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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Friendly Fire Game Notes

4 matches and 6 hours of shameless soccer watching... life with Tivo and FSC/GolTv is good.

England at France

-(Enter stage left, Franck Ribery) Ladies and gentlemen, the future of French futbol. Ribery surprised me in the World Cup, surprised me when he was signed by Bayern and will surprise me no more. The man is legit.
He was everywhere on Wednesday. No part of the attacking half of midfield was off-limits for Franck and if his positioning had not slipped him behind defenders, he went ahead and burned them anyway. Even with his is stellar play, France threatened very little and its because of

- Treze was typically uninvolved (more on this later) and Anelka was way too involved. It's true that Nicolas and Ribery worked well together for most of the game but Anelka's diagonal runs were to the corner flag rather than the box. That wouldn't be a problem for a team like Germany or England that rely on crosses to their bigger players but who is gonna finish these crosses for France? Treze - unlikely and certainly not for Domenech in a friendly. Malouda - boooooo, more on him later as well. Ribery - he's 5 feet tall. With their current middies and strikers the Francais cannot/should not become a cross-heavy team.

-Booooooooo. Boooooooo. Deep breath, BOOOOOOOOO. England backed off of him several times daring him to shoot and he obliged with a shank or a non threatening Mr. Softie. He was open behind Treze (who usually drew 2 defenders) and he dribbled out of his free space only to clog up the area just outside the box. He played no through-balls, and struggled so much, that Anelka had to change his runs to give him an out. I was frustrated by the way Malouda bludgeoned to death so many breakouts and forward opportunities. I wonder if he has the same problems when he goes out. I can see Treze or Anelka at a bar closing out a French tomcat and then Malouda joins mid conversation with a loud laugh and lack of introduction. EEeeeeeeee

Quicker notes now because this is getting long.

Capello - one up top (Rooney) is not gonna do it. Wayne really needs to be in the right formation to be effective. Recall 5 feet tall.

Gallas - Wenger's quote about how Gallas is, "quick to blame" made me feel bad because I was laying on him hard. I'll give him more time before I give him the official sucks-on-it stamp of disapproval. Fine. Good thing he got to see some Rooney too before we meet ManUtd.

Owen/Crouch - blowjob city. They suck. It's getting to the point where I'm remembering Owen suck more than I can remember him being good. That's scary. Also, I was dead wrong about Crouchey - I thought he'd be more effective with more minutes. You can't spell Crouch without "ouch."

USA at Poland

-Will Poland ever stop singing... ever. What a fan base. Down 2-nil, loud singing. Down 3-nil, even louder. It was actually annoying. I wanted to break their spirits (as a fan vicariously living through the US of course) and we couldn't do it. They still come out with a win for that one.

- I loved, loved the lineup. I should specify a touch more, the formation. Donovan and Dempsey as outside midfielders is perfect for them. 2 strikers is the way to go up top and no sweeper has the US defenders assuming responsibility much better (as opposed to the usual not at all).

- Ching was a little lost, Iguchi wears this cologne, and Eddie Johnson is absolutely, without reserve, terrible. Bradley had his boys driving Porche's on offense and Eddie was the equivalent of the airbag deploying at 3rd gear. It was that bad. He halted every attack and I can't remember a time when he received the ball on his foot and went forward instead of backwards. I provide photographic proof that the man can run forwards. Explain to me what the deuce happened to him. The commentators mentioned briefly that Bradley had asked Eddie to "wait for his teammates" on offense but my goodness.

-Despite Eddie's best efforts, I have in my notes, "man we had a lot of chances!" It's true. Dono missed two gimmes - the type you forget about in a 3-nil blowout and I think this has something to do with how the US was passing out of the backfield instead of bypassing the midfield with a long-ball.

Other notes that I find humorous

-Hello Eddie Lewis
-At least we won in Europe... although I kind of wish I knew one Polish player. I don't recognize anyone.

Argentina vs Egypt

- To no one's surprise here at TLOCA headquarters, Aguero had a monster game. Yowza he's good. The only worrying feature I've noticed about him is that he doesn't finish quite well. He creates so many chances, but anytime he scores one, he probably should have had three.

- Egypt keeps its real. I did not expect them to win the African Nations Cup but I can see why now. They have some legitimately frisky forwards and experienced middies that play good defense. Still, they should have lost 5-2 instead of 2-0.

