Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why English football is a poorer place since Thierry Henry left Arsenal

A brilliant footballer who will go down as an Arsenal legend and arguably the best foreigner we've ever had in this country.

But from a football journalist's and media point of view, they don't make them like him anymore.

Why David Moyes is not the right man to boss Manchester United

In recent weeks, there has been much talk of Ferguson's successor at Manchester United, sparked by Rio Ferdinand's endorsement of Jose Mourinho. The reaction to that has been the championing of a domestic candidate, most popularly the impressive David Moyes, manager of Everton. Therein the conundrum: how can the career of a manager punching above his weight at a small club prepare him for the Premier League's upper echelons?

Arsene Wenger's feuds: From Phil Brown to Sir Alex Ferguson

From Big Sam, Sir Alex, the Special One and even Alan Pardew, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been involved in some much-publicised spats in the past.

Rafael Benitez signs new Liverpool contract until 2014

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has finally ended speculation over his future, signing a four-year contract extension worth around £20 million that will keep him at Anfield until 2014.

Rafa is pleased with the deal...

Vancouver Awarded The 17th MLS Franchise

It was a proud day for the city of Vancouver as Major League Soccer awarded them their 17th franchise.

Canales: Another One Bites on Turf

Home, Sweet Home...

The 50 Greatest Tottenham Hotspur Players

42 Darren Anderton

1992-2004, 358 appearances, 48 goals

One of the few men to have donated his body to medical science while still alive. “Sicknote” won 30 England caps while changing from a quick winger with a fine cross, as shown in the final goal against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in 1994, to a ball-winning central midfield player with good distribution. The goals at Highbury in 1993, when he carried the ball from the halfway line, and against Leeds United in 1999 showed that Anderton could score as well as create but injuries prevented the true fulfilment of “Shaggy’s” talent.

The Rest

If we really do have The Most Exciting League™ in the world, why has 0-0 been the prevailing result in the top flight this year?

Why have there been so many goalless draws in the Premier League this season?

Charlton Athletic were once hailed as the 'perfect' little Premier League club – then they over-achieved

Bright lights are fading fast in The Valley of gloom.

USA: Major League Soccer Returns

Carlisle: In lieu of Beckham, other MLS stars will step to the fore.

McCarthy: MLS Award Predictions

Power Rankings Predictions

Rogers: Tough Challenges Ahead for MLS

Top 10 Story Lines

Ives: Sellout crowd ready to embrace Seattle's debut

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Classy Neville shows his green fingers

It looks like Gary Neville's class isn't restricted to the green grass of the football pitch, but also extends to the garden. Man U's own Capability Brown has delighted the neighbours with his whimsical design.

Neville has shrubbery at £7m mansion shaped into 'MUFC'

Another of Cesc as Arthur Fonzarelli

It's just too good...

Brian Clough: a great manager whose reign at Leeds was damned from the start

Norman Hunter, the hard-man Leeds United defender under Don Revie in the late 1960s and early 1970s, gives his verdict on The Damned United, which has its premiere this evening.

Inzaghi Finds Greatness in Greed

The Italian is the equivalent of footballing marmite, but his value to his team cannot be underestimated.

300 goals or not, he'll always be The Diving Twat...

Germany's Surprise Package Team

Perhaps there is an air of inevitability to Hoffenheim's recent drop from first to fifth position in the German Bundesliga table, but it is important to remember just how far this team has come in such a short time.

Quotes & Chants of the Week

"It is a hard one to take because I thought we were the better team and the score does not reflect that."
Sir Alex Ferguson goes all Comical Ali on us after Manchester United's 4-1 thumping by Liverpool.

"We've got three away games coming up where we cover 1,200 miles in just a few days. If we win all of them, I'll show my backside on Sheffield Town Hall steps."
Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock. Thankfully Burnley did the good people of Sheffield a huge favour.

"I haven't seen a Madrid side this bad since I managed them!"
John Toshack on the Liverpool-Real Madrid match. Quality! He's not wrong either.

"It's an easy excuse (tiredness) but I won't use it. Today was not Andrew Surman's best game for us and I think he is suffering from fatigue like a lot of our players."
Southampton boss Mark Wotte, clearly not using tiredness as an excuse.

