Friday, August 31, 2012

Premier League Transfer Madness: Going Out on a Limb

photo by turtlemom4baconvia PhotoRee

In which we go out on a limb to analyze the latest transfers -- both fact and gossip:

Dimitar Berbatov to Fulham: We've spoken early and often of our admiration for the languid Bulgarian, so it will come as no surprise that we think this will be a great pick up for Fulham.  As one Twitter wag stated yesterday, Martin Jol must be an absolute transfer genius to have picked up Mladen Petric and Dimitar Berbatov solely with the funds he received from offloading Bobby Zamora.  We can't wait to see Dimi receive the regular football he deserves, and believe he will once again be near the top of the League in goals by the end of the season.  If Berbatov does what we think he can, Manchester United may be glad they've already played Fulham once this season.

Andy Carroll to West Ham United (on loan): Could this be a marriage made in heaven?  Sure sounds like it to us.  Big Sam loves kick and run football -- and whose head is better to aim at than the ponytailed Geordie?  We don't see Carroll ever being worth anything close to £35 million in this lifetime, but if his form revives in a system that suits him, this could be a rather shrewd loan move by the scousers.

Clint Dempsey to Aston Villa: Seriously?  If this move comes off, Clint Dempsey's agent ought to have his hearing checked: Dempsey expressed a desire to play in the Champions League -- not the Championship next season.

Moussa Dembele to Spurs: A nice acquisition by Spurs, who may be shedding themselves of a midfielder or two in the next couple of  hours (see below for more).  We've always liked Dembele, and his fine form from last season has continued into the current campaign.  Spurs need more directness in their attack, and Dembele could be just the man to supply it.

Fernando Llorente to Liverpool: Sorry Liverpool fans, as much as you'd love it, it's just not happening.

Scott Sinclair to Manchester City: [Yawn.]  Someone had to replace Adam Johnson on the bench at Eastlands.

Julio Cesar to QPR: Someone check this man's age.  The calendar may show 32, but he's already showing signs of severe dementia, claiming that he believes QPR will win the League.  Mark Hughes' strategy seems to involve buying anything that's not nailed down at the current moment, and we believe this is a move that the club will soon regret.  Isn't Robert Green good enough for the Championship next season?

Edin Dzeko to Arsenal: If this one is true, Arsene Wenger should step down for the good of the club and its fans.  If he were to acquire Dzeko, Wenger will have officially jumped the shark.  To clarify, when we were saying Arsenal should be a bit more physical, we were talking about the defense and midfield, Arsene.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Berba on the Bench: A Love Story

(With Apologies to Ernest Thayer)
The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Champions that day:
The score stood two to three, with just minutes left to play.
And then when Giggsy missed a shot, and Scholesy did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the many patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Berbatov could get upon the pitch -
We'd put up even money, now, with Berba we'd be rich.
But Welbz preceded Berbatov, as did Chico, too,
And the former was a homeboy and the latter quick-a-roo;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Berba's getting off the mat.
But Roo let fly a tackle, to the wonderment of all,
In doing so, the talisman turned ankle over ball;
And when the dust had lifted, the crowd became all warm,
For the linesman was a-whistling, and a-raising his own arm.
Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It disappointed many, as Macheda was revealed,
And Berba, artful Berba, was nowhere near the field.
There was languid ease in Dimi's manner as he sat upon the bench;
There was pride in Dimi's bearing, though Dimi's teeth did clench.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly coiffed his hair,
No one could deny that Berba Love was in the air.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he fiddled with his phone;
Five thousand tongues applauded him as from the bench his aura shone.
Then as the crowd watched him rub his his hands into his hip,
Longing gleamed in Berba's eye, but placid was his lip.
And while the leather-covered sphere kept hurtling through the air,
Berba sat a-watching it in languid splendor there.
Close by the United bench the ball unheeded sped-
"Put me in Coach, please," said Berba. "Not now," the Gaffer said.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Incredible Shrinking League

Columnist Ed and his smaller friends like to taunt McDonalds
photo by david_shankbonevia PhotoRee

Despite what he says, Columnist Ed is not 5 foot nine:
Five feet nine inches is an imaginary height for men.  The only men that are five foot nine are those that claim they are five foot ten.  Everyone else who makes the claim is five foot seven on a good day.  With lifts.  And big hair.

Which brings us to Eden Hazard, Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa, Joe Allen, and Santi Carzola.  None of these guys are five nine, although a few claim to be.  Some are about five six.  And a few of them can fit in your girlfriend's large Prada knockoff handbag.  “Com'ere Shinji...jump right in here...that's it, Santi...yep....good boy....”

But oh how they play!!  Short passes, brilliant footwork, elegant finishes.  They're going this way, then that, then back altogether, then the ball is . . . . gone....

Whoops, it's back!!  I hardly knew it was gone and he's got it again, but wait, now it's gone again!!Amazing!!!!!

