116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Monday, August 20, 2007

Broats, Thugs & Injustice

I was walking down Third Avenue with Jeff, a Gooner who was making the convincing argument that since Eduardo da Silva had emigrated from Brazil to Croatia, he should no longer be referred to as "Crozilian," but rather as a "Broatian." "Doesn't it sound like more of a nationality to you? He's a Broat!" All of this was really cracking me up, and within minutes I was going around calling Eduardo the "Broatian Sensation," which put me in good spirits, considering my earlier frustration watching Liverpool blow numerous chances as well as piss away a good 4 minutes of stoppage time, failing to capitalize on a vulnerable Chelsea squad.
Liverpool's lack of efficiency was nothing, however, compared to the awful, awful, awful marking from Derby County on Saturday against Liverpool. This is where Benny Feilhaber is going to be continuing his footballing education? Yikes. The Rams looked as if they had stayed up all night watching the defensive clinic known as Galaxy vs. Red Bull, and any British pundit who questions the quality of MLS defenders had better take in a couple of Derby matches before casting the first stone.
For those of you saying that newly-promoted Derby cannot serve as an indictment of Premiership quality, allow me to serve you a healthy slice of Blackburn Rovers. About as mid-table as they come (they finished 10th last season), Blackburn gave us some of the most negative, thuggish football I've seen in a while in their 1-1 draw at home with Arsenal yesterday. To compare what happened at Ewood Park with rugby would be at great insult to those league and union professionals. In a continuation of a theme from last season, Rovers cared little to maintain possession, and attacking seemed thoroughly out of the question. They came to maul the Gunners, and while I am certainly not against physical play, it seemed that Blackburn's intent was particularly violent. Arsenal, to its credit, did not back down (well maybe our favorite Broatian shied away from the contact, but he's new to the league), but, in a continuation of a theme from last season, a Jens Lehmann gaffe cost them the three points (his mishandling of David Dunn's screamer only shows that there is little justice in the world; then again, I've been watching a great deal of The Wire on DVD and I might just be cynical).
But how about Man City? They might just be the new darlings of the Premiership (well, except for the fact that everyone hates Thaksin Shinawatra and, well, except for the fact that everyone hates Sven-Goran Eriksson). "It is the natural way of the universe," I explained to Jeff in discussing United's ill fortune so far this season. "If you sneak through a whole season with little depth and no injuries, you better believe you'll get hit hard the next." Perhaps there is some kind of justice, in that case (especially now that Rob Styles, the referee who awarded that egregious penalty against Liverpool after Florent Malouda leaped into Steve Finnan, has been suspended for a week by the Premiership).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Becks Scores, and Keano Hates the WAGs

With a brilliant free-kick strike against D.C., the bequeathing of Galaxy captaincy from Landon Donovan, an appearance in the SuperLiga final and an England call-up in the works, it appears as though the David Beckham experiment is finally beginning to run according to script. Perhaps some of the adversity of the past month has been a bit of a blessing in disguise, as it appears as though the hoopla was enabled to extend itself just a little bit longer than it would had everything gone swimmingly from the start. MLS has to finally be able to breathe a quick sigh of relief, what with Steve McLaren calling its standard "Championship top half, lower Premier," and with even more investors lining up to start up or sponsor clubs. Indeed, it would seem as though the league's profile is slowly rising.

"It was nice to see Cesc get in there; that showed the spirit you're going to see from us this year. People have been saying it's not his game to play like that but he's showed he can score, he can pass and he can kick people, so everything is perfect." - Gael Clichy, in my favorite quote of the week, after Cesc Fabregas got into it with Sparta Praha obhájce Thomas Repka. I can't say I'm quite convinced that Cesc can make the full transformation into a tough guy, but it's always fun to see a young player maturing into a great one.

I almost forgot to mention my favorite rant of the week, which comes from the always 'bout it Keano:
"Priorities have changed for footballers and they are being dictated to by their wives and girlfriends. I find it surprising that geography seems to play such a big part or that players let their wives decide. I think it's weak. You see it with a couple of big players now. Clearly their wives and girlfriends are running their lives and that's a bad sign. I realise it is part of the package and more so when there are children and schools involved, but ultimately you're a footballer. Retire at 35 or 36, you can live wherever you bloody well like -- London, Monaco, wherever -- and any half-decent footballer will be a multi-millionaire anyway. Why is there such a big attraction with London? It would be different if it was Chelsea, Arsenal or maybe Tottenham, but when they go to a smaller club just because it's in London, then it's clearly because of the shops. Their priorities are not the same as mine. We will do the best for our players' families, but we've had a player this summer who didn't even ring us back because his wife wanted to move to London. And shopping was mentioned. It might astonish many people, but it's true."