"It will be a game of football, no question."
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, ahead of Wolves v Ipswich on Central Tonight news.

"When the ball hits your head and you sit in row Z, that's Zamora!"
Chant heard at Bolton v Fulham to the tune of 'That's Amore'.

The Rest

Nicola Legrottaglie Insists 'Homosexuality Is A Sin'

"As a Christian I would advise gay people to read the Bible, and for those who are interested, my meetings on Mondays are open to them.

"Gays who have a wife and kids nowadays are taking things too far," he opined.

FA Cup: Arsenal 2 - 1 Hull City


Cesc Fàbregas accused in spitting row

Petulant outpourings mar memory of compelling encounter

Player Ratings

Not Happy Days for The Fonz...

Spanish Inquisition: Eleven Teams With Eleven Matches For Survival

The season is nearing it's climax in Spain and with eleven matches to go, looks at the relegation battle that is engulfing the bottom-half of the table...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SSN Big Fat MLS Preview

Ah springtime. The mud is muddy, you feel fat because you're breaking out the light clothes after a winter of sloth, there's another story about A-Rod doing something stupid in Florida and the MLS regular season deathmarch begins. North America's seventh most popular professional sport will offer up a lot of what you've come to expect by now: a long mostly pointless regular season in which the matches are spaced too far apart and most of the teams get into the playoffs, a new playoff format which you won't understand, a whole bunch of roster moves prompted by the arcane and ever-changing waiver and salary cap rules, a bunch of former stars from Europe and South America showing up to cash easy checks and finding themselves kicked off the park, a pointless All Star game and a public that gets way more worked up over August exhibition matches with European giants moving at half speed than meaningful matches with divisional rivals. It will all be capped by the crowning of a champion that got hot at the right time and rode their luck rather than grinding out the most wins. So bring it on already! What follows is a team-by-team capsule of the league and some predictions which Sanford is going to guarantee to the tune of $100/per, to be collected at default time by anyone with the stones to ask. Here are the previews ranked in order of last season's finish:

East Division

Columbus Crew
Last year's deserved champion, they pulled an unusual feat for an MLS team- they won the Supporter's Shield (awarded to the team with the best regular season record, this exists so that fans of teams who win it can complain that the playoffs are bullshit after they don't win MLS Cup as well). Guillermo Barros Schelotto was easily the league's best player and Frankie Hedjuk was easily the league's most annoying hippie. They made the smart move of lowballing coach Sigi Schmidt who promptly took a better offer from Seattle. They're not going to take anyone by surprise this season but they should be pretty solid.

Chicago Fire
The Fire started their 2008 season lukewarm, got worse, signed Brian McBride and proceeded to scare the hell out of everybody. They ultimately lost to a better Crew team in the away leg of the East Division championship while New Jersey was spanking Real Salt Lake. Q: Why were New York playing a worse team in a different division despite having a much worse record? A: Who the fuck knows? Anyway, this team returns pretty much unchanged. They had the league's best defensive record and a full season of McBride and Blanco with the dangerous Chris Rolfe and promising second year player Patrick Nyarko should produce the goals. I am picking them to finish best in the East because I've got season tickets and that's what I do.

Prince and the New England Revolution
They had a tough year in '08- they started the year with no Taylor Twellman due to injury and they limped into the playoffs without Steve Ralston. They lost Michael Parkhurst, one of the best outside defenders in the league. They're going to be worse, sez I.

Kansas City Wizards
Last year's Argentine star, Claudio Lopez, was largely disappointing. This year's Argentine star, Santiago Hirsig, hopes to do better. If this team is going to do anything Josh Wolff will need to score a lot. Draw your own conclusions.

New Jersey Metro Donkeys
This team played in the final last fall because of the idiotic seeding system set up at league office. Steaming fucking load. Coach Juan Judas Osorio turned over most of the roster this winter. Fuck him and fuck this team.

DC United
Whiniest fans in MLS had a lot to cry about last year. They shipped out former MVP Christian Gomez and brought in big shot Argentine Marcelo Gallardo, who didn't show much stomach for the fight. He's gone back south and they brought back Gomez who finished last season on the bench in Denver. They're moving the team to the suburbs. Good luck with that.

