Friday, February 29, 2008

The English FA showers itself in glory

The English FA once again shows that they have the three stooges running the can Middlesbrough's striker Aliadiere 3 game suspension be INCREASED to 4 games???? First of all the red card was silly, granted the Frenchman did strike that twit Mascherano but the Argentinian put his hands on Aliadiere first (the golden rule of the player who retaliates is always the one that gets caught). According the letter of the law the player needed to receive a red card. Fine, but extending his suspension? Are you kidding me? The FA needed to say, appeal denied, 3 games. This in parallel to only giving Taylor a 3 game suspension for a rash challenge that might end Eduardo's career. What message is the FA giving? If you get baited by a little twit and give him a love tap, you might get a 4 game to all those little twits bait players to strike you, feign injury and get a player suspended. Oh, and if you are a lumbering center back feel free to go hard at players ankles and shins...if you cause horrific damage you will not pay more than a 3 game suspension. Nice message FA....good job.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Nike's move to world dominatation continues

Just read this today, that Nike will be kitting out the French national football team starting in 2011. Nike will be paying the sum of 320 million euros over 7 1/2 years...or more than 42 million Euros a year! Almost three times as much as Adidas was giving the FFF of 13 million

First of all, being a loyal Adidas fan I am a little disappointed in the switch to Nike I will survive....being an Arsenal and PSG fan I have a lot of Nike gear taking up my closet space.

Second of all, this is another step in Nike's efforts to own the football world. They made waves a decade ago when the became the kit provider for the Brazilian national team, that announced their seriousness with Football. Over the years they have been going head to head with traditional football uniform power Adidas at the club level.....ever notice that they tend to split rivals in domestic leagues -

Adidas v Nike
Real Madrid v Barca
Chelsea/Liverpool v Manchester United/Arsenal
Ajax v PSV
River Plate v Boca Juniors
Marseille v PSG
ACMilan v Juventus/InterMilan
Bayern Munich v Dortmund

I am sure the list goes on. The same can be said about the national teams - Brazil with nike, Argentina with Adidas.....Germany, France, and Spain Adidas - Holland, Portugal, and England with Nike (Nike acquired Umbro that kit out England). And now Nike gets Les Bleus...after having made efforts to get Germany to that would be a coup being that Adidas is a German flagship.

So the battle of the elephants goes on. Come 2011 I guess I will have to look for my France gear at the Nike store on the Champs Elysee and not Adidas on Rue Rivoli.....

So the

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eduardo broken leg - breaks Arsenal's title hopes?

What a brutal challenge this weekend on Eduardo from Birmingham's captain Martin Taylor in the first 5 minutes of yesterday's game. If you have not seen it...don't. Taylor came in hard about 1/3 of the way up the tibia and when you come in with that kind of force and anger at someone's leg that is simultaneously blocked by the turf, you get what you had yesterday - basically looked like one of those "bendy straws" being bent 90 degrees. Taylor was shown a straight red, and if you see the reactions of the players, Fabergas in particular you can image how horrific it must have been to witness. No surprise, unfortunately, to see such a hard challenge. Birmingham is a team fighting for its life, hosting the leader of the you think someone was trying to set the tone for the match? Too bad sometimes the unintended consequences of such acts is the injury to a fellow player.

The most important is that the young Brazilian - Croate has a full recovery. Maybe 10 years ago that would be highly doubtful, but with modern medicine there is not reason to believe he will not grace the pitches of the Prem soon enough. Having seen Djibril Cisse have two horrific leg breaks (one with Liverpool on another rash challenge and one with France on a very similar challenge as his first) and still being back on the pitch should give Eduardo hope.

While this challenge was absolutely brutal, unfortunately it is fairly common place in modern football. Just watch Michael Essien, the tackle he had against Hamann a few years ago was more violent but with less disastrous results - (in my opinion, had Eduardo not been hit just as he planted and put all his weight on that leg it would not have been so horrific, not to excuse the tackle). Or watch any of the infamous two footed tackles employed by defenders these days. I realize that these tackles are dispensed as players become faster, stronger, and overall more skilled. It is part of the game, intimidation...get the ball at all costs. Maybe part of the mentality is that since modern medicine has come so far, players are not as hesitant to dispense tackles that might break legs or tear ligaments since they are not as career threatening as they were just a decade ago. Therefore players become more bold, more reckless in their challenges....them again you hear old timers talk about the game they remembered with "hard men" that each team employed to protect their stars and avoid suffering reckless challenges. It is difficult to say.....however brutal the challenge and the outcome was to Eduardo, it is part of the game these days.

