Posts Tagged ‘ Arsenal ’

Old Futbol Buffet–Spuds Smashed

This weekend was hit and miss in terms of footy.  Saw some La Liga action on Saturday but missed the North London Derby and United’s shock defeat at Norwich.  Did manage to catch the second half of the Juventus game though and was 0 for Sunday due to working the concession stand at the MSU basketball game and then having church.

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Arsenal 5  Tottenham Hotspur 2

I wanted to see the game but due to the 745am EST kickoff and life intervening, I missed it.  I woke up and checked the score: 3-1 to the Gunners.  Scrolling through the updates, Adebayor scored the opening goal and then got sent off 18 minutes in.  Several people tweeted that it was the striker’s best performance for Arsenal and that the Gunners should have evened things up by putting on Andre Santos.

The Arseblogger was content to ignore the tactics of the game and focus on the result.  The former Arsenal striker was the focal point, both of the blog post and the match.  As for the Gunners themselves, Cazorla and Wilshere were picked out for praise and Giroud was amongst the goals again.  5-2.  That is all.

For a Spurs perspective, I read Spooky’s latest post at Dear Mr Levy.  The fragility of Tottenham Hotspur—caused by missing players, the chopping and changing of the defense and the mismanagement of the transfer window—was exposed as the Gunners took Spurs apart.  Spooky was happy that AVB went for it even with ten me but the crucial period before halftime meant there was only going to be one result.

Zonal Marking examined the game noting that AVB surprisingly went with a 4-4-2 that used power and pace going forward and a high line defensively.  The Portuguese manager stuck with the approach, moving to one forward but his team tired, conceding the game just before the interval.  He switched to a 3-4-1-1 in the second half, but after the initial pressure wore off, the Gunners picked off the visitors.  Special mention was given to Walcott, not only for his goal but for his play on the right hand side, combining with Giroud and allowing Sagna to overlap.

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Juventus 0  Lazio 0

I watched the Old Lady for the first time this season, catching the second half on Saturday.  A couple of things: loved the all black kit.  The numbers and names are sharp and really pop off the back of the kit.  Loved the 3-5-2 formation.  Wingbacks getting involved.  Center of the pitch under control. Juve dominated the proceedings, although they did seem susceptible to the counter.  Despite their energy and chances, the ball would not go in, and that led to two dropped points.  @agiamba tweeted after the match that it was a good performance but the goalie made three great saves.  Agree to a certain extent.  They were in control but poor crossing and some poor finishing kept this game from being won.  The bianconeri have bounced back from defeat and still lead the league by four points over Inter.

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Finally, what a weekend for MSU soccer, both varsity and club.  The Men’s team travelled to South Bend on Sunday after defeating ClevelandState on Thursday.  The Spartans fell 3-0 but finished the season strong, winning the BIG 10 Tournament Championship.  As for the club teams, tweets came across my timeline late Saturday night that both the Men’s and Women’s club teams won their respective National Championships.  Amazing accomplishment.  Congratulations to Scott, Dan and all the players.  Make sure to read Dan’s recaps of the women’s games.

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Articles and Pods

Gabriele Marcotti joined Anto on the Beyond the Pitch to discuss current storylines in Serie A, including Juventus’ European challenge, the success of new Inter manager Stramaccioni, the problems at AC Milan, and De Rossi’s future at Roma.  Highly informative as usual.

Jonathan Wilson profiled Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu for SI.com.  Very interesting backstory as he moved from the pitch to player manager to challenging Steaua’s dominance in the 80’s.  Now he has the Ukrainian champs on the cusp of the round of 16 of the Champions League and poised to make a run in the competition.  Although Lucescu favors youth, he has a veteran backline that may make the difference this time around.

Finally Steve Rushin wrote on entertaining piece for SI.com contemplating the question: What if life was more like soccer?  The possibility of extra time, brandishing red cards, “diving”, and moving your focus on to the next challenge are all possibilities.  Have to say my favorite part was this:

After all, the single greatest existential quandary that humans face in life also bedevils soccer: Once you leave the game, you are not allowed to return.

