Richard Keys Blog

Back in business.

on Thursday, 13 October 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

Is it only me, or do we all feel the same about these international breaks?  I hate them. I shut down. The only thing I'm thinking about, from the moment the last P Lge ball is kicked and we stop, is 'when do we get going again?'

I know it shouldn't, but international football is starting to leave me stone cold. I'm not sure that players themselves aren't beginning to feel that way too. I've mentioned it before - playing for England now isn't fun. The Scots have had a kicking this past fortnight as well - and Wales. What is it about our Press boys? Why is there always so much negativity?

Answer me this - how much better were England without Wayne Rooney? The guys bullied Gareth Southgate into leaving him out - to what end? I was disappointed that Southgate buckled so easily under media pressure. At least Roy Hodgson took a couple of years before he started dancing to Fleet Streets' tune. Southgate wants to please everybody I know, but I thought he made the wrong call on Rooney.

Oh, and when the new England boss says 'I inherited a mess' who is he blaming? Big Sam, who only had 67 days to create that mess, or the previous regime, which Southgate was very much a part of? 

Briefly on the skipper - Rooney remains the only player England have that frightens the opposition. United blitzed Leicester without him - scoring four in 20 first half minutes - three from set pieces, which I suspect they would've done with Rooney on the pitch, but what happened v Stoke? I didn't read anything from the people who'd castigated him following the Leicester game admitting that he's not United's problem. I'll make a little prediction here - I'll bet Mourinho plays him against Liverpool on Monday night.

Speaking of Liverpool - I've been reading some fascinating stats about Jurgen Klopp. Let me share them with you, because again, I'm totally baffled by the conclusions of two separate articles. 

From the excellent Andy Dunn in the Sunday Mirror -

'Klopp has won fewer than half of his 37 Lge games.

His team has averaged 1.729 pts per game.

During his 122-game spell at Anfield Brendan Rodgers won more than half his matches averaging 1.795 pts per game

Klopp is averaging 1.97 goals per game. Rodgers averaged 1.9.

Liverpool were marginally tighter under Rodgers, conceding 1.24 goals per game.  It's 1.35 under Klopp'.

Pretty similar records aren't they?  Also last week The Times reported 'Klopp's Liverpool are the masters of a new era of Super Fit Football'.

Here's a few of their findings.

'Liverpool have increased the distance they covered in their opening games this season from 756.4 km's to 814.8.

Sprints are up to 4165. A sprint, apparently is 'an action of movement over 25.2/h or 7m/s. Keeping up? No? To be fair I got lost when I first read all this!

Liverpool made those 4165 sprints in their first seven games, an 'enormous' 478 or 13 per cent more than Bournemouth, who led the table after seven games last season. 

From the same article I read that Liverpool's 'surge' this season came as a result of their pre-season which included 'treble'  sessions. Really? And so far they've achieved what? Not much more than a similar record to Rodgers - but they have sprinted more than Bournemouth a year ago? Again - is it just me?

Anyway - it's great to be back in business and have our P Lge ready to start again.

We've got a fantastic weekend ahead on BeIN Sports, starting with an extended Keys & Gray on Friday night. ALL the weekend's games are 'live' across our channels and for La Liga fans - be sure that the first Classico of the season WILL BE 'live' on beINSports. I read because of the 3.15 kick off  time it won't be broadcast in the U.K.  Rest assured, you'll never miss a thing with us at BeINSports. 

You were Super - Spurs

on Monday, 03 October 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

The air of invincibility around Pep Guardiola and his City team was blown away by Tottenham's tornado. What a game. I enjoyed it more than anything else I've seen this season.

Spurs were terrific and had Eric Lamela scored with that penalty  3-0 wouldn't have flattered them.

Double training sessions you see - that's the way forward! Wait until they lose one though - then double training sessions will be to blame again!

So what of City? Have they been found out, not just by Spurs, but also Celtic? Well, not exactly. I thought Guardiola was both magnanimous and relaxed after the game. He's right - City are a work in progress and all those who thought they title race was over because of the way they'd started now need to re-assess. It wasn't over before the Spurs game - and it isn't now. City hadn't won it - and they haven't lost it. I was pleased to see Guardiola smiling in his post match interview as well. Early on in the season I thought he was surly and rude when facing reporters post match. It's not an easy that - for either the manager or the reporter. The guys in the tunnel do a really good job - none more so than Geoff Shreeves and I'm pleased to see how well Des Kelly has taken to it at BT.

What point was Mourinho trying to make when he said the performance against Stoke was 'United's best of the season'?

