Jim White

Football review of the year

Jim White

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Greatest match of 2009

Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United, Champions League semi-final. The finest example of the potency of the counter attack you could see, with United's third goal a devastating reinforcement of the art. That it was scored by the now departed Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's best player, added a certain poignancy to the moment: how United have missed him since he went west.

Greatest move of 2009

A moment in the Champions League final when Xavi and Andres Iniesta of Barcelona so completely bamboozled the Manchester United defence it looked like grown men playing schoolboys. Xavi played a seemingly suicidal ball to his colleague who was surrounded by a quartet of opponents. With a deft reverse pass, Iniesta returned the favour, setting Xavi away and leaving the United players flat-footed and marooned. It was an interchange that summed up the final, and gave clear indication as to why Spain have the resources to win the World Cup next June. 

Person of the year 2009

Roy Hodgson, a good man doing a fine job in what might in other's hands be reckoned not the most propitious of circumstances. Working for Mohammed Al Fayed is never the easiest of tasks, but Hodgson has been dignified, rational, organised and above all successful. Fulham have never been higher than under his stewardship, plus he has turned players previously ignored into some of the most coveted in the Premier League. Right now, the purchase of Bobby Zamora, Brede Hangeland and Mark Schwarzer would strengthen any team in the land.

Surprise of the year 2009

How open the Premier League is this season. Back in the summer, many - including me - were bemoaning the utter predictability of the division, writing off its competitive purpose and complaining about the utter certainty that on any given weekend the big four would win against the lower teams. Now the champions have lost five times before Christmas, Villa, Tottenham and Birmingham have all put together convincing runs for the top, and the cartel appears at last to be on its way to being broken.  

Disappointment of the year 2009

Liverpool. Far from building on last year's close run at the title, they have fallen apart quicker than a car left overnight in Toxteth. Out of the Premier League race, out of the Champions League, now, if Fernando Torres absents himself for surgery over the next six weeks, they could be facing their least successful season in a decade.

Villain of the year 2009

Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook. His pitiful attempt to pretend Mark Hughes was treated with anything other than contempt was one of the most embarrassing performances of the year. Cook represents a new breed of busy, self-important, hugely overpaid football administrator. Like Peter Storrie at Portsmouth, he has to justify his enormous salary by engaging in wholly pointless hiring and firing of the manager, still, whatever they may believe, by far the most important employee at any club. As for his City ally Brian Marwood, just ask this question about the necessity of a director of football: do either Manchester United or Arsenal have one?

Person to watch in 2010

Jack Wilshere. Brought up to play the Arsene Wenger way, at 17 he already looks the future of English football and a regular place in the Arsenal starting line up is surely imminent.

Rule change for 2010

The introduction of video refs. The arguments were over the moment Thierry Henry handed France a place in South Africa 2010, his actions missed by the officials but witnessed by tens of millions of television viewers. Particularly the one about it undermining the referee's authority. What undermines a referee's authority more than him being seen by millions making clearly the wrong decision? The technology is there, let's use it.

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