Category Archives: wtf

Blaming Rafa for LFC’s troubles is like prosecuting Clinton for the Iraq war

Not as coherent or analytical as I would have liked, but it’s nearly 4:00 a.m. on what has been a long night and I need to get this off my chest, so here it goes…


6 points from 7 games is the worst start to a league season for Liverpool since 1953-54. While the ownership situation is largely responsible for the downward spiral that the club finds itself in, that alone cannot explain the recent run of results. After the latest humiliation of a home defeat to Blackpool, Roy Hodgson has come under a lot of criticism from a large number of the (usually patient) Liverpool fans. Is the criticism justified?

Some fans don’t think it is. As far as they are concerned, there’s only one man to be blamed for the mess – Rafa Benitez. These views are supported (or rather fueled) by large pockets of the English media, led by Sky Sports. Without getting into the details of their anti-Rafa, pro-Englishman, Xenophobic propaganda, this post will attempt to look at what blame, if any, indeed lies at the steps of the Spaniard.

Whose team is it?
With everybody fit, and let’s not get into how often that happened last season, this was pretty much Rafa’s first choice XI last season:

	            
               Reina
Johnson Carragher Agger Insua
        Lucas Mascherano
    Kuyt     Gerrard	Benayoun
             Torres

Note: Agger was injured at the start of the season, then Agger and Skrtel took turns getting injured, and then Agger had a brief stint at LB because Insua was injured & Aurelio was never around. But everyone would agree that was Rafa’s “go-to” team.

Based on the evidence so far, this is the XI Roy Hodgson prefers:

              Reina
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Konchesky
        Gerrard Poulsen
      Kuyt    Meriles  Cole
             Torres

I can count four players that Roy has signed in there. Can any new manager, coming in at any club, anywhere in the world (other than Manchester City) expect to make more than 4 changes to the first XI in his first transfer window? I don’t think so. The team he prefers to use has four of his players, four players whose pedigree no one can question (Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Torres) and another two who may not be everyone’s favourites, but are regular internationals for top European nations (Johnson and Kuyt). That brings us to the 11th player. Roy clearly prefers Skrtel over Agger, with the latter’s tendency to play the ball out of defense in contrast to Roy’s desire to see the team never lose its shape. Again, a decision made by Roy.

To summarize, that’s four of his signings in the first XI, and a fifth he’s promoted from 3rd choice (behind a fit Agger) to the firm incumbent in the second center-back spot. Again, how many more changes can a manager expect to make to the first XI in one transfer window at a club with limited funds?

Let’s take a look at it another way. Four of Roy’s players are already here. Another four that he definitely wouldn’t want to change (JR, JC, SG, FT). That leaves us with the other three. Does anyone really think Roy could buy a trio better than Kuyt, Johnson and Skrtel given the purchases he’s made in the current financial climate at the club? He’s shipped out 4 of last season’s XI in Insua, Benayoun (probably not his fault), Lucas (dropped to the bench) and Mascherano (wanted to go) and brought in Konchesky, Cole (talks were already underway with him when Roy signed?), Poulsen and Meriles. Which of those 4 names suggest that if Roy could have imposed more of his authority on the first XI suggests that he would have done a better job (especially in the current financial conditions).

Sure, the new guys need time to settle in. Then how about not throwing all four of them in at the same time. Why not let Lucas or even Babel start some league games over Poulsen or Cole, both of whom have been pretty ineffective, to put it kindly. Blending in two new players would surely be easier than blending in four? But by starting those four, you are putting YOUR stamp on the team Roy, so please, there’s no blaming anyone else.

What about the strange decisions of letting Insua and Aquillani go out on loans when everyone’s moaning about the size of the squad? It may have been down to cutting the wage bill (though I doubt Insua was making a killing), but, the way I see it, we exchanged Aquillani for Poulsen and threw in an extra 5.5 million pounds to sweeten the deal! Surely, you can’t blame Rafa for that?

