Daniel Sturridge’s infamous goal celebration. This definitely made this kid’s life, what a story he’ll be able to tell his grandchildren.
Edin Dzeko and Daniel Sturridge both opened up the scoring for their respective teams in a thrilling match this past weekend. However, despite their best efforts to leave a positive impression upon the game, they both took big steps backward. To be fair, what Dzeko and Sturridge did on Sunday isn’t out of the norm and these guys aren’t breaking any new ground with respect to their antics. But it has to stop.
If you’re still not sure what I’m referring to I’ll fill you in. In the minutes leading up to Sturridge’s goal, Dzeko was taken down by Agger. The referee saw nothing wrong with the challenge and allowed play to go on. Dzeko, visibly distraught by the no-call, remained on the ground for multiple minutes, expecting the referee to stop play or for Liverpool to play the ball out of bounds. Liverpool was overwhelmed by boos and whistling from the Etihad fans as they proceeded to play on and maintain possession in the attacking half. The attack went on for a couple of minutes and the only thing that stopped play was Sturridge’s absolute cannon of a shot from outside the area that beat Joe Hart. At this point the boos continued, Sturridge declined to celebrate, and Dzeko gingerly got off the ground and gave a very poor act of someone who was actually injured. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Dzeko forgot about his “injury” less than two minutes later and was back at 100%.
Later in the match, Daniel Sturridge did well to make his way to the endline and around Lescott, but then embarrassed himself by flailing his arms in the air and falling to the ground in an attempt to win a penalty. And all Sturridge had to show for himself after that performance was a well-deserved yellow card, which I applaud the referee doling out.
Once again, Edin Dzeko and Daniel Sturridge are not the first players to commit this type of offense, and there are certainly more prolific actors in the footballing world (*cough* Pepe, *cough* Busquets). However, I point these two guys out because after a thrilling 2-2 game with some fantastic goals and performances, this is a big black mark on it. This is an issue that continues to rear it’s ugly head even in the biggest of competitions and Fifa has taken a relatively tame approach to curbing one of soccer’s biggest threats.
The success of any individual or business, in the long run, is based on one thing: Reputation. Good or bad, it will determine your fate. Fifa has begun to take a heavy-handed approach with other unsportsmanlike actions and should take simulation just as seriously. The referees are only able to do so much during a match and the risk of booking a player or sending a player off for simulation is often too high and there is too much doubt in the referee’s mind to pull the trigger. It’s in these instances where soccer’s governing body must step in, with the advantage of video replay, and decide the punishment. I propose a suspension for players guilty of simulation; it could start as a 3-match ban and then progress for repeat-offenders. At this point the punishment does not fit the crime, and players will continue to take advantage of referees until adequate measures are taken. All of this at the expense of soccer’s reputation.
Perhaps Fifa isn’t the best or most efficient means of cracking down on this issue in the short-term. In that case, it is the duty of players, coaches, clubs, and football associations to make a concerted effort to diminish this behavior. This isn’t a lot to ask. In fact, I’m doing them a favor. No level-headed person sees how Dzeko and Sturridge acted in those moments and says, “What a player! I now have more respect and admiration for that guy and his club. Son, you should be like Edin Dzeko.” All I’m suggesting these clubs and organizations do is act in their own best interest. A player represents himself, his teammates, his coach, his club, his country, etc., etc. Each of these entities has a stake in how a player conducts himself and can be used to tackle this issue head on. It’s time for one of these individuals or organizations to wise up and maintain (and grow) the dignity and respect soccer deserves.
Rosters are officially locked in for the final 4 months of the football season. The recent closing of the January transfer window provided the last opportunity for clubs to add quality to their rosters. There wasn’t what some would consider a “blockbuster deal”. There wasn’t a transfer fee over £20m and in today’s world of football economics, that is fairly tame to say the least. However, that is not to say teams did not significantly improve their squads. Here are a few of the most recent transfers that already could be considered successes.
