Friday, September 28, 2012

The Insanity Is Back! Wenger as Colonel Kurtz! Rodgers Is Fidel! QPR And West Ham As Bedroom Furniture! Premier League Predictions

Last week I reined in my insane Premier League predictions and went with a more rational, measured approach, and I did quite well if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, the population of professional and amateur hacks out there making predictions is pretty much enormous and unless I got my hands on Biff Tannen's future sports almanac and called every match score, scorer, card, and substitution the interwebs would largely ignore me. And even if they didn't, I'd probably only garner a digital raised eyebrow from Eric Wynalda's Twitter account (He hands those out pretty freely).

So I say, "Bring back the insanity!"

I've got a goblet of absinthe, a divining stick, and a Magic 8 Ball with me right now and I'm here to tell you exactly what will happen in the Premier League this weekend. Call your bookie. Manage your fantasy team. Katy bar the door.

Arsenal v Chelsea - Lots of ins. Lots of outs. New shit has come to light, man. Arsenal are coming off an encouraging draw against Man City (which I called...just saying), but they're still stuck with Vito "He Sleeps With The Fishes" Mannone in goal. Chelsea sit top of the table and drubbed the bejesus out of Wolves midweek in the Capital One Cup, but then there's all of that extra hullabaloo with John Terry The Courageous Racist. I'm utterly unconvinced by Chelsea so far this season and it seems like such an Arsenal thing to get rid of your best player, not replace him, not address any pressing team needs, lose your starting goalkeeper, and then suddenly wind up in contention for the league title. At this point in his career, I see Arsene Wenger as a sort of football
Giroud, Giroud. This is my nightmare. 
Colonel Kurtz and like maybe chopping off all of those heads and talking about snails on straight razors will eventually luck him back into a Premier League title. The horror...the horror.

Predictions: Gervinho's headband falls off and we finally all learn that his hair was actually a black mop head attached with a rubber band. John Terry and the word "courageous" are used in the same sentence by the broadcasters at least four times. Ashley Cole is not the most booed man on the pitch. Torres is in fact not back. Arsenal win, 2-1.

Fulham v Manchester City - Dimitar Berbatov is out for this match after picking up an injury in training, although I suspect the Fulham nutritionist accidentally added some garlic to Berba's post training meal and part of his face turned to ash and fell off. He's recovering in his coffin at the moment and will awake in two weeks time to again rule the night and bathe in the blood of young virgins. For now, Fulham seem well and truly fucked playing against the defending league champions...or do they? City can't keep the ball out of the net and Craven Cottage is a notoriously difficult place to take points. A loss for the Sky Blues on the banks of the Thames would be one step closer to the wheels falling off for City and Mancini actually starting a slapping fight on the sideline with Martin Jol and/or the fourth official. Sadly, I just don't see it happening, although I suspect City will experience more difficulty than they probably should. 

Predictions: Petric returns and gets on the score sheet. Mancini wears Prada Infusion and smells delicious. Balotelli and/or Tevez come on as subs, get a goal, and do something Balotelli and/or Tevez to celebrate...maybe point at an imaginary watch or something. City win, 3-1.

I smoke Canaries for desayuno!
Norwich v Liverpool - Liverpool have to win this, don't they? Borini is out and no one knows who is going to play at left back with both Enrique and Kelly crocked. Shelvey is suspended. The Rodgers Revolution is looking pretty threadbare. In historical context, if The Rodgers Revolution was the Cuban Revolution, this would be the moment where the Granma has wrecked in a Mangrove swamp, Batista's men have killed or captured many of the revolutionaries, and Che and Fidel have high tailed it to the Sierra Maestra to regroup and figure out what to do next. Rodgers' Reds (see what I did there?) are in an equally desperate situation and a dismantling of Norwich, whose
Hughton Revolution is more of a Hughton Sit In, would win them the support of the locals and establish a guerrilla vanguard which could; as a mobile, agile, attacking unit; harass and harry the ruling might of the Big Clubs and bring about a regime change. Revolucion!!!!!!!!!

 Too much?

Predictions: Suarez pauses at least once during the match to contemplate getting his overbite fixed. Sterling has a monster of a match and rakes in fantasy points for his delirious owners. Norwich wonders why Liverpool finally woke up against them. Liverpool, 2-0.

Stoke v Swansea - I'm not entirely sure what to say about this one. A quick, possession oriented, attacking team takes on a physical, foul oriented, scrappy team. Swans are coming off some disappointing results and got absolutely housed by Everton last weekend. Stoke are coming off negative, but encouraging results against two of the best teams in the league and they're at home. I think the Potters kick Swansea up and down the field in this one.