I am not even going to talk about tactical decisions like playing Gerrard deeper, playing Cole on the left, using Babel as a striker because he “likes it there”, or preferring Skrtel to Agger for that matter. That’s because there are smarter people out there dissecting that already and, secondly, unlike the cold hard fact numbers of how much of the starting XI is Roy’s, tactics are subjective. What’s brilliant for one, doesn’t work for the other.

Results

This Season

(LFC score first)

Arsenal (H) 1-1
Man City (A) 0-3
West Brom (H) 1-0
Birmingham (A) 0-0
Man United (A) 2-3
Sunderland (H) 2-2
Blackpool (H) 1-2

Overall record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
7 1 3 3  6   7  11 -4

Home record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
4 1 2 1  5   5  5  0

Away record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
3 0 1 2  1   2  6  -4

Last season – Equivalent fixtures

(LFC score fist)

Arsenal (H) 1-2
Man City (A) 0-0
Hull (H) 6-1*
Birmingham (A) 1-1
Man United (A) 1-2
Sunderland (H) 3-0
Portsmouth (H) 4-1**

* West Brom qualified as 2nd ranked team from Championship and thus took place of Hull who finished 19th.
** Blackpool qualified via playoffs from Championship and thus took place of Portsmouth who finished 20th.

Overall record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
7 3 2 2 11   16 7  +9

Home record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
4 3 0 1  9   14 4  +10

Away record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
3 0 2 1  2   2  3  -1

While critics may point at the deficiencies of such comparisons, and with good measure too, they definitely make for compelling reading. It’s true that Liverpool didn’t play these teams, in this order at the start of last season, and one bad result can snowball into a bad start if you have a difficult fixture list. But it’s also true that this is the closest we can come to making direct comparisons across seasons.

If you look at the equivalent fixtures comparison, the away record is almost exactly the same – draw at Birmingham and a narrow defeat at Manchester United. The biggest difference of course is the result at City where a goalless draw last season became a 3-0 drubbing this time. Money talks? Maybe, but that doesn’t explain the home record.

The narrow defeat to Arsenal from last year was improved to a draw. We played them off the park in the 1st half last season (which, amazingly, even Wenger managed to see and admit) but didn’t put the ball in the back of the net, and paid the price. On other hand, some may put this year’s draw as a harsh result after the Reds had almost held out till the last minute with 10 men, so you don’t always get what you deserve. It’s the other 3 games that really bring out the difference. Comfortable home wins were replaced by a narrow win, a draw and a defeat. While it’s true Portsmouth had nothing to play for when they came to Anfield last season (especially when compared to what we saw from Blackpool today), the same can’t be said about Sunderland or Hull, whose seasons where alive and kicking when they were dispatched comfortably last season.

Last season – First 7 fixtures

(LFC score fist)

Tottenham (A) 1-2
Stoke City (H) 4-0
Aston Villa (H) 1-3
Bolton (A) 3-2
Burnley (H) 4-0
West Ham (A) 3-2
Hull (H) 6-1

Overall record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
7 5 0 2  15  22 10 +12

Home record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
4 3 0 1  9   15 4  +11

Away record

P W D L Pts. GF GA GD
3 2 0 1  6   7  6  +1

This comparison has been included just for reference. Even though it included away trips to Spurs, Bolton and West Ham, the Reds had a relatively easier fixture list in the first seven games of last season. What they did well last season, at this stage atleast, was winning the “home bankers” – Villa withstanding (if that can be called a banker i.e.).

Results – Conclusion
Not much to say. Nearly twice as many points, more than twice the number of goals scored, fewer goals conceded – clearly the Reds did much better in equivalent fixtures last season. The time based comparison is even more lopsided.

