Old Futbol Buffet–Don’t Blink, You’ll Miss Something

Midweek

The tail end of the Holiday Program of the EPL was exciting and surprising. Arsenal somehow contrived to throw away a 1-0 lead against Fulham and Spurs picked up more points, but it was the matches involving the Manchester teams that saw the most fireworks.

I had the Manchester City v Liverpool game on in the background but it quickly caused me to stop working after a pulsating first half. The Scousers went down to early goal thanks to a turnover from Spaghetti Hair but responded with great fervor and were unlucky not to equalize. City punished them early in the second half and Liverpool looked to be out of it, despite dominating large parts of the game. A second yellow to Barry gave them a glimmer of hope which Skrtel quickly took away, giving up a penalty which Milner converted.

I’m not a Liverpool fan but I honestly don’t know what they are missing. Maybe it’s as simple as getting Suarez back. Henderson and Downing looked adequate and the back line seemed to be coping with the Citizens as long as the guys in front of them weren’t boneheads. Can they finish sixth? Yes. But so what? The club and fans will want more but how do you get from here to there?

Wednesday saw United away to Newcastle after the Reds shocking defeat to Blackburn. With the game at St. James’ and coming off a loss, I expected a focused reaction from Fergie’s squad. What I got was a thrashing. The game went back and forth, with each team having half chances to score before Ba scored with a clever finish. United came out after the assumed hairdryer treatment and were kicked in the gut as Jones gave up a dangerous foul and Cabaye slammed home the free kick. United kept coming but couldn’t take the Saran Wrap off the goal. Further damage was inflicted by a Jones own goal which completed a tough night for him and the Red Devils.

The Republik of Mancunia posted thoughts right after the match. This United’s second crisis of the season. I don’t think they can survive a third. For me, the second half of the season will come down to Rooney’s form and solving the midfield problem.

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FA Cup
Heading into the FA Cup weekend, I read an interview on soccernet.com with Macca. I was too new to footy to see the ’92 Final but watched in unspeakable delight in ’96 when King Eric hit the strike against Liverpool that delivered the Double Double.

Manchester City 2  Manchester United 3

In order to fit everything into my day, I waited until just after this game was over to watch.  I was able to stay in the dark, so when my friend asked me if I had seen the lineups, I said no, why.  Paul Scholes is on the bench.  What the what?!?

Stunned silence was my reaction to the first half.  City dominated the opening exchanges and then everything changed.  Rooney played a fantastic ball to Valencia in the right hand channel, continued his run, and then hit a lucky header that went beyond Pantilimon (who I had never heard of and boy was he a weird looking guy).  Then Kompany got sent off.  Have to say that red was harsh but City did well, creating lots of danger before Welbeck created a moment of magic.  As the ball hit the back of the net, I had no idea what to do.  What a reaction! What a goal!  All of the sudden United were cruising, with Rooney added a third after a comical penalty kick save. Halftime came with United up 3-0 and saw Silva leave the proceedings.  I would have taken of Nasri because he had the full on invisibility cloak on in the first half.

Kolarov opened the second half with a nice free kick to give City a lifeline, and the hosts continued to pressure their neighbors.  It seemed as if United thought the three goals were enough.  Even when Lindegaard made a hash and allowed Aguero to score, the Red Devils did not press for a fourth.  Their attempts at possession, supposedly amplified by the introduction of Scholes, allowed City chance after chance because United would invariably turn it over.  Anderson came on and could have gone at defenders but would lay off, which would lead to a turnover.  The Champions would hold on but not before several nervous moments and City will feel that Kompany’s red card was the only thing keeping them from the fourth round.

A brief note on TACTICS!!  Looks like City played a 5-3-1 in the second half with Savic directing traffic in the back and using wingbacks to add players in the attack.  Nasri was still invisible and eventually was subbed off.  Aguero was amazing, with pace and vision and trickery.  What a signing.  The Micah Richards as forward at the end was a interesting twist and almost paid off as he earned a free kick to give the Citizens one last chance.

Here are some thoughts from The Republik of Mancunia post match.

I usually agree with Zonal Marking’s analysis of matches, mostly because I’m paying enough attention to the matches or understand all of the ins and outs, but reading his summary of the City v United FA Cup match, I disagreed with his comments on the second half.

