Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why Is Inter Milan So Good?

Answer: Several reasons


Their roster is full of habitually underrated stars. Zanetti, Maicon, Materazzi, Vieira, Solari, Maniche, Cambiasso, Ibrahimovic, Cruz and Crespo to name just a few. Look back at those names one more time and you may notice that every one of those players starts on their national team except for the Argentines Solari and Cruz. What national teams are we talking about? Argentina, Portugal, Italy, France and Sweden. All of those teams advanced out of the group stage in the World Cup 06, one made the quarters, one made the semis, and two met in the finals.

How underrated are they? None of these players would make even the 2nd team all world roster but every one of them is in full, again, full stride. I was watching the Juve Inter game the other day and a commentator casually said Ibrahimovic is the best striker in the world right now and you know what, instead of scoffing (and perpetuating the underrated point I'm trying to drive home), I considered it.

Who's in this race for best striker in the world:
Titi Henry
Trezegol (who I'm truly obsessed with at this point)
Drogba (who I forgot... damnt)

If the Togo'an wasn't absolutely out of control at this point, this would be any easy, easy, choice. Ibrahe's-so-good gets the nod. What's worse is that I could have asked you to name your nominees and you might have left him out.

Maicon and Maniche - Portugal studs. I wonder who else is a Portugal stud?... Oh well, I can't think of it. Anyway, Portugal was colonized by Brasil, that should tell you enough.

Vieira - How funny that both Jim and I absolutely gush about this man so he's not underrated on our list, but still, you get the point.

Crespo - Um, he's on loan. Right now.

Cruz - You don't even know who he is but he and Ibra have combined for 23 (10,13) goals in the Serie A. He's cold as ice - ask Juventus.

Materazzi, Cambiasso, Zanetti - come on, I didn't even know Zanetti was still playing and would have forgotten about the others. Two of them have hoisted the World though.

Solari - This one is special. He has great pace, creativity, insight, awareness and is ruthless. I see some Messi and Quaresma in him (he has no left foot). Remember the name, Solari. And also, be careful google'ing him because apparently a really hot semi nude model also goes by the name.


Mancini, having just been snubbed for manager of the year (by not being even nominated?), is aggressive. His scheme involves passes into the box and shorter diagonal through-runs. Very few long balls and don't be afraid to let one rip is probably what he says to his boys. He utilizes young talent well and is Belichick-esque in that he won't pull back the attack. They deserved to beat Juventus with 10 men and they penetrate so willingly they can score at any time. The scheme itself demands 5 good scoring chances and Cruzavich don't miss that often. It's almost boring, again, Belichick-esque, in that you don't know what happened to your defenders, how Inter arrived, and why it's suddenly 3 nil. I imagine it along the lines of coming home to find your girlfriend cheating on you, but once you find out it was with this philanthropic lawyer who saves underprivileged babies at the local soup kitchen, you begin to realize you didn't match up well.

Young Assassin/Bench
The kids name is Pele... I wonder if he's been obsessed with soccer since he was born. He's really good too and on my "something special brewing" watch. They have solid second team back-ups and you need depth if you're going to try and win the SerieA, Coppa Italia and the Champions.

If they're so good, why do they suddenly look vulnerable?

I agree with the fact that they have looked as vulnerable as ever in these past 4 games. The only game they deserved to lose was against Parma, but those are the types of breaks great teams get. I almost need to write this out for myself: Internazionale has not lost in the Serie A yet. That's 3 points most times and at least one every contest.

The future

I am intrigued to see how Inter's, Score first ask questions later policy holds against real competition in the Champions League. They're still in cruise control and they have Liverpool come February 19th. If Inter keeps rolling, Jim will be right about Rafa.

Weekend Preview

You know the drill.


Barcelona (2nd) vs. Osasuna (15th). You know La Liga is done and dusted for Real Madrid when this becomes the most interesting fixture of the weekend. It's true, though; Barca desperately need to string together a series of victories if they want any chance at catching Los Merengues. Last week at Bilbao was a gimme, but Fernando Llorente stunned them eleven minutes from time to split the points. Now they face lowly Osasuna at home. The Pamplona club have been woeful and in danger of relegation this season after a year which saw them reach the semifinals of the UEFA Cup.

