Suarez Says he “had to nutmeg” David Luiz

There is something to be said about incredible footballers. Vision, pace, savviness, lethal instincts; all qualities necessary to be a successful forward. Suarez showed all of these in Wednesday’s Champions League tie with PSG. I quote,¬†“A striker is always looking for goals and the two moves came off for me.¬†I had to nutmeg Luiz twice because there was nothing else I could do.”¬†¬†Check exhibit A and B below:

Suarez’s absurd nutmegs makes me wonder if David Luiz was paid to stand there sulking like his lollipop was just stolen by the family dog.¬†Either way, Luis Suarez’s brace puts Barcelona in an ideal spot heading into the return leg at Camp Nou.

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Monday Musings

It’s always important to enjoy the weekend’s goals but it is not always easy to see the best ones. Some of us have commitments to things that create a schedule that we like to call life. So for those who missed some of these on the weekend, take a look below…

Senor Pogba – Juventus vs Napoli

Francesco Totti – Roma vs Lazio

Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal vs Stoke

Luis Suarez – Barcelona vs Atletico Mardrid

Arturo Vidal – Juventus vs Napoli

Ian Henderson – Rochdale

Tadic – Southampton vs Manchester United

Messi – Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

Tanaka – Sporting CP

Just to clarify that Neymar is not always faking injury, check out his ankle after a tackle on the weekend:

Arsenal and Liverpool: Tale of Contrasting Starts

Week 1 of the 2013/2014 Premier League season is a wrap.  Most of the usual suspects managed points without a hitch as 5 of the top 7 clubs from last season either won or tied (Manchester City has yet to play).  Interestingly enough, one of the more controversial and most talked about clubs of the summer, Arsenal, was the lone loser of the bunch.  Not only did they lose the match, they lost key players on an already painstakingly thin squad to injury.  What will go down as one of the more peculiar summer sagas in recent memory, Arsene Wenger refused to strengthen his squad prior to the beginning of the season and it cost him Рbig time.

A 3-1 home defeat to last years table bottom dweller’s Aston Villa is hardly how any club would like to begin a new campaign. ¬†Now Arsene may be forced to enter the transfer market based on injuries to Ramsey, Rosicky, Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain. ¬†The most serious being Oxlade-Chamberlain’s potential to miss the entire season should ligament damage be found. ¬†This is on top of the already injured Arteta, Vermalean and Monreal. ¬†To add insult to injury, Koscielny received two yellow cards which will see him miss a match. ¬†Arsene sure has his work cut out for him before the transfer window closes.

With the latest reports out of Liverpool being an apology from Suarez, all signs point to him staying put, at least for the rest of this season anyway. ¬†Even without Suarez, who is banned for the first 8 matches for pulling a Mike Tyson on Ivanovic’s arm, Liverpool looked well enough without him and pulled out a 1-0 victory over Stoke. ¬†A promising start without their much maligned star player.

With the result, the question needs to be asked: Should Liverpool actually sell Suarez this season? ¬†They looked fine without him and they could use the 45m-50m or so to strengthen an already decent squad. ¬†Is Suarez worth missing out on a potential 50m payday to put up with another 7 banned matches and all the potential problems that may arise throughout the new season only to go through the same saga next summer? ¬†After all, he’s one more chomp away from being banned for an entire season.

The problem is, and what Arsenal have quickly found out, is that there is a lack of striking options available in the market. ¬†It’s easy to look at the Suarez situation and say that Liverpool could take the money and unload a problematic, yet superstar caliber player and invest in the rest of the squad. ¬†The fact is, there’s not many investments to be had; at least the ones worthwhile. ¬†Lewandowski was just given a pay raise to remain at Dortmund after it was a foregone conclusion of his departure to Bayern. ¬†Higuain, Jovetic, Negredo, Schurrle, Falcao, and even David Villa have moved on to “greener” pastures. ¬†That represents almost the entire striking market over the summer. ¬†So who’s left? ¬†Benteke signed an extension to stay at Villa. ¬†Michu could be had for the right price, but it remains to be seen whether he was a one hit wonder last season. ¬†Rooney seems to be the highest profile forward “available” and even his availability is questionable according to Moyes.

Would you swap Suarez to Arsenal if it meant grabbing Rooney from United?  An interesting scenario and highly debatable no matter how unlikely it would seem.  But that is exactly the dilemma Liverpool face when it comes to dealing with Suarez.  It seems like a wiser decision to hope Suarez has a controversy-free season and regains his 2012 form and then sell him next summer when more striking options could be had.   In my opinion, I would keep him and try to push for a top 4 finish.  The effects would be twofold.  Arsenal look like a mid-table squad at best, which would remove a top team from above them while retaining one of the best finishers in the game to make that push for the Champions League.  Should Liverpool actually attain Champions League action next season, they could then either retain Suarez if they think that would make him happy or sell him and then have Champions League football to coax another high profile transfer or two.

