Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arsenal v Manchester we go again

The first leg of the Champions League semi finals match is this evening at Old Trafford, and it is match up of old friends - ManU and Arsenal. The venom between the two managers has diminished over the past few seasons, maybe because Arsenal has not really been in contention for the League title and Rafa has become the new whipping boy for SAF. But the heat might get turned up again with this new installment.

Manchester United is trying to be the first club, since the old Cup of Champions became the Champions league, to win back to back titles...the last time it was Nottingham Forrest, talk about a blast from the past! Clearly such a repeat would solidify SAF place in the halls of one of the most successful club managers of all time. Of course standing in his way is his old nemisis Wenger. After a poor start to the season, Arsenal is starting to find its stride. Arsenal has also not enjoyed any silverware in what appears to be a life time...since Pat Vieira scored the winning penalty kick against Manchester United in the 2005 season. I am sure there is nothing Wenger would like more than to bring to Arsenal its first Champions League trophy, and doing so at the expense of Manchester United.

So what about the game? These two clubs know each other very well. Arsenal is starting to click, with Cesc pulling the strings the club is getting back to their free flowing attacking football. Nasri, Diaby, Adebayour, and Van Persie are all clicking. The key against Manchester United will be Wolcott. He has been absolutely devastating as of late. His pace has given fits to opposing defenders and opened up space in the middle for Cesc. Of course the combo of Arshavin and Wolcott would be lethal in this match, but the Russian is not eligible having already made appearances for Zenit. The one area of concern for the Gunners, central defense. With Gallas out, the fact that Silvestre is relied upon is cause for concern. In addition with Clichy out, the left side will be an area to monitor with regards to Arsenal blocking Manchester United's attack as well as being able to move up and add to the offense.

Speaking of offensive onslaughts, after watching Manchester United wake up and score 5 goals against the Spurs this weekend I am a little nervous about facing the likes of Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo, Berbatov, et al. Manchester United have the potential to give clubs lots of trouble when they go out with a 3 striker formation. While this places some added strain on the back four, the offensive fire power forces teams to play deeper thereby taking away some pressure on the defense. The back line is suspect at times when it comes to the break, Vidic in particular. He has committed some poor decisions being the last man back at times. This could be exposed due to the speed Arsenal can counter.

I have a feeling this game will be very cautious, both clubs will not want to take too many chances early on. Manchester will play for a goalless draw, wanting to avoid the dreaded away goal. While Arsenal will look to keep the ball with their fluid passing and avoid putting too much pressure on a makeshift back line. Wolcott will again be the wild card, it will be up to him to disrupt the defense with his pace on the wing and force Manchester back deeper, if he can do that it will open up the pitch for Cesc and others.

I see this as a tense match, between old rivals. Arsenal 1 - Manchester United 0 - Wolcott

Saturday, April 25, 2009

ManU does it again

So I turn on the tv earlier today and see that the hotspurs are up 2-0 against ManU in the Theater of Dreams, so I think to myself...maybe this is the year that somehow Liverpool wins the title. After dispatching of Hull 3-1, they were even on points. Had ManU lost that would have held even though the Red Devils had a game in hand. Of course I turned off the tv, turned it back on a 30 minutes later only to see a 5-2 score line!!! Even Tottenham's defense is not that porous. But I guess it is. I fear that Manchester United is on a mission, after being knocked out of the FA Cup, they are entirely focused on the Champions League as well as League.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Champions League Semis all set...very british indeed

Any surprise that ManU secured the win at Porto? I think all this talk that ManU was "in trouble" was a bit premature. Granted they had given up the 2 away goals to Porto, but because it was a draw, ManU knew a win would send them through. Porto did have some chances but I never really thought Manchester United were threatened. ugh.

This does set up two very intriguing semifinals -

Chelsea v Barca
Manchester United v Arsenal

Wow, yes very British flavor. But what about the Manchester United v Arsenal rivalry being showcased in the semis? Arsenal know they can beat the Red Devils, and SAF would love nothing more than to deny his old nemesis Wenger a trip to the finals. The other match up is also very interesting, under Hiddink Chelsea have started to demonstrate their world class form. However they will be facing the best team in Europe - Barca.

I think we will see a Barcelona v Manchester United finals...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Merci Ribery.....again

Oooof, once again Les Bleus secure the essential, the full three points against Lithuania and once again it took a late match score from Ribery. Unlike this past weekend at Lithuania the strike was much simpler, but the build up was very encouraging. Let me jump into the game:

The Good:
  • Once again the full 3 points, I realize that when playing the 52nd ranked team in the FIFA world rankings securing the full 3 points should not be difficult, but this Les Bleus being led by Domenech.
  • Ribery - What can you say, he saved France's bacon once again with a much simpler strike.
  • The other nice surprise was Gignac. Granted he can off the bench late and was not exactly facing the back line of Argentina. But his work rate was encouraging. He commanded the right side of the pitch and was always looking to challenge the defense.
The Bad:
  • Um only one goal again, late in the game? That is bad. No more excuses, this was Lithuania in Stade de France, so no potato patch to blame. France needs to be able to score more than 2 goals over 180 minutes against teams such as Lithuania. With the likes of Gourcuff, Ribery, Henry, et al one would expect greater scoring prowess.
The Ugly:
  • Ok I need to rail on Domenech once again, I realize this is a common theme for me, but I cannot help it. Once again I feel that the lack of any tactical ability to think outside the box is driving me crazy with the manager. Why not start a Nasri along side Diarra? Why not try to play a real "point" like Benzema? While France was never really threatened by Lithuania, they also did not win convincingly. I fear that France will eek its way into the World Cup and once again fall flat, allowing Domenech to somehow hold on to his role and waste another generation of French talent.
  • The other ugly, is the time it took me to put up this sometimes gets in the way of the blog!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

0-0 Half Time....ARGHHHHH

France head back to the locker room in 0-0 draw. Arghhh. Can Domenech please show some courage and throw on another striker? Maybe play 2 up front - Benzema and Henry - Henry can drift to the left, Benzema play as a center forward. Ribery - Gourcuff - Luyindula as the midfield support. Let one of the Diarras do the holding role alone. Ugh. I am sure that the genius that is Dom will stick with his formation, hope for another lightening strike and limp out with a 1-0 win.

France v Lithuania part II

Les Bleus head into tonight's second match with Lithuania looking to keep their momentum going and get the full compliment of 3 points which is vital with Serbia idle it can bring Les Bleus back to the second spot in the group just 2 points behind Serbia. Once more, Les Bleus will walk onto the pitch with a different line up than this past weekend. With Toulalan suspended there will have to be a new midfielder to shoulder Diarra.

So here is the line up -

Mandanda - Evra, Squillaci, Gallas, Sagna - A. Diarra, L. Diarra, Gourcuff, Ribéry, Luyindula - Henry

Again, not a huge surprise. The two Diarras will shoulder one another at the holding midfield spots. And not a surprise, that Domenech shows little creativity - no Benzema at the point, no Nasri in midfield....oh well. The stars were probably aligned just right again.

Regardless Les Bleus should win this match. I predict France 3 - Lithaunia 1. Ribery (1), Luyindula (2).