Old Futbol Buffet–Gunners shoot Blanks

Manchester United 2  Arsenal 1

After a night of moderate drinking, making it to the bar for an 8:45am kickoff was a struggle.  Not as much of as struggle as watching the Gunners in red socks with the #PurpleReignPain jerseys, but anyways . . . Couldn’t have asked for a better start as Rafael’s early cross wasn’t dealt with by Vermaelen and RvP punished his former teammate three minutes in.  From there a drab match unfolded, with Arsenal holding onto the ball but doing nothing with it, while United were not very dangerous.

“The ball doesn’t lie” sums up the PK before halftime.  Cazorla went to cover his face, which resulted in the spot kick, dutifully missed by Wazza. A stat floated around the interwebs that RvP is the better option in that circumstance.  The second half saw more of the same with Podolski and Ramsey having almost no impact on the game.  I am struggling to remember any influential moments for the Gunners.

The nail in Arsenal’s coffin came from the head of Evra.  Short corner, cross from Rooney, the tallest player on the field jumped and missed, the captain did not, 2-0.  Wilshere’s second yellow was crap but not undeserved.  He had a decent game on his return, yet several rash challenges caught up with him.  Anderson came into the match for the Reds.  I read that he had a good match against Chelsea in midweek and he played a solid thirty minutes but boy is he fat.  Cazorla’s consolation goal was a fine piece of finishing but AFC left with no points again and with draws by CFC and MCFC, United went top of the table.  Still not hitting the heights but hard to argue with the results.

Dan at the Red Rants blog saw United win comfortably, using the same lineup as the one against Chelsea last Sunday.  He concluded that it was “the Gunners who were flattered by a score line that could have been much worse, had United not played with the handbrake on for most of the match.”  I’ve seen comments like this in the aftermath, which shows how far Arsenal have fallen.  Chelsea treated the Gunners in much the same way at the Emriates, letting them have the ball and then picking them apart.

The Arseblogger’s headline said it all—Worse than last year.  Last year a disjointed Arsenal has a bad day at the office; this year was the realization that they are no longer one of the big boys.  He asked that Vermaelen be dropped for a lack of form and lack of leadership.  He also saw a limp attack that never got going.  Finally, Andre Santos did not have a good game but the team the Brazilian is not the only one to blame.  At the end he wrapped up by saying that this was “another disheartening day, more proof that our squad is too light in key areas, and another day when the team looked sluggish and not ready for the fight.”

My brother shared a post with me from Boris Mellor at the Arsenal Times.  Echoing the Arseblogger, yes the score was better, but the result was the same and even more disappointing.  Over the last couple of weeks, the Gunners have lost to Norwich, lost to Schalke, beaten QPR (barely) and recovered from 4-0 against Reading to win 7-5.  Now they have lost to rivals (maybe) Manchester United.  Boris sees a troubling sense of underachievement at the club, ending his post with this statement:

Without a change of ethos, the insertion of a real backbone and leadership this club will continue to decline. A fish rots from the head, the tragedy is that many can’t smell the rot as it is hidden by the rose scented aroma of Champions League Qualification.

Finally Zonal Marking watched a “subdued” affair as United attacked down the right hand side, with Valencia and Rafael overwhelming Santos and pulling Vermaelen out of the middle.  With Giroud isolated, the Gunners did not generate much offense, even with the introduction of Walcott.  In the end, Fergie got everything pretty much spot on as Arsene slumped to another defeat.

Old Futbol Buffet–Couch Potato Edition

Saturday was a beautiful autumn day in Lansing, with citizens out and about shopping, enjoying the weather and tailgating for the big MSU/OSU football game.  How did I enjoy the day?  Sat inside a home or bar and watched over eight hours of footy.  The day began with the 7:45am Arsenal v Chelsea and ended with the 4pm Sevilla v FC Barcelona match.

