Friday, August 25, 2006

The Insider at White Hart Lane

Champions League Draw

Group A will obviously provide the most drama here. Besides the obvious Barca/Chelsea match-up, Bremen is a great side that plays attractive soccer and will be tough to beat. It's the only group with three teams that could all finish top. -Sanford

Phil Ball in Spain: Season Preview

Great to have Mr. Ball back on the scene now that the siesta is over.

Lawro's Premiership Predictions

Friday's rumours,,1858308,00.html

Marcus Hahnemann Interview

The USA keeper likes Tool and American Chopper...,,1857373,00.html

Premiership Preview

365 Q & A with Chicago's C.J. Brown

Kevin Nolan column

Turns out Kevin Nolan's just a regular bloke! Wow!

A trip to the Emirates

A trip to the Emirates
Baab Sullivan
The News/Sanford's Soccer Net Chicago Correspondent

We cabbed up to Islington and got out at Highbury to have a look at the old ground, en route being treated to a lecture by our cabbie about how Sven had no understanding of the English game or players. We were impressed at how integrated the old place is with the surrounding buildings; you'd have no idea it was there if you were a block away. It was still ringed with vendors selling shirts, burgers and the like, and there were a good number of people loitering outside. A quick peek through a crack in the fence revealed a lower deck short of seats and heavy machinery everywhere. We ducked into the Bank of Friendship for a few pints and a game of "Spot Nick Hornby"; by the time we left the bar we'd spotted at least 15 different Hornby's including 5 of them sitting in a row along the wall.

Emirates stadium really couldn't be any more different; it dominates the skyline and approaching it from any direction requires a trip across one of several foot bridges which span what looks like a wasteland of construction slag. Most of the exterior of the place is glass and a good number of the structural beams are visible. Apparently tickets are a thing of the past; there was security at every gate but entry is granted through a card reader which scans your club card and allows you to pass through a massive turnstile. This is probably meant to deter scalping, and it's true that there were no tickets for sale outside the stadium anywhere. It didn't stop us though; the tout we used delivered the membership cards (Mr & Mrs Joe Carson) with an addressed & stamped envelope so that we could return them to him.

Just inside the gate is the Arsenal bookie where you can place any number of wagers on the day's match. We decided Arsenal 3-0 at 6-1 was the right bet. Pure genius, 10 pounds down the toilet. Next stop was at the concession stand where we picked up a couple of pies; solid but not amazing. Finally we proceeded to the seats. We were close to the front of the top tier at a corner and frankly the view was amazing. Despite the size the stadium manages to be very intimate and the roof covering the seating (50% clear so hopefully the pitch doesn't turn into an abomination like the San Siro) makes for a ton of fan noise. We were seated directly above the traveling Croatian fans who provided incredible support. Their range of chants and songs filled the stadium throughout the match and the home fans never really got on voice (the exception being a rousing version of "why aren't you singing" after Arsenal's first goal).

The match itself was somewhat uninspiring; Wenger sent out a fairly young lineup and Zagreb did a great job of keeping possession. Notable inclusions were Flamini in the middle (didn't look bad but he's no Gilberto and Fabregas had to do a lot more defensive work), Justin Hoyte (ok in defense, dire in possession) and Adebyour (no first touch, wasted a number of fine chances). Captain Freddie was inspirational, he and Hleb covered a ton of ground. The Wenger system has the wide players cut into the middle and swap flanks a great deal, but to work properly it requires very active backs and Justin Hoyte just wasn't up to the task so the left flank was largely unutilized.

Zagreb deservedly scored early on and the Gunners were left to chase the match, largely toothlessly. With about 30 minutes to go Wenger decided to go for the win, first bringing on Gilberto and pairing him with Flamini in the middle, then Henry and finally Theo, who got the loudest ovation of the evening. With the stars on the field the ship was quickly righted, Freddie bringing things level with a nice header and Flamini tapping in a Walcott cross at the death to seal the win.

The home fans left happy, especially warmed by the scoreboard announcement of Chelski's loss to Middlesbrough. On the way out we were treated to the site of a very drunk and skanky young woman dressed like Madonna circa 1986 who was doing her best to show the crowd her lacy pink thong. She lurched into my path as we were leaving the footbridge and I looked in her direction just long enough to see her nipple pop out of her shirt. Yuck.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Boro beat Chelsea as United go clear at the top;_ylt=AhfFoOhHsgOF8Va5w1OLym8mw7YF?slug=reu-england&prov=reuters&type=lgns

Keane to take over as Sunderland manager;_ylt=AqoieNCn9sjj9vhRjBIw6Gcmw7YF?slug=reu-keane&prov=reuters&type=lgns

FC Copenhagen, Levski Sofia join Champions League elite

Wenger: Walcott forcing his way in

Dempsey's ambition outgrows MLS

Joaquin Leaves Betis For Valencia

I never thought I'd see the day. I feel like I've been reading about Joaquin being linked with a move away from Betis since 1992. -Sanford

Thursday's rumours,,1857375,00.html

Keane will be Fergie and Clough rolled into one


FA and police examining Thatcher elbow

I'll try and get a video of this up as soon as I can. If anyone sees one, please let me know.

