Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Orange Deviousness

Check out this amusing video from Holland, where a prankster brought a bunch of remote controls into various bars and turned the TV off during critical moments of football matches. The worst nightmare for football fans, but funny, at least.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Matt's Premiership Review

Here is the latest update on all the premiership action from my buddy Matt. Matt looks forward to next weekend's hopefully monumental clash between Manchester United and Arsenal after this past weekend's fun action.

If you've noticed that Matt has been posting almost as much as me recently, well, you've been right. As I've said earlier, I am trying to truck through a busy period at work, and I confess I have also been a bit sidetracked by the Boston Red Sox (the local baseball team, who just won the World Series for the second time in four years). Between the Red Sox and the Patriots (the local American football team, for all of my outside-the-U.S. readers) I've had little time for soccer, but I still managed to cram in this weekend's Fiorentina game as well as most of Roma v. Milan. That actually reminds me of that great line from the "Simpsons" when Homer was reminiscing about his early years of marriage: "In spite of working a full-time job, being a newlywed, and raising a young son, I still managed to pack in six hours of television a day..."(I'm paraphrasing here)

Anyway, I am glad that Matt is reviewing the English league. My beloved Series A was actually quite boring, with low-scoring draws and 1-0 matches as far as the eyes could see. I'll be back more this week as I get back into the football world.


Wow. What another great weekend in the EPL with games filled with goals galore, and a big game that actually lived up to the hype. Arsenal and Liverpool played an entertaining game where both sided were attacking each other from start to finish, and the 1-1 scoreline doesn’t give justice to what a great game it was. Liverpool took the lead on an early free kick by Steven Gerrard, but eventually Arsenal’s class allowed them to tie it up through Cesc Fabregas, and keep both teams undefeated for the season. The question becomes which team should be happier with the result, and I would have to say, it’s got to be Arsenal. Liverpool dropped another 2 points at home, and they simply can’t afford to do that if they want to challenge for the title. Although both fans and players of Arsenal might feel that they should have won the game, they still can be happy that they remain undefeated and atop of the Premier League. However, they are now tied atop the League with the defending champs, and sets up this week’s clash between them and Man U at the Emirates. I was knocking on Man U at the beginning of the season, but they are on form now. They are scoring goals in buckets full like they did last year, and the Tevez/Rooney partnership is really starting to jell. Rooney did a beautiful back pass to Tevez to set up the third goal of the game in their 4-1 romp over Middlesbrough, and he is starting to show once again why he is seen as England’s savior. I can’t wait for this week’s game between these two powerhouses, but I think Arsenal will hold out for a 3-2 win.

In other games, Avram Grant has done something that the Special One couldn’t seem to do with Chelsea; have them play entertaining football. Chelsea demolished Man City 6-0, and has pundits pondering whether Man City’s early season form was just a flash in the pan. While I don’t think it was anything more than just a bump in the road for Sven’s men, you do have to wonder if Sven is a one trick pony, who can easily be figured out. He didn’t seem to have a plan B for Chelsea after his 4-4-2 formation fell apart, and it was like we were seeing signs of the England team again. One thing for sure is that Chelsea are back, and they aren’t going to give up on the title so easily yet.

Speaking of a one trick pony, those were the words I was using to describe Michael Owen as I yelled at the TV while watching Newcastle’s dismal display against Reading this weekend. They are without a doubt the most Jekyll and Hyde team in the Premier League. You never know which team is going to show up; the one that should be guaranteed a spot in Europe, or the one battling a relegation dog fight. As for Owen, he is good at doing one thing only. Scoring goals when the ball is delivered directly to his foot or head while he is in the box and there is no one around him. If that doesn’t happen, don’t expect him to do much else except get called for being offside. Why Sam insists on placing him above Martins on his striker depth chart is beyond me. I certainly have my fair share of problems with Obafemi, but at least he is out there trying, has pace, and can actually do something with the ball when outside the box. When he has the ball, I at least have some hope that Newcastle might score. I don’t feel the same way about Owen. I pray to God he proves me wrong.

