Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Fournier out at PSG

It is a shame that Fournier is out at PSG...dropping down to sixth and being out of the Ligue Cup made Fournier's stay short lived. Fournier had not been on the job for a year, just around 6 months. This makes the move ridiculous and terrible for the club. PSG had played well during the season rising as high as second, the recent few games have seem PSG drop to 6th, but only 1 point out of second place. The rulers at PSG demonstrated a lack of understanding and patients with the manager. Watching a team like Lyon it is apparant you need continuity to ensure success. Changing Managers every 6 months will not bring that continuity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Henry to Barca?

The rumors keep rearing their ugly head...meaning it might be true. If Henry leaves Arsenal, Wenger would have lost two of his most influential players - Vieira and Henry. Granted he was able to recover after losing similar players in the past - Petit, Anelka, Overmars etc, but not sure he is ready to restock the club as well as he did last time. Darker days may be ahead for the north london club...

Friday, December 09, 2005

ESPN idiots part II

Then again who would have thought that Greece would beat Portugal (in Portugal twice), France, the Czech Republic to win the European Cup in 2004?????

ESPN idiots?

For any of you who watched the WC draw on ESPN 2 you would have heard Wynalda and Balboa talk about who they saw as "pretenders" and "contenders." While it irks me they claimed France was a "pretender" I can see where they made that call, although their analysis was about as deep as a puddle of water in the desert. They claimed that France had a bunch of old players...granted Zidane, Makelele and Thuram are on the wrong side of 30 but last I checked Henry, Trezeguet, Cisse, Vieira, Gallas were in their prime all playing much higher level of football than Balboa or Wynalda ever did. It also seems that Zidane, Makelele, and Thuram all play important roles for Real Madrid, Chelsea and Juventus....anyways...what really drove me crazy was their assertion that the US had a real chance to win the world cup this year, and they were serious. I wonder if they would still make that statement seeing the draw - Italy, Czech Rep, and Ghana....In addition to having to play the Czechs first, then the Italians...the Ghana game could be an exhibition game. If the USA gets out of their group, I would assume that it would be as second place team, they would have to meet the winner of Group F....which should be Brazil.....if they can get through that then the US deserves to be WC champions. Maybe Mr Balboa and Wynalda should drink some reality cool aid first.

The draw is out

For the futball junkie in all of us here is the draw for the WC:

GROUP A
Germany
Costa Rica
Poland
Ecuador

GROUP B
England
Paraguay
Trinidad & Tobago
Sweden

GROUP C
Argentina
Ivory Coast
Serbia & Montenegro
Holland

GROUP D
Mexico
Iran
Angola
Portugal

GROUP E
Italy
Ghana
USA
Czech Republic

GROUP F
Brazil
Croatia
Australia
Japan

GROUP G
France
Switzerland
South Korea
Togo

GROUP H
Spain
Ukraine
Tunisia
Saudi Arabia


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Essien the goon?

I final got to see the horrible tackle Essien dished out the Liverpool's Hamann, after a similar tackle earlier in the season vs Bolton. Essien has not been known as a dirty player, but these two horrible and unnecassary tackles will quickly put Essien right in the bull's eye as a dirty player. Both tackles were extremely high, right above the opposing players knee, something that can easily break a leg, tear up a knee etc. We all stared in shock as Keane went at Haaland of Man City in similar fashion tearing up his knee. Keane admited that he did this on purpose, knowing that this was a manner of injuring a player.

Essien has attempted two similar tackles in less than half a season at Chelsea. He is suppose to be Chelsea's "hard man" but this not a way to get that title. He needs to avoid becoming seen as the "goon" of Chelsea, not a moniker anyone desires, least of all a player of Essien's talent.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Champions League

Manchester United crashes out with a lose to Benefica...I must chuckle.....

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The World Cup seeds are out

For the futball junkie in all of us, the world cup seeds and "pots" have been determined:

POT ONE
Germany (hosts)
Brazil (holders)
Argentina
England
France
Italy
Mexico
Spain
POT TWO
Australia
Angola
Ghana
Ivory Coast
Togo
Tunisia
Ecuador
Paraguay
POT THREE
Croatia
Czech Republic
Netherlands
Poland
Portugal
Sweden
Switzerland
Ukraine
POT FOUR
Iran
Japan
Saudi Arabia
South Korea
Costa Rica
Trinidad & Tobago
US
Special pot: Serbia & Montenegro

What is to note is the United States just missed out on being a seeded team, I think if that had happened that would have immediately been the weakest group. But now I think the Pots are balanced, with no clear ability to get a "group of death." I think having Portugal, Czech Rep, Holland in the same pot ensures that there is not a group with 3 power house nations. I think that the Ivory Coast could cause problems, with players like Drogba and Kalou they have the talent to create an upset. The US I think is the best team in Pot Four, I am not afraid of either former WC hosts - South Korea and Japan (of course watch one them upset Les Bleus!). From the "pots" I think we will see well balanced groups, with two strong nations, 1 up and coming and 1 just happy to be there.

Of course I will not be surprised if Brazil gets "drawn" with Angola, Ukraine and Trinidad....because FIFA would not want to see Brazil suffer too much in the first round.....until Friday....

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lyon rolls on

I sat through a painful 90 minutes this weekend, and no it was not the fact that Arsenal could not beat Bolton, but the fact that PSG looked like a JV team compared to Olympique Lyonnaise. Lyon easily defeated PSG 2-0 securing their spot at top of Ligue 1. What impressed me is the main reason why Lyon is favored to win its 5th straight domestic title as well as go far in the Champion's League - cohesion. Lyon looked like a team that has been together for a while, a team that has developed and maintained its rythm and system. While the team that Lyon has today is different that the one they had 4 years ago, the main pieces remain: Juninho running the midfield, Coupet in net, Govou using his speed to break down defenses, Diarra moping up the midfield etc. But they have demonstrated an ability to bring in players that play the system - the midfield of Tiago - Diarra - Juninho is the strongest in France and one of the strongest in Europe (to think that it used to have Essien instead of Tiago). Tiago has slipped in without missing a beat. The front line which can interchange Carew, Fred, Govou, Wiltord is scarey. With Malouda running one of the flanks, this attacking side is very dangerous. Lyon moved the ball with ease, never really being under threat from PSG.

While PSG, a team I think will become much better before the end of the year, seemed to be out of sync. Too many passes behind teammates, too many missed opportunities, too many players out of position (something the commentators notably pointed out). I think the midfield of Rothens - Dhorasso - Kalou can match the magic of Lyon, but it still needs time to develope. PSG also needs another striker to support Pauleta (maybe Cisse from Liverpool?). I think that PSG will end the season in 2nd or 3rd place, but I doubt whether or not they will get within reasonable striking distance from Lyon.

Who would have thought that Chelsea would have a harder fight for the Premiership than Lyon would have with Ligue 1.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Crouch the stork

Why is Crouch starting for Liverpool? I have no idea what Rafa is so enchanted with Crouch and allows Cisse to rot on the bench. Crouch sticks out on the pitch, not because of his talent but because of his height. I realize that he can control the airial game, but even that he is not that great. With players like Garcia and Alonso who can spring any player with deft passes, why is Liverpool sticking a slow footed striker infront of them? A combo of Morientes and Cisse with Gerrard/Garcia/Alonso supporting them, Liverpool would cause teams fits, the speed and pace of Morietes and Cisse would force defenses to back up, opening up the midfield for the talented players Liverpool has there. With Crouch teams can push up their defense, knowing that he will not beat them with spead. While he is a giant, he remains a little light, and easily gets pushed around.

Let Crouch develop his game, maybe he will prove to be a solid striker but not right now.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Keane to Arsenal

Think about it, since losing Vieira Arsenal have not found their "tough man" the midfielder that will anchor the midfield defense, intimidate and restart play. The young players like Flamini, Cesc et al would benefit from a motivator like Keane. Plus, Keane would be motivated now that the club that made him who he is so unceremonicaly dispatched him to the waste lands of "free agency." Keane in Arsenal red....about as doubtful as seeing Keane in the black and white strips of Juventus, lined up next to Vieira!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Keane shock!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/m/man_utd/4449396.stm

Reading the news this morning I saw the above headline. While I never liked Keane, thought he was a thug. He did his job about as well as any midfielder in the game. He played hard defense, intimidated, and was not afraid to push his teammates. While his skills were on the decline his value to Man U were equivalent to those of Vieira for Arsenal, now both teams will be without their "tough man" captains. This will create a huge gap in Manchester United's plans. All along it was clear that Smith was playing completely out of position and it appeared he was doing so while waiting for Keane to recover from injury, now Sir Alex will need to figure out a long term plan for his midfield....does this mean the Vieira to Manchester United rumors start up again?

I can just see it now, Vieira leaves Juventus and we have to stomach him with a Red Devil's #4 jersey on and then watch Henry donning a #12 Barcelona jersey.....oh the horror....

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend Internationals

Thanks to TV5, I was able to watch, actually suffer through the France-Germany futball friendly. For those of you that were not able to see the friendly it ended up 0-0...so what to take from a lackluster match?

