Tag: van persie

Manchester United is Struggling, but are They Really Down and Out?

It is one thing to lose your first league home opener in the past 42 years.

Just in case you forgot some of the fun:

It’s another to draw your next game in an inglorious fashion.

It is completely different and borderline unacceptable for a team as “mighty” as Manchester United to get played off the park by a League One team. MK Dons taught Manchester United a lesson. In front of a sold out home crowd of 29,000+ the Dons found a 4-0 win against a Manchester United side that looked eerily mediocre and stoic. You can argue that United played a bunch of young players that were incapable of handling the pressure or the task at hand. You can argue that the new system is taking longer than expected to shine through. The best argument is that United just were not good enough. They looked lifeless, as if MK Dons was the team with massive reputation and payroll. Sometimes it is easy to be the underdog; there is no pressure or expectations and any success is a lucky benefit. This time, MK Dons, whose total payroll of 235,000 euros (Rooney is on 500,000/week) found a result and a dominant one at that!

So the question becomes, is this humiliating enough? Or is United destined for greater shortcomings before they return to greatness. You look at the transfers in this summer and it seems that the defensive posture needed in Van Gaal’s system has largely been forgotten. Herrera and Di Maria are the biggest signings of the summer but offer no solidarity to a defense that couldn’t stop my U12 team from getting chances. We must wonder what is going on in Manchester? Three in the back requires some incredible athleticism and excellent 1 v 1 defending. Does Manchester United have that back there? No. And the club continues to pursue attacking options and that would be fine if United scored four goals a game. Alas, the struggles are on both ends and the signs of improvement and progress are limited at best.


All is not lost though. The next three fixtures for United are quite favorable with the likes of Burnley, QPR and Leicester City on the docket. It is almost like the league knew United would need to be bailed out from its struggles so it could once again compete for something. If United get 7 points out of these three games, this could be an early turning point in the season to hopefully instill a bit of confidence in the group. It does not matter that two of these games are on the road. If you are Manchester United, you need results and you need them now. I am not a Manchester United fanboy but I do appreciate when the big clubs stick to a system and find a way to success, so I hope, and I know all Manchester United fans hope, that Van Gaal and company figure themselves out sooner rather than later. It would be some travesty to see one of the biggest clubs in the world find itself in the Championship division next year!




Week 1 Fantasy Premier League Standings

Here is an overview of the current standings for our Fantasy Premier League:

Week 1 93rdminute Fantasy Standings


As you can see, we had some very good scores in the first week of play that were largely aided by Chelsea and Aston Villa’s multiple fixtures this week. Currently, the 1st place squad managed by Mikko Linnamaa looks like this :

Week 1 #1Will that be the team that can carry Mikko to victory? I’m not sure. There is a lot of season to be had.


Star forwards of the week: Benteke, Welbeck and Aguero

Star midfielders of the week: Lampard, Oscar and Joe Cole

Star defenders of the week: Ivanovic, Coleman and Shaw

Goalkeeper of the week: Mignolet

Week 1 Dream Team looks like this:

week 1 dream team If you somehow managed to pick this squad and didn’t enter our fantasy league. Shame on you! You could be on your way to a personalized jersey!

Good luck in this week’s fixtures!



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.


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.

Future “Invincibles”?

Hello fellow soccer lovers.  This is my inaugural post here on the93rdminute.com, and as an avid Arsenal fan, I’m going to examine the current state of Arsène Wenger’s North London side and the future of the club.  Expect more BPL and MLS updates “every” Friday.

Arsène Wenger (image from telegraph.co.uk)
Arsène Wenger (image from telegraph.co.uk)

Arsène Wenger has taken a lot of flack recently for his reluctance to pay out huge transfer sums for big name players.  If you take a look at the reasons for his unwillingness to pay other clubs for talent, it all boils down to the boss’ business-like approach to managing his club.  Arsenal has finished top 4 in the BPL for 15 years in a row (absurd), developed a world-class youth program to raise talent rather than purchase it (easier said than done), and built a new stadium, Emirates Stadium (without emptying the till).  All of this growth should cost the club a “butt load” of money, but Arsenal has been turning a profit year in and year out.  No oil money, no Russian billionaires, just a stubbornness to run the club the way a Fortune 500 company would be expected to operate.

