Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Gunners getting thinner

So now Toure is joining Adebayour in the city of Manchester, and Wenger keeps saying that he is not rushing out acquire anyone else. Ugh. The main problem remains, is there anyone out there for Wenger to sign, if he so decides he wants to?

Ribery? Not sure he is going anywhere and Arsenal do not have the funds. Vieira? Um I am a huge fan of Pat, but his best days are well behind him. Gignac? Maybe but sounds as if Lyon is also hot on his trail and not sure he would fit in at Arsenal. Love? Again, maybe, but would be adding another smallish in stature player when Arsenal really need some metal down the spine of the team. Losing Melo to Juventus was damaging to next season's prospects. And there did not nor does not appear to be a plan B. There is a rumor, although quiet that Wenger will pursue Matuidi from St Eteinne. The French U20 defensive midfielder would be a good addition to Arsenal, but will he be enough? How about Sessegnon from PSG? The Benin midfielder was alway in Wenger's cross hairs, and based on his performance last season for the capital club he is the real deal. He can play higher on the pitch or drop back as a holding midfielder. Just not sure Paris will want to sell him after one season and after a season they came close to glory.

I fear that Wenger will sit idly by, continue to speak about developing players, training hard, and will scrape by to find a way to finish 4th in the Premier League. Sigh. With the last of the "Invincibles" leaving Arsenal, the days when Arsenal would contend for silverware seem very far away.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gold Cup Finals, a tale of two teams...and halves

Ouch, 5-0 .... what else can you say? Mexico finally beat the US on American soil, and got some silverware to boot! So the game was a tale of two halves, the first one seeing two cautious teams probing ending goalless and the second half one where the substitution of one player really swung the game completely on its ear.


Once Mexico brought in their Arsenal star, Vela, the game completely changed. The US had no way of checking Vela let alone the combination of Vela and Dos Santos, the two Mexican stars that first burst on the scene in 2005 when he won the golden boot at the U17 World Cup where Vela led Mexico to the title, beating Brazil in the finals. Both players became hot property for the European big guns - Dos Santos heading to Barcelona and Vela being signed by Wenger. Clearly the Mexican team takes on a whole new dynamic with their European stars.

Vela demonstrated, what I hope he can replicate this season for the Gunners, an uncanny ability to take on defenders, displayed clinical passing, and chipped in with goals. The first 4 goals all had Vela's finger prints on - the second goal Vela completely exploited the left side of the pitch driving the ball into the box completely putting the US defense of their heels. Vela's goal was a nice give and go where he deftly flicked the ball over the US keeper. The fourth goal was a surgical diaganol pass allowing Castro to deftly beating the keeper. Whether it was threading a lethal pass, taking on defenders, or actually scoring the goal, the Arsenal man gave the US fits and the US clearly had no answers for him. The combination with Dos Santos was clearly one that the US could not match. So what to make of this match?



The US sent, as I had stated in a previous entry, their freshman team, this was not even the JV team...however a 5-0 drubbing at the international level is still an embarrassment. This was still an international final and against your heated rival from across the boarder, you would put up a greater fight that what was displayed in the second half. This tees up the upcoming World Cup qualifier in Mexico City where the scene will be very different. Both teams will bring in their Varsity teams...both teams will be looking for the full 3 points.

Mexico will expect to win. Playing at Azteca is not an enviable task for any team, least of all the despised USA who will be facing the 100,000 crazy fans in the stadium. In addition, Mexico will need to win. A victory will bring them to 9 points, 1 point behind second place USA, and will thrust Mexico back into the chase for South Africa. A Mexican draw or loss, would be devastating for their chances to get to South Africa. On the other hand, the US need to look for a result in Mexico. Not only would this make the 5-0 drubbing easier to digest, but after a very strange summer for US soccer - terrible start at the Confed Cup, followed by a rush after beating Spain, then disappointment after outplaying Brazil for 45 minutes, then a nice push to the Gold Cup finals only to end with 5 goals conceded....all the ups and downs would be palatable if the US can return home with a famous win at Azteca.

I doubt the Gold Cup loss will weigh negatively on the US, I think that they will use the 5-0 drubbing as motivation. They realize they did not bring their A Team, and the players will be highly motivated to win back the honor for the red white and blue. While Mexico will use the victory to propel them into the match against the US. They have finally secured a victory on US soil against the Americans. Mentally they must feel that world is starting to right itself, and being able to play at the Mexico City cauldron of the Azteca will only embolden the Mexicans even more to seek back to back victories against the US.

This should make for a great match...and one that counts. Looking forward to the August date!