This is the new face of the BPL.  The days of guys like Vinny Jones and of direct English football have become a novelty item, found only in ancient towns like Stoke City.  I mean, I admire what Stoke does -- very counter revolutionary, very old school, very vintage.  Tony Pulis might even consider dressing up like Elvis during games.  Couldn't hurt, right?  Well, let's put a pin in it, as the young people used to say about three or four text messages ago.

Looking back one might suggest that the new BPL all started with David Silva.  But of course, he wasn't really the start. The real start was Barcelona.

“We want to be like Barcelona,” said Liverpool's Jose Enrique yesterday, rather bluntly.  But Jose means it, especially after watching his manager's former team beat the mighty Citizens into submission last year, possessing the ball over sixty percent of the time with a line up that consisted largely of guys who used to work at the Petrol and Zip off the M-180 near Scunthorpe. 

Like it or not, the BMC's (Big Money Clubs) in the BPL all want to be like Barcelona, because if you're like Barcelona you win and win and win some more.  As Manchester City's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan might say: “It's not fun to spend Three Hundred Million Pounds and then watch the guys you just bought for Three Hundred Million Pounds chase the ball around the pitch like a bunch of drunk Florida hillbillies trying to swat flies with rusty cans of paint.” 

Or if you're still not convinced, just look to that cheek-pincher Jose Mourinho.  You know, the guy that just paid Thirty Three Million Pounds for a tiny Croatian that ballerina'd his way through Spain (a/k/a Barcelona Light) in the Euro's.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Step Closer : Liverpool 2 - Manchester City 2

photo by punakonevia PhotoRee

Displaying the same sense of magnamity as did Martin Skrtel over the weekend, Correspondent Scott is in a giving mood as he discusses Liverpool's performance versus Manchester City:

Well, it was a lot better than The Horror at West Brom last week, but Liverpool found a new way to give the game away when they hosted defending champions Manchester City on Sunday.  This time, perhaps in some misguided attempt to foster Slovakian - Argentine relations, normally reliable defender Martin Skrtel literally gifted a goal to Carlos Tevez via his philanthropic backpass.  Tevez pounced on the mistake, skirted the helpless Pepe Reina and rolled the ball into the net, evening the score at 2-2 and plucking 2 points from a Liverpool team beginning to come alive.

With new loan signing Nuri Sahin watching from the stands, a changed Liverpool lineup took the field for the season’s home opener.  Sebastian Coates joined Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Skrtl in the back while Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Fabio Borini and Joe Allen started in the middle.  Meanwhile, Luis Suarez was partnered with the youngster Raheem Sterling up front.  Unfortunately for Lucas, an injury in the 5th minute forced a substitution for Jonjo Shelvy.

Manchester City started strong and, except for a couple long range and very wide efforts from Gerrard, Liverpool never really threatened during the first quarter hour.  Even worse, possession was dramatically tipped in City’s favor as the visitors had more and better time on the ball.  But around the 25 minute mark, after a miss by Borini on Sterling’s lovely cross and a Tevez dribbler off the post, Liverpool began to assert more control.

Within minutes, more and more chances were being created such that when, in the 33rd minute, Skrtl expertly and powerfully headed home Gerrard’s corner, the lead was deserved.  The balance of the first half saw the home side continue their recent dominance, albeit without additional spoils to show for it.

And that dominance continued into the second half with Liverpool seeing more and more of the ball, keeping possession and looking confident.  It was unfortunate, then, when in the 62nd minute Yaya Toure was in the right place at the right time when the ball bounced off Kelly to sit appetizingly in front of the Ivorian who made no mistake in equalizing.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Week 2 in the BPL: In Which Even a Tropical Storm Can't Stop Us

photo by Patrick Hoeslyvia PhotoRee

Tropical Storm Isaac may have glanced South Florida this weekend, but after enduring yet another media-hyped non-event, we're betting that it rained more on Wearside Friday night than it did here on Sunday.  Yet unlike Sunderland, at farlieonfootie the show must go on....

o We would have paid good money to hear what West Ham Manager Big Sam Allardyce had to say to Jussi Jaaskelainen and James Collins on Saturday.  That is, if you could have heard him over the half time head smacks and whimpering....

o While everyone was focused pre-season on Manchester City's title defense and Manchester United's acquisition of RVP, Chelsea look as dangerous going forward as they have in several seasons, in large part due to the direct play of Eden Hazard and the re-discovery of Fernando Torres' scoring boots. The big question in our mind is whether the Blues can keep up this kind of torrid form for the majority of the season.  Chelsea always begin the season sharply, and they continued their hot streak on Saturday with a 2-0 beat down of Newcastle -- it's the middle of the season in which they seem to swoon in recent years.

o It took a little rain to weigh down and stretch out his hair to remind us of exactly who David Luiz looks like: a blue kited Kenny G. Then again, after his 81st minute headwrap job on Saturday afternoon, it's fair to say that Luiz  looked a bit more like John McEnroe, circa 1980.