Nacho Monreal – Malaga to Arsenal (£10m)
Some will say this was a reaction to the expected month without Kieran Gibbs due to a leg injury and that may be true, however Arsenal were in need of a much needed upgrade at the left back position. Gibbs is a great young player, don’t get me wrong – he simply can’t stay healthy. It just shows you how much of a need Monreal was to Arsene Wenger when he immediately thrust him into first team duty a day after signing to the club. He answered the calling as he helped an inconsistent back 4 come away with a clean sheet against Stoke City on Saturday. Granted, Stoke didn’t exactly provide the attacking prowess of a Manchester club, but that also hasn’t stopped Arsenal from giving up goals to lesser opponents either (see Swansea, Fulham, and the Liverpool matches). God only knows how many goals would have been conceded if Santos played an entire 90 minutes at left back. Not only did Nacho provide some stability to the defense, he showed some skill on the ball going forward. Many Arsenal supporters will argue Arsenal could have used another attacking signing or two, but it seems Arsene has once again found value in a quality player on deadline day. (For a more in depth look at Arsenal, check out another recent blog post from kvenezia.)
Daniel Sturridge – Chelsea to Liverpool (£12m)
With the impending arrival of Demba Ba from Newcastle at the beginning of the transfer window, Chelsea suddenly had a surplus of attackers and Daniel Sturridge was the odd man out. So he was abruptly shipped to Liverpool who were in dire need of an offensive spark. Liverpool immediately saw glimpses of Sturridge’s potential as he scored a goal in each of his first 3 appearances for his new club. His fourth and most recent goal tied up the match against Manchester City at 1-1 where the teams saw out a 2-2 draw. They still haven’t beaten a team ahead of them in the standings; however, the last two matches could be considered statement matches for Liverpool. A 2-2 draw against Arsenal and Manchester City may provide the confidence they need to finally push for a top 4 finish and Sturridge may very well be the attacker they were looking for to compliment Luis Suarez going forward. You can’t ask for much more from a newly acquired player than to score 4 goals (2 Premier League/2 FA Cup) in his first 6 matches for his new club. Daniel has already played more minutes for Liverpool in the last 6 matches than he did for Chelsea during the first half of the season. It seems like this transfer was a win-win for both teams involved and it’s not very often that can be said.
Moussa Sissoko – Toulouse to Newcastle United (Undisclosed Fee)
With Demba Ba off to Chelsea, Newcastle had some cash to spend. It took them a couple of weeks but they landed Moussa Sissoko a week before the window closed. The 23 year old midfielder had been at French side Toulouse since he was a youth at just 13 years old. So his switch to the Premier League should have required a bit of an adjustment period for Moussa considering the higher level of play in the Premier League. He was also thrown into the starting lineup right away. In his first Premier League match against Aston Villa, Moussa provided the assist to Papiss Cisse to open the scoring. Newcastle ended up seeing out a 2-1 victory. He followed up his good debut with an even better showing against Chelsea this past Saturday by scoring a brace in a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Blues. Down 1-2, Moussa put in a rebound past Petr Cech to level up the score. As extra time ticked on, Moussa took a pass at the top of the 18 yard box and fired a low line shot through the Chelsea defenders and past Cech again to win the match 3-2. Moussa has shown that a Premier League “rookie” can step right in and provide a spark to a new club. Newcastle can only hope he keeps up his form since joining the club. (For more on Newcastle, check out another recent blog post from leftymagic.)
Mario Balotelli – Manchester City to AC Milan (£19m)
The highest profile and most expensive transfer of the January window was of course the Italian International and former Manchester City player Mario Balotelli to AC Milan. Another deadline day deal that was thrown into the starting lineup following day, Balotelli had a marvelous debut for the club he supported as a youngster. Milan knew they were getting a player with massive potential, but could he put his focus on the pitch to be the player everyone thinks he can be? If his first match was any indication, it’ll be a fun ride for Milan and its supporters. Against Udinese on Saturday, he volleyed home a beautiful side-footed goal from close range. He followed that up with the match-clinching penalty kick in the93rdminute (see what I did there?).
For additional transfer saga reading, you’ll want to check out mcmigs’s take on the Wilfred Zaha transfer.