Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cole - Gallas FINALLY!

So the drama is finally over, Gallas and Cole will stay in London but switch colors. A last minute deal sees Ashley Cole heading to Chelsea and Gallas and cash heading the other way. I am still surprised that this took to the ultimate moment to happen, it has been the worst kept secret for months that Cole was heading to Chelsea and that Gallas wanted out of Stamford Bridge, with Emirates being the most likely destination seeing Arsenal has few choices at center back and left back.

Both disgruntled defenders will now hopefully find places in teams that desperately need them. This could mean the end of Wayne Bridge at Chelsea. In the end I think this is a better move for Arsenal than Chelsea, and here is why:

  • Cole was not going to play for Arsenal, so the fact they got a world class defender in return is already a positive. Having the money would have been nice, but what could Wenger have purchased....he would have to wait until the transfer window reopened and at that point Arsenal might have been too far out to contend.
  • Gallas solves more problems for Arsenal than Cole does for Chelsea. For all the issues Bridge has, he was not the problem Chelsea might run into. Chelsea has shown a little shakiness in the middle (Carvalho being the main culprit) and having the versatility of Gallas made the back four more stable. This is exactly what Arsenal needed, with a hole in the middle of the defense, Gallas will be an instant stabilizer. He is also able to switch out to either defense side if need be, this will give the young Gunner defenders the stabilizing force it has lacked since Campbell started to slide.
The other move that is very intriguing is the Reyes for Baptista move, between Arsenal and Real Madrid. Reyes has not been happy in London since day one, he is an incredibly talented player, but a bit soft. Baptista is the "beast," what else is there to say?

He can slot in well in the midfield or as a striker. He was lost at Real Madrid since they really did not have a position for him, I think under Wenger's tutelage and at Arsenal he will flourish and bring an element of toughness not seen at Arsenal since the days of Vieira and Parlour.

West Ham - Argentinian coup

If the rumors are to be believed:

West Ham has pulled a huge coup by signing Tevez and Mascherano from Corinthians. Tevez was being ear marked for the larger Premiership clubs: Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United. If this is true, this will give the London club a huge boost. The Argentinian youth will infuse some excitement and talent to the club.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Chelski once again rises to the top

The Premier League started this weekend with a bang. Reading and Portsmouth pulling off first day stunners, Chelsea and Manchester United clinically dominated and Arsenal&Liverpool failed to secure 3 points.

Before we get too far down the season here are some thoughts and predictions:

Chelsea: I cannot see how they will not win this thing once more. They have too much talent and depth, two things that are absolutely crucial to survive and win a long season. The additions of Shevchenko will pay huge dividends, he will dominate the Premierleague and will challenge Henry and Rooney for the top scorer. I think that Ballack will get lost in the shuffle, I have never been a huge fan of the German and I think that in a full Chelsea midfield he will get diminished much like what happened to SWP when he made a much ballyhood move from Manchester City. Speaking of the midfield, it is staked - Lampard, Makelele, Essein, Robbens, Ballack, Diarra, Obi, and Sean Wright Phillips. Morinho feels that Obi will become one of the greatest players in the world in a few years....and he is not even good enough to start. The defense will remain solid, even if Gallas does not return (assuming that if Gallas leaves Cole will be coming back). The one area that might be risky is the depth up front. With Drogba and Shev they have a deadly strike force, but little depth since losing Crespo. I also question whether or not Drogba can check his ego now that Shev is the #1 player up front.

Chelsea is going to win the Premiership but it will be closer than in past.

Liverpool: They will give Chelsea some what of a run. They will build on a good season last year building on their strengths. I think that they too will be in danger without a deeper strike force, Crouch stinks....I have never made a secret of my dislike for the tall lanky striker. Fowler can still bring something to the table, Kuyt, we shall see....Bellamy will be the key, if he stays healthy he could be a valuable player, but that is a huge if.....Gerrard, Riise, Zendan, Garcia, Kewell, Sissoko et al will have to carry the team from the midfield. The defense is okay but not sure what is happening in between the pipes.

Manchester United: They are less thin up front with the return of Solskjaer, even Alan Smith is a servicable 4th striker...and they have pace and strength through out the pitch. Rooney is going to have a huge season, I think he wants to prove the WC was a fluke. Saha, now the clear pairing striker for Rooney looks like the Saha from Fulham where he was scoring at will. It will be interesting to see how much Giggs and Scholes have left in the midfield, and I am not sure that Carrick will live up to the hype of being Keane's replacement.

