Blackburn Rovers came into this game needing a win to give them a chance of avoiding relegation, maybe a point would do, but they desperately needed the three points to take them level on points with QPR, and Bolton who will have a game in hand.
These were the tactics which Steve Kean decided would be best suited to achieving this aim.
Steve Kean's Blackburn's Tactics v Spurs
He was obviously luring Blackburn’s two remaining opponents, Wigan and Chelsea, into a false sense of security. Having seen this they’ll think Blackburn are rubbish and slump to defeat – giving Blackburn 6 points and Premier League safety! Genius. The 0 shots on goal they managed in this game will mean Ali Al Habsi and Petr Cech won’t turn up, mentally, for their games against Rovers.
In his post match interview Kean played further games with his final two opponents by making them think that he’s deluded. He comically suggested that Blackburn are still in the fight to avoid relegation.
“We need two massive performances now, we are still in it. We need three points against Wigan and back-to-back clean sheets.
We have had some massive performances home and away this season. We have got to have belief, we have been written off many times but we have always bounced back.
We’ve got Wigan up next – if we beat Wigan we go to Chelsea and we keep going, keep chasing. We’ve had many monumental performances this season, some really good home wins, some back-to-back clean sheets. We’ll probably need that again and I have trust and faith in the lads.”
When explaining the Spurs performance, and the lack of shots on goal he commented:
“I think today, going forward, we never got our passes off. When you don’t circulate the ball well enough and don’t get quality into the front two you’re not going to ask any questions of the defenders. That’s frustrating.”
Fans of Stoke City were outraged yesterday as they realised Aaron Ramsey had successfully recovered from a broken leg inflicted by their captain, Ryan Shawcross, in February 2010.
Fans of the club booed the Arsenal player at every opportunity, but manager Tony Pulis played it down by saying -”I was more concerned about the Arsenal supporters booing Shawcross so I didn’t hear the ones on Ramsey.” Pulis admirably stifled his disappointment at Ramsey’s recovery, but a fan’s spokesman was more forthcoming with the club’s view on the subject.
“We work hard on the training ground, week in, week out, on our dangerous tackling techniques, and to see players such as Ramsey recover from career threatening injuries is a massive disrespect to our football club.”
“It’s such shame for Shawcross, as he has the potential to become one of the best second rows in the country, but if players are going to work hard on recovering from his dangerous tackling then you have to worry for the lad’s future in the game.”
This was the first time that the club and its fans had seen Ramsey since the successful Shawcross tackle, as they hate watching football.
Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse - Two of This Season's Best Signings
Newcastle United’s signing of Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye in the summer of 2011 didn’t prompt too many headlines in the transfer columns of world football. Indeed, the news of Cabaye signing for the club was often a footnote amidst reports of their failure to sign fellow Lille star Gervinho, who opted to join Arsenal instead. Missing out on Gervinho gave them £10m to spend elsewhere, maybe later on in the season, but more on that later. As for Demba Ba, it’s widely known that Stoke turned down the player on medical grounds, leaving the door open for Newcastle to secure the players’ signature on a free transfer after his contract at West Ham ended with their relegation from the Premier League.
As the term Moneyball was beginning to enter the vocabulary of football reporters and fans in England, Newcastle were already one step ahead of the game. Ba seems to be the typical Moneyball signing – a player who’d racked up a great goals to games ratio at his previous clubs, seemingly unwanted by other managers/scouts, and available for little money – or maybe this was just a common sense piece of scouting and football business. Maybe it was a bit of a gamble which other clubs weren’t willing to take, as managers obsess themselves with looking for players who are “proven” in the Premier League.
Yohan Cabaye was the captain of Lille’s French Championship winning side. Anyone who’d watched him play for Lille knew his qualities, both technical and mental, but the Newcastle scouts were the only ones who seemed to convince their manager he was right for their team. As other clubs spent more money on apparently proven Premier League talent, Newcastle went for the common sense route of just signing a good footballer with little competition from other clubs.
As the African Nations Cup arrived in January, Newcastle lost two of their star players in Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba, which left many wondering how they would manage without these players who had been such an integral part of their good form. Apart from a cup exit and a poor result away at Fulham, Newcastle managed to get through this period without too many problems, with players such as Gabriel Obertan, Cabaye, Leon Best, Danny Guthrie, and the ever improving Hatem Ben Arfa weighing in with goals. Then, using the £10m we mentioned earlier, they got Demba Ba to bring one of his Senegalese mates with him back to the North East – Newcastle’s new number 9 – Papiss Cisse.
Cisse made an immediate impact with a goal on his debut, and has since gone on to score 11 goals in 10 games so far in his Newcastle career. This probably didn’t surprise many who had seen him play at his previous club Freiburg, where he managed just over one goal every two games in the Bundesliga – 37 goals in 65 league games to be exact. But obviously his lack of Premiership experience must have put other teams off from buying him.
Newcastle’s policy of taking supposed gambles on players from other leagues has definitely paid off. Even if they fail to achieve Champions League football this season, many players from the continent may now consider signing for Newcastle United as a step up in their career. This should help Newcastle continue to sign players using their criteria of “good footballer”, rather than some contrived view of “proven” Premier League ability.
Ironically the team who have been most linked with the Moneyball idea in soccer – Liverpool – are the ones who gave Newcastle the funds to carry out their own similar and possibly more authentic Moneyball project. You only have to take a look at the respective squads, the prices paid for players, and the resultant performance of these players to see whose method has been the most fruitful. It will be interesting to see what next season brings for both teams, especially if Newcastle qualify for the Champions League, as they will have a new found wealth and reputation to attract an even higher standard of player. A couple of clichés spring to mind when considering how they might go about their business if this were to happen –if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it; and – more money, more problems.