Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shambolic United / Spurs on Top / Bruisers at City and Chelsea: Week 2 in the Barclay's Premier League

photo by Anamorphic Mikevia PhotoRee

Ed's not getting too worked up just yet:

Let's just all take a deep breath.  Exhale slowly.  Now let's take a cool, measured, unbiased look at it.
Manchester United pretty much stinks right now.
They're awful.  Losing to the MK Dons?  I mean, the Don's may be promoted next year . . . . to the Championship Division.  I realize United had a second team lineup out there, featuring such no names as Chicharito, Cleverly, Kagawa and Welbeck.  And the BPL keeper of the year De Gea.  And yet they still got absolutely poinded by the seventh place team in League One.  Ouch.
It's fascinating that Louis Van Gaal has brought this team to a low even David Moyes never reached.  Let's be fair to LvG -- had Moyes done what he's just done there may have been riots in Manchester.  Three games against poor competition and no wins to show for it.  Plus they look very much like they don't know what they're doing.  Some questions may be asked:
1.  Was changing the system really what was needed at United?  Or was it merely the players.  Is both achievable?
2.  International Soccer is completely different from the Club game as it is tactically so much simpler.  Just because the 3/5/3 worked in the World Cup doesn't mean it will work in the BPL.  And did it really work?  The Dutch were an immensely talented team but they really only scored when Arjen Robben scored.  And he pretty much scores in any system.
3.  Should tactical changes be made before personnel to match it arrives?  The BPL is to good to spot the first three months of the season to the competition.  Last I checked fourth place was three places away from last years team.  This year it could be worse.
4.  Does the pre-season mean anything?  United won the Guinness Cup and looked good doing so.  These guys are outplayed for long stretches by teams with inferior talent.
I know, it's early.  And they could turn it around.  And what's three months if the next five years are terrific.  But hey, every time is becoming squeaky bum time for United.
Plus they're just tough to watch.
#    #    #
On the other end of the table -- and I mean the completely other end -- is a plucky Spurs team that dominated its weekend match against Uncle Harry's new squad, QPR.  The game was never close.  Uncle Harry just decided to put together the old 3/5/3 as well, and again it is showed a complete train wreck against a Spurs team that is looked simply dangerous.  Harry's always gotten the snub for not being a tactics guy -- a truly unfair criticism if there ever was one considering his near unparalleled success at Spurs.  That said, QPR had no idea what they were doing until they changed back to the 4/4/2.
The most positive points about Spurs are:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Vision Check: Manchester City 3 - Liverpool 1

photo by kenteegardinvia PhotoRee

Scott may want to get his vision checked after this one:

The schedule was not kind to Liverpool given a second game away at the Etihad, but poor finishing is what really finished the Reds when they came up against Manchester City.  I wouldn't argue that City didn't deserve to win the game, but Liverpool certainly deserved to do better than they did.  After a slow start, they controlled much of the first half, creating the better chances.  The problem when you play a team like City, who are so embarrassingly blessed with talent that they have the luxury of starting Sergio Aguero on the bench, is that any chances not taken will return to haunt when an inevitable concession or two finally happens.  And that's pretty much how the game went.
Steven Jovetic seems to have shaken the bug that plagued him all of last season, scoring 2 for the home side before Aguero added a third just 23 seconds and 2 touches after coming off the bench.  Rickie Lambert's header late on was spectacularly saved by Joe Hart but the on-rushing striker had to be marked by the industrious Pablo Zabaleta who was unfortunate to bundle into his own goal.  Still, there was late drama with a deflected clearance fell kindly to Lambert who chose the wrong option when his square pass the Daniel Sturridge was intercepted.  Had Lambert shot and converted, it would have further salvaged the Liverpudlian pride and simultaneously provided a tenser finish.  Instead, Liverpool will have to continue their bedding in of new players while City continue to enjoy the teamwork that comes with a consistent squad.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

