Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tough break for Nasri...will we see him back in blue?

What was feared has come true, Samir Nasri had to withdraw from the French squad before the South American tour. Not a huge surprise, Deschamps had anticipated this possibility in calling up Grenier from Lyon.

This does beg the question - will we see Samir in blue ever again? Not a far fetched question. After these up coming friendlies, France face Belgium in August to kick off the new season...and then they get back to work with qualifiers. Click here for the France calendar. Clearly Deschamps will be looking at that Belgium match to get his troops ready for the final push to Brazil. He will likely be looking at having to endure a home/away playoff, since I doubt Spain will slip up and allow France to take back first place in the group. With that in mind, will Deschamps look to "test" Nasri? And is there space on the roster? With the likes of Ribery, Menez, Valbuena, Sissoko, Cabaye, Matuidi all certain locks will Nasri have a spot? Conceivably no. Especially if Gourcuff shows some of his old form in South America. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that if France do not qualify for the World Cup that a new manager will be in place and potentially will look to completely rebuild and cut all ties to the current generation. If France do qualify, it might very well be done without Nasri...and therefore difficult to envision him being called back for a trip to Brazil.

Of course one never knows...never say never. But, based on Nasri's history with Les Bleus it is not certain he will be back.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Deschamps leans on Ligue 1 for late call ups for France

Last chance?
We all knew this would happen, some players have to beg off the French matches in South America. Namely - Menez, Nasry and Clichy. In their places, Deschamps looks to lean on players from Ligue 1 to come in as reinforcements: Lacazette, Grenier and Trémoulinas. The first two from Lyon and the last from Bordeaux. An experienced bunch at the youth levels, Grenier having won the European U19 title and having reached the semi finals of the U20 World Cup. This should be a good test run for Lacazette and Grenier, but also might represent a great chance for Tremoulinas to try and get into the conversation for left back. With Evra off the list and Clichy hurt, the Bordeaux man might have a chance to put himself into the conversation for the World Cup.

What is the hidden story, is what this means for Nasri. He might still be able to make the games. However many rightfully pointed out that this might prove to be the Manchester City midfielders last chance to make things right with Les Bleus and to get him back into the conversation for a slot to Brazil in 2014 (assuming France make it!). With the likes of Ribery and Menez out, there was a great chance for Nasri to get plenty of playing time, especially in the creative midfield role. Question becomes, can he find a way to get himself ready for the mini tour of South America, or will his window to wear the France strip be quickly closing?

Puma in line to fatten the Arsenal coffers?

Arsenal will be changing their kit manufacturer for the 2013-2014 season, with Nike no longer being their manufacturer. The first rumor was that Adidas would be back as the supplier. But they seemed to have gotten cold feet.

Old School Adidas kit prior to Nike taking over
However, the latest rumor is that the other German supplier - Puma - will be taking over the North London strip. It is for a supposed record 30m pound sum a year! Wow. Talk about adding more funds to the kitty. The question becomes, will Arsenal spend some of that money on some players??? Maybe having Puma as the shirt supplier will make it easier to get Cesc back as well (he is sponsored by the German manufacturer).

Rumored Puma away kit

Sunday, May 19, 2013

PSG Ligue 1 Champions...3 questions for how they defend title next season

PSG capture the Ligue 1 title, something that was expected after the club made some major moves last season. It was not without some difficulty. After winning the crown, PSG will be expected to defend their title...potentially begin a run of form similar to Lyon's run from a few seasons back. PSG have the resources and already the talent to defend their title. There are three main questions that will linger with the club:

  • The main question - who will be managing the club? With Ancelotti all but heading off to Real Madrid it is clear that PSG will have a new manager for next season. The rumor mill was ripe with stories from North London that Wenger would make the move across the channel, but those have recently simmered down. What about Rafa from
    We hardly knew ya!
    Chelsea? Ugh. Please no. Although PSG might have a decent shot at a cup with the Spaniard at the helm. Mourinho was spoken of as well, but all signs indicate he will head back to his stomping grounds a the end of King's Road in London. Of course two Italians could have outside shots at getting the gig - Mancini who was just let go at Manchester City and Allegri from Milan. Both dark horse outsiders. What about Pellegrini from Malaga? He seems destined for City, but you never know. I think an outsider to keep an eye on is Laurent Blanc. Who has been out of work since France crashed out of the Euros. The former French national team manager would be a good fit - he knows Ligue 1 from his time managing Bordeaux. Blanc might see this as a chance to take over a club with the resources and ambitions to allow him the environment to succeed. And would thrust him right back into the lime light.
  • Whoever is the manager will have to find someone to help shoulder the scoring load of Ibra...that is if the temperamental Swede remains at PSG! The Swede led Ligue 1 with 29 goals. The next highest goal scorer for PSG - Gameiro - had...6 goals. Yikes, talk about over-reliance on one player. Assuming Ibra stays, that might be a big assumption, PSG will need to find someone not named Ibra to score more than 6 goals. The Napoli striker - Cavani - is highly rumored to be heading to Paris. As well as a rumor of Rooney being in the sites of the Parisian club. Of course there is the outlandish rumor that PSG see themselves as serious contenders for Ronaldo...not sure that is going to happen. I think the Portuguese superstar might get overwhelmed by the financial offer from Paris, but I just do not see him wanting to go the Ligue 1 over a return to the EPL. I think PSG will hold on to Ibra, at least for one more season, and add the likes of Cavani to try to spread the scoring burden.
  • Can PSG develop or acquire the necessary depth to be serious players for both
    Get this man some help!
    Ligue 1 and Champions League glory? Other than Ibra, PSG became overly reliant on the likes of Matuidi, Alex and others. In order for the club to be more of a player on multiple fronts they need to add some more depth. More importantly the talent they already have must step up their game. The likes of Pastore, Menez, Lucas, Lavezzi to name a few need to contribute more when it comes to PSG's game. Adding some depth in the midfield to take away some of the pressure on Matuidi would be helpful. This transfer season will be telling for what PSG can expect next season.
Great to see PSG getting their hands back on the Ligue 1 title. But the hard work has only begun.

Friday, May 17, 2013

PSG will defend Ligue 1 title with an interesting kit

So the leaked photos of the new PSG kit are making their way online. Not quite sure I am a fan on a somewhat radical departure from the traditional PSG kit.

Maybe it will grow on me. It will be nice to have a Ligue 1 championship patch on it however! Now a small issue of figuring out who will be managing the club as well as what the transfer season will bring for the club...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Deschamps' list - in with the new and the old

Deschamps announced the list of players he will be taking with him to South America for two friendlies - Uruguay and Brazil. This might be one time I agree with all the naysayers when it comes to international friendlies - two games, far far away from home after long domestic seasons for the players - seems like a little too much. However, I will say that having one of the games against Brazil might be a good tool to motivate some of these players - the World Cup next year will be in Brazil.

The list -

Landreau, Lloris, Mandanda
Clichy, Debuchy, Koscielny, Mangala, Mathieu, Rami, Sagna, Sakho
Cabaye, Capoue, Gourcuff, Guilavogui, Matuidi, Nasri
Benzema, Giroud, Gomis, Ménez, Payet, Valbuena

Some interesting newbies: Guilavogui and Mangala. Both have been promising youngsters, the former playing for St Eteinne seen as the next Matuidi and the latter plying his trade in Portugal for Porto. Mangala has played at the youth level for France with Sakho, so could we see this pairing at
First call up for Porto central defender
the senior level? Guilavogui is another player in the long list of strong defensive minded midfielders France have at their disposal. It will be interesting to see if either of these players sees the pitch or if Deschamps is using this call up as a motivator for both.