Finally, as many of you know, Martin Jol was finally given the sack this past week. Despite this, Tottemham still found a way to lose and remain in the relegation zone. Somewhere Tony Soprano, I mean Martin Jol is laughing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Premiership Thoughts

Apologies to any readers who have noticed I haven't posted all week. To be honest, I've just been crazy-busy at my real-life job as I try to finish some stuff before I take a quick visit over to Europe. And, yes, I will be catching some top-flight football while over on the continent. I will report back in full.

The irony of my week-long layoff is that some great football has been played. On Saturday in Italy Roma and Napoli played to a 4-4 draw that was one of the best matches I've seen in ages. And in Madrid on Wednesday Real Madrid cam back from a 2-1 deficit to win 4-2 in the Champions league. That match might finally be the club-level coming-out party for Robinho, who dominated the game.

In the meantime, my buddy Matt has a little belated but very interesting look at last week's action in the Premiership and in English football. It was a busy week in England (Martin Jol finally left Spurs) but Matt helps us unravel everything, including what could be a very good title race.


Although not much has changed among the placement of teams in the standings, things are starting to come cleared as a quarter of the season has come to the end. Manchester United have seemed to found last season’s form with another spectacular victory at Aston Villa by the score of 4-1. Meanwhile, Arsenal continued their winning ways at the top of the league with a 2-0 victory over Bolton. It wasn’t the usual flair of an Arsenal game, but one in which they showed they could get stuck in, and respond to tough tackling by fighting back with similar tactics. But there is no need to worry that they will change their ways and start to play like Chelsea as Tuesday’s Champions League 7-0 victory showed. And what about Theo Walcott? With Van Persie out for 4-6 weeks, he will get his chance to continue to shine and display his blinding pace, that was shown in Arsenal’s last 2 games. Arsenal’s opponents this weekend, Liverpool, got an extremely lucky win this past weekend over Everton to keep them in 4th place and on pace for a run at the title. I have to laugh at that last statement because I don’t think Liverpool will challenge for the title event though I picked them as my pre-season favorites to do so. The only reason they won last week was because they had the ref in their back pocket, and while they did deserve the 2 penalties they were rewarded, they should have had 2 red cards against themselves for a flying tackle by Kuyt on Phil Neville, and for Jamie Carragher’s take down of Lescott in the box. The later should have given Everton a penalty kick, and a chance to get a point from a draw in this derby. However, it seems that Liverpool’s luck may have run out based on their defeat to Besiktas this past Wednesday in the Champions League. Maybe this loss combined with the subbing of Gerrard in the Everton derby will cause the eventual sacking of Benitez and his stupid rotational policy. Arsenal can help him on his way if they thrash Liverpool at Anfield this weekend like they did last year.

Speaking of sackings, Sammy Lee and now Martin Jol have joined the unemployment line. I’m happy to say that it was Newcastle’s fine display at St. James in their 3-1 victory over Tottenham on Monday that hammered the final nails in the coffin of Mr. Jol. Although it didn’t help that Berbatov started on the bench with a sour look on his face, and couldn’t be bothered to warm up or really participate when he eventually got on the pitch. Maybe it was the Bulgarian’s reaction to his benching that really caused the board at Spurs to get rid of Jol. In any event, it seems the next manager to go in the sacking race is between Billy Davies at Derby, Lawrie Sanchez at Fulham, and Gareth Southgate at Middlesbrough. But I’m sure there are Liverpool supporters out there, that feel as I do, and are hoping that Mr. Benitez soon takes pole position.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Weekend Matches: October 20-21

Now this is what I’m talking about. A good, solid weekend of football coming up, especially Saturday, which is the kind of day DVR was invented for. Although I am becoming increasingly tired of English football, the Premiership seems to have the best matches of the weekend, including the Liverpool derby and an intriguing Arsenal v. Bolton match. (Villa vs. Man United could be okay as well.) In Spain, Espanyol vs. Real Madrid should be okay, as should Roma vs. Napoli in Italy. Juventus vs. Genoa and Boca Juniors vs. Juan Sebastian Veron’s Estudiantes looks to be the cream of the crop on Sunday. Thank goodness for the return of league football!


