Monday, January 31, 2011

Ligue 1 transfers...much to do about nothing

No surprise - Sessegnon leaves PSG for £6m and heads to the EPL to play for the Black Cats of Sunderland. After the Benin midfielder falling out with the PSG leadership, and the fact the emergence of Nene has really pushed Sessegnon to a substitutes role, there is no shock that he was shown the exit. He had fallen out with PSG manager Kombouare, to the point that neither man could really coexist anymore at the Parc Des Princes. While I am not entirely saddened by the departure of Sessegnon, I feel as if he did not live up to what was an enormous potential. When he was purchased from Le Mans I thought he could become one of the best midfielders in Ligue 1. His ability to play the #10 role or drop deeper and play a more defensive role or even play out wide was something that PSG could have exploited. Unfortunately he also came with some attitude baggage, which reared its ugly head this season. Oh well. Thankfully the arrival of Nene made the Benin midfielder expendable.

What about other transfer moves...well there were very few of note.

The young St Etienne striker Payet was rumored to be heading to PSG or Chelsea, both offers turned down by Les Verts. Not surprising, I think that St Etienne have a legitimate chance at European football - sitting only 2 points off 3rd place. For that reason why sell one of their best offensive players, a player that has blossomed over the past half season.

Then there was the off again on again moves at Bordeaux involving Kevin Gameiro, who was also rumored to be heading to Spain and the potential for Cisse to come back from Greece to play for Bordeaux...of course neither happened. Former Lyon midfielder Mahamadou Diarra returns to Ligue 1, this time with relegation battling Monaco.

One interesting note was the sale of Adil Rami from Lille to Valencia, where the player will remain at Lille until the summer. To me this is the first piece of what is sure to be a summer exodus from Ligue 1 leaders Lille - Hazard rumored to be heading to Arsenal, Gervinho will head out the door and I am sure Cabaye and Sow, maybe even Landreau will attract the attention of bigger European clubs. That will be a shame for a club that has been built wisely over the past few seasons, have a legitimate chance of winning Ligue 1 and could head into Champions League football a shell of themselves. 

Overall a very quiet winter transfer window for Ligue 1, not entirely surprising since much of the talent has been stripped out of France over the past few seasons!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Freddy Adu heading to another club another country...still not living up to billing

I do feel for Freddy Adu, granted because he shares a name with my son, but more because of the burden he has had to endure. Since the "superstar" title was prematurely forced onto the skinny 14 year old kid from Ghana, he has struggled to live up to the over-hyped expectations created by the media just 7 years ago. The latest in the Freddy Adu saga is that he will now go on a loan spell with Turkish club Rizespor. Um who are they you ask? Good question. They are a second division club in Turkey, not exactly the place the next Pele would be plying his trade. So now the young Adu has played in the US, Portugal, France, Greece and soon to be Turkey. That is quite the road show for a player that was suppose to take the footballing world and turn it upside down as well as propel US Soccer into the elite. Not sure that playing for Rizespor was in the cards for a player compared with Pele.

When he signed with DC United of the MLS at the tender age of 14, he was lauded as the answer to the US Soccer's need for a player of the level of Pele or Maradona. A talent that would carry the United States to global respect in the football world, maybe even lead the US to a World Cup title. Yet his club track record as well as his inability to carve out a place in the US national team speaks volumes of the harsh world of professional sports. Clearly Adu has some talent in his boots and a high level of skill, but it is equally clear that he has failed to develop to the degree necessary to become a solid professional...let alone an international star. Adu has remained optimistic stating that he is still young, true - he is only 21. But to put things in perspective, Lionel Messi is 23...and has been playing with the senior club since 2004.

This latest news only reminds me of how difficult professional sports are and in particular international football. Is Freddy Adu the biggest bust in modern football?

I will give him credit: unlike other US soccer players he has stuck it out in Europe and seems intent on working his way to one of the bigger leagues in Europe rather than high tail it back to the MLS.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Could the unthinkable happen? Manchester United....the invincibles part II?