Arsenal: They are young and have solid management. Henry will again be looked to in terms of carrying this team with scoring. Adebayore, Aliadiere and Walcott will provide some depth albeit young and inexperienced, with with worlds of talent. The midfield will be bolstered with Rosicky, he will bring the creativity that can really make the Arsenal machine work, I think his partnership with Cesc could prove very fruitful. The one question remains the back line. If they can get Gallas then I think this will resolve many issues, if not they relying on Senderos scares me!

Tottenham: Will once again be on the outside looking in to the Champions League. They have the talent with Lennon, King, Keane, Davids, Jenas, etc. But I think their depth is thin, and I think playing in London gives them a "third" team mentality, chasing Arsenal and Chelsea. Not convinced of their defense, althought that could be bolstered if they somehow get Chimonba from Wigan.

Those are my top 5, looks very similar to last season....I think that Chelsea will be ahead but not by as large a point margin. Teams that could be regulated: Middlesborough and Fulham are the two I think will fall....Newcastle will struggle .... teams will look to hack away at Chelsea, chopping players like Essein, Drogba, Carvalho, Robben, etc hoping they worry more about being chopped down rather than beating teams, that might be the only way to knock Chelsea off their rythm, cannot wait to see the Bolton - Chelsea games..... Cole to Chelsea, Gallas to Arsenal sounds more and more likely, I just hope that Arsenal can sign him to an extension

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Cannibal joins Chelsea - Gallas closer to leaving?

Dutch international, Khalid Boulahrouz has signed with Chelsea. The central defender can also play both left and right fullback. Named the Cannibal and having covered himself in glory during Holland's World Cup run hacking away at the Portugese he will fit right in with the whining, diving, hacking, prima donnas at chelsea....does this spell the rapid departure of Gallas?

Again I see him moving to northern London and Cole heading back the other way....

Cole - Gallas, Gallas - Cole

So the saga continues, Ashley Cole being left out of Wenger's starting 11 for the first game of the Premiership. Meanwhile across town, Gallas still has not been assigned a number for the squad, his usual #13 now being doned on the back of Ballack's kit.

This stalemate has reached ludicrous levels. Gallas wants out of Chelsea, Cole wants out of Arsenal. Arsenal should lower their asking price to $12m and have Chelsea include Gallas (assuming they can work out a new contract for the Frenchman). Chelsea claim they will not sell Gallas to a rival, but in getting Cole I would say the move is a push, both teams getting world class defenders from a rival.

Lets just get his done!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Greece gets correction from England, and other internationals

England gave Greece a 4-0 correction in yesterday's first post world cup international matches. Goals from Lampard, Terry and 2 from ... ugh.... Crouch put the game out of doubt before the half time whistle. England looked good, moving the ball around and Gerrard and Lampard worked well as Hargraeves did all the messy holding in the midfield, something Gerrard should never have been asked to do. Of course Greece looked like a shell of its Euro 2004 form, they are in real risk of not making the Eure in 2 years. They looked slow, poorly organized and horrible on defense. This last is such a difference from what we saw in Portugal 2004.

Before my Enlgand friends get too excited, England is going to be really tested without Rooney up front. 2 Goals aside, I still have strong doubts over Crouch's value as an international striker. Dafoe looked out of place, not really knowing what was expected of him. Lampard and Gerrard looked much more comfortable than what we saw in Germany. The defense was never really tested so no ability to determine their worth.

Other observations: Germany handed Sweden another lose, the Germans appeared to continue emphasising the attacking style that took them to a 3rd place finish....Norway held Brazil to a 1-1 draw, and were it not for some out standing saves from the Brazilan keeper it might have been a lose for the 5 time WC champs, granted many of the regulars were left off the roster....World Cup champs Italy took a ugly 2-0 lose to Croatia, yuck.....Sad ending to Nedved's carreer with the Czech team losing 3-1 to Serbia, the Czech team was on the down turn during the world cup, this just demonstrates that they have much work to do moving ahead......Ireland got mauled by a Holland team that scored more goals in one game than in their entire world cup, surprised that Van Basten still has his job after a poor WC showing.......France ecked out a tough win in Sarejevo, they gave up another goal on a set piece where the Bosnia player was left alone on the far post, terrible, but they showed some hunger and ability to level the score and then pull out a victory in the dying minutes. It was good to see the youngters Mavuba and Faubert thrown into full International duty (Mavuba did get 3 caps during the WC qualifiers), Faubert scored the winner. Overall not a great 4-0 drubbing, but also a tough fought victory in a very hostile environment. Of course I still do not understand the infatuation with Boumsong, he was very lucky he did not get a PK called against his blatant trip, I rather see Mexes or even Givet partnering with Gallas, Boumsong has the natural talent but seems to have serious brain-farts the past few seasons.

