Thursday, July 31, 2008

Les Bleus adds a 1998er to the staff

An interesting strategic....and public relationships move by Les Bleus adding Alain Boghossian to the managing staff. A move that seems to come out of left field. First of all, I had not heard of Alain being someone looking to move into the managing ranks especially at the international level. Second it is an interesting move that Domenech is basically being told who to add to his staff, obviously the FFF is putting their stamp on how Domenech runs his organization.

On the surface this would appear to be a way to bury the hachette between the FFF, Domenech and the World Cup '98 alumni. Of course this is a brilliant coup. Domenech gets a 98er on the staff, but not a big named one...the 98ers get one of theirs on the staff and the FFF shows who really has the power. Had they placed Deschamps or Blanc in this role it would clearly be a signal that they have a manager in waiting, with Boghossian they have someone that would not be on the short list for the role, but was an active member of the 1998 squad.

We shall see how this plays out and how much value Alain brings to the equation, but from a PR perspective a grat move for the FFF.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ex- Arsenal winger Bentley heads to cross North London rival Tottenham

Once again the news from the transfer market is another team, not named Arsenal, is adding some depth and talent to their squad while the Gunners just sit still. Of course the irony is that Bentley used to be Arsenal property, and would actually look good roaming one of the wings at the Emirates. Instead he will be at White Hart Lane with the likes of Ramos' other additions Modric, Dos Santos and Gomes. The Spurs midfield could look very potent this season while their North London rivals stand still - okay they added the 21 year old Franco-Portuguese Bischoff....but he is unproven.

Tottenham is looking to build from the midfield with talent and youth. Which appears to be the oppposite to the Gunners who keep letting their midfielders go....not good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Liverpool keeping adding...what will Arsenal do?

Okay let us start by saying that Chelsea and Manchester United are stacked, they have talent and depth all over the pitch. Chelsea has tinkered by adding some Big Phil players - Deco and Bosingwa - that he is comfortable with from his Portugal days. They have also cut some of the fat from there roster - Crespo, Sidwell, Makelele, etc (granted this fat would look great on any roster but they are not in the long term cards for Big Phil). Rumor is they will also get Sheva out of town soon, a big move for Scolari since the Ukrainian striker was the owner's binky and could be seen as on of the reasons the "Special One" left Stamford Bridge when he did. Of course the big rumor is Chelsea offering a staggering 100m pounds for Kaka and then paying him 1m pounds a month, that would be rather seismic event for the Premiership. However even if this does not come to fruition, Chelsea are in a good position to challenge for silverware.

Manchester has not made many moves to add and have only let fringe players move on. Of course the big cloud that hangs over Old Trafford is whether or not their Portugese talisman will be plying his trade on the Iberian peninsula. Assuming this smoke is not linked to a fire, at least not for this season, then Manchester United will enter this season as defending Premiership and European Champions with their full compliment of key players. Of course they are looking to add Berbatov from Tottenham, which should happen one of these days. That would give ManU more depth up front, but really be a one for one replacement for Saha who they appear to be allowing to move on. Not a bad switch considering the talented Frenchman is oft injured.

Of course Benetiz is working fast and furious to add to his squad, the latest being Keane from Tottenham to add to support to Torres. He also went out and added the PSG youngster Ngog. Keane should prove a wise purchase. He has become, quietly, one of the Prem's most consistent goals scorers - tallying 20+ goals the past two seasons. He should add some depth, goals and flexibility to Liverpool. Then again knowing Benetiz he will never be played consecutively during the season as the Spaniard continues his tinkering with the line up.

So the question becomes, who does Wenger add to try and keep up with the other "big 4?" Yes Wenger has added Nasri, a great addition, but he has lost 3 midfielders - Hleb and his only true holding/defensive midfielders - Giberto and Flamini. With no options in sight...Senna, not leaving, Yaya Toure, that move looks dead in the water, Chantome not leaving PSG, it appears that Wenger may head into next year with a huge hole in the midfield. Wenger and Arsenal need to figure this out and quickly, otherwise they will be fighting for the 3rd place spot in England and hoping to get to the 1/4 finals of the Champions League. I realize that Arsenal have their hands tied due to the debt on their books, but if they hope to challenge for any silverware they will have to find a way to address thier growing needs. Otherwise they might not only drop to 4th in the Prem but 3rd in London - Tottenham is looking to add to their roster (while scraping some excess - Chimbonda, Kaboul, etc). Come on Arse, show us some of your magic - please uncover the next Vieira and Henry...The gunners need the goals and hardman....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Nesta to PSG????? reports that PSG might be seeking to add the Italian defender Nesta to their geriatric roster. Adding another 30+ former international footballing star, to the roster would be an interesting move for the Parisian club. There are also rumors that PSG is looking at adding Gallas to bolster the middle of their defense which needs help since Yepes has left the club. The bottum line is PSG is looking to refind its place in the upper echelon of French football, but are they looking to add to much aged veterans while ignoring their youth? While adding Nesta would be very interesting - he brings veteran leadership, remains a solid defender, but is oft injured - however PSG really needs to focus on their youth. Something they did not do by allowing Ngog leave for Liverpool.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

