‘Leather’ refers to a football, grass is grass, not weed you rascals and All That Jazz is what happens in between or before or after the leather is put on the grass for the homo-sapiens to kick around of an afternoon or evening. #1 is quite obvious, and implies there may be more pieces with the same title, a sequence if you will.
So, now that I’ve explained the title let’s get on to the important things. Last night saw the start of the Champions League ‘proper’, as the pundits like to say, or in other words the group stages of the competition started. As usual, as is the wont, it was an exciting opening salvo that was served up by Europe’s ‘champions’.
I’ll start with Milan, a team that I hold dear to my heart and have done for over twenty years now, ever since I discovered Football Italia on Channel 4 at the weekends. If I remember correctly I probably watched more Italian football than English in my formative years, perhaps due to it being more accessible than the Premier League, at least for my family. Anyways, onto their match last night. Four shots on target from Milan. Now, this stat in isolation would point to an away game against one of Europe’s big guns, you’d think, right? And you’d be wrong, so very wrong. Your next thought after reading that would be a big gun at home, with Milan playing in front of a near capacity crowd with all the expectations that heaps upon players’ tattooed shoulders. And again, you’d be very wrong. They, Milan, were at home to Anderlecht. The match ended 0-0, which is a vast improvement on their home league form. But something is amiss at Milan. Fans are turning away in their droves, with the San Siro appearing less than half full. The team and the fans need a boost. There’s no fantasy within the team, which was shorn of Cassano and Ibrahimovic during the summer. Pazzini, who bafflingly Milan parted with money and Cassano for, has scored three goals but all came in one game, and in the others he hasn’t looked very good. Ibra may have been a supreme arrogant cock, but he delivered consistently and offered hope, the same cannot be said of Pazzini or his attacking colleagues at Milan at this moment. Rumour is that Allegri needs a positive result against Udinese this weekend to prolong his stay at Milan, luckily for him its an away fixture.
In the headline game, Real Madrid hosted Man City at the Bernabeu. A baffling change of tactics swung this match. Roberto Mancini switched to a 3 at the back, which is fine if you have the personnel, but he played Gael Clichy at centre back alongside debutant Nastasic and club captain Kompany. He had other options besides this one, with Lescott and Rodwell on the bench – he could have moved Garcia back and deployed Rodwell in midfield. He seemed to want to make a point to Lescott, by benching him for the biggest game of the season, but to play Clichy at centre back ahead of him was baffling, and it handed the initiative to Madrid, who tore City apart down their right side, where Maicon was left isolated and Kompany didn’t know whether to stick or twist. Yes, the time of the goals will point to City taking the lead twice and leading it, but Real scoring was inevitable and was facilitated by City’s players not being well drilled as a unit, in the formation chosen by the manager.
I didn’t see much of the other games, but in the other games of note Arsenal won away to Montpellier, with Podolski and Gervinho getting their goals in a 2-1 win. Malaga beat high spenders Zenit in Spain, and Borussia Dortmund beat Ajax 1-0.
So yeah, that was ‘leather’, grass and all that jazz from yesterday, as I seen it. There’ll be another episode tomorrow as my team, Man Utd face Galatasaray at Old Trafford and Chelsea face Juventus at the Bridge.