Arsenal 1  Chelsea 2

Arsene Wenger probably did not sleep Saturday night.  The Gunners are the most eye catching team in the Premier League at the moment, yet the results are not following.  The hosts dominated the European Champions but were sucker punched twice and got nothing from the match.

The first Chelsea goal came out of nothing as Arsenal shambolically defended a free kick.  The Ox, on for the injured Diaby, left David Luiz open.  The Brazilian missed the header but Torres was able to volley home as Koscielny got twisted around.

The Gunners struggled without Diaby initially but eventually found their attacking strategy, which was to get into wide areas.  Eventually the alien known as Gervinho made up for last week’s debacle with a fantastic finish.  Halftime came with matters all square and Arsenal having every chance of winning.

They kept pressing after the interval but were wasteful in front of goal.  Arteta did a solid job of winning the ball back, but he was slightly culpable for Chelsea’s second goal. He was slow to react after losing the ball and put Vermaelen in trouble.  The resulting set piece was floated in by Mata and the bending ball was not dealt with. Then AFC put on their subs but these changes unbalanced the team, as the Ox ran around all over and Theo was marginal.  Giraud should have equalized towards the end but his effort hit the side netting.

Chelsea put in a veteran performance and the Gunners did everything but convert their chances. The Blues probably only had a handful of chances, scored two and Torres, who was meh, made a hash of a break away.  The back line for CFC was solid and Cech made two great saves.  As for Arsenal, Cazorla was decent but missed two chances outside the box.  Jenkinson was fantastic, showing real drive and determination at right back.  Still waiting for more from Podolski though.

The Arseblogger tried to keep things in perspective after the Chelsea game, noting that Arsenal were superior for most of the match but failed to take their chances and made mistakes at the defensive end.  Fair comment and I think the Gunners are a top four side, with one caveat—can they do it against the smaller clubs?  When they play Wigan and Stoke and Reading can they unlock packed defenses and maintain concentration for the one or two moments they are under pressure?  If the Gunners can, then they will be right there.  If not, then a fourth place (or lower) awaits them.

Zonal Marking was not impressed by this clash of London teams (although he was impressed with Oscar), focusing his analysis on the each team’s left side and Arsenal’s substitutions and shape after going down 2-1.  What I saw as Arsenal unbalanced after Diaby’s exit, ZM explained as a move to width as Ramsey moved inside and the OX, naturally a wide player, played in the right hand channel.   As for the Gunners finish to the game, their lack of shape (ie almost no linked midfield) allowed Chelsea to maintain possession and kill off the game rather than keep it the high tempo which kicked in after the Blues’ second goal.

Fulham 1  Manchester City 2

The Cottagers got off to a great start as Mark Halsey, the villain of last week’s Liverpool/Manchester United match, awarded a very soft penalty.  Petric converted and for 85’ minutes, it looked as if Fulham would hang on for a point.  But alas, the Citizens overwhelming talent won the day.

Kun Aguero canceled out the opening goal just before halftime and then Mancini threw on attacker after attacker in search of the winner.  Eventually it was Dzeko who won the points scoring almost immediately after his introduction with minutes remaining.

Big result for City given the outcomes of the day.  Unfortunately for Fulham, who tried to hold into the second half, Riise’s poor clearance created the half chance for Dzeko. David Silva was head and shoulders the best player on the field, gliding past defenders, creating chances and pulling the strings.  Special mention must be made of Brian Ruiz who did everything he could for the hosts.

I must have been watching a different game than Kristian of Cottagers Confidential.  He felt that Fulham deserved a draw.  True, they defended well and did whatever they could to stop the Citizens but they were hardly dangerous.  Also, he didn’t feel Ruiz did enough, which, considering the circumstances, he did all he could for the cause.  Fulham were surprisingly good for me.  As I told my mate, I wouldn’t have thought that Baird and Sidwell were a Premier League center midfield pairing, but they marshaled the game well.  The team as a whole was well organized and will give lesser teams trouble.