A recap of the Gold Cup:

Final

Date Home team Result/ Away team

26 July United States 0 - 5 Mexico View events More info

Semi Final

Group Stage

Date Home team Result/ Away team

3 July Canada 1 - 0 Jamaica View events More info

Costa Rica 1 - 2 El Salvador View events More info
4 July Honduras 1 - 0 Haiti View events More info

Grenada 0 - 4 United States View events More info
5 July Panama 1 - 2 Guadeloupe View events More info

Nicaragua 0 - 2 Mexico View events More info
7 July Jamaica 0 - 1 Costa Rica View events More info

El Salvador 0 - 1 Canada View events More info
8 July Haiti 2 - 0 Grenada View events More info

United States 2 - 0 Honduras View events More info
9 July Guadeloupe 2 - 0 Nicaragua View events More info

Mexico 1 - 1 Panama View events More info
10 July Costa Rica 2 - 2 Canada View events More info

El Salvador 0 - 1 Jamaica View events More info
11 July United States 2 - 2 Haiti View events More info

Honduras 4 - 0 Grenada View events More info
12 July Panama 4 - 0 Nicaragua View events More info

Mexico 2 - 0 Guadeloupe

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gold Cup Semi Finals....worth staying up for

So I decided last night that rather get much needed rest I would watch the Mexico vs Costa Rica Gold Cup semi final. I had watched part of the earlier semi final between the US and Honduras, which was not the most exciting of matches but still real footie. Anyways, back to El Tri's match that was a very exciting match. There was a saved penalty in the first half, a late goal my Mexico, and an even later goal by Costa Rica to send the match to extra time. Of course it would end in penalty kicks where Arsenal's Vela would kick the winning penalty for El Tri.

Some high lights:



What this sets up is another Mexico vs US match up. Which is what everyone wants to see. This has developed into a great international rivalry, granted very one sided recently (outside of Mexico City). With the World Cup qualifiers about to start up again in 3 weeks for both nations...against one another, in Mexico City.....this game looms very large, for Mexico. El Tri need to get back on the winning track versus their northern neighbors. In addition, Mexico are heading into the match with many of their young guns - Vela and Dos Santos to name a few -while the US is going in with their freshman team! The game is on US soil, but El Tri always travel well, especially in large metropolises such as Chicago or New York.

Both teams will be up for the match, the US' freshman team will want to show Bradley that they can perform in a heated, intense, international finals against their biggest rival. While Mexico will be desperate for a victory over their northern foes, and to win some hardware. It should prove to be a interesting match.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Beckham gets the business in LA

So Golden Balls gets booed during his debut for the Galaxy. Ah fans will be fans. The fans were up in arms because Beckham had the audacity to try and work out a deal with Milan to make his move permanent. How dare he!!! Who would ever want to give up playing in the MLS for Serie A? I cannot fathom why Golden Balls even thought about not coming back to the MLS to face the likes of Real Salt Lake, Red Bull and the Rapids...much better than playing against Inter, Roma, or Juventus. All joking aside, I understand why Beckham wanted to stay in Europe and I guess I understand why the fans did what they did. The one issue the fans need to get a grasp of, the MLS remains an inferior product to what is offered in Europe. How can you fault any player for wanting to play for AC Milan? I realize that the fans take this as an insult, how dare a player turn his back on their beloved Galaxy??? I have always been a critic of Golden Balls, but one thing I will never accuse him of is not being dedicated to his trade, his team and his country. I think that it is unjust that fans, obviously fueled by the Donovan comments, are slinging the insults at Becks. Beckham has given the MLS and the Galaxy all that he has to offer during his time in LA. Wanting to move on to another league, a vastly superior one, should not be used against a player who did play hard when he put on the #23 kit. The Galaxy fans need to get over it, understand that any player worth their salt would seek to play at the highest level of competition. Just because their binky, Landycakes, keeps coming back to LA, does not mean other players want that...and I am sure Landycakes would have been happy if Bayern had looked to keep him for the season. Wonder if the fans will boo him now that Livorno is interested in bring him to Italy.

Fans will be fans...I guess the one positive is that the footie fans in LA have some passion, not sure that would have been the case 10 years ago.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Barca passes to the offensive

So the European Champion is starting to stir in the transfer market. As it watches its hated rival, Real Madrid spend like a drunken sailor on shore leave after having just sold his Google options, Barca appears to be on the move. Barca, still rumored to be the destination of Villa, have set their eyes on the Swedish star, Ibrahimovic and will look to send Eto'o and Hleb in the reverse direction. Clearly Barca is unhappy with the Cameroonian striker's desire for an outrageous pay raise. And Barca's manager seems to have his eye on the Swede for a while now.