Is he saying that what's been served up prior to the weekend wasn't very good? Was he trying to protect those that this week toiled without their skipper Wayne Rooney? Funny isn't it, after a really good 20 mins last week, when they got four goals against Leicester, three of them from set-pieces, the media buried Rooney. And this week when he wasn't on the pitch and Utd struggled - was that Rooney's fault as well? I come back to what I said last week, they're a much better side without Fellaini, but like City, they're a work in progress. As for Jose's claims? As he said - we're all allowed our opinions!

Here's a 'fact' though that's been overlooked this weekend - a year ago United were top at this stage, with three more points than they have now!

Arsenal were lucky. Koscielny's goal should never have been allowed. It was handball, not intentional, but because of the consequences of it, it should've been disallowed. Have a look at law 18 and what it says about 'common sense'.

Everton's goal should've been disallowed as well.  We can argue all day long about whether they should even have had the free-kick, but once it had been given it should've been indirect. Why? The offence was 'dangerous play' because there was no contact. Jon Moss was wrong in law.  Lukaku stuck it straight in - so the game should've re-started with a goal-kick for Palace.

Liverpool continue to make obvious progress - second half they were really good at Swansea. Francesco Guidolin won't be in charge when we resume after the Internaional break. I still think Ryan Giggs will be.

And I wouldn't be surprised to see his old skipper, Steve Bruce, in charge at Villa. Not only do I think he'd be the right choice, I have no doubts that he would get them up - almost certainly this season. Bruce knows the league. He knows what's required to get out of it and he inspires people. For too long now Villa have been an unhappy ship. Bruce would get people smiling again.

As for me, it's been a crazy weekend. My wonderful wife and I have said all we intend to on the weekend's fire-storm. It's business as usual all round. And thank you to everybody that took time out to offer their support.

Much ado about something

on Friday, 30 September 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

I've waited all week, mainly because we've been promised fireworks all week. As it turns out The Telegraphs' explosive expose of the wrong doings in English football has turned out - so far - to be like a wet Guy Fawkes night.

In fairness they certainly stirred things up early in the week reporting the 'sting' that cost Sam Allardyce his job. I said on the day that I was both disappointed with Sam and for him too. With him? Well, as he realised very quickly he really shouldn't have put himself in the position that he did - and not said many of the things that he did. I'm sorry for him because in trying to do a life long friend a favour he cost himself his dream job. By the way, why is it that in every report I've read in The Telegraph so far, Scott McGarvey's name keeps coming up. Why was he at every meeting that The Telegraph set up, both him and the Italian agent Pino Pagliara?

Having served Sam up on a silver platter were we told that eight P Lge managers - either working or 'resting' - would be exposed for taking bungs. So far - nothing. All we've had is two sacrificial asst managers, one - Eric Black - a really good guy, who was also trying to do McGarvey a favour. I don't know anything about Tommy Wright. Oh, and Jimmy Ffloyd, who as far as I can see, was looking to negotiate a fee for public speaking in the Far East. Don't we all want to get paid for the work we do?

Now, The Telegraph might yet reveal something far juicier, but in the meantime, why all the hysteria? Gary Lineker wants the Police called in to investigate. Perhaps that's not a bad idea, but how far back do we go? Do we investigate everything from the early 80's when all our top talent was going to play in Spain and Italy? Those guys invented the brown envelope. Are we to believe all those deals were clean?

Look. I'm no different to anyone else. I don't like foul play and if wrongs have been committed, let's route them out. But we need proof. I know all too well what it's like to be the victim of smears. Right now some really good football men are suffering a similar fate. We've all heard the names. It's wrong. Very wrong.

Naturally the social media is screaming blue murder. A number of X-players with a few skeletons in the cupboard are 'insulted' by the content of the allegations - players who've missed out on England squads because of drink driving charges. Players that have been caught by their employers in secret meetings with the Chief Execs of other clubs talking about a transfer. Players that have even missed drug tests. It's amazing.

We've also had Parliament up in arms. Almost inevitably every busy MP trying to make a name for himself has been quoted. Take Damien Green, the current Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. He's only temporarily in the job because his predecessor, Keith Vaz, has all sorts of life-style problems of his own right now.

Honestly, MP's lecturing the rest of us on matters of decency and honesty? They can't be serious. How long is it since we were reading similar stories about their expenses scandals? That stench still won't go away. We still are hearing of many examples of similar fraud even now.

And on that subject - my journalistic colleagues are full of opinions as well. How many of them can honestly hold up their hands and say 'I've never been creative with my expenses'. I'll tell you - none of them. What's the difference? It's all fraud isn't it? Some of the top guys have sat and laughed, enjoying the hospitality of individuals constantly linked with financial impropriety in our game. I've mentioned this before - I've even discussed the subject with one in particular. I asked him how he could put himself in that position?  'Oh, it's *****. he's only nicking a few quid'. Ah - so that's ok then? Of course it's not.

