Clubs, FC Barcelona

The El Clasico Review

I know I’m a little late here, but the El Clasico was unbelievably defining, not just for Real Madrid, but more so for Barcelona. They had so many opportunities to score during this match, and they will continue to have more opportunities as long as Luis Enrique doesn’t switch back to his rotational lineup. The cohesion that Barca displayed was top-notch, and Messi, despite ending the game without a goal, lit up the soccer world with his performance at the right wing/forward position (where he started his career).Messi El Clasico

While Rakatic and Mascherano ran up and down the field constantly, Iniesta was free to be a bit more creative, and while he no longer glides and shifts like he used to, he still was able to spot the correct passes throughout the game. Rakatic would support the team in attack when necessary, and Mascherano seemed content playing back in front of the center backs, leaving Dani Alves and Jordi Alba the chance to do what they do best (support up the flanks).

Real weren’t terrible… in the first half. In fact, the game should have been a draw – considering Bale was onside for his “offside” goal. That being said, for the most part, Real were lethargic, despite a moment of sheer brilliance by Benzema to setup Ronaldo with his goal. Ronaldo had one more opportunity earlier, but he just couldn’t finish as the post denied him the brace.

Real seemed to miss something this game: Isco and Modric are great players, but they’re not pacey, and they’re certainly not able to produce speedy runs like Di Maria, or just put themselves in the perfect position to score goals like James Rodriguez. And Kroos is like Xabi Alonso, but much more attack oriented (which can be good, but not against quality teams like Barcelona). Real will need James moving forward, and they will need Modric to get back to full fitness since his injury – while he has been playing well, he doesn’t look as great as he was last year. It will be interesting to see how the calm Ancelotti handles his team moving forward, especially considering Bale’s lack of form. Saurez El Clasico Goal

Barca on the other hand… Suarez is the missing link on that team – he finishes chances with such precision, and he has the pace and technique to keep up with both Messi and Neymar. I’d go as far as to say he’s just as good a dribbler as Neymar (call me crazy). Barca seem to be on a roll, and with Messi being used on the right, and coming back into midfield to help create chances, Barca truly look unstoppable at the moment.

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Clubs, FC Barcelona

Messi is not being played right, and neither is Barcelona

I know it’s been a while since I posted an article, and I apologize for that, I recently started a new job and I’ve been rather busy – but let’s get back to football, too much has happened over the last couple months. I’m going to start with Barcelona…

The situation at Camp Nou is dire, but it’s not as dire as the media will have you believe. Barcelona are still alive in every competition, and their team, although aging, has more than enough talent to survive another transferless window… but, the real question (and the only question) that one must ask: Why isn’t Enrique managing his players correctly!?

Luis Enrique Blog PhotoLuis Enrique’s defiance is somewhat unfounded — when has a constant rotation of players in and out of the starting lineup ever created team cohesion on the field… and in the locker room? You can make the argument that the genius Josep used to rotate players all the time, and still does at FC Bayern, but lets be honest people – he doesn’t do it after he’s figured out what’s working (except of course for his tactical blunder against Real last year in the Champions Cup). But anyway, the issue with Enrique is that he doesn’t know what’s working, and he’s not giving himself the chance to find out.

There is no doubt that the arrivals of Ivan Rakatic and Jérémy Mathieu were much needed, but it’s unbelievable that Enrique would constantly rotate Rakatic in and out the starting lineup, especially with the older, former stalwarts Xavi and Iniesta and not allow for Mathieu to get comfortable in the center of the defense in a partnership with Pique! Let me explain why…. two reasons: 1) I don’t often agree with Sergio Busquets, but Barcelona do need to be taller and more physical, so they must allow Pique and Mathieu to play at center back together, and 2) did anyone not see how effing spectacular Javier Mascherano played at his natural position, defensive midfielder this past summer at the World Cup? If he were to play in front of Pique and Mathieu, they would be an extremely fearsome and aggressive group. Furthermore, at a deep defensive mid position, Masherano would allow for Alves and Alba to do what they do best, attack from the back.