Predictions: Crouch gets on the score sheet. Little Mickey Owen comes on, gets an assist, and hurts himself in the celebration. One red card in this match. Geoff Cameron plays at least one new position for the Potters. I think goalkeeper, forward, and winger are all that's left. Stoke win, 2-1.

Sunderland v Wigan - Roberto Martinez, the love of my life (Call me, Bobby!), is without Antolin Alcaraz and Franco Di Santo for this trip to the Stadium of Light. I read somewhere that Mauro Boselli is in contention to start after scoring two against West Ham in cup competition and that Roberto announced all Wigan starting berths were open for competition. I was encouraged by this and phoned the Wigan front office to see if I could come over on trial, but I haven't heard anything back yet. Seriously though, it's only a matter of time. I'm off to the gym later on just in case. In Sunderland news, is it just me, or are they, you know, pretty freakin' good? Lee Cattermole is serving a suspension - of course he is - and there are a couple of guys with little, niggling injuries, but I don't expect that to be any big deal if the most threatening attacking player in a blue jersey is Mauro Boselli.

Predictions: Martin O'Neill leaves his rugby jersey at home and has to wear a track top. This causes him serious discomfort throughout the match and his increased irritability leads to a sending off. Steven Fletcher bags a hat trick and continues to stake his claim that he is, in fact, worth 14 million pounds. Roberto Martinez further enhances his reputation as the nicest guy in the Premier League by bringing the referees tea at halftime. Sunderland win, 4-1.

Reading v Newcastle - Demba Ba is still a house on fire. Reading are a meatloaf you left in the freezer last October that you've just now uncovered. Also, Yohan Cabeye may miss out due to a mouth infection. A Mouth infection?! Yohan, you dirty dog!

Predictions: Alan Pardew lets his assistants manage the whole match. When they ask him what to do, he just chuckles and says, "Eight year contract, bitches!" Pavel Pogrebnyak wins a penalty, steps up to take it, points at Harper, and then says, "I will crush you." He misses, but all of his teammates call him Drago anyhow. Demba Ba brace, but the match still ends in a draw. 2-2.

Everton v Southampton - Is there any reason to expect Everton won't continue playing beautiful football against one of the weakest sides in the league at Goodison Park? Personally, I don't think so. Rickie Lambert is only one man.

Predictions: Everton roll. Not much insane to say here...other than the score line! 6-1. Gotta pour one out for Lambert.

Manchester United v Tottenham - This is where AVB proves once and for all that he is absolutely good enough for sixth. I want this to be a classic match between two of the class teams in the league, but I think this will be the match in which Spurs fans finally utter what they've been thinking all along: "What the fuck is AVB doing?" I had a coach in college who would give rambling, non-sensical team talks. Typically, you want to share three or four points with your players at halftime so as not to confuse them. He would usually average between twelve and fifteen and start half of them with, "As my good friend Sir Alex Ferguson would say..." As far as we could tell, he had a buddy send him a book he got signed by Sir, but that's about it. Once we got on the pitch, one of the captains would usually say something like, "Forget all that shit and do this instead." We won a lot of matches that way and I don't think the coach ever even noticed, such was his ineptitude. Mercifully, he got fired when I was a junior because he told some female student she had wonderful tits. I guess what I'm trying to say here is, here's to hoping AVB tells some Spurs exec she has wonderful tits. 

Predictions: Spurs look tentative and confused. United takes the space they're given and never look like losing at Old Trafford. Friedel lets in a few, but they're not really his fault. Minimum four shots of Lloris looking upset and French on the bench. AVB's beard at one day's growth. Dempsey to get a goal after the game is decided. United win, 3-1.

Aston Villa v West Brom - This has to be a draw, doesn't it? Are there two teams in the league more difficult to wrap your mind around than Villa and West Brom? You thik they should lose, they win. You think they should win, they get ridden hard and hung up wet. I'm at a loss and can't muster much excitement for this match...which is why it'll be a back and forth barn burner.

Predictions: This match will have everything. Cards. Drama. Goals. Women weeping. Grandstand finish. Who'd have thunk, right? Insanity. Draw, 3-3.

QPR v West Ham - This is the only match less tantalizing than Aston Villa v West Brom. It's like Let's Make A Deal and behind door number one was a washer/dryer set and you decided to go for door number two (Was that Let's Make A Deal?) hoping for a bitchin' Camaro and instead you got a couple of dressers. QPR and West Ham are a couple of dressers. And I'm not talking Ethan Allen dressers but Value City dressers. QPR and West Ham are Value City dressers. Having said that, if I'm in Value City and I have to buy a Value City dresser, I'm buying West Ham. QPR are without most of their defenders and blue and white stripes look tacky in the bedroom.