On the flip side, Arsenal are quickly spiraling downward after just one match. ¬†Everyone and their mother knows they have a huge cash reserve. ¬†They are more than desparate to buy players now. ¬†Any club Arsenal approaches from here on out will be able to play hardball and force Arsenal’s hand to raise the price on its players. ¬†Arsene sure picked the wrong season to offload so many players while pulling the head-scratching move of standing pat when it came to bringing players in. ¬†Now Arsenal face a shortage of players for their all-important Champions League qualifying match this week. ¬†Should they lose on Wednesday, all hell will break lose at the Emirates. ¬†Which would lead to the seemingly inevitable realization that this may be Arsene’s last season with Arsenal as his potential contract renewal will most likely be questioned by all the Arsenal faithful.

It’s amazing how perceptions can change after just the first game of a new season. ¬†Liverpool go from an above average club with a problematic player to contending for a Champions League spot as well as retaining their star player. ¬†While Arsenal go from a club in great form with a promising young nucleus to a squad in turmoil after injuries and suspect defense. ¬†In summary, Liverpool’s outlook is very promising while Arsenal is, for lack of a better word, screwed.

Transfer Confirmations and Rumors Galore

Since my last transfer rumors post back in June, we’ve seen some players take the plunge and actually join new clubs and others have rumors swirling with different clubs:

  • Cavani is confirmed to be off to PSG instead of the rumored Chelsea
  • Fabio Contrao is now being linked with Tottenham
  • Gonzalo Higuain has been transferred to Arsenal then Napoli, yet nothing is confirmed to this point despite the latest reports saying a 37m bid from Napoli has been accepted
  • Fellaini¬†remains at Everton and it seems talk of his “release clause” being activated was complete BS
  • Manchester United have made a 3rd bid for Cesc Fabregas after we reported they were interested in the beginning of June

So, with those 5 rumors, only one has officially come to fruition.

Recently, I posted about Arsenal possibly splashing some big cash this transfer window. ¬†So far, none of those have happened for Arsene Wenger, much to the dismay of the Gunner’s fans.

  • Higuain (mentioned above)
  • Rooney now looks like Chelsea will be his most likely destination should he leave Old Trafford (IMO, I think he stays)
  • Felliani (mentioned above)
  • Lars Bender¬†looks like he will be staying at Leverkusen, at least for this year
  • Stevan Jovetic is a confirmed Chelsea signing and a good potential Tevez replacement, who is confirmed to be off to Juventus
  • Micah Richards is still at Man City and his transfer rumors have cooled down some
  • Fernando Torres looks to be staying with Chelsea at least for the time being
  • Julio Cesar is still available
  • David Villa¬†has been confirmed to stay in Spain and move to Atletico Madrid

The latest confirmed transfers and rumors involve some players not previously mentioned:

  • The 20 year old Brazilian Bernard¬†has been the talk of the Brazilian media recently with a reported 21m move to Arsenal set to be confirmed after the copa libertores final on Thursday. ¬†He has also been linked with Tottenham and Liverpool. ¬†(Not many outside of Brazil know much about him but he does have some impressive highlights)
  • Soldado¬†is being linked with a 25m move to Tottenham from his current club Valencia, although the latest reports suggest talks have broken down
  • Benfica winger¬†Eduardo Salvio is linked with a 30m move to Chelsea
  • The puzzling rumors regarding¬†Juan Mata continue as a potential Arsenal target (I would put this at about a -3% chance of actually happening)
  • Liverpool have reportedly made an 18m offer for Ajax midfielder¬†Christian Eriksen
  • Aston Villa forward¬†Chistian Benteke¬†received a wage boost to remain at Villa next season
  • Tiago Alcantara is off to Bayern Munich as they add yet another midfielder that is already world class
  • Fellow American¬†Jozy Altidore has officially signed with Sunderland
  • Isco¬†turned down the chance to join Manchester City and went with Real Madrid instead
  • The latest reports on Gareth Bale see a 6 year deal reached with a move to Real Madrid
  • Luis Suarez’s¬†suitors are still reported to be either Arsenal or Real Madrid should Liverpool decide to sell

Next week I will be posting Part 2 (of 3) of my Barclay’s Premier League Predictions. ¬†They will be based on the above confirmed transfers and rumors. ¬†As some squads have had some notable changes, expect the predictions to change from Part 1¬†posted 6 weeks ago.

