Wednesday, September 14, 2011
They might not be able to pass their way past Barcelona, but Stoke can still prosper in Europe's secondary competition.
Manchester City vs. Napoli
Inter Milan vs. Trabzonspor
Inter defense under scrutiny
Benfica vs. Manchester United
What could have been a landmark weekend in the seasons of three first-choice U.S. national team midfielders turned out to be nothing more than a wait-till-next-time occasion.
Jermaine Jones remained an afterthought at Schalke despite not being moved during the recent transfer window; Michael Bradley failed to see the field in his first game as a member of Chievo Verona in Italy; and Stuart Holden's anticipated comeback to Bolton's first team was put on hold for at least another week.
The creation of the Superclasico de las Americas - a new competition which, if given its official suffix of 'Copa Doctor Nicolas Leoz' also includes the name of the CONMEBOL president - has given South America another clash between Brazil and Argentina.
Barcelona 2 - 2 AC Milan
Sid Lowe at Camp Nou
Chelsea 2 - 0 Bayer Leverkusen
Richard Williams at Stamford Bridge
Jason Burt at Stamford Bridge
Borussia Dortmund 1 - 1 Arsenal
Henry Winter at Signal Iduna Park
Kevin McCarra at Signal Iduna Park
David Hytner at Signal Iduna Park
Villas-Boas is so young that it's worth considering there are still jobbing players in the Champions League his age (33) or older this season. We're not just talking about faded, bit-part hangers-on either. This XI illustrates not just Villas-Boas' remarkable youth relative to the field he commands, but also the staying power of some of the best players of their generation.
On a cool early evening in Manchester, high above a city that now defines his new world, Sergio Agüero and a football are inseparable. He cradles the ball as he talks, stroking it with a smile whenever he sounds exuberant or intrigued by the latest twist in a journey that has taken him from a rough quarter of Buenos Aires to Madrid and now Manchester. Here, in an old English industrial city that has audaciously reinvented itself, Agüero has begun his latest adventure with a deadly flourish.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
This is just a little addendum to Bobby's comments about the Arsenal / Swansea game. I was also at the match, so here's my take...
Above it was a bit of a turgid affair which, on the whole, must have disappointed most Arsenal fans. Okay the Gunners won, but if they can't beat Swansea, with their open, attacking style, then things really are bleak.
At the back I don't really share Bob's opinion that 'the Mertersacker/Koscielny pairing shows immense promise'. We are talking Swansea here. His lack of pace meant Mertersacker was caught the wrong side a couple of times, once requiring a great Szczesny parry to bail him out. But he at least understands how to defend. There was one tackle, in which he robbed his opponent with the proper side-on technique that should be shown to the rest of the Arsenal defense 10 times a day. So he should do well with Vermaelen. It's not that Koscielny is a bad player, but I'm not sure he'll ever be top class. He always looks so nervous, which can't make for the best partner. The upcoming Dortmund and Spurs games will be truer tests of the pairing.
As Bob mentioned, the main problem was in midfield, where there was a general lack of movement. With everything too static, van Persie kept dropping back to get into the game. Swansea's job was then made easy as Arsenal had all their players in such a small area. Arteta is a finder, meaning those around him have to make runs, not stand around waiting for something to happen. But as usual, Walcott didn't take the initiative and Arshavin was just too bloody lazy. So there was no penetration. Up front, I don't know why Wenger didn't change things later in the game by playing two forwards.
Swansea were impressive considering they only lost due to a keeper fuck-up. They probably regret waiting until the last 10 minutes of the game to play the more direct football which made Arsenal nervous.
One thing that disappointed was the fact the game was a 'sell out', but one in five seats were empty.
Another week, another opportunity to watch live soccer matches each day between Tuesday and Thursday. The key phrase for soccer fans this week is "Champions League," as UEFA and CONCACAF action resumes. Fans graced with either multiple televisions or the ability to view FOX Soccer channels on their mobile devices could watch up to three live matches at once on Tuesday and Wednesday, and there's also late night soccer on TV each day during the midweek.
Barcelona vs. AC Milan
Chelsea vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal
Raphael Honigstein: Dortmund hoping for Arsenal lift
Oguchi Onyewu –
Oguchi Onyewu finally made his debut for Sporting over the weekend, playing well in a start and getting 90 minutes as the Lions scored three goals in the last 15 minutes to beat Pacos Ferreira 3-2 in the Portuguese Super Liga.
It's bizarre that Barcelona's 2-2 draw at Socieded has led some to think La Liga isn't that unbalanced, when it clearly is.
Reports of La Liga's demise were exaggerated – but not that exaggerated.
The secret, dark machinations of the Bundesliga fixture list could be why Bayern Munich are off to a flyer this season.
Why are Bayern Munich having so much fun in the Bundesliga?
There were 35 goals in the opening weekend but unfortunately for Inter coach Gian Piero Gasperini, four came against his side.
