Friday, January 30, 2009

The Arshavin saga continues

With the transfer window rapidly coming to a close, the saga with Arshavin heading to Arsenal remains on hold. The latest from Wenger.

Hmmm a work permit is rumor out there but not from Arsenal...hmm could Manchester City have swooped in with their vast coffers, now that they do not have to spend the 100m pounds on Kaka. The real question for me is, how much does Arsenal need the Russian playmaker? I think that the season for the Gunners will once again be one with out any silverware - Carling Cup done, FA Cup doubtful, Premier title 4th place would be a small miracle, Champions League very long that begs the question is it worth the long term investment in Arshavin, I say maybe. I do not see where the Russian will play in the greater squad. When Eduardo returns, assuming close to his former self which might be a stretch, I do not know what formation Arsenal will look to play? Will Arshavin sit behind the strikers? Will Adebayour and Eduardo be up front? Where will Walcott sit? I guess you can never have enough talent, especially in the modern footie, but I just see Arshavin as another Nasri, Walcott, Vela...solid offensive players, of slight stature. Not to say you cannot win with a bunch of smurfs, but some size would be nice.

Again I am not sure Arsenal needs Arshavin this season...and not sure they will need him next season.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And Domenech still has a job...

This is too funny -

If the leader of your own nation thinks you are an, I ask you HOW can your FA still think you are capable of leading your nation's footie team? I fear that France will lose an opportunity, because of stubbornness when it comes to keeping Domenech at the helm.

All I can do is laugh...sure beats crying.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The inigma that is Pat Vieira....

On one of the many web feeds I get, I saw a headline about Pat Vieira and the fact his career with Les Bleus might have come to an end. That got me thinking about the future of Pat, at least with regards to international football. Bottom line...I think we have seen the last of #4 for Les Bleus. Why? A couple of factors -

  • When you play for your nation, you really need to look at the viability of a player being able to play at a high level in 2 year increments. Simple math - World Cup and European Cups - these major events give nations a two year window for players. In my opinion, if your player may not be able to play in the tournament, do you really want to rely on them for qualifying? Maybe for a game here or there, but you need to ensure that not only do you qualify, but that you develop the team that will carry you in the tournament.
  • Injuries, Pat has not been the model of health for the past few seasons. Every since he left North London he has be fraught with nagging injuries, even having to opt out of the Romania game minutes before kick off due to a knock he picked up during warm ups. The fact that Pat was selected for France during the Euros and played exactly zero minutes is indicative of the injury bug he has been cursed with at this stage of his career. It is suicidal to go into a major tournament with a member of your squad that might not even play due to injury, let alone a player you want to build your midfield around.
  • Other strong options at the holding midfield role - Toulalan, LDiarra, ADiarra, Flamini just to name a few. One cannot overlook the rise of Blaise Matuidi with St Eteinne. A player that is seen as the next generation of strong holding midfielders in the mold of Makelele. Didier Deschamps has been harping on the midfielders ability and talents, saying he is one of the best players in Ligue 1. When it comes to holding midfielders, I think Deschamps has some first hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed a that position. With all this talent at the holding midfield position, shouldn't France opt to build around one of these pairings rather than hope that somehow Pat regains the form of his glory years?
I think the writing is on the wall for Pat. I pray that Domenech learns from the mistakes Lemerre made during the 2002 world cup...and....Domenech made during the German Euros, holding on to the older generation. Vieira has been one of the greatest players France has played. When it comes to greatest holding midfielders for Les Bleus, I might have him planted at #1. My rankings -