  1. France needs to shore up its midfield. Granted France was without Zidane and Vieira to control the midfield, and it showed. With Makelele, Dhorasso, Sagnol and Malouda in the midfield there was not rythm and more concerning no "toughness" not for lack of effort but when you look a that line up you think you are watching and undre 6 foot basketball team, maybe under 5' 5"...Makelele cannot play covering midfield, he needs to be able to roam and hunt down loose balls and clean up, but not mark players one on one. Dhorasso is a solid player but not the main maestro for a team. Malouda is solid but again needs to be allowed to run free, and Sagnol is not a midfielder but a very very talented defender. Now at the end of the match France started to look like what we expect, with the entry of Rothen in the midfield he demonstrated his ability to create and break down defenses, while Anelka and Cisse showed that their pace and ball ability cause defenses fits.
  2. In order to challenge Domench needs to come stop his experimenting with players out of position as well as leverage all the talent he has at his disposal. Gallas should be paired with Thuram in the middle (not that Boumsong is playing poorly, but Gallas is out of position and why weaken a team just to fit in players). The commentators on TV5 made a great point, why isn't Clichy playing left back for les bleus? He is playing in one of the hardest leagues in football for one of the best clubs, Arsenal. His emergence at Arsenal may make Cole expendable, so why is not with the senior French national team? He is not a young kid, hitting his stride at 22. He is a natural lefty, something Gallas is not, plays solid defense, makes strong offensive runs and has great speed. Domench then needs to ensure he has the proper muscle and talent - get tough guys like Dacourt back as well as players like Micoud to back up Zidane. Micound and Dacourt both have proved themselves at the club level both would provide more than adequent cover for Vieira and Zidane. My line up would be: Coupet - Clichy, Gallas, Thuram, Sagnol - Vieira, Makelele, Zidane, Rothen - Henry, Trezeguet. With Anelka, Cisse, Micoud, Dacourt, Boumsong, Wiltord on the bench. Two natural lefties - clichy and Rothen, a vulture goal scorer - Trezeguet, the maestro - Zidane, two rocks in the central defense - Thuram and Gallas, a solid back that has lethal crosses - Sagnol, two engines - Vieira and Makelele and a player that can score from anywhere - Henry, finally a solid dependible keeper in Coupet.
  3. Germany could be very good...or not. The first 50 minutes Germany looked like the Germany of old, playing clamp down defense, intimidating with hard tackles, and being opportunistic with attacking surges. However the last 20 minutes they looked like the team that has been plagued by defensive problems, allowing numerous breaks from Anekla, Cisse and Rothen...Germany remains a team in flux on the back 4, something that Klinsman will need to solve. The one player that I must admit I was impressed with was Ballock who controled tempo and really showed how classy he is as a midfielder.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Arsenal undefeated season remains safe

Surprise surprise, Chelsea go to Manchester United and emerge with a loss, making for a poor week for Mourinho's boys, after losing to Real Betis in the Champions League. Now before we all get excited, Chelsea remains 10 points clear of Man U and 11 points clear of Arsenal, I realize that Wigan is only 6 points behind with a game in hand but I do not think they will be in the top five come end of season (next weeks game between Wigan and Arsenal will be very revealing for both teams). I still do not think that Chelsea will be caught in the race to the Premiership. However I think there are chinks in the armor.

Mourinho has to be able to navigate this trying times and we are seeing players snipping at the manager, Robbens complaining about playing time and being substitute. If these results persist we will continue to see this, a result of having team with so many stars.

I think that Mourinho's arrogance and "desire" to win four trophies will wear on the team and cost them. Could this be the start?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Anelka back in blue!

http://www.lequipe.fr/Football/20051103_110134Dev.html

So I read my french press this morning to find to my surprise, that Nicholas Anelka, the "enfant terrible" of French football is back in the French squad for their upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica and Germany. A surprise move to say the least. For those of you who have not followed this saga, Anelka has always been seen as a superstar in the making, a player with immense talent but not always the best judgement, he broke into world football when Arsene Wenger stole him from under the noses of PSG, when Anelka was an impressionable 19 year old with a world of talent. He only went on to score bushels of goals for Arsenal and in a memorable France-England friendly at Webley single handly destroyed England, scoring a brace and should have had a third for a famous 2-0 France victory. However, he has burned many bridges with many clubs, finally finding himself "exiled" to Fenebache (not to say that Fenebache or Galatassary are not world class clubs, but this is not the Premiership or La Liga).

Domenech, even when desperate for stikers, Henry hurt, Trezegeut suspended he still did not appear to remember anelka. But I like this move, it shows that Domenech is not being myopic with regards to next years world cup, he is obviously interested in bringing the best team possible to Germany. Anelka has always had a good relationship with Henry (both were in the same developement school outside of Paris), and I think that having a bunch of hungry players: Trezegeut, Henry, Anelka, Cisse, Wiltord fighting for playing time, that could spell danger for france's opponents. Now Domenech just has to manage all the egos and emtions. But the ability to put the ball in the net should not be an issue....

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mourinho with a dossier?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/a/arsenal/4398238.stm

So now it appears that it is Mourinho with a file on Arsene....sounds a little like the Chelsea manager resembles Hoover during his days at the CIA collecting "dossiers" to keep his power poistion. Mourinho should focus on football and stop getting into a battle of words with Wenger. It has been clear from the start that Mourinho has targetted Wenger for his whitty verbal barbs, steering clear of others like Fergunson. While it makes sense, since both Chelsea and Arsenal fight for the hearts and minds of London, Mourinho once again demonstrates his petty antics.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mourinho's arrogance

So after watching Chelsea drop a 1-0 loss to Real Betis, I was struck by something that permeated the entire game: the level of arrogance exhibited by Chelsea. This coming from a team that 5 seasons ago was floundering under debt, had found some small level of success by making it to the finals of FA cups, had decent albeit old teams, played second fiddle in London behind Arsenal and Tottenham. With the arrival of Abromovich and his billions the team has been propelled into the upper stratisphere of the football world. They were a nice story a few season back pre-Morinho, but since this team has bought its way to a premiership and now has become overrun by an arrogance never seen (Manchester United teams and Arsenal teams that dominated the Premiership were never so arrogant having each other to stay grounded).

I place this blame squarely on the shoulders of that arrogant snot Mourinho. I struggle with his ability as a manager....I think that with Porto he did some amazing things, with a conhesive and talented team (Deco et al.) Winning the UEFA cup and Champions League are nothing to sneeze at. But coming to Chelsea he has demonstrated an overbearing hubris and arrogance. His stating that he wants to win 4 titles (Carling Cup, FA Cup, Premiership and Champions League) is nothing by arrogant. While we should all hope our manager, coach, GM etc has a drive to win one needs to temper that with recognition of reality. I think that he believes that he should win every time his team steps on the field, and at times I believe he manages believing that the opponent will wilt just seeing the Chelsea Blue - something both Charlton and Real Betis threw back in his face. I think this attitude has seeped down to the players. Watching the game today I saw a number of players whining Cole and Duff to name two that got yellow cards for their efforts, they seemed to whine under the guise that "Hey we are Chelsea, don't you know who we are."

Mourinho has demonstrate an ability to manage his player's egos, but only on the short term (1.5 seasons)...has he demonstrated great tactics? Not sure...Has he shown great talent evaluation? Again not sure, with Chelsea and the billions of pounds you just go out and purchase the best players on the market - Wright-Phillips, Essein etc...the other players he brought in - Ferreira and Carvalho are okay but have majoy limitations. What he has been able to do is demonstrate his arrogance and over confidence that rubs many the wrong way...I especially enjoyed his statement that they did not lose to Charlton but drew...while I enjoyed the "arrogance" of Wenger and Ferguson when they were at the height of their rivalry, Mourinho has proven that he can manage a team with unlimited resources....let see what he could do with Sunderland.....

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bye bye 4 titles

Some have been discussing Chelsea's ability to win four titles this season: The Premiership (defending champs), Carling Cup (defending champs), FA Cup and Champions League. I have read on the BBC Sports and Fox Sports how no one would stop Chelsea...well what happened today?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/league_cup/4366994.stm

It is not as if Chelsea started their "B" team, well maybe they did, but their B team would do quite well in the premiership. They played many of their regulars, and brought in others during the course of the match. They played Cudacini rather than Cech, but still had Terry, Essien, Wright Phillips, Robben etc....not an experimental team! And they brought in Lampard, Drogba and Cole during the run of the game. Yet they were held by Charlton (can you name me the starting 11 for Charlton?) and ended up losing in PKs...which again shows why assertions by others that Chelsea could win 4 titles or that they are a shoe in for the Champions league finals are completely ridiculous.

Knock out competitions are always dangerous - Once we get to the knock out stage of the Champions League, anything can happen...score a goal on the away leg and then hunker down to protect that away goal, what Liverpool did to Chelsea last season....FA cup same thing, reason why there can be CocaCola league teams in the finals etc. And while Mourinho is a great manager he also has a massive ego and may at times allow himself to assume he can beat anyone by just showing up, the FA cup has shown that it will produce some monumental upsets: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/1591567.stm .

Competitions such as the league play is much more about survival, finding ways to scratch out points, depth and talent. It is a long season and in the end the team that has the most depth and talent will usually survive and finish first or close to first. The other teams destined to fight for the scraps. For this Chelsea is perfectly suited. They have depth at every position and an owner willing to spend whatever it takes to add to this depth.

But all that talent means nothing when one mistake, or one bad stretch of 10 minutes in a 90 minute game can spell defeat...which is why Chelsea is far from repeating what Man U did in 1999 which is the Treble...since we now know the quadrupule title run is out of the picture...unless you count the charity shield........

Vieira to Man U...the horror

According to some ugly rumors Patrick Vieira could leave Juventus for a return to the Premiership and play for the hated Manchester United....hated for those Arsenal fans:

Manchester United want to buy 22-year-old Lille and Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun, while Patrick Vieira is reportedly unhappy at Juventus and could also be a target. (Daily Star)

Wouldn't that be ironic...Vieira replacing the player he has been rivaled with for so long, Keane. The two have no love lost, nor does Vieira with others at Manchester United (Scholes, Van Nistelrooy etc). While I would usually laugh this off, I do remember a few years ago he stated how he would never rule playing for Manchester United, maybe he was using it for leverage but again, where there is smoke....

