Monday, December 23, 2013

Are Arsenal and Chelsea already playing for 2nd?

There's no doubt that Arsenal v Chelsea is the big game this weekend in the English Premier League - that's why it's on a Monday night so that people living in the US (me) can watch it at work. I'd rather be in the pub, but it will be full of Arsenal and Chelsea fans. Back to the flask in the drawer I suppose.

But are these two already playing for second place? Manchester City look fantastic. They score so many goals that they can afford to give away comedy own goals like Vincent Kompany did against Fulham.

Here it is in case you haven't seen it enough...

Don't forget City are without Aguero right now, haven't even played Jovetic, are just getting Kompany back and are playing DeMicheles. They are fun to watch, unless your team is playing them and are going to take some stopping.

Arsenal have been fantastic, but may not be able to score enough goals once Giroud has a dry spell. Chelsea concede too many and have had a dry spell from their strikers all season.

Liverpool are buzzing after another great performance from Luis Suarez. They are not a one man team, and have Gerrard and Strurridge to return, but they won't be able to stop City from scoring. In fact, no team in the league will. And this kamikaze season of goals seems to be playing right into City's hands. If Joe Hart can't be relied on as much, just allow him one mistake a game, and then score 2 or more yourself (or about 6 based on current form!).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Ronaldinho's show today

The Brazilian leads his Atletico Mineiro side vs Raja Casablanca

Europeans may not care for the World Club Cup. South Americans don't salivate over it either but it's a rare occasion when they're in the spotlight when they make a final in this cash-cow tourney, currently being played in Morocco. Therefore, it's a chance to expand its brand and make some noise in the global football world.

Ronaldinho will look to add to his medals if his side can best the Moroccan hosts for a berth in Saturday's final against Bayern Munich. At 33, the buck-toothed one is still hoping his slim chances to join the national team for the World Cup next year increases with a top display and eventual move to another side in the new year.

Meanwhile, the Germans, sleptwalked their way past Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande and didn't even know Ronaldinho was involved in the tourney, according to Dante!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

George Best knows how to do it right

It's holiday party time - and who knows how to do it better than George Best? Yes, he was a chronic alcoholic and probably wasted his talent, but he had fun doing it!

As Mr. Best once said...

"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

Monday, December 16, 2013

So why did Spurs let him spend all the money?

There are a lot of average footballers in the picture above. But they cost well over $100 million, and are probably not as good combined as Gareth Bale was individually. Paulinho can play, Eriksen is very good, but Soldado has looked poor, Chadli is average, and Lamela must have a great agent - as he cost $40 million, yet isn't good enough for the bench? There's also two or three others that really haven't improved teh squad, let alone the team, so you have to question why they were bought.

AVB is not a bad manager, but he's been out of his depth at Chelsea and Spurs. He can't dominate a dressing room like his mentor Jose Mourinho, hasn't got enough experience to pull him through a tough period, but ultimately, didn't seem to have a plan B. Spurs got beaten at home by a poor West Ham team with no striker, were embarrassed away at Man City, and humiliated at home to Liverpool. He needed more time, but there weren't even signs he was getting his message/tactics across.

Players have to be accountable, and none of Spurs' players have been. If Andros Townsend is the bright spark this season, it's going to be a long time until May. But AVB didn't get the best out of them, and maybe Gareth Bale's magic lst year was simply papering over the cracks.

Who wants that job? I'm sure plenty of people do, but AVB may have to wait a while to get a position in England again - should he even want one.


But let's not take anything away from Liverpool. They were outstanding - probably as good as they have been under Brendan Rodgers. He's had a bit of time, and is forming a team that competes - having Luis Suarez helps, he's a joy to watch, but it still brings a smile when he's kicked. It's nice to have a villain - and a good one at that.

Man City v Arsenal was a fantastic game of football unless you're a defender. There were so many chances that it could have been 11-8. It's not schoolboy football though, so both teams may have to tighten up if they are going to win the title. But I'm fine if they don't - watching a goal every 10 minutes is a great way to start the weekend.

It's better than watching West Ham v Sunderland or Hull v Stoke. Two awful games that show the gulf in quality between the top teams and the hangers-on. These 4 can't compete at the top, but they would all be lucky to be allowed into the Championship after this weekend's results.


After Inter lost to Napoli on Sunday, I lost interest in the European review - there's only so many Rafa Benitez plaudits I can take. Real Madrid drew ("Nothing without Ronaldo"), Neymar scored a couple ("The Next Messi"), Juve won ("Tevez Wants Messi Role in Brazil"), Bayern Won ("Steak Extends to 76"), PSG won ("Made Up Headlines Continue")...