Snobronto FC
Toronto's fans pride themselves on being the best in the league, because Toronto is more "European", whatever that means. Apparently being the best involves fighting with traveling fans (the few that are given the opportunity to buy tickets under TFC's beloved "Fuck Them" policy), trashing public transport and drinking a lot so as to ignore how much their team loses. They brought in Canadian superstar Dwayne DeRosario and they've done a fair amount of overhauling on the roster. They're a fashionable pick in the east right now but I'm not buying it- you don't just build a whole new team and expect to win right out of the gate. Well not a whole new team- Danny Dichio is back!

West Division

Houston Dynamo
Last year the defending champs played in too many competitions and they crapped up most of them. They began badly in the league and improved enough to win this horrible division, then lost in the first round of the playoffs. They lost their playmaker. Can't see them doing as well this year, but you never know.

Chivas USA
Showed improvement last year, then lost their keeper. Still relying on Razov for goals. Their playmaker, Sacha Klejstan, is the most hot and cold player in the league, and he's looking to head to Europe in the summer. They'll make the playoffs.

Real Madrid (Salt Lake)
Last year was their first trip to the playoffs and they were respectable, losing to a Metrodonkeys team that had no business being there. Some people like them this year, some people don't. When forced to evaluate this team's chances I tend toward Bartleby, the Scrivener: "I would prefer not to."

Colorado Arsenal Rapids
Why can't they get their shit together? I don't really care. No playoffs.

FC Dallas Burn
See the Colorado entry for a succinct summary on this team.

Jewel of MLS
Ha ha ha. Worst in '07, worst in '08, get ready for worst in '09. Half of their salary is tied up in two players who don't want to be there, one of whom is going to miss at least half of the season. They don't have a good striker, their starting CB is ancient and barely played between 2005-07. They're starting rookies in key positions. They're expecting a big year out of Eddie Lewis. Bruce Arena is a fat jerk. Have fun watching the Lakers and the Dodgers, LA sport fans.

San Jose Natural Disasters
So they don't draw well, they move the team to Houston and then give San Jose an expansion team two years later. I don't get it. In '08 they were lively but bad and their big player was the mighty Darren Huckerby. Instead of doing the right thing and trying to sign the rest of that Leeds team (Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Woodgate at the back, Viduka and Fowler at the front, David Batty breaking the legs and Harry Kewell dazzing on the wing) they went out and bought the oldest broken down 25 year old in pro soccer, Bobby Convey. I never saw it with him- he's fast but makes poor decisions, doesn't have a great touch and doesn't strike the ball all that well. They're going to lose a lot again in '09.

Seattle FC Sounders
Seattle's ownership group is talking a big game, saying they're going to be the best expansion team ever. Sorry, that title will always belong to the amazing '98 Fire squad. They brought in Freddie Ljundberg, a great but injury-prone player four years past his prime who hasn't played a full season since about 2002. And they're asking him to play on astroturf. If nothing else he'll look stunning on the billboards and singlehandedly finance a local production of "Mamma Mia!" They'll have great goalkeeping with Kasey Keller but I think that will be about it. Drew Carrey is slowly morphing into a cross between Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres. Sigi Schmidt has looked like that for years, it's a match made in heaven. At least attendance will be good.

Playoff Predictions
Playoffs: Chicago, Columbus, Toronto, KC / Houston, RSL, Dallas, San Jose (NOTE: at least one team from the West will qualify with a losing record)
Finals: Chicago / RSL
MLS Champ: Chicago in a walk.

FA Cup Preview: Arsenal - Hull City

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Kick-off 19:45

Emirates Stadium, Ashburton Grove, London N5
This delayed FA Cup sixth round tie will determine who will meet Chelsea in a Wembley semi-final next month.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

While Andriy Voronin continues to front Hertha Berlin's unlikely Bundesliga challenge, bitter divorce threatens to cloud Claudio Pizarro's future.

Thrifty Hertha take charge thanks to Voronin's 'sexy' football.

Americans In The UK: Dempsey Helping Fulham Thrive

Clint Dempsey had a big week in England, scoring the only goal for the Cottagers on Wednesday, while also notching a helper in Saturday’s thumping of Bolton.

