Monday, January 9, 2012

Welcome back King Henry!!! (It could have been welcome back Ginger Ninja too...)

Henry, a player which oozes so much class even at the age of 34. I was elated (yes, I was) when he signed on loan for Arsenal, those who know me know why and my prediction is for Arsenal to win a trophy this season, if not the Premier League.

The stage was set, against a team promoted to the Championship only last season - Leeds with plenty of history and fervor supporters albeit it's Leeds of 2012, not the Leeds of old with Robinson, Kelly, Radebe, Ferdinand, Harte, Bowyer, Dacourt, Bakke, Kewell, Smith and Viduka.

I did not watch the game, but I was with an Arsenal mate, he's Arsenal enough to stay at Highbury (right beside the Emirates) at a non-footie thingy and I told him from the onset before the game started that I am more than happy to see Henry back in the red and white of Arsenal. This is a player, for all the pain he caused against United was just so pleasing to watch. Etched in my memory: That bloody lob against Barthez, receiving the ball with his back facing the goal, 1st touch - flick the ball, swerve of his body, 2nd touch - lobbed it into the far top corner! %^&*()_ bloody good goal!

It was a fairy tale setting, with Van Persie on holiday, Camakh looking more like one of the JLS (Google them) than an all out striker he was touted when he arrived and Gervinho needing plenty of finishing lessons from Henry (maybe that's one of the reason why he was brought back?) it was pretty much all set for Henry to steal the show.

Drab first half, dull game, inferior opposition, I can't fault Simon Grayson, Wenger's sparring partner for the night - the game was lost even before it started. There he is, Henry, King Henry, immortalised in bronze, 11 goals against Leeds of ol', a quadruple in the last match between the sides sitting on the bench. With the hype, the cheer and the reception granted to Henry, it's the classic gamesmen tactic from Wenger, awe your opponents, bully them into submission just by the sheer sight of brilliance, not on the field of the game though with the injuries he has, but the sight of an all time legend. King Henry, glad you are back.

Sir Alex could have done the same had he brought Scholes back in the League Cup match against Palace, legend who left the club, not too match fit, Championship opposition, surely a timely well written script for a legend's 2nd debut? Sounds like Henry's debut tonight? Simillar but not so, knowing Fergie, he will persevere till the end, until needs must before he pulls the trigger, with Rooney's speculation in the press, he needed a diversion to drop it and drop like a hot potato he did, Scholes was the gambit up his sleeve, Rooney was sparred the pre-match hype. Sir Alex has done it in the past, offloading Rudd and Keane when they were too much to handle, giving Hernandez his debut much sooner than expected because of Bebe's flop and Scholes as a foil for Rooney's speculations, brilliant, just brilliant, ruthless, cunning but just brilliant.

Wenger too has the same streak, with Chelsea, Citeh and Spurs losing key players to the African Cup of Nations (yep, it's not the African Nations Cup) Henry's homecoming might just be the boost Arsenal needs to mount a January title challenge. The team just needs leaders, not just one, but one in each defence, midfield, and attack, like the Invincibles of old. I doubt a leader could be found for each 1/3 of the pitch in this January window, but at least he has Henry back, a Gunner through and through, one who will surely galvanise the team with his mere presence. Maybe wake up or inspire some mediocre players?

Scholes could do the same, with United's midfield in tatters, he could be a stop gap solution, but more than that an in-the-face reminder to the midfield foot soldiers-demoted-generals of United that Scholes, at his age, out from retirement will still be first off the bench when needed - buck up Carrick, Gibson, Anderson & Co. BUCK UP!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Scandalous Weekend: Not only Liverpool, Bristol (WHO???) and Lazio too!