Messi and Rakatic pic for blogLet’s continue… supposing that Enrique gets his act together and plays Pique, Mathieu, Masherano, Alba and Alves the way I suggested… Barcelona still need to get there act together at midfield too, where I believe they are a still working to find a rhythm.  With Xavi and Iniesta getting older, and less mobile, Enrique needs to allow Rakatic to develop a role in Barcelona’s offense, rather than have Barcelona’s offense dictate what role he plays. Last year, when Rakatic played for Sevilla, he was one of the best midfielders in La Liga, and this year he always deserves a place in the starting lineup in every game for Barca. Because Rakatic does not possess the flair, creativity and and shiftiness of an Iniesta, he should play in front of Mascherano, where he would add height to a team that desperately needs it. Furthermore, he is young and plays with a level of vitality unseen in Xavi these days, and he would truly engine the attackers in front of him. Now to the top of Barca’s attack…

Barcelona’s attackers are lucky, they are so unbelievably talented that I don’t think it’s an issue for them toIMG_7437 speedily develop cohesion. That said, I do believe that they need to play roles that befit them, and not ones that center around what Messi wants to do. Let me explain, when Messi was rising in ranks, and won his four straight Ballon D’or trophies, he played a position that best benefitted the team. He started off on the right wing/forward in his early days (with Ronaldinho and Eto’o), and then moved to the false nine where he thrived most, and then over the last couple years has tried acting as a true number nine, which has had really unfortunate affects. Messi is best when he has space to operate with, and as a false nine under Guardiola, he dictated play so naturally that it was a role born for him, and him only. That said, last year he seemed to wonder aimlessly around the the box, waiting for his teammates to create brilliance that would unleash his goal scoring prowess — the two issues with that are clear, Iniesta no longer plays at the level he used to (so he can’t create as he used to), and in the false nine, Messi wouldn’t have to wait/rely on teammates to unleash him for goals, he would do it himself, and unleash the team around him.

Luis Enrique needs to realize that above all else. Alejandro Sabella realized it going into the summer’s world cup — he let Messi be the creator and the scorer, and reaped the benefits from it (so did Di Maria and Higuaín) as they reached the final against Germany. Furthermore, I mentioned this before, we all saw how Sabella unleashed Mascherano at the defensive mid, position, a role that he plays better than anyone else in the entire world. Enrique needs to realize this, and allow for Messi to take a similar role at Barcelona, where he’s lucky to have better attacking talent than that on Argentina this summer. He must be the Luis Saurez pic for blogmagician, and the scorer. As far as I’m concerned, as long as Messi plays the false nine, Neymar, Saurez and Pedro are all interchangeable at the left and right wing, and attacking mid position behind the false nine and in front of Rakatic. Basquets, Xavi, Iniesta all have great experience off the bench, and the young starlet El Hadadi is also worth a bench spot to add a spark when needed… But I don’t think he will have to, if Barcelona plays as I described. Otherwise, his players, his career, and his Barcelona team, will continue to underperform. The time is now to create cohesion, especially without the ability to buy players through this, and the next transfer window… If he fails, players will continue to grab at their head… If I were on the Barca board, I’d beg Alejandro Sabella to coach the team, he got the best out of Messi and Mascherano on Argentina, and could surely do the same for Barcelona.

Do you agree with my tactical ideas for Barcelona? Please let me know in the comments section below! I’ll be sure to respond! And feel free to answer the poll question below.

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Liverpool

Why Always Me will never walk alone…

Balotelli Man City PicWhy always me? That seems to be the question, and, the answer seems to be quite simple, really – because you make everything about you. Many players in the world would never get away with the mischievous crap that Mr. Balotelli has gotten away with in his career. He’s rubbed heads with Mourinho, who at one point called him “unmanageable,” and at another point, he even described managing him as a “comedy.” Even levelheaded Roberto Mancini’s had his fair share of fights with the kid, at one point even getting into somewhat of a physical altercation with him at the Man City training ground.

That said, at Milan last year, he was quite behaved, but is he really worth the risk for Balotelli Milan Pic
a Liverpool squad that’s bought into Brendan Rodger’s team mentality? I truly don’t know. The thought of Balotelli and Sturridge playing up front together seems rather mouth watering, but are they too similar of players? Will Balotelli give up on the pitch if things aren’t going right for him or the team? Those are questions that need to be considered…

Liverpool fans are known to be some of the best fans in the world. Above all else, they truly clamor over effort and work ethic on the pitch. As long as you give 100%, you’ll win over the hearts of their fans. But, does Balotelli play every game like it’s his last? Saurez truly embodied the mentality that Liverpool fans covet and relate to, like them, he’s a blue-collar guy. Furthermore, he plays every game with a passion that not too many players have, and that sometimes even he can’t handle (as represented by his three separate biting incidents). Plus, he produced on the pitch. Saurez worked for everything that he has today, not that Balotelli hasn’t, but Mario has been pampered his entire career, unlike his Uruguayan counterpart.

