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....

FA cup final - Arsenal and Manchester United - the final dance of the season

The FA Cup is rapidly approaching, Arsenal vs Manchester United, the dream final that all football fans wanted to see. With everyone putting in their $0.02 worth: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/c/chelsea/4565127.stm (are we seeing the start of a Mourinho - Wenger rivalry which would make sense since the teams share the same city). But I am sure that those of you that have read this blog are waiting for my breakdown of the finals, so here we go:

  • Goalkeepers: Neither team has a pair of "safe hands" to rely on. Carroll or Howard for Man U do not invoke a huge amount of faith. Lehmann is hot and cold, and when he is cold it is down right scarey (let us not even talk about Alumnia), but Lehmann has been playing well as of late, but that might be because there has been no pressure on Arsenal. Slight edge to Arsenal
  • Defense: Arsenal has made a great discovery in the 20 year old Swiss international Senderos. Partnered with Campbell with Cole&Lauren on a wings makes for a strong back 4. Man U also sports a strong back 4 anchored by Rio "I forgot to take a drug test" Ferdinand. The loss of Heinze will hurt but Man U has enough talent to field a strong back 4. I think that the experience of Man U will prove valuable, Senderos will be thrown into a game he has never experienced. Slight edge to Manchester United.
  • Midfield: Keane vs Vieira...what else is there? As fo late the Arsenal midfield has been clicking, Pires, Berkhamp, Cesc, Flamini etc have been playing the flowing football Arsenal is known for. But again, experience: Giggs, Scholes, Keane all have big game experience. The Keane - Vieira battle will determine who controls the midfield. I think the Frenchman will win over the Irish. Slight edge to Arsenal.
  • Forwards: Van Nistelroy, Rooney, Smith, Saha, Ronaldo...just too much fire power up front for Manchester United. No Henry for Arsenal...Van Persie has been on a nice run as of late but on such a large stage agains Manchester United, not sure. Edge to Manchester United
  • Bench: Whoever does not start up front for Man U will be on the bench. The arsenal bench will be young, but that can be beneficial late in the game when you need fresh legs that do not have too much mileage make runs at a tired defense. Push
  • Coaching: Wenger vs Ferggie. Both men have plenty of silverware, both men are strong willed, both men dislike each other. As much as Ferggie drives me crazy I cannot deny he is quite capable. Push
So what does this mean? I think we will see a tight final, one where manchester united's thugs, Neville and Keane look to intimidate the young Gunners - Van Persie, Flamini,Cesc, etc. While the Gunners look to find the rythm needed to crack the Devils defense. In the end I think that without Henry, Arsenal will not be able to control the flow of the game, unless Berkhamp, playing for a new contract is the maestro that he can be.

Final predictions: Manchester United 2 - Arsenal 1...it pains me to predict a Manchester United score but they were clicking this FA Cup run (while their premiership run has not been to stellar). Manchester has had Arsenal's number this season, and with the question marks greater on the Arsenal side I have to go with the experienced club from Manchester.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Manchester United's new colors: Pewter and Black?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/m/man_utd/4543271.stm

The latest from the BBC about the imminent take over of Manchester United by Malcolm Glazer...so what does this mean for the Old Trafford faithful and club? As an Arsenal fan I wish I could say this spells doom and gloom for the United faithful, but alas my commons sense tells me otherwise. When one looks at what he did with the PUTRID Tampa Bay Bucs of the NFL, one cannot but imagine what he has in mind for one of the most marketable teams in professional sports.

For more on what his track record was with the Bucs: http://www.glazerfamilyfoundation.com/AboutUs.aspx?b=1

While the Old Trafford faithful scream to keep him at bay here are some reasons why Malcolm will be good for Man United

  • He understands the customer. With the Bucs he created a state of the art football stadium, catered to fans, increased the marketability of the team by giving them color skeems that would appeal to buyers, not the violently bright orange they previously wore.
  • He understands the business of sports. He will maximize revenue streems while ensuring he controls cost. Will that mean he cuts the money for transfers? I doubt it. Glazer understands that the product on the field is what drives revenue. If you look at what he did with the Bucs, he was not scared to spend on free agents and trade for top players (Keyshawn Johnson, etc).
  • Finally because he is not emotionally attached to the club but rather to the business of sports he will leave Manchester United in as good if not better shape when he decides to move on. Unlike other foreign owners (from Russia), I believe that rather than using his own wealth to save the team he will ensure that the revenues the team generates will permit the team to sustain its operations. When a certain Russian sells Chelsea (and he will one day) I fear that the team will be left in a difficult situation with regards to the business side, now if they have filled many trophy cases I am not sure Chelsea fans will care too much.
So to all those Manchester United fans, relax. The funny american with the strange moron like beard will be good for your club. Seats and parking might increase in price, but the team should not suffer...much to the chagrin of Gunner fans such as myself.....

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Arsenal's 7th heaven

http://skysports.planetfootball.com/LIST.ASP?HLID=276110

Sorry about the title, I could not resist. Altough I did not get to see the game (biz travel) I did speak with a fellow Arsenal fan and blogger: http://www.thegunnersarsenal.blogspot.com/ and was informed that the game was completly dominated by Arsenal, and this without a full strength Henry. Does this bode well for the FA cup? With Man U sliding, should we etch the Arsenal FC name on cup? Not sure. Once Arsenal and Manchester United step on the pitch all bets are off. As I discussed today with Sam, Arsenal did not beat Manchester United this season (maybe costing them the League). Arsenal also has no silverware (neither does Man U). So both clubs will be incredibly motivated to bring home the silver. I still scratch my head as to who will stop Rooney up front from Arsenal. And I am not sure if Henry, Campbell etc will be at full strength for the finals. The FA cup will be a fitting ending to the football season...we shall see who salvages the season and who spends the off season pondering what could have been.....

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

FA cup fitness race

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/a/arsenal/4533683.stm

Henry playing this weekend? That would bode well for the FA cup finals. I just hope that Wenger takes it easy with him and does not hope to get the full 90 out of him...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

PSG...European revival

Has anyone noticed that PSG has somehow managed to put themselves in a position to qualify for the Intertoto Cup and potentially a UEFA Cup spot? PSG is currently 8th in the French League, this coming from a team that in the beginning of this lost season were closer to relegation than to Europe.

PSG has the talent: Pauleta, Mendy, Rothen etc to compete in France and possibly in Europe. But the team has gone through the usual ups and downs associated with PSG. Vlad H coached the team into the basement, Rothen missed much of the season, Pauleta was missing balls a striker of his quality should not, the fans were acting like they belonged at San Siro throwing flares. Can PSG rescue something this season? Maybe. But more importantly this rise back up the standings is good for next season. PSG needs to find some stability to compete. Otherwise PSG will once again chase Lyon in vain.
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