Sunday, May 1, 2011

El "the hell" Classicos

As fate would have it, the spanish giants, barcelona and real madrid have a chance to meet 5 times this season! The season when mourinho and his "new" madridstas plan to get some silverware to bernabau and they run into barcelona almost in every competition they get into. The first meeting in la liga was a 5-0 rout by Barca and the second one was a goalless boring draw at bernabau. But in the copa del ray final, mourinho's rather physical, negative and must-win game plan worked out and Barca were finally beaten. This made their champions league semi-final games, the last two of this seasons el classicos all the more interesting.

The first of the two at bernabau was one of the most looked forward to matches of this CL season and it lived up to the billing to a certain extent. The net is littered with articles on how mourinho feels cheated and how messi is the rockstar etc etc, but I believe the game went exactly to plan for both the managers till messi turned on the heat to kill the mourinho plan. Real Madrid is a very physical team and mourinho has given them full liberty to play this brand of football. For a game as important as this, mourinho chose to go in with no real forward man, no higuain, no adebayor, no benzema. It was almost a 5 or sometime 6 man midfield meant only to stifle the midfield prowess of barca. What makes the intent of mourinho even more clear is when he plays someone like Pepe who is a central defender in midfield. He already has Diarra to do the dirty work, why get one more? It was almost symbolic that Pepe got his marching orders in the match. The lack of conviction alone makes me think that Real Madrid deserved what they got. Mourinho came in with a "I may not win but I will not lose" attitude. Really a woeful vision for a club that prides on galacticos and what not. That being said barca has been overdoing the acting part. Busquets... oh man! please stop with the face holding already!! It is super embarassing. I mean, I would like the camera to pan onto Messi when busquets or alves does one their usual "face clutching and rolling on grass with pain" moves!

Hence I feel what transpired is quite fair for how the two team managers prepared their teams including the well publicized sparring before the match. It is strange how Mourinho is taking so less fault for what happened on the pitch. There are tactics and then there is faith! Real Madrid should believe in the talent they have on bench. Higuain started the season great, benzema played well in the middle and strangely adebayor has been found useful off late. Play them!! They are not forwards for no reason! The likes of granero and kaka are waiting in the wings to prove their creative side. Trust that a team with so much talent doesnt need to go into a shell everytime they see the diminutive brigade of barca charge at them! And Barca, I am an ardent supporter of your game, but take this piece of free advice... you guys are great in spite of all the play acting. Cut this crap and you will still win handsomly!

... And as fate would have it, both Barca and Real Madrid lose their la liga matches this weekend to lowly relegation bound teams. :-) Wonder if Real Madrid was sad that they wont make it to Wembley or if Barca was sad that they are getting this in this manner. :-)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The run in...

As strange as it may seem, chelsea is back in contention ever so remotely though for the league this year. As surprising as it is for me, the stats tell the story and they tell it impartially. Chelsea is the best team home and away over the last 2-3 months with Man U coming in second but mainly because of their home form where they have won every game. The always in contention but never good enough gunners are 14th in the league in the same time frame! They are not losing many matches but sure aren't winning much either. When the run in started arsenal started wilting, I am not surprised by this and very much expected it.

Last weekend saw a game most important for Man U and they pulled through at the very end, like they always do! They were playing the mercurial everton and things looked rather ominous for the red devils. A loss would have meant that chelsea could mount a serious challenge if they won all their games. A draw would not have been as disastrous, but a major dent to confidence since they are so strong at home this season. Now the situation is such that chelsea not only need to win every match, they need Man U to lose one. And this basically means that Man U is still the red hot favourites to take the league.

The chelsea form has made the league a bit more interesting considering that arsenal never comes to the party when it matters. But all said and done this is till Man U's league to lose...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

And thus it happened...

I am new to the Reds vs Blues fight over at Manchester, but like every other derby I can understand that these matches would be anxiously followed, watched and supported. While I dont particularly like the money throwing ways of Man C, the fact that Mancini is trying to build a team should be respected. Yes, he is italian and yes he is defensive but then, he is doing what he thinks is best to win. Man U or should I see their supporters on the other hand have been so unclassy to keep reminding their city neighbours of the 35 year drought. No wonder the Manchester Blues wanted to get one past the Reds so very badly.

And today, finally they did just that! I seriously am happy for them!! Reds went about it all wrong. You cant keep a guy in form like berba out of the game for so long and then put him as the lone striker in a big match and expect him to perform. That being said, his misses were really woeful! I think Chica should have played alongside Berba. And while all loyal Man U fans will go gaga over Scholes. The years (last 3) that I have seen him, he has been doing the obvious with passes and usually makes a rash late challenge every now and then. If the Man C press can go mad at balotelli for his red in the europa cup, I think the Man U press must do the same against scholes! That really was a pathetic challenge. Yes, it is a split second call and the replays make it look a lot worse. But with the experience of whatever football I have played, you are exposed to such challenges in almost every other match and you can always pull away. Its just that some players choose to and some don't. Scholes never pulls out...