Suffering Bruin jotted down some thoughts after the game for the Bitter and Blue blog.  Can’t agree with him enough about using some sort of video to weed out fouls and resulting penalties like the one on Riise.  Despicable.  He also mentioned the lack of pace for City.  I don’t see it that way.  I see clever, technical players who are able to maintain possession in tight spaces and create chances in other ways (example would playing in Zabaleta in time and time again) rather than mazy or heaving runs from all over the pitch.  City are right behind the chasing pack and now turn their eyes toward Borussia Dortmund.

Manchester United 2  Tottenham Hotspur 3

Much was made of Spurs poor record at Old Trafford so of course United crapped their pants and gave up a 23 year unbeaten run.  The Red Devils first half was utter dreck as their defense was exposed time and time again.  Vertonghen got things up and running, driving right at the United defense and no one picked him up.  His shot ricocheted off Evans and put the visitors up just two minutes in.

Things got worse minutes later as Bale beat Rio for pace and scored the second.  The opening 45 minutes showed a couple of things—Spurs have got real pace that unsettle the best teams; Giggs and Scholes can’t start and or play together at present; every time RvP goes down, the Red Devil Nation holds their collective breath.

The second half produced the usual United fightback, as Nani converted a fine cross from Rooney.  Dempsey immediately replied as Defoe wriggled free, setting up Bale, who unleashed a vicious blast that was only partially saved by Lindegaard and Dempsey tapped in.  Kagawa was able to quickly reduce the margin back to one but that was to the end of the scoring.  A fine effort from Spurs and despite dropping into a defensive shell, they left with all the points, their third league win in a row.

Rooney’s introduction gave the hosts a spark and he was terribly unlucky on his free kick that hit the post.  Kagawa is still positive but doesn’t play towards goal so his impact can be negated.  Scholes still has it but the team must be working around him for to influence the game.  The comeback was inspiring and depressing at the same time.  Southampton required an amazing effort and Liverpool needed the helping hand of the referee.  12 points from six matches and yet this team is nowhere near top form.  Only time will tell if this is the typically slow start and if real problems are on the horizon.

Spooky was thrilled with the result.  His thoughts at Dear Mr. Levy see a team starting to move in the right direction, full of speed and hunger and led by a coach coming into his stride.  I agree with him that Walker struggled and will need to improve defensively in order to shore up the defense, but with the firepower available, performances like the first half could be the norm.

Reading Doron’s comments at the Stretford End 24 hours after the match put things in perspective.  Besides praise for Scholes’ second half, the lack of presence in midfield, which affected the entire first half, and Rooney’s introduction, Doron addressed the fact that Fergie got the line up wrong, simple as that.  He will not make the same mistake next time.  My guess is that he will use a more athletic, high energy team that stretches Spurs as they exposed United in the first half.  He made the changes and almost salvaged something from the match, but the poor start and key moments went against the Reds.  His statement towards the end should be put on the United locker room bulletin board:

Why oh why can’t United start games like they seem to have to start second halves? In every game bar one in the league we’ve had to come from behind which isn’t good enough at all. Can’t the players be motivated from the off or is it more to do with Fergie picking the wrong team to begin with and having to make changes?

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MMMSL Over 30 Playoff Final

CCFC claimed the over 30 playoff title last night in a 4-3 in Double OT thriller over Grand Saints.  Down 2-0 early (Hagan and McNally?), we battled back to 2-1 (Christensen)  before halftime and then the two teams did their best Manchester United/Tottenham impression.  CCFC scored right at the beginning of the second half through James Glenn before Grand Saints responded moments later to make it 3-2 (Drauer?).

Later on Brett earned a penalty, which was converted by Wael Awad to make it 3-3.  There were several chances for both teams to win it in regulation but extra time it would be.  Not much in the first period, but early in the second session, Brett won another penalty.  Will Robinson slotted it home to put CCFC ahead.

We then had to survive an onslaught to run out winners.  Fantastic season for the lads.  12 win and 2 draws in the regular season (Champions) and playoff champions.  Our first double since 2006 that made the post match beers that much more satisfying.

