Posts Tagged ‘ Stretford End ’

Old Futbol Buffet–Opportunity Missed

Swansea City 1  Manchester United 1

Sunday morning provided an entertaining match with the home fans in full voice.  Swansea played an excellent match, putting United under pressure, but one of the visitors’ few attacks resulted in a goal after set piece.  Evra headed in RvP’s corner but Britton maybe should have done better on the post.

From there United had a brief spell of pressure before Swansea took over.  Their play—composed, dynamic and incisive—eventually generated a goal as Evra switched off (and the defense in general) and de Guzman’s shot was saved by de Gea but Michu tapped home.  A second goal from the hosts seemed on the cards but never materialized, and United was able to get back into the match briefly before halftime. 

The second half saw United take control, and a trait of the Reds this season has been economy of finishing, but Sunday was just had a bad day at the office as they didn’t take advantage of several half chances in the opening 15 minutes with Rooney particularly wasteful.  In addition to poor finishing, a fine defensive performance from Vorm, the Swansea backline and a couple of crossbars prevented the Sir Alex’s team from taking all three points.

In terms of teams and players, Swansea were fun to watch.  Routledge and de Guzman did well and Michu gave a focal point to attack, especially the first half. The put in an a great effort, but disappointed that Michu moved to midfield and Luke Moore up top as Laudrup went for more 4-1-4-1 to conserve energy and blunt United coming forward.  United was led by Carrick, who stroked the ball nicely and was decent shield for the back line.  Young was marginally better, and Giggs did well when he come on.  Maybe his introduction sooner could have unlocked the Swans.  Hernandez was poor. Several loose passes and a misreading of RvP’s pass kept him from making a genuine impact.  A real issued for the visitors was the lack of service from right hand channel, with neither Young, Jones nor Valencia providing the killer ball.

Final comment:  there should have been more goals in the match but draw was fair result.

Daniele of Red Rants saw United concede points against a spirited Swansea team.  He identified several things I picked up during the game, namely Young’s current contribution to the team:

The former Villa man seems to have made the left flank spot his own over the last couple of weeks, and repaid Fergie’s trust with a lot of hard work and some very intelligent runs across the box, but he still seems to be lacking the cutting edge necessary to provide the final ball.

In the end, the Reds created the chances but not the second goal which would have secured the points

Doron and Nik commented on the match as well for Stretford-End, noting that while Vidic was a welcome return, he is clearly rusty.  They also praised another fine performance from Carrick and the brief appearance of Giggs before moving on to criticize Valencia’s recent efforts and Rooney’s shift in this match.  They felt United were a little unlucky to not win the match and now the focus is on Newcastle United on Wednesday.

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Podcasts and an Article

Last week on Off the Ball, there was a great two for one pod, looking back at EPL history, both recently and over the years.  Last Tuesday, Eoin and Ken replayed Martin Tyler’s broadcast to Aguero’s dramatic goal that sealed the title for Manchester City at the end of 2012 season.  Martin spoke about his preparation into the match and how broadcasters never know where the story will take them.  This was followed by Philippe Auclair’s appearance to talk about his upcoming Thierry Henry biography.  Auclair revealed some insights into the nature of the talented French forward, including the drive provided by his father.  If it’s even half as good as the Cantona book, it will be worth the read.

Finally Roger Bennett examined the current situation at Liverpool for ESPNFC.  Most people believe that Brendan Rogers is on shaky ground, with Reds in 12th heading into the weekend and failing to make Anfield a fortress.  He spoke with former legends Steve Nicol and Steve McManaman, who identified a lack of goals and a lack of criticism as some of the manager’s failing thus far.  The next chapter will be the January transfer and whether Rodgers gets money to spend, and if he does, how wisely he spends it.

Andy Mitten sat down with fan legend Pete Boyle at Bishop Blaize on a recent United We Stand podcast.  Boyle has a unique role in pregame festivities as he starts the songs and then leads the short march to Old Trafford.  Recently he was able to have a short chat with Eric Cantona and even got the former legend to stop by the pub for a couple of minutes.  Great insight into fan culture that is hard to get/comprehend here in the States.

Former NY Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing was on Beyond the Pitch pod to discuss the heyday of the NASL, his playing career and the NY Red Bulls.  My only knowledge of the player was from the Once in a Lifetime documentary so it was interesting to hear stories about Pele and Munich and playing in New York.  As for the current NY franchise, Shep preached a message of stability and suggested bringing in Bob Bradley to steady the ship.  Fascinating conversation and well worth the listen.

