For those that are new to the ‘Beautiful Game’, January is a special time. Not only does it bring about a highly congested fixture list (at least in England), but also a month-long period in which clubs across Europe may buy, sell and loan players. Potential purchases can save a club from relegation to the lower divisions, or bring a club glory for years to come. But by the next the next transfer window, supporters call for many of these same players to be shipped off to far-away lands, never to be heard of again. This should be a time of great excitement for football fans.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called for the creation of a task force charged with making the next World Cup “more attractive” than the last. FIFA’s primary concern is that of ‘quality’. When the most exciting moment of a tournament is when a particularly gifted octopus predicts the outcome of the final, you know it’s a pretty poor World Cup. And let there be no mistake about that.
Just when we thought the feud was over Wenger reopens old wounds with some choice words for Sir Alex and his team. Now, we all know the Frenchman likes absolutely loves to whinge, but this has to be some sort of joke:
“I have seen today a player who plays on the pitch only to make fouls. For me, this is a point that is more urgent than diving. The players who are never punished. Who get out of the game without a yellow card. I think it is more anti-football than a player who did what Eduardo did.”
Wenger also went on to say:
“But I like the stance the English take towards diving. In some countries it is a quality to dive. I’m still more proud to be part of England where they fight against that.”
Some interesting comments from Mr. Wenger to say the least. Let’s break them down.
Another United v. Arsenal clash, another exciting, drama-filled afternoon. After reaching the break 1-0 up, Arsenal broke down and gifted United the victory. Arsenal had a late goal correctly disallowed, and Wenger got sent to the stands for kicking a water bottle.
I think all United fans would admit the side was outplayed today, however, they would also tell you that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the result, and the team were able to get it. That’s why we are defending Champions: We know how to win ugly and we know how to win when we’re not the best team on the day.
Now let’s have a look at the talking points.
Time for a reality check. After notching up 10 goals in their first two premier league games (first time in history) and destroying Celtic to qualify for the Champions’ League proper, people were high on Arsenal and Arsene Wenger’s ‘project’. They were scoring goals for fun, and looked unstoppable, perhaps this would finally be the year?
It all sounded pretty good, but let me tell you what really happened. First, Arsenal played a severely, severely depleted Everton side. In addition, their rock at the back, Joleon Lescott, pleaded not to be picked for the match, as his move to City was imminent. This was ignored, and Lescott rewarded his manager’s faith by not showing up. Two of Arsenal’s 6 were gifts from set-pieces: Vermaelen and Gallas waltzed in and got free headers right down the middle. Wait, isn’t that where Lescott plays? But still, 6-1 is pretty good no matter the circumstances – I can give them that. Then they went to Parkhead and were extremely lucky to come away with a 2-0 advantage. An own goal and a deflection off Gallas’s arse (who was trying his best to move out of the way of the ball). Flowing football. Then they beat Pompey 4-1. Pompey can barely field a team, so that was nothing to get too excited about. The return leg of the Emirates was marred by Eduardo’s theatrics, which unfairly squashed Celtic’s chances of progressing. I’m not trying to take anything away from them, but this is what happened, is it not?
United were Arsenal’s first test and they failed it. The Gunners outplayed the hosts but they continue to show that they have yet to learn how to grind results out. Playing pretty doesn’t win you the title. It was the same old Arsenal (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), so let’s hold off on the excitement for now, o.k?
With the season set to kick off at 12:45 GMT on Saturday, 15th August 2009 (that’s tomorrow), here is a brief look at each of the Premier League’s 20 teams. I’ll try to stay clear of the cliché-fueled drivel you may find on other sites that are just paraphrasing more ‘reputable’ news sources and their so-called experts (whom many I suspect collude with one other as to not sound foolish). In my attempt not to sound as foolish, I will also steer clear of making outright predictions of where a team will finish. I’ll leave that to the ‘professionals’. Nonetheless, I will try to capture where a club stands and where they may be heading.
With each of the big 4 clubs undoubtedly weakened and the emergence of a new challenger, we should be in for another exciting season.
I know this was technically pre-season, but this defeat really hurts. After a summer void of football (the Confederation’s Cup doesn’t quite cut it, despite Team USA’s admirable run), I was craving a full-strength United taking on proper opposition. I wanted United to prove to everyone that they could get on fine without that what’s-his-name who went to Madrid. Maybe it was because they proved just that and could have been up 3-0 before letting Chelsea back in with two scrappy goals and some shoddy goalkeeping. Perhaps it was the injustice of their second goal, and the Chelsea fans’ ensuing abuse of Patrice Evra. The poor penalties didn’t help either. One thing is for sure though; this match was no friendly. And if there is anything positive to take out of this match, United fans can come out knowing that Fergie will have a not so quiet word with the appropriate bodies, and Chris Foy will probably not be officiating United for a while.
I won’t bore you with any match report, because you all know what happened. However, here are a few things I noticed. (highlights below)