With the rumblings that Barca will make an important run at Henry, this could be a hard spell for Arsenal, unless Wenger can work his magic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Arsenal penalty mess

Much has been written and commented on with regards to the "attempted" Pires to Henry penalty shot this past week. While I watched it and wondered what they were attempting, I think we need to remember that thankfully it did not come back to haunt Arsenal...but it could have.

With Henry healthy this team can start creeping back into contention...but remains far, very far from challenging Chelsea. Let us hope they can make it to the tranfer window...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Arsenal on the verge

Anyone who followed the Premiership this weekend will be a little disturbed with the trend, well anyone who is an Aresnal Fan: Arsenal lose to West Brom 2-1, and Chelsea win 5-1 vs Bolton.

First Arsenal, they have yet to figure out life after Pat. I am refering here to Patrick Vieira who is now wearing the black and white stripes of Juventus. I am still having some internal debate as to whether or not Wenger should have sold him, while I thought at the time that Arsenal could make a run: http://thebeantownfrog.blogspot.com/2005/07/life-after-vieira.html. Wenger did nothing with the money from the sale to bolster his club...as some would also point out: http://antithesis98.blogspot.com/. Now Arsenal are left with a shell of the team that so scared English football just a few years back. Without a player to replace Vieira as the engine, or at least as the holding midfielder to replace him, without Edu, and now with injuries running rampant in the ranks, Arsenal look very very middle of the road. They are not even as exciting as Middlesborough! I hope that this stirs Wenger at the transfer window, but by then it will be too late since I do not see Chelsea losing to anyone ....

Which brings me to my second point, Chelsea. They are starting to hit on all cylinders. Their slow start last year was much to do with their learning Morinho's system etc, but once they figured it out they were unstoppable and that has carried over into this season. They have an outrageous wealth of talent at every position and playes like Drogba playing like they are worth the millions spent on them. I think their best signig was Makelele, yes there is some french bias here, but he is the engine that runs that machine. He is everywhere, covering, restarting attacks, etc...allows for the rest of the team to do what they do best.

My prediction, Chelsea run away with the premiership. Win the Carling Cup, lose the FA Cup and crash out of the Champions League, too much football to be played and teams much harder to defeat than Bolton. Morinho leaves Chelsea after the World Cup to coach Portugal since he will have nothing left to prove in the domestic club game, having won both European Cups with Porto and English glory with Chelsea.

Friday, October 14, 2005

England's new found "confidence"

I must take the stories from the English press with a grain of salt. Much like some of the sports writing in big US markets where stories swing on a wild pendulum depending on the latest result, English press is not averse from short term memory issues. A few weeks ago the English were in turmoil, they had just suffered a terrible 1-0 loss at North Ireland and their world cup aspirations were on the rocks. This remained the mood after they barely beat a tough Austria team 1-0...but all of a sudden after defeating Poland, at the end of the match, they are being touted as "strong favorites" for next year's world cup: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/feature?id=252463&cc=5901

While I have stated that I felt England had the talent to do well in next year's world cup, I am not sure that their victory vs Poland should unleash irrational exhuberance over this team. There remain many holes -

Rooney, while he has the promise and talent to become a special player, he has not shown the discipline to control his temper. Teams will foul him, taunt him, and get under his skin knowing that the hot tempered youngster is just as likely get himself a red card as he is a goal. Something that both club and international teams have demonstrated works against him.

Midfield, while England has talented players - Lampard, Gerrard and Cole they don't really know what to do with Beckham....some argue they should drop him, leave him on the left,etc. Sven himself seems not to have a clue, playing him as a holding midfielder is slightly south of stupid.

Defense, what to do in the middle, go with an aging Campbell or trust in Ferdinand to pair with Terry...both have their own problems.

Goalkeeping...well as long as Calamity James is not in the net England is better off....

Let us not get too excited for England and their chances in next year's world cup, just look back a few months, they lose to North Ireland and get shelacked in Denmark 4-1....granted there remains 6 months until the World Cup but this is not where a team needs to be today to be annointed world beater in Berlin next summer.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

WCQ recap

So after 2 years of world cup qualifying we finally have some clarity in Europe. Many teams that were in trouble a few months ago - France, Spain, Czech Republic, England etc have more clarity as to where they will be next summer.

France wins its group. On paper this should have been much easier than it turned out to be. France started off the campaign poorly, drawing at home against Israel, Ireland and Switerland. The return of Zidane, Makelele and Thurman sparked France to a big win vs Ireland at Landsdowne road. France still needed to win on the last day agains Cyprus 4-0 to guarantee top spot in the group. Watching the game yesterday, I was wary that we were playing Cyprus, but at the same time happy to see a motivated French team knowing what it needed to do and actually going out there and executing. Please note that I am well aware of the level of competition the French were playing, but this is still a team that almost held Ireland to a draw a few days prior, so take the commentary in stride:

Zidane was his usual maestro, while he has lost a step (a few times he got blocked by defenders when a few years ago they would not be able to touch him), he remains the director of the team. Gouvou actually surprised me with his play on the right wing. He was constantly threatening Cyprus with his runs and crosses, he did miss a golden opportunity to score in the sceond half but overall a solid game. Cisse, he had countless chances to blow the game wide open, the most egregious being a solo break away in the first half when rather than trying to dribble around the keeper he took a poorly placed shot from inside the penalty box. His speed and presence threw panic to the back line, but his lack of finishing touch is troubling. I believe this is related to his lack of playing time with Liverpool, meaning I hope he gets somewhere where he plays regular first team football. Sagnol, he showed me again that he is a great right back option. He defends well and more importantly is extremely dangerous when making runs on the right wing. I cannot think of another right back that is so deadly with his crosses from all ranges of the pitch. Coupet, I think he deserves the number 1 jersey for the French. Barthez remains a great keeper but his "decision" making has become more questionable...Coupet is solid, making all the saves needed and providing the defense and midfield confidence that he will back stop the team.

I think this team has a chance to do well in germany, but they will need to really use the next 6 months to figure out the roster, system and overall strategy to go far in Germany. This remains a daunting task for Domenech, overall I think this "struggle" to qualify will be better for the French than if they went through undefeated.

More thoughts later on the rest of the WC qualifiers

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

France starts 3 strikers!

Looking at the line up for the France-Cyprus, http://www.eurosport.com/home/pages/v4/l0/s22/e6243/sport_lng0_spo22_evt6243_sto776480.shtml match it would appear that Domenech will look to throw caution to the wind and look to score the goals needed for direct qualification. With Wiltord, Gouvou and Cisse up front, France is playing for goals and many of them. Now I would much rather have seen a line up of Henry - Trezeguet - Cisse up front, but wit the first two injured this would not be possible. I actually think this line up will be good for France. With Zidane distributing the ball, Gouvou and Wiltord threatening the two wings and Cisse up front causing chaos for Cyprus, France will hopefully win the game. The one part that will be of concern is the midfield - with only Vieira as holding player (Makelele being suspended) France will be suspect to the counter attack, something they have not been able to handle recently.

However I do think that the offensive minded line up will force Cyprus into an even greater defensive posture. Prediction - France 4 Cyprus 0.

Turning my eyes to Landsdowne road and Ireland vs Switzerland. This game, between two second tier football powers, looks very tantelizing. Switerland has been a thorn in Ireland's side in many a qualifying rounds. Ireland has been a little disappointing this WCQ, they cannot seem to hold a lead, and without Keane and Duff they will struggle in this match. They barely made it out of Cyprus with a 1-0 win, needing a penalty save to secure the win. Switzerland looked very motivated and conhesive in the draw against France (granted not having to deal with Cisse for the full 90 minutes, see my past postings). So what does this mean? I think that Ireland find a way to win 2-1...playing at home wih the home town fans urging them on.

France eek out a group victory
Ireland plays the barrage games....

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Final week of WCQ

The final game of World Cup qualifying will be upon us in a few days. After yesterday's games it is clear that much is to be decided.

Of course I need to start with Les Bleus who had a crucial match in Switzerland. If they win they qualify, a tie or loss means all is to be played for on the final day against Cyprus. Without Henry and Trezeguet the French looked as if they would be short of offensive options. However they still had the dangerous Cisse...so what does Domenech do, but he puts Cisse on the bench to start the game! He lines un Wiltord up front alone with Dhorraso, Malouda and Zidane supporting....not sure why inspired domench to think that Wiltord could handle the offensive burden alone. I think that Wiltord has always played better in support of a true striker - at Arsenal he did well with Henry in front, with Bordeaux he had Pauleta and now with Lyon he has a wealth of natural strikers in front. Wiltord needs to be allowed to roam while a stiker pulls the defense away from his lanes. Alone up front he runs into the defensive wall...From all reports it appears that France struggled to get any movement since the Swiss defense had no real fear of Wiltord breaking them down. Something that did not happen once Cisse entered the game. Granted France got the point and still control their destiny, but once again I believe that Domenech has lost an opportunity to make the qualification easier. I hope that he starts with a line up including Cisse in Weds final match, needing to score 4 more goals than Cyprus in order to guarantee a qualification.

Other matches: England backs in without playing much inspired football; the Czechs must be dissappointed losing 0-2 to Holland and putting their qualifications in jeopardy; Ireland and the Swiss play a high level match this weds at Landsdowne road, the Irish need a victory to finish second in the group, while the Swiss will also seek a victory to qualify directly, a draw giving them the second place finish (assuming France can at least beat Cyprus which is no gaurantee).

