Posts Tagged ‘ Gabriele Marcotti ’

Old Futbol Buffet–Every Day is Like Sunday

Title of this post is not my favorite Morrissey song (much prefer Glamorous Glue) but does the trick for this post.

Saturday was blocked off with stuff to do.  Worked around the house, made an appearance at the gym, and went to the circus with the family.  Sunday was for watching footy as I watched three and a half matches (United/Liverpool, Arsenal/City, second half of Atleti/Zaragoza, and FCB/Malaga), all with goals and varying amounts of quality and drama.  Spent the morning at Buffalo Wild Wings with Mid-Michigan United and we had a great turnout.  Probably 20-25 at its peak, but with Arsenal down a man and two goals, the place cleared out pretty quick.  Then I headed over to the Claddagh for some La Liga action as Barcelona continued their amazing run finishing the first half of the season with 18 wins, 1 draw and 0 losses.

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Manchester United 2  Liverpool 1

A tense beginning to the match but eventually MUFC put some passes together with Evra finding RvP just outside the six yard box to fire home on 19 minutes.  From there Liverpool offered very little but the Red Devils could not find the second.  Young’s injury, the results of another heavy touch, will cause Sir Alex problems over the coming weeks but could open the door for Nani.

Tangent: Let me just say I was wrong.  When the signing of RvP was announced this summer, I was like that’s great but who’s going to give him the ball from the center of midfield and who is going to defend when the Dutchman eventually loses it?  Turns out Sir Alex has fashioned a team that simply outscores their opponent.  Maybe he will address the other areas this summer but for the time being it looks like United have one hand back on the Premier League trophy and will provide a stern test for Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Credit to Rodgers for the second half set up and substitutions.  Sturridge’s introduction provided a partner for Suarez and the new man created plenty of chances.  Borini’s entrance was questioned by me but that front three caused the United rearguard all sorts of problems.  Add to that more energy and drive from the visitors and the game grew as a contest.

Could argue that a draw would have been the fair result as the hosts lost the plot in the second stanza. Sturridge wasted a couple of decent chances and Suarez could never quite free himself to create the decisive moment. Thought Wisdom has a decent match defensively, but his one scoring opportunity went horribly wrong.  As for United, Kagawa didn’t make much impact on the left, while Welbeck worked hard but squandered several goal scoring opportunities.  Felt that Carrick was particularly poor, with several passes put teammates in tough positions and leading to turnovers.

Cannot let my game notes go by with mentioning the appearance of Darth Mou/Emperor Palpatine at the proceedings.  Looking extraordinarily evil in his hooded jacket, perhaps he really has gone to the dark side as he tries to build his legacy at Real Madrid.

Bit colder than Madrid, Jose? Mourinho seemed to be struggling to reacclimatise during the first half

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Arsenal 0  Manchester City 2

The second game of the game had to be painful for the each team’s fans.  The Gunners got a man sent off early, managed to raise their game to compensate and then completely fell asleep to give up the first goal, a blast from Milner.  From there it was damage control and very little of the slick passing and movement was evident.  Every ball predictable and wasted, and a second goal from Dzeko put the game to bed.

For City, they should have scored more in this match.  Too many chances went begging and felt the blue side lacked energy for most of the match.  Kompany’s sending off (harsh in my opinion) leveled the game in terms of numbers but Arsenal were second best.

Really not much to say about this match, other than the appearance of Balotelli, reprising Wesley Snipes’ role from Demolition Man.  This guy can’t help himself can he?

Mario Balotelli

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Articles

Last week the Ballon D’Or was handed out and Gabriele Marcotti examined some of the quirks of the voting for ESPN FC, noting that not all countries voted, there are various criteria for voters, and not all voters watch the same amount of footy.  He acknowledged that the award is not scientific but felt that the Argentinian “deserved to be saluted.”

Jonathan Wilson called the individual awards such as the Ballon D’Or “insidious” at SI.com and wants readers to remember that soccer is a team game.  He does not deny Messi’s greatness but states

It is part of Messi’s greatness that he so regularly chooses the action with the lowest tariff of difficulty to complete any given task. He is capable of the flashy and technically complex, but if something simple will suffice he does that. He can be jaw-droppingly brilliant but is essentially efficient. Paradoxically, it’s because he is so undemonstrative, such a team player, that he is such a great individual.