I'm not defending anybody that's had their fingers in this sticky pie. It's wrong, but it's also how business and life often works. There are hundreds of countries in the world where, if you want to get a deal done, you've got to be 'creative' in doing it. It's how it works.

So why is it always football and football people that attract so much criticism on this subject? 'Aren't they paid enough?' is a question often asked. Well, perhaps not. Does a City banker stop earning money if he pulls off a £100m deal? No, he wants £200m. It's life. Is it right that an F1 driver can earn a million for two hours work every fortnight? Yes, it is, if that's the going rate.

Football is always getting a kicking. I repeat, where wrong doings are 'proved' then let action be taken, but we can't go round speculating and creating stories to fit baseless claims. It's not right. Remember - despite the fact that we now live in a very judgemental society - everyone deserves the right to be judged innocent until proven guilty.

West Ham and Rooney get Hammered

on Monday, 26 September 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

After six games last season West Ham were in the top 3 - and my  suggestion that their fans 'should be careful what they wish for' wasn't looking too accurate. Many a Hammer would regularly, and quite rightly, point out how well Slaven Bilic had taken to life as a coach in the P Lge and that my fears weere considerably wide of the mark.

After six games this season West Ham are in the bottom three and my warnings don't look quite so daft do they?

Look, I have no desire to open up old wounds with West Ham fans and I genuinely don't like to see the club struggle - it's a fine club that's contributed hugely to the English game down the years, especially for those of us of a certain vintage - Moore, Peters and Hurst were all heroes of mine.

What always disappointed me about the modern West Ham fan was how ungrateful he/she was to Big Sam. Hands up - Sam is a mate so of course I'll defend him wherever and whenever I feel I have to. I first got close to him back in 2008 when I worked in Qatar for the first time and he was hugely supportive of me and Andy when we were tucked up by Sky. Aren't you supposed to be loyal to good friends? I thought that was unwritten law in the East End - perhaps more so than anywhere else in London?

Sam didn't just save West Ham at the most needy point in their history, he first settled and then built the club back into a P Lge outfit. Bilic has never been shy of making that point. Sam made last season possible.

In warning that Hammers fans 'should be careful what they wish for' I was making the point that the old fashioned belief that their team should always play the 'West Ham' way was outdated and dangerous. You simply can't play 'nice' football in our league anymore.

Bilic, who I like enormously - he's a real football man, both knew last season and knows now that there is no such thing as the 'West Ham way' anymore. I pointed out last season, that before Christmas, the percentage of long balls West Ham played was up from 18% to 23%. Not my stats - Opta's.

In the last minute on Sunday I saw Antonio chucking a long throw into the box. Most Hammers fans would've missed this because they'd already left the stadium, but is they 'West Ham way'? The throw very nearly did its job though.

Last season the Hammers were brilliant and I said so on many occasions. Payet was sublime. Any football fan must've enjoyed his contribution to their season.

This time around they're a shadow of themselves. So is Payet. Perhaps he's struggling at the moment after all the excesses of the past 12 months, but right now he looks like a player that wants to be elsewhere. West Ham need him again - and fast.

I don't believe the Hammers will struggle all season. They're not as bad as their results have been so far but nor were they as good as results were last season.  The truth is that they're somewhere in between - about where Sam left them.  

The crisis at Old Trafford appears to be over! I said last week that I didn't believe Mourinho wouldn't sort things out. He hasn't yet, but Saturday was obviously much better. Or was it?

I thought they looked nervous for 20 mins. Goals change games and their opener did just that. Mata was terrific and helped put the game to bed before half time. A good job too, because Leicester had the better of the second half.

Were United better without Rooney? No. I'm not having that. I think they were miles better without Fellaini, something which seems to have gone totally un-noticed after all the nonsense surrounding Rooney.

I asked before - what is it with the Rooney-bashers? Why? Why are they so keen to run him out of both Old Trafford and England? I've never understood it. I repeat - the fella is a phenomenon. He's been awesome for club and country. His record speaks for itself. When has he ever complained about a job he's been asked to do for either?

Yes - he's out of sorts just now, but he'll be back. And when he is let's hope he's given just ONE job to do on the pitch. I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, that in the games he's played for United this season his manager has had him perform in a combined 12 different positions - shifting him forwards, back and sideways. Twelve! Rooney has adapted without complaint done what he's been asked, all for the good of the team. Back off him and enjoy him while we still can. We won't see his like again.

