I couldn't help thinking of Gary Player this weekend and his quote "the more I practice the luckier I get," after watching four of the weekend's football matches. Four managers (in chronological order): Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola, Sam Allardyce and Sir Alex Ferguson showed, in the case of three of them at any rate, that with age comes wisdom, with Pep it must just be natural talent.
In the Liverpool v Arsenal match the score was 1-1 and Liverpool had had enough chances to have scored half a dozen goals, a combination of the woodwork, profligate finishing and some excellent goalkeeping stopped the home team running up a cricket score. Then Diaby (a replacement for the injured Arteta) got himself injured or least he managed to stop running much beyond the centre circle and Liverpool suddenly found themselves with five attacking midfield players against Alex Song and the Arsenal back four. Wenger replaces Diaby with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain which means that Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam stop going forward, the ball breaks to Alex Song who crosses to RVP and it's game over.
In the Barcelona v Sporting Gijon match the score is 1-1, the home side are without the suspended Messi and Gerard Pique has already been sent off. Barcelona take the lead with a quarter of an hour to go through Seydou Keita with one of the goals of the season. Pep gestures to Keita to run towards the home fans and calls over Puyol and Xavi Hernandez for a tactical talk which results in Barcelona playing out the match with five across midfield and no out and out striker. Five minutes from time Iniesta wins the ball in midfield runs into the gap that has been left by the Gijon back four moving up chips the ball to Xavi and it's suddenly 3-1 and game over.
Whilst Cardiff were playing for three hours against Liverpool at Wembley last Sunday West Ham were in Dubai for a five day break in the sun. Knowing that Cardiff would be tired Sam Allardyce abandons his preferred 4-3-3 for 4-5-1, bringing Henri Lansbury, Ricardo Vaz Te and Jack Collison into midfield alongside Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan, leaving just Nicky Maynard, who is possibly the quickest forward outside of the Premiership, on his own up front. Rather than act as a five man defensive midfield and simply breaking up the game it acts as the basis for a series of counter attacks, it also gives George McCartney the chance to score his second goal in five years as he slaloms his way down the Cardiff right before scoring with his right foot, which previously I'd assumed he only used for balance.
Spuds v Man Utd and the Champions are hanging on for life completely outplayed by the home team. When the boy Rooney rises to score just before half time, not so much against the run of play but against all concepts of natural justice, you just know it's going to be that sort of day. Come the second half and Man utd make a subtle change with Tottenham don't seem to spot or at least if they do then for the second week running England's next manager's idea of tactics are cruelly exposed. Wayne Rooney drops off the front three and plays between the two holding Spuds midfield players - it's the classic Totti/Messi role and instead of Sandro or Livermore dropping back it lures Kaboul and King forward leaving space behind them to be exploited.
It was fascinating to watch the four games pan out, not least because Kenny Dalglish, Javier Clemente and Harry Redknapp are hardly novices but all three were out thought, in the case of Malky McKay he simply came up against a stronger team even though we had five of the first choice first team out through injury.