The clouds hovering over Old Trafford this week
as many hope for a Scouse helping hand
When you need a favour from an arch rival
Oh yes, Super Sunday, the weekend when the home of the BPL trophy will be decided for the next year. As much as it seems, it might be a straightforward tug-of-war between Manchester United and Chelsea, but when you throw in some red scouse scum from Merseyside, it is not as straightforward as it seem :)
The Scouse-ManC rivalry
Other than the fact they are both dressed in Red and are the top 2 English team in the domestic and European scene, 18 v. 19 English trophies, 3 v. 5 European Cups, but the differences between Manchester United and Liverpool goes way beyond the trophy cabinet.
The seed of rivalry goes back to the industrial revolution, when Liverpool were top dog. They had their ports and warehouses and even till this day, Liverpool Warehouse Co. still has it presence in Manchester. But their dominance in the economy were very much like their football dominance scuppered by the ManCs who decided they too could have their own ports, in came the dredging machines and waterways were crafted inland to Manchester. So yeah, the ManCs dug into the rice bowl of the Scouse and it was never gonna be the same again.
To make matters worse, one daring Son of Govan, not knighted then uttered the now infamous "knock them off their ****ing perch" and maybe now with hindsight might have a little sense of regret since Manchester United now needs Liverpool to not lose against Chelsea, as they say, karma does comes back and bite, and how true it is in this case :)
Outcome: Liverpool puts professionalism above personal sentiments. Manchester United beats Sunderland and Liverpool holds Chelsea to a draw, handing pole position to Manchester United in their quest for the 19th Title.
Bristol City (WHO???)-Cardiff City Rivalry
When in Rome, do as the Romans do is the saying :) As I am now in Cardiff, I started to indulge a little with the local football club, Cardiff City. They flirted with the play-offs last year, missing out by only ONE GOAL CONCEDED!!!
Bristol is a city just across the river Savern which separates England from Wales and being neighbours and colleagues in the Championship, naturally there would some form of rivalry.
Bristol is safe in the Championship for another season, with nothing to play, but they play Blackpool, vying for the final play-off spot and here's where it gets complicated, with Swansea, Cardiff's sworn enemy! If Bristol do not lose against Blackpool, and Swansea wins at home against Doncaster Rovers, then Swansea goes into the play-off which Cardiff has already secured! Terrific? No, Bloody is a more appropriate description.
Outcome: Bristol attempts to keep their neighbour in the Championship. Bristol beats Blackpool, Swansea and City makes it to the play-off final in Wembley which is a guaranteed bloodbath, what a treat for Bristol City fans :)
Roma-Lazio Rivalry
The Eternal City derby. Where 2 sets of Ultra fans notoriously known for their detest for each other.
Lazio entertains Inter Milan tomorrow, with 3 games to play, Lazio is 6 points clear of the relegation zone and still need points from this game to secure another season in Serie A. However, winning or even drawing, would sent the title swinging into the arms of Roma.
So much so, certain Lazio fans are supporting Inter this weekend and hope their team lose as reported here.
Outcome: Conspiracy at it's best. Lazio lose against Inter, Inter clinches the title ahead of Roma :)
Ben Lai

Monday, April 19, 2010

Arsenal's defeat: Icelandic Volcano Eruptions = Cancellation of flights = Train Travels = Longer hours = Bad performance???

Image above from

As much as I love travelling, I hate long overland journeys (3 1/2 hours to Manchester). I would prefer the plane, but being a student, I can't afford it :(

My longest on land journey to date is the Beijing-Haerbin-Beijng trip, 12 hours each way!

A case of travel lag?

Professional footballers nowadays are quite spoiled I must say, flying to their games and then flying back. It is not only in the BPL that this happen, but certain clubs in the Championship does too (couldn't name the club since I couldn't verify this info).

It make sense, shorter travel hours, more comfy and of course, being part of the BPL gravy train, they could afford it.

However, with the now well publicized flying ban, these little pampered pooches must now travel via coach (bus in our language) or train and it seems one of two players/team were quite affected by this.

Arsenal's destruction

Mr. Wenger puts it down to 'lack of discipline and focus', you can read the article here. But my opinion is the players were rattled by the sudden change of travel arrangements. It's kinda like being used to driving an imported car but suddenly being given a Proton, or worse still a Perodua.