So Manchester United go out and slap a 5-0 score line versus lowly Birmingham, another hat trick from Berbatov and another game without a loss for Manchester United. The unthinkable...could the Red Devils match the exploit of the 2003-2004 Arsenal squad - and not suffer a loss this campaign? With 16 games to go in the season there are many more mountains to climb for the Red Devils, in addition to still being in the FA Cup and Champions League. So could they become the second side in modern time to go a full season without tasting defeat in their league championship?  I think it will be difficult, they still have a game versus cross town rivals Manchester City, 2 games against Chelsea and games versus Arsenal and Liverpool. Granted the way Chelsea is playing there is greater risk of losing to Newcastle than to the Blues!

Feels like so long ago...
The biggest challenges will come during the early March fixtures where they have to play both Chelsea and Liverpool in back to back EPL matches, bracketed around those fixtures is their Champions League matches against Marseilles. This will test the depth of Manchester United and their ability to scrap out points in challenging situations. The second difficult block will be in April when they face Fulham, Newcastle, Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea. Fulham, let us not forget, have given the Red Devils fits the past few seasons. Depending on how Manchester United does in the Champions League there could be some challenging matches during this time frame as well.

The Red Devils, alas, have a chance of going unbeaten, but I believe it will be very difficult and the squad is a bit too old for my liking. I am not sure they have the legs it will take to manage what appears to be a rough patch of games coming up in early Spring. Let us hope for the invisible Arsenal team as well as the current Arsenal side that Manchester United starts feeling its age and drops points. Otherwise the record of invincibility and the EPL title might both be heading to Manchester.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

France's Nike Kit is out! A bit underwhelming,,,

So we have finally arrived, the day we had been waiting for...the new Nike kit for France as the American sports manufacturer kicks off their new relationship with Les Bleus (my computer crashed yesterday so this piece is a day late!). Nike and Les Bleus rolled out 4 players, all Nike players no surprise, to show off the new home stripe for Les Bleus:

New Look France
 Overall the kit is ... okay. Nothing too outstanding, plain, simple and to the point. I do like the detail of the sleeve's red detail, see M'Vila showing it off. It does have a bit of a retro look to the kit, which is very much in vogue. I did read somewhere that the kit reminded fans of the the England kit - very plain and very retro. No surprise since England is also kitted out by Umbro...who is owned by Nike. I guess for me the biggest "issue" is not seeing the blue, white and red stripes down the sleeve, which of course is the tell tale sign of an Adidas kit! I do agree a bit with Blanc that it somewhat smacks a bit of the Italian kit...then again Nike used to kit out Italy in the past, maybe they just pulled some of their old Italian kits from the warehouse!

Here is to a new kit, a new France and a new era for Les Bleus. The last one wasn't too long as you just forget the Domenech era!

Great ad by Nike, I am looking forward to seeing the marketing push from Nike, which has always been a step ahead of their German rivals.

Allez les Bleus.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Frog's interview about the world of football on the "Ooh to be a Gooner" blog

I was fortunate to be interviewed for the Arsenal blog - Ooh to be a Gooner - by BazAFC. Some of my rants about Arsenal, Ligue 1 and Les Bleus. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed participating!

Thanks again to BazAFC for asking me to participate.

To read click here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Arsenal - 2 more weeks to secure a center back?

Latest news is a set back for the Gunners with Vermaelen heading under the knife for his nagging ankle injury. That is not good, especially with Squillaci injured as well. Arsenal's slim EPL title hopes have taken a bigger hit with this news. The latest news is that old friend Sol Campbell might be in the mix....seriously? I am not sure the old man is a viable option nor is having the likes of Djourou or even Song filling in more at center back a real option. With the names of Upson, Cahill or Samba as potential transfer targets, I just hope that Wenger makes a move. Arsenal need to shore up the center back role and soon, otherwise I think the slim title hopes will rapidly melt away.

Who should Wenger purchase? I also think he needs another that can actually put the ball in the goal!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Qatar 2022 - let the circus continue!!!