I thought it was interesting how Antonio Conte reacted to Chelsea's dismal performance at Arsenal. A warning Antonio - that dressing room won't react positively to criticism. It never has. Ask Villas Boas, Scolari and more recently Mourinho, to name just a few. You can go all the way back to Ranieri. Dennis Wise was in our BeIN Sports studios this weekend. When I made that point he reacted with a wry smile! I said in the summer, if those big ego's at The Bridge thought they were in for an easier time once they'd outed Mourinho then they should think again. Conte is more pedantic, tougher, demanding and he'll upset them. What happens next is going to be very interesting.

Oh. In amongst all the hysteria surrounding Rooney I saw this headline - 'Son proves Spurs don't need Kane'. Really? What a daft statement. They were good at the weekend - but is anyone seriously thinking they won't miss Kane? Believe me, they look able at the minute - but they'll miss Kane all right. 

Don't panic Mr Mourinho

on Monday, 19 September 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

It certainly hasn't been the best week of Jose Mourinho's career. All of a sudden all kinds of damning statistics are flying about.

Here's a couple - losing at Watford meant United had been beaten for a third successive match, in the Portuguese's worst run of results for 15 years, since he was in charge of Porto in 2002. I can think of a few coaches that would love a record like that!

It's now 15 defeats in his last 33 matches - described as 'an utterly damning statistic for a manager in charge of two high end clubs' in The Mirror today. How many of those were due to the unprofessional manner in which his players at Chelsea 'downed tools' to get rid of him at Stamford Bridge? My maths tells me 12, so the stat isn't quite as 'damning' as it reads.

Another headline screamed 'Just not special anymore' referring to both Mourinho and Rooney. Rubbish!  They both are.

Granted, after a very good start to the season, the last seven days haven't been great and because Mourinho makes himself such an easy target for the media when things go wrong, he's always going to get a kicking, but I have no doubt that he'll sort things out.

I do hear worrying stories of a little unrest amongst a few players and I understand that Antony Martial is not his biggest fan - nor Mourinho Martial's. That's certainly something to keep an eye on. Martial wouldn't be the first wide man that Mourinho has fallen out with would he? He's got some serious 'previous' with some very high profile names on that front.

Having said that, who hasn't got unhappy players at a club? No-one. It's generally those who aren't playing that make the most fuss.

Mourinho will settle things down, but I'm a little concerned that he hasn't yet got to grips with what's in the DNA at United. I mentioned last week that I was surprised that they were so 'passive' in the derby. He set up 'not to lose'. That's not United's way. Every time he picks Fellaini I think Mourinho is open to that allegation. Quite simply, Fellaini is not a Manchester United player. He trollies about totally out of his depth, passing sideways and backwards. He gives too many free kicks away and there are times that his behaviour is totally unacceptable.

I thought at Watford the game was crying out for Michael Carrick, someone to give United momentum and forward movement. Their passing was both negative and slow.

And how about putting Marcus Rashford up top in those games? He was a breath of fresh air last season running away from defenders and frightening them to death with his pace. United don't have that option right now. I'm sure there will be times when Ibra will be needed to influence 'big' games. On that basis, I'd keep him fresh for those games. Why play him at Watford?

As we know, I'm a massive Rooney fan, but I admit that he looks out of sorts at the moment. He's confused by all the different jobs he's been given and plays far to deep. Get in the box Wazza - it's the only place you'll score goals and influence matches.

So one or two little gripes, but Mourinho is a far better judge than me and he'll sort it!  More than anything I want to see him take United off the leash. I want them to play like his first Chelsea title winners did, with flair and pace and an ability to excite. That's what United teams do.  

I must confess I've been very impressed with City so far and if there's a player in better form in the P Lge right now than Kevin de Bruyne I haven't seen him.

Liverpool were terrific on Friday night and have very capably overcome the handicap of playing their first three games on the road.

I like the look of Everton as well. There are bigger tests to come than they've faced so far but what a relief it is to see them getting the ball forward more quickly and entertaining the Goodison faithful again.

Spurs are still short - way short of where they were last season. Again, I'm hearing all is not well behind the scenes. I'm not convinced that Pochettino got what he wanted in the transfer window and he wasn't that impressed by what he did get. Watch this space!

There are certainly problems at West Ham. I've resisted talking about them so far after what turned out to be a really good first season for Slaven Bilic. I like him, but what I'm seeing now is what I expected post-Allardyce, compounded by the stadium move. Historically the Hammers have always had a 'soft' centre. Allardyce fixed that and last season Bilic took them on with a mixture of 'realistic' football and some fantastic results, but now there's trouble.

I say 'compounded by the stadium move' because I genuinely believe that will be a factor for quite some time yet. Other than Arsenal, I can't think of another team that's made a trouble-fee move to a new stadium.