All in all... my weekend football started with a much hoped result. Now for Barca to show some magic at Bernabau. :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fearing the likely...

Yesterday was one of those days when I got a clear sense of the worst that is to come for barca. They were playing bottom feeders Almeria whom they had beaten 8-0, a record in la liga, I think. Inspite of handing such an earlier drubbing and inspite of playing at the intimidating Nou Camp and inspite of playing an almost full strength squad, the show was almost unbelievable. Barca could not come to grips till about the 30 minute mark and even then were far from convincing. Remember this is the side which is ranked 20th and yet they didnt look like they were the lowest ranked team in La Liga. Almost every department was weak in the barca game. Xavi was not able to find space like he usually does, Messi was strangely running into defenders, Bojan was too twitchy after getting a rare start and hobbled off in the first half, mascherano picks up an yellow to miss the classico next week (may not be a bad thing though. :-) ), thiago tricks a lot of players and sometimes himself, iniesta could not get the ball even if he paid his weekly wages to someone, militos lack of play time showed and pinto, well he remained the joker tottering with every ball.

The scoreline at the end may read 3-1, but every barca fan knows that it was too hard earned a win to be proud of the scoreline. This result and this game has been in the works for a while. Look at the last few games of barca starting with their draw against Sporting Gijon, the scores read 1-1, 2-1, 3-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 1-0. See the trend? Barca have been labouring and it shows. Barca does not have a big squad like the cash rich Man C or Real Madrid or doesnt have an experienced bench like Man U or Spurs. Pep has been blooding some young guns, but it is not working quite to plan. Bojan is there or thereabouts. Pedros injury has had a real effect on his effectiveness. Thiago is promising, but makes mistakes which could cost in the big games. Afellay is a jack of many trades, but masters none. He has not shown me any reason to believe he can be a first team player, not yet. Keita is an also ran and cannot be the game changer.

So, in short, Barca is tiring and they dont have enough reinforcements to spruce them up. The League is theirs, Copa del ray... well, I dont care. But the CL, the big one, that is very much in doubt. The mind games that mourinho will play with 4 matches coming up with Real Madrid will tire Pep too. And even if they get past Real Madrid, Man U and the never say die (pun intended) Fergie will get to Barca.

Life is getting very interesting and very difficult for barca... and very soon. :-)


CL Quarters - Round 1 is done

We are done with the 4 matches last week that comprise the first leg of the CL quarters. To be fair, it was pretty boring. Look at the scores!! If that doesnt tell you a story nothing will. 4-0, 5-2, 1-0 and 5-1. Except for the ManU vs Chelsea match, every other scoreline has killed the interest in the second leg. And even in the Man U one, I cant see them losing to chelsea at home. Man U are nothing if not resilient this season and Chelsea are nothing if not pathetic this season. So, in short, just not gonna happen. While stupid crouch killed spurs chances of coming away with anything from madrid, it was harakiri at san siro! While Shakhtar can boast of a great home record, if they play the way they did against barca, in the  CL world, no home record can save you.

All in all, pretty uninteresting fare and the only thing that we can really look up to is some intersting matchups in the semis. Looks like we gonna have 4 el classicos now. With Real Madrid hosting Barca next week in La Liga, followed by the Copa del ray match and now the CL semi finals(home and away). Man U, who I think will upstage chelsea (again!) will face schalke which is really a no contest. But a final of the best team in EPL playing the best or second best in La Liga is mouth watering to say the least.

Lets wait for the intriguing minutes that await us... :-)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another whiner!

As you all must have realized by now, no matter how much I appreciate the vision of wenger to play beautiful football, the constant whining of arsenal and their boss irritates me to no end. And here is the newest rant boy, Van Persie taking a shot at chelsea and barcelona for trying to "bully" referees into giving decisions in their favour. I can see this working, if at all, for fouls committed on them and not for fouls committed by them. And stats never lie and tells a clear story with chelsea on top of the fair play table in EPL and Barcelona on top of La liga fair play stats.

The season has been specially hard on arsenal and its players because of them being in contention in every competition and losing out in the last leg of each one. I have always believed that this Arsenal team will not win anything worthwhile. Beautiful football is one thing, but to win the silverware you need winners in your team. People who have been there and done that are really important when get towards the end games. That is the reason most analysts have Man U as favourite and Chelsea as second favourites for this years EPL title rather than Arsenal which are the nearest to Man U in terms of points.

I hope Wenger goes somewhere other than the barca academy and buys some balls for his team, the current team definitely cannot muster any!