Kenny G.
Saxophone player or Chelsea defender?  You decide.
Photo by Sandra Alphonse on Flickr

o Did Nike copy Manchester United's away kit from last year when they created Arsenal's visiting garb for this season?  We can already hear the discussion: "Let's make the stripes just a tiny bit thinner, and add a red strip around the bottom of the sleeves and no one will notice the similarity."  Weak.

o Arsenal fans, you were correct: you won't miss Robin Van Persie's goal production. He's injury prone and while he may had a great season last year, he'll never repeat that form, and you've already made him irrelevant with the addition of Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud to your squad. And in totally unrelated news, after Sunday's goalless draw with Stoke City, Arsenal have now gone 180-plus minutes without finding their way into the back of the opponent's net.

o Rumors are rampant that UNICEF is contemplating sponsoring Liverpool this season after witnessing Martin Skrtel's magnanimous act of charity on Sunday that handed Manchester City a 2-all draw. Showcasing the definition of selflessness, Skrtel gave a scar-ridden child from the Argentine ghetto a ball and two points that his side may desperately need later in the season.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Out of the Blocks: Manchester United 3 - Fulham 2

starting block
Photo by Shanowpw on Flickr

Q. Any surprises in Saturday's starting lineup?

A. No. Unless you consider a healthy Wayne Rooney starting the game on the bench and Anderson beginning the game on the pitch to be surprises. Which approximately 599.9 million of United's 600 million worldwide fans did.

Q. Whoah!  Any other pre-game shocks?

A. Only if you allow that Fulham's first goal came so early in the contest that it might as well have occurred pre-game. In fact, Fulham were out of the blocks so quickly that even the watching Usain Bolt was impressed!

Q.  What?! That must have sucked...!

A. The only thing that sucked was all of the air from the stadium when Robin Van Persie scored for the first time in a United uniform, near the game's ten minute mark.

Q.  That injury prone 'has been' hit the mark?

A.  Yeah, and his timing was way off. He could have put the ball at least a foot higher if he really intended to steer it into in the very top corner.

Q. Did the goal set off an explosion?

A. No, not an explosion. That came after Shinji Kagawa hit the net. And then hit the post a minute later.  And then only after Rafael scored twice, with the first goal being judged offside. That's when the explosion happened.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Maine Beer Zoe American Amber Ale

Beer: Zoe American Amber Ale

Brewery: Maine Beer Company

ABV: 7.20% ABV 

Appearance: Zoe poured a reddish brown with a very big, off-white head

Smell: Definite hops. Sweet malt, as well.

Taste: A roasted maltiness typical of the style in my opinion, but with a chocolate-y, dry finish in which the hops were readily apparent.

Overall: A well balanced and very smooth beer. I would definitely drink it again: A-

Friday, August 24, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: New Glarus Brewing Totally Naked American Pale Lager

Correspondent Ed is beginning to like this beer review thing....

It's a crisp afternoon in Green Bay and I'm at a 'tweener party thinking back on a blissful wedding and thinking forward to the electric reception to come.  I decide to go local with my beer choice, and so I'm sipping some Totally Naked by Wisconsin's own New Glarus Brewing Company.  The party is a bit more of a holding pattern than a party, so I'm hopeful the beer will freshen up my mood.  Plus I've just watched the grill wheeze out its last breath, and so any hope of grilling a few Wisconsin brats I brought is now dead and buried.

I cross my legs and wiggle my toes -- no shoes allowed by the hosts at this party -- and pick up the semi-cold bottle.    I give it a pour; it's yellow, bubbly, and crystal clear.  I try to breathe a little in, but this one has no nose.  Now I take a big drink and perhaps not surprisingly I find there's no flavor either.

I sit back and read the outside of the label:  "This is beer at its most basic."
Okay, I get it now, and the joke's on me.

So there I sit on the porch, wading through the small talk and drinking some generic beer, all dressed up in my wedding best but sadly feeling . . . . . totally naked.

Totally Naked (4.2%ABV), New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, Wisconsin.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Boothbay Craft Brewery 633 Pale Ale

(7.00% ABV)  633 Pale Ale poured a honey brown with no head. It was drunk from a clear plastic cup while sitting outdoors at a New England clambake during a fabulous afternoon spent on Cabbage Island, Maine.  The spectacular setting, and the delicious feast of lobsters and steamers could have marginally influenced our opinion here, but those are the kind of risks we take for you daily here at farlieonfootie in order to bring you the very best from the worlds of footie and craft beer.

A view of Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Before we get to the review, the story behind the beer is fairly interesting, as well: although the Boothbay Craft Brewery is a relatively small operation -- emphasis on the word small -- it has some rather big friends in the craft beer industry.  Sam Calagione, the founder of the Dogfish Head Brewery (as regular readers of this space know, Dogfish is one of our absolute favorite American breweries for its delicious beers and no-holds-barred approach to brewing) spent many of his formative summers in and around Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  Due to his love of the area, Sam repeatedly returns to the area on family vacations. 