Michael gave six points for the game:

1.  De Jong was used as a single holder (agree) and was overrun at times (agreed).  As I stated during my thoughts right after the match, felt Silva was muted and Nasri invisible.

2.  The Giggs/Carrick partnership, while not physically imposing, shields the back line and positions itself well to start the attack, with Giggs having a good game.  Well sort of.  I didn’t think Giggsy was all that great, with several turnovers and lost at times.

3.  Ferdinand and Smalling are a pairing of similar centerbacks (agree) and Ferdinand, while not past it, is not the defenders he used to (agree).

4.  Ferdinand’s position was poor he played too deep.  (No arguments there)

5.  I saw the numbers of City’s formation in the second half a little differently but agreed with his sentiment that The energy of the wing-backs made up for the numerical disadvantage, and the freedom of the outside centre-backs to come forward with the ball worked well too.

6.  United wanted more goals.  Totally disagree.  Maybe for the first ten minutes are so, but once Scholes came on, the Red Devils were basically trying to City to death, which worked horribly because once the ball left Scholes and Carrick, a turnover almost immediately ensued.  I don’t think Scholes calmed United at all.  They took the foot off the gas, let City rest while they passed in front of them, and then turned the ball over to energetic outside backs and Aguero pace and power.  They should have stepped on their throats.  Even if they gave up another after the free kick, surely they would have scored 2 or 3 more.

As I was finishing my post, the 4th Round draw came out and United will travel to Anfield the weekend of the 28th.  Strap in.

———-

Articles
Lars at Juventiknows looked back at 2011, which saw the transition from a fearful, nervous side to a strong, passionate side full of belief in their goals. The signings of the summer have transformed this team, which has been infused with varying tactics and has been focused on the task at hand. There is still much work to be done, and they may still end the season empty handed but the club is trending upwards with positive results, a decent squad and the new stadium, which Lars states as follows:

While it’s impossible for us Juventini to completely shed the doubts and anxieties that linger after previous seasons, one thing is clear. Now more than ever, with a wonderful new Stadium, a good portion of great players, a medical staff that has so far been impeccable, a passionate and skillful tactician and leader of men at the helm and, most important of all, a reclaimed identity, going into 2012 the words of another great leader ring true: The only thing we have to fear is Fear itself.

Corruption in FIFA is not new news. Blatter’s attempt at cleaning house before he rides into the sunset with his Nobel Prize is just a PR campaign and legacy building as far as I can tell. A group of journalists, invited to be part of the investigation, declined and simultaneously ripped FIFA a new one.

Sports Illustrated looked ahead to possible stories Stateside in the upcoming year. Klinsmann sure. Olypmics, ok. But the one that drew my attention was possible moves for New England and DC to soccer specific stadiums, which is a must for these two franchises, considered elder statesmen in the league.

So Becks is remaining in the US. Yawn.  Fine, whatever.  I’m still not watching.  Grant Wahl retraces the steps from last October until PSG’s announcement last week that Brand Beckham was not coming to France.

Ernst Bouwes gave an update on the Dutch Cup match at the Amsterdam Arena between Ajaz and AZ, which was abandoned due to a fan running onto the field and getting the crap kicked out of him by the AZ goalkeeper.  In the end the game will be replayed from the start later this month.  Ernst had an interesting take on the match:

Goalkeeper Esteban may face a suspension as he is guilty of violent conduct, which is a red card offence. Although his kicks in the legs of the thug were wildly applauded and probably understandable, society cannot condone revenge, especially not from professional players for a world wide audience. He did it ‘in the heat of the moment’ and was even backed by the Dutch player’s union VVCS last night, but with the attacker on the ground Esteban may have walked away and let the stewards deal with the situation. The imminent danger was gone. Maybe many of us would have done the same, but in principal his kicks are morally wrong.

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Pods

The guys at Men in Blazers covered their 10 Burning Questions regarding the EPL as they came back from their holidays. Michael talked about the Robert Enke book, which has now gone on my wish list, as well as the vibe he got from Chelsea watching from the stands. I don’t know if Roger prepares his metaphors beforehand but man does he have a way with words and footy and pop culture.

On Guardian’s Football Weekly extra, the panel reviewed the strange results of midweek. Also they talked about the future of AVB at Chelsea and whether he is the right man for the job. Roberto Durate confirm railed against LFC and their many fans for their reaction to the Suarez ban. Finally Phillipe Auclair spoke about the situation at PSG moving forward.

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