Monday, December 27, 2010


Sorry mate...


S: Hating this!
P: Loving it. Sorry. Hating not being able to watch it properly though.
S: FUCK OFF. Not that prick. Anyone but him!
P: Why?
S: Huh? It's 3-0 now. And Theo scored.
P: What? My feed just fucked up! Holy shit
S: Ha, your feed is fucked. It's like a season behind.


P: Okay I'm back. Theo score another yet? No but you did, I see. So it's not over yet.
S: Er, it's over.
P: Your season you mean?
S: No, just the game mate. Bet we still win more than you!
P: Ha
S: I'm not joking; I bet we do. We're guaranteed to win the Bird Shooter Cup anyway.
P: Well I may not win the Bird Shooter, but I'll take the consolaton of placing above you!
S: In what? The Champions League? No. The league? No.
P: The Carling Cup.
S: Hahaha, was just typing that!


S: No! Drogba's taking corners now. First penalties, now corners.
P: Not a good sign...
S: Get in the middle you mug.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


{A Blue Christmas. Seeing as how I'll be away from now until then I thought I'd put this up before I leave. A few of the things featured I was lucky enough to receive myself this year. Thanks to both the generosity of my wife, and to my wallet and the friends that I have, with friends in high places.

Red is dead.}

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Fear

"And then at last it happened: someone scored against Barcelona. There had been 31 goals since Villarreal striker Nilmar's clever strike when the league's third sexiest player out-sprinted Carles Puyol on Saturday night – and all 31 had been scored by the same team. Almería defender Santi Acasiete was the only non-Barça player to be have found the net in seven and a half matches when the man Don Balón's panel of 'experts' (or 'women', as they're also known) judged only marginally less attractive than Aitor Ocio and Fernando Llorente hit a clean, low shot past Víctor Valdés - and Acasiete had found the wrong one. The aggregate score in Barcelona v Their Combined Opponents was 31-0 when, in the 62nd minute of the eighth match, Daniel Pablo Osvaldo did what Almería, Panathinaikos, Real Madrid, Osasuna, Rubin Kazan and Real Sociedad couldn't do.

The banners were out – "Catalunya, more than one club"; "Barça by decree, Espanyol for feeling", "Welcome to Blue and White Hell", "This town aint big enough for the both of us" – and so was the deafening noise, the war cries. (So, sadly, were the monkey chants from some fans who oo-oohed Dani Alves all game, including when he confronted Carlos Kameni.) In midweek, Espanyol had released a video set to bellicose classical music which declared: "You're not opponents, you're the enemy." And Osvaldo, the team's top scorer, was promising to "paint Barcelona's faces". Now, amidst the din, amidst the intensity, pace and aggression, amidst the football and the 'other football', with Espanyol employing a high-line and enormous pressure, he had. It had taken 677 minutes but perhaps Barcelona were beatable after all.

Perhaps not. There was one flaw. Osvaldo had scored but the score was 31-1. More to the point, it was 3-1. Barcelona had scored three times already, through Xavi and Pedro. And while Espanyol rallied, while they had beaten Barça's defence – and the ease with which Osvaldo out-sprinted Puyol and the risk inherent in such a high back four may yet cause concern – it was soon 4-1. And then five.


This was the fifth time Barcelona have scored five. They have now got 51 after just 16 weeks. They have won 10 on the trot and racked up an eighth win out of eight away. They have dropped points just twice – against Mallorca and Hercules - to boast the best record in history at this stage. They finish 2010 with a record 103 points in the calendar year, the best league side in the world. With a Copa del Rey to come, Leo Messi has scored 58 goals in 53 games – the highest total ever. He has 17 in 13 league games and though he did not score on Saturday, his performance was once again strikingly complete and he now has 11 assists too.

All of which makes it sound like Espanyol were rubbish. But they weren't. All of which makes it sound like Barcelona did what they always do. But they didn't. Not quite.

Make no mistake, Barcelona were brilliant. But this was another kind of brilliant; the kind of brilliant that amidst the precision passing and movement often goes unnoticed – the kind that, as has been argued here before, destroys the clichés, the facile assumptions. Because on Saturday night, Espanyol did fight. More than anyone this season except Copenhagen (and, yes, that does include Hércules). Few, if any, sides have pushed so high against Barcelona, nor chased them down so quickly. Espanyol did battle, they did pressure, and they did take the game to Barcelona; they did, on occasions, succeed in taking the ball off them; they did rattle them, they did dive and whinge and protest. They did create chances.

Trouble is, so did Barcelona. Barça have conceded just nine goals this season. Not only had they gone seven and a half games without conceding any goals, they had barely conceded any chances. In the last six games, they had allowed just nine chances. In part, that is because of their ability to keep the ball: against Real Sociedad, Barcelona completed more passes than any team since Opta stats began, they occupy the top 36 slots for match passes since 2006, and the top four average passers in La Liga this season are all Barcelona players: they have nine in the top 14. Tiki-Taka is a defensive tactic as much as an offensive one, founded on the principle that if you keep possession the other team can't score.