As for Arsenal and Croatia, the two teams Eduardo would be playing an important role for the next year, this is a devastating blow. For Arsenal, the Croat was starting to come into his own, becoming a real threat up front and good partner to Adebayour. His emergence allowed Wenger to use Bendtner as sub and since it appears the hugely talented but oft injured Dutchman Van Persie may not be back this season, Wenger could ill afford to lose a striker. With Manchester United breathing down Arsenal's back, it will be interesting to see what the "Professor" does with his line up and tactics to weather this storm. This might be an opportunity for the young Walcott to play in his preferred role up front, rather than on the wings or as an offensive midfielder. His two goals against Birmingham may be just the confidence builders he needs.

With regards to Croatia, this is a difficult pill to swallow. Watching Eduardo and his mates carve up England in Wembley, it was clear that they are a very smooth and well tuned team with Eduardo playing an important role up front. Not sure what depth Croatia have at striker, but at least Bilic will have some time to figure out his options.

Let us hope that Eduardo makes a full and rapid recovery. Maybe injuries like this will force some players to rethink their "take no prisoner" attitude when it comes to tackles...unfortunately I doubt it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The "39th" game...for the color of money

The drama continues with the proposed "39th" game for the English Premiership, one to be played outside of England. When I first heard this, I said to myself, no surprise - this is all about the money. The powers that be that run the BPL saw the opportunity to stretch their season by one game and to take that game to soccer poor but sponsor money rich places such as Dubai, Los Angles, Hong Kong, and a host of other exotic sites.

I understand that the prem looked at the NFL staging games at Wembley, or the MLB starting their season in Japan.....but these involve 2 teams and are not extra games....and I am not convinced they are worth the travel and perceived heartache it gives the players who have to schlep to these distant sites. That is a far cry from having your entire league dispersed to play one more game to an already overstuffed schedule.

Let's be honest here, outside of seeing Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool....who are the other big headliners? Maybe Newcastle...maybe Tottenham....Aston Villa? But do you think the fans in LA are going to turn out to see Middlesbrough v Reading??? Maybe the first year fans will turn out for the novelty of it, but after a while it will grow stale. This reminds me of interleague play in MLB. Baseball did this because they wanted to allow fans to see Mets v Yankees, Angels v Dodgers, or Cubs v White Soxs. And yes the first few seasons there was some interest but now it is just another game on the calendar (outside of those rivalries), but does anyone really think that Red Sox v Phillies is a rivalry game worth more than watching the Red Sox play the Mariners???? Again, these are not ADDITIONAL games, involving abnormal travel. I would also argue, that the US teams are doing so because their game remains a very US centric, while the Premiership and football are global entities already.

The ability to see foreign teams is one of the by products of both European Cups, allowing fans in different nations see foreign clubs come and compete with their domestic teams. European clubs have also taken to scheduling their preseason training in foreign lands to expand their reach. In addition the reach of cable networks, the web and overall sports programming has made game watching accessible to all four corners of the globe. So I can see why the league wants to take advantage of this by staging some actual games in these regions. However I think that the desire to expand the already fat coffers, will reach a tipping point with an expansion of the season and the additional travel. Forcing teams to play an extra match and making that game abroad will become more of a burden than an advantage for the league. There is too much strain on the individual players. There are too many fixtures. Domestic footie is just that...played domestically.

The FA needs to address some bigger issues - the number of matches players log and the growing disparity between haves and have nots.....okay I am not sure it is growing it has been apparent for over a decade!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Arsenal out....and doing so in ugly fashion

The FA Cup tie of round 5 was to be the battle of heavyweights at Old Trafford between Arsenal and Manchester United. This was to be a battle of old rivals and current top 2 teams in the Prem, rather than having an epic end to end battle we were subject to a lesson in football from the Red Devils, leaving the professor and the rest of the Gunners wondering what happened.