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Articles

Jonathan Wilson commented on Liverpool’s start to the season (the worst since 1902) ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.  Their poor start may be down to two factors—tough fixture list (Arsenal, City and United) and conversion of chances (somewhere in the neighborhood of 6% before Saturday’s match).  On the plus side, while passes attempted remains static, their completion percentage is higher, so Rodgers may be having some sort of effect and the Reds are pleasing to the eye.  Wilson posits that: The good news for Rodgers is that passing, the absolute core of his philosophy, has improved, even given the tough start. The bad news is that individual errors keep undermining the effectiveness of the overall structure.  Maybe the season really did start on Saturday with their 5-2 thumping of Norwich.

Grant Wahl touched a couple of interesting tidbits in his weekly column for Planet Futbol.  Klose’s honesty (he admitted using his hand and got a goal overturned); Stuart Holden’s return to Bolton; Sounders vote of confidence of their GM; and Columbus hosting USMNT games.

Old Futbol Buffet–Being: Screwed

This weekend was filled with football from Spain and England.  Saturday I managed to catch a couple of La Liga games in afternoon, and then Sunday started early with Liverpool hosting Manchester United, which was followed by Manchester City v Arsenal.  This was followed by my Over 30 Semi Final before some beers and pizza and then bed.

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Saturday

Went up to the pub for Real Betis v Espanyol and FC Barcelona v Granada.  Haven’t totally collected my thoughts on those matches yet, but the first match was dire.  Not many chances and rarely held my attention.  The FCB match was fascinating as the Blaugrana could not break down the visitors until El Capitan made the breakthrough minutes from time.

After that I headed to Lansing’s Old Town for the Bluesfest.  While down there I listened to band while watching the first half of the Michigan and Notre Dame game.  No skin in the game and I was ready to throw my beer through the TV as Denard threw pick after pick and put pressure on the Wolverine defense.  Ugh.

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Sunday

Liverpool 1  Manchester United 2

The Reds from Liverpool got hosed.  Even as a fan of the Red Devils, there is no other conclusion from the game.  Halsey had a howler and these things happen.  He missed a trick though.  For Shelvey, if he had gotten a yellow for his challenge on Rafael towards the beginning of the match then gets a yellow (and so does Evans) and then he is off.  As for the penalty, very little contact and Valencia forced the referee to make a decision.

United were not sharp. Maybe it was Liverpool, maybe it was the Champions League virus, maybe it was the personnel.  The defense was in shambles, with players getting tackles wrong and constantly letting Suarez run at them.  In the midfield, Giggs was wasteful in possession and Nani was awful.  Can’t get him on the bus out of town soon enough.  Kagawa was decent in possession but not incisive enough.  There wasn’t a killer ball, a direct punch at the opponent.  Scholes came on the second half to get hold of the ball and pushed Giggs outside for Nani.

LFC were still dangerous after the red and deserved the lead and probably a little more from the match. Glen Johnson owned Rafael and the hosts should have exploited that more. Probably the biggest revelation of the match was the Spaniard Suso.  He was fantastic and an upgrade on Borini.

The Red Devils win was less than satisfying, as they were poor and probably didn’t deserve anything from the match.  Again the question remains:  Will LFC stay with Rodgers?  They played well but the results are not coming.

Doron and Nik focused on Fergie’s lineup for their post at the Stretford End.  The gaffer didn’t get it exactly right and was forced into changes, especially in midfield, but, in their opinion, the back five were solid and proved the manager correct.  Issues remain for United despite the three points, which they are quick to point out.

Ed at The Liverpool Offside remains optimistic despite the loss and increasing injury list for the Reds.  Suso’s performance gave him hope as did Liverpool’s performance before and after the red card.  Unfortunately the club is in the relegation zone after five matches.  A run of results will get them clear, but when does that run start?

Manchester City 1  Arsenal 1

Don’t know what to make of this match, other than Joe Hart is an amazing keeper.  City played well after the midweek disappointment but were missing a gear.  Yaya never got going and Aguero was just a half step off.  In the end, City’s directness compared to Arsenal’s patience made for a nice conflict and a fully rested side might pose more problems for Londoners.

