Tag: football

Make Money, Spend Money

Make money, spend money. This is the philosophy of many of the top clubs in the world. Each will spend ludicrous amounts of money to buy the “best” players and create a super club. Thank Real Madrid for the Galacticos club mentality and thank business tycoons and minted mobsters for the incredible influx of money in all of the top leagues. With this money comes expectation of revenue and winning. As much as I would like to sit here and say winning is most important, I’m fairly confident that if Man City finished 4th in the league and made it to the knock-out round in the Champions League, and merchandise flew off the shelves to the tune of $500 million and the TV deals continued to break records, it would not matter that the club underachieved and won nothing. It’s an interesting time in World Football and who knows if there is a bubble to burst. Check out this graphic below  (Deloitte) and enjoy some stats:

Money in world soccer.jpg

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Coach’s Corner: Defensive Masterclass from Aston Villa

So, you take a few days, you see some Champion’s League soccer, and still you wonder, how the heck did Aston Villa thwart Liverpool’s almost omniscient attacking force this past weekend?

You could go out on a limb and say Senderos lashing out at Ballotelli multiple times and Hutton putting in some timely challenges were defining factors in that game. But, if you asked me, it came down to one thing…

1) This man:

gabby a

 

And you say, “no way, soccer is a team sport, how could one man change it all.” Let me explain. Gabriel Agbonlahor changed the entire way Liverpool players. Going forward he is always going to be an issue. He is more athletic than he looks, he is strong, he is committed to the cause, he pressures the back four relentlessly and makes it difficult for anyone to get comfortable on the ball. Liverpool is a rhythm based team. The Reds need to complete some passes and string some joy together in order to feel confident and take risk going forward. If not, they lock themselves into defensive mode and hope to catch one on the break. One man doesn’t put Liverpool in that mode but Mr. Agbonlahor certainly tried to do do. But that is neither here nor there.

 

The real reason Villa’s performance was so impressive was because once Liverpool was able to break the pressure and have a bit of possession, this man once again created a massive problem for the Reds. It is well documented that Captain God, better known as Steven Gerard, has taken on a deeper lying playmaking role under Brendan Rodgers and can ping a ball anywhere he wants given time and space to do so. It is also well known that his athleticism is not what it used to be and that when taken out of games, Liverpool does not have another exceptional deep lying player with that kind of passing ability. You would hope that Jordan Henderson can eventually find himself there, but not yet. He isn’t ready.

hendogerardn

Finally to my point about Gabby A. Whenever Liverpool maintained possession, he would sit on Steven Gerard. Watch the game again, take notice of Agbonlahor’s defensive movement and also his constant awareness of where Gerard is. He is constantly glancing over his should to find Gerard’s positioning and he never leaves his side until he knows someone else is marking him up. This does a couple of things:

1) It makes someone else try and make the game. In this case it was Jordan Henderson or one of the two centerbacks stepping forward. We all know that as much the modern CB is a ball player, they are in no way close to the technique or vision that Stevie G has. And when Jordan Henderson drops back he tends to try and continue to play short passes when at times it is a longer pass that will find more space for the entire team. Plus, Jordie enjoys one too many touches every now and then!

2) It forces Steven Gerard higher up the pitch. This in itself did a few things as well. It clogged everything up! It seemed like central areas were a nightmare to play through because they were constantly overloaded with Coutinho, Henderson, Gerard and one of the wide players tucking himself in. As weird as this may be, it looked as though Steven Gerard was uncomfortable in these areas further up the pitch.

The reality is, Gabriel Agbonlahor, whether by design or by coincidence, created mismatches and overloads all over the field that thwarted Liverpool’s usually potent attack. He forced players into areas they don’t want to be and was able to take the only chance they needed to win the game. Is this a tactic that teams will use in the future? I’m not sure, but I do know that it was a masterclass of a defensive performance from the Villains that made sure they got this result.

 

 

World Cup Hops Day #2: Bright and Smooth to Enjoy Your Day

Day two is the first regularly scheduled World Cup 2014 experience that the world gets to enjoy. We have three games on the docket, one of which could have massive implication in who finds their way into the knockout stages.

Mexico vs Honduras

ModeloEspecial_feature

 

Both teams national language is Spanish. Both teams need this game to start their world cup on the right foot. Both teams have a lot of questions that need to be answered. Tomorrow, enjoy Modelo Especial. Take in the crisp, refreshing flavor and watch as Mexico finally finds a way for Chicharito to get on the scoresheet.

