Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Fiver on Bridge, Terry and more

Bridge’s Withdrawal

The consequences of Wayne Bridge’s decision to stay away from international football have been overstated in some quarters. True, if Ashley Cole fails to recover from his injury in time for the World Cup finals, England will be without one of the world’s finest left full backs, but Bridge, even if all was merry between him and Terry, does not represent the ideal replacement. Whilst Bridge is a competent defender, he is ill-equipped to offer consistent attacking width, which England requires of their left back more than most other teams, considering that Steven Gerrard with his natural inclination to drift towards the centre is likely to be deployed on the left of the midfield quartet. Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock, who are in England’s squad for their friendly against Egypt are both better suited than Bridge to don Cole's role, but their inexperience at the highest level makes me wonder about Phil Neville. Although, Neville has rarely played at left back for Everton, he is no stranger to the position and I would have thought his professionalism and versatility would at the very least have found him a place in the squad.

Terry’s Form

The more direct repercussion of the scandal leading up to Bridge’s withdrawal is John Terry’s abysmal form. Although, the immediate aftermath of the issue’s exposure saw Terry put in a relatively unruffled performance against Burnley, his errors have led to goals in losing causes for Chelsea against Everton, Inter Milan and embarrassingly on Saturday against Manchester City. If Terry’s form continues to spiral downwards, Capello would be forced to look for alternatives, which with Ferdinand’s incessant injury troubles does not bode well for England.

Shawcross’s Tackle

I have watched the video of Ryan Shawcross’s tackle on Aaron Ramsey several times and I am far from convinced of its maliciousness. No doubt, it was a bad tackle and Shawcross thoroughly deserved the red card that he was duly brandished by the referee, but to say that he intended to hurt Ramsey would be excessive, especially on available evidence. Arsenal, of course, will feel hard done by. Ramsey is a superb young talent and it is a terrible shame that he won’t play a part in the title run-in, but Shawcross doesn’t deserve to be maligned purely on the basis of the severity of the injury suffered by Ramsey.

Arsenal’s Recovery

Arsenal, though should take heart from the nature of their comeback after the incident surrounding Ramsey’s injury. The episode itself may have been reminiscent of Martin Taylor’s horrific tackle on Eduardo, two seasons back, but the manner of Arsenal’s recovery against Stoke on Saturday was starkly different from their abject capitulation to Birmingham City. Although the incident was initially met with circumspection, led by an inspired Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal recovered gustily to secure a crucial victory at the Britannia Stadium. Possessing, perhaps the easiest of run-ins amongst the title challengers, with their success against Stoke, Arsenal have ensured that they are in with a great chance of lifting their first piece of silverware since they won the FA Cup in 2005.

Modrić’s goal

Finally, a word on Luka Modrić of whom, I am an unabashed fan. Against Everton, this pass weekend, Modrić apart from putting in a singularly brilliant display capped off a terrific move involving fellow Croats, Niko Kranjčar and Vedran Ćorluka with a chip which was as precise in its execution as it was pristine in its beauty. Breaking free of the shackles of a conventional left sided midfielder, Modrić reemphasised his unique ability to change the rhythm of a game like the great playmakers of years gone by without losing any of the vitality that is essential for survival in modern day football. If Modrić stays free both of injuries and the mysterious virus that has engulfed White Hart Lane, he could play a crucially important role in determining the fascinating race for the final Champions League spot.

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