Make no mistake, the coaches they travel in are quite comfy I am sure, but the journey would of course be much more bumpier (coach) and less peaceful (coach and train). Someone might have missed that all important nap maybe?

Proof is in the next game

Nope, not Arsenal's next game against City (if this attempt fails, then Eastland/Blackburn game will be my other chances, also the Chelsea Stoke/Pool game if the flying ban is still imposed then) but a less publicized game in the Championship between Plymouth Argyle and Newcastle.

Here's some interesting facts: Newcastle is way way way up north, they border Scotland while Plymouth is way down south, even further than Portsmouth! That's 740 miles apart, 10 hours by coach or 6 hours by train! Oh yes...

The game would be played tonight, thus let's see the manner the results were achieved.

What I am looking for are:

1. Sloppy goals.

2. Destruction in the closing minutes

3. Beautiful goals, but Newcastle lose

To add a little bit of spice, Plymouth are 23rd, 2nd from bottom, while Newcastle are top of the Championship. This game still hold plenty of significance, if Newcastle wins or draw, they will be confirmed Champions, while at the other end, if Plymouth lose or draw, they will be relegated.

Pretty much the scenario with Arsenal and Wigan, title chaser v. relegation fodder, let's see if my hypothesis would be proven true: Footballers are too pampered to take any change in their travel arrangements, in short, they are pooches :)

Ben Lai

Friday, April 16, 2010

Will it be the case of Spurs the King Maker or would Chelsea gallop away with the title?

Wenger was not the only Frenchmen to think Spurs
needs to prove themselves, Patrice thinks so too :)

Those who read my previous post would know what I mean. If you have not, here's the link.

Another weekend of football, a promise of excitement in the BPL (BPL is the proper name, not the EPL ;) ) with the title very much in the hand of Chelsea, but it is far from done and dusted. Any slip ups, and it will again open up. Judging from the already roller coaster ride of this season, I would not rule that out.

Spurs to earn their spurs?

Forgive me for the pun and cliche. But I am not the only one who thinks so. One very irritated winging Wenger agreed as reported here in his post match comment subsequent to his side's lethargic performance at White Hart Lane.

From a neutral perspective, the defeat of Arsenal was quite a performance from a club which invested so much but with very little to show, save for having a decent run in Cup competitions and their customary annual participation in Europe (albeit the 2nd-tier and less coveted UEFA Cup/Europa League). For a mid table club, that's quite an accomplishment.

Wind of change - new (ex)players, new manager

They were the largest spender outside the top-4 (and City) in the previous 3 seasons (signing plenty of ex-players) and the closest they got to breaking the dominance of the big-4 was in the 05/06 season where some dodgy lasagna denied them their 4th place finish and more crucially, handed the said spot to their hated neighbours. Would the defeat of Arsenal be the cornerstone of better things to come?

The goal scorers themselves were novice cowboys with a lot to prove. A first start, a stunning goal, Danny Rose's strike was indeed top-draw, so much so, he was as suprised as the shell-shocked-static Arsenal defence when it flew in. As for Gareth Bale, an unlikely goalscorer but more astonishing was the fact that throughout the earlier part of this season his name on the starting lineup was a bad omen to some quarters - Spurs did not win a single match in which he started. A goal for the critics perhaps?

Q&A time!!!

1. Was the performance just a one-off North London derby performance? Or;
2. Was it to gate crash Sol Campbell's return? Or;
3. Was it the most obvious question - bouncing back from the FA Cup defeat to Pompey?

I would answer NO to all the above. They are currently 5th in the League, just a point behind 4th spot City, with plenty to play for. Champions League is what they want and if anything, their gritty defending in the 2nd half against Arsenal showed how determined they are to take the final berth.

Now then, let's look at Spurs's remaining games: Chelsea (H) - Manchester United (A) - Bolton (H) - City (A) - Burnley (A).