Saurez Balotelli PicSince he was a youth player, Balotelli’s antics have been put up with due to two things, his immense skill, and potential. But, now that he’s hitting the age of 24, that potential should have already been realized. Here’s what I mean by that: Had he already become world class as many expected, he wouldn’t have moved around so much, or been sold to Liverpool for a measly 16 million pounds. To put that in perspective, Barcelona bought Saurez for almost quadruple that price. And there’s a reason for that – although he’s sometimes just as ill-tempered, he’s also quadruple as talented. You can disagree with me there if you like, but, I’d stubbornly defend my point. The good news for Liverpool fans is that like Balotelli, Saurez came over to Liverpool when he was only 24, and over the course of the last three years, he’s developed into a world class footballer. So, Mario could conceivably do the same. But, because players of Suarez’s calibre are so rare, it’s hard to imagine that Balotelli will end up getting any better than he already is. I suppose Rodgers and the team around him will have a lot to do with his development.

Perhaps the best thing Balotell has to look forward to at Liverpool is the opportunity to play with such a young crop of talent. Balotelli crying picHe can grow with Sturridge, Henderson, Coutinho and Sterling. He can develop both in training and on the field with them. One moment that really stuck with me, was when he cried at Euro 2012, it expressed his desire for success, and if Rodgers can take him, and influence him to a point where the energy that he exerts into his silly antics is instead inserted into his energy on the field, he could be an awesome signing.

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Arsenal FC

Arsenal should buy Di Maria

Di Maria Sanchez pic for blogCall it a long shot, but I’m going to put it out there anyway, Arsenal should buy Di Maria. I don’t care what you, or anyone else thinks, if Arsenal is going to win this year, or next, then they need to invest in talent more than once in each summer transfer window. Furthermore, his purchase would be a huge blow to every other team out there, and propel them to the next level. 

I’ve never been so excited about discussing something that probably won’t happen, but hey, excitement is best shared, right? Let me explain how much of an effect a purchase like this could have, on both Arsenal, and the entire footballing world.

1: By flexing their financial muscle one more time this summer, Arsenal not only prove to every club that they are not Arsene Wenger pic for blogto be messed with, but they also prove to all the players out there in the world that they’re in it to win it, and in doing so, become an even more desirable destination for both youth players, and world stars alike.

2, Di Maria is world class, put him on the opposite side of Sanchez, and allow Arsenal’s already incredible midfield of player makers to feed him the ball – and he’ll thrive even more than last year. Furthermore, Di Maria was unhappy at being played out of position at Real – at Arsenal, he would not only play on the left wing, but he’d be forced to take on more of a scoring role, similar to the roles Ronaldo and Bale have at his current club. At Arsenal, no longer would he be in a supporting role on the pitch, he would effectively be the main man, and main goal scorer. Plus, off the field, he would be Arsenal’s Batman, rather than Ronaldo’s Robin.

Ozil Arsenal pic for blog3: Di Maria’s talent is off the grid, he deserves more recognition. I wrote a post in the past about how ridiculous I think it is that Real seemed to have overlooked his importance to the team this past year (read that article here). Di Maria, if given more recognition, and a leadership role at Arsenal, would not only improve, but become a legend. 

4: He and Sanchez are engines – they would cause so many issues for opposing team’s defenses as their batteries never run out. And, with Ramsey (another engine) playing behind them, Arsenal would become crazy good and instantly become title contenders. Call me crazy, but Wenger could also experiment with Walcott at Striker if he purchases Di Maria. I’ve always thought Walcott would be better employed their, instead of at the wing. Plus, Ozil is familiar with Di Maria’s style of play, and getting those two back on the same pitch together would be a site for the eyes. 

5: Last but not least… why not? If you have the money, and the talent, and you’re goal is to win trophies, then why not? Furthermore, Di Maria would make the team bucket loads of money.

