Thursday, January 31, 2008

Les Bleus for the Spain game...once again Domenech makes us scratch our heads

Our good friend and favorite national team manager has unveiled his list for the following matches against Spain and a match against Congo. The list:

As always Domenech has thrown some major surprises, some good some down right here are some observations:

The Good:
  • Steve Mandanda - The Marseilles keeper is the rising star of French football. He has been pegged as the future back stop for Les Bleus. I believe that between himself and Hugo Lloris from Nice, France has two quality keepers ready to challenge Frey and Landreau once Coupet calls it quits. I think the decision to call up the young OM keeper is a great move for Domenech to allow him to see the young keeper, as well as motivate his other keepers who might be getting a little to comfortable with their places in the national team. Neither Frey nor Landreau showered themselves in glory the last few France matches, Frey made a horrible botch on the Sheva goal in the Ukraine and Landreau leaves something to be desired on his failure to keep out the Mcfadden blast in Parc Des Princes. While both of these keepers remain the next logical keeper to have backstop Les Bleus in 2010, it never hurts to infuse some youth and competition.
  • Gael Clichy - The young Gunner deservedly has been called up for Les Bleus. He has become the uncontested left back from Arsenal, which allowed Wenger to let Cashly Cole leave for Chelsea. Clichy has become one of the best left backs in the Premiership and deservedly is being looked at for Domenech's squad that will head to the Euros. In addition he is a natural left, has bags of pace, can defend and has demonstrated the discipline to know when to make his runs and when to hold back. I am surprised it has taken Domenech this long to call him up, when we would see Lassana Diarra being slotted at left back (against Italy at the San Siro) it makes you scratch your head why you would play a natural midfield at left back when you have a world class natural left back sitting in Northern London....granted Diarra played very well when slotted at left back, but still makes you scratch your head. I hope this is a sign that Domenech sees the young Gunner as his future left back, he would infuse a level of youth into a back line that is in need of some turn over.
  • Sebestien Frey - The Fiorentina keeper had a difficult game for his first cap against Ukraine, giving up a dodgy goal against Shev. I would not have been surprised if Domenech had banished him to the land of Pires, Guily and Trezeguet. However for once Domenech has given someone a second chance...a deserved one. Frey should give Landreau a run at the clear #2 behind Coupet.
  • Jeremy Menez - The young player from Monaco has been compared to Zidane (then again so is Nasri and a host of others....). The young Frenchman has plenty of admirers in Europe and is touted as the next French player to leave Ligue 1 for one of the big three leagues. A good player that Domenech needs to look at for both the Euro and the World Cup 2010.
The Bad:
  • Boumsong????? Are you kidding me???? What is Domenech thinking? Boumsong should qualify for the bad and the ugly of my rant. He is terrible. He is slow, has no sense of positioning, basically he is the French version of Senderos....not sure why Domenech would feel the need to select him when he should be behind a host of other more qualified central defenders...I mean is he going to be ahead of Mexes in the pecking order? Or Escude, Givet and Squillaci?? This is just a wasted slot in my opinion.
  • Briand - I do not necessarily think the Rennes striker is a bad choice, but just not convinced I see where he would fit in the greater scheme. With offensive players such as Gouffran and Gourcuff, granted the latter is not getting much time at Milan but the former is doing well at Caen. I think this would have been a good time to get a deeper view of both U21 players.
The Ugly:
  • Boumsong - Sorry but I have to harp on this but what is Domenech thinking!!!! He is a waste of a spot for this game(s)....maybe Domenech was watching the game last week where Boumsong scored for Juve, and forgot the 1437 other games where he has been awful.
  • Trezeguet - I am sorry but this is getting UGLY. He is France's third leading all time goal scorer, a top scorer in Serie A and you are telling me there is no room for him on the team! On top of which, Domenech has the audacity to state that the door is not shut for the Juventus striker to play for France in next year's Euro????? I watched the Juventus game from the weekend where Trezegol had a brace, and it was clear that he remains LETHAL in the 18 yard box. For some reason with France, he seems stuck alone at top of the formation and is not given the freedom to roam a bit more as he does with Juve. Right now, top of my head he is a top 10 stiker in the world - Ronaldo (Portuguese one, not the fat Brazilian), Ibrahimovic, Messi, Toni, Adebayour (never thought I would say that about the Togolese but he is lighting the Prem on fire), Eto'o, Drogba.....maybe Tevez.....but Trezegol has his place in the list. There is clearly some bad blood between Domenech and Trezegol, but that should not stop him from being selected.....Domenech selects Mexes who has treated him to all kinds of insults in the Italian press. I just do not understand how a striker of Trezegol's talents can be left off the team and how Domenech can be so arrogant as to claim that he still has all the chances to be in the squad for the Euros.....
The game next week should be very interesting. Looking over what could be the Spanish side they are scary! Were it not for their idiotic manager they might actually do something in the Euros next year. I think it is scary to think that players of the caliber of Mikel Arteta are not even mentioned for the Spanish team due to the amazing amount of talent available to Aragones. With players such as Torres, Fabregas, Casillas, Silva, Villa, Ramos, Joaquin and young star Bojan to call upon....this team is staked.....thankful Aragones is a moron and will find a way to underachieve once again at a major tournament.