This is how they'll line up. 

Predictions: West Ham, 2-0. Insanity.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rational Predictions For This Weekend's Premier League Fixtures or Lesson Learned

Last week I said some insane shit. That Dimitar Berbatov may be a vampire - or Daywalker, more accurately - was not one of them. Still, I was pretty close to making some dead on calls and I stand by much of the not-so-insane analysis from many of the other matches. What I won't do again is pick Wigan at Old Trafford no matter how much I love Roberto Martinez. Call me, Roberto!

I'm too sexy for Wigan

On to this week's fixtures!

Southampton v Aston Villa - Christian Benteke and Rickie Lambert in a striker's dual. Not that either will get bags of goals, but whoever is sharper on the day will win this one for his club. Southampton 2-1. 

Chelsea v Stoke - Stoke gave City a run for their bags and bags and bags of money last weekend so they shouldn't sneak up on Chelsea this weekend. On the other hand, Chelsea was in midweek Champion's League action and you never quite know how that's going to affect a team. Plus, they drew with QPR last weekend and that's a little bit like not scoring with a hooker. I'm trying not to over think this one but I want to. Let's go 2-0 Chelsea at The Bridge.

Wigan v Fulham - This is a trap game for Fulham. Everyone loves Dimitar and show zero inclination to chase him to his castle with torches and pitchforks and drive a wooden stake through his undead heart. Wigan just got thrashed by a less-than-classic United side. This is where Wigan pulls a Wigan and runs out 3-1 winners at home...Wait, what's happening to me?! I can't help it! [Head spins around and spews vomit] Aghhhhhhh!!!! I must have ONE insane prediction!! Fulham shake their road woes and trounce Wigan 5-1. Berbatov gets a hat trick. Martin Jol eats a crepe on the sideline. Roberto Martinez calls Owen Hargreaves after the match. 

Phew! I'm back. Sorry about that...

West Brom v Reading - All I can say about this match is, "Meh." 0-0

West Ham v Sunderland - I hate to say it, but so far Steven Fletcher looks to be worth 14 million pounds. Who'd have thunk? If he has shaken off the knock he took in last week's match against Liverpool I look for Sunderland to outclass West Ham in a scrappy affair. 1-0 Sunderland. 

Liverpool v Manchester United - Everyone is expecting Suarez and Evra Handshakegate II. If you watched last week's United match, you won't be surprised if Evra doesn't even get the chance to retaliate for Suarez's handshake snub. Buttner looked class. As for the Hillsborough/Munich Air Disaster chants, there will probably be a minority of pint pickled fans who do or say something stupid; we'll here about it on Monday; and that will be the talking point. During the match, no one, especially those watching on TV, will have any idea anyone has done anything other than support his club.

If I'm a betting man, and I'm not, I don't think there's any way Liverpool go down like a bunch of Young Boys against United at Anfield in such an emotionally charged match. A win here could save Brendan Rodgers' early season blushes. I call 'Pool 2-1. 

Newcastle v Norwich City - Demba Ba is a house on fire. Norwich City is a leftover turkey breast. Newcastle 3-0. 

Tottenham v QPR - I'm still unconvinced by Spurs and I remain even more so now that Lloris, Friedel, and Barthez are in a three way lovers' quarrel. Did Lloris not think to ask, "Hey, you've got three keepers on the roster already. Where, exactly, do I fit in," before he signed on the dotted line? Is he so French that he just assumed he'd slide right in to the first team? I want to start a "USA" chant right now and slow clap Brad Friedel while I watch reruns of the 2002 World Cup and listen to Lynryd Skynryd. 

I think this match winds up much like Tottenham's last match, a misleading score line in an uninspired victory against weaker opponents. Deuce Face to make an appearance (and score a goal). AVB with two days' fashion stubble. Gareth Bale is teased by his teammates to come up with something other than that ridiculous heart symbol should he score a goal. 2-0 Spurs. 

Manchester City v Arsenal - Tasty match, this. Is Arsenal as good as their record? Can City keep a clean sheet? How will the Real Madrid loss have affected the Sky Blues? I can't see this being a low scoring affair...which is probably why it will be. 1-1, honors even.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Premier League: Insane Predictions For This Weekend's Fixtures! Berbatov A Vampire! Terry And Ferdinand Both Racist! Wigan Win!