Of course there are some old names back in the fold - Mathieu, Gourcuff and Nasri. Calling up the Valancia left back, Mathieu, coupled with no Evra (more on that later) would give the impression that Clichy and Mathieu are the ones competing for the starting role once qualifiers start up again in September. The interesting angle that Mathieu brings is his ability to also slot as a left midfielder. The return of the golden boy - Gourcuff - is not entirely unexpected. As the OL man has finally started to regain his form at the club level. The question remains - where does he fit with France? Deschamps seems to have given the keys to creativity to Valbuena, so where would Gourcuff slot in? On the right side? As a second playmaker? It will be interesting to see how he is leveraged. Finally, speaking of creative midfielder, the return of Nasri was not entirely unexpected. The Manchester City man has been playing well for club and warranted the call back. Could this be his last chance with France? Maybe. Question for Sami is the same as with Gourcuff, where will he feature? Could he be looked to fill the void on the left with Ribery left at home? How about on the right? It will be interesting to see how the Citizen is used during these matches.

The players that were left off a list are usually spoken of as much as those on the list! The likes of Varane and Pogba are being left off so that they may play in the U20 World Cup in Turkey.   That is a wise move. They will get much better experience in that tournament than they would playing Uruguay and Brazil. Ribery is also off the list due to Bayern Munich playing the Champions League final and then the German Cup Final over the next few weeks. The reasons are not as rosy for the likes of Evra, Gonalons, Mavuba, Jallet and Gignac. Evra in particular. As the Mancheter United captain is getting up there in age as well as having some competition at his position. Could he not be
Never to be seen in Blue again?
on Deschamps' mind for going to Brazil (if France qualify). Gonalons and Mavuba both seem to have fallen victim to the depth France has at his position. Pogba appears to have made himself a serious contendor to hold down one of the defensive midfield roles moving forward. As has Matuidi..which does not leave much room when the likes of Capoue, Cabaye, Sissoko (not called up due to injury) are already entrenched. As well as the possibility of M'Vila one day reappearing in Blue. Jallet sees the return of Sagna, not a good sign for the PSG right back. Debuchy should be expected to see himself as the starting right back, question becomes who is second in line. Could Jallet's mistake against Spain create a little doubt in Deschamps' mind? Finally, Gignac, who appears to be back on form in France was thought to have an outside shot at the team. But once again left off.

Of course this list will most likely change, we all know that at least one player will have to drop out. It will be interesting to see who Deschamps calls up when this happens.

Allez les Bleus!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

A legend retires - Sir Alex Ferguson calls it quits for Manchester United.

After a decade of rumors, SAF finally decides that he has had enough and announced that he will be retiring after this season. The 71 year old, at times cranky old man, legendary manager will not longer be patrolling the side lines at Old Trafford, harassing every official in the EPL and finding ways to always get an extra 5 minutes of injury time when his side needed a goal. His legacy speaks for itself:
  • 26 years in charge of the club - he has been at Manchester United longer than most of his current squad has been alive! (average age of ManU is 27.2 years old, that includes grandpas like Giggs and Scholes)
  • 38 trophies. No qualifier needed on that statistic.
  • 2 European Champions league titles.
  • 13 League titles.
All amazing numbers. But two things stand out for me and SAF:

  • What he did before Manchester United. Before he became a legend at Old Trafford, he had
    The beginning of the legacy
    worked miracles in his native Scotland with Aberdeen. Winning the league title, something that is nothing short of amazing considering how strong a grip Celtic and Rangers have on that title. More impressive was finding European glory by defeating Real Madrid for the 1983 Cup winners Cup title. Winning with the resources that Manchester United bring could be devalued, but bringing in titles with a side like Aberdeen would almost be like a AA baseball team in the United States winning the World Series.
  • His longevity. 26 years. That is beyond impressive. And I highly doubt we will ever see another manager reach that longevity...If a manager can survive and do well for a decade that is already impressive. But over a quarter century??? He is also leaving (by all indications) on his own accord. I am sure he could have added a few more years to this run had he decided to. Impressive.
So we will say good bye to a legendary manager. One, the likes, will never be seen again. Good luck Sir Alex. I never really liked you, I had to respect you but I am glad you are leaving.