Somewhere along the way, Sam got to know the founder of the local craft brewery in Boothbay, and has given him an active helping hand in getting the operation off the ground.  In fact, on a recent Friday in August when we visited the brewery, we witnessed Sam deep in conversation with the team at Boothbay, proving two things: 1) he's a loyal friend who's still helping out; and 2) some of Sam's advice must be working, because the beer is damned good.   Staying true to their local roots, the brewery's flagship beer is called 633 because those three numbers are the telephone prefix for Boothbay. 

633 had a nice floral smell on the nose.  On tasting, the beer started out a bit sweet with some beautiful floral notes, then evolved into something a bit stronger and hoppier in the middle, before fading into nice, mellow finish.

It was exceptionally well balanced, and dangerously sessionable for a 7% ABV pale ale.  Definitely try it -- if you can find it. A-

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Week 1 in the BPL: Where the Storylines Never Change

A Behind the Scenes Look into Columnist Ed's Office
photo by Nesstervia PhotoRee

The Barclay's Premier League is back, and a new season is well and truly underway, which can only mean one thing: new names and new kits, but the same old crazy outcomes. Some observations forthwith on a weekend that was predictably uncommon, and left Swansea and Fulham in unfamiliar territory at the top of the League:

o For once I found myself agreeing with Steve McMananman, who pointed out while Arsenal have brought in a bunch of firepower to replace Robin Van Persie, they've chosen to stand pat on a defense that includes the wobbly Per Mertesacker, the shaky Kieran Gibbs and the bumbling Wojciech Sczcesny.  We've pointed it out before on these pages, Arsene, but you can't expect to win in this league without a rock solid defense. Not that you were thinking of doing that this campaign.... 

o Of course, Arsenal did manage to shut out Sunderland on Saturday, but let's remember that this was a Black Cats squad that found the net impossibly small during their run in last season....

o With all the fuss about Joey Barton, someone forgot to tell Mark Hughes and QPR that the season kicked off this past weekend. Although somehow we imagine that 5-0 home thrashings will have a way of grabbing your attention.

o It was strange to see Fabio all decked out in his natty sailor boy QPR kit. Same for Parky, as well. After Saturday's thrashing, I'm pretty certain they've figured out their newest stop is a bit closer to Siberia than it is to Manchester. And while Parky's move is sadly permanent, Sir Alex may want to re-think the Fabio loan deal: it now appears as if the only defensive experience the Brazilian will pick up at QPR is learning how to pick the ball out of the back of the net.

o I'll say it now, so you can't accuse me of an unsubtle bias later in the season: I don't like QPR after the way they handed the title to City last season -- not even one little bit -- and I hope they get relegated.

o Gylffi who?  Welcome to the Premier Leage, Michu....  It looks as if Swansea may have found a goodun'.

o Another season, another shutout for Villa, and this to a newly promoted side.  Welcome to the hot seat, Mr. Lambert. You're not in Norwich anymore....

o Just sayin', but I'm not certain that Adam Federici, Reading's goalkeeper, is ready for prime time.

o Granted it was against Wigan, but if Eden Hazard continues to look as good as he did on Sunday,  the rest of the League had better stand up and pay attention. Juan Mata may have made a decent impact on the Blues last season, but Hazard's not just about the pretty stepovers and a pass -- he seems to have a genuine knack for finding the open man in front of net. Playing largely from the right, Hazard gave Chelsea not only an extra offensive gear, but more importantly the width that the Blues have lacked the last couple of campaigns.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Waiting for Van Persie: Manchester United 0 - Everton 1

photo by Visentico / Sentovia PhotoRee

Q. So, did Robin Van Persie start against Everton on Monday?

A. This is the real world and not a movie. Of course he didn't start. The guy played about 30 minutes in total this pre-season, and with his injury history, you can expect Fergie to bring him along slowly.

Q. Ok then, did Shinji Kagawa at least get the nod?

A. Yes, in a squad that featured no less than eight offensive players, United's shiny new midfielder saw his first League start.

Q. Did it help?

A. Not really.  Kagawa played some nice through balls, but overall the offense looked slow, unjointed, and in largely the same form that we saw for much of the pre-season.

Q. Did anyone from United have a good game?

A. Yes, David De Gea was at his spectacular best in the first half, and kept the Reds in the match, when they could have easily been 2-nil or 3-nil down.

Q. Were there any images from the game that stand out?

A. Why, yes, there were.  Marouanne Fellaini winning virtually everything in the air, for one.  The Belgian looked about eight feet tall as he repeatedly towered over both Nemanja Vidic and makeshift center back Michael Carrick, unfortunately.  Fellaini was a beast, almost unplayable on Monday.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes: Nani's consistent failure to take a corner that cleared the first defender. It's a miracle that Fergie left him on for 70 minutes.