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cisse on the move

The fact that Cisse is unhappy at Liverpool is starting to bubble to the surface, after the rumored move to Marseille this transfer season it should come as no surprise that he is looking to move, especially being played comletely out of position. He would be a great addition to Arsenal...might even convince Henry to sign for the long term

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Henry heading to Espana

http://msn.foxsports.com/soccer/story/4930980

We keep hearing the rumors that Henry is being woo'd to join the Catalan club of Barcelona. I have been reading this rumor for at least a year, and usually when their is "smoke" there is fire. If Arsene demonstrated anything last summer was his willingness to part with a supposed cornerstone of his team when he allowed Vieira to be sold off to Juventus. Does this mean that the most exciting and dangerous player Arsenal has had is destine to leave? I think a lot depends on what Arsene does in the midseason transfer season as well as how Arsenal do in competitions this year. Arsenal is 2-0 in Champions league, but still far from being favorites to hoist the trophy in Paris in May. They are clawing for the table scrapes in the Premiership which appears to be a Chelsea romp. Henry has won a world cup and european cup with France, he has tasted some success in the European cups with Monaco and Arsenal, he as won titles in england, but Arsenal has not looked good in European cups since they lost to Galatassary in the 2000 UEFA cup finals.

With Arsenal being in transition, I think the temptation of nice weather, competitive league football and chances for European club glory will be too tempting for Henry. He will be too tempted to play along side with Ronaldino, Eto, Guily, et al...Wenger will be called upon to rebuild this Arsenal team, but with the money he can generate from selling Henry as well as the sale of Vieira as well as the new stadium should make the task easier than it will be for Everton....

Monday, September 26, 2005

Maximum Soccer prognostic...

I was watching Fox Soccer the other day and I was struck by a prediction I heard on the Maximum Soccer segment to the tune that clearly Chelsea would be in the Champions League final and the debate was who would be the other team...I find that assertion ridiculous. We have played one game in the Champions league group stages, not sure we can determine who will be in the finals. Did anyone really expect Liverpool in the finals last season? Or Monaco and Porto two years ago? Come on Mr Maximum Soccer...you are better than that...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Arsenal a poor 0-0 draw

A lackluster performance from the Gunners this weekend, drawing 0-0 with West Ham. Watching the game it was clear that this Arsenal team remains one without a direction...yet. Losing Vieira and Edu in the off season , not adding an impact player in the off season (Robinho nor Baptista) and having Henry injured, has lend itself to Arsenal starting the season middle of the table and 11 points behind league leaders Chelsea. While this season remains in the early stages, I am not sure that I can imagine Arsenal figuring out its flaws -

  • Lack of scoring punch - without Henry Arsenal seems to have no real scoring threat. I think that even with Henry they have trouble scoring since Henry scores many goals when he beats players one on one or from long range shots. Even with Henry they lack a "vulture" goal scorer, someone like Van Nisterlrooy, Trezeguet, or even Crespo. In addition, there remains a lingering fear that Henry will look to find greener pasteurs in Espana next season.
  • Midfield stability - the lose of Vieira and Edu (granted Edu missed most of last season) has created a gapping hold in the midfield. The youngsters Cesc and Flamini, while talented, have not yet developed the experience to control the midfield and therefore control games. Pires has disappeared at times. Ljunberg remains a strong contributer but cannot control the midfield alone.
  • Difference maker - the past few seasons, Wenger has been able to bring a player that immediately makes a difference, going to back to his robbery of Nicholas Anelka from PSG. He immediately shook up the Premiership, scoring over 30 goals. Wenger subsequently stole Campbell from cross town rival Tottenham to shore up his defense, he was able to grab players lost in teams like Vieira (who was lost at AC Milan), Thierry Henry (also lost playing as a winger with Juventus) He also signed players like Pires and Wiltord who made immediate impacts. As well as grabbing players such as Toure and playing "out of position." Unfortunately for the past two seasons Wenger has not been able to capture magic in a bottle. While he has found some young talent, players who could become the potential foundation of the Arsenal to come, he has not found that player that will spark this version of Aresnal.
There is still plenty of time in the season, but with Chelsea's lead, and with their money, I think Arsenal (and the others will be hard pressed to make up the deficit. They have too many holes and not enought time or moeny this season to solve them....

Thursday, September 22, 2005

PSG back in second place

PSG wins 2-1 against last years second place team, Lille. A brace from Pauleta. Not surprised that he is doing well considereing PSG addressed one of their weaknesses from last season...midfield play. With Dhorrasso, Kalou and a healthy Rothen (well okay not healthy right now), Pauleta is getting much better service. Pauleta remains deadly in the penalty box. PSG remains my dark horse. With out European football to distract them, PSG will be motivated to knock Lyon off their perch

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Deschamps departs

Didier Deschamps, the most winning French Footballer, resigned from his post as Manager of AS Monaco, after a poor start to the season. Losing to Rennes did not help his cause. I think this is indicitive of the problems with modern day football. Teams are ready to sack managers at the first sign of trouble. Forget the success that Monaco has had in previous seasons, or the fact that the season is only 7 games old....one thing that Arsene Wenger said as to why Ligue 1 has had trouble sustaining itself was due to managers not being able to have stability. Deschamps was considered for the national team postion, and now he is out of work. I am not sure that 7 games into the season he has lost all his abilities to manage.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Champions league surprises

A game stands out from the first round of the champions league, if you say the Sparta - Ajax 1-1 game then I think you were watching the wrong match...what I am talking about is the thrashing that Los Galaticos took at the hands of Olympique Lyonniase. For those ofyou that missed the game, Real Madrid went into Lyon and limped out 3-0, a score that could have been much more severe (missed penalty by Juniho).

Does this surprise me, no. Real Madrid has not been the same since they allowed Makelele leave and watched Hiero move on. Rather than go out and bring in top notch talent at holding midfield and back line, Real decided it needed to get Owen, Robinho, and Bapista to "complement" the already existing offensive talents of Zidane, Raul, Ronaldo, Figo, Beckham et al. All this has done is created a back log in the offensive end for Real. They have not addressed the absolute lack of defensive leadership. The 3-0 loss to Lyon demonstrates this, with all three goals coming within 15 minutes, without a defensive leader a team gets back on its heals and can be open to taking a goals against run. Real has not won a title in a while, I fear the drought will continue for much longer until Real can address its defensive problems.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

World Cup Qualifiers

I have been remiss to not discuss what transpired this past week with World Cup Qualifiers, two games to focus on, England - North Ireland, France - Ireland.

First, the shock of the England loss. For those of you that not aware, England lost a shocker to North Ireland 1-0. Discussing this with a fellow futball fan, RM, we agreed that this was a loss at many levels. How can Sven run a 4-5-1, with Rooney alone up front and Beckham sitting behind 4 midfielders...when did Sven think this alignment would work? Let us see, first Beckham has never been mistakened for Vieira, Makelele, Keane or Mathius or Deschamps of old. Beckham is an attacking midfielder, not a holding player, one that provides the catalyst for the counter and plays rock solid defense. Beckham does best on the wings when he can unleash his pin point deadly crosses and on set pieces. Second, why is Rooney left up front alone. He succeeded during the last Euro when he was partnered with Owen up front, allowing Rooney to do a little more free styling and using his pace to trouble defenses. Much of his success at Manchester United is being partnered with Van Nistelrooy. Now England face a tough up hill battle, needing to defeat Austria and Poland to qualify. As well as facing Austria without Rooney....with Poland assured of heading through at least as the second place team that game might be "easier" if Poland take their foot off the accelerator. Both Austria and England will be desperate for a win, but with England having been thrashed at Denmark and then losing to North Ireland, their confidence will be in question. I will be interested to see what Sven does to get his "country" into Germany 2006...or how he will position himself for a new post...

France - Ireland. France went into Lansdowne Road and came out victorious. Something that bodes well, especially considering they have not had a long track record of great success in Ireland, especially during the glory years of Platini. It is clear that adding Zidane, Thuram and Makelele has given the French the stability and leadership it needed heading into the WCQs. But much work remains, with Zidane a question mark for the next 3 weeks the game in Switzerland will be paramount. France needs at least a draw knowing they get Cyprus on the last day of qualifying while the Swiss have to face a desperate Irish team. I think that not having Zidane will make the task more difficult, but if the game in Paris is any indication, the French should be able to compete with or without Mr Zidane. But least we forget WCQ for WC 1994 in the US, France entered the last week with games against Israel and Bulgaria both in Paris only needing one draw out of the two. Both games ended in heartbreaking losses for France, both occuring late in the game. Those games basically ended the careers of Cantona and Ginola...but it did launch the golden generation of French Futball - zidane, djorkaef, deschamps, etc. This qualification will be important since France has not qualified for the WC since 1982...that is right 1982!!! 1998 they hosted, 2002 they were defending champion...

Other thoughts: Poland's quasi qualification is great for Polish Football, they have always had solid teams, finishing an impressive 3rd in 1982, good for them; Greece might sneak back into the picture and the battle with Turkey is good for both nations; Germany still has some serious problems, Klinsmann needs to settle on a system and players, constantly lossing to inferior teams will not instill confidence a year before hosting the tournament

With so many groups in play, the final week of Qualification should prove very entertaining.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Should we crown brazil a year before the competition starts?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_football/4214572.stm

Reading this article from the BBC we should just stop the rest of the World Cup Qualifiers and crown Brazil with a 6th title. First of all, the victory this weekend for Brazil was against Chile, not exactly a futball powerhouse, and a team in transition since their solid team in WC 1998. But let us look into the Brazilian team:

They have an outrageous wealth of attacking players: Kaka, Adriano, Ronaldo, Ronaldino, Robinho, etc. They actually have a solid keeper in Dida. But do they have the necessary players on the back four? Do they have the midfield "engine" players, midfielders that do the dirty work to get the ball to the forwards? Looking back to the loss to Argentina during the WCQ as well as the defeat to Mexico, one can see weaknesses in the Brazilian team. Granted Brazil came back with vengence, trouncing Argentina in the Confed Cup finals. But in both games, Brazil's back line was put under pressure, especially in the air. Once the team was down or when they started questioning their ability to hold the back it makes their strike force diminish in quality. Brazil knows what they are doing when playing in the South American WCQ, it is very different when they are playing in the WC. With teams such as Argentina, England, Holland, Germany as well as some of the African nations, this will not be a coronation for Brazil. While it is WAY too early to have any predictions for the WC (especially since we have no clue who will round out the teams) it is also too early to give Brazil the added star for their jerseys.

