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. :-)