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, January 16, 2009

Real Recognize Real

And apparently, on the flip side, garbage is capable of recognizing garbage. There's no other way to describe Florent Malouda calling out Raymond Domenech for his poor squad selection. It's funny because Domenech is a horrible coach, and almost certainly the worst manager in international football. And it's ironic because leaving Malouda out of the side is one of the few intelligent decisions he's made.

My favorite part is Malouda complaining that Domenech has never treated anyone else this badly. I think Robert Pires, David Trezeguet, Sebastian Frey, and Ludovic Giuly (among others) might have something to say about that.

France is a joke. Remember these days? I don't.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

If I Had a Million Dollars...

...per week, I would be Kaka in a Manchester City shirt. Apparently, that's how much they're prepared to pay him for his services. Milan, meanwhile, stand to get well over 200 million dollars (107 million pounds) if they consent.

There is absolutely no way any player is worth that much. No. Way. This is totally insane. And if I were AC Milan, I would take the money and laugh uproariously as I spent it retooling the entire midfield and defense. If they don't approve this deal, they're making a terrible mistake. Throw him out the door if you have to, just GET THAT MONEY!

Some might say that Kaka shouldn't leave for the money when he'd be leaving one of the most storied clubs in world football for a team struggling to avoid relegation in its domestic league. But then again, necklaces made out of the crystallized tears of 50 beautiful Brazilian virgins aren't cheap. GET MONEY!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't Count Out Liverpool... Yet

Chelsea may have started the season as favorites, and Liverpool were in the driver's seat at the start of the new year, but United's romp to victory on Sunday has everyone talking threepeat. And for good reason. That performance screamed statement game. Juan noted in his last post that United are going to run away with the league. Hell, my Chelsea-supporting friend even texted me from Kenya (I hope that doesn't show up on my bill...) to express his own conviction on that point. Frankly, I don't know if they'll run away with it, but I agree with Fernando that the Red Devils are back to being odds-on favorites.

The only thing that has kept me from "crowning their asses," so to speak, is that I still think Liverpool have what it takes. I recognize that's certainly not the prevailing view at the moment, especially after the Stoke performance, but let's assess all the factors.

Pool are currently top of the league. They're just now bringing Torres back to full fitness. Keane, a bust for most of the first half, showed some signs that he was coming back to life near the end of the year. That's a lot of potential striking power up there. Riera has provided much-needed width. Babel is a nice weapon to be held in reserve and can run at tired legs in the second half. Alonso (noticeably absent against Stoke) has returned to his form of three, four years ago and I can no longer guffaw sarcastically after I refer to him as the "best passing midfielder in the world." These days it's more of a rueful chuckle. He's actually getting back there.

What I like most about them is the absurd depth they have at CB. In this respect, they are the anti-Arsenal. Carragher is still extremely solid, and what's more, he's so well-respected (some would say "overrated") by officials that he gets at least one massive no-call every two games. Hyypia is an ageless wonder, brilliant in the air. Skrtel is on his way to becoming Nemanja Vidic Pt. 2, and not just because he's a scary Eastern European man with no neck. He's strong in the air and tackles well. Dan Agger is an extremely skilled defender who is being kept out of the side by a 35 year old. Need I say more?

Really, their only weakness is at the wingback positions. Aurelio and Arbeloa are hardly a dreamteam back there. And with the promising Emiliano Insua (this kid is legit) away on international duty for a month or so, that's a big blow. But Carragher can always deputize on the right if someone gets hurt or loses form.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that one guy who plays in midfield. You know, the one who's always sort of scowling? He looks like he's playing with something very sour in his mouth. Anyway, he's pretty good. And he always seems to score goals at exactly the moment they're needed. What was his name? Crap, I'll have to get back to you on that one.

At any rate, I think there's enough there to sustain a legitimate title challenge. And frankly, I hope they can. But mark your calendars for March 14, 2009. Manchester United vs. Liverpool. If Pool win at Old Trafford, they win the league. You heard it here first.

PS: Juan, that quote offends me. The only Double Arsenal are going to accomplish (especially if they enter February sans a certain Russian playmaker) is the double of finishing outside the Champions League qualifying spots and being dumped out of said competition by a resurgent Roma squad. Or put another way, the Double of me being both drunk and angry.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Perfect Fit

Andrei Arshavin was born for Wenger Ball. He's a more attacking, less likely to leave for Madrid Cesc Fabregas and he belongs in Arsenal red. Think about a midfield core of Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas and Arshavin in a pass first, asphyxiate you offensive system. On paper it seems like a defensively liability, but Cesc and Samir are quietly great defenders. Fabregas owns Gerrard, Ballack and Lampard and my preliminary criticism of Samir is that he's in the defensive end too much. This is to say nothing of Arshavin's defense, of which I know very little, and the fastest man in the EPL in Theo Walcott. And let's face it, poor midfield defense typically manifests itself as a lack of overall possession, something that Arsenal never lacks. Also, from what I've seen the past few seasons, Arsenal's center backs and sometimes outside backs tend to be the reason the Gunners concede.

If there is justice in this world Arshavin will realize his calling as ring-bearer and not become gollum on Manchester City. Or, if Arsene wants a good nights sleep at any point during 2009 he'll realize his true love in Andrei and finally spend some money.

