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!! :-)