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Old Futbol Buffet–The Reds Go Marching On

A busy week at work and at home, kept me from getting my usual reading and podcast listening done.  And due to my son’s floor hockey this tournament, my EPL viewing was KO’ed.  So not much on offer this week, but I was able to follow games on twitter and read as United overturned Sunderland; Liverpool dominate yet fall to Aston Vila; and QPR finally win a league match.

Daniele of Red Rants saw United win comfortably, and, with a little more composure in front of goal, the margin could have been more.  Cleverley’s goal was sick.  Amazing technique.  Daniele was struck by how the control of the game was conceded with the introductions of Scholes and Giggs.  Can’t be surprised.  With the game in hand, I imagine Sir Alex gave some of the lads a rest.  On another note, Young set up two of the goals today. Maybe he’s not worthless after all.

James Martin looked at the slow disappearance of Nani from Manchester United for the ESPN FC blog.  The Portuguese winger, according to reports, had one foot on a plane to Zenit in the summer before a U-turn in, and seems to be on his way out of Old Trafford either during the winter transfer window or next summer.  His relatively poor end product, especially recently, has seen Sir Alex turn to Valenica and Young, even though both of those players have issues (injuries and form).  Watching some of the goals embedded in the post, you are reminded of his stunning strikes from range, but those days seem long gone, with memories of unlucky fans in the upper decks getting struck with his wayward strikes, constant turnovers, and lack of crosses in the forefront.  Hopefully United get something for him and bring in a viable replacement.

Finally, looking through old posts at the Stretford End, I found Darren Richman’s account of his trip to the Manchester Derby.  Worried, confident, and anxious in the build up, his reaction in the second half was just like mine:

When City scored a minute later despite De Gea’s best efforts, I could only see it ending one way. ‘We’ll lose this now’ I cheerily informed my neighbours. When it went to 2-2, I wasn’t even upset, simply resigned to the worst. I started repeating ‘A draw’s still a good result’ in my head like a mantra. And out loud I think because I’m sure the bloke next to me said, ‘you’d have taken it beforehand.’

Make sure you read all the way end to get a surreal finish to his day.  Great stuff.

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In my elation last week after the dramatic Manchester Derby, I totally forgot to post this little tidbit:

Twitter was abuzz about the photos of AC Milan’s new physio.  Chelsea have upped the ante with Eva Carneiro.  Injuries to Chelsea players have been doubled in value with her introduction.  Back to AC Milan, at this point it seems as if it was a PR stunt with no more details disclosed, including her name.  But trust me, the SoccerNomad I Team is all over this.

Old Futbol Buffet–Diamonds are a Reds’ Best Friend

After gorging myself last Saturday on soccer, I took the day off and got some stuff done around the house and on the blog and tried to watch an entire season of Community.  Sunday, however, I headed up to the pub for Newcastle United v Manchester United and FC Barcelona v Real Madrid.

Newcastle United 0  Manchester United 3

What a start.  The passion and drive were stunning; a complete turnaround from last week.  Sir Alex went with a younger and more energetic midfield, playing in an unbalanced diamond, and put Newcastle under pressure from the off.  You would have made a ton of money if you had taken Evans and Evra to score for Manchester United.  But the Magpies responded by getting the ball wide, stretching the MUFC diamond and taking hold of the game.  Plus the lack of possession, a higher line of confrontation and more pressure kept the Reds from extending their lead until late.

United’s first three minutes of the second half were what I expected.  Keep the ball, go cagey and grind it out.  And then everything almost went wrong.  Cisse might have been a little hard done by as his effort was cleared off the line by De Gea.  Still can’t say for sure that the entire ball was in, but the young Spaniard created the controversial moment.  There were two defenders there to handle it, and there was no reason for him to get involved.  NUFC continued to press, but to no avail, and then the proverbial bolt from the blue occurred as Cleverley with a shot-cum-cross put the game out of reach.

Despite the midfield changes, the goals came from set pieces and a moment of magic.  That’s a little worrying as few actual chances were created from the run of play, so there is still work to be done.  The key now for Fergie is to find a midfield balance that can control the entire field.

Couple of other notes. . .