A weekend like no other in a while... no football in any of the leagues that I follow. I am close to having withdrawal symtoms. :-D :-D


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Men vs Boys

Man U are going to win their 19th premier league title. Yes, I have said it with 9 or so games yet to be played. The reasoning is solidified with todays superb performance from them. They played some very bad football for the better part of 90 minutes, they go down to 10 men for about 20+ minutes or so and yet score a late time winner against a bolton team that played like a top 7 team. The drive and belief when they went down to 10 men was just amazing to watch. There is a lot of strength in this squad and it is for everyone to see.

On the other hand, the skilled boys from Arsenal come back losing 2 points to West Brom! If this doesnt tell a story I dont know what does. Everytime Arsenal have a chance to put their foot into the title race they take a step back. Its almost as if they are happier to play second fiddle and keep crying on how the world is unfair to them rather than going out there all guns blazing! I am see a sixth season of silverware drought for them...

Friday, March 11, 2011

A whiplash and tears!

So, the much awaited second leg of the CL clash between Barcelona and Arsenal was set to happen at Nou Camp. Last season, it was a resouding 4-0 loss at Nou Camp for Arsenal which was preceded by a relatively decent 2-2 draw at the Emirates. This year at the Emirates they had gone one better and actually beaten the Catalans 2-1 and there were hopes that they may maybe manage a draw if not a win at Nou Camp.

With these high hopes the gunners reached Nou Camp only to be gunned down mercilessly in typical barca fashion. 67% possession, 10+ shots at goal, 5 corners and numerous close shaves at the goal drowned the gunners. They could not muster a single shot at goal, the one goal they did manage also needed to be scored by a barca player! What fabregas, what nasri, what wilshere... the midfield didnt belong to anyone but Xavi and Iniesta. Arsenal was dominated from the start and they never recovered. With this being the truth, the match still was marred by the controversial sending off of Robbie Van Persie. You would of course feel bad for RVP as it was a very very strict call. But that being said, he feigned ignorance to the whistle. Most have agreed to this being a possible reason, but I have a different take on it and its very circumstantial and hear me out.

RVP is one of those players who can do magic with his left leg and do very little with his right. Like Messi, like Mesut Ozil, like Ryan Giggs, like Van der vaart, RVPs left foot is just an awesome weapon, while his right foot is just a pale poor cousin in terms of skill and accuracy. This being the case, at every given chance all of the above players try to get the ball to their left foot to shoot at goal. In the particular attack that led to the sending off of RVP, he has sprung the off side trap. He was under no pressure to shoot as defenders were no where near him and he was possibly outside the D or very close to being outside the D, which meant he had enough space to change his orientation on the ball. He had already controlled the ball beautifully and he had all the time to get the ball to his left foot and then put the ball where he wanted to. But instead he chose to go for goal with his right foot, with no clear vision of the goal or where valdes was. Does that make sense to you? Is that logical having seen RVP all these years? I think he heard the whistle, he was frustrated coz that was possible the first chance he had got of any nature in the entire match and to know he was offside, was frustrated and lashed at the ball.

There you go... my take on the whole episode. :-) And please wenger, please... stop crying, stop depleting the rainforests. In many ways, this could be the best thing that could have happened to the brittle arsenal team. They dont have the Carling Cup to worry about, they dont have the Champions League to worry about, and they possibly wont have the FA cup to worry about. So all they need to do is concentrate on the league. While at the same time Man U has to still worry about many a silverware and mounting injuries.

Believe it or not wenger, you could actually win the league this year! Go for it!!

Too little too late?

It has been quite a week or two in the world of football. To start with we have the Man U vs Chelsea match followed by the Man U vs Liverpool one. Both were much awaited matches as this would signify the way EPL would go in a big way. For all practical purposes the EPL season was Man U's to lose. And Arsenal just following them as they always do to no avail. After the Arsenal draw to Sunderland, these two match wins could have put Man U out of the arsenal range even for the most ardent of arsenal supporters. But as we could see, Man U lost both the matches and I think in quite convincing fashion.

Chelsea defeat of Man U was of special interest to me because I think of the current top 4 or top 5, I think only Chelsea have the heart and legs to take on Man U as the season winds up. But I also do think this has come a little late in the season for chelsea and they still need to win every match they play and also get a couple of matches going their way and they then get to a fighting position this season. I still think Man U will take the season, but they have had a bad spell off late with a draw in CL, 3 losses and a win in EPL and riddled with injuries.

C'mon Arsenal, what if the Carling Cup is gone, what if the CL is gone, what if the FA cup is about to go... there is still the league to be won! Go for it, for once... please! ;-)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Student bettering teacher?

Its no secret to the footballing world that Arsenal is a wannabe Barcelona. As bad as it can be made to sound, this in my opinion is a very noble endeavour. I love beautiful football and arsenal comes closest to that in the EPL with shades of the same being shown by the Man U frontline (if not the midfield). Arsene Wenger knew what he wanted to do and he has since been recruiting like minded boys to fulfill his dream. He built the nucleus of his fast counter attacking team on Cesc Fabregas, the barcelona academy product who was destined for stardom with barca and spain. He has since gone ahead and shopped for Fran Mérida and Ignasi Miquel from the barca academy under controversial circumstances. And looks like Wenger has no plans of stopping his poaching. He has not gone ahead and brought the very well spoken off Jon Toral to Arsenal.