PSG loses Ngog to Liverpool

So PSG has signed two older players in Guily and Makelele this week and then turned around and sold an up and coming teenager in Ngog to Liverpool. Supposedly Le Guen claimed that Ngog had not done the necessary to be included in this years plans. While you have to respect the manager's opinion, this is a worrying trend for me....if you keep selling players in their teenage years that does not bode well for your future. While Le Guen might not be high on the player, he is still a France U19 member and still has growth potential. Obviously he attracted attention from a big European club so he has some level of talent. If PSG wants to get back into the ranks of France's elite and start competing with the likes of Bordeaux and Lyon they will need to retain and develop some youth, they cannot rely on signing 30+ year olds to sustain them. I hope that this move does not come back to bite them in the behind like when they lost another teenager to an English club...that player was Nicolas Anelka.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Aresnal - buy low sell high, and win no silverware

Arsenal once again, look like a net seller in this market. As of today they have acquired the French international Samir Nasri, I think a perfect signing for Wenger and Arsenal. But they are rumored to lose Adebayour and have lost Hleb, Gilberto and Flamini. The last two the real steel of the Arsenal midfield the past few seasons. Hleb is not a huge loss since Nasri will take his "slot" and is probably a net gain in terms of ability and versatility.

The problem I have, is Arsenal were a little soft for me last season, and the players that were the least soft - Flamini and Gilberto are gone with no replacement yet at the Emirates. I have heard some talk that, well Wenger will just slot Diaby in the middle. While I like Diaby and think he could flourish playing his more natural role as a central midfielder rather than on the wings, the main problem I have is with his health. He has not had a full season, injury free, yet. If he is to be the next holding/defensive midfielder for Arsenal he has to play the bulk of the games, something he has yet to prove he can do. So who else can Arsene turn to? There is talk that they are in the running to get Yaya Toure from Barca, a move I would absolutely love to see. But I am sure they will need to spend some money to get Kolo's brother. Might they get Barry? I doubt it if Liverpool is also in the running, they will overspend for the Villa player. How about the revelation of the Euros - Arshavin? He would be a great addition, but does not address the need for a holding midfielder. He would make a great complement with Nasri and Cesc, that would be a formidable offensive midfield, granted a little lacking in size for the Prem.

Bottom line, I think that until the Emirates finances are better in control Wenger will continue to sell and be frugal and selective on his purchases. He is also going to continue to look to build on the backs of his youth and not hold on to 30+ players. Some might argue this is the way to go, but when is the last time Arsenal has really challenged for the league title? And when is the last time they have won any silverware? Until Wenger loosens the purse strings and realizes that there is value in keeping older players to combine with youth, Arsenal I fear will be looking up at Manchester United and Chelsea....maybe even Liverpool, for the near future. We will not be seeing images such as the one above for a while....

PSG - French international retirement home

The news of the day on the footie transfer from France is that Makelele is about to sign with the team from the capital. Couple that signing with the arrival of Guily from Roma, and the attempted signing of Thuram it appears that PSG is becoming the retirement home for old French Internationals....who can we expect to sign next - Sagnol? Barthez? Giresse?

Joking aside, I think these are good moves for PSG and Le Guen. The team struggled the last two seasons to find any rythm. While Guily and Makelele are on the back 9 of their careers, I think that coupling Guily and Rothen again as they did at Monaco will be a good combo for the Parisian midfield. Makelele still has a lot to bring to the table and without international duty and an easier calendar overall I think he will be able to prolong his career. I think these two veterans will allow PSG's two young midfield stars - Chantome and Sessegnon to learn and develop with these two veterans (an interesting sign is that both these young midfielders were rumored to be heading to Arsenal). PSG should have a decent midfield - with Sessegnon and Chantome patrolling the middle with Makelele protecting the back 4, Rothen and Guily on the wings. I would think Le Guen will play with one striker - either Ngog or Luyindula up front.