Other notes: Watching the Romania - Czech Rep game it is clear that this WCQ group is one of the tightest. While it would appear that Holland and the Czech Rep should go through, Romania might sneak in. They are right there at the top, granted with more games played. But the Czechs, one of the best teams in the world, have not qualified since WC USA. They still have a huge game against Holland, the decisive match might be against Finland who is no push over; England once again finds a way to get a victory when needed, with Poland giving them a real run for their money they find a way to get a 1-0 victory vs Wales; Scotland gets a draw with Italy a little too late; Congratulations to Ukraine who qualify for their first world cup, I think this will be good for futball having Chevencko showcased on the greatest stage; Speaking of Group 2 it appears that there will be a dog fight between Turkey and Greece for the second place finish; France's win vs Faroe Islands puts that group where it should be with all the favorites tied at top. With three more games for France - at Ireland, at Switzerland and home vs Cypres, France holds their own destiny. With the return of Zidane, Makelele and Thuram the French have looked more organized and more structured, but they missed too many opportunities agains Faroe to make me feel too comfortable - Vieira's break away miss, Cisse's volley from inside the box, Henry's numerous misses...they need to convert these opportunities against Ireland if they want to leave Lansdowne road with a victory.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

End of Transfer market moves

The lates big names to move before the transfer window closes:

Michael Owen to Newcastle. This is an itregueing move, pairing Owens and Shearer. They will make a scarey strike combo. But this is still Newcastle. Too many holes to fill, too many question marks, too many questions for the guidance of the team. I still think this could get highjacked for Owens...reason -

Djibril Cisse rumored to move to Monaco. He is vehement about not wanting to leave Liverpool and if he does leave he wants to go to OM. If Liverpool does move Cisse, not sure why they want to move him, they will need to find someone to replace him upfront, bringing back Owens would be the natural move. The next 48 hours will tell what happens in this saga.

I do think that if Cisse goes to Monaco, it will make ASM a very scarey club in the Ligue 1....

Monday, August 29, 2005

David James off roster

It finally has happened, David James has been left off the England roster. I believe it has come not a minute too soon. I remember watching James playing for Liverpool against PSG in the 1997 European Cup Winners semi finals in Paris. He had come into the game hyped up as the next great england keeper, the one to make English fans forget Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton. 3 goals later, teammates on my club team were teasing me that I should call Liverpool for a try out. Anecdotes aside, James has never lived up to his hype. England has struggled since "safe hands" has retired to find a replacement in the goal. England, much to my distaste, has the talent to go far in next year's world cup, but they need to find someone that will stabilize the goal. Pushing James aside should allow England to find the steady keeper needed to complement the field talent England brings to bear.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Chelsea...too early to write off Arsenal?

Interesting comments from Mr Gallas: http://msn.foxsports.com/soccer/story/4801492 . Is it time to write off Arsenal? No. Will they have trouble this season? Yes. As I stated, I think that Arsenal will struggle especially with the youth movement: Flamini, Cesc, Senderoos, Van Persie et al. But I think Gallas is far from being spot on. Once Arsenal moves into its new grounds, it will generate a tremendous amount of revenue from the grounds. Plus the ability of ownership to spend should increase as it pays off the cost of the grounds. Granted it might never be able to compete with the Russian Oligarchs billions, but they are far from dead.

Maybe Putin will save Engish Football by locking up Abromovich....

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

International Friendlies

France comes back with a vengence: http://www.sport.fr/football/foo/Retour-gagnant-45828.shtm

With the old guard starting - Zidane, Thuram, and Makelele, it would appear that the French rediscovered some of their flair that made them such a world beating team. I was not able to watch the game but followed it on line. France beat the Ivory Coast Elephants 3-0, now before you start to down play the opponent, they have players of the stature of Drogba, Kalou and Toure all of whom play important roles for big european clubs, Chelsea, PSG and Arsenal respectively.

From what I followed, Zidane and Dhorasso created a solid tandem in the midfield distributing the ball well to the Henry and Wiltord. Even with Vieira on the beanch, the midfield was able to control the pace. Thuram and Boumsong is a solid middle back 2, granted Thuram left with injury. With Gallas and Sagnol on the wings the defense would appear to be solid, with Sangol being solid threat make offensive runs. And Coupet, while not spectacular, is solid and makes all the right plays in goal. This result bodes well for France prior to their next World Cup Qualifiers. They have the Farie Islands on Sept 3rd, that should prove a game where Domenech can continue to work on the system, allow the players to work together, and hopefully secure an early lead after which players can rest. Since a few days later they will embark on a crucial game in Ireland, a game they must win. While world cup qualifying remains far from secure, this result gives one hope.

Other games of note: Holland and Germany draw 2-2, from all indications Robbens was unstoppable, but a good sign that Germany fought back to draw; Denmark 4 - England 1, when will erickson look for another option in goal? James is terrible, and needs to go. England will not go far in the World Cup if they don't straighten out that problem, for a team with so much talent they seem to constantly underachieve; Italy 2 - Ireland 1, Good win for the azurri in Ireland, I think the Irish need to be a little wary prior to receiving france in Sept, they lost a lead to Isreal and now sounds as if were outclassed by Italy (albeit not on the score sheet); Switzerland 2 -Norway1, the swiss are emerging as a force to reckon with in the WCQ (never thought I would say that) the game between France and Switzerland would appear to determine who goes to Germany in 2006.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Essien off to London

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/c/chelsea/4151748.stm

So it is official...Essien will join the south london Blues. As the article points out, he will have to compete with Makelele and Lampard for regular time in the midfield. While Essien is dubed by many as one of the best midfielders in Europe, Chelsea did not really need to add him to their impressive midfield. They should have spend the record transfer fee for a world class stiker - Shevchenko being the main target.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Essien off to Chelsea

http://www.eurosport.com/home/pages/v4/l0/s22/e10028/sport_lng0_spo22_evt10028_sto753955.shtml

So it would appear that Essien is finally off to Chelsea. This move, while not a surprise, only gives Chelsea another jewel to added to its roster. This will make them a real threat for the treble: FA Cup, Premier Title and Champions League Title. However, I think that Chelsea still need to get a top notch striker to complement Drogba inorder to achieve the ultimate prizes of the treble. The addition of Essien will only make the Chelsea midfield that much more formidable, but the midfield was not the problem spot for Chelsea...

I still see Chelsea as prohibitive favorites for the Premiership title. But adding Essien does not mean the rest of the English teams and European powers will roll over...

On a side note, I am a little disturbed that players can still shoot their ways out of Dodge. Essien basically told Lyon that he was not playing for them this season or ever and only wanted to go to Chelsea. I realize this is not only an occurance in European football (see Randy Johnson in baseball, Terrell Owens in football, etc) but it will be hard for clubs to retain their talent when they can be held up for ransom by players.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Premiership kick off

This weekends marks the beginning of the English Premiership. Once again we will witness some wonderful futball and wait with bated breath for Madame Alex to have a blow up, Chelsea to dominate, Arenal's kids, Liverpools underachievements, and some team to surprise.

Predictions:

  1. Chelsea: hard to pick against this bunch that played so well end of last season. They have done nothing to take away from their favorite's status. If they, as I do believe they will, add Essien from Lyon they will add to an already formidable midfield. Their one problem last season was having a legitimate front line striker. Drogba played poorly last season (by his standards). If the community shield game is any indicatiuon he is ready to come into this season with a vengence. But I am still not convinced he can navigate the rigorous of a full Premiership season as the lone stiker for Chelsea. Gudjonson is a nice player but no one mistakened him for Van Basten. Robbens is a wing player, albeit a top notch player, but not a first rate striker. Otherwise Chelsea is strong in midfield with Lampard, Cole, Makelele, Duff etc. Their defense also solid, and goalkeeping top notch. If Drogba can find the form he showed at Marseille Chelsea will run away with this, if he does not it will be more difficult but I cannot see any other team beating them for the title.
  2. Liverpool: Yes you read that correctly, I am picking the Reds for second place. I think they are loaded with talent - Garcia, Alonso, Cisse, Gerrard, Riise, Hypia, etc. Last season they suffered too many injuries to sustain any type of run during the season. This year they will contend especially with the confidence they gained from their Champions League Run of last season.
  3. Manchester United: This pains me to pick ahead of Arsenal, but the talent of this team is too much each week for most teams. They are still a little shaky in defense, with an older Keane at midfield. And Silvestre suffering from confidence issues they will give up soft goals. However with Van Der Saar in net they should not suffer GK problems that has marred them last season. Their real strength will be up front, with Van Nistelrooy, Rooney, Saha, Smith, Scholes, Giggs, etc they will overwhelm most teams in the Premiership. But they will not have the total talent to overtake the leaders.
  4. Arsenal: Yes this is painful to pick the Gunners so low. But I think they are too young this season. They will still be a top team with players like Berkham, Henry, Cesc, Van Persie, Pires, Ljunberg, etc. But losing players like Viera and Edu will be large midfield holes that are hard to fill. Gilberto is back and health so he will prove a stabilizing force, but with no Vieira there is not link between midfielders and attackers. Arsenal is in great position for down the road, they have tremendously talented youth: Cesc, Flamini, Senderoos, Bentley etc. But they are too young to play consistently game to game. They will win some spectacular games. But I fear trips to Liverpool, Manchester United etc will intimidate the young players...situations where having Vieira were crucial.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

International duty part 2

I forgot to mention the return of Figo to the Portugese national team, yet another star player whose national team strip was too important to walk away from for too long...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

International duty

With the returns of Zidane and Makelele to the French national team (with the potential addition of Thurman) following a few months after Keane returned to the Irish national team, this is good for international football.

