Continuing The False Nine’s look back at 2012, we spoke to Steve Graves of The Anfield Wrap…
For drama, Sergio Aguero’s winner to seal the Premier League title. For football and society as a whole, the announcement that the hugely flawed Hillsborough inquest verdicts would be quashed surpassed anything to happen on the pitch.
In a year when Mario Balotelli became increasingly tiresome, Zlatan Ibrahimovic showed him how the maverick footballing auteur thing is done properly. Zlatan did his level best to carry an average Sweden team through their group at Euro 2012, signed for Paris St Germain for an awful lot of money and then spent some of it on his own island.
He even managed to convince Jamie Redknapp and Andy Townsend that he’s a good player.
Favourite euro 2012 moment
Is everyone going to say the Pirlo penalty? Let me get it in first. A moment of Cavalier brilliance to cast in an even more unflattering light the dour, safety-first Roundhead football forced on England’s team of elite footballers by a manager whose last tangible success came in 2001. In Denmark.
As a fan of both Liverpool FC and forgotten goals, Sebastian Coates deserves a massive mention for his gravity-defying scissors kick at QPR in March. It was a goal as brilliant as it was preposterous, scored in a game the Reds were ultimately to throw away. It feels increasingly emblematic of both Liverpool’s slump in league form and the Uruguayan’s stalled career at the club.
It may not have been hugely dramatic, but the Euro 2012 final was a joy. Spain, forced up a gear by the standard of the opposition, played as well as they ever have while suggesting they’re far from finished.
Had we been discussing this at the end of last season, Isaac Cuenca of Barcelona would have been in the reckoning. In many ways a classic left-winger in style, his pace and decision-making stood out even among his illustrious peers. A knee injury has held Cuenca back this season, so instead I’ll nominate his teammate Adriano.
It might be odd to pick a 28-year-old, but until this point at Camp Nou the Brazilian has been a footballer in search of a position. His versatility and genuine two-footedness have often counted against him in this regard, but under Tito Vilanova he supplanted Dani Alves to become Barca’s first choice on the right of defence (I hesitate in this case to use the term ‘right-back’). Confident and assured in possession, his stunning goal against Atletico Madrid recently was a fitting way to mark his overdue arrival as a footballer of substance.
Atletico Madrid have done extremely well under Diego Simeone, while Dortmund’s continued progress means they are genuine contenders for the Champions League this time round. In England it’s beginning to look as if Everton are taking a significant stride forward this season, while Swansea (with added Michu) look set fair for a long run in the top flight.
Further afield, Orduspor under Hector Cuper were supposed to be getting in amongst it in Turkey’s Super Lig but their form has dropped off dramatically. Instead, Medical Park Antalyaspor are the unlikely surprise package. With a capacity of 7,000 and a squad nobody would envy they have performed minor miracles to be third in the league with a game in hand on leaders Galatasaray.
Staying in Turkey, if there’s such a thing as a reverse breakthrough Fenerbahce are having a go at pulling it off. Despite throwing money at the likes of Dirk Kuyt, Milos Krasic and Raul Meireles this summer, they’ve struggled badly. With the latter banned for a homophobic gesture and league results disappointing, their hamfisted effort to sign Wesley Sneijder only added to the sense that the Yellow Canaries are in a bit of a mess.
Joey Barton moment
I don’t really keep up with the soap opera stuff but his part in taking the title to the light side of Manchester should not go unmentioned.
Lots to enjoy this year but it would be disingenuous to pretend I’m cooler than Hot Chip and In Our Heads which felt like their most complete record yet.
Liverpool’s Tea Street Band have performed in all sorts of venues this year and I’ve seen them at, among others, the Zanzibar, Binary Cell, the opening night of the Dovedale Social and the Kendal Calling festival. But their best gig of the year for me was in a covered car park off Wolstenholme Square as part of the Sound City festival. Live, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Also worth a mention were New York’s Friends at the Kazimier in Liverpool – worth missing the second game of the Euros for.