Category Archives: Champions League

UEFA Champions League

Are Arsenal supporters jaded by the quick start?

Football - Arsenal v Cardiff City FA Cup Fourth Round Replay

So after watching the opening weekend of the EPL and the opening matches of the UEFA CL, I have only one question regarding Arsenal.  Is the side good enough?

Arsenal fans may think so, given their 6-1 defeat of Everton on the weekend and their 2-0 win against Celtic at Parkhurst, but I still believe there are questions to be answered by the side.  No more than a week ago the fans and the press were all over Arsene Wenger for not picking up more during the transfer window, after losing Adebayor and Toure to Manchester City, but since their opening match I have not heard one word of doubt from anyone speaking about the Gunners.  It is as though 8 goals in two matches has jaded the public into thinking that the Gunners have not lost a step, and will be able to challenge for silverware this season after all; something they have not picked up in a few seasons.  But moving forward in this term there are still questions to be asked about the strength of the squad, and let’s not forget; Arsenal have won nothing yet.

So Gunner and footy fans alike, let’s have a look at the Arsenal scoring history to date.  There have been 8 goals scored by the side, which is great for your record, but look a bit closer and you will see that only one of those goals was scored by an Arsenal striker, and by the time that goal was scored the match had been over for almost 45 minutes.  Does this worry anyone?  It would worry me if I were an Arsenal fan.  Cesc Fabregas contributing and putting two goals in himself in the second half of the Everton match is one thing, but look at your other scorers.  Eduardo put the last of the six on the board in the 89th minute of the Everton match, Denilson scored on a shot from distance against Everton, new boy Vermaelen scored on a header from a set piece against Everton, defensive winger Gael Clichy put a cross/shot in that was deflected past Celtic’s keeper, and central defenseman William Gallas has netted in both fixtures, though he did not seem to know much about the goal against Celtic.  Would this worry me as an Arsenal fan?  Of course it would, and how could it not?  Out of 8 goals scored, all of them but one have come from places other than the front men, with half the goal total coming from the defense and another coming from a holding midfielder.  I would be asking questions about the future if I were an Arsenal fan.  The front men need to score, maybe not all the goals, but a better percentage than they have contributed so far.  Arsenal have quite a few options up front already, but I would not doubt the goal total will be a reason for Wenger again to get out of having to spend any money.

Another area to question in regards to Arsenal is the defense.  Do they have enough to make it through the season?  The starters at the moment are doing well and contributing on both ends of the pitch, but how much depth is there should something happen.  New arrival Varmaelen has already had to come into the starting lineup, and while he has not disappointed and actually looks like a quality option, how much depth is behind them?  Now with what I would consider a quality replacement in Phillipe Senderos, after doing nicely during his loan to AC Milan last season, they want to sell him; further weakening an already shallow depth list in defense.  This does not seem to be the brightest move when your main replacement is Silvestre, who has a history of finding himself unfit to play for long spells.  Though at the moment it does not look like an issue, I think it is a question Wenger will have to answer before the season is over.

The only other real question I have is the youth in the side.  Now I know that most of these young players have been playing in Europe for years now, and that they have experience in the big games, but is that enough.  As Wenger has trimmed some of the fat from the side, he has left the team lacking in depth, and with a side who’s young players often find themselves injured; it becomes a question that needs to be asked.  Yes they can play in the big games and produce, but how much pressure is going to be put on these young players as they have become the majority in the side?  If enough of them can stay healthy to always have the depth they need, I think they will be fine, but look out for the pressure put on players if injuries creep into the side during a busy schedule.

So to answer some questions for you all.  I do not hate Arsenal.  In fact I like watching them a great deal, as they play very attractive football.  These are questions that I think have been put on the back burner after a strong start by the side, but that are still issues going forward.  I do not see Arsenal having the depth and strength to challenge for the title this season, but if they can keep their youth performing they should find some success in the cups this season.  So beware Arsenal fans, as the season is long and the matches do not get any easier as things progress.  I feel that this lack of scoring from the forwards is an issue that needs to be addressed, but as long as the midfield and defense continue to score with regularity the side should still at least look dangerous.

