Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gourcuff signs with Bordeaux

http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/28052009/58/ligue-1-gourcuff-commits-bordeaux.html

While this is not a huge surprise, until it was officially announced there was always that fear in the back of my head that he would go back to Milan, only to get splinters in his butt from riding the pine. This a great move for all the parties involved:

  • For Gourcuff - He has obviously discovered himself coming back to France as well as playing for one of the games strong young managers - Laurent Blanc. A few season back when the midfielder moved to Milan, it was under the umbrella that he was the new French star, the next Zidane. However instead of shining at the San Siro he quickly found him self far down the pecking order. The loan move back to France was the breath of fresh air the young player needed and he has taken the opportunity and made the most of it. The permanent move will serve him well for both club and country since there will be no distractions around his going back to Milan (if the loan was extended) or being back in Milan in a system where I doubt he would have the free reign he has at Bordeaux.
  • For Bordeaux - The fact Les Girodins are on the verge of capturing the French title is due in large part to the play of Gourcuff. Having him signed for 4 years will ensure that at least next season they can continue to count on this level of play. I also think that keeping this important cog will benefit the club in Europe. They had a less than stellar Champions League campaign, and while I do not expect them to win the trophy with big ears, I think they can expect to this time get out of the group stages. The ability to keep the core of the squad intact will go a long way towards that goal. Also, I am sure that if France make the World Cup and if Gourcuff has a good tournament, that Bordeaux will have many options to resell the player to a bigger club in 2010/2011 and more than make up for their transfer fee of 15m Euros.
  • For Milan - I just do not see where the player would have fit back in Milan. While the club itself is going some overhaul, no one is sure of who the manager will be or what players will be available. On the surface the best place on the pitch for Gourcuff is the player slotted in the hole behind the strikers, somewhere Kaka also excels in...and while I might be a slight French homer even I know that Gourcuff is good but not one of the world's top 3 players. So would he slot wider? Maybe but that is not his strength. Deeper? Seedorf is deeper and again not really his strength. So Milan gets some return on their investment, and let us face it, if Gourcuff has a monster World Cup and if the new manager wants to change the system, Milan is not short of cash to reacquire the young Frenchman.
  • For Les Bleus - Clearly the success of Les Bleus will depend on how well Gourcuff and Ribery control the midfield offensively. The fact he will spend another season in France, under Blanc with stability, will be beneficial for Les Bleus. Now we all know that Domenech cannot be trusted so France might not even qualify for South Africa, but let us hope that if that does not happen it is because Domenech cannot manage his way out of a paper bag and not because Gourcuff does not play well.
Overall a good piece of information for Gourcuff and all the parties.

All little video of his talent...the first few scenes of him pulling off the "roulette" reminds one of another player that also played at Bordeaux.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

BARCA!!!

Congratulations to FC Barcelona and Titi Henry, the last piece of major silverware he was missing! I am a bit surprised, I really thought that with a make shift defense that Barca would be exposed by Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo et al. But it appears that the slick passing and ball control of the Catalans was too much for Manchester United...I guess the Fletcher loss was bigger than anticipated!

I was only able to watch part of the replay on ESPN since I was in an airplane all day. Oh joy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Champions league finals preview

I just realized the Champions League finals are tomorrow. I remember last year I was in Las Vegas during the Chelsea v Manchester United match up where thanks to John Terry, I lost $100....but let us get past that. I do think that tomorrow's match up is of the two best teams in Europe: FC Barcelona and Manchester United.

Both teams have won their domestic titles and have two of the top players in the world. Since both teams clinched their titles with a few weeks to spare they have been able to rest their squads. So who will win? Let's have a look at some plot lines:

Manchester United:

  • Not having Fletcher available could prove more detrimental than would otherwise be thought. Fletcher gives SAF some flexibility in the midfield and gives him a "watercarrying" type midfielder. I could have seen SAF telling Fletcher "give me 60 minutes at 110% and then we will sub you out depending on the game situation." Now Fletcher is not the absolute key to the Manchester United side but he would have given SAF the flexibility he enjoys when game planning against an opponent.
  • How well will Ferdinand play? The England central defender will be facing a stern test in his first game action in the past 3 weeks. While his partnership with Vidic has been solid for the Red Devils for a few seasons, they are also prone at times to be beaten by quick attacking players....like the ones Barca have. The two defenders are great in the air and with positioning, but how will the lay off effect the two?
  • Will this be the last game in Red for Ronaldo? Rumors will start up again of the Portuguese heading to the warmer climates of Iberia next season, so could this be his last match under the Manchester United colors? Regardless he might look to make a statement in what could be his swan song.
  • Could this be Ferguson's swan song??? Ok I know the Scot has claimed he can manage for a long long long time...but if he wins this title, what is there left for him to prove? Granted not sure what he would do in retirement, but you never know.
  • The Tevez - Rooney - Ronaldo trio will want to show that they are just as potent as their opponents from Spain. Rooney has been superb this season, I think he has really found himself being put on a wing where he is asked to come back and defend, counter attack, and score goals. One commentator on Fox Sports made a great comment - that this new position has forced Rooney to run run run and therefore kept him focused and out of trouble. Tevez is most likely playing for a new contract so he will be highly motivated to show well on the big stage. And Ronaldo has been discussed, but he will/should want to demonstrate his is the best in world since the other player with that title will be wearing #10 for Barca.
  • The two ManU wing defenders - O'Shea and Evra will have their hands full with the Barca offense. I do not fear for Evra but how will O'Shea handle the offensive pressure? And will he be allowed to push up? O'Shea has, some how, been able to chip in a goal or two when least expected, will this happen again this year? Evra should be up to the task of handling his side of the pitch, but without a Fletcher in the midfield, will there be anyone to "break up" the offensive push via the midfield? This might also inhibit his ability to push up the pitch.
FC Barcelona -
  • Alves and Abidal are suspended....um....not sure how to get over that hurdle. This will hurt more defensively, not having Abidal. As Sam Stern mentioned in one of my blog posts, Abidal has been having a great season in Spain. With such an offensive minded team, Abidal has needed to do much more defensive covering. Alves, while not a traditional lateral defender...or even a defender, would have given Manchester United fits on the wing. What options do the Catalan giants have? They will have a reshuffled back 4 and this will have a trickle down effect on the rest of the squad.
  • Toure will be moved to central defense...this is not a good thing for Barca. First it takes out one of their strongest elements, Toure as midfield destroyer, out of the picture. Second it weakens the central defense. Toure will not be permitted to be as aggressive since he will be the last line of defense rather than the protector of the back 4. Something to be watched. The loss of Abidal and Alves also means Kieta has to slot back to defense, again weakening the defensive midfield.
  • How will Henry come back from injury? Ironically it was Barca that kept Titi from winning what is the one piece of silverware missing from his trophy case. He will be motivated to rectify that, especially since he will be facing an old nemesis...ManU. However, much will depend on how well he has recovered from his injury.
  • Will Iniesta be 100%? Iniesta and Xavi are the keys to the midfield. It is their creative passing that makes the trio of Eto'o, Messi and Henry so dangerous. If the tandem is fit, look out...otherwise it might be a long day for the Catalans.
  • Valdes, will the Spanish keeper be up for the challenge? With his piecemeal defense in front of him, I am sure he will be called upon to make a huge save in the game...which keeper will show up?
So what does this all mean? I think that offensively both teams are close equals, however defensively with all the suspensions Barca has to deal with I cannot see them being able to play their game. With Yaya back in the back line, the midfield will be more open for Manchester United. I can see a mistake from Toure, or Puyol (playing back right) giving ManU an early lead. They will then salt that away with a late goal...ugh

Manchester United 2 - FC Barcelona 0
Ronaldo, Rooney

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Congrats to Manchester United...and now on to the business of transfers

Ok, I need to grudgingly congratulate SAF and Manchester United for winning the clubs 18th league title and matching Liverpool's record. Manchester United was the best club this season in England...sigh. Ok enough with that, now on to what Arsenal need to do if they hope to contend for any silverware next season.

Arsenal needs, as I have stated for so long, to add some steel and some veteran leadership to the squad. They have an abundance of young talent but need some veterans to add to this roster. A great blog entry from Martin encapsulates this - http://arsenal.theoffside.com/team-news/lightweight-soft-and-fundamentally-flawed.html - While I do not entirely agree with his assessment of Diaby, I agree with his points concerning Gilberto. So let us look forward to this summer's transfer window and for a moment suspend reality and make some suggestions for Wenger.