Summary
So what does this tell us? The simplistic can draw the conclusion that the new manager has come in, made some changes to the team and that hasn’t worked. So who must take the blame? Around 40% of the team’s starting XI is the incumbent’s, so he cannot claim for it to be entirely the previous manager’s fault. Besides, as shown above, the previous manager clearly did a better job in the same fixtures and the club was in a much healthier position in the league same time last year. Perhaps the problem lies in the missing 40% from previous season starting XI that have either moved on or been relegated to the bench? If that’s the case, atleast part of that blame is again attached to the incumbent since it’s his transfer policy/ tactics, albeit under the shadow of the financial cloud (which existed during the previous manager’s reign as well, lest Sky forget).

Eating jalebis, one bad driver at a time

While driving back home last evening I found myself constantly criticizing the driving sense (or lack thereof) of my fellow drivers. I blamed the drivers, the “mixed“ traffic pattern, and the authorities for issuing driving license to one and all, for the mess that is our roads. With these thoughts in mind, I was almost home, when I took a left turn and found myself “face to face“ with a sedan.

Now this guy was clearly in the wrong, but he didn’t even think twice before gesturing me to back up and let him go. I was in no mood to budge, not to mention I was right, and refused (at which point I may have used a certain finger to tell him to back up himself). After 5 minutes (kid you not!) of both of us sitting in our respective cars (did I mention I ate jalebis to show him I was in no hurry and would see this through?), he decides to get off and talk. He says that he uses this (wrong) route everyday while coming back from his office, so why don’t I just back off and let him go. I told him that I don’t care, you are in the wrong lane, and if anyone should be backing up, it’s you. Unimpressed, he goes back to his car.

We sit in our cars for another 5, maybe 10, minutes before he decides to back up and let me go & told you I wouldn’t budge. During that time, I had cycle-wallahs telling me “peeche kar lo na sir, kya jaayega“, another car lining behind the other car (again on the wrong side, needless to say), trying to honk his way out of trouble, realizing I won’t move, backing up, and taking another (wrong) route to escape our tamasha. I also tried calling cops, since I couldn’t find any around & I am still waiting for the response to my 100 call, Delhi Police!

In case you are wondering how our “shenanigans“ didn’t create a traffic snarl, it’s because instead of taking the designated left turn, people kept going straight and taking the 90-degree left as it’s the “done thing“ at that turn, perhaps the reason why our friend has made this his “regular route“.

Why did I do it? Let’s just say I had enough of people breaking traffic rules without giving it any thought. I wanted to teach him a lesson, though I am under no illusions that the lesson would last a lifetime, if he’s “learnt“ anything at all & he probably thinks I was someone with too much free time on my hand, and that he was a “bigger person“ for backing off. Would I do it again? Absolutely & unless I was in UP of course, where I would happily back off rather than risk getting shot!

Bad Bad Twitter

Since a few asked – I am moving from @duak to @kunaldua since Twitter refuses to index the former. What difference does it make? A lot!

  • I don’t appear in People Search. By itself, probably not a big deal and something I could have lived with. But not when you include the next 3.
  • If I “mention” anyone (@twitter_id) in one of my tweets, they’ll never see that tweet in their list of mentions unless they follow me.
  • Even if you are following me, unless I start my tweet with @yourtwitterid, you won’t see that tweet in your list of mentions.
  • My tweets don’t appear in any search results, so if I participate in any conferences/ events and use hash-tags and the likes, no one sees it!

So that’s it – there’s the reason for the switch. Probably Twitter thinks I am a spammer so they decided to block me and unfortunately there’s no way for me to get this addressed in any other way. See you @kunaldua.

There’s bad luck, there’s rotten luck and then there’s Rafa’s luck

I know every club goes through a spell of bad luck, bad decisions and injuries but I don’t remember seeing anything like this in the decade that I have followed football at *any* club. Exhibit A:

Liverpool XI Missing in Action from Fulham Away
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

That’s 7 regular first team starters injured and 3, if not 4, regular subs out injured as well.

Add into the mix a defender returning from what seemed a serious injury (a defender that Rafa never really wanted in the first place but let’s not go there). A midfielder who caught flu after perhaps his best game in the red shirt against the biggest rivals and when he was finally starting to win the fans over. A striker who’s hardly trained all week. All 3 who probably wouldn’t have started if there were any realistic alternatives.