The Rest

Americans On The Continent: Bradley Bags a Brace

Michael Bradley continued his recent excellent form for relegation strugglers Borussia Monchengladbach over the weekend. The New Jersey-born midfielder scored a pair of goals to lead M’Gladbach to victory over FC Cologne.

The Rest

Sid Lowe in Spain

Bojan Krkic's career appeared to be stalling horribly after a rapid rise up the ranks, but his touch is returning.

Bojan the boy wonder is reborn as Barça's fortunes revive.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The Old Lady's young playmaker underlined his potential in the hammering of Bologna to bring respite to Claudio Ranieri after a turbulent week.

Giovinco rises above the rancour to lift Juve's mood.

Kevin McCarra: Manchester United look untouchable in the league but may be stung in the Champions League

Manchester United's weaknesses can be exploited best by rivals in Europe.

England: Premier League Report

West Ham 0 - 0 West Brom

Matthew Upson injury muddies the waters for Fabio Capello

Eduardo Alvarez in Spain

Mallorca's José Manuel Jurado got the ball just outside the right-hand side of Espanyol's penalty box. He looked at Sergio Sánchez, the defending fullback, dribbled to his right and slotted a splendid shot into the top left-hand corner of Kameni's goal.

Good Manners

Drew Carey full of ideas as owner in MLS

Visiting the museum at FC Barcelona's stadium a couple years ago, comedian Drew Carey heard the tour guide say something about the fans voting for a new team president.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Morten Gamst Pedersen's Dive

An utter disgrace...

Sam Wallace: Players' hatred of rival clubs is justified by unspeakable abuse they receive

Among the fans' chants in and around Old Trafford on Saturday there was the one about Rio Ferdinand being a "smackhead" and another about Fernando Torres wearing a "frock" (the rest is unprintable, even given The Independent's liberal editorial policy). Wayne Rooney got the "fat granny shagger" abuse and Steven Gerrard was the "Chelsea rent boy".

Tevez Saga Finally Over: Key Events

Key events in the dispute between Sheffield United and West Ham United over Argentina striker Carlos Tevez that was settled out of court on Monday.

Martin Rogers Column: Is Premiership Headed for Big Finish?

If last weekend proves to be a vital step in breathing life back into an English Premier League race that appeared to be drifting to a predictable and anticlimactic conclusion, it will have everything to do with the personality traits of the primary combatants.

Michael Bradley Interview

Prior to the derby with Koeln on Saturday, secured an exclusive interview with Moenchengladbach’s American star Michael Bradley.
Part I

The day after his two-goal heroics in the Rhein-derby against rivals Koeln, brings you the second part of an exclusive interview with Michael Bradley.
Part II

Spain: La Liga Weekend Roundups



Italy: Serie A Weekend Roundups + Team of the Week



Team of the Week

Two shot as Boca fans fight amongst themselves

Media reports said rival factions of the Boca supporters group known as The 12 clashed in an area of fast food restaurants known as Parque Lezama.

England: Premier League Reports, Review, Table

Chelsea 1 - 0 Manchester City
Essien sends Chelsea into second place

Arsenal 4 - 0 Blackburn

Arshavin inspires Gunners

Everton 3 - 1 Stoke
Fellaini steps up for Blues

Bolton 1 - 3 Fulham
No excuses for Megson


Team GP W D L Pts
1. 28 20 5 3 65
2. 29 18 7 4 61
3. 29 17 10 2 61
4. 29 14 10 5 52
5. 29 15 7 7 52
6. 29 13 9 7 48
7. 28 11 6 11 39
8. 29 10 8 11 38
9. 29 9 10 10 37
10. 29 10 5 14 35
11. 29 9 8 12 35
12. 29 10 3 16 33
13. 29 8 9 12 33
14. 29 8 8 13 32
15. 29 7 9 13 30
16. 29 6 11 12 29
17. 28 7 8 13 29
18. 29 7 8 14 29
19. 29 6 9 14 27
20. 28 6 4 18 22

England: Manchester United 1 - 4 Liverpool

Manchester United fall into Liverpool's trap

Torres supreme in Liverpool's win

Humiliated Ferguson laments TV scheduling

Richard Jolly at Villa Park

Aston Villa 1 - 2 Tottenham

Spurs halt Villa's push for Champions League