7:30am Everton vs Liverpool Setanta Sports

9:30am Bochum vs Bayern Munich GolTv

10:00am Arsenal vs Bolton Setanta Sports

10:00am Middlesbrough vs Chelsea FSC

12:00pm Aston Villa vs Manchester United FSC

2:00pm Villarreal vs Barcelona GolTv

2:30pm Reggina vs Inter FSC

4:00pm Espanyol vs Real Madrid GolTv

8:00pm Roma vs Napoli FSC


9:00am AC Milan vs Empoli FSC

2:30pm Juventus vs Genoa FSC

3:00pm Atl. Madrid vs Zaragoza GolTv

3:00pm Boca Juniors vs Estudiantes FSC

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Now That’s a Free Kick

Below find a link brought to my attention by the FourFourTwo website, which refered to this as “possibly the greatest free kick of all time.” I don’t know about that...but Jesus. It’s pretty impressive.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mid-Week Reading

I’ve decided to continue my semi-break from the Fan-atic page for a few days longer. One reason is that these Euro qualifiers just don’t interest me at all; I CAN”T WAIT to get back to league football this weekend. Also, frankly, I am little busy in my “real life” job (I am a writer and editor in that life as well, but in that life I get paid to do stuff, so that comes first) so I’ve put football writing on the back-burner until I watch some meaningful games this weekend.

I did, however, want to draw your attention to two very fine articles on ESPN.com. The first is Roberto Gotta’s analysis of the Italian National Team head coaching job, and more specifically, an examination of the culture of Italian football and how difficult it is to make a success of oneself there. If you are like me (Series A is probably my favorite league at this point) this is a solid read.

The second article is a piece by the much-linked-to Phil Ball, who writes about his son’s U-12 league and uses this to explain the Spanish National Team. I stand by my often-made claim that Ball is one of the best writers in the business.

One final point: one of my good friends have suggested that I link to ESPN too much, and probably at the expense of other really good stuff out there. Perhaps he is right; it is true that I don’t often link to sites that I actually like very much, including sites based in England and Italy. I don’t link to ESPN as much as I do because I have the typical American worship of all things ESPN (in fact, I hardly watch the channel excepting Champions League matches) but because they are able to recruit and keep an extraordinary group of international writers. Their coverage of Spain and Italy, most obviously, is quite good, especially as we are an English speaking readership. Their English League coverage is weaker (I tend to go to the English newspapers for that) and, strangely enough, I thing CNNSI.com’s coverage of U.S. soccer knocks ESPN’s out of the park.

Anyway, I link to ESPN’s stuff often because I think it is good. You be the judge:

Phil Ball:


Roberto Gotta:


Friday, October 12, 2007

Weekend Matches, October 13-14

Since the beginning of the year, I have produced, every Friday, a list of matches that are to be televised that weekend in the United States that I recommend to my readers. I did it even in the dregs of July when there was little, if anything, going on. In the interest of keeping the streak alive I offer you a meager selection of one game, in the MLS, between two very poor teams. David Beckham will not play.

This, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch. All else that’s televised this weekend are ridiculous Euro qualifying matches between mismatched teams. If there has ever been a weekend to spend time with your family, go for a long walk, clean out the garage, or yes, even play a little impromptu football, this is it. See you next week.


10:30pm LA Galaxy vs Toronto FSC

That makes two of us...