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EPL Week 2 Predictions – Mid-week action to start off week 2

LIVERPOOL V ATHLETICO MADRID

So with Week 1 in the books it is time to move on to Week 2 in the EPL.  Starting mid-week this time around and finishing on Sunday, it should be another good week of EPL footy.  Last week I managed to go .500 in my picks and I am hoping to improve upon that this time around.  So here are the picks for the upcoming weekend.

Last Weekend:  5 – 5

**Team in bold denotes the winner, no bold means a draw

Sunderland  v  Chelsea

Wigan v  Wolves

Birmingham City  v  Portsmouth

Burnley  v  Manchester United

Hull City  v  Tottenham

Liverpool v  Stoke City

So looking forward, Chelsea should have no trouble making it past Sunderland this weekend as they travel to take on the Black Cats.  Wigan will continue on their hot start by taking 3 points at home against Wolves, though I think Wolves will find their first Premier League goal of the season in this one.  The hardest match to pick was Birmingham v Portsmouth, so I have chosen it as a draw, with neither team impressing in week 1.  Burnley’s schedule only gets harder as they welcome in Manchester United, who should have no troubles, even with injuries in the side.  Hull City performed well in Week 1 against Chelsea, but look for the Tigers to fall again as they welcome in Tottenham, who shocked Liverpool in week 1 by downing them 2-1 at White Hart Lane.  Finishing out the weekend will be Liverpool v Stoke City.  Though Stoke found a result in week 1, look for Liverpool to bounce back at Anfield and defeat City in week 2.

This should be a good weekend for football, as many sides continue in their quest to obtain a spot in Europe during the week, the action will not disappoint this week at all.  I hope your sides all got the result you were looking for in week 1, and if not, it is only the beginning of a long season and you cannot do much worse.

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Filed under Birmingham City, Burnley, Champions League, Chelsea, EPL, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Portsmouth, Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham, Wigan, Wolves

Carlo Ancelotti – Will Chelsea become Champions again?

Chelsea FC v Seattle Sounders FC

After a somewhat disappointing finish to the Premier League season, only picking up the FA Cup, Chelsea were on the hunt for a manager yet again.  Having sacked Avram Grant before the previous season for Portugal’s national team boss Luiz Felipe Scolari had not worked out so well for owner Roman Abramovich.  Replacing Scolari took too long in the eyes of most, and I have to say I am one of those, but bringing in Russia’s national team manager Guus Hiddink to finish the season as caretaker manager was a stroke of genius.  Hiddink righted the ship and got Chelsea playing football that the fans wanted to see.  This play would see Chelsea make the FA Cup final, securing a win against Everton for the trophy, but unfortunately bowing out of the Champions League a round early this year in defeat to future champions Barcelona.  Though the level of play had risen considerably since his arrival, Hiddink declined Abramovich’s offer to make the position permanent, instead staying on full time with the Russian National Team.  And the search began.

The list for manager candidates to take over at Chelsea could not be a long one, taking into consideration the ability to deal with superstar players and their egos, and the expectations of the owner and fans.  So, knowing Hiddink was not going to return it was time to get to work.  This summer would not be one of waiting around on another national team manager as last summer was for the Blues, announcing June 1, 2009 that now ex AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti would be in charge at Stamford Bridge.  Ancelotti had resigned from Milan less than 24 hours before the announcement was made, after Milan’s final game of the season that saw them defeat Fiorentina 2-0.  Would Ancelotti be the man for the job at the Bridge?  He has a history with star players and difficult managers, making him look like the perfect candidate to come into Chelsea.

Ancelotti has a long history in the game, stretching back to his playing days with Parma in 1976.  He also saw time with Milan and Roma during his playing days, and earned 26 caps for the Italian National Team, participating in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups.  Ancelotti would start back at the bottom when his management career landed him with Serie B side Reggiana in 1995, earning the club promotion would be his only accomplishment with the team before leaving for a bigger job the following season.  Ancelotti would leave Reggiana to take over at Parma until 1999 and then stepped up to Juventus for another two seasons.  After bringing Juventus back up to the top, Milan would bring him in to help improve upon their side that had been struggling.

