Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beckham to PSG...really? Where will he play?

After playing coy with the media, the Spice Boy, David Beckham ends up in the city of lights - with PSG. Uh okay. When this transfer was discussed months ago I was very skeptical. On the sporting front I just do not see why PSG would bring in a way-past-his-prime former England captain. On the branding and marketing side it makes "sense."

But where do you play him? He could not longer "tear up" the MLS so now what will he be able to do back in Europe? The PSG midfield is already full of quality players - Menez, Pastore, Matuidi, Motta and the youngsters - Veratti and Lucas. You cannot expect Beckham to play the creative midfield role, he does not have the legs anymore. He cannot play wide, those corridors are already occupied but the likes of Menez et al. Deep lying play maker? Seems like Ancelotti rather have players with engines there - Motta and Matuidi come to mind. Could Golden Balls be used as a late game sub off the bench? Sure. I can see him being played 15-20 minutes if PSG is chasing a goal. Use his dead ball skills and some of his creativity. But even in that capacity I feel PSG has plenty of options to fulfill that role...who also have younger legs.

On the sporting plan this does not seem to jive. If it is about creating buzz, selling kits, filling stadiums and turning PSG into a greater "name"...mission accomplished.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fix the Champions League...now fix the Euros!

Sigh, the latest "brilliant" idea from UEFA is to have the Euro games spread across a number of cities and nations...why? UEFA will have 13 cities host the tournament in 2020. Again why? Not sure I agree with this. I realize that as the tournament has expanded, it has become more difficult for a single nation to host all the games. Look at all the problems that were cropping up for Ukraine/Poland. Hmmm, well maybe the tournament should not have been expanded! Granted, I am old school and really enjoyed the tournament when it was only 8 teams. Made qualifiers real nail biters. The 16 team tourney is good, I will admit. But the expansion for the next version to 24 is ridiculous. Why not invite Brazil and Argentina and just call it the World Cup???

Now we will not have a true host nation. I think that the tournament will lose some of its appeal. Having all the games in one nation, or co-host nations, means the fans and the fanfare are concentrated in one region. Fans of nations that progress can easily find their way to where the team is playing. Now if your nation starts in Berlin, and then ends up in Madrid...uh that is not an easy trip. What about the teams? They already complain if they have to travel from Warsaw to Kiev! Finally, this takes away the opportunity for matches to be played in smaller venues. How cool is it when a big international match gets hosted in a venue that does not get a game of such a stature? Towns such as Gdansk or Lviv will probably never see such a match moving forward. Now we will only see matches in places like Wembley, the Bernabeu or Stade de France.

I guess UEFA would like to see the games and money spread out across a host of nations and cities. I just feel as if the expansion of teams and now putting games all over Europe is diluting what was a wonderful tournament. Of course we will all still watch, but it has lost the luster it once had.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Montpellier...Ligue 2 Champion in 2014!

So the defending Ligue 1 champion continues to sell off their best players. With Giroud and his 21 goals leaving this past summer to greener pastures of the EPL and Arsenal, now their young central defender Yanga-Mbiwa is also heading off to the EPL. He will be playing for the Magpies of Newcastle. Side note, the Toons are starting to get a real French flavor - Debuchy having come over this transfer season as well. They will join Cabaye, Marveaux, Obertan, Amalfitano and Ben Arfa in the north of England.

Might have looked good in Arsenal colors
But back to the defending Ligue 1 champions, they have also tried to sell off their best midfielder - Belhanda. Of course there is noise out of the south of France blaming the players and their agents for running from the club. The reality is that Montpellier is a small, regional styled club. The fact they won Ligue 1 was based in large part on their youth system and their ability to develop home grown talent. Everything came together last season to see them win the title. Let us not forget that they were in Ligue 2 not too long ago either. With their current fire sale, I think they might be heading back to Ligue 2 in a few seasons!

I think that Montpellier missed out on an opportunity, had they held on to their talent. Maybe even looked to add some mid-level talent they could have had some success in Europe. Maybe even fantasized of coming out of the group stages at the Champions League, or at least being competitive in the Europa League. Instead they seem to be treading water, hoping to stay up in Ligue 1, had no ambition in Europe.

Alas, this is endemic of Ligue 1, at least any team not named PSG or Marseilles - cannot afford to keep players once the club finds success (look at what happened with Lille).

Oh and...hey Wenger...why didn't the Gunners make a bid for the central defender???

Monday, January 21, 2013

Champions League...let's make it better

Happy 2013 to everyone, I cannot believe it is already the 21st and I haven't written a thing about footy! My apologies. So here we go with my first post of the year. It is about something that I have been stewing on for awhile now...the Champions League. For some of us old timers we remember when there were 3 European Cups -

  • The Cup of Champions (what is now the Champions League)
  • The Cup of Cups (for the winners of each respective domestic Cup)
  • The UEFA Cup (what is now the Europa League)

The Cup of Champions...was for....well, Champions. Teams had to win their domestic leagues to qualify. Therefore the name for the trophy. The tournament was also straight home-away knock out, making the games "count" right from the get go. The format also made the UEFA Cup important. For example, with that format teams like PSG, Manchester United, Arsenal, Valencia, Inter, Milan to name a few, would be in this competition this season as opposed to the Champions League.  The Cup of Cups would have the likes of Chelsea, Barcelona, Lyon, Dortmund and Napoli in this year's version. Granted you would not have the concentration of top clubs in one competition, but you would have teams slotted where they belong! Does it make sense that when Chelsea won the Champions League last season, they were only the third best team in LONDON (they finished behind Arsenal and Tottenham in the EPL) yet they were crowned the best team in Europe?? Does not seem to make sense. The teams in the Champion League...should be a champion! Having all these teams in the Champions League has made the Cup of Cups defunct and also made the Europa League irrelevant.

I think that the format has made winning a domestic title irrelevant as well! Why? Take Arsenal as a perfect example. What drives Gunner fans, like myself mad, is that Wenger and his band of merry men can basically run their team to challenge for a Champions League spot, as opposed to challenge for the league title! Arsenal have not really challenged for a title since Vieira was wearing the #4 strip and patrolling the midfield. Yet, Arsenal have consistently made the Champions League. So every season Arsenal have been able to enjoy the fruits of making the Champions League...but have not needed to do the necessary to secure a Champions' title within their own league! How is that good for the game?

So close for the Gunners in Paris...
The current format allows clubs in large leagues - England, Spain, Germany, Italy and to some extent France - to target a top 3 or 4 finish and be content. It has made the domestic league an exercise in qualification for the Champions League...rather than a chase for a title. Once this glut of "non" Champion teams make the tournament we are then forced to endure a group stage where games rapidly mean nothing to the standing and who gets through....yet we must suffer through those games.

I realize we cannot unring this bell, but I would argue that we must cut down the teams in the Champions League. Go back to teams that have WON their league. Bring back the Cup of Cups and the UEFA Cup. Go back to home/away elimination games, let us make the games count immediately. I am sure that, what UEFA cares about, the money will continue to flow with big games right from the start, across all three cups. I realize this will not happen...but one can always dream. Plus it might make Arsenal spend some money for once.
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