 

Netherlands vs Spain

Whoever doesn’t think this game has massive implications in the next round does not deserve the beer you need for this game. They are an official sponsor of the Champions League and they always come up with some interesting and inviting commercials. Heineken is your beer of choice for this game. Smile, watch some good soccer and enjoy.

preview-heineken

 

 

Chile vs Australia

So, when a beer is described as “Australian for beer,” and your country is largely known as an island paradise, it doesn’t really matter the quality of the beer just that you have it and enjoy it with your friends. I cannot tell and a lie and say Fosters tastes like a carefully brewed craft beer but if you want a taste of the nation that you can enjoy for hours on end without major repercussions the next day then this is the beer you need.

fosters_australia

Is Moyes Out or is This More Media Hoopla?

Check out these articles about David Moyes and his future at Manchester United. Just in case you live under a red veil of positivity, United lost to cross-town rivals Manchester City 3-0. The team gifted a goal just forty seconds into the game. They fought back valiantly but to no end product. I feel like Sir Alex Ferguson is only attending these games to confirm to himself that he made the right move to get out of town before the soccerpocalypse begins. Check out these articles below. Some interesting reasons to get rid of the man expected to bring the reds to glory.

Not just one, but thirty-one reasons why Moyes needs to leave United

Here is a positive article already replacing Moyes with potential winners.

And lastly, an article that says Moyes is tarnishing Sir Alex Ferguson.

moyesI’d be scratching my head too if I had no idea what to do. Or is I had a passionate fan berate me after a 3-0 drubbing by Manchester City. Or if my team had found its way closer to the bottom half than the top of the league after an incredible league crown last season. Shall I continue?

Celtic and its Love for the Dramatic

You tell me. Did anyone ever expect Celtic to find a way to win against world’s best Barcelona last year? I think there was more of a chance of Gareth Bale ending up in the MLS.  But, they won. They made history and at the time, I am sure Neil Lennon would have looked at you and said this is the biggest win I will ever have in my Celtic coaching career and this is the best night of my football life. And at the time who would have thought differently? Well now he can after a historic comeback over Shakhter Karagandy.

Celtic came into the game down 2-0 aggregate after finding no joy away from home.  Somehow, Celtic took the luck of the Irish to a whole new level.

First, came a rocket from Kris Commons in first half stoppage time to go up 1-0. You can find a gif of the blast below.

i4G17FrMSAPUW GIF: Kris Commons thumps a long ranger v Shakhter Karagandy

Next, just two minutes into the second half, Samaras finds himself leisurely walking through the penalty area when BOOM, a well struck but poorly aimed volley found his foot and the classy Greek dinked it over the keeper to put Celtic up 2-0.

iUgIMKFH6sqVD GIF: Georgios Samaras levels up the tie v Shakhter Karagandy

If I were a Celtic fan, I would be losing my mind at this point. Two goals in the span of three minutes of play and more than forty minutes left to find a third that puts Celtic into the Champion’s League’s final group stage! So get me another twelve beers, I am ready to watch this final half play out! And wouldn’t you know it… It was as if Shakhtar’s defenders were part of a massive gambling ring that paid them some big money if they didn’t win this game because these guys might as well have had cinder blocks strapped to their feet. It was that or Celtic suddenly flicked on the fast forward and left Shakhtar back before DVDs. And wouldn’t you know it, that goal was scored in the 90th minute. How is it possible that two massive wins occur at such late stages of the game? Is Celtic Park carried by a being beyond our comprehension? I am not one to judge but if this continues any longer I might have to make it out there for a game to absolve my sins. I digress. Enjoy this goal and enjoy the Champion’s League. The group stage cannot come soon enough!

i6EtZuBLidYVr 2 down, 3 2 up: Celtic reach the CL after a heroic comeback v Shakhter Karagandy

Congratulations to Celtic for once again making us believe the leprechauns at the end of the rainbow. Now if only I could get my hands on that gold!

You think Lennon wasn’t excited? Check this out!