Q. Could United have done anything to stop Fellaini?

A. Sure.  We could have bought him in the off-season, along with Van Persie and Kagawa.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Horror: West Bromwich Albion 3 - Liverpool 0

photo by DerrickTvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Scott found his way back to the home office after a summer break.  Unfortunately for him, Liverpool was also back in action:

Like a bad action hero sequel, Liverpool's season opener -- against ex-coach Steve Clarke's West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns -- started with much pomp and promise but rapidly descended into a painful retread of 2011, only worse.  There was, of course, plenty of possession, plenty of chances and an energetic yet goaless Luis Suarez.  And now there was a stoic, scarlet-tied Brendan Rodgers taking notes throughout, likely repeatedly breaking the tip of his pencil as the game went on, each shard of wasted lead strewn about the technical box representing yet another missed opportunity that would come back to haunt like that last tequila shot.  Not even the returning Lucas Leiva or newbies Joe Allen and Fabio Borini could prevent the shower of shards as the mighty Reds lacked the final touch, lost composure and were ultimately embarrassingly pummeled back into last season by a whopping 3-0 score line.

But it all started so well....  By the quarter hour mark, despite a wayward back-pass by Lucas and a missed header by Borini, Liverpool were dominating another game through possession away from home.  But around the 30 minute mark, when yet another opportunity was wasted as Suarez couldn't get high enough for Glen Johnson's brilliant cross, and even with the possession stat north of 60%, a trace of faintly familiar dread wafted through the Kopite collective consciousness.  That dread materialized just before halftime when, from a corner that was reasonably cleared by Liverpool, Zoltan Gera controlled outside the area and then volleyed a 2012-highlight-reel-quality shot into the upper left corner past a helpless Pepe Reina.
And things just got worse from there.  After the interval, an energized Baggies side came out pressing from the start and, with rare exceptions like Allen's ability to win balls in the midfield, Liverpool continued to deteriorate.  Stuart Downing, for example, was miserable trying to cross from the right and very likely did not complete a single pass in the second half.  Similarly, Steven Gerrard played an uncharacteristically awful game, giving the ball away repeatedly with forced, errant passes. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Anderson Valley Brewing Summer Solstice Cream Ale

Summer Solstice poured a warm caramel color with an off-white head that disappeared before I was able to properly appreciate it.

The beer's smell was sweet toffee, with some tart apple notes also apparent. As it warmed I got a faint whiff of rum.

Solstice's taste was way different that most other summer beers. The taste of heavy, sweet caramel flavor lingered on the palate, while some lively carbonation kept it interesting.  A very pleasant way to while away a hot summer day....  B

Friday, August 17, 2012

farlieonfootie's 2nd Annual Barclay's Premier League Season Preview

Correspondent Ed Searches for His Betting Slip 
photo by Max Braunvia PhotoRee

It's the middle of August, and although the European Championships and the London Olympic games took some of the edge off, real English football can't begin soon enough in our opinion.  We waited until the last possible minute to file our predictions for the upcoming season, so as not to be 'surprised' by any late moves.  Although the transfer window will remain open another two weeks, we believe the biggest move of the summer has already been made with the announcement that Manchester United finally landed their man in the person of Robin Van Persie. 

First through fourth, we'll pick them all, and we'll also take a stab at relegation and some other intriguing predictions:

2012/2013 Premier League Winners: Manchester United (did you really expect us to pick anyone else)?  Last season's runners up were nicked at the line, although you would never know this by reading the popular press, in which United finished embarassingly far off the world-beating pace set by their nosy neighbors.  The signing of the Premier League Player of the Year, as well as the Bundesliga Player of the Year, and the return of Nemanja Vidic to the starting lineup can only mean that this United squad has been significantly strengthened from the one that lost the title solely on goal difference.  And while City is strong they've largely stood pat this off-season, making no significant moves at all.  Advantage United, and we think that's more than enough to bring Fergie's men back to the top of the heap.

2012/2013 Runner's Up: Manchester City.   Despite making virtually no off-season moves, the Citizens boast the League's hardest working midfield, as well as a certain Argentine want-away who should be around for all of the club's games this season.  Combining Tevez with Aguero, Balotelli, Toure and Silva will produce more than a few fireworks both on and off the pitch, and City's All-Star lineup will be enough to see off all but the sternest of challengers.  We admire their firepower, but don't think it will measure up to a revamped United this time around.

2012/2103 Best of the Rest: Following their European triumph, Chelsea has flexed their financial muscle with the addition of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin, and Oscar.  While the midfield has been significantly strengthened -- and may now, in fact, be on par with City's -- it remains puzzling to us that the Blues have done so little to bolster their strike corps.  While Fernando Torres may indeed come good this year, what happens if he's suspended or injured?  Chelsea may need to emaulate the 'striker-less' Spain squad that won the Euros, but it's a risky strategy on which to pin your championship hopes. 