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quick News Updates

Just a few quick things today, as I continue to be a bit busy with that pesky “real life” that gets in the way of my football watchin’:

  • Check out this story by the always-good Grant Whal on Michael Bradley, son of the U.S. National Team head coach. Interesting stuff not just about Michael but about how an American makes it overseas in the football world:


  • See any of the major soccer websites for updates on Euro 2008 qualification, and especially for news on England. Stories this week include John Terry’s various injuries, the English striker situation, and whether the perennially-hurt Michael Owen should play. Wake me in June when the Euros start, please.
  • Finally, it looks like my man Neil Warnock has taken the QPR job. Good luck, Neil. They’re in 19th place right now. Of course, if your team collapses down the stretch like it did last season, you can always blame Carlos Tevez again…

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Early Week Thoughts

This is my first post of the week largely because we have celebrated a holiday here in the United States this weekend called ‘Columbus Day,’ in honor of the man who discovered a continent already occupied by millions of people. Next week I might fly to Tokyo and discover Asia. But I digress. My apologies on the lateness of this post.

Also accept my apologies on the thinness of today’s content and the presumed short posts that are likely to come this week. It just looks like one of those weeks where the real-life work is going to get in the way of the fun footballfan-atic work.

Drab weekend coming up, too, with the European qualifiers. Prepare yourself for endless stories on who will start for England and whether they will make Euro 2008. God, I hope they win both games just so we can be subject to less of this in the future. If I read one more “referendum” article on Steve McLaren, I am going to fly over there and fire him myself.

Since the posts will be thin this week, I encourage all of you to check out the ESPN soccernet podcast that is done each and every week on Mondays and Thursdays. It is available for free on itunes, at least to people in the U.S. (I don’t know about the rest of the world.) I’ve listened to a bunch of podcasts and I find this one to be pretty consistently the best. The Monday show is always a good wrap-up of the week, and the Thursday episode is a good preview of upcoming action. The show is a little heavy on the premiership, but it is still a fairly balanced roundup of what is going on in the football world. The guys on the show are also pretty unbiased, aside from their universal, unrelenting disgust for all things Andrei Shevchenko. Fair play to them, then.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Weekend Matches: October 6-7

As I said in an earlier post, it is a fairly weird weekend for football. There are almost no English games on Saturday, and a bunch are either not being televised at all or being shown scandalously late. Sad. I am excited to see my favorite English club, Sheffield United, play in a rarely-televised Championship match, but most of the good stuff seems (again) to be coming out of Italy. AC Milan vs. Lazio could be interesting, and the pick of the litter is probably Juventus vs. my Fiorentina. I do believe Fiorentina can nick at least a point here; they advanced in the UEFA cup yesterday and are looking good.


7:30am Manchester United vs Wigan Setanta Sports

12:00pm Bristol City vs Sheffield Utd Setanta Sports

2:30pm Inter vs Napoli FSC


6:00am Arsenal vs Sunderland Setanta Sports

10:00am Bolton vs Chelsea Setanta Sports

10:00am Liverpool vs Tottenham FSC

12:00pm Fiorentina vs Juventus FSC

3:00pm Lazio vs AC Milan FSC

10:00pm Barcelona vs Atl. Madrid GolTv

Thursday, October 4, 2007

When Saturday Comes...No Football?

The web page of FourFourTwo has a brief but interesting article on why they are only playing one game in the English Premier League at the traditional kick-off time of 3PM on Saturday. It seems to be the result of a combination of TV, UEFA Cup Matches, and travel difficulties. Whatever. This weekend the Premier League is all screwed up, and its going to be tough for viewers (especially in the US) to catch many of the games. Football purists have been going on for a while now about how football has become more and more of a business; this has both good and bad aspects to it, but it is hard to argue with the fact that tradition (the Saturday game) was probably best in this particular case.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Manchester United News

Today the red half of Manchester is on the mind, seeing how the Devils played an excruciating Champion’s League match last night. I watched it on ESPN, but my wife (an indifferent fan of football at best) summed up the match better than I ever could by falling asleep at halftime. A fairly lucky Rooney blast was the difference (coming only moments after a gorgeous Christiano Ronaldo backheel goal that was ruled offside) and of course they will gladly take the three points. But is Manchester turning into Chelsea? Ugh.

More bad news for Manchester yesterday included the report that Owen Hargreaves will be out for at least another month as his knee continues to trouble him. (Obviously making him unavailable for England as well.) Hargreaves Owen-like ability to stay healthy might make United rue the day they purchased him; especially with Nani, Anderson, and even Carlos Tevez providing indifferent results after a very expensive off-season.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

LA Galaxy Playoff Bound?