Anyway, as I’ve said, this transfer probably won’t happen, but, Arsenal have the funds to make it happen, and that’s what is so frustrating about it. Through purchasing Di Maria, Manchester United effectively drop out of contention for the next couple years in my opinion. The majority of Arsenal players are mid twenties, hitting their prime, Manchester United are in a rebuilding phase, and taking players of Di Maria’s calibre off the market, would really affect both rival, and football stars, as they would want to play with high profile guys like Di Maria, Ozil, and Sanchez. Let’s make this happen folks, repost this Facebook and get them to do the same, we gotta create a buzz around the idea that his transfer could actually happen!

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Arsenal FC

Community Shield Review

Ramsey Community Shield PicArsenal looked unbelievable in today’s game against Man City, unfortunately it’s a game that doesn’t mean much, especially as Manchester City didn’t play many starters. Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero weren’t suited up, and others like David Silva began the game on the bench.

The first 20 minutes were dominated by Arsenal possession, as they swung around short passes that lead to a Santi Cazorla’s goal. The one issue though, Sanogo’s skills are better suited to the counter-attack than they are in a possession-based short-pass attack. He proved this on Arsenal’s second goal, when Alexis Sanchez placed a perfect through ball to him while he was in stride, then he managed to pass the ball off to Ramsey who took a brilliant touch before finishing with class. Despite the fact that Sanogo is very young, Arsenal still do miss a good striker with the quality of an Adebayor who could make the right runs, and also hold possession of the ball. If Thierry Henry, the full package, were part of this current Arsenal team, it’d be quite interesting to see the amount of damage he could do. Arsenal could do well to purchase a striker with a bit more quality. I know it’s ironic that I say that after Giroud’s stunner, but, let’s be honest, he won’t do that often this year. If Giroud were to go down with injury, Sanogo and Joel Campbell would be the only strikers left – Sanchez is not a striker, but rather he’s a more of a right winger/forward. In other words, if Giroud were to go down with injury, it’d be ridiculous that the backup options on a top team like Arsenal would be Campbell and Sanogo. Anyway, back to today’s game…

Alexis Sanchez looked great today, he started many of Arsenal’s counter attacks, dribbling the ball from Arsenal Community Shield picwith great pace and control. Although he wasn’t always able to pick out the right passes, once he gets used to the players around him, his high quality will be on full display.

Calum Chambers looked very strong next to Koscielny, although he got beat by Dzeko on a run down the left side. He’s only 19, and will develop if he’s keen to learn from those around him. Debuchy also looked great, making runs down the right half to support the attack.

It’s quite difficult to make an assessment of Manchester City, especially as many of their starers had no part in today’s game. But, I will say that the scoreline should have, and easily could have, been a lot closer had Nasri finished a cross in the box. At full strength, today’s game would have been quite thrilling, but considering that Arsenal was playing against many backups and reserves, today’s game shouldn’t affect the way you look at either club as they enter competitive competition.

 

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Clubs, Real Madrid

Why sell an Angel?

A couple months ago I wrote an article with a poll question that asked readers who Di Maria pic for blogthey thought to be Real’s most valuable player this past year, obviously Cristiano Ronaldo won, but, Angel Di Maria ran away with second place – you can check out that article and poll question here.

Anyways, this brings me to the point of this article, and a question – why in the world is Angel Di Maria so undervalued by Real Madrid? I angrily ask this question because I think he’s been so integral to Real’s success this year. Not only did his run against Atletico set up Gareth Bale’s game winning header in the Champions Cup final, but, Di Maria also proved invaluable to the successes of Argentina at this past summer’s World Cup. He’s truly been solid all year, and I think he deserves much more respect and praise than he’s been given.

Di Maria and RonaldoFurthermore, why would Real sell a player that Cristiano told them to keep last summer? Clearly then, Ronaldo knew of how talented Di Maria was then, and that he could blossom even more over this past year…. It seems ridiculous that Real would sell him after such great form last year. When assessing Real’s transfers this past summer, I’m of the opinion that Di Maria is far more talented than James Rodríguez. I understand that James performed well at the World Cup, but I don’t believe that that merits Di Maria’s starting role. While I do think that it would be terrible for James not to start for Real this year, I also think that if I had to make a choice between Di Maria and James, I would pick Di Maria in a heartbeat, especially as he’s already used to King Carlo’s system of play.