SAS 2.0

photo by angermannvia PhotoRee

Scott is so drunk on Liverpool's success we're surprised he was able to string together a relatively coherent piece this week:
So who decided to start the English Premier League the weekend right before kids go back to school in Broward County, Florida?  Clearly not anyone who earns absolutely nothing blogging about the former while trying to shuttle kids about to the latter.  Inevitably, the dearth of time to write, and resulting non-post, led to a Tottenham-like tantrum from the “I can’t possibly blog while I summer in the Hamptons” Correspondent Ed who only recently converted that season to a verb.  Making up for lost time, said Ed is clearly so “Fired Up” he had to “Pinch This” before his latest “Roundup.”  Meanwhile, the Bossman continues to claim "writer’s block" while he slings his toys from his pram and gurgles on about something like “we’ll see at the end of the season.”   Those who were there swear it was uttered in Dutch.
But I digress.  While there were several interesting games this past weekend, the one that captivated our home, and required a crimson sartorial display, was the clash between Liverpool and the team it has so remorselessly pillaged during the transfer window.  The bottom line summary of this encounter is: for a team so resoundingly burgled (well, they were fairly compensated, but that’s a really fun word to use) of their key players, Southampton gave the red Merseysiders more than just a little scare and Liverpool were lucky to win.
Despite having the most of possession, Liverpool lacked many real chances until Jordon Henderson battled for the ball and then played the most sublimely weighted and directed pass that I have ever seen.  It was as if Raheem Sterling needed not even actually kick the ball to score, but rather by simply continuing his then-present gait he would have notched the 1-0 advantage.  The Saints leveled shortly after the restart via an emphatic strike from Nathaniel Clyne, who surged forward from defense to catch, mainly Martin Skrtl, slightly out of position.  Energized by the goal, Southampton outplayed Liverpool for a period before the Reds began to assert themselves again, even if the visitors were consistently dangerous.  Ultimately, it was none other than the new SAS (Sturridge and Sterling) who combined for the winner, the latter deftly cushioning his header into the path of the former who ever-so-barely grazed the ball to guide it into the net.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spurs and More -- Week 1 Roundup of the Barclay's Premier League

photo by Jimmy_Joevia PhotoRee

Ed's at it again:
Well, it seems the bossman has forgotten where his crayons are, so here’s my post on the weekend’s action:
On Spurs v. the Hammers:
This Spurs team doesn’t appear richly talented, but they are young and used their depth well this weekend.  I also think the expectations for the team are a bit lower, which I think will help them at least until or unless the pressure builds as the season wears on.  Spurs players are younger and I don’t think they feel as much pressure when games like this one remain close for so long. 
I enjoyed watching Holtby and Townsend come off the bench and inject some intensity and pace into the game.  Immediately Holtby had a steal that led to a break.  I also liked Pochettino’s confidence in the bench and the very young players on the squad.  This is not to denigrate Erik Lamela, who looked confident on the ball and much better than he did in any of his appearances last season.  He clearly has talent, now he just needs confidence, and Pochettino is clearly trying to help him get it.
Benteleb played okay, but I found it interesting that he was out there rather than Paulinho or Sandro or Dembele, none of which made an appearance.  In light of Spurs interest in Morgan Schneiderlin from Sunderland, I’m wondering if each or all of these players may be headed out of White Hart Lane.  I think this would be a curious choice, despite the fact that Etienne Capoue played well in the role of the disrupter.  Perhaps there are injuries that I am unaware of? 
Adebayor played well, though not well enough to score.  Erikson was quiet and ineffective.  Spurs will need much more from him from week to week as he’s one of the few creative players in the lineup.

Harry Kane was brought on instead of Soldado.  Not only did the Spaniard show little last year, he also showed little in preseason.  Often players with talent from the Spanish league don’t translate to the Premier League.  I suspect this is because defenders are bigger and faster from top to bottom in the BPL.  Soldado lacks pace, isn’t a strong target man like, say, Lambert, and isn’t a shifty quick release guy like Lewandowski.  It would seem that he’s the Spanish version of Chris Wondolowski – which makes me think he just might not be good enough for Spurs. 

Hugo Lloris showed why he’s the best keeper on the team despite his relatively small size.  His quickness kept Spurs alive in a game they could’ve lost and probably should’ve tied.

Younes Kaboul looked very mediocre, but then there was Eric Dier, the Spur’s hero who neatly dribbled pass the Hammer’s keeper after a perfect pass from Harry Kane in extra time.  It’s so nice to see a new signing perform well out of the gate – not the typical thing for this team.

Of course, it’s impossible to make any big conclusions after just one game.  Perhaps the Hammers are awful, or perhaps they are terrific.  One never knows at this point . . . .

On the Rest of the League:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fired Up

Ed's ready for the season:

How fired up am I about the 2014/2015 season?  Well, right now my anticipation has me on the same hair trigger as the Bossman when he panics his way out of the bathroom midstream after hearing Ian Dark scream “Rooneeeeey” in the other room.  As the young people say, I’m completely off the chain right now.


Why is it going to be that good this year?  Well, how could it not?  This year seven teams – seven! – are going to be in a mini-tournament for the top 4 spots of the premier league.  There’s clearly disparities among them, and it’s very likely the top four will be teams we are so regrettably familiar with, but even so, at least one of these giants of the BPL is going to be left out of the party.  Who will it be?  Liverpool, United, Chelsea, City, Arsenal?  The story lines abound.  Here are those from the top 7 clubs:
1.       Will the Special One continue his second season magic?  Will Matic be the ultimate BPL Cleaner?  Is Diego Costa that good or will he become the BPL’s next Roberto Soldado?
2.       Will Liverpool survive the departure of the biter?  Will Gerard finally get his title?  Will Coutinho and Sterling become dominant BPL players?  Is Sturridge going to be as effective now that he draws all the coverage?  Is Brendan Rodgers actually that good a manager? 
3.       Will Arsenal contend for a top spot?  Will a team made better over the summer finally compete with the top four?  Will Ramsey get through the season without injury and take over Ya Ya Toure’s spot for the best midfielder in the BPL?  Is Mikel Arteta even close to fast enough to be captain and holding midfielder?
4.       Is Louis Van Gaal really that good?  Will he steer a United team that looked really good this pre-season back into the contenders that they once were?  Will Van Persie stay healthy?  Will Rooney continue his pre-season form?  Will the lack of European play propel them to the title?  Will anyone be able to play defense? 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pinch This