- Still wondering when Lucho Gonzalez (currently campaigning for minutes) is gonna go buckwild and play like he's not over-thinking. He was a bit cautious on Wednesday for my taste.

- Add Cruz to the list of, "players Juan thought were good but actually turn out to not... be good"

Brasil vs. Sweden

The 50th anniversary of the World Cup 5-2 victory for Joga Bonito. Pele was 17 folks... and scored 2 goals.

-The match was extremely entertaining. Brasilian futbol is always a joy to watch and for this particular match, quite terrifying as well. Why? After Dunga put on Pato and some other infant, the average age of the current Brasilian side was, gulp, under 21.

- The Swedes came out nicely. They actually threatened numerous times and although Brasil would not have played the same had Sweden converted, they could have easily won this game 2-1. Very handsome players I might add.

Is this girl Swedish Brasilian? Have I stumbled upon a genetically perfect individual?

United for the Double?

I'll kick start some discussion. Are Arsenal title hopes dashed? Will Man U hold on? Will Chelsea overtake them? Will Avram Grant keep his job, or does he have to win one of the two remaining titles or both? What about Rafa?

Yes, yes, no, has to win one, needs a deep CL run and/or a strong finish for third in the league... would be the short answer in my opinion. But I think we all know that anything can happen. Now for the long answers:

This season has shown that Arsenal have tremendous quality in their starting lineup, quality that can beat any team in the world. However, what they're significantly lacking is depth. If Wenger were Rafa Benitez, this would have been revealed earlier in the season, but as it is, his worn out first team are breaking down at the finish line instead. It also doesn't help that two of their most skilled players (RVP, Rosicky) are made of glass. Part of the game is being able to stay fit, and that's one skill neither one has shown. Critics have singled out Gallas and Adebayor for special treatment of late, but a) Arsenal wouldn't have made such a great first-half run if not for those two, and b) who else can Wenger turn to in big matches? There are no good second options. Gunners like to say "Arsene knows" whenever someone questions le Professor's judgment, but it's starting to look like Arsene doesn't know when to spend the money he has.* If they can't beat Liverpool at home, another finish in fourth isn't out of the question.

Meanwhile, United have shown that they have phenomenal reserves to call upon. It's especially apparent in midfield and attacking options, where Sir Alex has a veritable embarrassment of riches. Carrick not getting it done? Bring on the veteran Scholes. Ronaldo need a rest? Let Nani take over for a bit. Tevez hurt? Go get (finally healthy) Saha or let Rooney work the line alone for a day. It's a phenomenal team, and every time I watch them play I wonder how they've ever lost. But lost they have, and the odds say they'll do it again before the year is out. So will everyone else, though, and that's why they'll win the title. (Indeed, its difficult to see their current or potential opponents in the Champions League knocking them out, and if I were a betting man, I'd mark them down for that one as well.)

Chelsea don't have the same quality as United, but they do have some good depth of their own. A fine example of this was their most recent win over Arsenal; despite the ungrateful crowd's chants of "you don't know what you're doing" and "Jose Mourinho," Avram Grant made some excellent tactical substitutions, bringing on Belletti and Anelka (who set up both goals). However, final responsibility for victory has to be laid at the feet of one Didier Drogba, who torched the Arsenal defense for two (ahem, the first had a whiff of offside, and that's all I'll say about that). Really, aside from this last match, Avram's squad have been crapping the bed in big matches, and unless he can muscle them past United and/or win the Champions League, I see them looking for a new manager. Basically, that's me saying they'll have a new manager.

Ah, Rafa. This one is clearly a mystery to me. I was certain he would get the ax during a string of lackluster results and turmoil amidst the ownership back in January, but that didn't happen. And until this last weekend, his team were playing like worldbeaters. Old Trafford is a tough place to play, it's unclear if Mascherano was deserving of two yellows (shut your mouth, you fool!), but getting torched for three like that isn't a good sign. My prediction? Arsenal has become the key for him. If he can overtake them in the league and knock them out of the Champions League, his job is safe. If not, all bets are off.

*Maybe he's learned his lesson. This is very uncharacteristic.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Every person's goal in life should be finding whatever it is that gives him the above facial expression. For David Trezeguet, this is that thing:

In a season full of insane twists and turns, this last weekend provided some of the biggest. I can't speak for Juan, but I know I'll need another day before I start analyzing. So more tomorrow, then.