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.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Weekend Preview

It seems like England's been getting all the attention lately, what with their preeminence in the Champions League, but it'll be an interesting weekend in all three leagues.


Sevilla (6th) vs. Villareal (2nd). Last weekend, Villareal launched themselves into second and made a huge statement by smashing Atletico Madrid 3-0. Now, this game will signal to Real Madrid whether or not they should be legitimately concerned or just leetle scared. Conversely, Sevilla have had the absolute worst run-in over the past few weeks; first losing to Atletico, and then to los Blancos. Now they face a test against a red hot Villareal side with legitimate title ambitions. If Real Madrid slip up against Mallorca (a real possibility if Guiza shows up), then things could get very interesting.

The verdict: Even though Sevilla are at home, they haven't looked very threatening since their crushing exit from the Champions League at the hands of Fenerbahce. They're on a nice little losing streak to the top teams, and Villareal have shown themselves to be just that. They did a good job handling Atletico's potent front two, and they'll have a real test trying to mark Fabiano, Kanoute, and speedy right back Dani Alves, but I think they can do it. Villareal have shown they can play attractive attacking football under any circumstances, and hey, defending is less of an issue when you dominate possession like them. Where's Juande? 1 - 3 Spanish Arsenal.


Atalanta (9th) vs. Internazionale (1st).
Inter will have mixed feelings about Roma's 2-0 defeat in the Champions League this week. On the one hand, it demonstrates vulnerability and the potential for a collapse. On the other hand, it may mean that Roma will commit all energy toward pulling themselves out of their four point deficit in the league. Either way, Inter need to focus on themselves, as they remain in the driver's seat. This week, they'll be playing an inconsistent Atalanta side. The other Nerazzuri (prepare for this game to appear confusing; Atalanta and Inter have identical home uniforms) beat AC Milan handily at the San Siro in their last Serie A outing, but are floundering around down in 9th. Doni and Floccari were excellent for them then, but must be considered streaky players at best. They've also got the other (lesser) Inzaghi coming off their bench, but that shouldn't concern Inter too much.

The verdict: I can't shake the ease with which Atalanta's attack broke down Milan's defense last week. I know that Inter aren't Milan, and are far better organized at the back, but they've been in a bad spell. Draw with Genoa, defeated by Juve, draw with Lazio... I think Atalanta can take something from this match. I see a game with Inter dominating possession and scoring but getting hit on the break by the Doni-Floccari combo for an equalizer. 1-1.


Arsenal (3rd) vs. Liverpool (4th).
For the original Star Wars trilogy and even for The Godfather, there are many who would argue that the second installment shines through as the finest. However, I'm predicting this match will be more like the second Indiana Jones movie: ugly, filled with bit players, and kind of a letdown. That's not to say it won't be interesting, though. The game means a lot more to Arsenal, who refuse to concede the title when there's still mathematical hope. What this means is that Liverpool will likely rest key players before the epic Part 3 of this series, and that Arsenal will be forced to play their increasingly worn-out starters.

The verdict: Arsenal distinctly had the better of play in the last two matchups between these giants of English football, but have had to settle for 1-1 results on both occasions. With Benitez keeping his eye on the big European prize, and rivals for the fourth spot Everton facing a tough run-in, one can expect to see a lot of rotating (his trademark) for this one. I foresee a relatively cagey affair, with Tuesday's showdown at Anfield looming, but Arsenal want and need this result more. Red-and-Whites 1 - 0 Reds.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

While You Were You Sleeping

It's 11:22 standard eastern time and you have no idea what just happened.

Around... oh lets say 36 minutes ago? Is that right? My publicist is telling me that's correct. Great. Just that long ago a man named David Beckham did the unthinkable. That's not true. It actually may be just the opposite of that.

David Beckham scored his first MLS goal of the season and it couldn't have been more appropriate. Having received an awkwardly weighted through-ball from Landon Donovan, Mr. Beckham had two choices. He could either slide it across to Dono to finish what he started, or he could score himself.

He chose correctly. David - cool as the other side of the pillow - tucked it (one time) in betwixt the keeper's legs and in the back of the net. What follows from here is simply inappropriate:

He runs, arms out, a few paces and gives me my favorite celebration sans the David Trezeguet. The slide was on turf, knees first, perfectly balanced on both legs until he comes to a stop and is mauled by his teammates.

In an eerily exacting way, Beckham's slide halts a touch short, forever symbolic of the MLS perhaps, or maybe because he was on turf and not grass. Regardless, what his goal represented is that the MLS begs to differ. At an overdressed dinner party the MLS shows up in a t-shirt with a picture of a tuxedo and tells the honored guest, "No. Fuck you." And who could wear that t-shirt but Beckham-watch himself.

It's difficult to say that I don't believe in the hype when something so trivial as him scoring stimulates me to go berserk. I'll let my emotions state the facts - I love that David Beckham is in the MLS and if one man can give me hope, it's him.

Thank you and goodnight.

(P.S. - he also had an assist to Dono. Whatev.)