Wilson was also on Off the Ball last week making his case and I agree with him in that the results in leagues and cups are what matters.

In the wake of poor seasons from Sporting and AEK Athens in Portugal and Greece respectively, UEFA.com profiled big names that have been relegated in the past—Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, AC Milan and Marseille.  I remember when Sampdoria went down just after challenging for the European Cup in 1992.  Recently Leeds United have fallen on hard times, going from domestic and continental challenger to plummeting down the divisions, currently playing in the Championship.

Returning to Marcotti, he suggested in the Wall Street Journal that a Jorge Mendes United team might be a future possibility, with the super agent representing Mourinho and a stable of top talent—CR7, Falcao, Pepe and di Maria.  Soccer works differently than most American sports, so Mendes’ influence is unusual and with Real Madrid, there is an alarming amount of power.

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Old Futbol Buffet–Vacation from my Vacation

Manchester United Mid-season Thoughts

Let’s face it.  United are lucky this season and one of two things is going to happen—they will ride their luck to regain their title and maybe win the FA cup (no way they win the CL) or the luck abandons them and they crash, ending the season trophyless again.

I watched all four matches of the holiday program, during which they earned 10 out of a possible 12 points.  Quick thoughts: Swansea they could have won but for some poor finishing; against Newcastle the Reds were fortunate to win; on a different day points could have been dropped against WBA; away at Wigan the Red Devils were the better side but the goals scored were somewhat fortunate.

A strong rugged forward is causing United problems.  Vidic has yet to return to form, so this type of player will be dangerous against the Reds.   As for the rest of the defense, I’m not sold on Rio/Evans at the highest level and Evra is just a mistake to happen.  Rafael has been a nice addition, giving pace and drive down the right hand channel but I fear for him against CR7 in the Champions League.

The midfield is another weak link.  Currently Sir Alex is using three players to man the outside positions—Giggs, Valencia and Young.  Giggs will suffice against lesser teams and Young always gives a good effort despite the lack of end product.  Valencia is the one that is troubling.  Lack of wide service has been an issue and will need to be improved on as the season progresses.  Surely Nani has been frozen out, so United might have to move Kagawa back outside to provide depth at the position.  Cleverly and Carrick seem to be central midfield pairing for now, with Scholes providing relief.  Down the stretch this will be a big ask and will probably cost United both cups.

Up top, the Red Devils have a wealth of option. Barring injury or a colossal loss of form, the attacking group will score goals.  Hernandez’s movement has been excellent; RvP has been economical in his chances; Welbeck provides a change of pace; and then there is Rooney.  If he could get hot, then the league is surely coming back to the red side of Manchester.

As for the cups, I think Real Madrid’s pace and movement will undo United in the Champions League.  Los Blancos midfield will tip the scales in this match, along with the club’s desire to win their tenth European Cup and Mourinho’s quest to add to his legacy.  The Reds will probably score but don’t think they will score enough to progress.  And I can’t see United winning the FA Cup because eventually they are going to run into a team that scores first and stays in front.  The late late show will be undone in a cup competition which will prevent another domestic double for Sir Alex.

I’m interested to see if City can close the gap between now and the end of the season.  The opportunity will be there as United will drop points during the second half of the season.  Do the Citizens have a run in them or will they just fade away, conceding the title and content to keep the chasing pack at bay?

(Note: I missed the FA Cup match away to West Ham.  Looks like I missed quite the match.  United’s first goal was a team goal of the highest order while RvP’s equalizer was exactly what I spoke of in terms of economy of effort.  Trouble is, there will be added fixture to an already congested calendar.)

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Articles, podcasts and videos

The Men in Blazers recapped a hectic holiday period and examined the teams at the top in their last podcast offering.  Davo figures what we will know a lot by the end of the month as the top teams face critical fixtures.  Definitely worth a listen instead of watching dire FA Cup matches.  (Oops, looks like I posted a little too late for that comment.)