Phew! The international break is over and the Premier League fires up its engines again for another three days of the most exciting football on the planet. One caveat: Don't expect the metaphorical engine I was just writing about to sound like a Bugatti Veyron purring down the autobahn or carving through corners in the Swiss Alps. Rather, the two week international "break" can be counted on to have thrown some sugar in the tanks of even the deepest teams and the knocks, trans ocean flights, difficult qualifiers/friendlies, and time away from club training sessions will most definitely have more than one team firing up a two stroke lawn mower engine that's been sitting in a shed in the back.

What does all of that mean? Upset alert(s).

Norwich City v West Ham United -  In a weird way, this may be the best advertisement for how fun the Premier League is to watch. Sort of like gonorrhea being a great advertisement for condoms. Premier League fans are actually salivating for the kickoff of this match because it means that the league is finally back in action. The Canaries are coming off a moral victory (draw) against Andre "Good Enough For 6th" Villas-Boas' Tottenham side and West Ham are coming off of a comprehensive walloping of Fulham. As far as momentum goes, it's kind of a push save for the fact that The Hammers are without Andy Carroll who picked up a hamstring injury in what was an otherwise stellar debut. Carlton Cole will step in for Carroll and Yossi Benayoun will likely make his West Ham debut...for the second time...and the last time...again. I'm calling a 2-0 Hammers victory.

Fulham v WBA - As a Cottagers' fan, I want to say Fulham will get back on track and beat West Brom at home. I want to say Dimitar Berbatov will bag a classy hat trick. I want to say we're over Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey, we'll find other loves, they never really appreciated us anyway, and the chick from 3B understands us better. Alas, I can't quite see it happening. Bryan Ruiz is questionable for this match and if there's one thing (and there are a lot more things than one) Fulham was lacking in the match against West Ham, it's a creative link between midfield and the forwards. Compounding this problem is the fact that Mohamadou Diarra is out with a knee injury so we don't even have the two central players from the last match fit and available. Compounding both of these problems, at least in my mind, is that apparently Dimitar Berbatov has been asking Martin Jol if Fulham supporters will like him...

Does anyone else see Dimitar as an overly sensitive and deeply misunderstood, yet benevolent vampire? Think less Brad Pitt from Interview With a Vampire and more Dracula from the Dracula rock opera in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Things will get better, Dimi. Just score some fucking goals.

West Brom is coming off of a 2-0 victory against Everton and really only have Steven Reid on the crocked list. I say 2-2 in a wild one.

Arsenal v Southampton - Southampton have gone punch for punch with the big boys so far and Arsenal, although they haven't yet allowed a goal, have yet to convince me. If there's one thing the Gunners' back line consistently has issues with it's big, powerful strikers who are good in the air. If there's one thing Southampton has, it's a big, powerful striker named Rickie Lambert who is good in the air. I think Southampton continues the streak of playing exciting football but coming up just short. Also,  Olivier Giroud breaks his duck. 3-1 Arsenal.

Aston Villa v Swansea City - Both sides look like they'll be significantly different than they were two weeks ago. The Villains will likely call in Christian Benteke, Jordan Bowery, and Ashley Westwood and Swansea is going to have to piece together a back line due to injuries and suspensions. Having said that, what Swansea does well is attack and no one is ever going to accuse Villa of setting the world on fire going forward. 2-1 Swans.

Manchester United v Wigan Athletic - Here's the first of my upset alert matches. I know it's insane, but insanity is fun. Wigan always seems to do crazy shit like, oh say, beat Manchester United at Old Trafford and then lose 5-0 to a team like QPR. United have looked less than convincing in all of their matches so far and unless Danny Welbeck is the perfect foil for RVP (and he may well be), United had better be careful and/or hope that Phil Dowd finds a way to escape the shackles of his fourth official role and start handing out PKs to the Red Devils. Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie both picked up knocks while on international duty and I could see Sir starting one or both of them on the bench. I mean, it's Wigan at home, right? 2-1 Wigan. Go on, Wigan! Shock the world!

Queens Park Rangers v Chelsea - Shit just got real. On any other day, Chelsea walks out I guess stays in... West London with a comfortable win. But this isn't any other day. I propose John Terry and Anton Ferdinand don those ridiculous sumo suits - the kind you find at carnivals - and use the center circle as a sumo mat during the warm up. This would serve to get them both back on the same page and bury the hatchet while at the same time offending Shinji Kagawa. The paradox of Anton Ferdinand becoming a racist while John Terry would momentarily not be a racist but then immediately a racist again would keep the British press busy for years, launch another FA investigation, and insure that at least two more handshakegates would give us all something to look forward to. That would put John Terry as the undisputed career leader of awkward handshakes with awkward handshakes had/not had between Wayne Bridge, Rio Ferdinand, Anton Ferdinand, and (hopefully) Shinji Kagawa. #ChelseaLegend.

