Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Oh Manchester United...

The following is a post from a guest blogger - Matthew "Ice" Rybak. Look for him to contribute to the Bean Town Frog. Unfortunately he is a Manchester United fan, but is semi intelligent so we will accept his contributions. Welcome aboard Matty Ice!

Congrats to Chelsea for being the Floyd Mayweather of Soccer and Manchester Utd. Stumble once again. Transfer Rumors.

Congrats to Chelsea for being the most boring Champion ever. (Sorry Chelsea fans but you only deserve one sentence for the display of football you made me sit through this season.) If I am setting a precedent based off of my last statement, then Manchester United doesn’t even deserve a mention after their past two weeks performances. However Louis Van Gaal doesn’t deserve to get off that easy. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. LVG is insane, after two weeks of nothing being delivered from the midfield of Fellaini, Young, Mata and Herrera he went back to them again. And again the same result, dominant in possession but lacked that special imagination to break through the wall of defense that West Brom constructed. 

The start of the second half brought about the typical LVG substitutions of Di Maria and
Mad Dutchman??
Falcao (which lead to disjointed play and more frustration from the home crowd). However Louis tried to shake things up by dropping Robin Van Persie into a central midfield position. This decision infuriated the striker whose body language went from poor to shit and left Rooney running around aimlessly with no true position. This decision just makes you scratch your head especially since RVP has been on the bench for the past month with an injury. Then LVG choose him for the PK, nothing about RVP’s play warranted that decision. Everyone in the building knew Robin wanted nothing to do with that free kick. He steps up with the chance to tie the game and make up for all his blown chances earlier in the game but except he floats a duck to the right side of the goal for a relatively easy stop from the goalkeeper. It is time for Louis Van Gaal to pivot his soccer philosophy before Manchester Utd finds themselves on the outside of the top 4. 

LVG seems to have the infatuation level with his system that a 13 year old girl does with Justin Beiber. No matter how many DUI’s or arrests that clown has, that 13 year old will always love him. It seems about two months ago LVG struck gold with the combination of Mata Herrera and Young but now the three of them produce nothing more than aluminum. Manchester United experienced a similar issue earlier in the season when they were playing with two wing backs and after multiple dismal performances he reluctantly decided to switch to a four man back. Hopefully LVG can see the light again and make another brilliant tactical change to secure that coveted Champions League birth. Transfer Rumors: Everyone to United, De Gea to Madrid.

Monday, March 30, 2015

You win some, you lose some - Les Bleus at the international break

I must admit I was not able to watch both the France v Brazil and France v Denmark matches in their entirety. This work thing can get in the way. So I would not do a full good-bad-ugly review of both matches. My apologies. But here are some take-aways from what I saw from both matches. 

  • Les Bleus have some interesting players to watch for the next year. Fekir is the first that comes to mind. Coming on as a substitute for both matches he showed some glimpses of why he is such an exciting player. His pace and creativity were both on display during his game time. He seems as comfortable on the right as on the left side, something that is important for DD. It will be interesting to see how he continues to play for Lyon this season and what happens during the summer transfer window. My home would be he stays with OL, since at times a move to a bigger club and league can cause a drop off in a players game. Not the ideal situation just before a major tournament. Speaking of OL, Fekir's teammate - Lacazette celebrated his first international goal versus Denmark. He could have very well latched on to a second in that game when he split the Danish defense, unfortunately he missed his touch. But he did show an ability to work well playing wide with Giroud as the lone striker. Again another option to watch for DD as he develops his roster. As much as this pains me, I think Payet showed me something as well. It is still hard for me to admit he is a full blown international, but he brought some decent game management skills to the table against Denmark, controlling the pace of play and proving dangerous with his crosses etc. 
  • Les Bleus also have some major question marks. Issues remain, issues that been haunting Les Bleus for the past few seasons. Goal scoring remains elusive. Benzema being the primary culprit for this. What sticks out was his missed volley against Brazil....from close. Granted this past weekend in my old man soccer league I blasted a similar ball into the proverbial row ZZ, but I am not an international level player! I still feel as if Benzema has failed to live up to what is suppose to be bags of talent. France really has yet to replace the likes of Henry and Trezeguet. The right side...yes it is a broken record. But this continues to haunt Les Bleus. It will be interesting to see if and how the likes of Fekir might become a solution to this problem. Speaking of the right side, part of the issue is also the right backs and by some extent the left backs are also in question. I am not sure why the likes of Sagna and Evra are still getting time. Evra to me is not the long term, and by long term I mean the Euros,  solution for left back. With the likes of Tremoulinas and Kurzawa as more likely long term options why is DD insistent on continuing to select Mr Evra? On the right side, hopefully a healthy return of Debuchy will stabilize the position.
  • Who will be the superstar player? I am not asking for the next Zidane or Platini...but France need to find their next star player. Ribery and Henry filled those roles post Zidane. But who is the next player? It does not have to be a superstar offensive player. Pogba appears to be the most likely candidate to fill the role. His box-to-box midfielder can put his stamp on any game he plays in. His form for Juventus has made him one of the most desirable assets in the game. Question remains can he translate this for the national team? If it is not Pogba, not sure where this comes from.
France leave these two games with some positives to build on and some questions that continue to linger. Deschamps does have over a year to figure it out, but that year will go by quickly. Much work to be done, but there are enough positives to have some high expectations for next year's tournament on home soil.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Karim captain!

