Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Week In Football

photo by eliazarvia PhotoRee

Columnist Ed with some thoughts on the week that was:

1.  Champions League – Barcelona v. AC Milan:  AC had a chance in this one, just not a good one.  Barcelona’s players are so quick they simply make good teams like AC look incredibly average.  In fact, many of the teams they play seem to panic under the Barcelona defensive pressure.  At some point in the game, AC Milan gained some confidence and started to move it more effectively; however, they still looked a bit clumsy compared to their counterparts.  As for the “talking point” that was the second penalty kick, I think Fox Sports commentator Warren Barton had it at least partly right:  it was a penalty and should be called.  That said, it rarely is so I can sympathize with Milan’s angst.  With respect to all the holding that occurs in the penalty area, it just doesn’t make sense to me how a league that wants more goals doesn’t enforce it more.  A simple tug of the shirt easily keeps someone from getting that step or jumping into the air.  If you enforce it a few times at the beginning of the year, people will get it quick, and conceding corners will be far more dangerous than they are now.  A good thing, I think.

2.     Champions League – Bayern Munich v. Marseille:  Bayern is a considerably better team than Marseille, and showed it in both legs of the tournament.  All the talk this year has been about the two Spanish powers, Real Madrid and Barcelona.  But Bayern is a force, and I think they may be the most likely team to win the Champions League.  Ribery is a force down the wing, and Robben on the other side makes an extremely dangerous pairing.  I would love to see a Barca/Bayern final.  I think only another astonishing performance by Messi – certainly not out of the question – would be enough for Barca to come out on top. 

3.     BPL -- Liverpool:  What’s wrong with Liverpool?  These days, everything.  Though I think my opinion is slightly different than others.  That is, I don’t think it’s all about a lack of talent.  This week’s game is a good example, as are the games they’ve played against top teams.  Liverpool doesn’t get run out of matches, or cede control in matches to the other team.  Instead, it would seem that Liverpool plays most teams at least evenly, and sometimes as in this past weekend’s game, better than the opposition.  That said, they aren’t good at scoring, and they give up more goals then they score pretty routinely.  I think the problem they have was described well in the Guardian Weekly Monday podcast:  they don’t seem to have a plan as a team.  I think you see this especially in midfield, where Charlie Adam seems to have no idea where to go with the ball, and on the wings, where Stuart Downing and Henderson or sometimes Bellamy, seem to be without a thought as to the offensive strategy.  Now this could be the players, but I have this suspicion that if Downing and Adam and Carroll were still on the teams that they came from, they’d be playing much better than they are at Liverpool.  I think no player typifies the team performance more than Luis Suarez.  Lots of good stuff, but seemingly little plan and surprisingly few goals.  King Kenny does, I think, have to answer for this.

4.     BPL -- Spurs:  Spurs win over Swansea was important, but it was also a beautiful game to watch.  Swansea lost simply because they didn’t have the horses to keep up with Bale or Adebayor.  But Swansea still controlled possession and if not for a few top tier saves by the ageless Brad Friedel, who’s having an incredible year for Spurs, had a chance to put a lot of pressure on Spurs.  Another word on Adebayor – he had the look of someone playing for a contract last weekend.  I’ve never seen that much determination from him, nor have I seen his footwork that good.  Adebayor is an extremely talented athlete when he decides to show up to play.  Unfortunately, even if Spurs somehow sign him – something looking unlikely in light of his pay demands – one wonders whether he puts in the same effort with a multi-year deal to his name.  On other point about this game: it’s been rumoured that Spurs are considering Swansea’s manager, Brendan Rogers, if they lose Uncle Harry to the English team.  I for one would welcome that choice, but I don’t think it would come without growing pains for Spurs.  I also am not one who think that Spurs will necessarily be better under Rogers;  t would be foolish not to appreciate Spurs’ finishes the past few years and how much of an aberration that is from the prior 15 or so in the Premiere League.

5.     BPL -- United:  So much is said about United on this website that I’m hesitant to say more. But ultimately, while I don’t think this team is a very good team – note their dismal performances against mid-level European powers – they simply have a way of winning in the League.  Of note I think is their strategy, one which is very similar to that of Spurs and Bayern.  United have two top tier wingers with speed and a finisher up top.  Spurs at their best are the light version of this with Bale and Lennon and Adebayor.  Bayern are similar and better than United – Ribery and Robben (the two best in the world) on the wings, with the Gomez up front.  Barca plays through the middle with great effect, but United, Spurs and Bayern do best when they play with width, and bring it to the center only for the ultimate shot.  Which way is better?  Perhaps in the final we will see.

This is farlieonfootie for April 4.

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