Old Futbol Buffet–One Eye on Work and the other on Footy
The weekend was busy for me and in the world of footy, and I didn’t get to everything on Monday’s post.
In England, Jonathan Wilson urges patience as Chelsea continue their transition from Mourinho’s Old Guard to whatever the future will look like with AVB at the helm. Looks like their early season wobble is behind them, although the late Wigan draw will not have helped. My guess is that the Blues will pass Spurs and the real test will be the Champions League, where they have been drawn against Napoli. If the Blues press in their current fashion, they will be beaten, so hopefully AVB gets his message across before February.
Meanwhile, in Serie A, the guys at Juventiknows gave their thoughts on The Old Lady’s win over Novara, which included several players who have not seen the field much this season. Hopefully Quags can get back to his goal scoring best and De Ceglie can provide cover and quality at left back.
As for the entire league, Paolo Bandini recapped the weekend in Serie A, focusing on matches involving the teams from the capital. Lazio continue to challenge and they earned a draw against fellow contender Udinese while Roma have had good results heading into the break (draw against Juve and a win against Napoli).
After Tuesday and Wednesday’s matches, Paolo reflected on a Serie A campaign that heads into the winter break with a struggle at the top involving teams, each with an issue. AC Milan, the defending champs, back on top after a slow start. Juventus, traditional power, unbeaten, and hard to break down but maybe lacking that cutting edge that will deliver the shield. Udinese has lost key players but keeps hanging in there, producing an extraordinary home form. Lazio is back in the hunt but can they go one step further than last year? And there is Inter, left for dead again but quietly rising up the table and now sit in fifth, ready to pounce if they top teams slip up. Can’t wait for the second half of the season.
I don’t follow German soccer as much as I would like, but I enjoy reading Uli Hesse, and he wrote a column about events in the Bundesliga as the league heads into a proper winter break, with teams not returning to the field until January 21. One of the items he mentioned was Raul’s hat trick against Werder, which I had heard about on one of Sid Lowe’s appearances. Some have even mentioned that he may be back in the frame for the Spanish National Team. Poppycock. Another thing Uli touched on was the excitement of the league, especially at the top of the table.
Alexandra (@AlexandraJonson) from Total Barca was able to talk to Graham Hunter in the wake of El Clasico to get his thoughts on that game and the future of the Blaugrana. Graham was very high on Barca’s performance against Real, saying that it was better than the 5-0 thrashing last November because of the circumstances: poor away form and the early goal. But where he really got going was about the prospects coming through La Masia, especially a Cameroonian named Dongou. I had just read about Sergi Samper, so to hear about another player of great quality is exciting.
Tim Vickery asked Brazilian football to examine Barcelona’s philosophy in the aftermath of Barca’s 4-0 win against Santos. Neymar was a non-factor as Barca passed and passed and passed the South American champions into brutal submission. He wraps his thoughts with the following statement:
The value of defeat is always in the lessons that it can teach. Perhaps the big lesson that Barcelona have taught in Yokohama is this: if Brazilian football wants to keep on winning not only titles but also hearts then it would be well advised to get back in touch with elements of its own tradition. There is an argument against the view that possession football is outdated and that the central midfielders should be unimaginative giants. Its case was made loud and clear in Japan this Sunday.
Udinese 0 Juventus 0
In preparation for the match, Adam Digby posted a piece about previous Juventus trips to Udine, which reminds supporters how far this current team needs to go to hit the heights again. Maybe this new look squad will match the class of 2001, but I think most fans would be content with improvement over the last two years of inconsistent play and embarrassing results.
Going into this match I had a lot of anticipation. A true top of the table clash, Udinese had not lost at home and Juventus had not lost all season. After the Juve game against Napoli, I was expecting fireworks, but that didn’t come off. Despite my excitement and desire to be fully engnaged in the match, I really had to get some work done before the holiday break. I watched as much as I could so you’ll have to take my thoughts for what they are worth.
There was some confusion about the formation, but it looked like Pepe was playing somewhere between a forward and midfielder depending on how quickly Juve were able to transition. Vidal was great, working hard and getting stuck in, and Pirlo blew very hot and cold, with some incisive passing and frustrating turnovers. Towards the end of the first half I tweeted: if marchisio finds his finishing boots or matri finds his dribbling boots, this match is over. The defense seemed to get caught on the counter and each player in the back was responsible for poor decisions in either execution or thought.