The real work starts in a few weeks with the opening for many teams' Euro qualifying campaigns.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ligue 1 - Lyon again or will someone else take the title?

The French Ligue 1 has gotten underway, after two weeks we have an old school French team - Nancy sitting on top of the table. This will not last. I think that we will see Lyon for the 6th time sitting on top of the table end of season. Speaking of which can anyone guess who was the last winner of Ligue 1? It was Nantes in 2000/2001 season...seems like a life time ago, and in that season Lyon was only 4 points behind in second place.

So what to expect this season:

  • Lyon will win it again. They have the working formula or youth and experience, solid management, money, European experience, and no real competitors. When you look at the Lyon roster you realize that they have the Brazil B team - Cris, Fred, and Juninho. While these brazilians are not as famous as those plying their trades through out europe - Kaka, Ronaldo, Robinho, Ronaldino, etc...they are all solid players and fit perfectly into the Lyon system. Lyon also has a collection of solid, but not spectacular, internationals: Diarra, Muller, Tiago and Carew. These players are all full internationals but none are superstars, but each is world class at their position. Lyon has a strong collection of French internationals: Wiltord, Abidal, Coupet, Malouda and Govou. Lyon also has an assortment of young internationals: Toulalan, Clerc, Ben Arfa, and Berthod. This mix of talent gives Lyon the ability to field experienced teams with youth ready to step in. It also gives Lyon the depth needed to survive a grueling domestic season. However the lack of a superstar, might be the reason why they have not proceeded past the 1/4 finals of the Champions League, they do not have 2 - 3 world class players like a Henry, Gerrard, Ronaldino, Eto'o, etc that you need to elevate your team to the next level when playing tournament styled games in Europe. I think that is why their inability to get a Drogba or Ribery this off season might cost them again in Europe. But their depth and talent should see them to a 6th French title.
  • Lille and Bordeaux will fight for the second spot. Lille has been a team on the rise the past few seasons they have they formation and youth. They have proven an ability to compete at the highest level the past few seasons, pulling talent from the african continent as well as lesser known French players...I must admit I cannot name any of their starting squad, yet every season they are contending. As for Bordeaux, the addition of Micoud will bring they a much needed maestro. I think the Micoud, Smicer, Mavuba midfield will achieve some great things. Bordeaux has proven to be a resilient bunch, this season they will take it another level.
  • PSG and Marseilles will dissappoint once again. Marseilles will be dangerous now that they have retained Ribery, he could take this domestic season as a break out. He should be able to build from his World Cup to emerge as the next big French star. But overall I think that Marseilles is in too much turmoil to contend. PSG....well what can I say....if their first two games are any indication we PSG fans are in for another long season. It is the same story every season, ability to bring in loads of talent (not always successful), great fan base, coaching carrousel, and disappointing season. After two games Lacombe has used two completely different formations, have not been able to establish a system and have ended up with 1 whole point. They have no system, no one that seems to take over the midfield role, no one that seems to hold together the defense.....I think that PSG will be lucky to finish in the top 5.
I think we will see much of the same this season - Lyon showing its class, Lille and Bordeaux will battle for second, PSG will dissapoint.

What I will be watching is to see if Lyon can take the next step in Europe.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ribery plays against Berne, staying in the South of France

Ribery played for Marseille against the Berne New Boys yesterday in a UEFA cup qualifier, this takes him out of European qualification for another team, say Lyon, Arsenal or Real Madrid. This would appear to put Ribery out of contention to move teams, however he is still qualified for the first round of knock out stages at the Champions the door remains slightly ajar.

Might this have been a negotiation tactic from Marseilles, telling the suitors to step it up before Ribery is firmly entrenched at Marseille for the season.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Gallas still without a home

Just checking the EPL web site and it is official that MBallack has received Gallas' #13 shirt:

Couple this with the impasse between Cole - Chelsea - Arsenal as well as the Reyes to Real rumors and Ribery to Arsenal why can't all the principals just do the obvious:

Chelsea sends disgruntled Gallas and cash to Arsenal for equally disgruntled Cole
Marseille sells Ribery, it is clear the Frenchman is looking to cash in on a break out world cup performance - either sell him to Lyon or Arsenal.
Arsenal sell Reyes to Real, he has constantly be linked with wanting to return home, let him go and leverage that money to get Ribery!

