Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! My wishes for 2015

2014 was a good year in terms of footy, how can it not be when there is a World Cup. PSG won another Ligue 1 title, Arsenal once again failed to impress...oh right they won the FA Cup so all is right, never mind...Real Madrid beat their cross town rivalry in the Champions League final and Germany won their 4th World Cup.  But as we turn the page on 2014 and look forward to 2015, here are my wishes for the new year.

  • Arsenal finds themselves a new manger...I have been sour on my fellow countryman for a few years now. His miserly spending, poor selection of transfer targets and his stubbornness when it comes to keeping his own players have led to a poor showing for years. Yes I know he won the FA Cup last year, but that was fools' gold. So the Gunners win their 4th place trophy on a regular basis, get to the Champions League and then flame out in the 1/4 finals. Yeah. When is the last time that Arsenal has really contended for the Premiership??? Liverpool has gotten closer than the Gunners in recent history. It is time for some new blood. With Jurgen Klopp on thin ice at Dortmund could this be the perfect storm? Where could Wenger go? PSG might still be an option as Blanc does not seem 100% secure in Paris. Here is a crazy thought,
    Right time to come to London?
    what about a side like Hertha Berlin? A team in a large cosmopolitan city in the heart of Europe. Wenger could work on acquiring and developing a bevy of German international talent, while working in a league where business principles are in line with Wenger's supposed methods. Bottom line...Wenger needs to move on.
  • Les Bleus finally find themselves a right sided winger...something else I have know to harp on...France's inability to have a right sided player to give the team a greater balance. Not sure what the options are. Valbuena is more of a center of the park player. Remy could be an option but never seems to stick with France and is currently only a bench player for Chelsea. Sissoko, maybe, but I see him as more of a midfield relaying player. Not sure a player such as Lacazette is an option outside on the wing either, he has played there but seems more comfortable as the center forward. Thauvin from Marseille might also be an option, but seems to have maturity issues. Finally Payet might be the option, but I do not see him as a full international let alone the full time option on the right side. Deschamps will have his work cut out for him to determine how to properly balance his squad. Hopefully the solution works its way out in 2015.
  • May PSG find success in Europe...well that might be difficult with Chelsea on the schedule for the knock out round of the Champions League, but the Paris club needs to make some adjustments to their roster to position themselves more favorably for the Champions League. The likes of Cabaye and Cavani need to be better utilized or potentially sold off. A legitimate second striker to take some of the pressure off of Zlatan. Granted the aforementioned Cavani is suppose to be that option, but I think that experiment has not succeeded. Also, the center backs need to be better - Luiz is a clown, still not sure why PSG spent some much on Sideshow Bob. PSG will need to clean up some of these issues to build towards success in Europe. Could a new manager also be in the cards this summer? Maybe, especially if PSG does not win the Ligue 1 once again or good deep in Europe.
These are some simple wishes for 2015, what are your footy wishes??

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merci Titi - France and Arsenal legend Henry announces his retirement

Yes I realize that Titi played for Monaco, Juventus, Barcelona and New York Red Bull, but I think it is safe to say the legendary forward is best known for his time at Arsenal and playing for Les Bleus. It came as no surprise as Henry announced his retirement from football today. So what to make of the French national team all time leading scorer? There have been a number of articles written about how Titi will never be appreciated in his homeland of France, read one of the latest ones here. And there is some element of truth in that statement.

His first issue was he played for France at the same time as a certain Zidane. Hard to command the limelight when one of the greatest players of all time is on the field with you. But I think there is something deeper to this. Unlike his days at Arsenal, Henry rarely took over games for Les Bleus. Yes he is the all time leading goal scorer for Les Bleus with 51 goals in 123 appearances. However strange as this may sound - the only goal I truly remember was the one in the 2006 World Cup 1/4 finals against Brazil from a Zidane free kick. But otherwise it feels like the other 50 goals were...empty. Sounds ridiculous, I realize. But I clearly remember Zidane's brace in the 1998 World
Not what one wants as their defining moment
Cup final, Trezeguet's winner in the 2000 European Cup finals, Wiltord's equalizer in the same game, Blanc's goal against Paraguay in the 1998 World Cup, Platini's winner against Portugal in 1982...I can go on for a while before I get to Henry's memorable strike. I might argue that Ribery's goal against Spain in 2006 was the bigger goal of that tournament for France.

I remember speaking with my father before the 2006 World Cup finals and we both agreed that Henry had to step up - take over the game. Unfortunately he didn't and almost had to come out within the first 5 minutes after a collision early on with an Italian defender.  It could be argued that had Henry stayed in the game, he would have taken a penalty kick before Trezeguet. But I digress. The one defining moment for Henry might be the "hand of frog." When he deliberately handled the ball to allow him to cross to Gallas who scored the equalizing goal and allowed France to defeat Ireland in the 2010 World Cup playoff.