As compared to City's: Manchester United (H) - Arsenal (A) - Villa (H) - Spurs (H) - West Ham (A)

Both team would be playing against title contenders tomorrow afternoon which could very well influence not only their own destiny, but also the BPL crown. Tasty encounters indeed, fireworks and seeing red, the card and maybe even blood is quite a possibility. The same goes for the following match for both teams, with Arsenal and Manchester United as opponents, notwithstanding this weekend's results, playing a Big-4 team would always be tricky.

City seems to have the upper hand thereon, with both team playing home matches in the 3rd game, it would be the penultimate game when they meet at the Eastlands which would ultimately decide the 4th place if they match each other's (or +/- 2) points in the first 3 games. I am quite sure it would not go to the wire and be decided in the final game or at least City would aim to put some space between them and Spurs by then.

My prediction for the week

Spurs to beat Chelsea at White Hart Lane with City at most taking a point (a very unlikely scenario) against their Red city rivals. Biased? No. Spurs are well known weak travellers, and if they do not take full points this weekend, it would take quite an effort to take full points when they visit Old Trafford next week. As for United's game against City, it would be tough no doubt, but with the recent lacklustre displays, I think they player themselves know that the finish line is near and it's all or nothing for the final push and I expect a slim win for United.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Manchester United has blown it...

Dear all,
First and foremost, the last week has been one of the toughest week being a Mancunian. Europe, then domestic, then the European exit was quite a week.
I am however, not disheartened, there are plenty of positives to be taken from this season, the most important of all is that we are still pretty much coping with the loss of one CF7 (CR9 is his new moniker).
Title race all over???
Oh, forgive the negative title. It's a marketing ploy to attract viewers to read this post :)
Let me make it clear, the defeat against Chelsea and the less than commendable draw at Blackburn has of course put Chelsea in pole position, but I am still hopeful as my analysis would reveal below. Never give up till the fat lady sings as they say, come on you DEVILLLLSSS!!! :)
Remaining Games
Manchester United - M. City (A) - Spurs (H) - Sunderland (A) - Stoke (H)
Arsenal - Spurs (A) - Wigan (A) - M. City (H) - Blackburn (A) - Fulham (H)
Chelsea - Spurs (A) - Stoke (H) - Liverpool (A) - Wigan (H)
So, with a 4 point lead, with just 4 games to go, it seems like Chelsea would win it with a game to spare. Pretty simple, just 3 wins and a draw from the remaining 4 would win the the league. Stoke and Wigan should be walkovers, while 4 points from Spurs and Pool should be a little tricky given they are both vying for the 4th Champions League spot.
Arsenal meanwhile, easy wins against Wigan and Blackburn, but they will face stiffer competition from firstly Spurs, then City, who are currently looking the more likely duo to battle it out for the coveted 4th UCL spot. Fulham too should be a test, if the places for the Europa League is still up for grabs come the final game.
As for Manchester United, City away is always daunting as shown by our first leg defeat in the Eastlands. We scored first through Good Ol' Giggsy, but Twat-vez came back with replies and almost twat-ed our Carling Cup push. But I still see us nicking a slim win from it, hopefully with Rooney leading the line. Spurs at home should be less daunting (I hope), with the Chelsea defeat and European exit of the past week, I am pretty sure the players need not any reminder from the Stretford End that they owe them a performance! Sunderland and Stoke should be 6 points in the bag, no disrespect, but let's just assume that for now since I do not have a magic ball in hand.
Pretty boring analysis, very balanced view, stating the obvious, bla bla bla... Continue reading and you be bored no longer :)
King Maker - Spurs
Yes. Spurs to decide the title. Bold prediction indeed. But having spent most of the weekends of my life watching the English game, I must admit for once, Spurs look right to break the Big 4 and stake their claim at being taken seriously. Having invested heavily every season and having changed more managers than Britney Spears changes costumes in a show, two critical factors missing in the previous seasons are now in place: a manager who's a wheeler dealer and some decent players showing their worth week in week out (the FA Cup exit was a surprise).
No other team in the run up could have more impact on the outcome of this year's title race - Spurs will play all 3 teams!!!
So yeah, whoever they beat or nick a 2 points from in the upcoming games is yet to be seen, but with M. City breathing down their necks, themselves with 2 top 3 clashes, the incentive is there to be party poppers whichever top 3 team they play. Parking the bus tactics? Or would the infamous poisoned lasagna come back to haunt Spurs? Only time will tell, so let's see :)
Remember, you read it here first :)
Ben Lai