If Chelsea's third, then surely Arsenal must be fourth, correct?  Why, yes in fact, we do think Arsenal will finish fourth this season.  Sure, The World's Best Feeder ClubTM may see some growing pains -- not to the tune of 8-1, mind you -- but we've always admired Lukas Podolski, and think that Santi Cazorla might just turn out to be the second best signing of the summer.  Wenger hasn't missed a Champions League spot in years, and we don't see him doing it this time, either -- even if he does lose Alex Song to Barcelona.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Somebody That I Used to Know

photo by alexlovesmileyvia PhotoRee

He somehow arranged for a paid summer vacation from his most generous of employers.  But all good things must come to an end, and now it's time for Correspondent Ed to make his way back to the home office:

It's 80 something degrees and I'm descending down into the New Jersey transit on my way to somewhere near Newark when I hear the glorious sound in the distance of Spurs fans singing.  Oh, it's so quiet at first, like the small echo of the voices of all those tiny little beautiful Who's in Whoville on Christmas Eve, but yes, it's there, and it's getting louder and louder as I descend:

Oh when the Spurs
Go marching in

Oh when the Spurs go marching in!!

And so begins the 2012 to 2013 season, and not unlike a 60-something Madonna peep-show/concert, I'm back in your FOF grill, covering your favorite footie from Milan to Minsk.  So let the eggings of the boss-man farlieonfootie begin!!!

And as I sit at the 50 yard line of the stellar Red Bulls Stadium, fighting of the rays of burning sunshine and checking out the "Yids from Austin" sign in the upper decks, I couldn't help but think back to days gone by with that favorite uncle that I never met.  And yes, even though our new AVB looks so pret-a-porter, I have to admit that when they fired Uncle Harry at the end of last year I pulled a full Katy Perry, as in:

In another life

I would make you stay

So I don't have to say you were

The one who got away

The one who got away. . . .

Holy-no-way-I-just-heard-it-in-my-head in the acoustic version.  Seriously, I'm totally crying right now.  Damn you, Katy Perry!!!

And speaking of tears, what's going on with Luka Modric?  This is death by deli slicer!  I think we all need some closure.  Luka's right, he's not worth 40MM pounds, but he was so dreamy on the pitch for Spurs, wasn't he?  He may not have had much of a shot, and yes, he was a defensive liability, but his control and creativity made the Spurs so much fun to watch.

In another life

We'd keep all our promises

Be us against the world . . . .

Wow, I'm totally drowning some tears in my Boddington's Pub Ale right now (The cream soda of beers, 4.7% ABV, smoother than a new necktie and reliable as a best man, B+).  Especially now that I'm watching Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore absolutely brutalize the middle of the pitch against the Red Bulls.  They look more like middle linebackers than holding midfielders.  Ugh.

But at least there's Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson.  Perfect name and a perfect Spurs player -- not dominant, but great on the ball, creative, and a terrific finisher.  Not sure why Swansea sold himand not sure how Spurs won that battle to sign him.  The only question is where does VdV play?  If they can keep him happy it would be nice to do what the top tier clubs do and have them both.  Dare we dream?  Or do we just dare to do?


Monday, August 13, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Clown Shoes Clementine Belgian White Ale

Poured from the bottle at home. Appeared a deep orange-hued gold with a thinnish white head.  Clementine was more deeply colored than most other Belgian Wits I've seen. The beer was lively with carbonation, although the mouthfeel was ultimately a bit oily.

Clementine smelled primarily of Belgian yeast, with a slight spiciness also apparent. The yeast led on the taste, too, and the much ballyhooed Clementine was not immediately apparent. The beer was very
dry, with a banana-y undercurrent running throughout. 

It's definitely not typical for the style, and not my favorite of beers: B-

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai India Pale Ale

Cigar City - Jai Alai IPA
Photo by edwin.bautista on Flickr

James checks in from Florida's West Coast:

Beer: Jai Alai India Pale Ale

Brewer: Cigar City Brewing Co., Tampa, FL

ABV:  7.50%

Appearance:  Copper, dark, cloudy, menacing, almost psychedelic lacing

Smell: Sweet and sour citrusy with some breadiness

Taste:  Initial taste of dry, bitter hops flows into something like mango/grapefruit combo with a hint of pine and back to a hop punch at the end.  Wonderfully complex!

Mouthfeel:  Crisp, not heavy like an imperial, but still substantive - a sipper for sure, but could sip many, 7.5% not withstanding...