Roy Keane sounds pissed (and we all know he is not the kind of man you'd want to upset) - what happened, did he try to bring Sheva to Sunderland?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Premiership Predictions (2007-08 Edition)

The Premiership season is upon us, and I can't really say that I'm ready. I am, without a doubt, excited, but in terms of actual preparedness I find myself a step behind. This could be due to the fact that I'm preparing for a weekend that includes both a bachelor party and a christening (if I go missing from this blog, it's probably a result of the lightning bolt that's coming my way for being at a strip club and church within a span of mere hours) and I'm likely to miss the opening of the season, or it could be the result of an unusual summer overload of football due to international competitions, SuperLiga and what's-his-name. Whatever the case may be, the start of the Barclay's Premier League has caught me slightly flat-footed, and now I must play catch-up.
Last season, I predicted that Liverpool would surprise everyone and carry off the trophy, led by the newfound superstardom of Luis Garcia. This prediction only confirmed the status of this blog as a "lesser" authority, as Manchester United combined a stunning seasonal performance from Cristiano Ronaldo with an injury-free campaign to win the league (there is an adage about how people who write about sports spend so much time writing about things that have already happened that they are no good at predicting future events. I suppose it applies). United, perhaps wary of trying to get through another season unharmed with a slim squad, spent quite a bit on reinforcements this summer, which would logically make them favorites again, which brings up an interesting question regarding the transfer market: does summer spending actually translate to seasonal success?
Arsenal (slight squad adjustments), Man United (reinforcements/ future starters + Carlos Tevez), Chelsea (veterans competing for spots), Liverpool (everyone on the market + Fernando Torres) and Tottenham (strengthening positions they were already deep in) all took different approaches to the transfer market this season in an effort to boost their standing in the league. With so many competing philosophies, it can be difficult to determine exactly which overriding philosophy works best, but we here on 116th Street decided to take a very uncomprehensive stab at figuring out transfer market success, looking at the past five Premiership champions.

1. Don't fret over losing a big name striker.
This bodes well for all of you panicking Gooners, who will rest easier knowing that Man U lost Ruud van Nistelrooy last year and still won the title. Going a little further back, Chelsea lost both of their front line strikers (Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Hernan Crespo) in the summer prior to their 2005 title, replacing them with Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman, neither of whom exactly lit the world on fire that season.

2. A new starting midfielder goes a long way.
It's not certain whether players such as Kevin-Prince Boateng, Yossi Benayoun or even Owen Hargreaves will make major impacts at their new clubs, but Michael Carrick, Michael Essien and Arjen Robben are testament to the championship-providing boost a key midfield player can provide. In other words, all you ManYoo fans out there should be excited about the Hargreaves pickup.

3. Get a new keeper.
None of the big clubs did this (unless Lukasz Fabianski suddenly takes over at Arsenal), but it's worth noting that both Jens Lehmann and Petr Cech won the league in their first seasons minding the nets at their respective clubs.

4. Who added a stalwart defender?
That would be Chelsea, whose pickup of Alex could be as key to winning as, say, Ricardo Carvalho, Rio Ferdinand or Sol Campbell were in their first seasons with championship-winning sides.

5. Beware the established superstar (especially if he's switching leagues).
I'm looking in the direction of the Kop here. Don't put ALL of your faith in Torres, ye Liverpool faithful lest he go the way of Shevchenko, Ballack or Veron. Switching to English football can be quite an adjustment, after all.

6. Let the kids grow up.
Those (occasionally) under-the-radar youngsters you picked up a couple of years ago? When they mature, they bring championship winning results with them (we don't even need to mention names here, do we?).

Now that we've gone through our (completely!) scientific and comprehensive breakdown of the transfer market, we predict that the Premiership champion of 2007-08 will be Chelsea, narrowly edging out Manchester United for the title (we can really go out on a limb sometimes around here). Getting both Florent Malouda and Alex will push them over the top, while Man U's lack of defensive cover will come back to haunt them this season. As for Arsenal, they remain a year away, while Tottenham and Liverpool remain a little too unfocused for true title contention in the near future. Of course, we've been wrong many times before, so feel free to jump all over us when Fernando Torres dominates the league and Liverpool lifts the trophy, but just remember one thing: Luis Garcia is set for stardom, any day now...