In the wake of Theo’s performance against Newcastle, Gabriele Marcotti used the Arsenal player as the template for the modern player.  Long gone are the days of one player, one club, and now every contract signed starts the clock for the next step—renegotiation with two years remaining and sale of the player to recoup, minimize or profit the club.  Arsenal and Theo couldn’t come to an agreement and now the leverage has shifted to the young attacker and the Gunners may lose yet another rising star (see Nasri, Song, Fabregas), only this time they may get nothing in return.

As for things in the colonies, Grant Wahl interviewed MLS Commissioner Don Garber in light of FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s comments on soccer in the US.  One comment from Blatter was particularly strange: The league should have been recognized by the American society.  It’s been 18 years, it should have been done now, he said. But they are still struggling.  To be fair, the installation of soccer as the #1 sport in a country is a struggle where, as Garber rightly points out, We have sports in the U.S. that are as powerful here as football is in Europe or South America, and we have at least four that have been around for over 100 years. And all have had the benefit of building a fan base over many generations.

Garber and Wahl make several strong points for the status of US Soccer:

  • 19 teams (growth after a period of contraction)
  • 13 teams playing in soccer specific stadiums (as opposed to tarped off American football stadiums)
  • Relationships with local governments
  • Strong corporate support
  • In 2012 MLS did set its all-time average attendance record of 18,807, making it the seventh-highest attended league in the world.

Grant Wahl expanded on his Garber interview on the latest SI Soccer Roundtable.   He said the commissioner gave a very measured response to comments made by Blatter regarding the leagues in America and China. Wahl went as far as to call the FIFA chief a complete buffoon before moving to pushing the issue of why USSF supports Blatter in the first place.

Brandon Chiarmonte looked at the differences between a fan and a supporter in sports culture, focusing  on how American supporters have absorbed bits from all over the world to create die hard, fan driven groups across this country.  This short post does a great job isolating the differences and the importance of the supporter in the fabric of the game.

Along those lines, Pure Detroit wrote a piece on Detroit City Football Club, reviewing an amazing inaugural season and efforts being made for the upcoming campaign. Vive La Rouge!!

Moving on to kits, Football Fashion posted the Top 10 Selling Jerseys from World Soccer Shop:

1. FC Barcelona 2012/13 Nike home jersey

2. Manchester United 2012/13 Nike home jersey

3. Chelsea FC 2012/13 adidas home jersey

4. Spain 2011/13 adidas home jersey

5. Germany 2011/13 adidas home jersey

6. Real Madrid 2012/13 adidas home jersey

7. USA 2012/13 Nike home jersey

8. Italy 2011/12 PUMA home jersey

9. Mexico 2011/12 adidas home jersey

10. Liverpool FC 2012/13 Warrior home jersey

Surprised that Chelsea was so far in front of Liverpool, but the people at adidas have to be happy.  Five teams in the top 10.

Another Top 10 was the top 10 goals of 2012 from Fox Soccer.  Aguero’s goal was well taken and was monumental in terms of history but not sure it was the#1 goal of year.  While amazing, Cisse’s was quite lucky.  Have to say HBA’s was definitely up there.

Continuing with the year end stuff, A Football Report released their best of football writing of 2012, broken into the following categories: Most Compelling, Most Creative, Best Research, and Best Storytelling.  The list is overwhelming and I’m not sure when I’ll find time to go through it, but I clicked on Brian Phillips’ Soccer’s Heavy Boredom, which tries to describe to the non soccer watching person why crazy nutters all over the world stare at 22 guys running around some grass with very little results.

Finally, with a little extra free time due to some holiday vacation time, I found this top 25 Champions League Goals compilation from 2008 to 2012.  Sit back and enjoy.

Old Futbol Buffet–Shin of Samir

This match was all about momentum.  Sir Alex set out United with a clear game plan, building on the success at StamfordBridge.  Defend, counter, score, repeat.  To be fair, Rooney’s first was a scuffed shot, but the second was the result of Nastasic being out to lunch as the Reds drove forward.  And just like the match against the Blues, even at 2-0 up the game was only heading one way.  Minutes away from halftime, I was praying for the whistle, and when Barry’s shot fizzed wide just before the interval, I thought United might be able to hold on.