As for the Gunners, I have started a paypal account to buy Gervinho a first touch.  Old joke but never get tired of it.  Several times he got in and just gave it away.  Then at the end, he created some space for himself and put it in row Z.  How good is Cazorla?  This year’s David Silva, we’ll see if he can do it for an entire season.  Jenkinson looked confident and was a presence both attacking and defending on the right side.

The Arseblogger was pleased with the performance, which saw the Gunners go to the home of the Champions and get something from the match.  The teamsheet was quality with a couple of quiet performances from Diaby and Poldolski.  The team was assured in possession (a little too assured for me—shoot the damn ball) and earned a deserved point.

Harkiano at Bitter and Blue still cannot figure out if the Citizens start to the season is solid, sluggish or poor and is looking to the next five matches to make a conclusion.  Again City played well but Silva and Yaya did not have enough of an influence and the strikeforce could not finish off the limited number of chances they had.

Finally, Zonal Marking looked at the 4-2-2-2 of City against the 4-4-1-1 of Arsenal, although to be fair, the formations were fluid and unbalanced times.  He focused on the match-ups around the pitch and each manager’s second half substitutions.

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Podcasts

Uli Hesse joined Anto on Beyond the Pitch to discuss the current storylines in the Bundesliga, including Dortmund’s attempt to win three league titles in a row and Bayern’s signing of Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao.  They also touched on the German National Team and their mentality heading into the next competition.  Finally, Uli has written a great piece on the founding of the league at ESPN FC, which I highly recommend.

The panel on the Lovely Left Foot pod gave their thoughts on this summer’s transfers and also commented on the early rounds of games across Europe, while revealing boredom with the current Champions League set up.  Have to say, Match Day One was not short of excitement.

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Other stuff

My Over 30 team, CCFC, reached our tournament final for the third year running.  We destroyed our opponents and now go for the double next Sunday.  Our opponents ground out a win against a team that one my teammates described our version of Chelsea from last year.  Hard to watch and the beers only helped a little.  Sunday we go for glory.

Currently I’m reading Philippe Auclair’s book on Eric Cantona.  Can’t recommend it enough as he tells of Le Roi’s rise through French football to his days at Leeds and United.  Learning a little bit about the history of Ligue Un and the Les Bleus as well.  Good stuff.

Old Futbol Buffet–Labor Day Weekend

What a window!!  Friday at work was spent trying not to get sucked into the Transfer Window shame spiral as every time I checked the interwebs some deal was on or off or confirmed or denied.  Essien to Real Madrid.  What the what?   Bendtner to Juve.  Ugh.   The Joey Barton saga.  By far the busiest team was Spurs, getting in Lloris, Sigurdsson, Dempsey, Vertonghen and Dembele in and Modric, Kranjcar, Pienaar, dos Santos, Rose (loan) and VdV out.  City were also active as Mancini tries to build his squad for important season, including defense of their title and a Group of Death in the Champions League.

Tons of business was done and it was hard to keep track of it.  Surely magazine editors and writers must be used to their preview issues doomed to the dustbin the moment they are printed as late transfers completely change forecasts.  I’m looking at you Fulham.  Several Americans were involved in this window, with Dempsey finally getting out of Fulham, Bocanegra going Racing and Edu going to Stoke.

Miguel Delaney ranked each team’s performance in the transfer window for ESPN FC, noting that Chelsea, Spurs and Everton all made strong moves while Norwich is just hanging and Liverpool were not able to overcome the mistakes made previous windows.

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Weekend’s Games

Miguel Delaney was on hand at White Hart Lane as more points were dropped.  He examined the situation for AVB and gave his comments on the situation.  (At least AVB was back to the suit and tie).

Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2

Sunday morning rolled around and I got up for my first viewing of the 2012-13 versions of these two teams.  Let’s start off with the kits.  Liverpool’s home is sharp.  A striking color of red and not cluttered with stripes or accents or anything else.  As for Arsenal’s away strip, #PurpleReignPain isn’t awful on TV, with the purple fading away to create an almost black kit.

The first half was hard to watch, with lots of energy but very little finished product.  Thought Liverpool looked tasty although not nearly sharp enough in the final third, as Suarez was not at his best.  The Reds saw the passes and the runs but could not execute.  As for Arsenal, the Gunners looked all over the place and were not organized defensively.  Going forward, everyone made the same run and complicated things.

The opening goal came down to two points: Gerrard turning the ball over (looked like simple miscommunication) and then Glen Johnson not tracking back.  Just lazy and allowed the German, who started the counter to get in and squeeze a tough shot past Reina.

The second half saw a little better from both sides, especially Arsenal.  Cazorla started making a bigger impact and Diaby continued his dominance.  Thought Giroud was wearing the invisibility cloak but couldn’t tell if it was a lack of movement from him, lack of service or something else.  For the visitors, Gerrard really struggled physically and in possession and surely the confrontation is looming between him and Rodgers.  Can’t see Jose Enrique being on Merseyside next year.  His form has plummeted over the last 12 to 18 months.  I really enjoyed watching Sterling, who was very lively and almost earned a pk against Mertesacker and was a constant threat on the outside.

The game was killed off when JohnJo watched the Cazorla walk in, receive a one two and then blast a shot at Reina, who should have done better. My tweet at the moment summed up the game for me: for all of #LFC possession, defensive lapses are killing the Reds. #LFC #AFC #EPL

The stat at the end was thrown out that this is Liverpool’s worst start since 1962-63.  not time to hit the panic button yet.  They are a decent side that just needs some fine tuning.  Joe Allen was class (first time I had every seen him play).  Get rid of Gerrard and kick Suarez up the back side, and a top six finish is not beyond them.

Following the match John W. Henry wrote a letter to the fans.  Pretty interesting reading as he articulates the management style of the club.

Zonal Marking analyzed the game, focusing on the shape of each team—Liverpool’s pressing 4-3-3 and Arsenal’s 4-4-1-1.  Cazorla was able to find space inbetween the lines and his movement led to both of the goals.

Ed at The Liverpool Offside was not in the greatest of moods: The football might be changing and the personnel are somewhat different, but Liverpool still present as the same indifferent, ineffective squad that’s stumbled and stuttered their way through the past two seasons.  He made sure to call out Gerrard and Reina while also looking at the few options Rodgers has at his disposal.  Time will tell if LFC can turn it around.

The Arseblogger was very happy with the defense, from the back four the reading of the game by the group.  Also, the midfield is starting to come together which should allow the Gunners to push on after a slow start.  I would still be concerned about squad depth although it sounds like several players are on their way back.

Finally, somehow Manchester United won their match at Southampton.  I followed the game on twitter and thought for sure the Reds were done for, but RvP came to the rescue.

Doron at the Stretford End tried to keep everything in perspective after three games for Manchester United. Six points out of nine, but there is still a lot of work for Sir Alex to do as this season progresses.  The game against Southampton featured a defense that had not played together since January 2011 and a midfield that needs to gel.  Had it not been for RvP, this would have been a loss.

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Michigan State University 0  University of Connecticut 1

Rounded off Labor Day weekend with a trip to DeMartin Soccer Stadium for MSU v UConn Men’s Soccer.  Sat with the Red Cedar Rowdies for a game marked by two things: heat and lack of sharpness.

The temperature at kick off (1pm) was 90+ degrees so both teams sat in to conserve energy.  Whether by design or by accident each team attacked in an unbalanced 4-4-2 with both left wingers pushing high into space but not seeing much of the ball.  UConn went with small combination passes while the Spartans challenged them over the top and out wide with driven balls.

UConn came into the game #1 in the country but have to say wasn’t that impressed.  They rotated a number of players across the front of their attack, with Allando Matheson being an absolute beast.  Strong, nimble and aggressive, he was the Huskies’ best attacker, eventually netting the only goal early in the second half.  In the back, their central defender Sergio Campbell was a rock, combining size, strength and speed.