In last before weeks CL match, Arsenal has shown that they have improved from last season by actually beating a comfortable looking barcelona. But the real test is going to be at the camp nou. While arsenal can boast of a very powerful midfield of nasri, wilshere and song with fabregas playing in front of them, it will still sound like a let down when you put the likes of xavi, iniesta and busquets being their counterparts. If Wenger goes to camp nou thinking of matching barca for speed, accuracy and efficiency, have no doubt, he will lose! But if he becomes pragmatic, like Mourinho and Inter last season, and plays a little deep, you never know... stranger things have happened. Barca's weakness is defence, Arsenals strength is counter attack. If he keeps this in mind and plays just to this strength, arsenal can beat barcelona. But if he wants to show barcelona that arsenal can also play beautiful football, I am afraid he will realize that he will need to do a lot more shopping before making that claim. :-)

Not surprising

A colleague of mine is a big fan on the pace and speed of EPL. In many ways I am too, but I also am disappointed with the lack of outright creativity. Everything is so anticipated and usual. There is of course the special piece of skill once in a while from the top teams, but not enough in my opinion. On the other hand, La liga teams have sublime skill, its not all physical and that is so different from how most of EPL teams play. Each their own I guess...

But something that doesn't appeal to me from either facet of the game is the Serie A. The quality of football is going down the drain in Italy and it showed in the world cup. The games are played to half filled stadiums and that tells a story in itself. The teams I follow in Serie A are inter, ac milan and juventus and each of them are far below the standards by the other two big leagues i.e. EPL and La liga. There then should be no surprise that the teams that make it to europe and more specifically uefa champions league rarely make it past the knockout stage. And in this edition, ac milan has been taken to the cleaners at home by newbies tottenham while last years champions inter lost at home to bayern. The story is same in europa league where all the italian teams are out of contention with hardly any fight being put up.

These very obvious signs have not gone unnoticed and uefa has decided to reduce the number of teams from serie A getting automatic qualification to the champions league from 4 to 3. All this doesnt auger well for italian football and it wont be long before big players, even italians choose clubs outside of Italy to make their mark. The league making the most of the situation is Bundesliga which gets promoted to Serie A's place. And quite contrary to Italy, Germany was a revelation in the world cup. And after a long time you see german players playing outside of home with Mourinho reading the obvious. He has taken Ozil and Khedira, the stars of the world cup, and they are not doing too bad for themselves.Here is hoping to see more of these kind of german youngsters and their skills in the coming years in europe.

Overall this is the right move for football and will make the UEFA CL and Europa leagues more competitive in the coming year(s).

Sunday, February 20, 2011


For all the seasons that I have followed EPL, I have heard the commentators go ga-ga over Rory Delap and his ability to convert throw-ins into corners. And to make this as dramatic as possible Delap makes the most of each such thrown in by running across the field and with an assistant boy to help him with his ball cleaning and everything. An expected attempt at a few extra seconds of prime time tv for a player who can't do anything else of note on the football field.

And then you see this...

When you see videos like the one above, you wonder if some stupid team (right now my guess is chelsea) will pay a few millions to get this guy into their team!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Epitomizing Bad!

Rafa Benitez is my favourite bunny when it comes to manager bashing. If someone has been overrated in the position of a manager in the time that I have seen football, it is this guy! You know how huge world corporations, especially US based ones rejig the management, departments and personnel and think they can get out of a sticky situation, well... benitez is that to football. 

During his time at Liverpool I cannot remember a steady playing 11. For a team sport, he sure did a lot of chopping around. I dont remember his CL win, but that was probably the only reason he was persisted with for all those years! Comparing with english club managers who have had a long run, Unlike Fergie he hasnt made champions at liverpool, unlike wenger he has not got kids coming through the system and playing good football and unlike david moyes he has not made the most of what he had! Other than Martin Kelly, no one from the youth academy has made it to the senior team at liverpool! You can effectively say that benitez not only screwed Liverpools present, he also screwed their future! For a club struggling to make it to the europa rounds, they have had to do a lot of spending to build a team again, post the benitez era. Yes, he was that bad!

When his innings with Liverpool came to an end, he inherited a champion team in Inter Milan, thanks to Mourinho. And what did he do there? He chopped and chipped the team into a team of losers! Sure, he got lucky with the FIFA Club World Cup, but then, he hadnt had enough time to screw things up yet. And when Inter saw that he was again on his path of breaking up a good team, they had to get him out! They brought in Leonardo from AC Milan and the results are here to see, 8 matches, 7 wins and 1 loss! and they had just 6 wins from 15 matches under benitez.