As club teams become bigger and bigger, paying larger salaries, it is a pleasure to see players who regard representing their nations, for no compensation, as important and a privelege. I still believe club team schedules need to be cut back and there needs to be a true off season. National teams remain an important if not the most important part of international Football. It is refreshing to hear players like Zidane state that the shirt of their nation is the most important uniform they have worn....should england brush off Scholes' jersey as well?

Zidane, back with "les bleus"

http://www.lequipe.fr/Football/EDF_Zidane_retour.html

http://www.sport.fr/football/foo/Retour-de-Zidane-les-reactions-45617.shtm

According to reports on his own web site and on other sites, argueably the greatest player to wear the kit of "les bleus" has decided to restart his international career. Unbelievable news for the FFF. An infusion of talent and experience that is what the French needed as they embark on the rest of their qualifying matches. In addition to Zidane, it would appear that Makelele and potential Thuram will throw their hats back into the international arena.

While these three players are on the wrong side of 30, I believe their come backs will be a positive for the French. Domenech can line up the following 4 - 3- 1- 2

Barthez or Coupet in the nets

Sagnol - Boumsong - Thuram - Gallas back line

Vieira - Makelele - Guily midfield

Zidane - behing the forwards

Henry - Trezeguet up front

With Cisse, Pedretti, Givet, Squillaci, Rothen on the bench.

Does this gaurantee a spot in World Cup Germany? No, but it gives Les Bleus a much need infusion of talent it needs to find itself. The problem with the French team was not a lack of talent, but I believe it did not have the proper "bridge" between the golden teams that won the Euro and World Cups and the new generation, led by players such as Cisse, Henry, Trezeguet and Vieira. Adding Makelele gives Vieira the workman like midfielder that frees him up to be more offensive. Zidane will help bridge the midfield and the offense. A possible Thuram addition should stabilize the back line. One of the major problems I noticed watching the French in qualifiers was the disconnect between defense and forwards. Defenders were to warry of moving up and shutting down passing lanes, the midfield had solid holding players and players on the wings but had yet to discover a true "10" to control the middle of the pitch. Zidane coming back into that role should stabilize that situation.

While these players do not have an extensive time left in their legs, they have enough to be useful and extemely beneficial for France. I remember when a past his prime - Roger Mila came back for a Cameroon team during the World Cup 1990 in Italy. His presence and talent brought the Lions to the brink of the WC semi finals, losing a heartbreaker to England. I think the youth on the team will benefit greatly from these players. Rothen, Meriem, Kapo, Dhorasso etc will be able to grow and develop as the pressure of being the midfield general is removed from their shoulders.

Givet, Mexes, Squillaci will benefit from the possible return of Thuram, not needing to be the "patron" on the back line. While Makelele takes some of the dirty work duties away from Vieira allowing him to demonstrate his talents.

Now this move has some inherent dangerous as well. If the French team do not click and fail to qualify many will critise these returns. Some will even say it sets the French back. Others may heap undue expectations to these players, we must remember that these are not the mid- 2o something players that took French Football to the pinnacle of world football.

Expect these players to infuse experience, talent and sang froid this team needs to get to the next level. Qualifying remains a daunting task but seems much more attainable with these players in the fold.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ligue 1. Off and Running

I cannot believe that Ligue 1 has started already and that the Premiership and other European domestic leagues are just a week or so away from starting the festivities, whatever happened to an "off season"

So what does the beantown frog think of the new French domestic season?
Will PSG actually achieve something other then utter embarassement?
Can Lyon win a FIFTH ligue title?

So let us jump right in. While I would love to be able to disect each team, I have a wife and job and therefore not the limiteless time needed to do so, so I will just look at who I think are favorites and dark horses this season.

Favorites:

Lyon: How can you vote against them? Even if they lose Essien to Chelsea, which I think is inevitable, they are still stacked. Pedretti will be more than an adequete replacement. Diarra remains. The midfield will remain formidble. The addition of Carew gives them a big up front striker, that will give play makers like Wiltord room to roam. Their "small" 2-1 victory against Le Mans aside, this team is loaded for bear.

Monaco: Two seasons ago they were almost crown European Champions. While they have lost Rothen and Guily, Prso to name a few from that squad, this team remains one to watch. I think the addition of Kapo, Meriem (both players hungry to impress prior to the WC) and potentially of Saha (latest rumor out of Man U) will make this team very dangerous. With Deschamps at the helm they will give Lyon a real run for their money, now if only some fans would come to the stadium....

Lille: What can you say about this team that came out of no where last season to finish in second. I think such a run would be hard for this small market team. While you would be hard pressed to find any big names on the roster (as my lack of name dropping would make apparent) this team is stocked with players developed in house, much like the Auxerre and Nantes models of the 80s and 90s.

Marseilles: When it comes to French football, OM always comes into the picture, good or bad. But this team has underachieved the past few seasons. They have the talent, but for some reason do not have the mental edge to get to the next level. With players like Barthez, Lamouchi. and Luyindula they should achieve more. But if this past weekends 0-2 loss to Bordeaux at Stade Veledrome would indicate, they still have a long way to go. Their defense is shakey and they appear not to have a cohesive midfield, both of which will make their strike force hard pressed to score.

PSG: Ah yes, the beantown frog's hometown team....speaking of underachievers....but I think this year PSG will be much better. They should have a healthy Rothen, and have added playmaker Dhorasso to the mix. This should mean many more chances for serial scorer Pauleta up front. Their defense has had a season under their belt after the turmoil of losing Heinze and Dehu. The addition of Kalu from Auxerre will also revitalize the midfield.

St Eteinne: Just like OM, one cannot mention French Football without StEtienne. No one will mistaken this team for the glory teams of the 70s that had Platini and Rochteau carving up defenses, with players like Janvion in defense. But this team did some serious damage second half of last seaon. Beginning of the year they looked destined for relegation, only to fight their way back into the top 10 and then by seasons end into a place in the intertoto...they too are young and are a team to watch.

Bordeaux: Again one of those legendary french teams, but like St Eteinne this is not the 1980s team with Tigana, Giresse, Battiston, Lacombe etc. But they have added some talent with European Club Champion Smicer and Cheyrou to the fold. They are always a dangerous team, and with the addition of Ricardo as trainer I think they can have a good season.

So these are some of the teams I think will be there in the end. My predictions for the the season:

  1. PSG - had to go with my home town team. I think that Lyon is strong this season but that PSGs midfield will carry them to a Ligue 1 title, remember that two seasons ago they finished a strong second place.
  2. Lyon - a Fifth straight title would be incredible, they have the horses but will fall short, lots of football in this team's legs, and I think that they will be more focused on going further in Europe, something they have the talent to do.
  3. Monaco - Deschamps is a solid coach and the addition of players like Kapo and Meriem will make this a dangerous team.
  4. St Eteinne - My surprise team. Seeing how they finished last season and the young talent I think they are poised to make a run at a top 5 finish.
  5. Lille - Last year was no fluke but they will fall back a little.
  6. Bordeaux - Struggled last season but should have some stability with Smicer in the midfield, but not enough talent to crack the top 5, still in transition.
  7. Marseilles - While I would like to predict them lower (again there is my PSG bias), this team has too much talent on paper to be bad. But they will struggle to find an identity this season and that will cost them.

This should be another memorable season in Ligue 1, I think it will be interesting to see if Lyon can go deeper in European football and if PSG can live up to my hype!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Life after Vieira...

So it has been a few days now since Patrick has taken his talents, leadership and fire to northern Italy to play for one of the most storied clubs in the world. What does this mean for Arsenal?

  • Midfield - I think that the midfield still contains a world of talent - Cesc, Ljunberg, Pires, Flamini, etc are all solid players. However, they lose a lot of intangibles with the loss of Vieira. Beyond being the captain he was the catalyst for the midfield, bridging defense with offense, and throwing in a crucial goal here and there.
  • The strikers remain solid, but getting Baptista, if possible, would make it down right scarey. With the "beast" teamed up with Henry, having Reyes, Van Persie (assuming he does not end up in prison) and Berkhamp would make this a lethal stike force. Arsenal have always needed a stiker that is a penalty box presence to compliment Henry (which is what the French national team has with Trezeguet, unfortunately that duo has struggled in international play, but I digress)
  • Defense, the emergence of Senderoos will allow the arsenal back 4 to stabilize. I have also read that Arsenal is giving former French international Christanval a trial. Christanval was a highly touted central defender, a few years ago it was thought he would be the natural replacement for Desailly anchoring the central defense of the French National team. But injuries have hampered his developement. This move only has upside for Arsenal, if he can regain his form Arsenal will have found themselves a solid if not international quality central defender who is still young - 26
  • Intangibles, getting Bentley back from his season long loan at Norwich is an overlooked "acquisition" Whenever I watched Norwich matches last season it was clear that Bentley was the best player for the team. Being able to play a full season wearing the number "10" and running the team will give bentley the experience and confidence to do some great things with Arsenal. I think he will play a major role for Arsenal this season.
  • Future transfers - the latest rumor is that Arsene is looking at Olivier Dacourt from AS Roma. Dacourt is a poor mans version of Vieira. He would be a solid replacement. He too is a French international usually lining up along side Vieira for les bleus. He has experience playing in england, having played at Leeds and Everton. He would be a good replacement, but more in the mold of Gilberto and Makelele. A defensive/holding midfielder. But unlike Vieira has limited offensive abilities.
The season officially kicks off in a 3 weeks...still lots of movements to come I am sure. If arsene can get Baptista and Dacourt, Arsenal might be able to give their London rivals and the red devils a real run for the Premiership title

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Good luck Pat

Good luck in Italy Vieira, we will miss you in the Red and White of Arsenal...I hope that Wenger can find the proper replacements for Vieira.

