Thursday, January 19, 2012

PSG - can't buy me love

Beckham, Pato and now Tevez? I guess the petro-euros in Paris are not as valuable as once believed! After Beckham said no thanks to PSG and re-upped with the Galaxy and then we say PSG do a dance with AC Milan only to see Pato say no to the French capital, now we are watching at the Apache might follow suit. What is going on! A few weeks ago I was waiting to see a whole host of big names being unveiled at the Parc. Well we did sign 30 year old Barcelona bench warmer - Maxwell. PSG is linked with another aging defender in Maicon.

Hmm should I go to Paris....
So what is really going on in Paris. Ancelotti has made it clear he wants a big name striker/offensive option brought in before the end of the month (did I mention that Kaka has also been on this merry go round) but it looks as if that might be a pipe dream. I understand what Ancelotti is looking to do, but once again I ask - what is the plan?

Beckham, thankfully he stayed in LA, but what would have been his role? Wide player? Deep lying midfielder? Late game substitute? That smells like a PR move and not a football move.

Pato? Big name. How would he be used? Top of the Ancelotti Christmas Tree? (4-3-2-1) Or would he some how be a tandem striker with Gameiro and/or Hourau. What about Tevez? What formation would he slot into? What about Kaka. Where would he slot and doesn't he make Pastore redundant? Or would Kaka be more of a 9.5, but then who plays the role of the #9? What about Nene and Menez? If you have Pastore, Kaka, Nene and Menez with Sissoko, Matuidi and Chantome you find a very crowed midfield.

PSG is sitting in a good position, they are our of the Europa League so can focus on domestic football. They sit 3 points clear of second, even after playing through a poor spell. Do they need a big name striker? Not sure. Hourau is coming back from injury and should assist. They might need some more depth in the midfield, especially if Ancelotti sticks with his preferred 4-3-2-1 formation. I also believe that we will see more success over the summer transfer window, if and when PSG are qualified for the Champions League.

12 more many more players can avoid PSG during the transfer window?

Warriors...come out and play. Liverpool shaking things up

Interesting story, Liverpool Football Club will be the first footy team wearing the Warrior brand kit. Warrior is known more for their equipment for hockey and lacrosse with a host of goodies from gloves to sticks to shoes. Now they are jumping into the fray of big time footy with one of the biggest fish out there - Liverpool. Long time equipment maker, Adidas, will be left scratching their heads as to where do they go in the Premiership (Liverpool and Chelsea were their two big clubs, paralleling Nike's Manchester United and Arsenal).

This is interesting as Under Armor, another US based sporting company, will be kitting Tottenham next season. Following in the footsteps of Nike, these two US based firms are turning their eyes to the world's most popular sport to expand their top line. Of course Under Armor has some, albeit short, history in soccer having jumped into the boot game a few seasons back. Warrior is no experience in footy, but what a way to make a splash!

It will be interesting to see how Warrior, not steeped in design tradition for footy, will do with the classic red of Liverpool.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Titi Henry - back at home

I realize I am a bit behind, but watching the highlights of the Arsenal v Leeds FA Cup game brought back some warm and fuzzy feelings about Arsenal and when Titi Henry was the dominate striker in the Premier League:

Does Henry have another run in him for Arsenal? Maybe. When he first moved to Barcelona he found success playing in a 4-3-3 but soon found himself on the substitutes bench as the younger players took their spots with Barca. Titi then went to his retirement home in New York with Red Bull of the MLS...ooops sorry was that a low blow to the MLS?? I did watch a few games of Red Bull in the MLS, Henry still had the skill but seemed to lack to the desire, at times he appeared to be just going through the motions. I think Henry still has something left in the tank. I think that deep down inside Titi would rather be playing in Europe than in the MLS. I am not foolish enough to think that Henry could come back to Arsenal and start stringing together 90 minute games; however, I do think he could be a valuable asset to Arsenal as a substitute and spot starter.

I hope Henry continues to have success over the next two months for Arsenal, part of me hopes he makes this a permanent move. Seeing him in the red strip is almost as natural as seeing him in the France kit!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Messi - the golden one

No surprise that Argentine and Barcelona star Messi won the Ballon D'Or, his third such honor. At the tender age of 24 will anyone be surprised if he ended up doubling his tally? He joins the only other three time winners - Zidane and Ronaldo (the Brazilian) - of the FIFA player of the year. Don't forget that the Ballon D'Or and FIFA player of the year award merged, in terms of Ballon D'Or, Messi joins the likes of Platini, Cruyff and Van Basten as three time winners.

As long as he has these two, more awards in Messi's future
What I find interesting of all these winners is their success for both club and country...except for Messi. All of these players won titles and were major contributors for their nation teams, their impact at the club level are all on the same level. Messi's success is disproportionately weighed to his run of form with Barcelona. There have been many discussions, articles, debates and opinions about why this is...there is no doubt that Barcelona, as it is currently constituted, is one of the best teams ever seen. However that is not unique to Messi, all the other winners above played on clubs that were also loaded: Zizou and Ronaldo did play for the Galacticos! The Milan teams of Van Basten were some of the best club teams ever seen. Cruyff's Ajax sides revolutionized total football. Platini's Juventus were one of Europe's best with the likes of Boniek, Rossi and Tardelli. All these winners also won on the international level.