Now that he is out of a job post the Inter sacking, it is no surprise that he has no takers. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a job with some of the relegation doomed teams in EPL or La Liga or Serie A in the near future, i.e. if he actually manages to get his head out of his ass! With my limited knowledge of football, I am willing to bet on this prediction. Anyone wanna take me on? :-)

Desperate Blues

Last season end saw some big names like deco, ballack, joe cole, carvalho etc depart from Chelsea. This greatly reduced the spends at the Blues, but they did little to restock their options. Come middle of this season, chelsea found themselves off the perch and in fact struggling to remain in the top 4. Bad form mixed with some injuries saw Chelsea struggle to score or stop goals this season and here came the desperation buys. The blues spend 50 mil quid on struggling Fernando Torres and another 25 or so for David Luiz. Are these worthy buys? only time will tell, but here is some math...

Van der vaart(8) + Mesut Ozil(12) + Luis Suarez(15) + Raul Meireles (10) = 45     vs      Torres (50) = 50

Does this really make sense? You have world class and proven midfielders in van der vaart, ozil and meireles and suarez is no schmuk with the ball in front of goal. I would have anyday chosen to go for the combo on the left side of the equation. But Carlo obviously thought differently. :-)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

No Way Jose!

I am a big fan of the special one, Jose Mourinho. I dont necessarily always agree with his tactics, but he has this Fergie like aura about him. He teaches teams to win, a very difficult task. But to do this, he has one demand and something that not all teams can manage. He will choose his team and this will cost money. And being the coach of Real Madrid, he never thought he will fall short of money, and strangely he has!

Mourinho built his chelsea team over 3 years and he got some of the mainstays of todays chelsea. He took 2 years to get his Inter team that became europe champions and strangely he didnt poach any of them into Real Madrid. But at Real Madrid, for a change, he has been denied the money to go ahead and buy a quality forward as backup for injured Higuain and relatively goalless Benzema. All he has got is a man city discard in Adebayoor on loan and frankly this is just a desperate move. This has resulted in a lot of love loss between the top honchos of Real Madrid and Mourinho and resulting in reports that Mourinho is going to head towards the premier league next season.

While Mourinho is right in his place to pick a team he thinks can win Madrid the silverware they so desperately need, he has done quite a bit of shopping already and is yet to put up an earnest challenge to the record breaking Barca, which just broke Madrids record since 1961 for team with max number of continuous wins. So the Madrid owners are well within their right to feel a bit let down and a little doubtful of Mourinhos big plan. Mourinho should realize though that he has one of the best squads in the world! You cant always get the best possible for every position and if you did then what is the bloody challenge in making them winners?? He wanted magic, he has Ronaldo and now Kaka. He wanted speedy creative midfielders, he got Di Maria and Ozil. He wanted classy defence, he has Carvalho. He wanted old fashioned defence he has Pepe and Ramos. And he has an overqualified Xabi Alonso for holding midfield role too. All he has to do is find a solution for the forward role! C'mon Jose, you are the special one, get something special to work and not keep crying like the pampered brat of rich parents!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Loaning game time

It has finally happened! The much talked about and much hyped about Kakuta has gone to Fulham on loan. This should be a huge relief for Kakuta who was rusting at chelsea, be it for lack of game time or injury. I have always wanted to see Kakuta play. Since he was counting every second of every minute on pitch, he was just too nervous to show some real game. Yes, that is no excuse, but give the kid a break, I really think he has it in him. At Fulham he will get first team play time and possibly show some of the talent that can make the risk averse Carlo to make the boy the first team choice at chelsea next season.

While this is a good move for Kakuta and chelsea, carlo is just a kid at this game. Look at Man U and Fergie, they have been offloading their talented benchwarmers like welbeck, diouf, cleverly or more recently macheda! These boys are getting enough match time to sharpen their already established skills and get themselves ready as replacements for old timers like giggs or scholes who will probably play only one in four or five matches from now on. Sure chelsea has a lot of boys on loan, but how many of them are close to first team action? I would say very few or even none. This loan thingy is supposed to also get bored squad members some game time and that is all chelsea is managing right now. Not a long term plan in my opinion.

Anyway, lets wait and see how all this unfolds... for now, I am happy I can see Kakuta play, albeit not for chelsea!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Anti Climax

One of the most important matches of the premier league this season was played between Man U and Spurs today. Without going into the details of how the match in itself went, here are what stuck out for me.

  1. Tottenham are definite title contenders if they continue to play this way
  2. Man U just doesnt have the quality to win tight matches this season, but they sure have the quality to not lose tight matches! But I can safely predict, they will not win Europe this year... no way!
  3. What does two superfast wingers in Bale and Lennon do to Man U? Well, Man U had next to no presence in the wings! Definite weakness
  4. My Man Of The Match - Assou Ekoto. He kept Nani so quite that he had to be substituted. He kept pace with Rooney when needed and was on the receiving end of the foul that red carded Rafael and many defensive duties...

