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Friday, November 24, 2006

Cripes, they did it again

Well, now, this is really too much. A come-from-behind victory against the 10th-best team in Spain? Okay, they're below Recreativo Huelva, but still....

The European magic continues. And let's hope that if nothing else, it gives the team a bit more confidence about playing in the Premiership. It won't be easy, of course, with continued injuries and Duff having gone under the knife, but perhaps Pompey is the sort of target that's realistic for building on our 1-1 victory at the Emirates.


Chelsea to leave Stamford Bridge? Yes, and presumably Fulham to move in afterwards, right? Mr. A might have more money than Croesus or Creon, but he still likes to see a little return on investment, it seems.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sow and ye shall reap!

Well, TDH has a confession to make, for starters. Another dinner at a Hong Kong private kitchen prevented seeing most of the match. TDH managed to catch a glimpse of a faraway television screen showing 1-1 after 83 minutes and change, and then it was just silent prayer until arriving home to read the final score.

But nevertheless, TDH has the gall to claim some vindication. Dyer as a quasi-striker, allowing Duff to roam a bit more, and Solano starting for Milner paid dividends, practically suggesting that Roeder is either 1) extremely perceptive or 2) a loyal reader of TDH. (Which are really the same thing, right?) Of course, it didn't hurt that Given and Martins were back. Could it be that we're starting to look like a real team again? A team that must be spoken of in serious tones, even?

We can hope....

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A journey of a thousand miles...

...begins with a single point at City. And it certainly could have been worse, were it not for the almost universally stellar effort of one Mr. Harper - wonderful saves, yes, so wonderful that TDH will momentarily forget about him almost falling backwards into the post as the ball sailed over his head.

TDH saw two very different strategies on show. Psycho opted to throw everything at the Toon from the off, with constant pressure throughout the first half. Roeder decided to try and weather the storm, evidently hoping to tire City out, before putting on his speediest weapons. (This is known in TDH circles as the Rumble in the Jungle gambit.) It's something he's been doing all season - unfortunately, it often results in going behind, or leaving it too late.

Leaving it too late is what apparently happened this time, too. Our best five minutes were the last five minutes, where we had three good chances to score. Solano handled the ball the way Emre, inexplicably, couldn't. Dyer and Zog tore through the City defense, though Zog wasn't quite at his best. And Sibierski's backheel would have gone in on most days. Quite how some of the other chances were missed is a question for, well, Claudio Reyna. TDH was somewhat relieved that he won't be Captain America in 2010.

Looking back, TDH has to ask why Roeder insisted on his tire-then-fire strategy. Allow TDH to propose a different front six: Sibierski and Dyer up front, with Dyer off to the right a bit; then Duff, Solano, Emre and Parker a bit behind. Milner's a talent, to be sure, but he doesn't create chances the way Nobby does. Let Nobby play for an hour, then put on the reinforcements, right?

Chances were definitely a problem. By TDH's calculations, our Magpies went about 85 minutes without a shot on goal. Horrific. Amoeba earned his nickname, appearing to run in slow motion, though, it must be said, he didn't get the greatest of service. TDH can only be grateful that we didn't suffer too badly under the notoriously costly Poll Tax - just a bad call on Parker, early in the match, for what was one of the best sliding tackles TDH had ever seen. And Psycho and Roeder set a good example for Messrs Pardew and Wenger, as some mid-match handbags gave way to chummy hugs at the final whistle.

Ah well, draw away and win at home. If we can do that, we're as golden as the numbers on our shirts.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

He's got it all to do now...

And TDH is talking, of course, about Glenn Roeder. A thoroughly embarrassing eight points from 11 games - where does that leave us? TDH can tell you.

According to TDH's calculations from last season, you need an average of 43 points to stay up in the Premiership. This squad has 27 matches left to garner 35 more points, or an average of 1.3 points per game. If you're on that pace for the whole season, you score 49 points. So this is not mission impossible - not yet, anyway.

One has to ask, though, where are the changes going to come from? We must now accept it as a given that, at any given moment, 50 percent of the top players will be out injured. Again, this Mystery of Tyneside has yet to be solved, despite TDH clamoring for an AC Milan-style computerized health regimen. So the powers that be must buy at least two more strikers and two more decent defenders in January. (Yeah, right.)

And wait - make that three strikers, since Rossi's loan deal might not be renewed. If I were Sir, I would get Giuseppe out of the Northeast while his knees are still intact.

As for last night, the only consolation was Woody continuing his splendid own-goal form at Watford. Good on you, Woody!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Holy crap!

That was all TDH could say upon awakening this afternoon to find the scoreline from last night's UEFA Cup tie. Nearing the computer, TDH's mind was full of dire prognostications, mostly based on the fear of what a high-flying Serie A side might do to a team with an average age of 12. But this - this was unexpected...

...and yet, should it have been? Doesn't this just prove TDH's hypothesis that the Toon are the ultimate Janus Team? Well, make Luque the Janus striker, then, too.

There are some things that we can enjoy in Europe and England, though, like having two of the best 20-year-old wingers in the world on the same squad. And to be frank, looking at the squad from last night, it doesn't actually seem that bad. If you had told TDH before the match that we'd go with a 4-5-1 of Ramage-Bramble-Moore-Taylor, Zog-Nobby-Butt-Emre-Milner, Luque, TDH probably would have said, "Well, we might just get a 0-0, perhaps 1-0 if we're insanely lucky and we steal one on the counter."

There was definitely plenty of strength in midfield to screw up the Palermo attack, and we arguably had three of our five best defenders on the pitch. Plus, TDH may be vindicated in calling for Krul to come in replacing Harper, even if the older man is getting over his case of the willies.

Well, Roeder's job is most certainly safe, barring a disaster with the Sheffies. Of course, after last night we'd have no right to be surprised if that happened, would we?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

TDH Live in Hong Kong!

For the first time in many, many months The American Geordie and The Maradona of Malawi were united to watch some football, in this case the highlights of the Barca v Chelsea match. The American Geordie had earlier joined UEFA's new video service, which provides live feeds to developing countries and tape-delayed matches to the rest. At $1.95 for what could have been the match of the season, it seemed damned cheap.

Apparently, English journos are already complaining about what a niggly match it was. But, after a feast of Sri Lankan food and Australian wine, TDH collectively saw plenty of good football, including four spectacular goals. Chelsea could easily have won 4-2, even playing mostly on the counterattack, and one has to question Barca's fitness for the home stretch in the competition. In any event, it was, even with the cascade of yellow cards, a corker.

There were a few agreed conclusions between the Geordie, Mara and a friend who, bizarrely, was a mad Manure supporter:

1. Essien and Drogba are on another level.

2. Messi is, if anything, getting better.

3. Robben is losing his hair because of the number of times he misses horribly and slaps his hands to his head in distress.

4. Goal or no goal, Chelsea should start Ballack in Lampard's position.

5. Unrelated to the match: Euro 2000 was the last great international tournament.

Any questions? TDH is ready and waiting.