  1. Vieira - intimidating tackler and defender. Gets the #1 slot because he was also a goal scoring threat, see game versus Spain in the World Cup as well as the last group game against Togo. During his glory days there was non better a true "box to box" midfielder.
  2. Deschamps - hard not to give him the #1 slot, but the "water carrier" as Cantona called him, was a hard tackler, controlled the midfield and was a solid captain. Look at how he completely outplayed Dunga in the 1998 world cup finals. He was the cornerstone for the great run Les Bleus enjoyed from 1998 - 2000.
  3. Tigana - hero from my youth. I remember watching him play during the 1984 European Cup, it was his incredible work rate that allowed Platini and Giresse to free lance and add their touch in the midfield. His sheer will power won him the ball and set up the cross that allowed Platini to score the winner against Portugal in the 1984 semi finals.
  4. Makelele - he did not achieve the lofty levels he did whilst at Real Madrid or Chelsea. Scary that he was left off some sides because of the incredible talent ahead of him - Deschamps, Karembeu, Petit...but was the tackling force for Les Bleus in the World Cup in Germany.
  5. Petit - Petit was a forgotten man during France's run in the 1998 World Cup as well as the qualifying campaign for the 2000 European Cup. Manu was perfect shouldering Karembeu and Deschamps in the midfield for Les Bleus. With the amazing talent of Zidane, France was able to play with 3 holding midfielders, but made the system work was that both Petit and Karembeu had more offensive ability than traditional holding midfielders. The one added element for Petit was his threat to score goals and take free kicks.
I hope we see Pat one more time in Blue with the #4 emblazon on his back. I realize seeing him play on the South African pitches might be a long shot, and actually highly unlikely. We may have seen one of France's greatest players step down from the big stage, but what a run he had for Les Bleus.

Si tu quite, merci Pat!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Insanity put on hold for now

With Kaka officially staying with AC Milan, the insanity that is Manchester City football will die down at least for now. It will be interesting to see who Manchester City turns their attention to...and what premium they will have to pay for anyone's services. The latest rumor is that ManCity will look to poach JTerry from Chelsea, I am sure that would be cheap....another rumor is that the citizens are looking to get Titi Henry from Barca. Maybe last season this would have been more feasible but this season Henry has become a more integral part of the Barcelona's strategy. And Barca is poised to go far in the Champions League, so why would he want to leave?

It will be interesting to see if Manchester City will go ahead and make a big splash or fall back into second tier status in England....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Is he leaving or not?

The latest on the Kaka to Manchester City news is that the Citizens have pulled out of negotiations. Hmmmm, posturing or is the deal really dead? I think much more of the former. When you are talking about the sums of money on the table and the talk that has been coming out of Manchester about getting such world class players, not sure how this deal will just die. Now, maybe Kaka does not end up in baby blue in February, but I would be surprised if he was not in that colored stripe come next August.

Of course it does not help when the president of Milan, Silvio Berlusconi , comes out and says his Brazilian is not for sale. But again, posturing? I think so. 100m pounds in transfer fees will make any team think twice about holding on to any player. Adding those funds can allow any team to "rebuild."

I think that Silvio will end up taking the money from the Citizens and run. Manchester City will just add another jewel to their ever growing stable of players that an unlimited coffer can purchase.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The insanity continues...will the citizens really snag Kaka?

The latest news in the transfer market is that Manchester City's on again, off again flirtation with Kaka is back on. The sums being discussed are completely outrageous - over 100m pounds in transfer fees for the Brazilian, which would completely eclipse the previous record of 46m pounds for Zidane when he went from Juventus to Real Madrid. This is completely and utterly ridiculous. What is happening to the transfer market when we can talk about over 100million pound fees, not including whatever fees City will have to pay for Kaka.

What happens if the sugar daddies of Manchester City decide to walk away from the club? If you cannot sustain your team thru you every day business operations, can you really expect sustainable success? Someone needs to bring some semblance of financial sanity to world football.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gourcuff needs to stay with Bordeaux

The star of the French Ligue 1 for the first half of the season is unquestionably Yoann Gourcuff. At the age of 22 there is no reason to believe that his best years remain ahead of him and for this reason we should see an interesting negotiation begin between the team that owns his rights - AC Milan - and the team he is currently playing for - Bordeaux.

His story is already well know. Son of a coach, had an early rise in French football which found him the new crown jewel of French football and at the tender age of 20 found himself heading to one of Europe's biggest clubs - AC Milan. In hindsight the move was too early or the wrong club. With an already loaded midfield, including the likes of Pirlo, Kaka, Gattuso, and Seedorf, Gourcuff found himself much more on the reserves bench than on the pitch which promoted his loan to Bordeaux. Where he has been allowed to shine, both for domestic and national side, since Domenech has apparently decided that he is the key to the France assessment I agree with.

Of course with this new found glory, AC Milan appear poised to want their player back...but will Bordeaux allow this and would this be best for the player? I would say no on both accounts.