All in all, the match was end to end on the pitch and quite entertaining from the Spurs side. The only thing that was missing was the spark of magic needed to win such games. Spurs came out of the scoreless draw thinking they deserved to win, while Fergie was more than happy to take a point away from this match!

Whine Whine Whine

I am sick and tired of hearing the Arsenal camp whining after every defeat. Sure, they play the preetiest football in the premier league, but anyone who has seen football and more so the premier league knows that pretty doesn't necessarily win you matches!This Holier than thou attitude has stricken Arsene Wenger and his boy Cesc Fabregas for a while now and they don't seem to give up on it. They seem to have forgotten the Vieira days when they were one of the roughest team around.

Arsenal are called the Barcelona of the Premier league. While not playing down the achievements of Wenger and his star player, to be compared with Barcelona is a big deal, especially the Barcelona of the last 2-3 years. Have you heard of Barcelona whine about the way Inter Milan played in the champions league? The Inter team was many times less skillful than the barcelona team that played them, but they played to a very defensive mourinho plan which meant to stifle barcelonas freedom in midfield while using the speed and strength of milito, pandev and eto with fast breaks. As history will say, this was a brilliant move and it worked, worked very well indeed. Yes, it was physical, but Barcelona didn't complain, because they knew they were beaten more by strategy than by physical power play. Admit that as a weakness, work on it and move on!

Faced with a similar challenge Arsenal is somehow unwilling to move on. This is possibly because they cant get players who can withstand the physical onslaught that are part and parcel of the premier league or because Wenger cant think of any strategies on how to make his team immune to these challenges. Blaming these inadequacies on the game plans of other teams is just childish! What if a less skillful team were to tell arsenal to stop playing the passing game? Would Wenger and Cesc like that suggestion??

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thanks Ipswich

Chelsea finally wins a game in the premier league and dont concede any goals while doing it. They could thank Ipswich for giving them good practice during the FA cup tie since Chelsea did look like having the earlier missing conviction even though they were very suspect in the last third of the pitch. Champions of last seaon, hitting truckload of goals early in the season and now desperate for a win. Only a true chelsea optimist can see them winning the league this season. In fact, the way man city and spurs are playing, chelsea will have to fight real hard to make it to europe next year. That being said, and focussing more on tonights game, chelsea went into champion mode albeit for a few mins here and there. As promising as that may seem, they still have a lot of worries...

Lets start with ramires. He was brought in this season and I am yet to see a 90 min consistent game from him. Sure he is hard working, sure he is physical and sure he gets a few balls here and there, but for someone who is pushing essien into a holding role (mikel is injured) he sure does not know where to put the ball when on a quick break. He does not seem like a good buy as of yet and should be pushed into a holding role. Next is Anelka. He did score tonight, but that was more of an Ivanovic goal than anything else. To me, anelka is a spent force. He has a good touch on the ball, but doesnt do anything with the ball. He makes the most obvious of passes, take the most obvious of shots, makes the most obvious of tackles etc etc. As I said, he is a spent force! Next in line, the inimitable Drogba. Be it malaria or his charity work, drogba just hasnt been himself. He is only a physical presence these days and is lacking that skill component which in addition to his physical prowess made him the threat he was. He needs to take a break and get back to full fitness before putting himself up for selection. Next is Lampard. Yes, he can be given the benefit of doubt that he is coming back off a longish injury, but for someone of Lampards experience, the nervousness in front of goal is most unexpected. In tonights match, he was willing to do anything but shoot the ball at goal. And when he did, there was absolutely no conviction in it. There are a couple more I suppose, but dont want to judge them on a single game.

It is not like there were no positives for chelsea though. Ivanovic was brilliant as usual and honestly should be credited with both the goals. The defence seemed less brittle and bosingwa was finally put to some use and thanks in no small amount to essien who kept finding him on the flank. They managed to kill the game in the second half with 2 goals and then holding, something they couldn't manage against Aston Villa. And finally, if someone did manage to see the young boy mceachran play his 10 minutes should know that this boy is good! In my opinion, Carlo, who could lose his job any day should bite the pill and give a few boys a good run in the first team. First vote would be mceachran because he looks like he can make a big difference to an ageing chelsea side. Second vote would be sturridge, who in my books is better than kalou and anelka in the current form and my third vote would go to kakuta. He has the spark and if channelised well can be the difference needed to win those tight matches.

But Carlo in true italian style is playing defensive even if he concedes goals (pun intended)!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lucky Alex?

I have hoped and wished for many years now to see the last of Alex Ferfusson, but the old fox just wont quit! He has won a lot at Man U and will win many more before he is done. This year Man U is in contention for all the 3 silverwares in offer in England and stand good to win at least 2 of them, if not all. There was a time when i used to think than Man U and Alex were just plain lucky. They never seem to have the right team in terms of big names, but they always won. They won easy games...well, easily. They won the tough games too with some hard nosed resistence. They seem impregnable at times in defence and menacing at times in attack, even with little to no creativity in midfield with the likes of scholes and giggs past their prime. But their consistency at the top have made the likes of Chelsea and will make the likes of Man City look like flash in the pans. And I believe like many else, there is always a method with Alex and he is yet to be found wrong.

