Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The crazy world of football

So the past few weeks have shown us how crazy football can be. A couple of thoughts on some goings on -

  • How much has changed after two games for England - Prior to the matches against Israel and Russia, the calls were for Steve McClaren should be sacked and that the team was destine to miss the European tournament. How much has changed after a pair of thumpings at Wembley. Now McClaren is being spoken about as the greatest English manager, Emile Heskey is making noise that he deserves more starts up front for England over players such as Rooney, and now England is a juggernaut. The reality is that England should not have been put in difficulty in this group, even with the injuries. Israel is a gadfly when it comes to qualifying so getting a draw in Israel was par for the course. The 3-0 victory meant that regular service was back. As for Russia, they are overrated...the only reason for them being hyped is due to their manager - Hiddink. Otherwise their talent and ability are middle of the table in Europe. England should be first or second in this group, the match versus Croatia will determine who wins and who ends runner up. I think the reality will come crashing back if and when England struggle against Croatia and McClaren is right back on the hot seat. And no, Heskey, while playing admirably, cannot force Rooney to the bench. And with Owen destined to the injury list I have a feeling we will see Rooney alone up front.
  • The French are in 3rd place in their group! Well that is what happens when you drop 6 points to Scotland! The world has obviously gone mad. Scotland still has the more difficult road to navigate so I think France will still find a way to get to the Euro. But the Scots are not making things easy. The reality is that France still seems to be trying to find their post -Zidane system, determine who their #1 striker is, and how to manage their midfield. Domenech has 3 more matches to get this right, otherwise I am sure he will be joining Jose in the unemployment line, albeit with much less money in the bank.
  • Speaking of Mourinho and Chelsea, it is obvious that the team is spinning out of control. After listening and reading about what has transpired in Stamford Bridge I see this situation similar to what happened to the Yankees with Steinbrenner - a team who's owner forgets that he is an expert in whatever field provided him the fortune necessary to own an expensive toy but not necessarily on the nuances and complexity of modern sports. In the 1980s, the "Boss" thought he knew and understood baseball and got his fingerprints all over the Yankee's day to day operations, almost wrecking on of the most storied franchises in baseball. I see the same thing with Abramovich. Granted not sure what line of business he is expert in, other than cuddling up to former KGB and fleecing his fellow country men and women. But the Siberian Billionaire has started to meddle with the team and players, starting last season when he decided to bring Sheva and Ballack into an already loaded team. It was clear that Mourinho had no use for either high priced, over the hill, superstars. When Mourinho had come to Stamford Bridge, he was allowed to make the moves he wanted, bringing players like Drogba, Kalou, Essein, etc. Granted it was easy to do so with the Abramovich riches, but still players the Special Whiner was targeting. Bringing in two high paid, massive ego players such as Sheva and Ballack placed Mourinho in a difficult managerial position, he had a good rotation going with Drogba being his #1 striker, with Lampard his #1 attacking midfielder...with Sheva and Ballack in the mix where do you play these two players who are used to being the focal points of their squads? Then the Russian Megalomaniac decides that he wants his footie team to play more "entertaining" football...neglecting the fact Chelsea had won back to back premierships, 2 Carling Cups, and an FA Cup....last time I check those 2 Premiership titles had tripled the amount of league titles the Blues had in their trophy case....last time I checked winning silverware was very entertaining. It was clear that Mourinho and Abramovich could no longer maintain a working relationship and the one that writes the checks usually wins those battles. So where does Chelsea head? Based on this week, potentially right into the toilet...well not the Derby toilet they still have way too much talent. Chelsea need to bring in a manager that can hold sway over the players and be distant enough from Abramovich to command some respect...even Hiddink might not fit that bill. Maybe an ex player would be the best option - Vialli? Zola? There would be no perceived baggage between manager and owner, and the link as a former Chelsea player may buy them some slack. I have a feeling that the next manager will not be a "big name" but a manager looking to ride the Chelsea coattails for a season or two and build their resume, since it is clear that Abramovich will not release his tight hold on the team reigns....the story of Ronaldino coming to Stamford Bridge being any indicator. If Chelsea bring in the bucktooth Brazilian, where is he going to play? Behind the strikers? If so, where does Lampard play? Will he be a second, deeper lying striker behind Drogba? If so, where does Sheva play? Rather than dropping record amounts of money on such players maybe Abramovich can look into developing some youth at Chelsea. Or better yet, allow his football people run the team and not look to run this as a fantasy soccer team....
  • Okay let us stay in England and talk about Arsenal. Undefeated in England and winning their opening Champions league game by 3 goals. Shows once again that the "professor" is the brains behind this team and has an uncanny ability to scout and develop talent (when he retires from Arsenal I would pray that the FFF move ocean and mountain to secure his services as technical director for Les Bleus, let him be the primary organizer for scouting and youth development). Many pundits were wondering if Arsenal would end in 5th place or even 6th....except of course for this pundit. Before we get ahead of ourselves we do need to realize that Arsenal have not faced the steel of the Prem (granted the 3-1 drubbing of Tottenham may count as facing some of the Prem's steel...maybe). Arsenal still have to face Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. Based on last year's results, Arsenal should fair well against these teams. But if they truly want to challenge and win a title they will need to take the majority of points from these matches. The good news is, Arsenal have fat coffers for transfers....which I think Arsenal still needs some pieces to make a serious run in the Champions League and the Prem. The reality, Arsenal has a weakness in goal and I still believe need a big time striker, Adebayor while having a great start of the season I do not see as a #1 striker that carries you in the Champions League or the Prem. Van Persie, a great player, but injury prone. Maybe with this large war chest Wenger can get a true #1 keeper and a #1 striker....the other area I would like to see some depth is in central defense. I still cringe when Senderos is on the pitch.
I realize there is more goings on, but these are some interesting early season stories I wanted to comment on. There are other interesting situations - Lyon in France, Scolari losing it in Portugal, Adu in Portugal.....maybe later this week.

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