Serie A arrives with a bang and Gasperini is already feeling the heat.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Former Newcastle man Joey Barton's debut is expected to provide added spice to the Magpies' Premier League trip to QPR on Monday evening.
Georgina Turner's Review
Stoke City 1 - 0 Liverpool
Sachin Nakrani at the Britannia Stadium
Arsenal 1 - 0 Swansea
Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium
Bolton 0 - 5 Manchester United
Richard Jolly at the Reebok Stadium
Team of the Week
How the new boys fared
Five Things We Learned
Jurgen's next XI: The most deserving lineup of players yet to make an appearance under Jurgen Klinsmann
A lineup of players who should be receiving their first caps under the new boss sooner rather than later.
Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Nick and Bobbie enjoy a day out...
Two weeks ago Arsene Wenger soiled thousands of perfectly pleasant family Sunday afternoons by leading his hapless squad of kids and veterans to slaughter in Manchester. I happened to be in Milwaukee for a beach weekend which ended with my entering a sulk so deep and dark that I was incapable of eating or even speaking to my family members. Wenger's reaction was a transfer day shopping spree in which he loaded up players that many have judged to be second rate. Due to fortunate circumstances I found myself in London for the Gunner's first match since those infamous events and I among millions waited with baited breath to see how the reshaped squad would respond.
I was set to rendezvous with my tickets guy, a longtime season ticket holder, at The Twelve Pins pub, a classic match day meeting place near Highbury stadium. I was reminded somewhat of my last visit to the old Detroit Tigers stadium-- a century's worth of local history had lost its immediate locus but the institutions themselves soldiered on. I still hadn't shaken the funk that had taken hold of me while watching the 8-2, but walking through the Gunners gear-wearing crowd to the bar I had a revelation-- in mostly watching these matches by myself or with casual fans I had few people with whom to connect and share genuine feelings about the given outcome, resulting in my developing an overly negative outlook about the team even when they were winning. It felt truly comforting to be amongst the true fans and to share in their optimism about the club. While they're in a bad patch and have dug themselves into a sizable hole in trying to finish fourth (even the most stalwart fans will admit that contending for titles is out of the immediate question), the fans still believe in the club and the manager and have hope for the future. Or alternately perhaps that warm feeling was due to mixing beer, jet lag and four hours of sleep.
After linking up with my group and finishing a few more beverages we all set out for the Emirates. As we neared Highbury the fans took over the roadway, walking down the middle with little concern for traffic. Highbury itself has a very different look about it since the renovations were completed, though even so its relatively low profile is a huge contrast to the monolithic Emirates. Our seats, while in the upper deck, were excellent as always. There are no bad seats at the Emirates and it's still as stunning now as it was when it opened four years ago. What followed could at best be described as a nervous and uncertain display, though a timely goal after a freakish mix-up between a defender and the Swansea gave the Gunners the three points they so desperately needed.
Rather than recap, I'll give you readers a handful of observations. The team played well in the first half, generally keeping the ball and getting into a variety of promising but rather nonthreatening positions. In the second half they were just rotten. Emmanuel Frimpong tackled very well and his positional play was good but he seemed hopeless as soon as he won the ball, continually giving it away all over the pitch. He shows immense promise but has a long way to go before he's close to the finished article. He seemed more mobile than Alex Song and in time may develop into a more well rounded player. Aaron Ramsey was terrible from start to finish. He was less involved than in previous games and his passing was terrible. He seems short of confidence in his new role as the focus of midfield. Arteta played a simple and effective game in the first half but was dire in the second before coming off. The Mertersacker/Koscielny pairing shows immense promise. Mertersacker was as slow as advertised but was always in the right place and tackled very well. Koscielny looked liberated by having a solid player behind him and was free to play a much more aggressive role than we've seen in the past, to great effect. Theo Walcott had a terrible game and Andrei Arshavin continues to look out of shape and lazy despite his wonderful finish for the decisive goal. To say Robin Van Persie looked frustrated by the service he got would be an understatement. He kept dropping deeper on the pitch to get involved and was thus often too far from goal to look dangerous.
Benayoun came on in the second half and looked like the player I remember from Portsmouth- neat touches and nice running on the ball but nothing resembling a final product. Wojciech Szczesny was immense and saved Arsenal's bacon numerous times in the second half as Swansea grew in confidence, looking fantastic collecting crosses and making a critical save in injury time. His emergence is easily the best thing that's happened for the club over the last year. Finally Maroune Chamakh came on to the field and looked decent at collecting and distributing the ball without ever looking like a dangerous player. He needs a goal in the worst way to get him back on track.
Taken objectively it was actually a fairly ugly match, but as a depressed fan I must say it was a wonderful day. Feeling the love of the crowd as they sang "We love you Arsenal" and observing the dedication and optimism of the fans in and around the ground worked wonders for my own feelings about the club. And of course at the end of the day there's just nothing like bagging the first win of the season to restore a little bit of faith. Watch this space as Sanford himself should be giving a report on the next home game against Michael Bolton's Wanderers.