Alex has some oldies in his team, yet he makes very good use of them. He always knows whom to play in which game and when. For e.g. Park plays more 'must not lose' games, especially in Europe. Giggs plays with teams that cant handle penetrating presence while scholes plays against teams with weak holding midfielders. It took me a while to see the pattern, but then, there is method to Alexs madness, I think. And he always gets guys young and then makes them into super players (only to sell them off at huge profits :-) ). But seriously, look at the youngsters he has been giving a lot of matches. Anderson, the silva brothers, chicarito and even evans! And look at the youngsters on loan, diouf, welbeck, bebe, macheda, cleverly and so on. When the likes of scholes, giggs and neville are gone and the likes of rooney are sold (kidding! :-) ), these youngs guns will continue to keep Man U on top of the EPL. And at this rate, Alex will continue to coach Man U, even from his grave!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Too friendly

Cassano, the purported genius with a few screws missing made the big move to AC Milan and immediately had an effect in their match against Cagliari. The pass was deft and the finish from Strasser was decent. But what caught the attention of most was how friendly Cassano had gotten with his new teammates.

If this is what Strasser gets for scoring one goal, wonder what will happen if he scores a hat-trick. ;-)

The White Puzzle

The Los Blancos are the richest club in the world. They have had some of the costliest if not the best players every season in their team and this time they have their coach, Jose Mourinho as the galactico! And yet, they don't seem to be winning in Europe. This is possibly the best team plus manager they have had in a long time and one expects the special one to deliver. Pressure is not new to Jose, but what about his team? They came a cropper against Barcelona already and have had a tough match against getafe and also villareal (live as I write this). So, what is the mystery behind their lack of silverware off late?

Now, I cant claim that I know all the answers, but I think I know a couple of their biggest issues. The champions league winning teams are always the hard working teams, not necessarily the most skilled teams. And the best example of this is last years champions, Inter Milan. With this as the necessary requirement, in my opinion, Real Madrid has a real problem. They have a talented unit, no doubt, but they dont have a hard working one. Real usually playes 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders in Xabi and Khedira/Diarra and a point man upfront in either Higuain or Benzema. The trio working behind the point man is the famed creators in ronaldo, di maria and ozil. Their backline has marcelo on left and sergio ramos on right with carvalho and pepe doing center duties. Now, personnel may change from this list, but Jose more or less plays this style unless he is forced to change it.

  1. While the creative trio behind the point man are extremely adept at threading defenses with passes or runs or shots, not one of them comes back to midfield to help the holding midfielders. They think of themselves as goal scorers and not midfielders who need to defend.
  2. Similarly Real have two attacking full backs in marcelo and ramos. While their forward thrusts helps them in going wide in attacks, it leaves them extremely narrow in defence. So, any team capable of playing width (e.g. barcelona, villareal) will easily trouble the real defense.

While Real has the team to play attacking football, they dont have a team that can hold fort when needed, at least not against quality opposition. Their only option is to score bucket fulls and then score some more...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bad Bad world

The expected has happened but just a little too early, at least for my liking. Roy Hodgson has left liverpool. The season has not been kind to Hodgson with liverpool languishing mid table and to think they are actually better off now compared to earlier in the season. The Red Devils have not really worked well for some time now and I blame it more on Rafa who to me was a super ordinary manager. Hodgson inherited a mess and somehow he didnt have the time and possibly the skill to clean it up. Torres is still far from the player he once was, Gerrard is in and out of injury and the rest of the squad is somehow not able to step up.

Liverpool is in dire need of a manager who can stem the rot. Maybe Carlo will be in the market soon... :-)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Who is listening?

How many remember Daniel Aggers play from 2-3 seasons back? I thought he was one of the most complete of the young defenders playing in epl. He has since been seen sparingly and he isn't really too happy about it either. To keep things interesting for Hodgson he has gone public with his frustration on seeing such less play time.

I dont know about every club out there, but I would think Carlo will be very interested in this, since he is looking for an Alex cover and I think Agger can do the part and more. He needs a bit of controlling, but then, who does need controlling these days. :-) Look at the mess that happens while training in the man city ranks! You fill a team will bloated egos and short of world class talent, this is what happens. Money attracts the best and the worst and in my opinion adebayoor falls in the latter category.

Managers and their troubles... no wonder they get paid well (pun intended). :-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Leftovers any one?