West Ham have already had their teething problems and I suspect it'll be a while before things settle making Ms Brady's ludicrous claims on July 25 this year look even more ridiculous. She said then 'The move has been a complete success on every in no doubt, we are part of the most successful migration in history'. Really Karen? I don't think so, not by a long way. 

Special 1 Pep 2

on Monday, 12 September 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

With both apologies and thanks to the sub editor at the Sunday Mirror that came up with the best headline of the weekend. It was so good that I had to nick it! 

So was the game. I really enjoyed it. Often those big matches get surrounded by so much expectation that they fail to live up to the billing. Not this one. It was a terrific game. 

Full marks to Guardiola. I wasn't convinced that he'd be able to take his style of football to Old Trafford and dominate for virtually the whole game. But he did - and City thoroughly deserved their win. For me, they were the better team. But - and it's a big but - United should've had a penalty and Bravo was a lucky boy not to be sent off. There's no guarantees that United would've scored with the pen, but the keepers reckless lunge at Rooney met all the criteria for dangerous play. He should've gone and I'm really surprised that Mark Clattenburg, who I believe is our best ref now, thought differently. Mind you, so did my mate Andy Gray, but he was wrong as well! 

I said Saturday on Twitter that I thought Mourinho had picked the wrong team. I'm pleased he's been big enough to come out and admit it. Not not only did he pick the wrong team, I felt that United were far too passive. They sat off for virtually the whole of the first half and invited City to run rings round them. And so they did. 

I still can't understand why. I really fancied United because I thought they would be more 'powerful' - typically Mourinho - but I also thought that playing at home they'd get on the front foot, like United teams of old, and steamroller City. 

Mourinho had the personnel to do that and I thought he looked so relaxed pre-match that he genuinely believed for almost the first time he had a better team than Guardiola. 

If you cast your minds back over previous meetings I can't remember too many occasions when Mourinho set a team up to 'beat' a Guardiola team. He's always set out to 'not get beaten'. That's why I think he's happy with all those draws in the head to head. For Mourinho they're like wins. This time I genuinely thought he'd go for the jugular.  

Anyway, as I said, top marks to City. I thought they were great. 

Andre Marriner was at it again wasn't he? How didn't he see Fer's foul on Gary Cahill? I did - and I was sitting in a tv studio 3500 miles away! Must do better Andre! And it didn't get much of a mention at home, but wasn't Costa's equaliser 'dangerous'. Have another look if you get the chance. He nearly decapitates that Swansea defender. Of course we don't want to see magical moments denied on the pitch, but that should've been. Or did Marriner realise his earlier error by this time and just even things up? Perish the thought! 

Well done Watford. What a stunning comeback at West Ham. Arsenal got lucky, again! There'll come a time this season that Arsene Wenger is complaining about decisions, but he's had two big ones go his way already. Arsenal should've conceded a late pen at Leicester and what was Bobby Madley thinking handing them that late chance to win it? 

Whatever else, they were genuine errors, and it happens, so we have to accept that. What didn't happen this weekend - for the first time this season - was that a ref gave a penalty that could've been avoided. Now why was that? Well in my view because that one-man wrecking ball Mike Dean wasn't in charge of a game. And why was that? Well, I'm hearing that he's been told to calm down a bit - and that neither the Sterling pen at Stoke, nor the award for shirt pulling on Benteke was a pen. Perhaps it was just a co-incidence that he was only 4th official at Old Trafford? 

I don't the new tv gantry at Anfield. Amazing isn't it, a club spends all that money on a new stand, in an era dominated by tv, and yet can't deliver a gantry to allow the game to be covered at an angle that's easy on the eye. It's too far away. My solution? Move it to the other side and look into that magnificent new stand. 

I'm looking forward to the game tonight. I'm intrigued by what David Moyes is going to be able to achieve at Sunderland and Ronald Koeman might just be on the brink of returning better times to Everton. I'm delighted to say that a 'strong' Ray Wilkins will be in the BeIN Sports MNF studios. It's been good to spend time with Ray this weekend. He's had his problems recently as we all know, but he's on the mend. 

Honest Mark Halsey

on Monday, 05 September 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

He was Jose Mourinho's favourite ref. The two became close friends and remain in touch to this day, although not quite on the same regular basis. 

Asked why Mark Halsey was his favourite, Mourinho replied 'because he's honest'. I could stop writing now. What else is there to say? Well, quite a lot actually. 

Mark has been a friend of mine now for more than 10 years. I too have found him to be nothing but honest and honourable. 

Why is this important? Let me quote from Andy Dunn's excellent column in the Sunday Mirror today 'And his (Halsey's) allegations - if true - render the Professional Game Match Officials Limited unfit for purpose'. 