Thursday, March 4, 2010

LV gave me a FREE Gift!!!! - Part 2 ;)

As promised, here's part 2 ;) Read Part 1 here

LV - Epitome of class, Zenith of Customer Relations Management

Culprit 2 - Louis Vuitton, Luxury retailer, operating in a highly competitive market where brand loyalty is paramount, depending on situations, buyer might not be end user (*hint hint*), demanded by those who aspire to climb the echelon of status or reward themselves or others for reaching certain milestones, customer focused.

Scenario - I made an online purchase of a significant amount. However, a day after making the purchase and well aware that there is a full refund policy in place, I called 4 times to cancel the order before the delivery was made. However, I was told each time by the customer service personnel that there is no way to cancel the order. The item was then delivered to my house and I made another call with regards to the refund process, I was then told I could have refused to accept the item when DHL delivers it, however, this was made known to me after my housemate has signed for the item.

Facts - I proceeded to open the box, the bag was lovely, it came in a very nice gift box and had a complimentary card too, for you to write something for the final recipient, impressive.

Also included in the package was the Term of Sale, having time to burn, I thus read it, and was astonished that although 4 (YES, FOUR!!!) CSP told me that there is NO WAY the sale and delivery could be cancelled, there was indeed a clause to allow for that!!!

Enraged, as I will be leaving in a day for Malaysia, I first went to the post office to send the box back to LV and then proceeded with a very carefully worded and time stamped email to LV.

I even went as far as including the said Clause which gave me the right to cancel the transaction and of course, the infamous Ben's use of words (One Ms. Tee would agree, read her blog here), quite sharply worded, but not rude or in any way too direct. Also, the most important fact that I will be away and uncontactable from the period 8 - 20th Feb :)
Surprise, Surprise :)
Recourse - I got a pleasant surprise in my e-mail last week - sitting in my Inbox was a confirmation of purchase from LV and that my item has been dispatched! Hmmm... I was sure I did not make subsequent purchases other than THAT purchase which has been returned. Weird...

I then checked my LV account (there's another story behind this, wait for Part 3) and there it was, my 'order' with a GBP0.00 value. Nice, something free from LV to it's members perhaps?
The package arrived that same afternoon I received the above email. I opened it, and I reached for the very nicely folded envelope with the words "Louis Vuitton" nicely embossed and lacquered on the bottom right, there it was, a letter with my name, addressed in full (not with the annoying European manner of initialing your first name), and signed off by the Manager of European Customer Service! Nice touch.
The gist of the letter was a very direct apology, no beating around the bush, just a straightforward apology and an assurance that the CSP has been briefed about the existence of such clause to prevent future occurrence of a similar event. It kinda makes me feel like making another purchase and then calling to cancel the transaction and see if indeed the above is true. Should I? ;)
Further, a reservation with regards to my account (Coming in Part 3) was also addressed in the same letter and of course the mention of the FREE GIFT :)
A tale of being class apart
So there, 2 very different approach by 2 very different companies in dealing with customer complains. One hid behind clauses and ridiculed it's customers and the other was embracing complains and rewarding it's customers. LV, epitome of class? Not only that, zenith of Customer Relations Management! :)
Royal Mail's attitude kinda reminds me of Malaysia in general, particularly when dealing with government agencies, the tidak apa attitude, being lackadaisical for the foreign readers and just ignoring customer's views and take for granted their importance. I guess the grass is not always greener on the other side eh? Same s*it even when oceans apart ;)

Lastly, the letter did thank me for my custom with LV and indeed I will return to LV for some future purchases, not anytime soon, but surely, sometime in the future :D
Ben Lai