Overall:  This beer has everything: not heavy, but complex with nice hop/malt/citrus balance and nice high ABV.  One for the desert island....  A+

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Closer Than They Appear: Manchester United 0 - Barcelona 0 (2-0 aet)

photo by timsamoffvia PhotoRee

For United fans, it was an all too familiar foe for the penultimate game of the 2012 pre-season tour, with the spectre of the two recent Champions League spankings hanging over yesterday's meeting with Barcelona. Both clubs sent out strong lineups for the game, with names like Messi, Valdes and Puyol wearing the Blaugrana, while United tweaked their starting eleven to include David De Gea for the first time, and showcasing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in the central defense. Antonio Valencia started once again at right back, perhaps suggesting a strategy by Sir Alex to get as much firepower as possible into his lineup.  To the Ullevi Stadium, in Gothenburg, Sweden, we head for the game details:

o New year, new coach, same philosophy: despite switching from the tutelage of Pep Guardiola to that of their new manager Tito Vilanova, Barcelona yesterday looked much like the Barcelona of old. Playing patient, possession-oriented football, Barcelona tiki-tacked United to death over the early going, and used their high press defense to create several decent first half opportunities on goal.

o A depressing thought for United fans: I wish soon-to-be four time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi was older than 25. Barcelona is going to be very tough to beat for anything while this guy is still around.

o United displayed a willingness to press the ball themselves near the game's half hour mark, creating a significant number of Barcelona turnovers, and leading to the Reds' most sustained possession of the first half. We saw this strategy employed in the early part of last season -- will United go back to it again..?

o These pages have been critical of Anderson at times, but let's give credit where credit's due: the Big Man frustrated Lio Messi while he was on the pitch over the first 45, shadowing the Barcelona wunderkind -- albeit creating a rather round and rotund shadow -- and not allowing the Argentine maestro his customary marauding freedom.

o Wazza's First Half PK could have separated the two sides, but the Englishman's effort was decidedly pre-season in form.

o I found myself wondering why Vida came off after 45 minutes after playing an hour over the weekend. Let's hope it was conservative move in nature by the United coaching staff rather than a sign of something nagging in the Serbian's recovery.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Odell Brewing Easy Street American Pale Wheat Ale

I drank this next beer while sitting at the bar at Pacifica in Aspen, Colorado.  Quite a spot, quite a town, and quite a beer....  I drank a bunch of beer while staying in Aspen on a recent vacation, and I have to say that Odell's beers were uniformly outstanding, truly the best of the bunch in a craft beer haven.

Beer: Easy Street American Pale Wheat Ale

Brewery: Odell Brewing Company

ABV: 4.8%

Color: Rich orange. Healthy white head.
Smell: Faint spiciness, citrus.
Mouthfeel / Taste: Lively carbonation, wheat flavors combined with a refined orange sweetness.

Overall: A great thirst quenching beer.  Highly sessionable: A

Monday, August 6, 2012

Drawing: Manchester United 0 - Valerenga 0

photo by mac_xillvia PhotoRee

Manchester United journeyed north to Norway and unlike on their previous travels, this time the team looked more like the eleven that will start the season in just over two week's time at Goodison Park versus Everton.  Due to the popularity of United in Norway, the crowd seemed equally enthused by the appearance of both the home side and the visitors -- with virtually every early touch greeted by strong vocal support. 

Yesterday's starting lineup featured Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Nani and Ashley Young for the first time this preseason, joined -- most notably of all -- by Nemanja Vidic for the first time since the horrific knee injury he sustained at Basel as United were dumped out of the Champions League last season. To Ulleval Stadium we go, joining the 25.000-plus in attendance for our match report:

o Yesterday's match picked up right where the last game in China left off (in fact, the same could be said for the whole of the pre-season to date): with not much happening. Despite the early enthusiasm of the crowd, there was a subdued quality to the contest's opening quarter hour, with both sides combining to create almost no real chances in front of goal.

o In addition to Ryan Giggs, the most notable absence from the United bench was Sir Alex himself. While the Twitterverse was going wild with speculation that the Scotsman's absence was due to his desire to stay behind to conclude the signing of Brazilian Lucas Moura, we'll wait for the official announcement, if and when it comes. For all of its problems, the United midfield -- if Moura is indeed added --  is getting a bit crowded: Nani, Young, Giggs, Scholes, Carrick, Valencia, Kagawa, Anderson, Cleverly, Powell and more. The competition for a starting spot is going to be fierce, indeed.

o  If the main point of the pre-season is to gain match fitness, mission accomplished. If the secondary point of the tour is to gain on pitch chemistry with the new players and give the team a sense of confidence around the net, it's been much more of a split decision. A couple of narrow victories and a tie followed by yet another muddling match of football in which there seemed to be a force field around the net will not exactly have the team steaming into its next match with Barcelona.

o  Paul Scholes is the new Darren Gibson. At least that's the way it seemed yesterday, as every one of the Ginger Prince's touches at the top of the box was greeted with the crowd urging Scholes to just "Shoooooooooot!"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Spurred Onward: Thoughts on Tottenham's Pre-Season

Alnwick Castle - Harry Hotspur Statue
Photo by Dark Dwarf on Flickr

The farlieonfootie corporate staff had the opportunity to see Tottenham Hotspur during their recently concluded tour of the United States, as they took on Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls in beautiful (not really) Harrison, New Jersey. But if the game's surroundings were not picture perfect, the soccer-only stadium they've built on the outskirts of Newark was not too shabby, offering great sight lines from every seat, and up close views of the stars from North London.