Bordeaux need to hold on to the young Frenchman, even if it is only for a few seasons. Les Girondins must look to develop a team around the playmaker, much like they did around another French prodigy - Zizou. In Gourcuff they have the perfect counter in the midfield to Diarra who provides the defensive cover. In Bellion and Cavenaghi, Bordeaux have some solid strikers. And I think that at some point soon we will see the Yoan Gouffran that was the rage of the Ligue 1 while at Caen, if that happens the Bordeaux midfield could be extremely exciting and dangerous. With Gourcuff, Bordeaux have a legitimate chance at silverware in France, without him they are still behind the Lyon.

I think that Gourcuff needs to stay as well. Not sure that if he goes back to Milan he will find the going any easier than when he left. With AC Milan taking on Beckham on loan, and now hinting that they might want to keep him. When Pirlo comes back, you will have a clogged midfield once again. Even if AC Milan sell Kaka to Manchester City, the midfield will have an abundance of players. I think that Gourcuff would benefit from playing at least 1-2 more seasons at Bordeaux, especially under Lauren Blanc. If he has any questions about a move back to Milan, he only need to look as far as his Milan teammate - Flamini. Where has he gone since moving to the Italian giant?

If Gourcuff stays at Bordeaux and looks to lead France at the World Cup in 2010, he will come of that tournament a much more prized commodity. Both he, Bordeaux and Les Bleus should look to give the player as much opportunity to shine and to develop, in what should prove to be a win - win situation.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Big games in Europe

So I am sitting in Logan waiting for my flight and figured I would pontificate about this weekend's big footie matches. There are two big games today and I will most likely see neither...ugh but I did DVR them! Ok the first match -

Manchester United vs Chelsea.
What really needs to be said about this match. These two clubs have become heated rivals ever since the Russian wealth has showered the Blues with outrageous buying potential and made Chelsea a club on the same level as Manchester United when it comes to contracts and purchase power. ManU have 3 games in hand over league leaders Liverpool, so if they win all three of those matches they will be leading the title chase. However this is game is much more than than. If Chelsea win they will be 1 point off the lead. So both teams will be motivated for the full compliment of points from this match. Both sides should have most of their regulars available for the match so that should not play a part in the outcome. The question will be, can Chelsea's central defense deal with Rooney, Tevez, and Ronaldo? Terry is back after suspension so should be fresh, but that does not take away from the fact the Blues have had a difficult time figuring out who will anchor the middle of the defense. I think without Essien it is even more difficult since more attacks are getting through the midfield when in the past Essien or Makelele would be shutting some of those attacks down. Without this cover the Chelsea back line has been exposed. The trip to Old Trafford is not where you want to be fixing this problem. Manchester United have their own defensive woos, with Ferdianand coming back from injury, so how effective will he be against Drogba and Anelka? I think this match will be a tight match, with both sides afraid to make any mistakes. I think Scolari will bring on Ballack at some point in the second half and that will change the dynamics. Ballack and Lampard will put pressure on the ManU midfield and allow Drogba to spring a late game winner - Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0.

The other big match? PSG vs Bordeaux!!!! In the past this was always a tasty fixture, but for the past seasons PSG has been more concerned about being relegated than in challenging for any silverware, but not this season. PSG won the first fixture, in what proved to be the beginning of PSG's run back up the table. This game would give them an opportunity to leap up to the third spot in France, a remarkable change after their wooful past few seasons. It will be interesting to see how PSG and Bordeaux come out of the break. PSG was clicking with Hourau starting to pile up the goals and Landreau recapturing his form. However it is bitterly cold in France and Hourau, who is from the warm waters of the Reuion has admitted that is it the cold that is his biggest enemy. Will this latest freeze impact the big man? There have already been 3 games postponed due to the weather. As he goes so does PSG. The question on the other side is how will PSG handle what is turning out to be a solid midfield combo of Gourcuff and Diarra. Both French internationals are really finding their games this season, it will be interesting if PSG employs Makelele to try and slow down this midfield and how Chantome and Sessegnon work against Diarra. I think that PSG have some good mojo going, and will find a way to beat Les Girodins once again 2-0, goals from Sessessgnon and Guily.

Should a good pair of games, too bad work is making me miss the matches live!