He's your favorite player - is what I told Jim when Bendtner strolled onto the pitch against Bolton. Before our laughter had died down from all the Bendtner-blows jokes his first touch was a soaring header, the most threatening play thus far. His next seven touches were all turnovers. I'm not exaggerating - the crowd gave him a mock "hurrayyyy!" when he completed a meaningless 10 foot pass as it was his first success.

Then he did what Nicklas Bendtner often does. He found himself on the receiving end of a semi-asking cross, this time from Van Persie, and with a terrible angle and a Bolt draped all over him he punched it home. Bendtner does this on purpose. He waits for the moment when everyone is convinced he should never see grass in England again and then scores. He'll score one more important goal in the near future and then go to the media for more playing time. Don't be surprised this time.

Who's in crisis now... bitch. Said the Arsenal supporter to Chelsea Nation. 2 wins in their last 8 games is, wait for it, worse than Arsenal. Not to mention the fortress Stamford Bridge is looking more like the Verruca fortress. If the world* is ready to declare Arsenal as the next Titanic, then Chelsea is currently the Hindenburg. The truth is that all of the big four are struggling this year. Aston Villa is solid this year, Tottenham, Citeh, Stoke, Hull are all capable of something fishy, and Everton/Portsmouth isn't exactly a guaransheed. The annoying part about all of this is that United is gonna run away with the EPL for the same reason they usually do - depth. That and 4 games in hand, Rafa was right. Eff United.

*I don't count, its been established my mood swings are worth publication

Fancy Seeing You Here

And we're back. We apologize for any inconveniences. You see, every now and then Jim and I take life too seriously and it leads to silly things like not posting for 50 days... even when we have alot to write about. Let's get right to it -

Manchester Citeh - While they may be small time now, TLOCA doesn't think that will last for long. Relevant competition, namely ManU, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Pool will not match Citeh during this year's transfer window. Chelsea has openly stated they're not making any splashes - Abromavich may be feeling this so called global crisis, who knows, but Big Phil has everyone he wants. ManU is currently holding the Double, I can't imagine they're gonna shake things up. Arsenal's spending, or lack thereof, needs no further elaboration. That leaves Liverpool, who for all practical purposes is Citigroup in this anxious atmosphere of bank runs - trying desperately to stay afloat, succeeding with good forsight, but liable to collapse at any time.

So that leaves Citeh as the only representative of the prestigious English Premier League at the transfer window party. Anyone that has ever been good at soccer is currently linked to ManCity but if they acquire even a minimal fraction of that talent pool they'll be scary. Robinho seems as comfortable as Lil Wayne in the VIP section of a club with a grocery bag full of money. Lets just suppose they pick up Craig Bellamy, Santa Cruz, not exactly long shots, and a surprise transfer in David Villa. Can this team still be ignored? I realize they're currently sitting NewCastle right now, that is to say mid-table, and staring at 22 points, but this saudi prince and his ridiculous fat stack isn't going anywhere. And finishing NewCastle (midtable) is likely to make matters more pressing during the transfer window. I'm worried, that's all I'm sayin.

*Yes Arsenal is Bear Stearn, Chelsea is Lehmans and ManU probably JPMorgan.

Juande Ramos - well I think it's safe to say Tottenham made a mistake here. If you break up with a dude and a week later he's seen dating Gisele, you probably made a mistake. Real clearly saw something there and even though La Liga has been decided already I can see Juande sticking around for quite some time. Real Madrid just got a bit stale after success, kinda like what ManU is likely to do this year and perhaps next. Once they get Cristi and Fabregas though they'll be peach.

Speaking of Tottenham - I think they're Euro2008 stars are beginning to gel, and that's a bad thing for Arsenal. Pavyluchenko, seen to your right, is so hot right now and Luca Modric isn't slouching either. I bet they take home Carling and finish the season on a positive note. As Wayne would say, they let the beat build.

Free kick spray - this isn't getting enough attention. If it actually works it seems like a brilliant idea. I can see Euro 2012 implementing it in full and it catching fire from there. The Euro's have tried zanier things before - kinda like showing yellow to anyone that shoves during corner kicks. Granted, the corner kick crack down lasted about as long as the high strike - something I still call for to this day - but hey, the creeping must stop.

Arsenal for the Double - During my 50 day sabbatical I jotted down short notes that would remind me of a subject I wanted to write about. This was one of them. Um, so yeah, some time in previous 50 days I had a convincing argument for Arsenal at the Double. Yeah

101 great goals dot com. If you haven't stumbled on this site before, make a point to do it now. I used to scrap for highlights, now I just use this site. It's not blocked on my government computer either so I imagine you can check it out at work.

Spain and Germany get no love. The lack of coverage for La Liga and the Bundes is stark. Although La Liga is already decided the Bundes is anyone's game. TLOCA will make a point from here on out to cover more of the Bundesliga.

The Champions League Draw - One of the most impressive, anticipated match-ups for an entire round. I can't wait to watch them all. Every single tie.

In the meantime this is a fairly big weekend for the EPL, TLOCA will check back in after what should be a very entertaining sports weekend.