Chelsea cannot complain about Gallas - they taught him all he knows

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

AC Milan and Liverpool advance to Champions League

Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger

Uli asks, "Is Werder Bremen the new Borussia Monchengladbach?" Find out...

Magpies close to completing Martins deal

This could be interesting. Martins has ridiculous pace and would be a major boon to Newcastle. But is he worth 10 million? I don't think Roeder has a choice -- he's got to get another striker.

EPL Report: Watford 1-1 West Ham

EPL Report: Tottenham 2-0 Sheffield United

Wenger 'annoyed and worried' by Prem fixtures

Premiership Wednesday Preview: Chelsea Visit Boro, Charlton Take On United

Champions Lge. Qualifying: Arsenal v Dinamo Zagreb

An interesting weekend

First of all, take a gander at the view from my pal Mark's seats at the Emirates. Not too shabby. It might be just a Lehman kick away from Highbury but this place is a whole different animal. I can't wait to get over there.

Now then. Due to myriad friends and family in town, a radio show, and a trip to the drive-in to watch Snakes On A Plane, the only match I watched in its entirety was Arsenal/Villa. I have to give thanks to my new friend Dave who graciously accepted me into his home to view the Setanta broadcast on Saturday morning. A fellow Gooner, Dave lives a brief bike ride away and has now achieved "Great Savior" status. Setanta had some good (tickers with scores and a solid half-time "Around the Grounds" segment, and some bad (the announcers, who seemed to enjoy talking the entire match, usually repeating themselves or rambling about nothing interesting - strange for an EPL broadcast).

I was quite sad that Arsene started with Adebayor up front with Henry. He just doesn't do it for me and has yet to prove that he can contribute effectively. Why The Boss isn't going with Van Persie and Thierry from the opening whistle is beyond me. Anyway, the match was an all-to-familiar affair. Arsenal dominated possession but couldn't score because of the usual annoying dithering in front of goal. Then came the goal for Villa on (surprise!) a set piece. Ugh. Freddie was the only guy making anything happen. They need someone to pull the trigger from outside the area but nobody was willing. Even Cesc was guilty of making the extra pass when a shot on target was begging. So Villa packed it in and we finally broke through with a Gilberto volley late in the second half. Certainly the most exciting aspect of the morning was the sighting of Theo Walcott on the pitch for the first team. He played well and displayed some vicious pace and keen vision. I can't wait to see more of him. I was able to get over my bummed out state of mind by hitting the drive-in for Snakes on a Plane. My sister-in-law wanted to see and I figured the drive-in would be a good place for it. I was right. It took my mind of the football at least for a couple hours.

The other thing that eased my pain over the Gunner result was Spurs' anemic performance against Bolton. Hah!

Elsewhere, I was pretty shocked that Liverpool could only manage a draw (they really should have lost) with Sheffield United. They looked so strong in Cardiff last week. I only saw the highlight of the "foul" on Gerrard but with the talent and new pace in their squad I expected more. Thankfully I didn't have time to watch Chelski devour Citeh.

I'm pleased that Reading won. It seems like Convey had a good match. It'll be nice to see him darting up and down the wing this campaign against the EPL's finest. I think he can handle it.

And Manchester United are off and running. It's all lovey dovey between The Fall Guy Ronaldo and Boy Wonder Rooney. Whatever. They're wankers and the Red Devils don't have the talent to do the business for the entire season. -Sanford

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Insider at Bramall Lane

Liverpool got lucky - there was no contact on the challenge that I could see. -Sanford

Richard Jolley at Old Trafford

Prem Wrap: Goals & Thrills Galore!

Anelka claims Bolton deal is done

Woo Hoo! Let's all thank Big Sam for bringing Le Sulk back to the EPL...

Bundesliga match reports

Chelsea complete Boulahrouz transfer

And a round of applause for The Special One for bringing in The Cannibal...

EPL Team of the Week

Alan Hansen's column

Hansen weighs in on the opening EPL weekend...

Juventus court move threatens delays for Serie A

When was the last time Serie A actually started on time?

Monday's rumours,,1855047,00.html

EPL: How the foreign debutants performed,,1854710,00.html

Pires out for six months with knee ligament injury