In actuality, the handshake thing will more than likely come and go pretty quick and then Chelsea can get down to the business of trouncing QPR. 3-0 Chelsea.

Stoke City v Manchester City - And thusly we arrive at upset watch number two! Granted, this one isn't quite as insane as Wigan over Manchester United. Stoke are at the Britannia Stadium which is hard enough to play in when you haven't got the likes of Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu, Charlie Adam, Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth, and the ball boys kicking you up and down your legs. And Manchester City certainly will. If Balotelli plays, he's a shoe in for a card, probably one of a reddish hue.

Side note: Does Geoff Cameron not look exactly like Michael Richards' character from Problem Child?

Manchester City haven't been exactly air tight at the back and with so many players away on international duty, I'm not sure one could reasonably expect them to have worked this little problem out. What are the chances Little Mickey Owen comes on, scores the game winner, and then somehow hurts himself in the celebration? That's at least two out of three long shots, but like I said, it's the first fixture after an international break. If not now, when? 3-2 Stoke.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Liverpool will come good eventually. This weekend is not "eventually". 2-1 Sunderland. Also, in case you're thinking, "Another upset?!" Stop thinking that. This isn't an upset anymore.

Reading v Tottenham - Regular readers of the blog will know that I am no big Andre Villas-Boas fan. In short, he's all hat and no cattle. AVB will likely roll out some version of what is essentially a ridiculous 2-5-3 formation, and he'll get away with it, at least against Reading he will. Moussa Dembele has plugged a Moussa Dembele shaped hole and I think Tottenham may start running a little more like that Veyron we were talking about earlier. Still, I think there may be some uncomfortable moments for Spurs in this one. Deuce Face to make an appearance. AVB's scruff at a respectable three days' growth. 2-1 Spurs.

Everton v Newcastle - This is a tricky one. Everton are coming off a 2-0 loss to West Brom and are missing Darron Gibson. I swear I have a straight face when I'm writing that's a significant absence for them. On the other hand, Newcastle are without Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini may be unavailable as well. Newcastle haven't yet found the rhythm they enjoyed last season and, save for the unexpected set back against West Brom, Everton have picked up right where they left off. It's a bit of a tough call, but I have to go with Everton at home. Is there a better Premier League atmosphere than Goodison on a Monday Night? That was a rhetorical question, but I'll answer with an unrhetorical, "No!" Even if Coloccini makes it back into the side by Monday night, and I hope he does for selfish reasons, "selfish reasons" being the childlike giggle that any contested ball in the air between Fellaini and Coloccini will likely elicit from me, I still think Everton run out winners here. Seriously, can you imagine it? They'd stick together like velcro and the ball would disappear like a baseball in the ivy at Wrigley. No? Just me? 1-0 Toffees.  

Enjoy the matches and pour a pint out for me! COYW!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

C'mon US Score a Goal It's Really Fucking Simple, Put The Ball Into The Net And We'll Go Fucking Mental...

This post is probably on the cusp of being irrelevant. It's after 1:00PM on the East Coast and the US victory over Jamaica last night at Crew Stadium in Columbus has been dissected, sewn back up, dissected again, picked through, had its organs set aside on that little squishy dissection tray, labeled, and is about to be tossed in a biohazard bag so we can all move on to something cats or the  October 12 match against Antigua and Barbuda. Sue me. I WAS AT THE GAME LAST NIGHT AND AM JUST NOW WAKING UP AND GETTING MY VOICE BACK! 

I've purposefully not read any of the myriad articles rating player performances or the match recaps or even watched the telecast of the game to hear what Ian Darke and Steve McManaman thought of the Nat's showing last night. From the perspective of a fan buried deep inside the American Outlaws' section of Crew Stadium, here are my thoughts from last night's 1-0 victory.

1. Columbus knows how to host a World Cup Qualifier - I was at the 2-0 victory over Mexico last World Cup cycle and Crew Stadium is one of a number of soccer specific stadia in the US that represent a decided home field advantage. The attendance was a sell out at just under 30,000, but those 30,000 come in full voice, are knowledgeable, and have absolutely no stomach for anything but a win. Save for the exceedingly drunk American Outlaw supporter in the FDNY hat two rows in front of me who didn't face the field the entire match and untiringly attempted to start chant after ill-conceived chant  by slurring spittle on the supporters in the row behind him, the supporters' sections were boisterous, engaged, and clever. Drunky's worst effort was probably an off key version of the Chimes of Pompey that went something like, "Fuck Jamaica, always cheating." Back to the drawing board, Homie.

