Friday, February 16, 2007

Arsenal Lads Have Tea With the Queen

I know the Net has been filled with Arsenal news of late but this photo is too good to pass up. -Sanford


The editor's comments from yesterdays blog on Arsenal concerning Alexandr Hleb:

"Hleb was fantastic last night but he was guilty a few times of looking for the extra pass AFTER beating his man to gain a clear sight of goal"

I'm bored in Munich, so here's my thinking on Hleb and a clip of the Belarusian.

There's no questioning Hleb's qualities as a soccer player, but I'm not convinced he improves Arsenal as a whole. In fact, and this might sound a bit double-dutch, in some ways the better he looks on the field the the worse I think it is for Arsenal. When Pires and Ljunberg were in their prime they'd get the ball and go straight at the opposition, often simply straight at goal. Hleb doesn't, as he doesn't come from a football culture that plays that way. Yes, both Arsenal and Eastern European football is rooted in high technical ability and ball possession but Arsenal's game is based on speed, whereas East European teams have a tradition of playing a patient, considered game. At Stuttgart, Hleb's last team, where he was successful, he was the fulcrum of the team. He'd hold up the ball, bringing others into play. At Arsenal he's just one of many, and when he holds the ball up he's just giving the opposition more time to get players back. He looks very good doing it, with beautiful ball control, but ultimately it's not what Arsenal want.

Contrast Theo Walcott's performances of the past month with those of Hleb's at the beginning of the season. Walcott has often messed up, but he's done so in areas that can really hurt the opposition. Hleb is often the opposite. He looks good on the ball but in areas of little threat. Rosicky seems a better combination of the two, though all need to start scoring goals a'la Pires.

It'll be interesting to see what happens over the summer with Franck Ribery, a player who perhaps fits the Arsenal mold better [not least because he's French]. There's clearly reasons to stick with Hleb. He's certainly not played poorly and unquestionably has the talent to adapt to Arsenal's style. In fact, clips like the one below imply he slowly doing so. But will Wenger be able to resist another young Frenchie?

Boston Goals

Mike and Randy over the New Year...

FA Cup: Coppell out to attack at Old Trafford

FA Cup Fifth Round Preview

Sat., Feb. 17, 2007:
Chelsea vs. Norwich City
Watford vs. Ipswich
Plymouth vs. Derby
Manchester United vs. Reading
Arsenal vs. Blackburn
Middlesbrough vs. West Brom

Sun., Feb. 18, 2007:
Fulham vs. Tottenham
Preston vs. Manchester City

U.S. likely to send "B" team to Copa America

On second thoughts ... Roy Evans

Remembered as a weak man who let his Spice Boys run riot, the former Liverpool boss was closer to winning the Premiership than his successors.

Rijkaard to quit Barca at season's end

Barcelona's Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard is to quit the team he led to the Champions League only last May, according to "very well informed sources."

Emre facing second FA probe over alleged racist abuse

Pires - Why I bought a Highbury Square flat

Lawro's FA Cup Predictions

Bundesliga, Serie A, and La Liga Previews

Bundesliga: Hamburg hopeful ahead of derby

Serie A: Ronaldo set for first AC Miland start

La Liga: Barca bid to banish bust-ups

The Kevin Nolan column

Every beaten manager can triumph at the blame game

It was the referee’s fault. But then it always is, isn’t it? Paul Jewell, the Wigan Athletic manager, said that Phil Dowd was the reason his team lost to Arsenal in the Barclays Premiership on Sunday. He also suggested that Dowd might have cost Wigan £50 million.

No consolation for Nolan

Sour grapes, me thinks...-Sanford

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Gooners Vs The Trotters

Any Ars/Bolton clash is great, not least because it reaffirms so many stereotypes :

Bolton are a bunch of thugs, but can actually play some really good soccer.
Sam Allardyce is an utter dickhead, but knows how to rile Arsenal perfectly.
Wenger and Allardyce are probably the Prem's top hypocrites. Stout Englishman Sam hates Johnny Foreigner and his diving ways...unless it's Campo looking for a penalty. Arsene hates those spoil-sport time-wasters...unless it's the CL final and its Arsenal, then it's okay.
Arsenal supporters can be a bunch of effete moaners ..."it's so unfair when the opposition tackle" "It's so unfair when the opposition put all their players behind the ball not letting us roll through them", etc.
Arsenal defend set pieces like a bunch of corgis, take penalties like England, and their midfielders are woeful at converting chances [ Perhaps someone should suggest they watch Freddie's effort yesterday - ie when you get a good sight of goal don't see it as a chance to fuss around like a high school girl getting ready for a college frat party ]. Just shoot. At the goal. Please. Forfucksake.
Apart from the above, Arseanal's play, esp. their quality of passing, is just a joy to behold.