Vieira to Juventus

Arsenal and French captain Patrick Vieira is rumored to be headed off to Italy...and doing so very soon. If this is the case it will be crucial for Wenger to turn around and sign 1-2 high profile players immediately. Could Arsenal get into the Essien running or will they target Essien's Lyon teammate Diarra? While I think that getting Essien will be a long shot, due to Chelsea's interest and deep pockets and Diarra just re-upped his contract, it is crucial that Wenger finds a top notch defensive/holding midfielder.

I would personally be sad to see Pat leave, especially after getting a brand new Arsenal jersey, emblazened with #4 on the back. I think that this will be a big blow in short term for Arsenal, but Wenger has added a lot of young talent in his midfield the past few years Cesc, Flamini etc. But Patrick is the glue that has kept Arsenal's midfield and team going and I am not sure that the young gunners can assume the entire load of running the midfield. If Patrick does leave it will be a hard day for Arsenal Fans, especially those with new Vieira Arsenal kits, but it may lesson the expectations for Arsenal and that may give the young gunners a chance to play with less pressure. Something that could actually make them more dangerous.

But my heart tells me...Patrick don't go!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Rumors Rumors Rumors

If you believe some of the press, Vieira and Pires will be playing for "la vieille dame" of Juventus. Essien and SWrightPhillips will be making the move to Chelsea. This will be a major midfield moves.

First, I think that Lyon will end up selling Essien. He has made it clear he wants to move to the Premiership. Lyon has already developed a back up plan by bringing in French international Pedretti into the fold. He would take over the role of defensive midfielder. Diarra has resigned at Lyon until 2009, so the midfield should remain solid. With Essien, I believe that Lyon can make a strong run in Europe. Having added young defender Monsoreau from Sochaux to settle the back line and adding Norwegian international Carew up front, I think that Lyon has added without losing anything from the 4 time Ligue 1 champions. However, all this changes if Essien leaves. He resembles a younger Vieira, a midfield player that can defend and score, a player that can dictate the pace of the game. I have watched him play a few times but from all the press he is the next Keane, Vieira combined...no wonder Chelesea are after him. Partnering him and Makelele at Chelsea would be a formidable defending - holding midfield combo. Lyon will still be odds on favorite to win another Ligue 1 title, and might make a deeper run in Europe.

Second, I think that Arsenal might want to seriously consider the attention Juventus is giving their two french international midfielders. While I think Arsenal should not part ways with Vieira...even though his value might never be greater...I think Pires should be sold. I think that Pires, while always a top goal scorer, has run his course at Arsenal. The big teams know how to play him and how to contain his game. I do not see who on the horizon Arsenal can purchase to replace either midfielder, it might make the right business sense to maximize their returns on these two players. Maybe if they did so they could turn around and look to get into the Essien bidding....now that would be interesting.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London - terror rears its ugly head

I wanted to state my prayers and thoughts to all those in London and across the world that have suffered due to the cowardly acts that transpired this morning. Being Parisian I was a little let down when London defeated Paris for the 2012 Olympics, however after seeing what occured this morning is sobering to all of us. The cowards that struck innocent commuters this morning will only unify the resolve of those nations that allow freedoms to their populations. The irony is that the Olympics are a great venue where nation states send atheletes to represent them in a sporting venue allowing countries ranging in all sizes and history to compete on the same field. Too bad these cowards rather act barbarically rather than allow their people to compete and strive on the sporting field. Rather than looking for victory on the track, the pool, the veledrome, etc these people rather spread their ideas with cowardly bombs in subways....London and the rest of the world will survive this last act of barbarism. 2012 will allow London to showcase itself and demonstrate to those that struck today that they cannot win.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Transfer market moves

So PSG gets their man from AC Milan - French international Dhorasso: http://www.lequipe.fr/Football/20050705_094006Dev.html, I think this is a great move for the Parisian club. Teaming Dhorasso with Rothen in the midfield will give PSG one of the stronger midfields in Ligue 1. With the world cup approaching, this will also motivate both international players to focus on carving out greater roles for the French national team (granted this assumes they qualify....far from assured)

Speaking of AC Milan they added Vieri to their strike force, interesting move for both parties. Vieri will have trouble getting regular playing time, and this will hinder his ability to secure a spot on the Italian team for the WC. I think a move to the Premiership and Arsenal, Chelsea or Tottenham would have done Vieri more good than changing stripes in Milan...

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Confederation Cup

After the tragedy that occured 4 years ago in France, this confederation cup was well worth your viewing. To recap, Brazil went out and demolished Argentina yesterday to win the "Cup." Seeing the starting line ups that both teams put out there, this was no exhibition, this was the real deal for both teams. The third place game saw a 7 goal explosion from Germany and Mexico. A couple of observations:

Greece - What a disappointment from the reigning Euro champion. Granted they lost to Brazil but exiting the tournament in such a manner was terrible. After they demonstrated some better play during the WC qualifiers, this tournament makes us all scratch our heads as to how they won in Portugal.

Germany - Is the great futballing power of central europe back to their traditional ways? With the emergence of Podoloski, his goal yesterday was a thing of beauty, Germany look to have some solid attacking players - Podoloski, Ballack, Kuranyi, et al. But the Germany that won 3 World Cups were not built on strikers (granted they had some great ones, Mueller, Rummineger etc) but rather built on a solid defense, midfield and goalkeeping. This teams defense is adequete at times and shakey most of the time, and the goalkeeping is still up in the air. Klinnsman seems to have lost faith in Kahn and those of us who watch Arsenal realize that Lehmann is no Toni Schmacher. Mexico, a solid soccer power but not a first tier power, was resilient in their match and kept coming back on the score until finally succombing to a MBallack free kick (Mexico almost leveled it again a few minutes later however). I have mixed feelings about Germany's chances at the next World Cup. granted they are hosting, but if you look at their run in the prior major tournaments they have not shined.

They crashed out of the last two European cups, got demolished by Croatia at France '98, made the finals in 2002 but did not look convincing, drawing the USA and South Korean on their way to playing Brazil. It could be argued that they should have lost the 1/4 final game against USA...they still have major defensive issues and will not play in any competitive games the rest of the year to truly fix those problems. Maybe the home field advantage will stimulate the defense to play like the Beckenbauer teams of old....

Argentina - Until they got demolished by Brazil, they looked very strong. Especially considering they defeated Brazil 3-1 in WC qualifying. I still think they will be a team to contend with in a year. They have already qualified so they can start expirementing with different players and combinations to truly determine the best team they can bring to Germany next year. They have the talent and the drive to go very far in Germany.

Brazil - What can you say when a team can put Ronaldiho, Robinhno, Kaka, Adriano, and Ronaldo (who missed the Confed Cup) all on the pitch together, you can get a 4-1 demolishine of a world class team such as Argentina. Does this mean we hand Brazil a 6th WC title? I will say, no, by far. Brazil still did not convince me that they can defend, much like Germany. In addition, with all this talent , I still see Brazil struggling at times figuring out what system to implement and who needs to be on the bench and who needs to be on the pitch. You can never count out Brazil, but the Mexicans showed that you can beat them, as well as Argentina a few weeks ago.

Mexico - I think they looked very good coming out of this tournament. They defeated Brazil in the first round, played Argentina very tough only to lose in a shoot out, and they lost to host Germany after playing them even for most of the match. They have a sense of team and of working together that comes from a team where the majority plays in the domestic league. They are virtually guaranteed to qualify. I think they have a chance of going further than the 1986 Hugo Sanchez led team that lost to Germany in the quarterfinals of the Mexican World Cup (after penalties).

Overall I think this tournament was a success, lots of goals, great finals, some great upsets. The one factor that is of concern is the number of fans that were allowed to run out onto the pitch, something that will have to be resolved prior to the WC. A warning to Brazil, the last time the defending WC champion won the Confederation Cup in the next WC host nation they ended up crashing out of the WC....that was my beloved French National Team that won the Confederation Cup in 2001 in Japan, only to score zero goals in the World Cup (before you say that can never happen to Brazil don't forget that France went into that WC with Henry, leading score in the Premier League, Trezeguet, leading scored in Serie A, and Cisse leading score in Ligue 1...with a Zidane that had just won the champions league with Real Madrid - france left with 2 losses, 1 draw...zero goals scored, 3 goals conceded)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Chelsea's transfer woes

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/c/chelsea/4627135.stm

After reading this article we should all start weeping for Chelsea and Roman's billions! All kidding aside, it is amazing that Chelsea did what they did last season with out a world class striker up front. I consider Robbens a winger, and Drogba fell far short of expectations (then again he had a career year the prior season with Marseilles). But why is it that Chelsea cannot leverage the money Roman can throw into the ring to parlay that into a world class striker?