Here is an interesting, but weird, column by SI soccer writer Greg Lalas, brother of LA Galaxy President (and former US national team standout) Alexi Lalas. Greg essentially argues that the Galaxy need to step it up next year when Beckham is back, and not just when he is hurt and out of the country, or LA and the MLS in general will never be taken seriously on the world stage. The article then gets a little weird, and at one point he suggests his brother “choked” along with the rest of the team, but does not elaborate. The piece does make a couple of interesting points, but ultimately Greg seems to be trying a little too hard to be critical of his brother.


Premiership Week in Review

Below find my buddy Matt's review of the weekend in the Premiership. In this week's edition, Matt looks at the English keeper situation, why Spurs shouldn't get too excited about yesterday's win, and why Stevie G is a good guy. Good analysis here...


This week’s update is a day late due to the additional game between Spurs and Aston Villa being played on Monday night, and it is with that game where we begin. This game was to celebrate the 125 year anniversary of Tottenham Hotspur, and they had all their legends on the field before the match began. Berbatov gave Spurs the lead, before the horror show began with lead actor, Paul Robinson, and his supporting cast of the shambolic defense. It all started with Robinson dropping a ball that was in his hands which lead to the first Villa goal. By the 60th minute of the game, he had let in 3 more and the Spurs were down 4-1 as crowds of fans exited from White Hart Lane. There has to be someone in England who could actually be a good goalie for the national team. Since the “big four” have foreign keepers, and Tottenham are usually just outside looking in, Robinson seems to get his caps by default. Why doesn’t McClaren look to the Championship or the lower leagues for a keeper if he can’t find a reliable one in the Premiership?? Peter Shilton was one of England’s greatest keepers, and he wasn’t playing for any big clubs. Of course some would say that Scott Carson should be given the chance, but then he let in 3 goals in the last 30 minutes for Tottenham to salvage a draw. Now not all the blame could be placed on him, as one of the goals came off of a penalty thanks to the sheer stupidity of Marlon Harewood, and Villa fans must be in shock at how they blew 2 points in a game they were winning comfortably. Tottenham’s late equalizing strike as time was expiring led to all the players surrounding and hugging Martin Jol as if they just won the Premiership. And while it was impressive to come back from 3 goals down in under 30 minutes, all they got was a point, at home, on their special anniversary to keep them in 18th place!! Somehow I don’t think staying in the relegation zone is going to keep Jol’s job no matter what show of solidarity the players show him on the pitch.

Moving on from the bottom of the table to the top, all 4 top teams remained in the same position as last weekend as each won their respective games. 1-0 to the Arsenal was a common saying of the Gunners of the 80s and early 90s, and so that sentiment was echoed this weekend with their 1-0 victory over West Ham, a team they couldn’t beat last season. It must be said that while the score line echoes the past, the style of play is completely different with the current team showing why they call it the beautiful game.

The same can’t be said of Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Birmingham. The Blues dominated the game putting more shots on goal than the Red Devils, but it was a lapse in Birmingham’s defense in the second half that allowed Ronaldo to knick a goal. Man U still haven’t displayed the goal scoring form of last season, and hopefully tonight’s game with Roma in the Champions League will bring back the goals from last year’s 7-1 demolishing of the Italian club, but Man U continue to do what Champions are required to do which is finding a way to win no matter your form. They went to a hostile environment in Birmingham and got 3 points, while the week previous Liverpool hosted Birmingham, couldn’t score a goal, and dropped 2 points in a 0-0 draw. Once again, I hope Liverpool are paying attention because this is what they have to do if they ever want to capture their first Premiership crown.