2. Steve Cherundolo is nearly indispensable to both the US attack and defense - This is both good and bad considering he'll be 35 by the time World Cup 2014 rolls around and we've still not found anyone who looks remotely capable of consistently replacing him at right back. In the first half especially, his overlapping runs down the flank caused problems for the Jamaican defense and in the second half he saved a sure goal by tracking all the way back on a Jamaican break and getting a last minute header away at the back post with a yellow jersey climbing over his back.

3. Jermaine Jones is ill-tempered, combative, and I love him - His performances for the national team are sometimes hit and miss. He tends to get a little too involved working the ref on occasion, shows a propensity to flash his studs and elbows at various parts of his opponent's bodies, and therefore consistently seems to be the front runner for picking up a red card in almost every match he plays, but you need a guy like that, especially in CONCACAF qualifying.

4. We obviously miss Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, but what about Stuart Holden? - Donovan's speed and goal scoring ability have waned somewhat in recent years, but he's still a vital link between the midfield and the forwards and Michael Bradley is a box-to-box machine who does almost everything well (save for grow a full head of hair). Part of what has made their joint absence so difficult to overcome is the lack of viable cover for the skills they provide. Our pool is blessed with a number of functional defensive minded midfield players like Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, and even Geoff Cameron, but the closest we've seemed to come to a creative spark in the center of the park is Jose Torres or a withdrawn Clint Dempsey. Both options are really just making do. I'd love to see Stuart Holden and his frosted tips healthy, springing the attack through midfield, and serving up set pieces like a boss. Can someone please put him back together again?

5. What happened after the goal? - In the first half our attacking play, predicated upon possession, was stellar if unlucky. I think we're up two or three nil at half time if Herculez Gomez gets what looked for all the world like a penalty when he was bundled over in the box a quarter of the way through the first half. Without the benefit of replay I don't know if I'm totally off base here or not, but a quick penalty kick goal and the momentum that comes along with it could have opened the flood gates. As it happened, the woodwork and a few excellent saves from Dwayne Miller left everyone with that Oh-my-God-it's-happening-again feeling.

When we finally did get our goal - and let's be honest here, it should have been saved - everything went to shit. Jamaica came out of their shell to try to find an equalizer and we seemed suddenly incapable of holding onto the ball, finding space, and taking advantage of the stretched field. Rather than seal the win, we resorted to hoofing the ball up the park and resetting to defend the next attack.

What's alarming about this is that we were playing home...and did I mention it was Jamaica? Granted, they have an athletic, powerful, and fast side, but what happens against the likes of Mexico, Costa Rica, or even Panama in a similar situation? Brek Shea came on and hardly touched the ball until the last few minutes of the second half. Jozy Altidore came on and showed that he's most definitely been doing his best work with lots of time and space against suspect defenses in the Eredivisie. Maurice Edu came on and looked less than sharp holding on to the ball and finding the open man. I guess what I'm trying to say is that rather than getting a goal and then finishing a match, we got a goal that stirred up a hornet's nest and then held on until we could get out our EpiPens to ward off anaphylactic shock. Jermaine Jones collapsing at midfield after the final whistle said as much.

6. We won - Was it comprehensive and convincing? No. Did we find a way to take care of business? Yes. And that's the most important thing. Rather than a fine tuning that leads up to the big dance in 2014, World Cup Qualifying is a brutal, multi year slog that requires teams to experiment, develop, adjust, and improve in both drastic and subtle ways.

There are enough bright spots, young talents, and full-blooded personalities in the US team to believe that we'll find a way to navigate this process successfully. Rather than suspect that this US vintage is weaker than it has been in previous years, I suspect that it's simply more unformed and that CONCACAF on the whole is a stronger region. I think Jurgen Klinsmann will find a way to polish the machine and make all of the pieces fit, but I'm holding off on going fucking mental just yet.      

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Transfer Window Winners and Losers

The dust has settled on the latest transfer window and now that we've got a week of post window fixtures to digest and an international break in which to do it, we can all get down to the serious business of asking ourselves what, exactly the fuck, just happened.

I don't watch a lot of TV, but I imagine the transfer window is like the best reality show ever spread out across a month of intrigue and backbiting. Long time relationships fracture and split; floozies make eyes at taken men from across the bar; alliances are broken while accusations fly; and when we hit the season finale, some teams are caught out and get voted off the island while others get a rose and an all expense paid trip to Hawaii with a dreamy bachelor. The rest survive for another episode. It's trashy and voyeuristic and I love it. 


1. Manchester United - I know Robin van Persie is prone to injury, going gray, and decidedly equine in his facial features, but he's showing no sign of coming down from the insane season he had last year and with Fat Wayne Rooney split open like an overcooked sausage, United is his team to run. All those questions about how RVP and FWR (Fat Wayne Rooney in case you missed it earlier) are going to play together have been rendered moot by Van Persie's goals and Rooney's disgustingly gashed disgusting thigh. Bold prediction: If RVP stays healthy, he may score more than he did last year. 