Advantage Liverpool

A couple thoughts on yesterday's results:

It was a traditional smash and grab European result for the Reds, who will take a precious away goal back to Anfield. Benitez and co. will be pleased with their tactical success, but Arsenal certainly gave them a good scare in the second half and demonstrated that they're fully capable of creating chances (but not necessarily finishing them). Hleb should have had a penalty, Eboue should have put a better shot on target, and Bendtner shouldn't have bungled his way in front of Cesc's sure winner like a newborn giraffe, but "should have" won't get it done in a knockout competition like this. Both teams were ultimately deserving of their goals, the first coming on a beautifully organized set piece and the second being created by the bold determination of a certain Steven Gerrard. People are predicting doom and gloom for Arsenal, but I think this one is still to be decided; the gunners are very capable of scoring at Anfield, but how many will they concede? Could be a classic.

Just when it looked as though his team had turned the corner, Avram Grant may have to start making new plans for next season. It was a game of two halves; in the first, Chelsea enjoyed the majority of possession and were gifted an own goal by Deivid's surgical strike into his own net. In the second, however, the Turks shed their hesitance and confusion, and their trigger happy mentality paid off with two incredible strikes. ("Violent" was the word Juan used to describe them, and I won't disagree). Kazim's wonderful run to beat the offside trap allowed him to finish with a goal that would beat any keeper, but it was Deivid who stole the show, making up for his earlier error by smashing home a 30+ yard bullet. Like Arsenal, Chelsea were guilty of not making the best of their chances, firing over the bar and nailing the post with a few efforts. You can never rule out the Blues, especially when they've got an away goal in their pocket and play at Stamford Bridge, but if Fener keeps shooting like that, they'll have some big problems.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Champions League Poetry

Some haikus inspired by today's results:

Ronaldo a god;
United will win it all.
Someone please kill me.

Roma pressure well,
Crap pants and waste good chances;
Two nil down at home.

Krkic is legit.
Seventeen years old and starts!
Barca have options...

Concede early goal,
And Germans don't attack well:
Recipe for loss.

Monday, March 31, 2008


Weekend Recap:

1) Can anyone challenge Manchester United? Right now they're a runaway bus, steamrolling anything in their path, unable to be stopped, and led by a very handsome man who inspires the utmost loathing in his detractors. Kind of like the movie Speed, if Keanu Reeves were really good at his chosen profession in the way Ronaldo dominates his own. The Portuguese phenom is already inspiring debate as to whether or not he's the greatest player the EPL has ever seen (unfortunate for Arsenal and Chelsea), and Keanu Reeves is still making films (unfortunate for everyone). I happen to think he's a shoe-in for every accolade this season (including "hater of the year"), but would hesitate before calling him the best ever in the league. But if he keeps this up for just one more season, then I think he's earned the right to be talked about with Henry, Shearer, Bergkamp, Zola, and the rest. He certainly helped his case with the opener against Villa which was as beautifully executed as it was audacious.

2) Arsenal aren't finished yet. Wenger calls their victory over Bolton the greatest comeback he can remember, and I can't argue. Easter was a disaster, but the Gunners rose from the dead a week later with a gritty and fortune-favored second half. After struggling against Birmingham, Wigan, and Boro, Arsenal evidently need to be two goals and a man down before they really get going. However, that particular formula for victory won't work against Liverpool in the Champions League (as Inter will be all too happy to tell you), so Arsenal best be on their game on Wednesday if they want any shot at advancing.

3) Villareal completely outclassed Atletico Madrid. It wasn't as though los Indios were playing poorly, either, they simply ran into a squad that have real self-confidence and desperately want to contend for the title. The yellow submarine have been consistently providing some of the best teamwork in the game (watch the way they work the goals below). The question now, though, is whether Real Madrid have lost a title rival, or gained one? Barcelona look done after their stunning second-half collapse against Betis, and Villareal have supplanted them in second with a great run. They're currently six points back, and though you still have to like Real's chances, they still have to play Barcelona again this season. Villareal, meanwhile, have a cozy run for the rest of the year, with their toughest opposition coming in an away game against Sevilla next week. It's a good opportunity for another statement game.

Wonderful teamwork, but I think we all know the real secret of their success: long, flowing locks of hair. With Gonzalo Rodriguez, Pires, Santi Cazorla, and numerous others, no club has better.

4) Inter are at sixes and sevens. Their lead is at four points, but it feels a lot smaller. Roma did them a huge favor by drawing at Cagliari, but remain right on their tail. Something working in Inter's favor: Roma must play red-hot Manchester United in the CL. Probably not good for momentum. Things working in Roma's favor: Inter still have to play Fiorentina and AC Milan in the league, and have a much more difficult Coppa Italia draw in Lazio. That'll mean less rest for their big players. This one ain't over, folks.

5) AC Milan are in a tailspin. And there's no sign of it ending anytime soon. Future fixtures include Juventus (in Turin), Inter, and Udinese at the very end of the season. They're in sixth place and ninth-place Atalanta just carved up their defense like fresh cold cuts. 1-2 was a very flattering scoreline, and it could have easily been 4 or 5 for Serie A's other Nerazzurri. They're only four points out of fourth, but on current form and with their remaining schedule, I don't think they'll make it. I reckon it's probably time to bid farewell not only to Paolo Maldini, but to the fantastic dynasty of world football he helped build.