Spurs needed two goals in the second half to overcome a tough and determined Red Bulls side, 2-1. On a night in which Tim Cahill made his MLS debut, Gareth Bale headed in the equalizer, while newcomer Gylfi Sigurdsson offered a glimpse of what Spurs' fans can only hope will be his regular season form with the game's third goal, the game winner.

In no particular order, here are some thoughts on the game and Spurs heading onto the 2012/13 season:

o Tottenham lack a target man up top. Unless Spurs can re-sign Emmanuel Adebayor, they may be in trouble against any defense which is stiffer than New York's.  While the Lily Whites moved the ball easily between the 18s, their attacks continually broke down for lack of a man in the middle.

o Sigurdsson's form last season was not an aberration. The guy is going to be very good, and by the end of this season may have Spurs fans asking the question "Luka Who?"  Although he may not be as silky smooth on the ball as the Croatian playmaker, and is clearly not a like-for-like replacement, Gylfi is much more direct in his style, and easily a greater threat on goal than the soon-to-be-Real-Madrid man.

o What is Huerelho Gomes still doing on Spurs?  Just asking....

Gareth Bale orders a taxi for Maicon 
o Jan Vertonghen looks to be a serious upgrade for Spurs in central defense, an area that has plagued the North London club at times over the last few seasons. Looking steady and assured, Vertonghen appears to give Spurs' back line some defensive muscle and a steadiness they can count on....

o ...that is, if new manager Andre Villas-Boas' preference for playing a high-line defense doesn't continually put the team under pressure from the ball over the top. Chelsea never really caught on to the plan -- or didn't have the personnel -- to compress the pitch, so it will be very interesting to see if Spurs sink or swim under the pressure of trying to learn something new.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: New Belgium Brewing Somersault American Blonde Ale

New Belgium - Somersault
Photo by o_sam_o on Flickr

I drank this next beer while sitting in the Ajax Tavern at the world famous Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, Colorado.  Although the Little Nell didn't blow me away, the bar was cool and the beer was refreshingly cold on a hot summer day:

Beer: Somersault American Blonde Ale

Brewery: New Belgium Brewing

ABV: 5.20%

Color: Deep orange, with a slight white head. Plenty of carbonation noticeable.

Smell:  Faint. Maybe citrus.

Taste: Fresh, citrusy taste. Lemon first, followed by a surprising ginger spiciness.

Overall: A very good summer-y beer B+

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thoughts on Chelsea's Pre-Season Tour

I had the opportunity to see Chelsea play AC Milan in Miami, Florida on Saturday night.  Although the crowd was generously announced as 57,000-plus, to my eyes it looked about 10,000 lighter than that total.  One takeaway from the attendance is that they count crowds in Miami the same way they count voters in Cook County, Illinois: early and often.

Chelsea versus AC Milan in Miami
The largely blue-clad attendedees were in good spirit, though, and looked to see an entertaining game between the Blues and the rossoneri -- the latter team shorn of three of its biggest names, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving to Paris, Robinho spending time on the trainer's table, and Alexandre Pato at the Olympics.  Chelsea's starting lineup contained many familiar names, including Lampard, Terry, Cole, and Cech, playing alongside a new signing, but one which should be familiar to any student of the game -- Eden Hazard.

Although Milan's slim 1-0 victory was not the pre-season shootout most fans were hoping to see,  the quality of the football was fairly high, and the game hotted up a bit in the second half.  Herewith some thoughts on watching the Blues:
o Did Fernando Torres have the strangest season ever last year?  The guy couldn't buy a goal for most of the season, but ends up with the FA Cup, Champions League, and European Championship medals all hanging around his neck.  Oh yeah, and he won the Golden Boot in the Euros, as well....  All that and more still doesn't mean Nando's a guaranteed starter for a Chelsea team shorn of Didier Drogba, and Romelu Lukaku has seen a bunch of playing time this pre-season.  In looking back, Torres can be forgiven for thinking he spent the season as an extra in the Grateful Dead's Truckin' video: What a Long, Strange Trip it's Been....

o Eden Hazard showcased some beautiful ball skills on Saturday night, and looked very much the real deal.  Weaving his way in and out of the Milan defense, Hazard left a string of bamboozled defenders in his wake, and he will be a very dangerous man to mark in the Premier League.  His relatively slight frame brings to mind a question, though: how will he stand up to the rigors of the long and grueling English season....?  And will he be able to do that again on a cold February night in Stoke?