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.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Return of the Power Dozen

Here's to a great jinx! (Hold up shot glass, shoots self in head)

1) Inter - I've decided their recent "struggles" - which oh by the way include no losses - are due to Mancini experimenting with team chemistry. I admit that their dominance turned into this aura where I expected to tune in and see Inter hog-tying opponents and shooting wildly in the air. Turns out they just win and have fun while doing it.

2) Arsenal - My only reservation (I was gonna put them #1) was that they did all this benefiting while all the elephants were gone. Props to Egypt for taking the tragically unwatched African Nations Cup. I'll make sure to watch in two years.

3) Real Madrid - I had the pleasure of watching Real touchdown on Villanotasreal. Before this game I would have dropped them a spot, but with Robben clicking, Jim is right - they're legit.

4) Manchester United - the Munich disaster indeed (too soon?... it happened 50 years ago damnt). Cristi was frustrated with Portugal losing to Italy and is trying to do too much. City caught some breaks too. I'm writing it off for the most part. And how about Man City earning 6 points from The Treble!

5) AS Roma - forget catching Inter, they need to stay afloat. They have a brutal February remaining and Juve could catch them if Juve would stop being awkward turtle.

6) Chelsea - they're Paul Wall on the grind. Avram Grant looks a little like that character from Ratatouille - a movie I thoroughly enjoyed.

7) Bayern Munich - Luca Toni missed a penalty and subsequently drew against Bremen. They've scored 14 in their last 4 though, so I think they'll be alright.

8) Porto - Dropped a game against Sporting Lisbon thus they drop a few spots. Quaresma watch: Apparently he's "earning" his starting spot on the wing over Sabrosa. The announcers think he played great, I've seen him play better, we'll see. Regardless, Scolari needs to find a spot for him.

9) Barcelona - Sorry, I still don't know what's wrong with them. I watched one game of theirs and it was snoozer. If I were a fan of this team I'd be so disgruntled.

10) Juventus - I find it comical that I picked* the Italian team that most resembles Uruguay's "I can score at any time ability" coupled with "the end result will inevitably frustrate you - even in a win." And comical like the way I would laugh after surviving a plane crash.

*That's not entirely true. My mother picked this team for me in a way by buying me a sick replica jersey. I blame you mother.

11) Rangers - Celtic seems poised to catch them. The headline, "Celtic destroys Dons."

12) Lyon - I'll soon be posting why you should hate France. Stay tuned.

Let me in now, let me in now. Bill Gates, Donald Trump, let me in now. Jim says...

I'm actually in total agreement with these rankings. Well done, Vincenzo. Just a few thoughts on the Top 5:

1) Internazionale - This is the sort of domination in a league we haven't seen since Arsenal 2003-2004. I'd also compare them to the Inter of last year, but that was with Juve in the minors and their other major rivals penalized for scandal. Now, Inter literally refuse to be defeated. They have complete and utter confidence that they will win every time they take the field, no matter the opposition. Of course, that's only in the Serie A. We'll see what kind of tricks Rafa has for them next week.

2) Arsenal - If anything, I feel that going top and staying there during the African Cup of Nations has been more to Arsenal's credit. No Toure, no Song, no diving, whining Eboue (OK, maybe that was actually helpful), but anyway, you get the point.

3) Real Madrid - Guti's healthy again (and just dropped a deuce on fake Real), so that's another weapon they can throw in there. Be skurred.

4) Manchester United - Juan, it's always too soon for a club that takes itself as seriously as this one. Highlights from last week include Ferguson's complaint about seven (completely deserved, and he's lucky there weren't more) yellow cards for his team against Tottenham, and now the twin excuses for defeat of playing the Manchester Derby during the anniversary of the disaster and having players tired after the International Break. Waah.

5) AS Roma - What happened against Siena? Truly a nightmare for them, and they probably should have dropped in these rankings, but everyone else has been pretty mediocre. They Juveniled against Reggina, though, so they're still (numerically) in the hunt. Totti needs to find his form soon, though, because they've got Madrid in the CL.

PS: I think I know why Juan thinks you should hate France. I'll give everyone a hint: starts with a D, believes obsessively in astrology, and in the past six years has made horrible decisions regarding selection for a certain national team.

What Have We Learned?

Since we missed the weekend prediction (doesn't matter, they would've all been wrong), it's time to do the reverse and look back at what has become evident these past few days.


Real are for real, and will win La Liga. This isn't going out on too much of a limb, but they're really beginning to put an official stamp on this season. The whole team was lining up to score against Valladolid yesterday, and they've shown no signs of relenting in their pursuit of back to back titles. Barca, held to a draw, are fading fast and are now 8 points adrift. Julio Baptista, who showed only brief moments of quality with Arsenal last season, has really come into his own with los Merengues. Wenger chose to use La Bestia as a center forward because of his size and strength, either alone or partnered up front. With Real, he's been used in his preferred role as an attacking midfielder, and it has really paid dividends for them. Barcelona may have grabbed the preseason headlines for its deadly attack, but perhaps people underestimated the combined chemistry of Raul, van Nistelrooy, Robben, and Baptista. Throw in Robinho as a substitute winger or second striker, and you've got the makings of another title. This one is over.

[Note: Arsenal vs. AC Milan and Liverpool vs. Inter are certainly mouthwatering Champions League ties, but I personally can't wait to see Roma take on this Madrid squad. There could be some very attractive football on display.]


Milan are stringing together another incredible run. Initially sparked by the brilliance of young Alexandre the Duck, continued by the skill of Pirlo and Gilardino, and now sustained by luck (like all good runs), Milan have put together an impressive response to those (like me) who thought their shot at a Top Four spot might be gone. In the Champions League, this doesn't bode particularly well for Arsenal, as Milan have really picked up their form and dropped the Jekyll and Hyde act which characterized the first half of their season. Instead, they're finding ways to win and are finally having success at the San Siro. While Fiorentina are no slouches, Milan have a hungry look about them, and I like their chances to finish fourth.


Manchester United are a complete enigma. During this season, we've learned that United have the best player in the world, the most dangerous attack and stingiest defense in England, perhaps the deepest bench in Europe, and yet under the right circumstances, are eminently beatable. Sir Alex Ferguson has called this perhaps his best squad ever (which is saying A LOT), and yet they're in second place and have lost four times this season. It's true that there is still a long way to go, and they remain in the hunt for three major trophies, but one cannot help but wonder if performances like the lackluster display against City won't come back to bite them. If Arsenal take advantage of United's loss and Chelsea's draw with Liverpool to pull three points further away, harnessing the power of Fergie's frustration would enable the city of Manchester to go green for weeks.

[Note: Did anyone watch the Manchester Derby? Great stuff. It began with a commemoration for the victims of the Munich Air Disaster of 1958, and commenced with a minute of silence. Because of the deep rivalry between Man U and Man City, there were fears that the City fans would disrupt this solemn occasion with jeers and chants. Instead, the whole thing went off beautifully. Seeing 70,000 fans of rival clubs come together in silence, holding their scarves high with pride and respect, is what sports is all about.]