In Italy, Ancelotti is proven.  He has won every major award you can win in Italy and even managed a few European titles as well.  He is one of a small number of people to have won the European Championship both as a player and a manager, the newest to the list being Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola.  So it is time to branch out and leave Italian football behind.  Ancelotti will be Chelsea’s third Italian manager and fifth manager in the last 2 years time, but he will be looking to lead the team to glory in England and in Europe.  If you want titles you must bring in a man who knows how to win them.

Will Ancelotti be able to translate his success in Italy to success in England’s top league?  Only time will tell but judging by the teams preseason this year the future for Chelsea looks promising.  Ancelotti will have a job on his hands this season at the helm, but good coaching is good coaching, and I think he is starting out on the right foot for the London based club.  They might not win the League this season or become European Champions, but the outlook for a chance at these trophies looks promising.

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Filed under Champions League, Chelsea, EPL, Serie A, Uncategorized

Preseason Preview – Liverpool and Arsenal in 2009/2010

Chelsea v Liverpool

Liverpool

After looking strong at the start of last season, Liverpool tailed off and finished short of their mark, missing out again on silverware.  Finally realizing that the league is just as important as the Champions League, Coach Rafa Benitez has been pushing Liverpool’s ownership group to put forth the money to improve the side.  Tom Hicks, one half of the Hicks/Gillete partnership that owns Liverpool is having financial difficulties at the moment, going as far as to sell his Major League Baseball club, the Texas Rangers.  This made Liverpool’s chances of improving through the transfer window look bleak unless they were to sell off some of their talent.

New Signing: Glen Johnson (Portsmouth)

Returning: Andriy Voronin

Now with the strong attacking force Liverpool still has intact I am expecting them to push for the league again this term, but some uncertainty in the future of many players leads me to believe they will fall short yet again.  Rumored to be off before the season kicks off are; Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Javier Mascherano, Andrea Dossena, and Fabio Aurelio.  Now if half of these moves take place it could severely damage the club in the upcoming season, as it looks as if the timing would leave them too late to find quality replacements.  Closing out the summer though it looks as if Alonso and Mascherano are sure bets to stay with the club, as Liverpool are asking for inflated sums to purchase the players.   Avoiding the loss of players is the key for Liverpool going into the new season, and it looks like they will be fine at the start of the campaign but still fall short in the league yet again this season.

Champions League: Arsenal Through To Face United

Arsenal

A club of questions is what I like to call Arsenal.  Will Wenger buy?  Will Wenger sell?  Is Wenger going to bring in anyone who is not for the Academy?  The answers have panned out for Arsenal fans this off season, but probably not in the way they would have hoped.  Wenger did buy, sell, and bring in a player that was for more than the Academy, but the chances for improvement from last season do not look promising.

Key Losses: Emanuel Adebayor (Manchester City), Kolo Toure (Manchester City)

New Signing: Thomas Vermaelen (Ajax)

Returning player: Philippe Senderos

With the losses of Togo front man Adebayor and defender Toure, Arsenal’s side has just taken a knock.  Arsenal supporters and Wenger have said that there is no need to replace Adebayor, but with the history of fitness among Arsenal forwards I would have to disagree.  Arsenal has been looking at the Moroccan international Chamakh from Bordeaux, but has yet to make a move to land the youngster.  The loss of Toure could prove greater though as Wenger will have to make a decision.  Vermaelen is yet to be tested in the EPL, and while Wenger wanted to ship Senderos back out this season, it is looking more evident that he may have to stay to add depth in defense.

The key to Arsenal this season will be fitness.  If the players can stay fit they should be fine and find themselves in the top 4 for yet another season.  For some reason though, if they do not manage to keep their forwards fit and struggle with problems in the backline after the departure of Toure, then they could be looking at their first season in many years outside the top 4 spots.  Wenger has gambled by building his side through young players, but this will be the season that tells the wale on Wenger.  Are the young players able to carry on, or do they drop down the table and allow someone else to join the ranks of the Big 4?  Only time will tell, and the season is now fast approaching.