For the Spartans, I was disappointed by the constant play into pressure.  Rather than play a possession pass, they almost always tried to play over the top or to a teammate with a defender right on them.  They had two quality attacks in the second half, one of which went to the right hand channel but the cross was over hit and the run mis-timed, while the other was a perfectly weight through ball but Domenic Barone couldn’t outmuscle #4 and hit a weak shot.

The visitors eventually stuck one man up top and just parked the bus, which invited the Spartans on to them.  Several half chances went begging and the game closed out 1-0 to the Huskies.

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Podcasts

Uli Hesse put together a two part post of the on beginnings of the Bundesliga, with next year being the golden anniversary.  The league is far younger than most of their European contemparies, and the real story is how the league was formed, as German clubs dealt with two issues: instituing professionalism and deciding who form the inaugural first division.  Very interesting articles on the formation of a league that didn’t even include Bayern Munich at the outset.

Part 1  Part 2

Finally got around to listening to John Gregory’s appearance on the Beyond the Pitch.  They covered the future of English managers (in essence becoming more sophisticated in terms of continental players), the power of the player in modern football, and the way forward for Aston Villa Football Club.  Gregory is honest, forthright and clear, and it is well worth the listen.

Old Futbol Buffet–The Easter Bunny stole my football

I only saw about 15 minutes of footy last weekend, but it was the most important 15 minutes.

I didn’t get up in time on Saturday morning to watch Spurs v Sunderland, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the 90 minutes did not provide any goals.  Spooky lamented the lack of energy and tempo in his wrap up at Dear Mr Levy.  None of the 10am ET games interested me, so my wife and I packed up for a four drive to Columbus, Ohio to pick up my son, who was Spring Break, and visit my sister.

This trip meant that I missed the Palermo/Juventus and Real Zaragoza/FC Barcelona games.  During pit stops I would check scores and was thrilled to see the Old Lady and the Blaugrana win their respective matches.  Juventus now lead the Serie A table by one point and control the destiny of the scudetto.  Bonucci’s goal was all about wanting it more than anyone else and Quags scored a deserved second after all of his work coming back from injury. Barcelona came back from an early goal to cut the margin to three behind Real Madrid and keep the pressure on.  Los Merengues could only draw at home against Valencia and the margin is now four points with El Clasico two weeks away.

On Sunday, we attended the Easter Service at my sister’s church, which meant I missed Manchester United v QPR and Arsenal v Manchester City.  Now only that, I would miss the watch party at the local pub back in Lansing. But we walked into the restaurant, and, to my surprise, the TV was showing Arsenal v City in glorious HD.  I was put in a quandary.  Do I spend time with the family or watch a key moment in the English title race?  I tried to do both.  After craning to see the TV, I finally just got up and stood in front of the TV.  Arsenal were in a period of dominance but lacked the final ball.  Then all of the sudden a City turnover was pounced by Arteta who lashed a shot into the bottom corner to give the Gunners the lead.  At the moment I took the fork I was using and metaphorically stuck in the blue side of Manchester.

But the star of the weekend has to be Clint Dempsey, who scored two fantastic goals in Fulham’s win.  His free kick was pure magic and his intelligent movement made the second goal an easy header into the back of the net.  Can he possibly remain at Craven Cottage next season?

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Podcasts

The SI Soccer Roundtable panel looked ahead to the Champions League Semi Finals, with some disagreement about whether Bayern Munich are heavy underdogs or legitimate contenders.  Plus there was a quick of review of early MLS stories including KC’s unbeaten start and Galaxy’s rough opening weeks.

Jonathan Wilson was back on Off the Ball on Thursday to discuss Sunderland’s form since Martin O’Neill took over for Steve Bruce.  The stats are pretty similar but the points earned are the real difference as the Black Cats have climbed into the top half and have proved a handful for top teams.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.