The only thing missing yesterday was a bit of Lehmann maddness, so here's some, against the Whitemen, from a while back:

Bolton vs. Arsenal Highlights

(I stole these excellent photographs from Arseblog.
Thank you very much, Arseblog.)

If you didn't get a chance to see this thriller, hit the link below for a solid recap. Suffice to say, Arsenal did everything they could to provide Bolton with a victory. They missed two penalties and Adebayor was guilty of a ridiculous miss after beating Jussi on a breakaway. I'd be hard pressed, though, to find anyone other than Julio Baptista who played worse on the pitch. For the Gunners or the Wanderers. He was gifted so many chances by the hard work of his teammates and squandered all of them, including one from the spot. Denilson and Diaby impressed in the middle for The Arsenal, but were guilty of being a bit too relaxed at times and gave the ball away more often than they should. Chalk it up to their youth, I say. They'll both be phenomenal players soon enough. I was a bit nervous that Arsene decided to leave Cesc on the bench but in the end it made no difference. Arsenal's midfield was strong without him. Gilberto filled in admirably in the back with Kolo, who I must admit looks like he could use a rest. He's played in virtually every game this campaign and would benefit from some bench time.

On the Bolton side of the ball, Anelka oozed class. Every time he got the ball you just expected something to happen. The Gunner defenders were excellent at limiting his shooting opportunities, but he was still able to create and cause problems. Also impressive was Diouf. His movement and pace were difficult to defend. As much as I hate the ugly bastard, his game has improved markedly of late and if he can keep his suspensions to a minimum, he can help Bolton make a run for the Champions League. So that's a quick little recap. Oh, and Freddie scored a classic Freddie goal, which made me very happy. Oh, and I hate Bolton.

Richard Jolly at the Reebok Stadium

Bolton 1 - 3 Arsenal: It was a wild one... -Sanford

Howard to move to Everton permanently

Heron the forgotten pioneer of U.S. soccer

If he were playing soccer today, Giles Heron might be preparing for Champions League games with Celtic FC. And, once his European career concluded, Heron would be recruited by the Chicago Fire to return to the city where his son was born and where his career was launched.

Richard Williams on the Bolton/Arsenal FA Cup Replay

"Bizarre would be an understatement," Sam Allardyce said at the end of a match in which Arsenal missed two penalties and an open goal yet still managed to exorcise their Bolton demon.

Arsenal look to fill empty seats at 'full' stadium

Arsenal have confirmed the suspicions of many visitors to the Emirates Stadium this season, admitting that the club routinely declares misleading attendance figures for home games.,,2013452,00.html

Bruised egos add spice to Spanish title race,,-6417658,00.html

Were you there ...?

1998: FA Cup - Tottenham vs. Fulham at White Hart Lane

Forget bonuses — promotion is already like winning the lottery

Tony Cascarino says that Derby County’s players should focus on the biggest prize:
The Premiership

Suarez: El Tri Need To Wake Up

Chivas USA defender and former Mexico captain Claudio Suarez says his national team should stop looking down on their American counterparts because it makes them easier to defeat.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

FA Cup Fourth-Round Replay Preview: Bolton vs. Arsenal

Allardyce accuses Wenger of waging psychological war on referees...,,2012626,00.html

Catania handed stadium suspension

Club criticises severity of ban, insisting it will 'bring the city to its knees'
Just thought Paolo would fit in nicely here...-Sanford

City furious as Redknapp blasts Barton

Manchester City's relationship with Portsmouth is in danger of descending into rancorous hostility after another day of muck-slinging and finger-pointing about what Stuart Pearce described as a "witch-hunt" of Joey Barton. City will today protest about Pompey's behaviour in an official statement and Pearce's long-standing friendship with his counterpart Harry Redknapp is threatened.,,2012632,00.html

How Big Sam and Allah made Le Sulk smile

Nicolas Anelka's transformation from morose loner to free-scoring community activist can be attributed to Islam and Big Sam. Plus other bad boys made good by Allardyce...

James Richardson in Itlay

All hail Claudio Ranieri...One of the kindest men in football has been given the chance to take Parma, and himself, back to the top.

Indeed. As much as I've always hated Chelsea it was tough to root against this man. -Sanford

Going up?

Norman Hubbard checks out the candidates in the Championship that have a chance of making the big time next season...

Wednesday's Rumours,,2012803,00.html

U.S to open Copa America against Argentina

FA Cup: Middlesbrough sneak through, Norwich to meet Chelsea

Uefa Cup Wednesday Preview: European Action Resumes

The Champions League might still be another week away, but with clubs such as Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers, Sevilla, Newcastle, Parma, Ajax and Benfica in action this week, there is no shortage of big names as Uefa Cup action resumes.