In the second half, the game changed in an instant.  The Red Devils went from a virtually unassailable 3-0 lead to a white knuckle 2-1 advantage.  The pendulum had swung to the hosts and everything favored City.  They had the athletes, the speed and the momentum.  And United had Ashley Young and a lack of soccer IQ.

Now I don’t want to get off a rant here but . . .

What a woeful performance from Young.  Turnover after turnover after turnover; constantly going to ground; lack of defensive cover for Evra.  But the worst was that in the final minutes of the game, he switched flanks, latched on to a long ball and just had to not give it up.  What does he do?  Gives it up.  He must go at the end of the season.  United need to rebuild their flanks, as Valencia is the only consistent performer and he is perpetually injured.

Moving on . . .

United didn’t know how to close out the match.  Ahead for the first time in ages, not having to outwork, outfight, outscore their opponents, they lacked the composure to finish the game off.  The Reds couldn’t take advantage of City being stretched and were lucky to escape with the three points.

Look at City’s goals.  They got in behind the United defense as Evra fell asleep and then Tevez showed amazing poise to layoff for Yaya after a mad scramble.  On the corner, Young was watching Zabaleta as he smashed in a shot through Jones’ legs (through the legs was another theme of the match).

Side note: Mancini will get some gas for not starting Tevez but in this instance I support the Italian manager.  Aguero and Balotelli were causing problems and could have caused more had Balotelli decided to give more than maybe 50%.  City had a lot of possession but weren’t too dangerous, but what this pairing did was set up the substitution of Tevez, especially after Evans went out.  Mancini brought on the energetic Tevez and was close to turning the match around until the dramatic winner.  It could be asked would the result been different with Tevez from the off.  Maybe.  But if City were down 2-0 and Mancini had brought on Balotelli, then based on his performance, the Citizen would have not even got back into the game.

Did United deserve to win?  Conflicted.  Draw probably would have been the fair result, maybe even a City win.  Looking back at the season thus far: a gift at Liverpool, a steal at Chelsea, and a taut encounter at City with a fortunate deflection.  Is this the steel of champions or the luck of paper tiger?  In the season of the weird, we won’t know until May.

Doubt if I will read a fairer report of the game than Suffering Bruin’s post on Bitter and Blue.  He acknowledged that Young’s goal should have stood; he castigated the fan who threw the coin at Rio; he also acknowledged that if Tevez had started and Kompany was on the field , things might have gone differently; finally he wanted viewers to appreciate the fact that Tevez could have gone down when Evra was pressuring him, but did not.

Over at Red Rants, Daniele compared RvP’s impact to that of Cantona, as the Dutchman saved United (again) after a hard fought performance at the Eithad.  He correctly pointed out that Sir Alex played with more purpose (read: attack) than last spring’s away fixture, which saw United pack the midfield, slump to defeat and eventually concede the title.  Reading the report I was reminded that Young set up the first goal so have to give him so credit but still ready to drive him away from Manchester.

Finally Zonal Marking saw United sit back and counter and the Reds executed the approach to full effect.  Likening the game to the Chelsea match a couple of weeks ago, Rooney would drop into the midfield so that the center mids wouldn’t be overloaded.  Once winning the ball, the Red Devils were very direct, which caused the two goals.  Tevez’s introduction changed the game as the center backs chased Tevez and Aguero around with Carrick and Cleverly being passed around, letting the Citizens run at United, never a good thing.  In the end, poor set piece defending created by the substitutions created a frantic ending, with United securing the points.

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Following the Manchester Derby, Mid Michigan United held a FIFA 13 Tournament, a combination of fun, one year birthday of the group, and a fundraiser for Ele’s Place.  I had never played the game on the Xbox or the Playstation so didn’t rate my chances.  Playing as Manchester United, I held my own against my opponent, who used Valencia.  My lack of offense and defensive organization was eventually punished as I lost 1-0 to eventual champion Cody, a 20 year old college student at MSU.  He won the tournament in the final against a seven year old.  Yes seven.  All of the 30 somethings fell to the wayside and the younger generations triumphed, but a great time for a great cause.

Finally, after watching the Barcelona match, I played an indoor game.  Down 5-2 at half, we roared back to win 8-6.  I chipped in with a goal but that was about it.  I am really surprised that my off season workout of drinking beer and watching soccer is not paying dividends.  Ugh.  Time to get back at it.