Of course I'm referring here to the furore surrounding Sergio Aguero's ban for throwing an elbow at Winston Reid. Those who follow me on Twitter will know I broke the story that Aguero would be charged at 9.30 on Tuesday morning. My sources told me that ref Andre Marriner had told the FA that he handn't seen the incident. We have to take him at his word, but why didn't he see it? He was 10 yards away. He MUST have seen the incident surely - if not, what is he doing taking charge of such important high profile football matches? 

The reason I'm wondering is not because City fans set Twitter alight asking the same questions, but because I'd seen another X-ref, Dermot Gallagher, tell Sky Sports News on the Monday 'Marriner had to see it. He's got an unobstructed view'. It was that statement that sparked City's appeal and one that everybody seems to have conveniently forgotten. That was a story I broke on the Wednesday having heard of City's intent. The question on everybody's lips was 'had Marriner been told he hadn't seen it'? 

It was at this point that Halsey got involved in the Twittersphere with the following reply to an enquiry 'Paul, I have been in that situation when I have seen an incident and been told to say I haven't seen it'. Cue chaos, especially once Gary Neville had got himself involved.

Things will only get better

on Monday, 29 August 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

Things will only get better. Admittedly, not bad if you're a Chelsea, United or City fan but I can't think of too many other clubs' supporters that will be too happy about what they've seen from their team so far this season. It's been an ordinary start hasn't it? But it will get better. I think the international break has come at a nice time. 

Actually, Hull City fans have got to be pleased with what Mike Phelan has done - but I can't imagine anyone on Humberside is expecting anything other than a long hard season. How good were they against United? I'm delighted for Mike. I really do hope that he gets the job full time - and a realistic chance of some kind of success to go with it. Success this season would be staying up. 

I tweeted Saturday that I thought we'd seen a 'title winning result' from United. How typical of days gone by was that - a Fergie time winner? United look strong. The 'fear factor' is returning. I don't think they played particularly well, but that's what made the outcome - and the manner of it - all the more impressive. Taking three points away from a game like that is what champions do. They wouldn't have done last season. In fact, I think they would probably have been beaten. They're my tip to win it and I'm more confident about that after the first thee games. 

City were 'smooth' for 45 minutes weren't they? Their football was a delight and West Ham could've been buried before half time, but credit the Hammers with a really good second half. They dusted themselves down and gave it a go and let's not forget how short of their 'big guns' they were. They'll only get better. 

They underlined where City will come unstuck for me. At Barca and Bayern Guardiola's style of football would sweep teams away. They could play the way they did in that first half at the weekend for 90 minutes, running up cricket scores against second rate opposition. The P Lge isn't like that. It's an age old cliche, but there really aren't any easy games. If Guardiola thinks he can win 'big matches' playing the way he did on Sunday - open and entertaining - I think he's in for a bit of a shock. That's why I can't wait for the derby. It's going to be a fascinating clash of cultures. Aguero, by the way, was bang out of order. At the time of writing he hasn't been charged with violent conduct, but if he isn't then the FA should charge themselves with bringing the game into disrepute! Had Costa done what Aguero did he would've been all over the front pages today. 

Chelsea look good. It's baffling as to how Hazard and co have all come back to life! Surely it was just a co-incidence that they all lost form at the same time last season - and played their manager out of a job? Was it hell! They downed tools. City's superstars lost a Cup Final to make sure they got rid of Mancini. It's horrible when it happens, but it does and it will again. It happened at Valencia last season as well. 

Arsenal looked better at Watford. Ozil makes a real difference to them. With the two new boys and everybody fit after the Euro's I'm certain things will settle down at The Emirates.

Spurs are stuttering. They're nowhere near the side that started last season. Kane and Eriksson are way off. Funny - I was interested to read Tony Cascarini telling Kane in his Times column today that he's not a No.10. I think I mentioned that a year ago! If he doesn't get himself up top and start being in the right places to score goals again he's going to struggle all season long. You're a centre forward Harry. Play like one. 

I don't know what to make of Everton just yet, but the signs are good. Ronald Koeman will make them competitive again. I like his style. Evertonians will as well. 

Liverpool's season is summed up by their results so far - a stunning win in the best game of the season at Arsenal, a sloppy defeat and a draw snatched from the jaws of what should've been another win. Klopp will know he's got to sort out the inconsistency. Oh - and Daniel Sturridge. How many times have I said - managers/coaches always believe they can get something out of a player that no-one else has? They always end up disappointed. Players don't change. Sturridge is a talent, but high maintenance. I hear he's got a new management company now that he's hoping will create a profile 'like Beckham's'. Daniel, there's only one way to do that - play football regularly and well - the rest will look after itself. I think Klopp may to have to bow to the inevitable any time soon and move him on. 