Emirates Stadium, Arsenal's new home since 2006.
Emirates Stadium, Arsenal’s new home since 2006.

Arsène Wenger’s determination to retain Arsenal’s North London identity was realized via the 2003-2004 “Invincibles” season when the team went 26-12-0 en route to a BPL title.  Wenger was able to build a hard-nosed North London squad, and inject non-English talent to take the club from brilliant to extraordinary.  The French connection of Vieira-Pires-Henry accentuated by the class of Bergkamp and Ljungberg were a potent offense, which was made even more effective by the wall of English defenders: Sol Campbell, young Ashley Cole, and veterans like Keown and Parlour.  Don’t forget the summer signing of Lehmann, never hurts to add a veteran world-class keeper to an already excellent squad.  Wenger built an Arsenal side that was strong and skillful up the middle, speedy up the flanks, and impenetrable (26 GA in 38 matches) in the defensive third.

2003-2004 Arsenal squad by most apps in BPL

Reminiscing on the 2003-2004 team led me to the realization that this 2012-2013 Arsenal squad is not overachieving with all of its young players, it’s underachieving.  Wenger knows that the current team will probably not win the BPL this season, but they nearly have all of the puzzle pieces in place to do just that.  The core of the current Arsenal squad has developed a chemistry that at times has shown the true potential of Wenger’s team building (see here).  The similarities between the players in the legendary 2003-2004 squad and those players in the current Arsenal squad are uncanny:

  • Theo Walcott dominates the RW. Young Bergkamp anyone?
  • Mikel Arteta is playing the role of the strong holding central midfielder a la Gilberto
  • Santi Cazorla is the central playmaker, which Patrick Vieira did with reckless abandon
  • Lukas Podolski is the left-footed specialist aka Robert Pires
  • Jack Wilshere plays the creative and reliable Ljungberg role to a tee
  • Gibbs is the speedy young left back that has turned out to be better than expected *cough* Ashley Cole *cough*
  • Mertesacker and Vermaelen are the Campbell and Parlour of present, dominant in the air and the heart of the team
  • Sagna is Lauren, hands down, RB drifting up the flanks with an eye for goal but the ability to defend when necessary
  • Ramsey, Jenkinson, and Oxlade-Chamberlain fill in the gaps for this extremely young team

…but Giroud is no Henry, unfortunately.  Maybe it’s unfair to expect another Henry (ever), but Giroud is proving every game that he is the pure striker this team needs.  Like Henry before him, Giroud provides a spark that can fire up the entire squad, and he has a nose for goal, something you just cannot teach.

I am not saying this team will go undefeated in 2013-2014.  I’m not that bold, but I will say that if Arsenal’s streak of top 4 finishes ends this season, watch out for a veteran keeper signing this summer and a run at Manchester United next season.  Another 6 months of this team playing together, and playing well, should strike fear in the rest of the EPL.  Wenger’s at it again. Victoria Concordia Crescit


Day One for the Group of Death

The first meetings of the “Group of Death” hit Holland the hardest. The Netherlands were dominant in the first 30 minutes against Denmark before conceding against the run of play. At this point the air came out of the Dutch and both sides had a fair amount of chances but couldn’t finish. The biggest question facing Holland’s manager, with Germany and Portugal in Holland’s future, will be which striker to start in the next match. Huntelaar was lights out in the matches leading up to the Euros and Dutch fans were dismayed by the selection of Van Persie. After today’s showing, it seems the Dutch fans had reason to question the manager’s decision and a ton of pressure will be laid up van Marwijk to give Huntelaar a shot. If Van Persie is chosen again, he better produce or it will put both he and his manager on the chopping block.