  • De Rossi - The AS Roma midfielder is right in the prime of his career. He is a tough tackler, has great vision, is a fierce competitor, and has matured as a leader on the pitch. He is a vital cog to the Italian national team. He has a bit of a temper, any fan of the US national team will remember his little flare up during the Italy - US game in the last World Cup. However this would not be unwelcome on the pitch for Arsenal. Wenger's men could use a little nastiness on the pitch. De Rossi would fill the role vacated by Vieira - a tough tackling midfielder with an ability to push up the pitch. He would be a good partner to Cesc being able to take on more of the dirty work in the midfield. While this might be a long shot, since he is a native of Roma and has worked his way up the ranks at Roma, he maybe interested in taking on new challenges, and what better venue than northern London.
  • Mexes - Speaking of Roma, the best defender in Serie A would look quite good anchoring the back four at the Emirates. While Mexes struggles to find first team football with his national side.....which I think is more due to the person running the team than the player, he is clearly a star for club. Wenger had been rumored to be interested while Mexes was playing for Auxerre so he is a known entity for the professor. With the rife rumors that Gallas is on his way out, why not replace him with another French central defender.
  • Trezeguet - Ok I am sticking with Italy and French national players. But Trez has fallen out of favor at the Old Lady. Granted he is coming off injury so his season has not been a normal one. With the rumors of Adebayour leaving Arsenal, adding another talented striker might be just what Arsenal need. Trezeguet would fit in well with the Gunners. He is a great target man up front, can score in the air, does not need a lot of space, and is a true "fox in the box." With the likes of Walcott and Archavin on the wings, the field would open up for Trezegol to find his way to the net. I think that based on where he stands at Juventus he and the club might be very open to selling the player and the change of scenery as well as being reunited with his former AS Monaco manager may do David a world of good.
  • Villa - Villa is a world class talent. While his compatriot, Torres, gets a lot of the press, it is the emergence of Villa that has made the Spanish national team such a machine and a huge favorite for next year's World Cup (sorry Jose I do not mean to jinx them). Villa would look great for the Gunners. You could rotate him with Walcott and Archavin on the wings, play him up top with Trezeguet (again I said suspend reality) or have he and Van Persie play the tandem striker roles, or you could even play him alone up top with an offensive midfield of Archavin, Walcott, and Cesc. De Rossi and Denilson as the deep lying midfielders. Valencia are in huge financial difficulty, so he may be had for far less than in a normal season. Villa has been rumored to want to head to England, maybe North London would be a good place for him to stop. Hey maybe we can also get Joaquin and Silva from Valencia, to add some depth to the roster!
  • Benzema - Ok like I mentioned earlier, please suspend reality. The young Lyon striker had a bit of a drop off in his game this season. Lyon appears to have lost its grip on the French league title and the young #10 has struggled to dominate the scoring sheet and has become a bench player for Les Bleus. While he is said to not want to leave the gastronomic capital of France the year of the world cup, playing for Wenger might make him change his mind. As Manchester United demonstrated, you can never have enough talented strikers if you hope to earn silverware in England. I think that Wenger would be able to find room on his team if he had Trezeguet, Villa, Benzema, Van Persie and Eduardo to choose from. Similar to Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, and Berbatov....ok granted more strikers but again let us suspend reality. And maybe with this much talent Wenger will take the Carling Cup more seriously so Arsenal can at least try to win that trophy!
  • Toure - Not the one Arsenal already have, but his talented brother who does the dirty work in the midfield for Barcelona. This rumor has been around for ages, and Wenger has been rumored to always have had an eye for the player, but imagine a midfield with him and De Rossi in it....talk about adding some steel to your team.
Ok I realize I put out there some big names, some of which are firmly entrenched in their existing squad, all of which would cost Arsenal some cash with Wenger claims he has none of again. However, this no silverware, not really contending for a title is getting a little old. I agree that Wenger has, as usual, amassed some amazing young talent, however titles are won with a combination of youth, talent and veteran leadership. Arsenal have an abundance of the first 2 but are severely lacking in the 3rd category. Adding any combination of the mentioned players would bolster that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The last horrah for PSG?

