Friday, November 21, 2008

Arsenal in disarray

Not sure what to make of the latest news coming out of North London. Gallas has been striped of his captain's arm band and left at home while the Gonners travel to Manchester to play the citizens. This was a long time coming. Gallas ended last year in turmoil, acting irrationally and child like on more than one occasion. However, based on what is being reported, I am not sure what Gallas has to say is that earth shattering, some quotes:

  • "We are not brave enough in battle,' Gallas said. 'I think we need to be soldiers. We have to be warriors. There are teams who can do it well against us, and we have to be able to face up to these attacks."
  • "We are coming up against teams who are not scared to play football against us, who are not scared to take us on at our place, and this is becoming dangerous for Arsenal."
  • "There was a problem at half-time of the 4-4 draw with Tottenham," he said. "The only thing that I could say at half-time was 'guys, we resolve these problems after the match, not at halftime'."
Again, overall I do not see any of these statements as so ghastly. What this makes me wonder is the following - do these outbursts indicate a greater malaise within the Arsenal camp? Over the past few seasons Arsenal have seen their veterans - Henry, Vieira, Pires, Gilberto, Edu, Ljungberg, Campbell, to name a few, retire or be allowed to walk away - while stocking up on the youth movement. Has this come to haunt Wenger? Is there a lack of leadership at the Emirates?

I think that Gallas' statements ring some truth. I have criticized Arsenal, since they let Vieira walk, for a lack of leadership and toughness. The Gunners have always maintained their ability to play beautiful football, but they have lost an ability to grind out the wins you need to have to have success in the Premiership. Wenger has always been a master of finding the diamonds in the rough, and getting young talent on the cheap. However he has not done a good job holding on to veteran players, the players you need to hold the ship together (Flamini anyone?). Look at the on field bust up last season between Adebayor and Bendtner, that would never have happened with a Vieira around. Arsenal need to get the ship righted, and now, otherwise they will never see any hardware any time soon. Gallas may be the one punished for speaking out, but maybe what he is only pointing out that all is not well at Arsenal.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another friendly or a chance for a change?

Les Bleus will head into a difficult friendly today versus South American nation - Uruguay in Paris. Domenech, as usual has announced an interesting list of players for the match (the original list):

La sélection française :
Gardiens :
Hugo Lloris (Lyon)
Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Yohann Pelé (Le Mans)

Defenseurs :
Gaël Clichy (Arsenal)
Julien Escudé (FC Séville)
Patrice Evra (Manchester United)
Rod Fanni (Rennes)
William Gallas (Arsenal)
Philippe Mexès (AS Roma)
Bakary Sagna (Arsenal)
Mikaël Silvestre (Arsenal)

Milieux de terrain :
Alou Diarra (Bordeaux)
Lassana Diarra (Portsmouth)
Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux)
Samir Nasri (Arsenal)
Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon)
Patrick Vieira (Inter Milan)

Attaquants :
Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea)
Karim Benzema (Lyon)
Jimmy Briand (Rennes)
Thierry Henry (Barcelone)
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
Steve Savidan (Caen)

Escude, Sagna and LDiarra are already out due to injuries...of course Boumsong was called back into the squad...why I am not sure. But some thoughts:

The Good:
  • I like seeing Fanni back in the roster, he will most likely start for Les Bleus on the right side of the defense. He has shown some talent for both his club Rennes and for France when he has had the opportunity. Many have compared him to Thuram, not a minor comparison to make, while this is a lofty stature to live up to I think that Fanni can do so. Does this mean that Sagna is out? No. But I think France should be in good shape on the right side of the defense for years to come.
  • Speaking of the defense, the left side is in good shape as well. Evra and Clichy are both world class wide defenders. Clichy final opened his goal account a few matches ago for Arsenal so should be full of confidence. Evra remains a constant for Manchester United. I would like to see Clichy starting on the left side for France, but either player would be a valid option. I think that Clichy has shown he works very well with Nasri and that would be a good combination to develop for Les Bleus...more on this later in the posting.
  • Speaking of Nasri, I have been reading some comments about how Gourcuff has done better in two matches for France than Nasri, even thought the young Gunner has been more hyped. I would beg to differ on that statement. While I am an unabashed fan of Gourcuff, I am also a fan of Nasri, but not in the middle of the pitch. I think that France needs to leverage Nasri much as Arsenal does, on the flank leveraging his pace and talent to widen the pitch. I realize Henry appears to be the favorite on the left but is he really the long term solution? While he should still be effective in South Africa, if France makes it, he will be on the back half of his career.
  • Vieira, I like seeing Pat back in the squad. Now let us hope that he actually gets on the pitch. I think it he is the true leader of the squad, but same as Henry he might be getting close to the end. So while a good thing for this match, not sure a long term solution.
The Bad:
  • Um Jean Alain Boumsong ....what is Domenech doing???? Why? What is going on...I am not sure what to make of this. I am without words. Boumsong is terrible. He should never see a France kit unless it is when he is on the Champs D'Elysee at the Adidas store. There are other players that should get a chance to show their wares in the middle of the France defense. If he gets on the pitch rather than Mexes I will go bananas.
The Ugly:
  • Boumsong...he is just terrible. I'm sorry I just cannot believe that he still has a place on the French team.
  • The keepers, This is not a criticism of Pele, Mandanda or Lloris, they are all solid keepers and I think they are the future of the French national team. But what is ugly is the situation with Frey. Frey is clearly one of the top 2 keepers in the Serie A, it is really between him and Buffon. Yet, Domenech treats him as if he is a second string keeper for the LA Galaxy, forcing Frey to renounce on the French national team and then during a press conference Domenech goes on to say that Frey is always selectable....um....ok. Hey Domenech learn some personal skills and give us some reasons with your rhyme. Frey should be France's #1, Mandanda and Lloris the back ups. Landreau should also still be in the mix. Once again Domenech is showing his questionable strategy/tactics/tact when it comes to his team and players. I am sure that Deschamps would have brought back France's best keeper into the mix.
France should go out with the following squad:

Lloris/Mandanda

Clichy, Mexes, Gallas, Fanni

Vieira, Toulalan

Nasri, Gourcuff, Ribery

Benzema

Let us see if we can get the old guard - Vieira - back into the mix. Let us try out, what I think is the attacking future for France, Nasri - Gourcuff - Ribery - Benzema. I think the second half we can test Anelka up front with Henry on the wing. I think the real area to be tested is the defense, and more specifically the middle of the defense. The wide defenders are fine, there is talent and depth there, it is really the middle of the defense. Who will be the one to partner with Gallas? And who will be the long term option? Mexes is the clear option, he is one of Italy's best defenders and should be a main stay for the French defense. I think the Uruguay team will be a good test for France, they are not a top tier nation but will offer a stern test for France.

Prediction - France 3 Uruguay 1: Benzema 2, Anelka 1.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Landycakes in Europe?

Latest news is that Landy cakes will try his hand in Europe football again. He might be heading back to Germany, this time with Bayern Munich.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iUd7ZCg8vvue2Sc7r38z1l08GSAg

Hmmmm...interesting. I guess the surfing has gotten better in Germany...but anyways. When I first saw these rumors I was scratching my head about this move. Landy Cakes has never demonstrated the back bone to play at a higher level of footie. The first and only time he attempted the European adventure he came scurrying back to the states with his tail between his legs. His excuse was something about missing the surfing of California etc etc.....Now, Landy Cakes is not old at all, really entering the prime of his career, so maybe the move back to Europe is a good idea. However has he really shown anything during his time in the MLS to give anyone hope that he will be anything but a substitute at Bayern? He has led the MLS in scoring, but plays for a horrible team and has not carried them to any glory. He has done well in high pressured matches between the US and Mexico....however he was a timid shell of himself in the World Cup Germany. So which player could show up in Europe?

I think that the timid player we last saw on the global stage during Ghana vs United States will be the one that shows up more than less. I think Donovan will not be ready for the rigorous of training and playing when it is cold and snowing out during the December and January months. I am also hesitant to see him playing a much more intense schedule between league games, cup games and Champions league games.

In the end I think this is the right move for him, he needs to find out if he can play club soccer at the highest level. However I doubt he will be as successful as he thinks he can be. The true test will be his ability to handle the adversity and set backs he is destined to encounter. I see him playing 1 or 2 seasons with Bayern, sitting on the bench and will eventually find himself at either a smaller club in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. I do not see him ending up in Spain or England.

Good luck Landy Cakes, hopefully your time will be worth it.
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