Now add a Ref who sees (and shows) red for seemingly no reason whatsoever and you have the perfect recipe for the most sickening final one-third of a game I’ve seen in a long, long time.

You don’t have to be a football pundit to see that these are extraordinary circumstances and to blame Rafa for this is so ridiculous, it isn’t even funny. Or maybe you have to be a Wheelan of a pundit to be so oblivious to the facts and spout whatever shit comes to your mind. If only they stopped to think before opening their mouth. Think? That would imply they had a brain, wouldn’t it. Well, like I said – let’s not go there.

Potato Potaato?

No donor to the (Bill) Clinton foundation has raised more persistent questions than Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining executive. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Giustra shared a midnight banquet in September 2005 with Kazakhstan’s authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton praised Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international election-monitoring organization, undercutting American foreign policy and his wife’s sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s human rights record.

Two days after the trip, Mr. Giustra’s company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan. Spokesmen for both men said there was no connection between the trip and the deal. Months later, a foundation controlled by Mr. Giustra gave $31.3 million to the Clinton foundation, its largest known donation.

Source: NYT.

Politicians in the west play by the same set of rules as Indian schools then – a world where bribes go by the name of “donations”.

I dig the hole – and then I bitch!

For close to an year now, whenever I have tried to upload a file to any site using Safari – say attaching a file to a mail via webmail – I get this error:


“POSIX error: Invalid argument” (NSPOSIXErrorDomain:22) Please choose Report Bug to Apple from the Safari menu, note the error number, and describe what you did before you saw this message."

I have invariably moaned “Darn Safari” and switched to Firefox or Camino to upload the file and come back to Safari to continue browsing, without bothering to do anything about the problem except maybe hoping it would be “fixed” in the next release. Never so much as “Googling” the problem, which is so unlike me. Until today, which is ironical considering I switched to Firefox 3.0 beta sometime back, which is awesome btw.

I thought I would file a bug-report over at Apple but just before I did that, I thought I would look up the problem. And lo behold, right up there amongst the results I saw this:

That often happens when you have disabled the Safari cache… make sure that ~/Library/Caches/Safari has Read/Write permissions for you.

Sounded like something I could have messed around with because of my “caching is no longer necessary (( Network speeds are high enough not to warrant Internet caching by individual users. ))” belief:


~/Library/Caches lfc$ ls -l Safari
lrwxr-xr-x 1 lfc lfc 9 Aug 3 2007 Safari -> /dev/null

For the uninitiated, that’s the surest way of ensuring that nothing ever gets written to/ read from “Safari”. Look up /dev/null for details.

Removing that link and restarting Safari solved the “problem” – Safari recreates the folder on Startup and everyone lives happily thereafter.

Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Worst Website.

I went to a Papa John’s outlet last month and I must say I was impressed by the quality of their pizzas. Better Ingredients and Better Pizza than any I had before alright. So when it came time for my weekly fix of order-in Pizza, I thought I would give them a call. A couple of weeks later, I still haven’t been able to do that, because their website won’t show me their contact number or the menu. Except for the welcome page, everything else shows up as this:

This could well be a Mac only issue, but in this stane-age, that doesn’t cut it I’m afraid.
And Amitabh’s just confirmed Windows user can’t access the site either – some other error though.

I am not even talking about “fancy” stuff like taking orders online, albeit, that is now the standard in many parts of the world. You have got something like 10 pages on the site and even those links don’t work properly. Question for the site developers – what the hell do you need .Net for? From the look of things (none of the pages work, so I have no idea about the content, mind) this site could be done in plain, static HTML, without any frills.

Get your act (site) together Papa John’s.

PS – I admit, it wouldn’t have been too hard to locate the number of the closest outlet at, say Just Dial, but something like this leaves a bad taste in the mouth (pardon the pun) and puts you off the whole process. I ended up calling my regular Pizza joint instead.

[tags]Pizza, Papa Johns[/tags]