This will be a good test for the French, in a hostile environment (how loud will the whistles be for the Marseillaise?).....just wish Domenech had brought his best bullets.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

FA Cup draw - Liverpool and Chelsea are "safe"

What a crock, Arsenal and Manchester United are drawn together while Liverpool and Chelsea get cream puffs....

Bristol Rovers v Southampton

Cardiff City v Wolves

Sheffield United v Middlesbrough

Liverpool v Barnsley

Manchester United v Arsenal

Preston v Portsmouth

Coventry City v West Brom

Chelsea v Huddersfield Town

The headline is clearly the Arsenal v Manchester United. The game will be at Old Trafford giving Manchester United the edge. This draw will pose Arsenal some issues and here is why -
They are out of the Carling Cup (getting drilled by Tottenham), in a dog fight with Manchester United for the Premiership title with Chelsea creeping up, and face a tough draw in the Champions League against Milan. If Arsenal lose to ManU in the FA cup, they might find themselves trophy-less once again. While it is good that Wenger finds and develops youth, at what point will trophies become more important than keeping true to the youth movement? With Chelsea and Manchester United willing to spend what it takes to secure more seasoned players for their title chase, at some point the North Londoners need to open the wallet to acquire some veterans. Of course Arsenal could win the Premiership, beat ManU in the FA cup - go on a run to win the FA cup and do something in the Champions League....but they might also crash out of all the silverware chase as they did last season in a matter of a week.

Other matches - Liverpool and Chelsea seem to have a clear path to the next round. The only other team I see contending for the FA Cup is Portsmouth...that is if they can survive long enough to get back their players tied up in the African Cup tournament.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hicks and Gillett save their bank accounts....for the moment

The drama that is Liverpool continues now that Gillett and Hicks secured refinancing for the club to allow themselves some protection from what appeared to be a dire financial situation. Of course from all reports all this does is buy the two American maverick owners another 18 months....probably buys then 18 minutes of freedom from the attacks from the Liverpool faithful. With DIC sitting on the sidelines waiting to pounce, Hicks and Gillett better ensure their finances are indeed in order.

So why is this such a controversy? It is not the first time a bunch of grown up boys with too much money have looked towards sporting teams as their new "toy"....Hicks being a great example, look what he has done with the Texas Rangers of MLB....when is the last time that team has mounted any serious World Series challenge???? However I think that when it comes to "playing" with historic European football teams, it seems to be a little more distasteful. Hicks and Gillett clearly have no clue about the true importance of Liverpool FC to both the city and football in general, but rather these two gentlemen saw an opportunity to fatten their wallets. They are now facing the reality that they are dealing with passionate fans, more passionate than the American fan that tends to have multiple professional teams on which to waste their hard earned money. Fans who will be vocal in their protests, fans who are the very reason why teams such as Liverpool are so valued. Between the controversy in Liverpool and Manchester United and their US goofy owners, it is becoming clear that the issue of foreign ownership is becoming an "issue" for the FA.

The main issue is that football is a business....while fans such as myself are drawn because of the competition, history, and is a business just like software, home building, magazine printing, etc....and therefore it will be subject to the desire to maximize profits, fatten wallets, manage the bottom line, and all the other aspects of business and work we try to escape through our sporting teams. Maybe this is another reason why it feels so distasteful...the realities we deal with when we are working are not the ones we want to deal with when we are sitting in the stands at Parc des Princes, Emirates, Stanford Bridge, The Bernabeu, or any other stadium, eating our bangers and mash, washing it down with a bitter, and cheering on our team to eternal glory....alas this very fact means that this is a business where vast sums of money can be made and lost, and when these situations arise gentlemen such as Hicks and Gillett will be attracted....just as if it were a paper mill they see as a undervalued.....