So we get the chance to take a break and look forward to what Big Sam has in mind for England. When the P Lge returns I'm sure we'll start to see some order take shape and I have to believe that things - the football - will only get better.

Is possession 9/10ths of the law?

on Monday, 22 August 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

Now I may have got this completely wrong - but ever since I first went to watch Coventry aged 4 - I've been under the impression that the purpose of playing football is to win. Right? We all agree on that?

How? Simple. Put the ball in the opponents net more times than they do yours. Yes?

If you can do that with a panache and excitement that gets supporters on the edge of their seats - job done. That's how United always did it under Fergie. It was breathless stuff. Of course, there were times when it didn't all come together, but no one ever left Old Trafford early, just in case. 

Now not every manager is as fortunate to have the tools at their disposal that Fergie did, so not everybody can play like that, but the purpose of the game remains the same - find a way to put the ball in your opponents net. 

Let me quote Pep Guardiola again - his own words from his autobiography 'I hate possession for the sake of it. There is no purpose to it. Barca didn't do tiki-taka'. No. They didn't. They hunted the ball down. The pinched it back early. They'd overload on one side before moving the ball quickly to the other and exposing defensive weaknesses. And they had three geniuses - Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, that made winning matches a whole lot easier. 

So this brings me onto the headline below. 

Burnley beat Liverpool at the weekend with the least possession that any team has had in a P Lge match since records began - a little over 19%! Brilliant.

United will win it....

on Friday, 12 August 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

The problem with pre-season predictions is that they can very easily make you look a mug. Well - Leicester can - spectacularly! 

 I had them down for relegation last season. My only consolation is that I wasn't the only one!

 Nobody, literally nobody, could foresee what happened. I'm not sure even now that Leicester fans can quite understand or believe how their season worked out. How did they win the P Lge?

 There were many reasons, but let's be clear about this, they won it because they deserved to. They earned it. 

 Having said that, the 'big boys' weren't very good were they? I had Arsenal down to win it - and they really should've done. Finishing second, ahead of Spurs, was quite an achievement in the end, but small consolation for Gunners' fans, who know their team missed a wonderful chance last season. 

 United were poor. City disappointed, but the speculation surrounding Guardiola, who was always going to take charge this season, had an impact. Pellegrini, who's success was with Mancini's team, had no chance. Remember the nonsense about him extending his contract as City tried to quell the speculation? I told you then it was a red herring. 

Here we go

on Saturday, 06 August 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

 A week from today (Saturday) I'll have been back at work for 48 hours - embarking on my 4th season at BeIN Sports. I really can't believe it. Time has flown. 

 It's been enormously enjoyable. At my time of life I'm done with ploughing. up and down motorways and all the hassle that goes with getting around Britain. I was reminded of that on my first day back in the country this summer. I drove to Leeds, to host a dinner with Andy. It took me five hours to make a journey that should take two and a half. I came back the same evening, joining the M1 at junction 40. It was shut at 39. One hour later I was back on at junction 38. It was a nightmare and brought back memories of so many of those evenings crashing back to London in driving rain/sleet/snow - arriving back in the small hours absolutely exhausted. Of course the upside was that initially it was fun and I'm not going to pretend that doing what I finished doing in this country didn't have its rewards. It did, but everything changes. 

 Anyway. There we are. That's the gripe out of the way! Oh, apologies that I've been so quiet during the summer. I needed a complete break which always does the trick - I'm now more than ready to go again. 

What now?

on Tuesday, 28 June 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog


I had decided to give you - and myself - a break from these posts during The Euro's. My thinking was that so much can change so quickly during tournaments that snap judgements probably weren't a good idea. Sorry, I couldn't resist after last night's shambles.

 I'll give you an example - Wayne Rooney. I was one of one arguing before the tournament that he had to go - not just go, but start. And start every game. So I understood Roy Hodgson, who was Rooney's biggest fan, raising an eye brow when my colleagues in the English press were outraged that he was left out of the game against Slovakia!

 Having said that, I was never convinced that Hodgson wanted to start Rooney. I believe he felt it was a risk too far not to. But he took him off in the first game v Russia, as if to make a statement. Why? Rooney was our leader. Up to the point that he went off he was our best player. He was certainly our most experienced player. For me, once he'd left the field, the early signs of our inexperience were laid bare. Russia capitalised.

 You see, that's the problem with youth. There's a lot of energy. A lot of excitable belief, but absolutely NO experience. That's a commodity you can't buy. England were well short in that department. Well short - and I said it from the moment Hodgson was bullied down that path by the English press.