Speaking of Liverpool, they held onto their 4th spot in the table with a blah 1-0 victory over Wigan, but that’s what they need to do. See above. Which leaves the 3rd place team, Man City, staying put thanks to a 3-1 win over my unfortunate Newcastle United. It was a bad week for the Magpies, with Owen getting hurt (again), getting knocked out of the Carling Cup by Arsenal (are we ever going to win a trophy?), and then leading by a goal at Manchester before letting it slip away. I have recently been reading the season preview from When Saturday Comes, and each team is compared to a type of food. Newcastle is like a 2 day old glazed donuts at Dunkin Donuts; they have the glaze of the all their star players, but the’re always on the (injury) shelf and there is a big whole in the middle. I sure hope Joey Barton comes back soon, as they need some creativity in the midfield, but if he doesn’t get injured as soon as he comes back, he will probably instead get arrested for attacking one of his teammates.

Then there was the goal fest between Portsmouth and Reading, with Pompey winning 7-4, and in the process setting a Premiership record for most goals scored in a game. It could have been more, as David James saved a penalty shot from Nicky Shorey, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he still gave up 4 goals, I would be pushing for him to reclaim his England slot. It should be noted that Pompey, Reading, Spurs, and Villa each scored more goals then the combined goals scored by the “big 4” (4-3 thanks to Chelsea failing to score again). What does this mean? Absolutely nothing, except that the Premiership is certainly been entertaining so far this season. Let’s hope it keeps up.

One last note: Apparently Steven Gerrard was involved in a car accident in which he hit a 10 year old boy causing him to break his leg. Cue the stories of millionaire player carelessly and recklessly driving his Bentley and hitting small children, but nothing can be further from the truth. While he was driving his Bentley, he wasn’t speeding when the boy ran out between 2 cars causing the accident. He immediately exited his car, knelt down and held the boy’s hand comforting him until the paramedics arrived, and was extremely distraught according to witnesses at the scene. He also has been in constant contact with the boy’s family to check up on his condition and how he is doing. It is nice to see for once a star athlete doing the right thing, and just goes to show that not all footballers (soccer players) are like those portrayed on Dream Team and Footballers’ Wives.

Champions League: Tuesday and Wednesday

Here is the US Television line-up for the next two days in the Champions League. Lots of good games here (especially Man United v. Roma and Real v. Lazio), but I do wish the big American channels (especially ESPN) would show more than just the English teams and Real Madrid and Barca. I’m a big Madrid fan, but we see those teams all the time, and the Champions league is a good chance to see good, but different, teams. At least Setanta is showing the Portuguese teams.

Anyway, also keep an eye on the Liverpool v. Marseille game, if for no other reason than to ensure that Steven Gerrard doesn’t hit any kids with his car on the drive to the stadium.

(As Triumph the Insult Comic Dog says: “I Keed, I keed.”)


2:30pm Manchester vs AS Roma ESPN2

2:30pm Steau Bukarest vs Arsenal Setanta Sports

5:00pm Stuttgart vs Barcelona Setanta Sports, ESPNCC

6:45pm Dynamo Kyiv vs Sporting Setanta Sports


2:30pm Liverpool vs Olympique Marseille ESPN2

2:30pm Valencia vs Chelsea Setanta Sports

5:00pm Lazio vs Real Madrid Setanta Sports, ESPNCC

6:45pm Besiktas vs Porto Setanta Sports

Monday, October 1, 2007

Who’s the Best?

Below find a link to (big surprise) Phil Ball’s latest Spanish roundup. Good stuff in there, but also interesting because Phil looks at the ever-changing question of whom is the best in the world. Ball suggests that it might be Barca’s Leo Messi, who has certainly played like it lately.

What we all know for sure, however, is that the title of anointed one changes all the time. Kaka will probably win this year’s player-of-the-year awards, and he is, without question, a deserving candidate. He was also named the best player in the world by FourFourTwo magazine. Christiano Ronaldo, however, was “the best player in the world” last spring, and Ronaldiho was “the guy” just a little over a year ago. Last year also, don’t forget, Fabio Cannavero was world player of the year. This year’s European season is only a few weeks old but it already looks like Leo Messi and Cesc Fabregas must now be considered in any argument about the best players in the world.

In other words, the game right now lacks a truly clear-cut number one. Which is probably good for the game, and good for debate.