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Articles and Pods

Due to a #FF from Scott the Red, I found this post at Man Utd Tactics about the changing personnel and formations from the first Premier League winning side until now.  Sir Alex won his first title using a 4-4-2 with wingers and high/low forwards.  From there he moved to a narrow 4-2-3-1 culminating in the 2002/03 Premier League winning side.  Since then he has moved oscillated between the 4-4-2 and 4-3-2-1 win depending on Rooney’s position (and fitness and mindset) and the central midfield pairings available.  This season Sir Alex has even tried a 4-3-3, which makes sense since he has so many attacking players.  Of course this only works with Welbeck and Hernandez in advanced positions.  They simply cannot play on the wings due to a lack of technical ability and defensive cover.  Seems as if the gaffer is adding this formation to his repertoire for games in which United are favored.  Long term, he needs to find a center midfield general and shore up the center of the defense.  As the author states:

The history of United’s changing tactical approach since Keane left the club can be summed up as an attempt to overcome the loss of Roy Keane with an interlude where the tactical approach was completely changed to exploit the brilliance of Ronaldo.

Future success will be determined by strengthened the middle.  If this continues to go unaddressed, no number of world class strikers will be able to save the Red Devils.

Last week marked one year since the death of Brazilian star Socrates.  Fellow MMMSL Over 30 competitor tweeted out his post from last year in remembrance.  To be honest, my only knowledge of the player is from occasional references from Tim Vickery on World Football Phone In, but Peter’s post and video from YouTube were a nice introduction to the player.

A week after the trial balloon of a 64 team Champions League was floated, Gabriele Marcotti laid out a revision of the current system.  Basically the two best first place teams would move on right to the quarterfinals, while he proposed a play-in system for the four best third place teams against four worst second placed teams.  My first instinct is no.  Seems very NFL-ish to me.  European soccer is foreign to Americans because of its straightforward nature.  Normal numbers (16, 8, 4, 2), home and away, move on.  (Away goals is a little confusing.)  Plus why should third placed teams have any second chances?  They already drop into the Europa League. (I’m assuming Gabriele’s plan would eliminate that option).  Anyway, keep it as it is.  Yes there are dead rubbers on Matchday 6, but that there was also the drama of Celtic and Chelsea.

Chris Bevan profiled American Oguchi Onyewu for the BBC.  Currently on loan from Sporting, he has landed on a Malaga team defying expectations after a summer of confusion and uncertainty.  Winners of their Champions League Group and currently fifth in La Liga, Los Boquerones have generated excitement both home and abroad.  Gooch has made six appearances for Malaga thus far.  At 30, there is some question whether he is part of Klinsmann’s plans for World Cup Qualification.  His strong, physical presence will be needed, but is fully healthy?  That’s my question.

Speaking of UEFA, word came down that the association plans to hold the 2020 European Championships all over Europe.  Debates regarding the format both make compelling cases: a single or joint venture incorporates visiting fans and the hosts while the new arrangement will allow countries in general and selected cities in particular a chance to participate in this great competition.  I’m open minded at this point.  Strike that.  I don’t really care because with the expansion to 24 teams from 16, it doesn’t really matter at this point.  This is a money grab as most things are.  So UEFA, do what you’re going to do.

Finally, A recent podcast I’ve found is The Big Questions, hosted by Aaron Stollar.  Part of the North American Soccer Network, Aaron looks at issues beyond who won, who lost and news of the day.  On Episode 10, he had Alexi Lalas and Leander Schaerlaeckens on to speculate about what the game of soccer will look like in 50 years.  They examined the fight between international football and club soccer; the speed of the game; the future of US soccer and the possibility of robots.

Exploring the next 20,30, 50 years of American soccer, a possible North American league was discussed.  Hate this.  Travel is the biggest consideration.  Could you imagine Seattle away to Mexico City (2800+ miles)?  The panel also touched on the changing demographics in this country and how that will affect the USMNT.  Finally, time was spent on the structure of MLS, with promotion and relegation not really a possibility due to the financial investment of the owners. Great insights and opinions.  Definitely worth the listen.

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