photo by BrentDPaynevia PhotoRee

Ed is back, and even Pep Guardiola can not escape his withering glare:
WTF with Pep avoiding the Timbers coach after the MLS All-Star game on Wednesday night and refusing to shake his hand?  The coach isn’t out there tackling people, the players are.  And is it a surprise that MLS players after being summarily rejected by their European counterparts have a bit of an inferiority complex and want to come out strong against Bayern?  I always thought Pep was the good guy in the Bizarro World run-ins with the Special One (the face pinching incident is particularly repulsive and mind-blowing reminder of how European soccer coaches can behave) but now I’m beginning to wonder.  Especially after his “we will prepare more next year” comments, as is the MLS all-stars have been sequestered at a compound reviewing tapes and preparing sets for the All Star Game.  What it does scream, in no uncertain terms, is “Sour Grapes!”  Here’s the deal, Pep:  you lost 2 - 1 against a team that was better than you yesterday – partly because they were in full season form, partly because they gave more of a damn about the game, partly because some of those guys are good**, and partly because neither Ribery nor Robben were playing. 
Plus, losing this game might actually be a good thing for you to do.  Remember Pep, America is an ATM for clubs like yours as many of the GM’s in Europe have attested to.  But can you really be surprised or outraged at two tough tackles?  When your club took the substantial jingle to come here it did so with the knowledge that it would have to play a competitive soccer game, too – see the last ten or so years of this game – and that it wouldn’t be a mere roll-over for your players to waive their hands and walk away with a 5-0 victory.  Playing the part of the petulant child who turns his back to an MLS coach doesn’t go over well in the GDUS of A.  If you want to get into it with the other coach, we expect you to go all Jim Harbaugh on him, not to just present your back or pinch the assistant coaches face.  We are honestly so shocked at that kind of wimpy adolescent behavior that we usually respond with bewilderment rather than anger.  Losing sucks, we all know that, but you ought to get used to it because the USA is starting to wake up to soccer in the same way it did for the Olympics, and I think you know what happened there.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Manchester United 3 - Liverpool 1 -- From a Liverpool Fan's Perspective

Happier Times for Scott and Cole

Liverpool-lovin' Scott owes the Bossman a beer -- preferably craft:

This one is hard to write.  But, for posterity, my memoirs and pursuant to several clauses in my farlieonfootie contract, I am obligated to recount at least some of the events that transpired on Monday night at Sunlife stadium.  My son Cole and I, along with Ajax supporter John and his son, planted our tailgating flag in a barren, easily-found patch of parking, ignoring the consternated gesticulations of the parking staff who preferred we wedge our car between several behemoths already there. Correspondent Ed arrived late sporting a vintage Spurs jersey and a cooler of craft beer, perhaps equally vintage.  The Bossman blamed the weather and the NSA for an arrival that was so tardy as to rule him out of our rain-spattered tailgate. Correspondent Mark, however, emerged from a sleek, black SUV, supported by a substantial family entourage (thank you for the cookies, Theresa) and waxing positively poetic having just returned from a English multi-stadium tour evidenced by four ill-made Man United t-shirts, an out-of-focus Chelsea poster (since discarded) and one photo of Steven Gerrard's shirt/locker that started a bidding war on eBay. 
Despite the inclement weather and lack of a soccer ball to kick about (big shout-out to the nice gentlemen who loaned us one), our group found shelter under our surprisingly large pop-up tent for an earnest discussion of which of Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool Mark and his progeny should support.  Cole and I were emphatic with our Liverpool case while John, ever the contrarian, half-heartedly supported the Evil MU Empire.  Alas, while the subject was not definitively decided, I fear the result of the ensuing game may have influenced the final decision.
This was my first live Liverpool game.  So it goes without saying that it was also my son's first game as well, and his excitement was not to be contained.  Having refreshed his memory of all the words to "You'll Never Walk Alone", and sporting a Gerrard shirt and hat, my 10 year old was nothing short of effervescent as the lineup was announced during our bathroom pit stop (I did mention the craft beers).  Much relieved, we found our seats just behind the goal where Liverpool was warming up.  Unfortunately the first of several disappointments then descended on my little Liverpudlian fan as the warmup abruptly ended to make way for a somewhat entertaining but thoroughly deafening firework display that blanketed the pitch with a smoky haze which never seemed to fully exit the stadium.