Old Futbol Buffet–What a week!

Friendlies

Last Wednesday saw a mini Interlull, probably the worst of the lot.  Players compete with their clubs then fly, bus, drive to their national team’s compound, play one game and then travel back to their clubs for another weekend fixture.  Really don’t see what the point is.  I wanted to get out and watch the US game (read: have a pint) but I have been swamped at work, so I just had it on in the background.  I wasn’t that impressed but a win is a win, right?

Grant Wahl put together a couple of quick comments after the Italy/US game.  I wasn’t concentrating on the game 100% so I suppose my comments that Edu was non-existent could be chalked up to grunt work.  I really didn’t see anything from Johnson so can’t comment.

Italy played a B+ so let’s go easy on the US has arrived talk.  Klinsmann has now won in Slovenia and Italy (in front of about 14 fans) so it shows some progress, but against the Azzurri I saw a Tracksuit Bob performance—breaking up the attack, defensively frail, few chances.  If the Italians could have stayed onside (and this was without Inzaghi playing), think that they could have ran out comfortable 1-0 winners.

As for the new US away kits, I tweeted my first impression moments before the match: BOO!  Collar is dumb; slash is disconcerting; sleeves meh.  Have to say that the long sleeve version was nice.  Get rid out the sash and the ribbon collar and you have something.  Plus there’s the Nazi element to the kit, as tweeted out by Men in Blazers.

Raphael Honigstein broke down the German team in the wake of the 2-1 defeat to France.  Looks like the defensive line could use some improvement if they hope to win the Euros, but what an attacking group they have.  Yikes.

——

Saturday

Liverpool 1  Arsenal 2

Saturday lunchtime kickoffs in England mean early mornings for US East Coast fans, with kick off at 7:45 am.  I am working with Aaron Passman to put together watch parties and we got the local bar to open up again early for the big encounter between Liverpool and Arsenal.  I had no rooting interest, just simply wanted to watch football, talk with the guys and support Mid Michigan United.  I checked the lineups for the game while waiting for the doors to be unlocked and was surprised to see no Gerrard (really thought Stevie G would “recover” in time) and Carroll only on the bench.  As for Arsenal, Rosicky and Benayoun were in the squad but no OX?  I can sum up the game with one of my in-match tweets:  Unbalanced 1st hf. Amazing moments interspersed btw moments of absolute shite.

Liverpool played well and created a ton of chances, including a ludicrous 12 to 0 advantage in corner kicks but they were terrible in front of goal.  Missed PK, hit the post, Kelly swung and missed late.  This game encapsulated the Reds’ season, good but far from the elite.  They are missing several pieces (again I’m not Liverpoolsupporter so don’t have specifics) and until these are addressed they will remain on the outside looking in.

As for the Gunners, Szczesny played well and seems to have solved the goalkeeper issue, but the ten outfield players in front of him are a real mixed bag.  Defensively they are shaky as Koscielny had several incidents beyond his finely struck own goal.  Arteta was marginal at best until being subbed off and Rosicky was wearing an invisibility cloak for the first 60 minutes or so.  And then there’s RvP.  Two chances, two goals.  All praise must go to the service he received from Sagna and Song, and he finished both chances with supreme confidence.  Despite Arsenal’s uneven campaign, RvP has been epic and must surely be Player of the Year.

LFC are still alive in the FA Cup and with big teams either losing or playing each other, the Reds could still win that, giving them a Cup Double for the season.  Currently sitting in seventh, they can only hope to finish sixth after Newcastle runs the gauntlet again.  As for AFC, they are out of Europe, out of the FA Cup, clinging to fourth, and may have just enough to sneak back into the Champions League for another season.  If not, RvP will be off and then what?

So the Arseblog is pretty happy with how things are going.  Three vital points against Liverpool; rivals dropping points around them; Chelsea going through another manager; plus a keeper seeming to gain in confidence and ability.  The Gunners even almost turned it around against Milan but fell just short.

Sunday

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester United 3

I arrived at the pub and the first thing I did was to check the lineups.  Spurs were without VdV, Bale and Parker, so they were always going to up against it.  As for United, I was surprised with the strength of the squad considering their match against Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

The game kicked off and for the first 44 minutes, Spurs bossed the game, keeping possession, creating a couple of chances and denying Rooney the ball.  The possession stat at one point was 55/45 in favor of the hosts, but there is no way that could be right, as the Spuds knocked the ball around with United in some sort of defensive shell.  Adebayor could have been the hero in the first half.  He had a decent chance saved by de Gea before handling while scoring after a goalmouth scramble.  The game headed towards halftime scoreless, then Rooney popped up on a corner and nodded it home to give the visitors the advantage.  Surely his rug has been Fergie’s best signing this season.

In the second half was more of the same until Ashley Young acrobatically finished after Spurs totally went to sleep on a throw in.  The match looked beyond them and then Young put the fork in them with a curling strike, which capped another double against a North London side.  Defoe grabbed a late consolation, surely stoking the debate about why he wasn’t in the match from the start.

Spurs choke against big teams.  If you take that as your starting point, you won’t go far from the mark.  Stripped of some key players and their finishing boots, they failed to shore up their third place position.  In talking to Spurs fans, they have Everton and then Chelsea, which could make for a nervy finish as the Gunners try to right the ship (finally!) this season.  As for United, they maintained the pressure on City and will just want to stay within touching distance before the big showdown in April, as the trip to the Eastlands will probably determine the title.

The review of the Spurs game at The Republik of Mancunia discussed the question of the United wingers, undeserved/deserved victory, and the run-in to this year’s title, while mentioning Jones’ poor performance in passing.

Eddie and Robert were in good spirits on the Manchester United Redcast.  The team’s form for the run-in, the importance of Scholes and the future of Phil Jones were discussed among other things.

In searching for Tottenham Spurs blogs, I came across Dear Mr. Levy, which featured a letter to the aforementioned man written by Spooky.  The voluminous diatribe was filled with humor, sarcasm, scathing criticism and a little bit of truth.  It’s quite the read.

——

No news on Juventus other than that they drew again.  Four draws out of their last five matches.  The Scudetto might slip away due to dropped points against lesser sides.  Maybe next year the Old Lady can seal the deal.

Marco was in fine form on Juventiknows as he recapped the draw against Chievo.  He railed against the squad choices, the lack of creativity (echoed by Adam Digby’s latest offering at Soccernet.com) and the frustration that is Vucinic.  Juve, with a draw on Wednesday against Bologna, has let AC Milan pull away.  Janusz on twitter commented that fans would have killed to be in second at the beginning of the season, but it’s still a little disappointing for the title to be so close yet so far away.

Paolo Bandini reviewed the Rome Derby as Roma had another player sent off early as Lazio claimed the 2-1 victory, which keeps them in the race for the third Champions League spot from Italy.

——

Uli Hesse examined the sudden change in the top of the Bundesliga table as Dortumund have now gone clear of their rivals.  Bayern lost again and are seven points behind, with Gladbach eight and Schalke 11. Dortmund are unbeaten since the holiday break and could have an insurmountable gap come April when they have play all three teams.

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