A funny thing happened this season, PSG went from last years running joke, barely avoiding relegation to at one point this season, being 1 pt off the lead off first place. Now they are still in the running for a Champions League spot, the first place seems a far reach. So this should be a good thing for a club that has been dysfunctional too long...however those days may come back sooner than the fans hope. Why? A major turn over might strike once again.

PSG is built around some solid players some that were diamonds in the rough - Hourau, some that were aged veterans looking for one more run at glory - Makelele and Guily, and some players that continued to grow - Sessegnon. In addition, this season saw the resurrection of veterans such as Landreau and Armand. So this would appear to be a good combination for the next few seasons, but not all is good.

First, Le Guen is leaving the club. The manager that was able to turn things around in the capital has once again decided to jump ship and seek greener pastures or he was forced out by the brass. Either way, the Paris team will once again have to find a new leader of the club. Le Guen had given them the one thing needed - stability at the top. I fear that having to break in a new manager once again will set back PSG.

Second, there are a number of rumors that Landreau is on the way out. After being the keeper for PSG since 2006, and reestablishing himself as the one of the best keepers in France it appears that he is looking to move abroad. If he does leave, not sure what the B plan would be for PSG. This would create a huge hole in the PSG line up. There is a rumor that Coupet might want to come back to France after a failed experiment at Athletico, PSG might be a good destination. However, not sure how much Coupet has left in the tank either!

Third, not sure how much is left in the tank for Makelele and Guily. Coming back to France seemed to give these two veterans a new lease on life. They both found their niche in the PSG side, but not sure how much more they can give to the efforts. Will next season be "a season to far" for the two veterans. Not sure how much longer Keke will be the linchpin in the middle of the park. He was already slowing down last season with Chelsea. I cannot imagine how he can continue at a high rate for much longer.

Finally, will PSG find itself raided by some of the bigger European clubs? Sakho might be poached by Arsenal, Sessegnon might also find his way across the channel. How about Hourau? Clement? To name a few. If these players decide to seek new adventures PSG will really find itself behind the 8 ball.

So PSG might get into the Champions League...and have a middle of the table squad available for the competition. Sigh.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Arsenal a shell of the old Gunners

So Arsenal faced cross London rival Chelsea this weekend, in a tie that used to be dominated by the North London side, the match this weekend was a far cry from those days. Chelsea easily left the Emirates with a 4-1 victory. Once again Drogba was a thorn in the side of Wenger's men, and there wasn't even Senderos to blame for this!

Oh well. This game, brutally, demonstrated the work that Arsenal needs to do to in the the transfer season if they every really want to contend for the Premiership title, let alone European glory. As I have mentioned in many prior rants, er I mean postings, Arsenal need to find some steel to their team. Ever since the sale of Pat Vieira there has been no toughness, no edge to the squad. Rather than signing players of that ilk as well as Keown and Parlour style players, Wenger has placed too much emphasis on youth, but youth that resembles itself, players like Cesc, Wolcott, Clichy, etc. All world class players, but all cut from similar cloth - talented but slight of stature players. I realize I have said this in the past, but you cannot allow players such as Pires, Edu, Silva, and Flamini just leave without a replacement. While these players were all on the "wrong" side of 30 (not including Flamini) they all could have and did bring veteran experience as well as steeliness to the team. However since Wenger does not belief in siging over 30 players to any muliyear deals they all walked. Wouldn't a Flamini or even a Silva have looked good doing some of the dirty work in the Arsenal midfield this season??? Also, I realize Henry appeared to be winding down, and I would never argue that he is the Henry that terrorized the Prem, however he would look good in a rotation with Adebayour, Van Persie and Bendtner...he certainly does not seem to be playing too poorly for Barca!

Bottom line, Arsenal will get into the Champions League once again. They will play some beautiful football in England and Europe. They will tease their fans at some point in the season...but short of an FA Cup (we all know that the Carling Cup will be sacrificed in the name of playing the youth) I do not see how Arsenal will grab any silverware in 2010...unless you count the Emirates Cup.....

Friday, May 08, 2009

Barca Barca Barca!!!! And more rants about needing another ref...