So what does this mean for both Inter and Barca? For Inter I think Mourinho has some master plan in mind and Eto'o is probably more of the type of striker he needs, much in the mold of Drogba. A big target man, can score anywhere inside the penalty box, but might not look to relance as much as Ibra. I also think that Eto'o is not a big a personality as Ibrahimovic, something I am sure the Special One feels is only reserved for him! For Barca it would be a good move, especially if they also found a way to get Villa. Eto'o was not going to be happy at Barca unless he got his money. He has won 2 Champions Leagues so it would be good for him for a change of scenery...and more money. Henry is not getting any younger, so Villa could be a natural replacement for him. Ibrahimovic would slot in at the top of the diamond giving Barca a proven goal scorer. And for Barca, the Swede's free lancing and roaming is actually a good thing, since they look to really pressure teams with an offensive attack that can come from anywhere on the pitch...any team with Alves as their right back means that offense is first, second and third on the priority list.

Overall a good move for both clubs as well as the players. I forgot to mention Hleb, but a move to Italy might be just what he needs. The style of play is much more built for his style. Plus, hard to see him getting much time in the Barca midfield any time soon.

Arsenal...what next???

Latest from London is that Adebayour is all but wrapped up and ready to go to Manchester City. The striker is already undergoing his physical in Manchester. I guess Arsenal is trying to get rid of any semblance of height it has offensively. Anyways, not sure what the plan B will be once the Togolese striker leaves the Emirates. With the likes of Tevez, Kaka, Ronaldo, Santa Cruz, Benzema, Gomez et al already having made the move to another club, there is not much in terms of strikers/offensive minded players available this late in the transfer window.

Now mind you I am not crying a river over his departure, I was never a huge fan of his since he came over from Monaco. As the BBC states, there are others that feel his departure will not be a bad thing for Wenger. However, I am not convinced that losing the Togolese will be so easy to handle. Yes Eduardo should, could, might be back at full strength. Yes Van Persie has committed himself to the club. Yes Arsenal have a full season of Arshavin. Yes Bendtner is suppose to only get better. But, where will be the depth come? How about the physical presence Adebayour brought, who will replace that? And who knows about Van Persie, he always seems nicked up. When you see cross town rivals Chelsea with Anelka and Drogba as their strikers, or Manchester United with Rooney, and Liverpool with El Nino, it makes you wonder if Arsenal is just playing to be top 4 once again.

Just wonder what Wenger has up his sleeve, hoping it is more than bubble gum and duct tape.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Real Madrid ... the spending continues ... maybe?

So the idea of adding another galaticos piece remains an option for Real Madrid, after having spent the equivalent of a small Asian state's GNP on the transfer window already, Real is rumored to be trying to pry Ribery from Bayern one more time.

http://www.sport24.com/football/transferts/actualites/zidane-se-mouille-280557/

Even Zizou is getting involved, calling Ribery the best player in the world and personally heading to Bayern to get the French winger to come back with him to Madrid. Clearly Real is not going to allow this to end any way other than getting Ribery to join Kaka and Ronaldo in the midfield of Real for next season.

Real has the money, so that is not the issue. For me the question remains, are Real going after players that will fit a system or just trying to grab the world's best players and then figure out how to play them together. There are still a number of talented players on the squad, mostly Dutch, so what to do with them? Also, will you go with an offensive midfield of 3 - Ronaldo, Kaka and Ribery - with 1 striker or 2. What about holding midfield? A lot will be asked for LDiarra and MDiarra, the later coming off injury. Clearly Real is not pleased at watching long time and hated rival Barca collect an impressive haul of silverware, but only time will tell if this latest version of Galaticos will find the success they so desire. One cannot forget that what made the last version of Galaticos worked well because of a player that was never mentioned in the same sentence as Figo, Beckham, Zidane, Ronaldo (the brazilian) et al. And that was a dimunitive holding midfielder - Makelele. Is there a Makelele in this squad to hold the midfield together? Time will tell.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Arsenal lose some potential midfield metal

Arsenal target, the Brazilian Melo will stay in Italy and head to the Old Lady rather than come to London:

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=659996&sec=transfers&cc=5901

Hmmmm, not good for Wenger and Arsenal, while I will admit I have not seen much of the Brazilian holding midfielder, based on reports as well as Sam, it sounds as if he would have given Arsenal exactly what they needed - a tough, ball winning, holding midfielder. Unfortunately he now stays in Italy...and forces Arsenal to keep searching for that player. Looking out over the transfer market potentials, not sure who and where Arsenal can turn.

Yaya Toure - signed an extension
Mascherano - doubtful they can afford him
Toulalan - maybe a good option but not sure if Lyon want to sell another player

I fear that Arsenal will come into the season without a solid option at holding midfield. Alas, I fear that Arsenal will not be able to add the necessary metal to the club to really challenge for any silverware next season.