But I can’t count Holland out just yet, despite the road ahead. Numerous chances were squandered in this one which, if steered on target in the future, could be all the Dutch need to turn this around. The Danes looked solid. I counted them out after sizing this group up but they have something to prove as they must feel like they haven’t been given the respect they deserve. I was impressed by a strong backline anchored by captain Agger and a keeper who was very confident off his line.

The second match on the day ended with the result I anticipated but it was much more difficult to find than the Germans would have hoped. Although Germany dominated possession in the first 45, I can’t recall a real test of Portugal’s goalkeeper. The goal finally came at a moment when I was begging for Gomez to be replaced by Klose; and the goal was scored by, you guessed it, Gomez. It’s a great takeaway for the Germans to have Gomez on the board early in the tournament. The team still have plenty to figure out but are obviously in a terrific spot with 3 points after not even putting in their best performance.

Portugal looked better than expected against a strong German side. Two things, neither of which are new, Portugal will need to do to be successful: (1) Get the ball to Ronaldo; (2) Put the ball away when Ronaldo puts the ball on a platter for you. Ronaldo was as dangerous as ever when he had the ball and created a couple of golden opportunities; of which, at least one should have been in the back of the net.

Certainly a tough spot for the teams that found themselves on the wrong end of the result, but it’s still very early in the tournament and nothing has been decided. I think Germany is in the strongest position after day one and I continue to see them finishing first in the group, followed by the Netherlands.


Group B Preview and Predictions

Group B Preview and Predictions

The term “group of death” is a funny way of saying each game in this group is going to be amazing and it will be the best group to watch during the knockout qualifying round. It also insinuates that no team will make it out alive. I sincerely hope this is not the case because whoever comes out of this group has a fantastic chance to make the final or win Euro 2012.

We move on. Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Portugal are all very good teams. All have the capability to come out of this group. All are good at different things. What more can be said about the Dutch? They are “total soccer.” In this case total soccer is an offensive juggernaut which is expected to score three goals a game. When you have superstars like Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Wesley Snjeider on the same field the goals will come. The question is… will the role players do their jobs well enough for Netherlands to win the group? Van Bommel is good for a red card every three games. De Jong is as dirty a player as they come. Could they cost Netherlands? I think so, but I don’t think it will happen. Dirk Kuyt is on a high after finally getting out of his hated situation at Liverpool. He will be a difference maker at some point during this tournament.

Denmark is an interesting team. They beat Portugal and Sweden at the end of 2011 then lost to Russia and Brazil over the past few months. Which team will it be that comes to compete at the Euros? Daniel Agger captains the Danes and with Nicklas Bendtner up top they are always capable of producing a goal or two. This, combined with an organized backline could make them a dark horse in the group. One positive result could give them the confidence to get another.

On paper, Portugal is an impressive side. The team has many players from big time clubs like Real Madrid, Benfica, Porto and Chelsea. Yet, Portugal continues to be notoriously bad in tournaments. Portugal’s offense is impressive. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world yet he struggles to find that superstar form for his country. Could this be the tournament where he breaks out and takes over? Possibly, but I think Portugal’s success relies more so on their ability to defend. Their defense has struggled and with the likes of Netherlands and Germany coming at them in swarms, it will be difficult to keep a clean sheet.

Germany is a favorite in every tournament they enter. The team is big, strong and fast. Yet, they have been beaten by Switzerland and France in 2012. Hercules Gomez showed us how to miss chances in the Champions League semi and final. Does Klose have enough in the tank to push Germany through or can Muller, Podolski, Schweinsteiger and the like take control in the midfield and boss games? Germany is renowned for being well-organized defensively so I don’t think letting up goals will be their biggest problems. Scoring to alleviate pressure will be. If they can do that, they will be successful.

But, who will make it out a group in which flipping a coin might be just as effective at picking winners? I am going to be unpopular and take Netherlands to win the group and Portugal to sneak through in second. Germany has a lot going for them but recent form is a solid predictor of performance and I don’t think they will find three good performances to get themselves through. Portugal has been waiting a long time to beat the best and this is the time they will take it. Netherlands is too solid all-around to miss out on a chance to take Euro 2012.

What are your thoughts on group B and who the survivors will be?