The verdict: I mean, one has to predict a Barcelona victory, right? Not so fast. The club has scored only two goals in their last three matches. Yes, Eto'o is currently missing at the ACN, but Ronaldinho should be back, giving them three of the most dangerous players in the world at the fore of their attack. As Juan put it in our last power rankings: "Something is wrong with this team. I honestly don't know what it is yet but I'm on it." Well, I think we'll still have to get back to you on that one, but in the meantime, I'll continue to put (misplaced) trust in Titi and Leo to eek out a win: Underachievers 2 - 1 Regressing Overachievers.


Fiorentina (4th) vs. AC Milan (6th).
This weekend's Serie A action will offer something I don't believe I've ever seen before. The three best teams (Inter, Roma, and Juve) are playing the three worst (Empoli, Siena, Cagliari). Which leaves us to focus on this extremely important match. There was never any doubt that Fiorentina have emerged from Serie B promotion and the matchfixing scandals as one of Italy's stronger sides. The question for this season, with Luca Toni off to Germany, was whether Adrian Mutu could assume a greater share of the scoring duty. Well, question answered. As a reward, Firenze sit in Champions League position, but Milan are gunning hard for it. Pato has been a revelation for them (I can't recall a seventeen year-old playing with such poise since Arsenal's own Cesc Fabregas) and the Rossoneri are slowly but surely working their way into striking distance of the top.

Verdict: The talent of Milan is starting to tell, with players like Gilardino, Pirlo, and Kaka finding their form in a string of victories. That being said, this is a very evenly matched game, and Fiorentina are at home. Let's call it a draw: La Viola 1 - 1 Il Diavolo.


Man City (6th) vs. Arsenal (2nd).
This weekend has a lot of solid matchups. Chelsea go to Portsmouth, Everton take on Blackburn, and Tottenham get another shot at United, this time at home (still won't happen, Spurs fans). This has to be the pick, though. Arsenal have cruised through their last few games, defeating Fulham and Newcastle twice, so they've yet to see real opposition. City, after a great start, have been in an awful rut. They got knocked out by balloons in the FA Cup (I was watching this, and it was truly absurd - did anyone else see this?) and then drew (!) with Derby County yesterday. Since Derby have become the Premier League ATM for three points, this is a real problem.

The verdict: Sven will have them up for it and City are very tough at home, but Arsenal are playing very well. Last time, Fabregas was the difference, blasting a winner in the 80th minute (his favorite time to score). Richard Dunne and Micah Richards are a formidable pair to break down, but at the moment, you'd expect a red-hot Adebayor and the phenomenal box-to-box play of Flamini to tip the scales in the Gunners' favor: Blue Moon 0 - 1 The Boys in Red and White.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Adios, Rafa

It's not really an epic prediction, but I'll go ahead and say that you heard it here first: Liverpool may have never fired a manager midseason before, but that will change and Rafael Benitez will be gone before the end of the season. Oh hell, let's go for it: he'll be gone by the weekend. More? Sacked by tomorrow morning. (OK, now I'm just getting carried away.)

Coming off a string of draws in the league and an FA Cup appearance where they gave up two first half goals to a pub team (no joke, we're talking cab drivers and high school teachers), it was imperative that Liverpool win against West Ham. Well, not only did they not win, they lost in dramatic fashion with a foolish penalty at the very end. Combine this with Rafa's poor relationship with Laurel and Hardy, and you've got a recipe for a good ol' fashioned firing.

This has to be a major blow for Reds around the globe who were expecting a legitimate title challenge this season and seemed to be off to a great start. Instead, they find themselves 7th in the League and saddled with two greedy and mismanaging American owners, a possible sale to the government of Dubai, an underperforming side that's being dragged along by two stars (three, if you count Yossi Benayoun's inspired form), and (we predict) the loss of one of Europe's finest managerial minds. Yikes, how the mighty have fallen.

I, for one, have always been a big fan of Rafa Benitez. I feel in many ways he has been the architect of his own downfall. Really, though, it's the absurd expectations and pressure placed on him by Liverpool supporters. When he leaves, along with Jose Mourinho, the Premier League will have lost two of its finest managers this season. Something tells me, though, that once gone, it won't be the last we hear from him.