English Premier League Predictions for 2013/2014 – Part 1

All of the top European leagues are now completed for the 2012/2013 seasons and the transfer season is now upon us.  What better way to close out a season than to look toward the next season?  There has been a noticeable increase in searches for Premier League predictions for the upcoming season so I will offer my personal predictions before, during, and after the transfer window in three separate parts.  The first part is now, mainly based on transfer rumors and the squads from last season.  Around the end July/beginning of August, part two will be available as an update to how the transfer window is shaking out.  Part three will commence on September 1st following transfer deadline day as all squads will be final for the most part.

Check out my first ever prediction post from last season as a part of my prediction history and also if you need to refer to last season’s final table.

Here is how I see the top 10 stacking up for the 2013/2014 season as of today:

Tier 1

1) Manchester United РI think they are strong enough to repeat as Champions, especially if they can keep Rooney and Chicharito.  If Rooney leaves, it all depends who they bring in to replace him.  But as of today, they are still the favorites in my book to win the title once again.

2) Chelsea РWith the recent addition of Andre Schurrle, Chelsea have added a quality young (22 years old) forward who will only get even better with time.  Schurrle, Hazard, Mata, and Oscar are a great young nucleus to build a squad around.  With the impending departure of Terry, I could see Chelsea bolstering the back four with a transfer or two and if they do, they could contend for the title.  I think Chelsea adds at least 2-3 more high profile transfers.  Possible additions being Cavani, Hulk and a top defender or two.

3) Manchester City – They are definitely spending cash early on in the transfer window by adding Jesus Navas and Fernandinho for a combined¬†¬£50 million. ¬†Are they good players? ¬†Absolutely. ¬†Are they top class players that will propel Manchester City to a title? ¬†Probably not. ¬†I think there are better ways to spend¬†¬£50 million than on two “good” midfielders in their late 20’s. ¬†When you already have Yaya Toure, David Silva, Nasri, Javi Martinez, and even James Milner, it’s already a bit crowded in the midfield. ¬†Also throw in the possible departure of Dzeko and Tevez and you have a squad that has not improved from last season. ¬†They will have to spend wisely the rest of the summer if they wish to contend for the title. ¬†However, if you throw Cavani and/or Hulk into the mix, that would instantly make them a much better squad so I don’t think they are too far away.

Tier 2

4) Arsenal – Finally a transfer window where they aren’t selling their top players. ¬†The opposite is occurring as they are dumping the dead weight that has handcuffed them for the past few seasons. ¬†With all the rumored purchases (some highlighted here), you would think they would get at least a couple of them. ¬†However, Arsene Wenger has disappointed before so this is a ‘wait and see’ situation before anyone can tell if Arsenal will be contenders this season. ¬†As of now, they are behind the top 3, but ahead of the next tier of squads. ¬†They are in their own tier at the moment and it all depends if Wenger can bring in top quality this summer. ¬†If they add a Higuain, David Villa, and/or Jovetic, then they could get a bump up into the top tier. ¬†However, if they sit back and buy mediocre talent and don’t bring any top quality in, they will be forced to fight it out with Spurs/Liverpool/Everton for a 4th place “trophy” once again.

Tier 3

5) Tottenham РA 5th place finish here is solely dependent on retaining Bale.  They were a top 5 squad last season because Bale carried them and earned the squad countless points throughout the season.  If he leaves, so does their hope of finishing in the top 4.  However, if they can somehow retain Bale and add one or two quality starters, they can absolutely push Arsenal for a 4th place finish next season.

6) Liverpool – Similar to Tottenham, Liverpool’s spot here is dependent upon retaining Suarez. ¬†He is their scoring machine who can single-handedly win matches, much like Bale for Tottenham. ¬†They have added a couple decent transfers thus far in Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas, but nothing that will make them significantly better than last season.

7) Everton РThe departure of manager David Moyes to Manchester United has been the biggest blow so far this offseason.  I would imagine Moyes would be looking to bring with him some of his top players he brought into Everton.  Rumors of Leighton Baines and Fellaini being linked to a move to United comes as no surprise.  Should they lose even one of those players, they are in trouble with regards to challenging for a Champions League birth.  On top of that, they are in desperate need of a quality striker.  They have some work to do this transfer window.

Tier 4

This tier is very difficult to predict considering just 8 points separated 9 clubs from 8th all the way down to 16th. ¬†With that in mind, here’s the squads in the next tier that I see finishing in the top half of the table:

8) Swansea РA fairly young club with one of the best Premier League scorers from last season, they should improve upon a relatively successful season.  Michu is obviously the man that makes them tick.  As he scores, the club earns points.  Unfortunately, there is not much help from the rest of the squad in the scoring department.  Their defense should be better with 20 year old Ben Davies getting a full season under his belt.  I look for them to add a couple mid-level talent transfers to provide depth up front, which could go along way to taking some of the goal scoring pressure off of Michu.