The point made in the BBC article also makes tremendous sense, all the strikers they are pursuing play for established European clubs, who themselves have European aspirations every season -

Adriano - Inter Milan
Eto - Barca
Trezeguet - Juventus
Shevchenko - AC Milan

One player that seems has not been mentioned is Vieri of Inter Milan. While he is getting up there in age, he is still a proven striker and one that would fit into the Chelsea style. Granted he is also playing for a big named club, but he is second fiddle to Adriano. He is a big striker that is not afraid to clog the middle of the opponent's penalty box but can also carry the ball up the field. He is the type of striker that would fit in well with either a Chelsea or an Arsenal. But he would thrive in the Premieship and would flourish for Chelsea. Someone tell Roman and Mourinho to start looking at Vieri if they want that world class striker.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Transfer market heats up

It would appear that the transfer market in Europe has heated up. With the "World Cup Lite," the Confederations Cup and the Youth World Championships being the only channels for our football needs it is time to start looking at the players that are suspect of moving in the next few weeks and how that will impact some teams.

The latest rumors are that another Brazilian super start, Robinho will be departing for the greener pasteurs of Europe: http://skysports.planetfootball.com/list.asp?hlid=287608&CPID=23&CLID=&lid=2&title=Real+still+head+Robinho+race&channel=football_home
Real Madrid had the club house lead, but Arsenal seems to have emerged as a dark horse to sign the new brazilian star. At first this would seem like a great move to Arsenal if they can grab him, giving them another option to pair with Henry. But I would argue that, as talented as Robinho is, he would have difficulty to the adjusting to the Premiership. Games in November played in Newcastle are a little harder than those played in Rio or in Madrid. Arsenal needs a vulture striker, a al Crespo and Trezeguet, not another smallish forward that will have a hard time adjusting, a al Reyes. While I will be excited to seeing what Arsenal can do if they get Robinho, I am not ready to crown them.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Recap - Champions League....albeit a little late

Okay, I have been away from a computer for close to a month now...my apologies. So a quick recap with regards to a fabulous Champions League final. First, congrats to the Reds of Liverpool. Beating Juventus, Chelsea and AC Milan makes Liverpool a deserving winner. But to the game.

The Good
  • Dudek - made amazing saves on Chevshenko on a direct kick starting the second half, then a double save in extra time (I still have no idea how he did that), and finally big saves in the PKs. The Liverpool keeper, much maligned this season, stole one for Liverpool.
  • The fans - with no major incidents to report, it would appear the game went off without a hitch and more importantly gave the fans a great game.
The Bad
  • AC Milan - running out to a 3-0 lead and then that melt down. You would think that a team that can supposedly play defensive like AC Milan would be save with a 1-0 lead let alone a 3-0. What happened to Stam? He was everywhere the first half and then Gerrard scores in the box from a head ball?
The Ugly
  • Benitez - I realize he was the winning manager. But he saved himself embarassment by starting Harry Kewell who, by none of his fault, was completely inneffective during the time he was on the pitch. Benitez made changes to get his ship back in line...but not even he could have expected his team to come back to 3-3.
Here is too a great season. With the world cup fast approaching as well as rumors and transfers flying, check out the "beantown frog" for some more indepth discussion.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Champions league finals

Well we are all anticipating tomorrows unexpected final between AC Milan and Liverpool. The Red's army of faithful have already begun decending on Istanbul, and for all of football I hope that things are lively but tame so as to avoid what happened in 2000 when Leeds United played Galatassary in Turkey, and two Leeds supports lost their lives over a football match.

But back to the game. I have not watched too many AC Milan matches this season so much of my analysis will be drawning from what I know of the team and players based on past experiences...but when prognosticating why should I use common sense.

  • Goalkeepers: Dida is overshadowed by many of the more artistic Brazilian field players, but he is solid and is currently on a un-scored upon streak that needs to be noted. As for his counterpart, Dudek...well I know that he is the Polish International, but he has had some serious gaffs during his stay at Liverpool. He reminds of Lehmann at times. EDGE - AC Milan
  • Defense: With the likes of Cafu, Maldini, Stam, Nesta on the back line, AC Milan brings an obscene amount of experience and talent to stop any attack. While these players are not young, their experience and especially their expereince in big games both for club and country make them a formidable force. Other than Sammy Hypia, I am a little nervous about Liverpools back four. Althought Hypia is such a strong presence he will settle the back four. EDGE - AC Milan
  • Midfield: The Spanish midfield of Alonso and Garcia have been on top of their games lately. While I am no big Gerrard fan, he does have moments of brilliance. And Riise is always sneaky with a big goal. Rui Costa and Seedorf are experienced but getting up there in age, Kaka will be the one to watch. Can the Brazilian take over the midfield and control it with his offensive ability? EDGE - Liverpool
  • Strikers: Shevchenko, Inzagi, and Crespo vs Baros, Le Tallac and Cisse....hmmmmm, if Cisse were 100% healthy this might be closer, but since he is not and since Baros seems to score for his country but not for club....EDGE - AC Milan AC Milan AC Milan
Overall I think that AC Milan has too much fire power and too much talent not to win, however Liverpool has been on an incredible run this Champions League. I think if they can control the midfield with their Spanish playmakers, and cause enough trouble up front with Baros or Cisse running at the AC defense they could pull off the upset. I just don't see a solution for Shevchenko (arguably one of the best stikers in the world). Unfortunately I do not think that Dudek can "stand on his head" and steal a win for Liverpool either.

Final score: AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 1

Then again for those liverpool supports, I also predicted a Man U win over Arsenal for the FA Cup....

Still scratching my head over Le Guen's move...

I was reading the BBC Sports on line this morning and came across this story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/c/celtic/4572091.stm Now no one could have anticipated that the Celtic job would open up, and we should all keep Martin O'Neill and his family in our thoughts and prayers, but this once again makes me question Le Guen's move to Turkey.

While some may argue that Scotish football is not a top league (and I would agree), the names of Celtic and Rangers remain in the upper echelons of European Football. Now I am not suggesting that Le Guen would have seemlessly moved into the role, but it goes to show that there will be more interesting openings this off season, than Fenebache. I hope that Le Guen's agent knows what he is doing, because it would be a shame to waste what appears to be an up and coming football mind.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Arsenal steals the show

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/fa_cup/4558271.stm
For those of you that watched the FA cup this weekend, we can all agree that Arsenal stole the silverware. While the numbers are predominantly in favor of Manchester United -
  • 9 shots to 1
  • Double digit corners
  • Roy Carroll's complete lack of exhersion
But in the end it was Arsenal that hoisted the trophy while Manchester United goes home with no silverware. Some observations:

  • Arsenal need another top notch striker. While Van Persie showed the talent he already has as well as the pontential Wenger saw in him...he will become a major force but not yet. With the distant rumors of Trezegeut coming to Highbury, Arsenal need a viable secondary option next to Henry. Without Henry Arsenal cannot seem to crack teams such as Manchester United. Maybe Arsenal should look to aging striker Pauleta from PSG. He is cheap and has proven goal scoring abilities. Would be a good veteran to leverage as the youth get their legs under them. How about Anelka....naaaaaaa.
  • Lehmann can play very well, but like always is incredibly inconsistent. While on the whole he saved Arsenal this game (the clearance on Giggs in extra time, the save on Scholes' turn around shot, etc) but he also had some incredible gaffs - the lack of presence on the cross that Van Nisterlroy should have put away, the poor positioning on the Rooney shot against the woodwork. Had either of these gone in, he would have been seen as the goat.
  • Manchester United looked like champions, not a third place team. Their midfield played well, but their combo of Rooney and Ronaldo created complete chaos in the Arsenal back 4. They have something to build on with these two players...but Rooney and Ronaldo will need to control their emotions for them to sustain that level of play for a season, Rooney especially since the Spanish national team showed how to get into his head.

In the end the 2005 FA cup champion will read Arsenal. Too bad for Sir Alex and his band of merry men. While I will admit they deserved to win, they did not, and in a way that makes this win that much sweeter.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Le Guen....goes to Turkey?

http://www.lequipe.fr/Football/20050509_161242Dev.html For those of you that have followed the amazing story of Olympique de Lyon and their 4th straight Ligue 1 championship have to scratch their heads a bit with regards to Le Guen's move from Lyon to Febebache, after he left Lyon the rumors were rampant with regards to where he would end - PSG being high on everyone's list http://worldsoccer.about.com/b/a/168454.htm , the other rumor was that he would end up as an assistant to Wenger on the Arsenal bench. But he surprised many of us with a move to Fenebache in Istanbul....the quetion becomes why?

Le Guen's stock could not get much higher. He has demonstrated success taking a strong team and ensuring they continue to play at a high level. He has made strong player moves, with the only real disappointment was not having deeper runs in the Champions League. Therefore a move to Turkey is a strange one to say the least. While Istanbul is a hidden gem when it comes to football - the Fenebache vs Galatassary rivalry I would argue is second to none with regards to domestic leagues, for those of you that are not aware: Galatassary is on the European side of Istanbul while Fenebache is on the Asian side making this not only a huge city rivalry but a "continental" rivalry. The Turkish clubs have had minor recent success in the Europe - Galatassary winning the UEFA cup in 2000 (over Arsenal). But the overall talent level and competition is not high. The competition while fierce, remains well below what is found in England, Italy, Spain, Germany or even France.

If Le Guen is able to bring European glory to the Bosphorus Straights then all the power too him. But the odds are stacked against him. Turkish clubs do not have a historic track record in Europe - Portugese clubs have greater success than Turkish clubs....and their is a reason for this. I fear that Le Guen is going to fall into the waste lands of European Football and will have to redevelop his resume to get back into the top leagues of europe. Le Guen should have waited it out, until the major leagues end their seasons and the manager turn over starts in earnest....then I am sure that he would have received calls from European clubs looking for an up and coming manager.

Good luck in Istanbul, but you should have looked closer to home....
There was an error in this gadget