Arsenal and Man City need a first leg lead

To be played Feb. 18, 19, 25, 26 and March 11, 12, 18, 19

Manchester CityvBarcelona
OlympiakosvManchester United
AC MilanvAtletico Madrid
Bayer LeverkusenvParis St Germain
SchalkevReal Madrid

Who got a good draw? Who is regretting not winning their Group? And is Gonzalo Higuain still crying?!

Manchester City have a good chance against Barcelona in my opinion. Although Messi will be fit by February, so will Aguero. I think City will score home and away against Barcelona, and it will come down to who has a better defence. Kompany is the best defender on either team, although Pique runs him close. It's the others that offer opportunity, and Mascherano probably can't keep with the City players, although Martin Demichelis is a liability for City too - much depends on how few errors those two commit.

Manchester United will be happy, although David Moyes might now be. He's expected to guide his team past Olympiakos, but we all know he hasn't lived up to expectations yet.

Atletico Madrid will beat AC Milan. Why, Diego Costa is top notch. So is Super Mario, but Milan aren't playing well - although could be by February I suppose.

PSG v Leverkeusen. Have to take Zlatan, Cavani and the other superstars - especially as Manchester United put 5 past the Germans in Leverkeusen.

The Drogba tie. Galatasaray are a decent team, but Chelsea should win. But then there is the Didier Drogba factor. He'll probably score against his old team, and cry, and run to Jose Mourinho. But Chelsea are building a strong team, but they need a defender and a goalkeeper - Petr Cech isn't an accident waiting to happen, he's happened - and we're all still watching a laughing/crying.

Real will beat Schalke. Dortmund will beat Zenit. 2 easy ones!

Then there's Arsenal v Bayern Munich. A very tough draw for the English League leaders, but whoever got Bayern was going to struggle. They move the ball so quickly and a clinical. Arsenal need to bring in another striker (not a cup-tied one) and take their chances. They got schlapped by Manchester City at the weekend, but Olivier Giroud still should have had a hat-trick. He's not bad, but he doesn't finish enough key chances. If Arsenal just get one in Germany, they need to take it. Arsene Wenger will happily take any trophy this year, but Bayern are probably too strong for it to be the Champions League. The same as Manchester City, they need to be leading after the first leg.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Was Ashley Young a ball boy?

Has someone found a part-time job when not bench warming at Manchester United?

Maybe next year it won't matter as United won't be in the Champions League (!), but the ball boy gets a little carried away here - the ball wasn't even in front of the boards for him to grab and save David de Gea the 'effort' of walking 3 yards.

That said, give him a microphone wig and he'd be as good as Marouane Fellaini !

Red Bulls get Convey, fans shrug

Skeptical supporters hope MLS vet gets his act together 

With an impressive resume, Bobby Convey, a Philadelphia product, is now entering one of the toughest markets in the league, if not, the world.

Convey, 30, is a former national-team starter with the U.S., a veteran within MLS after being drafted at 17-years-old by D.C. United before moving on to England to play for Reading, then a Championship side prior to promotion to the Premier League. After that, he returned Stateside to bounce from San Jose Earthquakes to Sporting Kansas City to Toronto FC.

New York Red Bulls fans will certainly remember him, however, for his stint with San Jose for it was Convey that netted two goals in the Red Bulls' 3-1 loss in the second leg of their playoff series at Red Bull Arena in 2010.

Plus, there have been unconfirmed grumblings about his attitude within the locker room. Whether or not that's true, it's been kept in-house but appears to have lead to Convey's exit from his previous clubs since returning from Europe.

Convey is a versatile player and has played left back with San Jose but has mostly done his work in the middle of the park and along the wing but some of his crossings with Toronto will have to be worked on if he doesn't want to frustrate Thierry Henry & Co.

His work rate appears to be healthy. He'll get yet another chance within MLS to prove his approach and posture. The Red Bulls camp and manager Mike Petke's regime will be a test for him as the team looks to build depth for MLS and Champions League play. 

Will Convey be ready for the spotlight?

Huge tests for Arsenal, Napoli and Leverkeusen

Is tomorrow's early Premier League game the clash of this season's top two? Or should Chelsea still be among the favorites despite their ability to ship at least 2 a game? Liverpool are still there, but may not even be the best team in their city.

Arsenal away at Manchester City this weekend is huge. City have won 7 of 7 at the Etihad and scored 29 goals in that span - that's an average of more than 4 a game, and they have just conceded 2. Arsenal's defense has been pretty solid to start the season, but they were cut apart by Napoli in the week, and you have to think that Aguero, Silva, Yaya Toure and company (not Vincent, although he's a threat at set plays) are going to give the Gunners a run for their money. Mertesacker and Koscielny have been very good this season, but City move the ball so quickly and playing on the half-turn is really not their strength. If Jenkinson plays too, I think Navas will exploit him and really test that offside trap.

