongly, no card was shown or free-kick even awarded for the tackle, though that may say far more about referee Martin Atkinson than the player himself. What's next? Players running round on the field attached by a length of rope to a personal injury lawyer who cries, "Where there's blame there's a claim" every time it looks a reducer is about to go in? Do me a favour.

The new Heskey

England's reliance on one 'vulgar' striker has come back to haunt them since stories of his misdemeanours infested the press and plagued his form, but last week there was a sign of just how desperate the times have become for the Three Lions. Things reached such a parlous state that the once proud Fabio was reduced to sending out a begging letter to Emile Heskey, purely on the strength of that one - admittedly accomplished - header at Wolves.

But it seems we have a ready-made replacement for Heskey, and have done for about ten years, in the shape of Kevin Davies. Actually, in almost exactly the same shape. By that I mean big, stocky, selfless and with a paltry strike rate. It's like for like, just a year closer to the scrapheap.

Given that England face Montenegro at Wembley on Tuesday, many will think they should be able to reunite Peter Beardsley and Gary Lineker up front in their present states and still win at a canter, but the Eastern Europeans are top of the group, and prompted the resignation of Bulgaria coach Stanimir Stoilov after beating them in their own backyard. And I can't help but hope Mirko Vucinic finds the net, given that his celebration in Friday's win over Switzerland saw him remove his shorts and put them on his head. His reward for a moment of imagination? A yellow card.

The Wimbledon Trap

It seems patience is wearing a little thin with Giovanni Trapattoni's tactics in Ireland after their home defeat against Russia. Such was their one-dimensional approach, one couldn't help but wonder if the entire squad had enjoyed an entire loaf of soda bread each washed down with eight pints of Guinness before the match, seeing as they suddenly appeared to morph into a version of Wimbledon circa 1992.

Richard Dunne is clearly not an advocate of the principle that claims you should take a few deep breaths and count to ten before you lambast one of the game's most successful managers after a crushing home defeat. But the way the Dunney Monster was carrying on - "our only gameplan seemed to be hitting it long" - you'd think Joe Kinnear was in charge and it was open season.

It seems the Trap is stuck in the same 4-4-2 cyclone as Fabio Capello and can't seem to find any other combination of numbers that adds up to ten. Things did improve when a slip on his calculator gave Trap the idea of playing 4-5-1 but, by then, Russia were out of sight. An extra striker or two may have helped but Trap said it was too soon to call up Stoke's John Walters because he was "shy". If that's true then might I humbly suggest Senor Walters is in the wrong profession?

Oi, Tevez. Do one

What is it that sticks in the gullet so much when heavily moneyed Premier League footballers have a whinge about being overtired? Carlos Tevez's latest outburst is the most self-indulgent piece of tripe I've heard in a long while, as he threatened to quit after making out that his life rolling in more crisp banknotes than he knows what to do with has left him unfulfilled.

The poor little blighter is tired, football has made him a less tolerant person and he insists he's not enjoying his life as a footballer, claiming that one of these days he may well wake up and declare his career over. I think we can all agree it'd be better for everyone who has to listen to his persistent gripes if his resignation appears on Roberto Mancini's desk tomorrow.

Carlos clearly feels the role of 'gobby spoilt brat' is vacant now Craig Bellamy has returned to the motherland. What about those poor souls in the stands who fork out good money to watch Tevez prance around the field every week, and who probably sit chained to a desk in a job they hate every day just to make ends meet? This man has one of the most privileged lives it is possible to lead, so if he is serious about packing it in, get it over with and save us all some earache you thick-necked clown. Here endeth the sermon.

• Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Sepp Blatter at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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