But it is not just that Barcelona keep possession, it is that they win it. Conscious of their weakness without the ball, Guardiola has perhaps one obsession above all others: get it back. As one commentator put it this weekend: "Barcelona don't just play, they earn the right to play." At the start of the season, Valdés insisted that his side were getting even better. Not because of the skill but because, he said: "We have improved hugely in robbing the ball, in how little time it takes to get it back." That means intensity and aggression, chasing players down, pushing high – even if that is occasionally risky. It is no coincidence that those who commit the most fouls in the side are invariably the forwards. If Espanyol wanted a fight, Barcelona gave them one. If Espanyol's pressure was asphyxiating, Barcelona were the Boston Strangler.

As much as anything else, that was why they missed Eto'o and why Zlatan Ibrahimovic – although he was really pretty good and scored possibly the most important league goal of the season – did not fit. He offered a Plan B, sure. But he weakened the Plan A. Now, with David Villa, who has nine in seven league games, Barcelona have a bit of that back.

With Villa and increasingly with the man who, splashed across the cover of El Mundo Deportivo, embodied Barcelona's personality this weekend: Pedro Rodriguez. The man Barcelona's technical staff wanted to ditch before Guardiola intervened, who two and a half years ago was playing in the Third Division and is now a World Cup winner, who ended 2009 by scoring in all six competitions and, so often overlooked, has ended 2010 undisputed at last. Fast, genuinely two footed and a great finisher, dangerous racing through or coming in on a diagonal or horizontal run, Pedro has become a kind of better version of Ludovic Giuly. Barcelona have started five games with a Messi-Pedro-Villa forward line; in four, they produced manitas. Pedro has now scored six in seven games, including goals against Madrid and Espanyol, as Barcelona beat their two biggest rivals by an aggregate score of 10-1.

Those goals were key; the way they arrived was the secret. With speed, attitude and intensity; with edge, bravery and alertness. Beyond the precision passing, Barça's physical condition is impressive, the way they fight, the sheer speed with which they screech around the pitch, closing down space. The solidarity, the character, the competiveness. It was no empty rhetoric: Espanyol really should have been Barcelona's hardest game. And in some ways way it was. But still it finished with five goals. Barcelona always seem to have the ball. On Saturday night they showed they have balls too."

{From DAILY READING once more. Not to scare fellow Arsenal fans or anything, but: we're totally fucked}

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stayed North Too Long

{So I suppose this has been out a little while now, and I think down there somewhere I promised to talk a little about the latest issue of Inventory Magazine in a bit more detail. Anyway, seeing as how a lot of places have just received their copies from the re-printed edition (the first sold out within a week or two), I thought now might be a good time to share some images from the shoot my good friend NICHOLAS shot, and my wonderful wife NATASHA styled. Myself and MR ROE had a hand in the art direction and a troubled but wonderful friend JAMES was the model for the day. I think everyone was really excited about the results and honored by its inclusion in the magazine.

Aside from the shoot you can see a piece of short fiction from me with an accompanying image shot by another great friend DAVE POTES, along with a couple of reviews here and there too.

Issue 4 is well on its way already, and it's with both excitement and anxiousness I'm able to say I'll have a few more things in that issue too (one if which got it's fan-boy nerd alert start today).

Busy, wonderful, times}

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dear Nature Escapes

{I have mine, and I have a signed copy, but I'll probaby still try to go. You should too}

Monday, December 6, 2010


"Nicolas Anelka hares into the penalty area, and the Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard comes out to close him down. They have a momentary standoff, when only a few yards apart, before Anelka pushes the ball to one side of the American. And then – absurdly – he doesn't run in that direction, towards the ball, at all. Instead he charges straight at Howard, who is nowhere near the ball and never has been, clatters into him, and wins a penalty.

Clearly if Anelka had run towards the ball and Howard had blocked his path, it would have been a clear foul. But that was not what happened. Indeed, the only way that Howard could have avoided making contact with Anelka when the fleet-footed Frenchman sprinted right into him would have been by spontaneously ceasing to exist, or potentially by transforming into a mole and digging quickly. Clearly this is what the referee, Lee Probert, was looking for in this instance.

It is a frequent annoyance that a player running with the ball need only knock it past his opponent and then run into him to win a free-kick. Players shouldn't deliberately obstruct an opponent, but nor can they be expected to evaporate at their rival's convenience. It is what could be called football's Platform Nine and Three-Quarters Law. For anyone mercifully unfamiliar with the Harry Potter novels, our wizardly hero discovers there is a wall in London's Kings Cross station which, if you run at it fast and with absolute conviction, turns out not to exist and you speed straight through it with a pleasant whooshing sound. Footballers, however, continue to exist no matter what speed you're going when you run into them, and shouldn't necessarily be punished for it.

Another thing that infuriates me, now I'm on a roll, is the law that states any offence committed on a player who has just missed a goalscoring opportunity is not actually a foul. So if a keeper rushes out of his goal to put a striker off and, before the ball arrives, clatters right into him, it's a penalty. If the clattering occurs just after the ball has flown over the striker's head, perhaps while a full-back is clearing it merrily upfield, it is ignored. The Chelsea match provided a perfect example of this when a second-half low cross skidded across the six-yard box and just out of Ashley Cole's reach at the far post. A fraction of a second later, with the ball still in play, Seamus Coleman arrived from behind and totally took Cole out. Absolute, cast-iron, nailed-on penalty any day of the week.

And thus, with two penalty decisions in the space of a single game, was the swings-and-roundabouts argument of football fortunes proven once again "

{For TGF, From DAILY READING. Again}