But Arsenal are not 5 points clear after 15 games for no reason. Ramsey has been a beast, and Ozil creates at least one great chance per game - the key may be whether Giroud or Walcott can take that chance - Ramsey has been scoring loads, but the forwards are the players that will decide if Arsenal can maintain their push. Bendtner off the bench isn't that inspiring when you're losing.

There's a big game for Liverpool away at Spurs too. Lose and you're have to think they will slip behind Chelsea and Everton, both who have home games that they should win easily. Liverpool have failed a couple of tests so far this season, but are more than just hanging around  - Suarez is scoring so many goals that you hardly notice the injuries to Gerrard and Sturridge. However, if the Uruguayan is not firing, can anyone else take the responsibility?

Some big games for West Ham at home to Sunderland and Hull home to Stoke. All 4 of those teams need to start getting some points. More losses and some of the managers may be getting nervous - Steve Bruce is doing well at Hull right now, but they are due a bad run at some point, so need to accumulate while the going is good.


Roma remain unbeaten, but trail Juventus by 3 points - hard to imagine, but Juve have won 13 of 15 in Serie A, yet couldn't reach the knockout stages of the Champions League. Maybe Serie A isn't as strong as predicted it may be this year. Napoli also didn't advance in Europe, but have a huge game with Inter this weekend. Both teams need a win to stay in touch with the leaders, but the pressure will be on Napoli at home. Inter are unbeaten away, and will be looking to Rodrigo Palacio to nick one - after going out of the Champions League, Rafa Benitez can't afford to lose.


Fair play to Bayer Leverkeusen - they are desperately holding on to the coattails of Bayern Munich and reached the knockout stages of the Champions League in midweek. It's going to be tough for them to compete on both fronts, but it's tough for anyone against Bayern (apart from James Milner!).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Geezer of the Day: Nolberto Solano

From Peru to Argentina to England to Greece and back

The diminutive Peruvian was dubbed 'the little maestro' by one Diego Maradona for his deadly free kicks while the two were teammates at Boca Juniors in Argentina.

Nobby, a trumpet-playing, salsa-loving Peruvian going back and forth between Peru and England, turned 39 today but will always be remembered for his stint with Newcastle United, his beloved club.

Is it ok for Higuain to cry?

Arsenal may have lost 2-0 to Napoli last night, but they still qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League - where they will have a tough task due to finishing second in the Group (but that's another topic).

But while Arsenal were celebrating, Gonzalo Higuain was having a little cry about the 'injustice' of his team being eliminated from the competition despite winning 4 of their 6 games. It's hard not to have sympathy for the striker, but should he be crying about not reaching the last 16 of a tournament?

Maybe he was dreaming of a game against his old club Real Madrid, maybe he lost some money after betting on himself to get the first goal, or maybe he was just upset not to qualify. But crying because your team went out seems a little too much. Of course he can be upset, show some emotion and be in touch with his feelings, but it's not like they were seconds away from winning it all.

I'm being too harsh, I know. But would he cry if Rafa Benitez subbed him against Inter this weekend? Does Rafa cry everytime one of his old players scores against him or calls him the fat Spanish waiter?

People should be able to express emotions in sport, but crying over not qualifying from a Group in which one of the teams had Nicholas Bentdner in it isn't going to get you far. You should be embarrassed, not upset.

Now go and win the Europa League, get another trophy for Rafa, and then cry about it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Who the English teams could get in the last 16

The draw for the last 16 is on Monday. This is who the English teams may play:
Manchester United will play either:
Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Schalke, Zenit St Petersburg or Milan
Chelsea will play either:
Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Zenit St Petersburg or Milan
Manchester City will play either:
Real Madrid, PSG, Dortmund, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona
Arsenal will play either:
Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona

Shows how much easier it looks when you finish top of the Group.

I'm working on the other possibilities, but the Geezer has been busy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

MLS Cup: League doing fine, thank you

Press coverage grows but still needs sophistication

Not surprised to see a blank look on Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes (above) if he has to field some wild inquiries from a still-young football journalism pool in the U.S. However, the problem is not the small, yet growing world of journalists covering the game here. It's when league supporters have to sift through stories written by clueless correspondents sent by editors solely because it's a championship game, ignoring the, you know, season overall.

Coverage of the game was practically non-existent about 20 years ago and continued to be so even after MLS was formed and launched in the mid-1990s. And although there has been and still is an array of talented, knowledegable writers covering not only the American domestic league but football on a global level, we'll still see some forms of narrow-minded coverage that has fans of the game shaking their heads.

Progressively, the media has adjusted and has slowly accepted the game's stamp on the U.S. sports scene over the years. That part is true. But that's generally speaking. Luckily, we have established writers that are recognized by fans all over the country.