9)¬†Newcastle United – One of the more disappointing squads last season (aside from QPR), Newcastle looks to regain its 2011/2012 form that saw them push for a top 4 finish. ¬†The loss of Demba Ba to Chelsea obviously hurt their goal scoring chances. ¬†However, they are a relatively young squad and with players like Cisse, Cabaye, Tiote, and Ben Arfa, they have the quality to make a run at the Tier 3 clubs. ¬†Let’s see if they can add a forward to replace Ba this transfer window. ¬†If they do, I could bump them up to as high as 5th depending on the player(s) brought in. ¬†

10)¬†Fulham – Fulham had a horrible last two months of the season, only earning 4 points out of a possible 24. ¬†This bad run of form entrenched them at the middle of the table after beginning the season with a promising run of form. ¬†Fulham is an aging squad that will need to be replaced with some youth in the upcoming seasons. ¬†Berbatov will be another year older, but he is still a clinical finisher. ¬†The ageless Mark Schwarzer will also be 41 next season so his days are numbered, however, he is still one of the better Premier League keepers despite his age. ¬†This doesn’t mean they can’t finish in the top half of the table next season, it just means they are a club on decline and need to infuse some youth if they would like to improve.

Keep in mind these predictions are mostly based on last years squads so obviously there’s not much movement from last season’s final table. ¬†With that said, there should be some more shuffling in the ¬†predictions as the transfer market takes shape so these are far from my final predictions for the upcoming season.

UPDATE: Make sure you read my updated predictions here.

Have your own predictions? ¬†Want to win a free jersey? ¬†Check out the details on our¬†Premier League Prediction contest¬†and submit an entry before it’s too late!

The Uruguayan Witch Hunt

           

              It is impossible to feign a true belief that Luis Suarez is a great person. He is not. In many ways he is exactly what is wrong with soccer; he dives, he complains, and he pouts. However, he has qualities that endear him to soccer fans but unfortunately those qualities he possesses are usually only noticed and appreciated by fans of his team. Opposition fans conveniently ignore anything that sheds Suarez in a positive light.

“Passion” in football is a word that is thrown around so much that it has become a hollow deflated shell of what it used to mean. Not to be misunderstood, passion in football is not scoring goals or winning games. Instead passion is when a player put all his effort into every game. These special players traverse the field like generals who refuse to accept that the battle is ever lost. ¬†When Luis¬†Suarez¬†steps on the field he puts his heart and soul into a team he is clearly better than. Most people would understand if he was disgruntled by the lack of offensive support from Liverpool’s owners but he never seemed to put anything less than 100% effort into every game.¬†Sometimes¬†his¬†effort¬†manifested itself in complaints and dives but there was never any¬†indication¬†that he did not leave his heart out on the pitch after every game.

However, Luis¬†Suarez¬†was a foreign player, with foreign sensibilities. He was destined to never fit in properly in the¬†English¬†Premier League and the more he played, the larger that fact loomed on the horizon. Despite his amazing talent and proficiency on the football pitch, fans of the Premier League would only see his follies. They would accuse him of diving and then conveniently ignore Gareth Bale’s incessant diving. They would mock his complaining while ignoring the many other Premier League players who do so on a constant basis. Hypocrisy surrounded the Liverpool fans like smog on a warm Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong and it took ever bit of effort to not choke on it.

Any Liverpool fan saw this length-ban coming. Luis Suarez was viewed negatively even before his two incidents and those¬†incidents¬†only further entrenched opinions of his character. This article is not being written to excuse his supposed racism (still not enough evidence to completely verify Evra’s claims) or biting incident. Instead it is meant to point out that Suarez was and never will be given the benefit of the doubt in the¬†English¬†Premier League. His apologies and actions were destined to always fall on deaf ears. Liverpool fans support him with undying allegiance because they have seen his true character but their opinions are cast aside as¬†fan-boy¬†chatter. Unfortunately, the opinion that is most publicized is the opinion of the the non-Liverpool fans around the league who have held a jaded viewpoint towards him since he arrived. This ban is not just a strict punishment. It is an excommunication. The FA and EPL fans do not want Luis Suarez in this league and they are hoping that this punishment finally forces his transfer.

There was a double-standard when it came to Luis Suarez whether or not fans of the league wanted to admit it. His actions have been inexcusable but they have also all been met with glee by those who disdain him. Luis Suarez lived in an environment where people were watching him under a magnifying glass, just waiting for the moment he screwed up. Maybe if Suarez was treated with the same level of respect as many other players he would have become a truly special player that would have gone down in the annals of English Premier League history. Instead he has been driven out like Shrek. A monster we never took the time to understand and appreciate who will come back and wreck havoc on all those who doubted him when he returns.