Barclays Premiership Table

Team, Played, Goal Difference, Points

1 Man Utd 27 45 66
2 Chelsea 27 29 60
3 Liverpool 27 21 50
4 Arsenal 26 26 49
5 Bolton 27 4 47
6 Reading 27 7 43
7 Portsmouth 27 10 41
8 Everton 26 9 39
9 Newcastle 27 -2 36
10 Blackburn 27 -8 34
11 Tottenham 26 -8 33
12 Middlesbrough 27 -3 32
13 Aston Villa 27 -5 32
14 Fulham 27 -12 32
15 Sheff Utd 27 -12 30
16 Man City 26 -12 30
17 Wigan 26 -16 2 5
18 West Ham 27 -24 20
19 Charlton 27 -27 20
20 Watford 26 -22 18

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Phil Ball in Spain

Ah the kiss of death! You may recall that in last week's column a certain reference was made to the excellent form of Valencia, how they were difficult to beat, how their main men were coming into form, how they might well go on to win the league - and bang, they lose 3-0 away to Getafe. Inter Milan, their rivals in the next stage of the Champions League, will be sitting down to watch selected highlights of the game quite soon, one imagines.

Spain promises radical approach to combat racism

This has been such a long time coming. I'll believe the results when I see them. When you've got the coach of the national team using racist language (his excuse is the usual flimsy cultural one) and getting off with barely a slap on the wrist then you know the issue won't be resolved easily. -Sanford

Legal dispute threatens Wembley FA Cup final

You have got to be kidding...

Wembley ready for action (?)

Perhaps he did speak too soon...

What's right and wrong about MLS entering 2007

Unprecedented offseason hoopla, mostly linked to the monumental David Beckham signing, has Major League Soccer positioned to accelerate into the passing lane this year.

The process started a couple of weeks ago when the early risers began preseason training. As players and coaches begin prepping, here are five things the league has right and five it has wrong moving into a telling 2007 campaign:

Onyewu: I Laugh At Players Like Bellamy

Gooch says, "There was a moment when he was complaining that I elbowed him in the head, but I responded by saying, 'Look at where your head is. I can't help it if you're so short you only come up to where my elbow is'...

"Fashion victim" Dunga defends shirt and blames soccer

Woo hoo! I finally found a photo of this cracking top!!

Best Eleven Of The Week in the EPL, La Liga, and Serie A


La Liga:

Serie A:

Galaxy begin pre-season work with two tryout survivors

Laurent Merlin, a 22-year-old Frenchman who showed his wizardry, and Rui Fortes, 24, of Portugal, were the two prospects who were given the opportunity from among 800 men from around the world who began a open tryout camp Saturday.

Nothing new for Dowd in lashing from managers

All referees, whether at parks level or in the Barclays Premiership, attract criticism. It is the nature of the beast, the inevitable byproduct of the job. In that respect, Phil Dowd is no different from his predecessors or peers. Damnation lurks around every corner.

Zero tolerance helps Hamburg's fight against the drop

Hamburg fans will not care about the safety-first approach of their new Dutch coach Huub Stevens if it keeps them in the Bundesliga.

Alan Hansen's Column

Arsenal's comeback to beat Wigan was a massive result for the bottom three.

Sid Lowe in Spain

While the Seville derby was entertaining, it was no match for the rumble between the Betis and Sevilla presidents in the directors' box.

Monday, February 12, 2007

English Premier League match reports

Premiership Rewind: Refs, Rants, Rafa & Reading

Spain: Primera Liga Reports

Italy: Serie A Match Reports

Inter win their 15th in a row, Ronnie plays for Milan...

Germany: Bundesliga Match Reports

Beckham now the toast of Madrid after return

USA: Bradley proving he's the right man for the job

Just minutes after the U.S. national team's convincing 2-0 victory over a full-strength Mexican squad, Sunil Gulati was seen walking in the bowels of the University of Phoenix Stadium with a serious and almost somber look on his face.

East German hooligans in attack on police

A group of 800 soccer fans attacked police after a regional cup match in eastern Germany on Saturday, causing dozens of injuries, police said on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids team up with Arsenal

Monday's Rumours,,2011368,00.html

Henry: The Disingenuous Genius

Everybody seems surprised by Thierry Henry's increasingly infantile behaviour. In reality, his antics are nothing new.

The Quiet Man

Steve Coppell is the calmest man in English football. While every game is 'hyped into a four-day event' the Reading manager quietly goes about his business - and, despite his team having not a single Premiership appearance between them at the start of the season, he is producing stunning results.,,2010408,00.html