Its that time of the year again, when players are moved around more than money. :-) The january transfer window is well and truly in full flow and apparently the flow gets some old logs too. Beckham who went to US to "make" a career for his wife has soon realized that Fabio Capello only wants football players in his team and not supermodels! Strange you say... ;-) So, he is planning a move to EPL on loan and high flying spurs and their ever sleepy manager, Redknapp think they can get him. Frankly, this is a very bad move for Spurs, who similar to Arsenal have many youngsters and real playmakers in their team. Getting Beckham into the mix is like mixing wine and vodka... I am a teetotaler, but I guess that combo would taste bad. ;-)

Another old log rumoured to come the epl way is ronaldinho, who apparently was in talks for a 115,000 pounds a week for two years deal with Blackburn Rovers. Venkys will have to sell a LOT of chicken to give that much money to Ronaldinho. And seeing the shape that Ronaldinho is in these days, he will take a healthy share of those chicken wings too. ;-)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The lost pilgrim

The goody-two-shoes of the footballing world, Kaka, is seeing an uncertain future. He had a dismal world cup followed by 5 months of injury layoff. He is now ready to get back into the fold but mourinho has already filled Real Madrid midfield with his croonies, some deserving like ozil and some undeserving like khedira. So, what does Kaka do? Well... he goes to Man U, of course. :-)

But seriously, this is a great move for Kaka and in many ways Real too. Real would not want players not getting enough play time and cite that as a reason to leave to lesser clubs and make a mockery of the money they spent on them. I am not so sure if this will really benefit Man U though, since Kaka is coming off a long injury layoff and a wretched season before that. If the deal does materialize, we will have some brazilian flair and quality in EPL for a change, something that has been thoroughly lacking.

Blues see the blues

What does it take to be on top for an entire epl season? Well, don't ask Chelsea for they surely don't know, at least not this season. :-)

Another match, another draw and Chelsea have truly lost their way and will not defend their crown this season. People (mostly commentators) keep the hopes alive of all the top 5 club supportors, so that the viewership doesn't wane. But clearly, the crown is for Man U to lose and not for the rest to win. Chelsea are just so far away from the team that started this season and it is sad and strange that it has come to this. Aston Villa showed some grit for a change (and much like last season) and held their nerve till the very end. And Chelsea didn't show what defending champions should and that is "shut out" the game!

What ails Chelsea is not difficult to figure, at least not for me and I am surprised why Carlo hasn't doesn't enough to stem the rot. Chelsea is a physical team and part of their game is "fear" and the loss of terry, lampard, drogba and to some extent essien earlier in the season made many teams see that this chelsea can be beaten physically. Also, they let go of guys who could be physical like Ballack and clinical like Carvalho. And without lampard and essien there is absolutely zero creative drive in the team, not even from the bench! Carlo has to see this January transfer window as an opportunity to bolster the creative side of Chelsea and not just get cover for the injured Alex.This season is anyway lost, but creative guys need time to understand the runs of forwards like Drogba or Kalou or Anelka and do a good job next season.

Lets see how much more worse it can get for Chelsea before it gets better...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fall, Fall, Fall

One of the matches I got to see today was Liverpool vs Bolton Wanderers. Strangely enough, i watched the match more for Bolton than for the Reds. And more specifically I was keen on watching Lee Chung-Yong. When I did not see him in the starting line-up, I figured he must be out for the Asia Cup duty. Anywayz... I ended up watching the entire match and saw the Reds pull off a tight one, much to the relief of Hodgson who couldn't stop sweating in the rainy midlands. :-)

While the match in itself was a gerrard show and the commentators didn't hide their excitement in exaltdefing the England captain, it also showed the continued "fall from grace" of Fernando Torres. Here was the most talented striker in world football not so long ago, struggling to control even the simplest of passes. He could not get past a single defender and was losing most one on one situations. He was strong, he was fast, but where was the skill? He was an embarassment only saved some blushes by the woeful Ngog!

Coming back to Torres, something seems very wrong with the lad. He has just "lost" his skills over the last year and no amout of confidence from his coach, team, fans seems to be able to bring it back. He has already lost his first team place in the Spanish national team and with Fernando Llorente among the news to make the big move to Camp Mourinho, looks like Torres will not do national duty for some time to come. As cruel as it may sound, Spains midfield deserves a better striker and Torres would know that better than most.

Heres hoping that Torres comes back to his defender-scaring best in 2011... :-)

Jogo Bonito!

A new year and a new blog...

"Why do you need a new blog? You hardly keep the other one updated regularly enough anyway..." well, very good questions and as strange as it may sound, I do have a reason. :-)

On my regular blog and the audience(albeit limited) is not necessarily into football. And over the course of last few years, football has become a very integral part of my TV viewing, my only mode of exercise and frankly one of the few things I am really passionate about. I found that I was increasingly feeling the urge to "shout out" about football and felt that my regular blog was not the place to do it. So, I thought, why not another blog? I will run out of time and interest for this too, but until then, why not?

So, here we are... A blog dedicated to football, "The Beautiful Game"!

Welcome on-board and have fun!! :-)