Halftime came with no score, and the fluidity of the first half was gone in the second period. Matri and Pepe committed too many turnovers and Estigarribia almost an auxiliary left back. Udinese’s attack was blunt to be kind. Di Natale was pretty selfish and, since he was not firing on all cylinders, he could have involved the team more. But then I looked at those around him, dribbling into blind alleys and missing simple passes. Guess I would have tried to do it myself too.
Conte subbed Matri and Pepe for Quags and ADP respectively, which helped a little bit but Quags not able to really test the goalkeeper. Juventus looked the more likely to score but the final whistle blew with no goals. A disappointing match to watch but as someone mentioned on twitter, Juve have played most of the Scudetto contenders away, so if they take care of business at home, the Old Lady has a real shot at a Champions League place.
At the end of the match, I summarized on twitter thusly: Juve=poor, esp in 2nd hf. Pirlo very inconsistent, Esti worthless, Matri not on form & team not fluid/crisp. But unbeaten & top of table.
Fulham 0 Manchester United 5
Again I wanted to watch this match but figured it would be a dire 1-0 affair. Boy was I wrong.
United went right at the Cottagers, with Nani setting up Welbeck after five minutes. The Red Devils continued the pressure and Nani got the second off a short corner. Fulham were toothless going forward and were punished on a United counter as Nani found Giggs just inisde the box and his deflected shot looped over the keeper for United’s third. Halftime came and there was only one side in it. Much better start from Fulham as United had eased off and the hosts looked to take the saran wrap off the goal. They failed to capitalize and United eventually came back into the game with about half an hour remaining. The game petered out with a series of half chances from each side, when Rooney added a sizzling strike and Berba chipped in with a sublime finish with just minutes to go. An easy victory and United get the Holiday Program off to a great start. The only downer was injuries to Young and Jones. Looks like Young might be out for a little bit while Jones took a nasty elbow from Dempsey and the coaching staff is waiting for results to see the extent of the injury.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Chelsea 1
An electric start to the match with Spurs creating several half chances. The home side played a weird formation, with a straight forward backline but a midfield of Bale on the left with Modric, Parker and VdV (basically no out and out right midfielder) in front of Sandro, who looked excellent, with Adebayor up top. Sandro made a perfect tackle in the middle of the field on Sturridge and released Bale, who put in a dangerous ball across the six yard box which Adebayor was able to redirect into the goal. Chelsea responded and minutes later Drogba flicked in a ball that bounced off Ashley Cole’s arm before he crossed for Sturridge to tap in. The rest of the half was chippy, plus stop and start due to injuries to Ivanovic and Mikel, which allowed me to see Romeu play.
The second half started with Chelsea in control as it took Spurs almost 15 minutes to snap out of it. At the interval, Harry subbed Pav for VdV, which did . . . nothing. For the Blues, AVB brought on Torres for Drogba. Why? Drogs had been dangerous in link up play and at the end of crosses. Not sure what the Portuguese manager was thinking. The last quarter of an hour was exciting with teams creating and missing chances and Cech in particular coming up big saves.
An exciting match, lacking that last bit of quality, with the London teams shared the points while the Manc teams flashed a wry smile.
The World Football Phone In did an epic four hour show, complete with all three experts and a live studio audience. Have to say it was pretty cool. Here are some of the topics they covered:
- Borges of Santos
- Possible European Super League. Brassell thinks that the Europa League may eventually come good and dismissed the super league because of domestic rivalries and teams may tire of finishing mid-table year after year.
- Sean Wheelock commented on Beckham’s legacy in the MLS.
- When asked about a fantasy Christmas gift, Tim Vickery mentioned a 1950 Brazil home jersey because that was the last they played in white. Wait? What?
- The panel and guests discussed racism in the world of football.
- Finally there some funny anecdotes on coaching rants including Keegan, Kinnear, and several others that were not fit to air.
The guys at the Manchester United Redcast were in better spirits heading into the break after a couple of nice victories. The squad seem to be finding their groove again.