Arsenal were out classed from the beginning against a team that was without Giggs, Tevez and Ronaldo...a bit scary thinking that Arsenal need to go back to Old Trafford for their league fixture. Rooney was completely unstoppable up front, scoring the first goal but being a general threat at every turn. Arsenal were fortunate that he was called off side on a number of occasions, some good calls some questionable, otherwise he might have had a hat trick by the break. Otherwise he was completely unstoppable using his pace and strength to torture the Arsenal back line.

Arsenal were without their regular right and left defenders but did have their usual Toure-Gallas combination to anchor the middle, so no excuses for their inability to at least slow down the yob from Liverpool. In addition, Arsenal never appeared to control the midfield. Cesc was completely out of the game, he appeared lethargic and did not have his usual fire. Hleb was running hard but with little support, Eboue and Silva looked as if they had better places to be....up front it was much the same with Eduardo and Bendtner working hard but not getting any service from the midfield. On the other side, next to Rooney, Fletcher, Nani and Anderson were all over the park. As my friend Brett texted me during the game, you know you are in trouble when Fletcher is giving you problems! On top of which he scored a brace! When is the last time the Scotish midfielder did that????

Arsenal demonstrated their frustration when Eboue recklessly challenged and received a red card, and Gallas kicked out at Nani....summing up what was supposed to be an epic battle but instead turned out to be a training session for Manchester United....

So now ManU moves on, Arsenal are left to wonder. Of course on a happier note, I was trilled to watch Benetiz and his 594th different Liverpool line up lose to Barnsley! If Liverpool does not advance far in the Champions League, and they have a tough tasking going up against Inter, this might be the last season of Benetiz. And that would make me happy, far from being a Liverpool fan, Benetiz drives me crazy with his constant tinkering and his complete lack of ambition in the league....again not sure why this bothers me but it does.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

ManU loses to rivals!

Wow...the citizens find a way to defeat ManU at old trafford, winning both meetings this season. Arsenal has an enormous opportunity tomorrow to put themselves further ahead in the Prem.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Les Bleus - goaless in two matches

Les Bleus played two matches this week one against Spain and the other against Congo (with their second 'A' team). The Congo game ended in a scoreless draw while the Spain game saw the Iberian giant earn a last minute 1-0 victory. Unfortunately I was unable to watch either match but did "watch" via the play by play on the web.

The Congo game is one of those international scrimmages that is very difficult to draw any conclusions from other than France was not able to score...but did throw out there a number of the "youth" - Nasri, Menez, and Mandanda. Of course Domenech also put out Boumsong....why? Again, why is the former Auxerre defender being considered....if he is on the roster for next summer's tournament I may return my FFF fan card.

So what of the second game, against Spain? From what I was able to determine from the online commentary both teams had their moments of controlling the game and neither team was able to really put its stamp on the game with Spain getting a late game winner. The main concern coming out of the match is France's lack of goal scoring...I realize one game is not a trend. However when you have the luxury of leaving a goal scorer such as Trezeguet off your roster and have players of the likes of Henry, Anelka, Cisse, and Benzema at your disposal you need to make your opponent's keeper work slightly harder than it appeared that both Congo and Spain's keepers had to work.

Domenech's next few months will all be about finding out the proper combination up front and in support of the strikers. It is clear that he is looking at Benzema-Henry-Anelka as his top three strikers, with Cisse, Menez, Briand as the players vying for the 4th slot, but which pairing to lean on? While I realize it is taboo, I might argue that Benzema - Anelka could be the combination up front....this will never happen since Titi will always have his spot in the starting line up. However Anelka and Benzema have demonstrated they can play different styles depending on what the situation calls for...they can roam the 18 yard box, carry the ball from deep, play alone up front, are able to appear on either wing, and both can score with their head. While I am not ready to say Henry is done, he has dropped a level from his glory days of Arsenal. Might he better as a late game, change of pace option? Not sure this will ever happen or even considered, however based on recent form it would appear that Benzema and Anelka may cause opposing defenses more problems than Henry....