Lalalalala I don't want to listen...
Oh my...more  controversy over the awarding of Qatar 2022. The continues to be buzz around moving the event to the winter and now calls to have more nations host the tournament, that coming from Platini. Blatter has stated that there is a greater than 50% chance the tournament will be held in the winter! He claims that the European leagues already have a winter break so...hey no problem let's stick a major sporting event during that break! Makes perfect sense to me. Clearly there are chinks in the armor when it comes to why Qatar should host the World Cup.

Even Blatter has made another zinger of a statement with regards to how his own organization votes for who gets the World Cup - "But you have a college of voters who vote more with their heart than they vote with their head." Sigh...maybe he should have added: and you have a Swiss who thinks with his wallet and not his brain. Clearly he continues to demonstrate the fact he is not of sane mind to run the  governing body that oversees the most popular sport in the world.

See the Swiss' interview and his typical "dancing" around the issues - click here.

If I were the US or Australia, I would quietly make sure my infrastructure is ready for when FIFA comes crawling back to them to host the 2022 World Cup. Such a farce...Blatter must go.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Messi wins the Ballon D'Or...somewhat of a surprise

We all knew it would be someone from Barcelona...Messi, Iniesta and Xavi were all the finalists, but I thought a World Cup winner would take the Ballon D'Or. After the run Spain has been on the past few years I was certain that the award would go to either Iniesta or Xavi, but maybe because they are so closely associated for both club and country it is hard to give the award to one of the Spanish midfielders. The final vote seems to indicate this, with Messi getting just over 22% of the vote with Iniesta coming in at 17% and Xavi at 16% - remove one of the Spaniards from the final round and maybe the one remaining gets enough to surpass Messi's 22%.

So was the award undeserved by the Argentine? Absolutely not. Messi remains on top of his game for Barcelona. He is one of the most creative and dangerous attacking players the game has seen in a very long time. On pure current form and talent, it is hard to argue against Messi. The one negative for me was his performance at the World Cup. He did not score a goal. Yes he was vital for Argentina's early success playing the role of a traditional #10, distributing and pacing the game for Argentina. The only problem was the last image we saw of Messi and Argentina - being thoroughly dismantled by Germany. Le Balllon d'Or, during a world cup year, seems reserved for the player that carried his nation to a world title...even more so when that team won the European title 2 years prior and has been on an amazing international run.

On pure talent alone, Messi is deserving, but on results and talent Iniesta should have won the award.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Man City Park The Bus

Manchester City, the most expensive team ever assembled in England came to North London and played 10 men behind the ball against Arsenal. The Gunners enjoyed 2/3 possession, all of the best chances - hitting the woodwork several times - but they couldn't score.

The game ended on a strange note with Bacary Sagna, normally one of the calmest footballers on the planet absolutely losing his mind after a collision with Pablo Zabaleta. Total speculation, but my guess is that Zabaleta said something nasty possibly racist to Sagna when he stood over him. There's no way Sagna reacts that way otherwise. On the weekend Lee Bowyer stamped on Sagna and he acted like nothing had happened. Good timing anyway, as Arsenal can play Eboue for the two cup games and the West Ham game in the league.

Anyway, Roberto Mancini, who should definitely be played by Eric Roberts (see below) in the Man City movie, should be embarassed. If I were a Qatari trillionaire, I'd want more for my money than that.

Frog will probably disagree, but I thought Arsenal played well and were unlucky. One of those close, early efforts goes in and they probably win 3-0 as City would have had to come out from their defensive crouch. The shame is that Manchester United are almost out of sight at this point.

As it stands, they could reasonably expect to get through the rest of January without dropping more points. FA Cup against Leads, the two legs of the Carling Cup Semis against Ipswich, and West Ham and Wigan in the league. Take care of business in those matches, and they'll have a cup final and surely a lofty league position as they approach the business end of the season.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Years!

Happy new years to all. May your 2011 be safe, happy and prosperous. May Arsenal buy some steel for it's midfield, may PSG continue to contend and may Les Bleus continue their strong form!

Some of my new years wishes!

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