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A Look Ahead – Manchester United and Chelsea in 2009/2010

Manchester United vs FC Barcelona Manchester United

Coming into the new season pundits and fans alike are speculative about United’s chances of capturing yet another League Championship.  I choose to believe in Sir Alex Ferguson’s coaching and decision making ahead of the new season.  There have been a few high profile departures from Old Trafford in the offseason and a few promising prospects who now don United colors going into the new season.

Key Losses: Cristiano Ronaldo (to Real Madrid), Carlos Tevez (to Manchester City)

Key Additions: Gabriel Obertan (from Bordeaux), Michael Owen (from Newcastle United), Antonio Valencia (from Wigan Athletic)

For the entirety of the summer I have heard every reason why United cannot compete for the title again this year.  To that I tell you to sit back and watch.  Ronaldo while a good player was a distraction at many points in time and not always a healthy one, and Carlos Tevez did not want to sit the bench anymore.  So Ronaldo fills his supposed lifetime dream of playing for Madrid and Tevez joins another side filled with World Class strikers fighting for time on the pitch.  Good luck to our two former players, and while we will miss you, we will move on.

Our additions have been criticized heavily as well.  They say, “Valencia to replace Ronaldo?”  No, Valencia will not be replacing Ronaldo, but filling a vacancy we had on the wing.  Valencia is a strong young performer who will only blossom more with time and with the attacking options presented at United he cannot do anything but succeed.  Gabriel Obertan, who has come to us from Bordeaux is a young French International with a promising future.  While it is not clear how much of an impact Obertan will have in the first team this season, one thing is for sure, he is a big target man with a promising future.  And our most highly criticized move of the offseason, Michael Owen, who is prone to injury and is aging as well.  Look, Owen is a gamble, but a smart one in my opinion.  He can still score and will have less pressure on him at United than he ever faced at Newcastle.  He has something to prove to his critics this season, and I think in a limited role this season we will see him regain his form and net many times for us.

We also return with a strong defense and a strong presence up top with Rooney and Berbatov.  Mix in the experienced veterans and the youth of the squad and I think this side will prove many wrong.  Finding their own way without Ronaldo would be tough for many, but Sir Alex Ferguson has done it before and I will not be surprised when he does it again.

Chelsea FC v Inter Milan

Chelsea

Following another season that saw Chelsea finish behind Manchester United in the EPL standings the biggest problem facing the Blues was who would be coaching the side next season.  That question has since been answered by bringing in former AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti to Stamford Bridge.  How will Ancelotti do in England?  From his preseason start with the Blues it looks promising, but do not hold your breath as a few seasons back Avram Grant, who was constantly criticized, managed to take the side to the Champions League final, before falling to Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United on penalties.

While not losing any integral parts of the wheel at Chelsea, a few new faces have shown up and a few old faces have reappeared.

New Signings:  Carlo Ancelotti, Coach (AC Milan), Daniel Sturridge (Manchester City), Ross Turnbull (Middlesbrough), Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow)

While you look at these signings, you also have to realize a few names have come back, though it is not clear whether they will be here by the time the season starts, they are as follows.

Adriy Shevchenko, Claudio Pizzaro, and Sam Hutchinson

My thinking is that with the play Chelsea have shown during the preseason, there is not much reason to change what is not broken.  I do not see Sheva and Pizzaro getting into the lineup while Drogba and Anelka keep scoring, and I would not be surprised to see a few others go out on loan before the season starts.

Chelsea will be a strong side this season, and with the coaching Ancelotti is bringing to the club, I do not think they will drop off much.  They will challenge for the League Title this season and the Champions League again, but do not be surprised to see them fall a little short again.  While money has bought Owner Roman Abromovich a strong side, they have yet to dominate year in and year out since Jose Mourinho left the club.

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