There have been lots of interesting angles provided by reporters and bloggers alike for Saturday's final in Kansas City against Real Salt Lake. But, sadly, they're mostly confined to publications known only to league supporter unless casual fans end up googling MLS Cup itself. Basically, many of the top news organizations may not have a specific beat reporter on the scene for the title match. Truth be told, it's more likely that there may be as many foreign correspondents at the match than U.S. ones. That's not an exaggeration.

But there are lots of stories questioning the validity of the teams, shrugged off as too small-market for a final, or why they're named Sporting and Real. Some even ridicule the league's minuscule ratings, fans and overall ambience. Another even pointed out the ridiculous timeslot MLS decided to go with as college football would surely destroy its ratings.

So is bad press better than no press?

MLS Cup: Two deserving sides in the final

Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake consistency rewarded

They aren't the most glamorous or most expensive teams in the U.S. top-flight division but its respective front offices and experienced managers have built deep, fluid and intelligent squads that have, for the most part, had stable campaigns for several years.

Real Salt Lake has developed a touch-pass possession style led by U.S. national-team Kyle Beckerman and Argentine Javier Morales, both of whom already boast an MLS Cup from 2009 when they topped the Los Angeles Galaxy in penalty kicks.

Sporting Kansas City, ever since being rebranded from the Wizards, have turned into a force with its physical play, especially at home, where Saturday's final will be held. Its netminder, Jimmy Nielsen, a Danish vet, and Frenchman Aurelien Collin have combined to help form a brutal backline that has prevented successful attacks in their box that's only surrendered 30 goals in 34 matches in the regular season.

You can't forget Costa Rican Alvaro Saborio for Salt Lake's attack or their goalie Nick Rimando, whose experience also has led him to serve as backup in the national team pool or Kansas City's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, two more U.S. national team players.

But, more importantly, both sides have focused on young talent and have done well in the draft system to snap up some important signings. It's complemented their structure successfully. It also doesn't hurt that Kansas City and Salt Lake are managed by two league veterans in Peter Vermes and Jason Kreis.

Adding in the passionate atmosphere in the small, yet loud Sporting Park will only help matters as the on-the-pitch scenarios will surely not disappoint both the hardcore and curious casual fans of the league.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Is it Mido, Robbie Keane, or just Spurs?

Not sure why this made me laugh, probably because it's Mido creeping out.

Sure there's a funny Spurs toilet humour joke here, but need some help with it...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Try it, you might like it (or keep trying until you do!)

The Guardian's World Cup draw simulator is fantastic.

It's worth finding out who your country can play, and how they can avoid Spain and Brazil !

Here's the link.

I'm not bored. Really, I have midweek previews to write.

Some people shouldn't comment after a shock result

Barcelona lost. They are now joint top with Atletico Madrid, with Real Madrid just 3 points behind. The Catalans have won 13 of 15. They lost a game, and it coincided with Lionel Messi not playing. Queue stupid Messi/Ronaldo comparisons, memes, drama, overreaction.

It's the end of the world for Barcelona if you read too much online. Barca are nothing without Messi, Real are still lions even when Cristiano is injured because they now have Gareth Bale.

One loss. All those World Cup winners, European Champions, league winners and some of the best players of their generation are nothing without Messi. Comparing Neymar to Bale? You deserve to be shot.

Twitter, Facebook etc, are great socila media tools, but there is a reason some people don't deserve to be heard. If you don't know anything about football, please don't comment. It just makes you look stupid.

Congrats to the Welshman on his hat-trick. Let's not forget it came against a team in the bottom 3 of La Liga. A great achievement, and hopefully he'll encourage more talent to experience football abroad.


Liverpool and Manchester United are done, Arsenal are battling Chelsea and Manchester City for the title. This may prove to be true in January of February, but let's just enjoy a team and a player (Mr. Aaron Ramsey) playing some great stuff. City also look good and are scoring loads of goals. Both City and Arsenal are making the others look bad, but no-one in the top 8 is out of it yet - Newcastle and Southampton may not last with the big boys, but there's real competition this year, and that's something to be enjoyed.

Fulham sacked Martin Jol after their shocking display at West Ham. Some managers get a rough deal when they are fired so early in a season, but the Cottagers were awful against the Hammers. Carlton Cole scored. While the criticism around him is harsh, you know you're in trouble when he scores. West Ham could have had 6, and that's saying something for a team that has struggled to score goals all season. Fulham were lucky to get 0 - they didn't have a shot in the game that troubled the keeper.


Bayern and PSG are both still unbeaten. I'll take the Germans lasting longer in that competition, but I'll probably enjoy watching PSG more. Zlatan makes me smile. He loves the game, and does things that you should pay money to go and see. Bayern dominate teams and make their superiority show, and they are fun to watch, but Zlatan is worth the entrance fee on his own.