With the injury to Lloris, the question became who would wear the captain's arm band. Interesting that a player who has worn the arm band and for more than one match is in the starting line up - Evra. Of course he was the captain during the disaster that was the South African World Cup. DD decided to choose the Real Madrid striker - Benzema to wear the arm band for this match.

I didn't ask for any gov't identification...
I understand why you could not give it back to Evra. But I am not sure I would have picked Benzema evidence to prove this...and they were acquitted. Hey I am not naive enough to think these boys are all choir boys, nor do I expect them to be. But couple this with some of Karim's sometimes on field issues - aka lack of production. Remember his year long goalless drought??? And I don't see the ideal model for a captain. Granted it is only for this match, or maybe the next one as well. But would have rather seen Matuidi carrying the arm band - maybe even Varane who profiles as the long term French captain.
either. Not when you have other choices, Matuidi being the one that comes to mind. Benzema does have some baggage from his off the field activities...remember the under aged lady of the night? It was never in question that Benzema and Ribery had purchased Ms Dehar's services, but whether or not they were aware of her age. The courts did not find enough

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

No surpise - DD leaning back on his 4-3-3

Heading into the friendly tomorrow against Brazil, word out of Clairefontaine is that Deschamps will roll out the formation we have grown accustomed to seeing France play - the 4-3-3. Makes sense with the French strength being in that middle three. Even with their engine room midfielder, Pogba, being out for the match, Les Bleus have plenty of talent and depth at that position.

The possible line up -

Mandanda - Sagna, Varane, Sakho, Evra - Sissoko, Schneiderlin, Matuidi - Valbuena, Griezmann, Benzema

No surprise in goal, with Lloris having to drop out of the squad after picking up a knock playing for Tottenham. The outside backs are back to the future, not sure I expect to see these two being the pillars for the Euro campaign. But we shall see. As for the center back pairing, looks like Sakho's club form has put him back in the good graces of the manager. I will be surprised if Kos doesn't get some time this game or next. Varane seems to be the constant in that central defensive pairing, who partners with him remains in flux.

The midfield trident shows the depth DD has at his disposal. Without Pogba, he can still turn to the
Is that DD calling me??
likes of Schneiderlin and Sissoko. Matuidi is a regular. Question becomes - will Cabaye ever regain his position? His main issue is that for his club - PSG - he is stuck behind a number of talented midfielders. Maybe he should have stayed in northern England! Up front, no surprise either. With Griezmann seeming to cement his role out on the left side of the formation, Benzema as the lone striker and Valbuena. The main issue, once again, will be to see how France's right plays. Yes Valbuena should be "slotted" to play in that right corridor. But we all know he has license to drift and often does. Raises a question - does Menez have a role on the national team? Anyone noticed his form in Italy? He has been on a tear for Milan AC. Could be something to keep in mind.

Brazil is always a tough opponent, don't let their last two World Cup games lull you into complacency. I expect a balanced and cautious game from both sides. I am a little nervous about France's outside backs, I am not sure they can keep the Brazilian wingers and fullbacks in check. There will be a lot expected of the midfield trident to slow down Neymar et al.

I look for a 2-2 draw. Benzema with a brace.

Allez les Bleus

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Les Bleus get set with some new faces

The international season will be kicking off this month. Of course Les Bleus will not be playing any qualifiers, but the European Cup is about 15 months away. That time will go by fast and DD will be expected to have his squad ready for the tournament they are hosting - will anything short of a semi final appearance be acceptable??