Oh the Landycakes - MLS - Spiceboy drama

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=659931&sec=mls&cc=5901

Ah where to start with this one....Landycakes calling out someone for not showing up, Lalas telling a player he is not the MVP, Lalas being called out as being over his head....oh my. Not quite sure what to make of this, but if this is a teaser to purchase the book it might just have worked with me! I think it is a bit ironic that Landycakes calls out a player for not "showing up." Something that I would accuse Donovan of doing in big games. And based on this short blurbs, what we thought was all true but glossed over - Beckham did not want to come to the MLS and the only reason he did was that at the time no major European club wanted him! Of course Lalas, another beacon of intelligent American soccer management, made it a huge affair when they signed him...while he should have, but I fear he believed his own spin and thought that Becks really wanted to play in the MLS and that he was going to give 110%. Funny, but once a big club like Milan calls, who goes running back to Europe? And who can blame Becks??? It will be interesting to see what else is in the book, but from this snippet it is clear that the Beckham experiment did not turn out as the MLS hoped.

I might have to put this on my amazon list.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Olympique Lyonnais, let the rebuilding truly begin

So this has been quite the season for OL, they did not win the French League title for the first time since 2001 and they might have finally sold off one too many players in seeing their 21 year old star striker, Benzema heading off to Real Madrid. I was reflecting on the team that Lyon had become and was during the amazing run of 7 straight League 1 titles.

Lyon were at their peak the middle of the decade when the teams made 3 straight Champions League 1/4 finals, losing once to eventual champs Porto, cruelly falling to PSV Eindoven when they should have advanced, and finally being 15 minutes from the 1/2 only to see Milan score a flury of goals to advance to the 1/2 finals. Lyon deserved better in Europe, and based on the players they had and lost should have been a bigger force in Europe. Alas, that team is now history, and the rebuilding truly begins. While Lyon have brought in some large sums of money via selling of players, I just do not see players on the roster or rumored to be heading there that will allow them to find the dominance they so enjoyed.

First, they have one striker - Piquionne - currently, not exactly sure where the goals will come from. Second, their midfield has no more "conductor" with Juninho leaving (granted he was done) and Lyon have no natural replacement. Pjanic and Mounier are expected to one day be the offensive midfielders to carry the game, but they are still young, plus Mounier is rumored on his way out as well! Defensively is where there is the most "stability." Cris, Reveillere, Clerc and yes Boumsong remain, Grosso most likely on his way out. With Lloris in goal, this is the one area that Lyon can build from. The question becomes, how will Lyon compete next season with a revitalized Marseilles, defending champs Bordeaux, as well as others such as Lille, Rennes, TFC and even PSG.

I am not sure that Gignac is the answer for Lyon, while the striker had a fantastic season for TFC, I am not convinced he will fill the boots of a Benzema. Another rumored move is Remy from Nice, a nice player indeed, but they had someone as talented even more so, granted more of a head case, in Ben Afra who they allowed to walk last season. They are also supposedly on the trail of one David Trezeguet, which would be a nice addition, however not sure who would get him the ball since the midfield remains a bit light with no one on the horizon. I think a lot will be expected of the likes of Kallstrom, but not sure he can carry the creative burden of the side. I think Lyon will look very different next season, what a bold prediction that is! They will play a much more defensive style of game, looking to beat teams on the counter. With workman Toulalan and a veteran defense they should be able to defend well, depending on which offensive options they can find - Remy, Gignac, Trezeguet, or unknown - they could be a solid club, but challenging for the title might be, for the first time in a long time, not realistic.

Just for fun, here is a team that you could assemble from the players OL have lost recently, I will play a 4-2-3-1:

Goal - Coupet
Defense - Grosso, Squillaci, Abidal, Essien (playing at left back)
Holding Midfield - MDiarra, Tiago
Offensive midfield - Malouda, Juninho, Ben Afra
Striker - Benzema

Bench - Fred, Kanoute, Baros, Carew, Wiltord, Luyindula, ADiarra, Clement (very offensive minded I realize)

Not a bad side to line up....

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Los Galaticos part II - Real keeps on spending

Ribery...Villa...Eto'o...Maradona...Pele???? The question for the past few weeks was not when but who Real Madrid would add to their new version of the Galaticos. After Kaka and Ronaldo it is the turn of Benzema to head to Spain. Slightly surprising since the young French striker kept saying he wanted to stay in France until after the world cup, but the lure of playing for one of the world's biggest clubs was too much...as were the 35m Euros for his transfer. I am happy he went there rather than the other rumored landing spot...Manchester United. Also, I also think for the player this is the better move. With the supposed exit of Van Nistelrooy, the aging of Raul...Benzema will have an opportunity to become the #1 striker fro Real. Not a bad place to be with Ronaldo on one wing and Kaka slotted behind you. Benzema had an "off year" last season but still racked up healthy goal totals - 17 total. Playing in Spain, with this cast, should only help the young striker grow. He had no challenges left in France, so the move makes sense.

Wonder if Real will buy a defender any time soon?
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