Sunday, August 30, 2009

News from the front (08/30)

Man United didn't deserve to beat Arsenal 2-1 at Old Trafford. Sir Alex has been so passive, planning to rely on Giggs and Carrick for another season, his club deserved to lose on Saturday.

They had no shots on goal until they were gifted a penalty. Arsenal were predictably ahead after an equally predictable Arshavin cracker, until United predictably got a controversial penalty from, as ever, Mike Dean.

Rooney was charging into the box, chasing behind a loose touch, but arrived just ahead of Gunner keeper Almunia. The Englishman's next touch took the ball careening out of bounds, after which Almunia made slight contact with the striker who was already going down.

One on one against a keeper, if the attacker's touch is wayward, and the contact is both slight and afterward, discretion is required from referees. Penalties shouldn't be called unless they're stone-cold. If a referee isn't sure, he shouldn't call it. That being said, under the current "rules"--or more accurately, "paradigm", since there are levels of subjectivity to referee's decisions--it was a penalty, and not a good one!

In a weekend where Torres, Eduardo, and Eboiue all dove flagrantly, Rooney won't be recalled a diver but he's never shied from trying to win penalties. The hope cast upon his swarthy shoulders precludes him from most cynicism that would otherwise be levied at him if he were a foreign-born player--same as Gerrard who has the same proclivity to go to ground without the stigma to his reputation.

With such high stakes in England and Europe, this genre of ignominious behavior grows prevalent as players sacrifice individual dignity for, ultimately, the cash each team gains by either placing higher in domestic leagues (the higher a club finishes, the more money awarded by the governing federation) or going further in Europe (playing more games, with more gate receipts, more television revenue, and exponentially higher winning bonuses from UEFA).

The cycle might end only with the cooperation of an enforced refereeing initiative-- touted virtually every season without yet a visible increase increase in diving bookings--with more honorable managers who condemn simulation.

Glen Johnson
scored another belter for Liverpool as they fortuitously won 3-2 at Bolton. Johnson is an uncharacteristically solid signing for Benetiz who otherwise signs obscure Spanish players. After last year, Johnson's form put him among the top three right-backs in the world with Inter's Maicon and Barcelona's Dani Alves. At 26, the Englishman has a bright future with Liverpool and England for many years.

Lucas Leva continued to be a total clown, whining and protesting in Spanglish to remind whatever maleable referee that, after a wholly innocent clipping, Sean Davis had already been booked. Davis was promptly booked again and sent off as Bolton led 2-1. Also, the Greek defender Liverpool desperately signed last week was at sea during both goals and looks like a complete joker (more consistent with Rafa's pattern of signings).

Chelsea steamrolled whoever 3-0. If I had money I'd bet on them for the title.

I'd also bet on Tottenham finishing in the top four this season. They could finish second. Wilson Palacios has changed the team. Huddlestone is starting this season instead of Zokora and the football at White Hart Lane is faster and classy. Modric is out with a broken leg after their 95th minute win home to Birmingham, but Robbie Keane can take over that roll (with much less effect) allowing Peter Crouch to resume his "big man, small guy" partnership with Jermain Defoe.

Spurs won 2-1 with Lee Bowyer comically appearing on the score-sheet in the Premier League again, tapping in for Birmingham, probably the biggest goal of his career. (lol)

It's Spur's defense that will make or break this season, but they at least have a solid enforcer in front of the backline. Palacios' graft makes him a commodity in European soccer, the most sought after type of player for clubs competing in Europe. United and Arsenal have not and may finish behind Spurs this year to prove how vital a De Jong, De Rossi, Palacios, Scotty Parker, or Lass Diarra is to a team (and how frivolous and insufficient a "specialty" player like Carrick is!).

In Madrid Ronaldo showed his best and worst, making some strong and skillful runs but also sultating around the pitch and complaining characteristically. Madrid fans will never know the innocent Ronaldo that played for United during four of his five years at Manchester, but it is during that period where he reached his peak, playing with naivete and wonder, without expectation and arrogance.

Madrid made horrible moves in the offseason
, overpaying for Kaka, who has not been a premier player since winning World Player of the Year in 2006. Milan didn't even qualify for the Champions League in 2008 and Kaka's form had been average in his final two years in Milan, outshone by Pato last term.

Real's most underrated player is Diarra, a tackling force in the middle with balance and creativity who will guard their frail defense and launch counterattacks. They sold Arjen Robben and Wes Sneijder for less than they bought Xavi Alonso.

Style over substance as usual in their pursuit of fame and legend. Robben was by far the Galacticos' best player last year. Sneidjer was injured all term but is, at times on form, the best attacking central midfielder in the world (with Gourcuff, Xavi, Iniesta, Gerrard, and Lampard, for the record!).

Bayern have one of the best forward/winger combination in Europe, if not the best, with Podolski, Schweinsteger, Klose, Robben, and Ribery all in the mix.

Inter destroyed Milan 4-0 after Gattusso typically got sent off.

Inter or Chelsea to take the Champions League this year, with Bordeaux my dark horse. The French club will make the final 16. Get on board!

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