The list DD called up looks very familiar with some new faces and some questionable choices:

Lloris, Mandanda, Ruffier – Evra, Jallet, Koscielny, Sagna, Sakho, Trémoulinas, Varane, Zouma – Gonalons, Kondogbia, Matuidi, Payet, Schneiderlin, Sissoko – Benzema, Fekir, Giroud, Griezmann, Lacazette, Valbuena

The fresh new face is that of Fekir from Lyon. The attacking midfielder is having a break out season with his club, with double digit goals (11) and 7 assists. He was long time a target for the Algerian national team but made the decision to throw his future behind Les Bleus. He did play at the U21 level with France. The player offers DD some new blood for his attacking midfield. With the retirement of Ribery and the exile of Nasri coupled with France's consistently lacking right side, it will be interesting how the new player get integrated and leveraged.

Many of the other names are the usual suspects that DD has been leaning on. The one player that continues to make me scratch my head - Evra. The Juventus left back continues to be called up. But is he truly the future for the left back role? It is good to see Tremoulinas being in the squad. But what about Kurzawa? I am not sure that Evra is our solution at left back for the Euros. I realize he hasn't retired from international play, but that does not mean DD needs to continue to call him up.

It will be interesting to see how DD handles his back line. With Sakho starting to do better at the club level, will the central pairing be changed again? It is also good to see Kondogbia back on the roster. Clearly his play for AS Monaco has not gone unnoticed. Let us see how DD runs his formation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ugh - Get ready for a winter World Cup. What a farce.

First my apologies for being lax in 2015 to publishing some posts. I need to get back to ranting about the beautiful game! Here is a great reason to spew some anger - looks as if the Qatar 2022 World Cup will be held in the winter - click here for article. What???

Granted the reasons for this are obvious. It is too *&$%@# hot in the summer in Qatar! But guess what, we knew that before the nation was selected to host the tournament. I do not need to rehash my feelings towards this selection. From the fact the nation has zero soccer heritage, to the heat, to the ability to handle such a massive sporting event. This has been nothing short of a prime example why clowns like Sepp Blatter is seen as corrupt and a weasel. Qatar 2022 is all about money. The money FIFA hopes to get from the oil rich nation as well as the fat envelopes that most certainly found their way into Sepp and his cronies' pockets. I can only imagine what the clubs are going to say about this brilliant decision.  Holding the World Cup during November and December is going to fall right in the middle of club seasons, Champions League group stage games and countless national cup ties. The major European leagues, other than England, take a break end of the year. So what does the international duty mean for this? Will FIFA expect club seasons to continue minus the international players, as they do during the African Cup of Nations? Ask Manchester City how they felt about now having Yaya during that time....Clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, PSG, Chelsea, Bayern Munich would be fielding their youth teams! Granted that might make the mid-tier clubs happy. But seriously, this is beyond asinine.

If and when this becomes a reality, expect the majority of clubs to not just complain but challenge having to allow their players to go to the World Cup.  The mess that is Qatar 2022 is only getting worse. The sad part is the likes of Platini did not help by voting this in. Alas, Platoche is falling under the bad influence of global football's idiotic management.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! My wishes for 2015

2014 was a good year in terms of footy, how can it not be when there is a World Cup. PSG won another Ligue 1 title, Arsenal once again failed to impress...oh right they won the FA Cup so all is right, never mind...Real Madrid beat their cross town rivalry in the Champions League final and Germany won their 4th World Cup.  But as we turn the page on 2014 and look forward to 2015, here are my wishes for the new year.