With that said, if Real do sell him to PSG or Man United, and they don’t have a great campaign this year, Real’s management will take more slack than they would if they decided not to sell him. Moreover, I find it truly bothersome when the forces that be (management) take something that works, and try to make it better; in the footballing world management should adhere to this one old adage,  if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (or attempt to make it better)…

But back to Di Maria… His importance goes way beyond just his talent… He’s proven Messi and Di Mariahis ability to play well with the two best players in the world, with Ronaldo on Real, and Messi on Argentina. And, more importantly, he’s won their respect – which is an extremely difficult thing to do considering their God-like standard of play. The footballing gods that they are, have played well with their Angel, and Real’s management need to respect him more than they are by squashing transfer rumors and not even letting them begin.

From Di Maria’s perspective, I understand his desire to leave Real… I would also want to leave if my club’s management didn’t appreciate my efforts. Plus, considering that he’s at the pinnacle of his career, it’d make sense for him financially to make a big money move to a club like PSG and cash out… especially as his salary isn’t even remotely close to that of Gareth Bale’s.. Di Maria makes 3 million euros to Bale’s annual haul of 10 million… Which to me seem very ridiculous.

In review, it makes sense for Di Maria to want to leave, but, it doesn’t make sense for Real to want to sell him. Let me know in the comments section if you agree with my assessments or not!

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Clubs, Real Madrid

James Rodríguez will work well with Ronaldo, and be a huge success

James Rodríguez is an interesting signing for Real Madrid, he’s a playmaker – as proven by his time at Monoco, James Rodríguez pic for blogand he’s also a goal scorer – as proven by his World Cup performances. It’s difficult to assess where a player like him fits on a Real team with multiple playmakers… they just purchased Kroos, they already have Modric and Isco, and Di Maria for all intents and purposes plays an attacking playmaker role behind Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo. So where does a player like James Rodríguez fit in?

To answer that question let’s first assess the situation from Rodríguez’s perspective/point of view: after a world cup performance like his, he deserves not only a big money transfer (which he got), but also to start for the team that bought him. His mouth is probably watering at the prospect of playing with Real’s world class stars. He knows as well as anyone that this team is Ronaldo’s, and not his. He knows he must be humble, and work hard as he a smart young kid. But, in knowing that, he’s also aware that he will not have the limelight centered on him in the same way that it was at the World Cup (and for a very long time).

James Rodríguez pic 2 for blogFrom my perspective, James Rodríguez is not the kind of player that is going to get better sitting on the Real Madrid bench – he has a lot of potential to improve, but only through playing with his teammates and growing with them. Right now, he is only 23 years of age, he needs to be in the starting 11 to get a feel for his teammates and learn how they work around him on the pitch, and he must adjust to their movements and not the other way around: He is joining a team that found a lot of success last year, his job will be to figure out how he fits into Real’s current playing style; when Ronaldo transferred over to Real, the team was set with the objective to fit around him – this will not be the case for Rodríguez, as he will be left using his own ingenuity and smarts to gain respect on the pitch from his teammates.

Continuing on the above points: James Rodríguez can and will succeed at Real, but only if he starts immediatelyJames Rodríguez crying pic for blog – He knows as well as anyone that this Real Madrid squad is not his team, but that it’s Ronaldo’s, and considering his awareness of this situation (and his talent, I’m sure he can adjust to playing with him, and the rest of the squad). James is undoubtedly in one of the best situations ever, especially being that the talent surrounding him is at an extremely high – they will give him an opportunity to play well, but he can’t be content with a role off the bench, and I don’t think he would be… Rodríguez, like Ronaldo, is a competitor, sure he just received a massive paycheck to play for Real, but clearly that’s not what drives him to win.

Ronaldo crying pic for blogHe will find success because he plays with a heart and a desire similar to Ronaldo. I think that it’s a genuine display of drive, heart, and also a love for the sport when players cry. It’s a sign of how much the competition means to them – James cried at this past summer’s world cup, just as Ronaldo did back at Euro 2004 after being knocked out. Both of these players will learn to respect one another through their competitive natures and ultimately through this, James will be a great success at Real – but he must start!

I don’t know where he will start, but I only see Di Maria’s current role as a great fit for him. I suppose we’ll see how King Ancelotti figures him into his plans. For Ancelotti, it can’t hurt having so many insanely talented players… Unless, of course, you lose many competitions with them…

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