I do think PSG still need to find a striker with Pauleta leaving they do not have a consistent goal scoring threat up front. PSG also needs to find some young talent and retain the youth it develops, which why I am glad they did not cave and sell Chantome to Arsenal, while that would have been great for the player as well as the North London club, it is great for PSG to be able to retain him.

Let us hope these moves, and I am sure more moves to come, will allow PSG to hope to be mid table in France rather than battle for relegation survival!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Merci La Generation 1998

So the fall out continues from the horrible Euro campaign. I have not even had a chance to put my thoughts down about the continuation of the Domenech era.....needless to say I am not thrilled. However what I want to highlight today is the latest news of another 1998er that will be retiring from international football as well as the great Lilian Thuram.

Lilian Thuram: The iron man of Les Bleus with a record 142 caps. He has a World Cup title, World Cup runner up and European cup title to his name. Thuram was arguably the best right back in the world during France's glory run from 1998 - 2000 and with Lizarazu, Desailly and Blanc formed one of the strongest back four in football. He continued to be a force when France won the "double" by winning the Euros in 2000. Subsequently he switched to center back and, for me, was one of the reasons France was able to proceed to the finals in 2006. He was the man of the match in the semi finals against Portugal. During that game it was clear that his guile and experience were world class. This was an interesting parallel to what I would consider his other sublime game - semi finals of the 1998 world cup. Against Croatia in Paris, Thuram was the Lilian in his prime. Strong defending, pacey, tough tackler, and for a bonus scored a brace (his only 2 goals for France!) to send Les Bleus to the finals. I will always remember seeing him "strike a pose" after scoring an improbable left footed goal from the edge of the penalty box. That game demonstrated how influential a right back can be to a game from a defending stand point and from an energy level. And most noticeably how energetic he would be in singing the Marseillaise, that would always get me fired up!

History will judge Lilian as one of the games greatest players and best right backs football has ever seen. I hope that he will be fine and his heart condition will not force him to retire from football entirely as well as ensure he lives a long and fruitful retirement. He is a huge asset to the game but to society in general, he is one athlete who has a genuine concern for his fellow citizen and society. Merci Lilian for what you have done for Les Blues and Merci for what you will do after football.

David Trezeguet: The Franco-Argentine recently announced his retirement from international football, which was no surprise to anyone that follows Les Bleus. The retirement was not due to a drop in form or health, Trezegol remains one of the deadliest snipers in Serie A. Yet he has not been high on the list of favorites for Domenech since the manager has been at the reigns of Les Bleus. The system France has been playing, for some reason, does not lend itself to a player of Trezegol's style. Which I disagree with....but that is what Domenech believes. Not to rant, but I will, when Domenech brought in Gomis during the Holland game he stated he wanted Gomis to be a "pivot" crosses and passes to go to him and to be redistributed on wing players. Um last time I checked Gomis is more of the mold of a striker that runs at defenses a la Henry, Benzema, Cisse...Trezeguet is a true pivot. He plays within the 18 yard box. He has a superior aerial game, therefore can channel the ball - 2 examples of that 1998 first knock out game of the world cup against Paraguay chip from Pires head down by Trezegol to an on rushing Blanc for the winning goal the second was end of regulation in the 2000 Euro finals, long free kick from Barthez to the top of the Italian 18 yard box where Trezegol deftly headed down the ball to the on rushing Wiltord who scored the famous tying goal against the Azzurri. Goals aside, because end of the day he was called Trezegol for a reason, but Trezeguet brings so much more to a team allowing it to play a different style of game. Too bad Domenech refuses to buy into this. I have written this before but I will reiterate my sentiments, Trezegol is one of the greatest strikers that has worn the French stripe. I will always remember his stepping up and taking a penalty kick against Italy in the 1998 1/4 finals as a 20 year old on the biggest stage and of course his golden goal against the same Italians in the Euro 2000 finals. Unlike, as it appears Domenech does, I do not hold the 2006 World Cup penalty kick loss at Trezeguet's feet. That match should never have gotten to penalties. I am sad to see Trezegol leave, he still has a lot to give to any club and team. I will enjoy watching him ply his trade for many more years at Juve, I am sad that he will not bring that skill to Les Bleus.

I realize that Sagnol and Makelele also called it quits, and at some point I will type some thoughts on both these players who have also been outstanding players for Les Bleus. This post is about 2 players from the 1998 generation.

Merci Lilian
Merci David