  • Arsenal finds themselves a new manger...I have been sour on my fellow countryman for a few years now. His miserly spending, poor selection of transfer targets and his stubbornness when it comes to keeping his own players have led to a poor showing for years. Yes I know he won the FA Cup last year, but that was fools' gold. So the Gunners win their 4th place trophy on a regular basis, get to the Champions League and then flame out in the 1/4 finals. Yeah. When is the last time that Arsenal has really contended for the Premiership??? Liverpool has gotten closer than the Gunners in recent history. It is time for some new blood. With Jurgen Klopp on thin ice at Dortmund could this be the perfect storm? Where could Wenger go? PSG might still be an option as Blanc does not seem 100% secure in Paris. Here is a crazy thought,
    Right time to come to London?
    what about a side like Hertha Berlin? A team in a large cosmopolitan city in the heart of Europe. Wenger could work on acquiring and developing a bevy of German international talent, while working in a league where business principles are in line with Wenger's supposed methods. Bottom line...Wenger needs to move on.
  • Les Bleus finally find themselves a right sided winger...something else I have know to harp on...France's inability to have a right sided player to give the team a greater balance. Not sure what the options are. Valbuena is more of a center of the park player. Remy could be an option but never seems to stick with France and is currently only a bench player for Chelsea. Sissoko, maybe, but I see him as more of a midfield relaying player. Not sure a player such as Lacazette is an option outside on the wing either, he has played there but seems more comfortable as the center forward. Thauvin from Marseille might also be an option, but seems to have maturity issues. Finally Payet might be the option, but I do not see him as a full international let alone the full time option on the right side. Deschamps will have his work cut out for him to determine how to properly balance his squad. Hopefully the solution works its way out in 2015.
  • May PSG find success in Europe...well that might be difficult with Chelsea on the schedule for the knock out round of the Champions League, but the Paris club needs to make some adjustments to their roster to position themselves more favorably for the Champions League. The likes of Cabaye and Cavani need to be better utilized or potentially sold off. A legitimate second striker to take some of the pressure off of Zlatan. Granted the aforementioned Cavani is suppose to be that option, but I think that experiment has not succeeded. Also, the center backs need to be better - Luiz is a clown, still not sure why PSG spent some much on Sideshow Bob. PSG will need to clean up some of these issues to build towards success in Europe. Could a new manager also be in the cards this summer? Maybe, especially if PSG does not win the Ligue 1 once again or good deep in Europe.
These are some simple wishes for 2015, what are your footy wishes??

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merci Titi - France and Arsenal legend Henry announces his retirement

Yes I realize that Titi played for Monaco, Juventus, Barcelona and New York Red Bull, but I think it is safe to say the legendary forward is best known for his time at Arsenal and playing for Les Bleus. It came as no surprise as Henry announced his retirement from football today. So what to make of the French national team all time leading scorer? There have been a number of articles written about how Titi will never be appreciated in his homeland of France, read one of the latest ones here. And there is some element of truth in that statement.

His first issue was he played for France at the same time as a certain Zidane. Hard to command the limelight when one of the greatest players of all time is on the field with you. But I think there is something deeper to this. Unlike his days at Arsenal, Henry rarely took over games for Les Bleus. Yes he is the all time leading goal scorer for Les Bleus with 51 goals in 123 appearances. However strange as this may sound - the only goal I truly remember was the one in the 2006 World Cup 1/4 finals against Brazil from a Zidane free kick. But otherwise it feels like the other 50 goals were...empty. Sounds ridiculous, I realize. But I clearly remember Zidane's brace in the 1998 World
Not what one wants as their defining moment
Cup final, Trezeguet's winner in the 2000 European Cup finals, Wiltord's equalizer in the same game, Blanc's goal against Paraguay in the 1998 World Cup, Platini's winner against Portugal in 1982...I can go on for a while before I get to Henry's memorable strike. I might argue that Ribery's goal against Spain in 2006 was the bigger goal of that tournament for France.

I remember speaking with my father before the 2006 World Cup finals and we both agreed that Henry had to step up - take over the game. Unfortunately he didn't and almost had to come out within the first 5 minutes after a collision early on with an Italian defender.  It could be argued that had Henry stayed in the game, he would have taken a penalty kick before Trezeguet. But I digress. The one defining moment for Henry might be the "hand of frog." When he deliberately handled the ball to allow him to cross to Gallas who scored the equalizing goal and allowed France to defeat Ireland in the 2010 World Cup playoff.

Henry deserves to be in the discussion of greatest players in French national team history. To me Platini, Zidane and Kopa are at the top of that podium. But Henry and his 51 goals has to be the in conversation as one of the all time greats. Top 10 yes....top 5 maybe. Unfortunately, unlike those mentioned, he did not have a defining moment in his career...at least not a positive one since I do not think the "hand of frog" is the type of defining moment you want.

While Henry might not get the accolades he deserves back in France, he remains one of the all time greatest. Watching him at the heights of his power for Arsenal was something amazing to watch. And I know the 51 goals was not empty for Les Bleus.

Merci Titi.

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