Henry deserves to be in the discussion of greatest players in French national team history. To me Platini, Zidane and Kopa are at the top of that podium. But Henry and his 51 goals has to be the in conversation as one of the all time greats. Top 10 5 maybe. Unfortunately, unlike those mentioned, he did not have a defining moment in his least not a positive one since I do not think the "hand of frog" is the type of defining moment you want.

While Henry might not get the accolades he deserves back in France, he remains one of the all time greatest. Watching him at the heights of his power for Arsenal was something amazing to watch. And I know the 51 goals was not empty for Les Bleus.

Merci Titi.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Farewell Landycake...we never really got to know your potential.

Later today will be the finals of the MLS cup between the LA Galaxy and the New England Revolution. For once, I will actually...well an entire MLS game from start to finish. I will admit I have tried to watch Revolution playoff games, but I still cannot seem to bring myself to watching the entire product from start to finish. Call me a football snob, I can take it. But this game will be interesting for more than simply because my soon to be home town team is in the game (the Revolution are rumored to be moving to a soccer only stadium in Boston...currently they play closer to Rhode Island) but because this will be Landy Cakes last professional footy game.

There is much, well as much as there can be for MLS, ballyhoo about the possibility that the US star wins his 6th MLS title. That will elevate him to the stature of this former teammate David Beckham who has also won 6 domestic titles...oh wait those are EPL titles, never mind. But at least that would be more than Ronaldo's domestic haul of 4...what's that? Those 4 are - 3 EPL and and 1 La Liga title...never mind. Well it puts him ahead of Pat Vieira's measly 3 EPL titles....okay okay I realize I am being cheeky in my comparisons. But there is an underlying frustration in these comparisons. Donovan for all the hype he covered himself in over in the United States, never lived up to his supposed potential.

His stints over in Europe are well documented, starting with Bayern Leverkusen where he came back because he complained of the cold and his inability to get in surfing done. Really? He also had a loan stint at Bayern Munich, where a more mature Donovan could have carved out a resurgence in his European career. But once again he failed...and sowed the seeds for his downfall with now US National team coach - Klinsmann. He finally Wondolowski missed a sitter in injury time that would have seen the US through to the next round. You mean to tell me that Landycakes could not have at least put that shot on frame??? But Klinsmann had made it clear, he wanted players that were hungry and to the German I am sure that not wanting to push yourself and try to make it in Europe was a massive strike against Landycakes.
I got this cool kit and a 3 week vacation!
demonstrated some success in back to back loan spells with Everton in the EPL. Yet Donovan never looked to make those loan moves permanent. Fail. Everton seemed to be a good fit for Landycakes. A solid English club, but not a Manchester United or Liverpool where the history would clearly crush the mentally fragile Landycakes. In addition, Everton's best player was their American keeper - Tim Howard. Yet once again Landon Donovan opted to come back the MLS, play in front of 10,000 fans and be relegated to the back pages of the back pages in the newspapers. A major consequence of his decision became clear this past summer, when he watched rather than played in the World Cup. I am sure that he, like many of the US fans, were pulling their hair out when

In a recent article about Donovan they mention some of his issues with being more mentally tough - click here. After reading the piece I have some empathy for Donovan. I think there is nothing simple about dealing with the psychology of daily life let alone being a professional athlete. But I also wonder how can an athlete get to where Landycakes did, compete on the biggest stage in sports - the World Cup - and not be somewhat more mentally tough than he seems to indicate he isn't.

I hear an interview between him and former MLS and US National team player, Taylor Twellman the other day, and what struck me was how Donovan was talking about the MLS cup finals. As if he was speaking of playing for his 6th Champions League title. And it struck me then, many Landycakes is smarter than all of us. Maybe he knew his limitations. Maybe he knew that for games against Algeria or Costa Rica or Mexico he could compete and he could be the "greatest American soccer player." While it was at a World Cup, he wasn't staring for Italy or Brazil where all the pressure was on. He knew he could do well for a short period of time at Everton, but if he had to battle with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool etc etc on a weekly basis that he would be exposed. Much safer to give all for a handful of games and then go back to the safety of playing Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC - certainly wouldn't want to face the true Real Madrid or even Sporting Lisbon in a European fixture.

So Donovan will put on his boots for a last time in anger today. The end of a career that promised so much more at the beginning. What I find a delicious paradox is another US soccer star that I was looking up this week - Freddy Adu. A player that was suppose to not only surpass Donovan in terms of US star but pass the likes of Pele and Messi as global stars has fallen flat on his face. Yet, Adu is still in Europe, working his craft. Chasing a dream that has taken a massive hit - does anyone think he will ever showcase for the US national team again? But kudos to him, unlike Landycakes, he is taking the challenges and failures of European football...anyone want to guess where he is playing??

So adieu Landycakes. I, as I have tended to do, will be rooting against you this game. For once I will be rooting for the team you are playing not against the hype that you represented.

Oh the game. I think that New England will find a way to win a tough match. Jones and Nguyen will have a huge part to play controlling that midfield and choking out any service to Keane and Donovan. NE 2 - LA 1

And who does Adu play for? Answer - FK Jagodina