  • Saw the best and worst of Rafael.  At the beginning of the match, he took a difficult goal kick out of the air, tight on the sideline, and combined down the line, which led to a stinging shot.  Then just before halftime, he gives a shit pass to RvP and is caught out.  Nothing came of it, but still.  He is getting better but is still prone to the occasional error that will be punished against better opposition.
  • Evans on the deck was worrisome, with the lack of depth and injuries mounting in defense.  With Vidic out, the pairing of Evans and Rio will have to get the Reds through.  If either of them go out, then Carrick may be called back into the backline, a move that could have damaging ripple effects throughout the team.
  • De Gea was still shaky on crosses.  Hard to see him cementing a spot if he can’t improve this aspect.  For now, I think he should stay on the line and let his defenders handle set pieces and trust that his reactions will save the day.

Ed Harrison, writing for NUFC blog, saw his beloved Newcastle come up second best in Sunday’s match.  I didn’t realize that the backline was makeshift, which, along with some poor marking, led to the opening goals.  The Magpies fought back, but the slow start and the non-awarded goal put the game beyond reach.  In a separate post, he identified the lack of depth and areas that need strengthening as Newcastle look to build on last season’s finish.

Nik and Doron reviewed the game for Streford End, examining how Fergie’s use of the diamond formation impacted the match.  This, combined with an energetic approach, led to United taking control of the game and settling into some sort of 4-5-1 in the defensive phase to close it out. High marks were given to Evra and Cleverley, while there is still some doubt over de Gea in goal.

Scott the Red from the Republik of Mancunia enjoyed a fine performance from the Reds, starting in the back.  Well not necessarily with De Gea but the back four.  Totally agree with him that Welbeck needs to finish off the chances that he creates for himself with his endeavor and that others set up for him through their interplay.  Rooney got Man of the Match.  He was good and put in a decent shift but I don’t know that he was the best player.  This might have been an instance where the team was so in tune with each other that no one player deserved it more than another.

Michael Cox of Zonal Marking broke the game down into three phases—United’s diamond establishing control; Newcastle’s reshuffle to a 4-5-1 to bring them back into the match; and Fergie’s alternation to a 4-5-1 in order to regain control.  The game was won in the opening 15 minutes and once the hour mark came with no goals from Newcastle, United saw the game out, with Cleverley’s audacious effort as icing on the cake.

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Articles and Pods

I have only watched one Juventus game thus far this season—2-2 draw away at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League.  I wrestled with where to put my time as a fan in this summer, and Juve has suffered.  I am keeping an eye on results and was glad that they crushed Roma in the previous round and came back against Siena to extend their impressive 46 game unbeaten streak in Serie A.

I follow several of the crew from Juventiknows on twitter so when they pushed a post on the tactical evolution of the Old Lady, I gave it a read.  Ratul’s synopsis is concise and informative.  Conte maintained flexibility throughout last season and his transformation from a 4-4-2 to 4-1-4-1 to 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 allowed a balance to be struck that brought the most out of the squad, which resulted in a Scudetto and near domestic double.  Highly recommend the post, especially as it examines the equation of tactics, technique and personality.

Antonio Labbate wondered what happened to the mystique around the #10 jersey in Italy in one of his recent posts for Football Italia.  #10 for me will always be associated with Alessandro del Piero and to a lesser extent Francesco Totti in Serie A.  As I thought about it, I had a hard time identifying legendary #10’s for Manchester United and FC Barcelona.  Off the top of my head I couldn’t name one over the last five to ten years.  (After a little thinking, Sheringham and Rivaldo.)

Phil and Doron had Tom Clare on the latest Manchester United pod for Beyond the Pitch.  Tom has written several books on United’s history and shared his thoughts on where the club has been and where it is going.  With his wealth of history and insight, it was a fascinating listen.

Robert Andrew Powell was on Off the Ball last week (10/4) to talk about his new book This Love is not for Cowards, which recounted his time in Juarez, Mexico—the murder capital of the world.  Fascinating account that described the safest place to be: a soccer stadium.

Finally, Anto and Nico had Ives Galarcep on Beyond the Pitch to look at the MLS stretch run, which sees San Jose enter the tournament as favorites but threatened by the Galaxy.  Plus is this the season Seattle makes progress?  And what to make of New York Red Bull?  Good stuff from all involved as usual.

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.

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