Seems so obvious!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

International restart - French team

The great part of international football is that even after a great tournament like the world cup, games start shortly after the event ends, there is no "dead period." So seeing Domenech list I have some comments, first the list:

Gardiens : Grégory COUPET (Olympique Lyonnais), Mickaël LANDREAU (Paris-SG)
Défenseurs : Eric ABIDAL (Olympique Lyonnais), Jean-Alain BOUMSONG (Newcastle), François CLERC (Olympique Lyonnais), William GALLAS (Chelsea), Gaël GIVET (Monaco), Philippe MEXES (AS Rome), Willy SAGNOL (Bayern Munich)
Milieux de Terrain : Alou DIARRA (Lens), Julien FAUBERT (Bordeaux), Florent MALOUDA (Olympique Lyonnais), Rio Antonio MAVUBA (Bordeaux), Jérémy TOULALAN (Olympique Lyonnais), Patrick VIEIRA (Inter Milan)
Attaquants : Thierry HENRY (Arsenal), Franck RIBERY (Olympique de Marseille), Louis SAHA (Manchester United), David TREZEGUET (Juventus Turin), Sylvain WILTORD (Olympique Lyonnais)

Overall I like most of the selections. Calling up the youth of Mavuba (3 caps with the National team), Toulalan, Faubert (first National team selection), Clerc is a wise move. I also like seeing Mexes back in the mix, depending on what Thuram does, he has not officially annouced his retirement and I hope he stays, Mexes could be the player to develop a partnership with Gallas in the middle of the French defense. Mexes has the ability and plays on the big stage (AS Roma) to be able to form a strong tandem with Gallas, I am just fearful of Boumsong being the heir apparent....

The one player I question is Wiltord. While he has brought a lot to the French team, it is his time to move on. His World Cup was mediocre, and he is not getting any younger. I would have rather seen Domenech take another young striker: Sinama-Pongolle, LeTallac, or even an attacking midfielder like Gourcuff. Domenech needs to get more of the young attacking players into the mix get them to develop along side players like Henry and Trezeguet. Wiltord will not be at the World Cup in 2010 and most likely not at the Euro, so why "waste" a friendly by selecting him?

Final thoughts: please tell Barthez to retire from International Football, again he also has done a tremendous amount for Les Bleus but it is time to turn the page, the reason he was not "selected" was due to Barthez not having a club....Rumors are abound that Makelele might not really be retired, I hope that that is true, he still has a lot to give....Thuram is also mum on his future, while he is no spring chicken the way he played during the world cup impressed me with his motor, I think he could still play for another 2 years, unlike other prior French central defenders (desailly the one that comes in mind) I do not see Thuram falling. He plays well because of his incredible understanding of positioning and does not rely soley on incredible atheletic ability.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ribery heading north, across the Channel?

Latest rumor has French World Cup revelation Frank Ribery leaving Olypique Marseille for North London and Arsenal. This makes sense, why?

Arsenal is about to sell Cole to Chelsea for around 20m pounds, Reyes is rumored to move to Real Madrid this would generate the money as well as the opening for Ribery to move to London. I think this makes sense for many reasons:

  • Cole is leaving, might as well get the most money possible for him.
  • Reyes has never been 100% convincing that he really wants to be at Arsenal
  • Ribery would bring a toughness and spark to Arsenal that Reyes never fully brought to Northern London
Now if Wenger could only find a way of prying Gallas away from Chelsea as well.....

Barthez without a home.

According to the latest interview in L'Equipe, Barthez, who is without a club team, has yet to end his international career. He even states that he would not have gone to the WC as the #2 keeper.
As much as French football owes Fafa, it is time he gracefully bows out an allows the true #1 French keeper his due. Coupet is the best French keeper, maybe one of the best keepers in the world. While I will not say that with Coupet France would have won the WC, I would have felt a lot better had he been the #1. Something tells me Coupet would have been better positioned on the equalizer against Italy....

Barthez has shown himself to be a little bit of a selfish baby. He has played three world cups, had a world cup championship, a runner up and a European championship. But his time has passed.

Domenech, be a leader and tell Coupet that he is the undisputed #1.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gallas coming to north london?

Okay so maybe this remains farfetched, but you have to admit there are some synergies, both Arsenal and Chelsea have disgruntled defenders; Cole and Gallas. Maybe Arsenal should reopen talks around getting a Gallas and cash for Cole deal with Chelsea. Again I would rather not send Cole to a EPL and cross town rival, but getting Gallas in return would not be too bad, considering Arsenal's needs at center back.....