Shinji Kagawa also looks a really good bit of business and has been impressive in his first few matches. He strikes me a bit as a Japanese Luka Modric and if United can get their defensive midfield berth sorted out, he could have a very successful season running behind the front two...or just RVP. 

In the category of intangible wins and losses, RVP seemingly chose United over Manchester City. Only in the world of modern football could this be considered a win for the underdog, but given that Sheik Mansoor likely wipes his ass with gold leaf, RVP's choice is definitely a middle finger to The Man. 

2. Michael Owen - As with Owen Hargreaves last year, Michael Owen has landed on another Premier League payroll. Well played, Michael. Well played. He's pulled a Michael Owen Hargreaves. Mostly this consists of a dance routine to ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me" to prove he's not injured.

3. Tottenham - I still think Andre Villas-Boas will find a way to screw this up, most likely by pissing off broad swaths of his own players, but Tottenham very quietly made some stellar moves in the transfer market. They offloaded old, dead or dying weight; loaned out young promising players who will get oodles of first team action with their new teams; and signed exciting, established players who are arguably in the prime of their careers. 

Offloaded: Niko Kranjcar, Vedran Corluka, Ryan Nelsen, Louis Saha, Sebastien Bassong, David Bentley (It's only a loan, but seriously?!), and Giovani dos Santos

Cashed in on: Luka Modric, Steven Pienaar, and Rafael van der Vaart 

Loaned out: Danny Rose, Harry Kane, and John Bostock

Signed: Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jan Vertonghen, Emmanuel Adebayor, Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey, and Hugo Lloris

Tell me how any of this is bad business? Except, obviously, the fact that Bentley was only sent out on loan. For my money, Spurs suddenly look scary good and if/when AVB, aka Euro Inspector Gadget, screws this up he may never manage at the top of the game again. 

4. Clint Dempsey - I don't know how the kid keeps pulling this stuff off. I'm guessing he has Tony Robbins on speed dial and is practicing some crazy Scientology positive self-talk routine. To pick up where my previous post about Clint Dempsey left off, Liverpool is in the bar slutting it up. Dempsey is in Dutch with Fulham. Sunderland looks like she's going to be the hottest option left at closing time. Dempsey doesn't bite even after Sunderland's fat friend Aston Villa makes a pass at him. By this point, Liverpool has left the bar and is dry humping Daniel Sturridge's leg outside in the parking lot. Sunderland and Aston Villa have gone home with men more in their league. Fulham is at home throwing Dempsey's clothes out on the lawn. The bartender has flipped on the lights and announced last call. Deuce takes one last pull on his beer, closes his tab, and then turns to walk out the door. That's when Tottenham comes barging into the bar looking like Kate Upton doing the Cat Daddy, points at Dempsey, and says, "You're coming home with me." Seriously, how does he pull this shit off?

5. West Ham - Everyone is going to point to the fact that their marquee signing, Andy Carroll -who would have thought those words would ever be written in that order again? - picked up a nasty hamstring injury and is out for at least six weeks. Fair play, but did you see how well he played in the first seventy odd minutes against Fulham? West Ham and Sam Allardyce suit his skill set perfectly and I suspect having Kevin Nolan, his best mate/babysitter, around will do wonders for his focus and peace of mind. The thing I'd be worried about, were I a West Ham fan, is what happens when, not if, Liverpool recall Carroll and his silly ponytail? Hopefully for West Ham, by the time that happens survival will be secure and they can coast in for the remainder of the season. The additional signings of Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun will go a long way toward insuring that happens. Neither of these guys is going to set the world on fire, but they're smart, modest buys and Benayoun is an old crowd favorite who should excel away from the rarified air of the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea. 

6. Swansea - How a team loses Brendan Rodgers, Gylfi Sigurdson, and Scott Sinclair and plays football that is arguably even more eye pleasing and attacking than last year's vintage is beyond me. Granted, the season is young, but Michael Laudrup is pulling a Spanish Arsene Wenger and importing all sorts of young, exciting Iberian talent, and he's doing it for a steal. Chico, Michu, Jonathan de Guzman, and Pablo Hernandez have all arrived in Wales and their combined cost is something like 14 million pounds. To put that in perspective, Steven Fletcher alone cost Sunderland 14 million pounds. Steven Fletcher is not worth 14 million pounds and I'm guessing that by the end of the season Chico, Michu, de Guzman, and Hernandez are worth much, much more. 14 Million pounds for Steven Fletcher?! Steven Fletcher?! Jesus. 