Messi continues to struggle with Argentina. Maybe Argentina needs to stop trying to be Barcelona and figure out what is the best way to leverage the world's best player with the other pieces they have. It is not as if Argentina is full of chumps either - Tevez, Higuain, Pastore, Aguero, Mascherano and Di Maria to name a few. What is holding back Argentina is this attempt to build a Barcelona type system, rather than build a team and figure out where Messi would slot into the side. Until Argentina get a manager who is there for a longer time frame than a year or two, who devises a system and sticks with it, I fear that Messi might always be pushing when he puts on the light blue strip of Argentina. But for now he can thank Barcelona for allowing him to show the world what a wonderful talent he is.

Congratulation Lionel.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Happy New Year - what to look for in 2012

Happy New Year to all, a few days late, but still within a reasonable window! So what can we expect in 2012 in the world of footy? Here are some trends/predictions to look for this year:
  1. Influx of mega-wealthy investors. The footy world has witnessed what an apparent unlimited budget can do for a club - look who is sitting atop the Premier League. And we all lived through the dramatic changes at Chelsea with the unlimited funds from Abramovich. Most recently we have seen Manchester City on the Seine with the influx of Qatar money into PSG. This trend will only continue or become worse...add to the mix the petro-dollars from Russia and oil rich former Soviet nations (look at Monaco being taken over by a Russian billionaire). This will elevate teams out of the second tier - see Manchester City as well as some clubs that no one has heard of - see FC Anzhi Makhachkala. Add to this an apparent rise of Chinese domestic football spending and we will only see a continued shift in the balance of power of football. Look for this trend to thrust unexpected clubs into contention and send big name players to leagues otherwise unheard of.
  2. Spain will disappoint at the Euros. Spain could still reach the semi-finals or finals, but they will not become the first nation to win three consecutive major tournaments. I realize they walked through qualifiers but some of their results from other matches leaves something to be desired: 1-1 away to Mexico, losing 4-1 to Argentina, losing 4-0 to Portugal, losing 1-0 to England and barely getting draw away to Costa Rica. I am sure that most Spanish fans, included my buddy Jose, will argue that the old Spain was always champions of the friendlies but did not step up when it counted. However, there leaves some room for doubt based on some of these results. Add to this the David Villa injury, Torres apparently forgetting what his role and nagging injuries. Finally, the core of the team has played A LOT of footy over the past 4 years, between club and country. This is going to catch up. The reality is nations have also started to figure out how to beat Spain (granted it is not easy): let them play their passing/possession game and wait to hit back on the counter. Without the likes of David Villa or an effective Torres there is not that clinical finisher who only needs half a foot to but the ball in the onion bag. Look for Spain to take a step back in international football.
  3. China will become the new "retirement" destination for players...but will not be limited to just that role. Anelka will be heading over to Shanghai and might be followed by his former Chelsea teammate, Ballack. As the Chinese economy as a whole continues to burn red hot, there is a large amount of capital for such luxurious as football clubs and players. The MLS had become a default retirement home for big named players - Beckham, Henry, Ljunberg, Marquez - to name a few. The MLS was an expected destination for the likes of Anelka, Ballack, Ronaldinho, Drogba and Pires - however that might no longer be the next destination for these players. Chinese football will expand beyond simply attracting players at the end of their carreers as they also attract some South American names - Dario Conca, Cleo and Muirqui- before they ended up in Europe. Look for China to continue to grow in terms of influence and presence on the world scene. What will be interesting is to see if the Chinese players themselves become better and can challenge in Asia versus usual powers: South Korea, Japan and Australia.
  4. Video and a second official will find themselves as part of the game. Maybe this is more wishful thinking, but with Sepp Blatter finally admitting that some type of goal line technology, there is hope! I have a feeling there will be some controversy whether in the Champions League or the Euros where it will become painfully clear that we need to leverage technology to make the game easier for the officials to better officiate the game. In addition, the move of having extra officials at the Europa League games and others will grow in momentum. Rather than simply having an official patrolling the penalty box, the football powers that be will realize that having 2 officials might be even better.
  5. The Bundesliga will start infringing on the #2 spot in terms of domestic leagues. The German domestic league has already passed Italy when it comes to domestic leagues, measured simply by Champions League spots and the coefficient. I think that 2012 will mark the first time that La Liga begins to feel some "heat" in a long time. La Liga will suffer, in some ways, from its success. Or shall we say success from two clubs - Real Madrid and Barcelona.  Clubs that carried success in Europe such as Valencia, cannot keep up in terms of money and players as the big two. This will only hurt Spain as a whole. The Bundesliga remains a more balanced league, without a real dominant power - even Bayern Munich does not have the domestic dominance exhibited by Real and Barca. This will only allow for a healthier league. Look for this to continue in 2012.
2012 should be a very exciting year for footy, with what should be a great Euro, and the last one before it expands again (not a fan of that move) we will see great matches from day #1. I am also looking forward to the Olympic soccer tournament as well.

Happy New Year!