Two Worlds Collide

Tomorrow is finally the day of the most anticipated match (so far) of 2013.  One of the most fascinating features of the UEFA Champions League is being able to witness two teams from two very different leagues compete on one field.  The EPL and La Liga feature very different styles of play and require different skill sets for success.  Tomorrow we’ll get to see two powerhouses in Europe and their respective leagues meet.  Managers worldwide learn a lot from these matches when it comes to what works, what doesn’t work, and what is the future of soccer?  And I really hope this isn’t the future of soccer.

The “Spanish style” of soccer has been the most influential and successful style of soccer for a few years between a World Cup title, Euro Cup title and the strength of Real Madrid and Barcelona, although this record is certainly marred by both Spanish sides losing out in the semi-final round of last year’s Champions League competition.  In any case we’ve witnessed a migration towards this Spanish style: more short passing, triangles all over the field, and a narrower approach to goal (as opposed to whipping tons of crosses in).  Manchester United has adopted this style, highlighted by signings like Kagawa.  For some spots of the field, I’d say Manchester United and Real Madrid are very similar (Keeper, outside backs, strikers). However even with this migration towards the Spanish style, Real Madrid and Manchester United still have variations which stem from their roots.  Here are a few points where the Spanish and English sides differ:

Center backs – Manchester United still have the typical combination of strength and size in their central defenders.  Although there’s still a bit of coolness on the ball, I wouldn’t compare it to the common control found in Spanish center backs (case and point).

Defensive midfielders – Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira,  and Michael Carrick are similar, but Real Madrid has no player like Tom Cleverley. His role tomorrow will be very interesting.

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/58699000/jpg/_58699839_tom-cleverley_getty.jpg

Wingers – In what I’d characterize as an English motif, Manchester United, with the exception of that clown Nani, has more defensive wingers in Valencia and Welbeck where the Spanish side opts for offense over defense in guys like Ozil.  This will be a major factor tomorrow.  Will the more defensive style suit Manchester United or will that be their downfall?

Formation – United have become comfortable with a 4-2-3-1 style compared to a Real Madrid side more accustomed to a 4-3-3 formation.  Who strikes first in this scenario is paramount.  If Madrid strike first, United are forced out of their “shell”.  Should United strike first, Real have to continue to push without falling further behind.  Tomorrow is only the first leg, so it’s unlikely we’ll see any dramatic changes.  But I’d be surprised if we see the same strategies in the second leg as we do in the first leg.

Breaking News: Manchester United Wins Premier League Title – In February

Okay, so not exactly “breaking news”, but it should be since the Premier League Title essentially already belongs to Manchester United – and it’s only February.

This past weekend’s results proved favorable for the Red Devils.  On Saturday, everyone watched as lowly Premier League newcomers Southampton shockingly beat a sloppy Manchester City squad 3-1 for the upset of the week.  United took their 9 point lead into their Sunday match against a resurgent Everton squad.  With goals from Giggs and RVP (of course), United never looked like they were a team in trouble of dropping points.

So now, with only 12 matches remaining in the Premier League season and a possible 36 points up for grabs, United stand 12 points clear of 2nd place City.  You have to go all the way back to the 2005/2006 season to find a team with at least a 12 point lead with 12 matches remaining.  Chelsea had a 17 and 18 point lead over Liverpool and United respectively.  Chelsea ended up winning the title over a 2nd place United by 8 points.

The Red Devils have arguably three tough tests left on the schedule: Home vs. City and Chelsea and Away vs. Arsenal.  In my opinion, if they can salvage only three points from all three of those matches combined, they will still win the title with ease.  Manchester City has a tougher road ahead: Home vs. Chelsea and Newcastle and Away vs. Everton, Tottenham, and United (who they lost to 3-2 at home already).  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see it’s difficult to envision scenarios where City can gain points on United.

The most glaring difference between the two clubs’ schedules is Champions League action.  United must face off against their European rivals Real Madrid in the upcoming weeks while City can relax at home and focus solely on the upcoming F.A. Cup and Premier League fixtures.  With the 12 point lead, United may be tempted to take their foot off the gas in the Premier League to focus on winning the Champions League.  I do not think they will at this point in the season, but it is worth noting.  To me, that is United’s only chance of not being crowned Champions of English Football.  But, like I said, they’ve already won the title so what’s the point of speculating?

With the title in United’s hands, the real story the rest of the season will be for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spots to ensure Champions League action for the following season.  There’s a 5 team battle for these last 3 spots.  For a prediction on how these positions will look at the end of the season, read my post “Predicting the Top of the Premier League Table”.