7. Steven Fletcher - See above.

8. Dimitar Berbatov - Berbatov sneaks on to the Winner's List because he found a way around the log jam that is Manchester United's strike force and landed at a club where he will, in all likelihood, be the first name on the team sheet most matches. Additionally, Berbatov will be reunited with a manager who loves and values him and will allow him to move his collection of Sartre, Camus, and Marcel into the locker room, smoke his Gauloises on the sideline during training sessions, and sip espresso from an impossibly tiny cup at press conferences.  

9. Romelu Lukaku - Gets out from behind Fernando "Delicious Face" Torres. Can go Beast Mode at West Brom. 


Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal - I don't know what to make of these three sides and their efforts this transfer window. All three made notable acquisitions, lost important players, and pulled the trigger on some head scratchers. Of the three, I'm most inclined to worry about Arsenal simply because no one seems to have told Arsene Wenger that he still needs players across the back. Also, what the hell happened to the truckloads of cash that United and Barcelona dumped into Arsenal's coffers? If you sell your talisman, you've got to make a marquee signing...don't you? Anyone? 


1. Liverpool - Liverpool continues to fuck up everything it touches. Seriously. Liverpool is that kid from elementary school who had really thick glasses at far too young an age, two inhalers, and a perpetually runny nose. Your teacher would say something like, "If everyone has out his/her science textbook in ten seconds then we'll all play Heads Up Seven Up after the lesson!" Everyone scrambles to pull out his/her science book, shuts up, and sits attentive and ready for the lesson. Then the teacher says, "Almost, class! Maybe next time." Then everyone turns around and Liverpool is fumbling with his English book and dripping snot on the sleeve of his sweatshirt. The whole class moans in unison, "Liverpoooooool!" 

Not only did liverpool fail to address any of the issues they failed to address last transfer window, but they offloaded all of the failed answers to the issues they previously failed to address. Make sense? All that's important here is the word "fail." It's becoming synonymous with Liverpool no matter who takes the reins or puts on the shirt. The Clint Dempsey situation was epically bumbled and Liverpool seem to be the most blamable bumblers. How do you not sign a twenty goal scorer who is practically begging to play for you and costs seven million pounds less than Steven Fletcher? Liverpoooooool

2. Fulham - It pains me to write this, but The Cottagers may be in for a long season. I'm a huge Clint Dempsey fan, but I think he is and was replaceable, especially with signings like Berbatov and Mladen Petric providing more attacking play farther up the field. What worries me, and by "worries me" I mean scares the shit out of me, is who is going to replace Moussa Dembele? Martin Jol should get a Football Nobel for moving Dembele back into the midfield. He's an incredible combination of skill, grace, guile, power, vision, and speed and he's still just a kid. I get that when a club like Tottenham comes along and whips out the checkbook and you're a club like Fulham, you have a price, but it's not like no one saw this coming and it would have been nice to have a Plan B. Side note: Kieron Richardson is not Plan B.

3. Any Combination of Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam, Steven N'Zonzi, and Maurice Edu - Stoke signed an entire team of midfielders in the transfer window, many of whom play essentially the same role, and they offloaded virtually none of the midfielders they already had who play essentially the same role as the guys they just signed...who play essentially the same role. Did I say that already? All four of the new guys are more than capable Stoke caliber players. Who wastes away on the bench?

4. QPR - The Hoops have an incredible team...if it were 2005. With the exception of Junior Hoilett, this is a side that is well past its sell by date. Robert Green, Andy Johnson, Jose Bosingwa, Park Ji-Sung, Julio Cesar, and Ryan Nelsen were all brought in this transfer window. Are any of these guys part of Mark Hughes' future plans for the club? Do his future plans for the club involve soft foods and sponge baths? Did Hughes have to see Robert Green play in person before he realized he was terrible? Maybe QPR is strapped for cash and they always have team dinners at the same place and maybe that place offers a seniors' discount. Otherwise, I'm flummoxed. Remember when Sparky said he left Fulham because they weren't ambitious enough? Hilarious.

5. Aston Villa - The Villains have to be relegation candidates now, don't they? They singed some good young players, but from where I'm sitting, they lack the established players needed to keep them from a relegation scrap come April. Alex McLeish has to be the most hated man in Birmingham. 

6. Wigan - Every year they make this list and every year they find a way make it not mean much. Roberto Martinez is managing a side of six pub players, a few Special Olympians, three nuns, an Orangutan, five trapeze artists, and one of those plastic silhouettes used to make a wall on the training pitch. And they still stay up every year. Greatest. Manager. Ever.