 I'm a big fan of Hodgson's - as most people know. I believe he's an honourable, decent man. I believed he had a backbone. That he was his own man. That he could make big decisions. I was wrong in nearly all of that. Decent and honourable he is, but I couldn't have been more disappointed that he started to play the 'populist' card to avoid criticism.

 Here's a couple of further examples. Hodgson believed the way for England to play at these Championships was with a diamond, so that he could get two strikers up top. He went in like that in our last warm up friendly v Portugal. It didn't necessarily work, the press criticised, so he changed his mind. But he'd already decided on his personnel for France, including Jack Wilshere, who likes that system, so he was stuck.

 Remember the ludicrous sight of our centre forward taking corners against Russia? Hodgson was roundly condemned for that piece of nonsense, but went public and strongly defended the decision. So, we were expecting Kane to take corners against Wales weren't we? (Actually I wasn't, and I said so before the game on beINSports). Wrong, six minutes in, Rooney was taking them. Hodgson had buckled under pressure again. He wanted to both make and keep friends.

It'll end in tears.....

on Tuesday, 24 May 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

It'll end in tears, but what a ride Manchester United fans are in for! In fact, what a time to be a football fan in Manchester now that, arguably, the best two coaches in the world are going head to head again. 

 Arguably? I've got to reserve room at the top for Carlo Ancelotti. He's a class operator. 

 Anyway, not before time, United have got it right. This is what they should've done when Fergie announced he was leaving. Mourinho's job application the night that Real tipped them out of the C Lge was wrongly ignored and they've paid a heavy price. Mind you, how many of us haven't f****d up somewhere along the line?!? 

 David Moyes was the right man - at the wrong time. I advocated change when it was blindingly obvious part way through that first post-Fergie season that it was going wrong. I stand by what I said, but....

 I strongly believe that he was a far better option to back than LVG. His two years have been little short of a disaster - and I don't like using that word. Disasters are what happened in Munich and at Hillsbrough. In that context, the sport of football is irrelevant. 

 LVG ripped the heart out of United. He changed everything that was great about them. Little things, like splitting the dining room arrangements. The senior players were kept apart from everybody else at the club, instantly causing rifts and splits. Fergie, who I have been critical of in the past, never allowed that. He knew the value of the 'family'. 

Safe standing? Really?

on Saturday, 14 May 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

So we come to the end of the most extra-ordinary of seasons. I thought about waiting until Monday before writing - but with so little left to sort out, why wait?

So little? Not if you're a Manchester football fan. There's the engaging battle for 4th to be sorted out this weekend. Think about that - both Manchester clubs getting excited about the race for 4th place. Oh how the mighty have fallen. 

LVG was talking this week about how it's 'unrealistic' of United fans to think that his team might be title challengers! Really? Why? That's surely the sole reason why this fading Dutch genius was brought into the club - to deliver the title? And why not after getting on for a spend of £300m?

 United also announced record profits this last week. Do you know what - I'm beginning to think that we're entering a new era at Old Trafford, where simply qualifying for the C Lge is enough. United are 'new' Arsenal. 

 It's for that reason that I'm pretty convinced now that LVG will survive if United can pip City for 4th. An FA Cup win would be a bonus, but I don't think it would be enough to save him. Delivering C Lge football just might. 

 Can they nick 4th? Sure they can. As any die-hard City fan will tell you, if there's a team capable of cocking this up then it's City.  

 In truth I'm not sure either side deserves C Lge football. I think West Ham and Southampton could justifiably argue their efforts this season should be rewarded with that prize. Both have been entertaining. Both have been adventurous. Both have been a breath of fresh air. 

Get rid United

on Monday, 02 May 2016. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

It was a pretty good weekend. Not because I particularly enjoyed the football - more because I couldn't stop laughing when I was watching The Saturday Club on beIN Sports. They ripped into me for my pre-season prediction of impending doom at Leicester following the appointment of Claudio Ranieri! 

 It's something I've addressed a number of times, so there's not much point in re-visiting it. The only consolation is that I wasn't alone. The great and the good from our business were a unified voice about Ranieri. We were ALL wrong. When you are, the best policy is to hold your hands up and admit it. I admit it - again! 

 What makes being wrong all the more pleasurable is that Leicester haven't just survived - they've flourished under Ranieri. I repeat - for me their title success (at least I was one of the first to be convinced by them!!!) is the greatest football story of all time. 

 Now, I appreciate there will be many good arguments to the contrary. I don't mind that. I said 'for me'. It's just wonderful. I actually thought they'd get over the line at Old Trafford. Wouldn't that have been perfect? To do it in United's back yard!  

 The point might yet be enough. It all depends now on whether Spurs beat Chelsea tonight (Monday) and beat them they MUST, or it is all over. 

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