Ah, it is nice to see that we will have some changes from last years Champions League finals as Barcelona finds a way to get by Chelsea in what proved to be a contentious game from the Chelsea v Referee stand point. Chelsea claim to have had at least 4 penalties denied. While I was not able to watch the game, I did follow the game cast as well as highlights, it would appear by all reports that Chelsea may have had a leg to stand on for at least 1 claim - Malouda being dropping clumsily in the box. The referee did award a direct kick, so admitted there was a foul, but felt it outside the box. Hmmmm, maybe this would not be a problem had footie gone to the 2 ref system the Bean Town Frog suggested in an earlier post! http://thebeantownfrog.blogspot.com/2009/03/future-of-footie.html

There needs to be a ref in front and behind the play to ensure that calls are properly made and the location is clear. Again, similar to hockey, you have two referees responsible for the "lines" in both sports, and two referees responsible for their ends of the field/rink. This is not rocket science FIFA and UEFA!!!!!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Manchester United...again

Ugh...not sure what I can say....Arsenal got played off the pitch. Nothing else to say.

COME ON BARCA!!!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Barca's shot across the bow

6-2....wow that is embarrassing for Real Madrid. One thing if Barca drops 6 goals on some small team from the depths of the Spanish Ligua, but against Real??? Wow. Really the game was not that close! Henry, Messi, Xavi, Eto'o, et al. completely dominated their Madrid rivals. Making the scoring look too easy at times. This was a defiant shot across the bow for Chelsea ahead of their second leg clash at Stamford Bridge.

What I fear is that Hiddink and Chelsea decide to sit back and defend, look to scrape by with a 1-0 win. The key will be how does Xavi and Iniesta control the midfield. If they can run and control the midfield, while Yaya shuts down Lampard, the game will swing in the favor of the Catalan giants. During the first leg Barca dominated possession and got double digit shots at the Chelsea goal. However, if Essein and Mikel can shut down the midfield and swing that battle back to the side of the Blues, Chelsea will be the ones heading to Rome. With Anelka and Drogba clicking, and Malouda looking more like the Lyon player of old, not the one that looked lost for Chelsea.



If Barca plays like in the highlights from the Real drubbing, they will find their way to Rome.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Champions League...lack of drama

So after the first series of ties in the Champions League semi finals, we have 180 minutes of footie having been played....and 1 whole goal to show for it. Hmmmm. Maybe we should revisit some of the recommendations I made about improving the game - http://thebeantownfrog.blogspot.com/2009/03/future-of-footie.html

But since we cannot build rome in a day, let us look forward to the return legs for the semis -

Chelsea v Barca: I did not catch the first game, work got in the way...oops. But from all accounts Chelsea was playing for the goalless draw and that is what they achieved. As one article called it - the Chelsea bulls against the Barca artists. However, I am not sure Chelsea have the advantage heading home. Barca has to just earn a draw (not goalless) or simple 1-0 win and they move on, even if Chelsea come out and score early Barca will know all they need to do is draw even. In addition, Barca has already found success at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League, so they know they can come out of London with a victory. Based on the last Chelsea Champions League home game, not sure they will be able to keep Eto'o, Messi, Henry, Xavi, et al. scoreless a second game in a row...they gave up 4 goals to a much less offensive talented Liverpool. I see this match being a tense up and down affair, Chelsea score early through Drogba, with Barca equalizing via Henry......and Barca score a late counter to seal the game through Messi. Barca 2 - Chelsea 1.

Arsenal v Manchester United: Ugh the worst nightmare happened, Arsenal left the Theater of Dreams down 1-0...from O'Shea non the less, that makes it even more painful! The return leg looks that much more daunting based on the injuries that Arsenal will need to overcome. An already thin defense may become that much more strained with Silvestre potentially missing and no word on Clichy's availability. The first leg also demonstrated that Arsenal needs to have a Van Persie available or Eduardo, both of whom could miss the game due to injury. With Adebayour alone up top, Arsenal could never really muster any sustainable offense, this will not be acceptable returning to North London. Manchester United are clicking, Ronaldo could have scored a second for the Devils, the midfield is playing well and the back 4 easily stopped any attacks Arsenal tried to muster. I cannot see how Arsenal can keep a clean sheet, and cannot imagine scoring 2 more goals than Manchester United. As painful as it is, I see ManU going through - Manchester United 2 - Arsenal 2

It will be up the Catalan giants to try and prevent the Red Devils from repeating, thankful I have my Henry Barca shirt so will be sure to wear it during the finals in Roma.
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