pic of the week 9/2-9/8


Marseille manager Marcelo Bielsa

Long before he took the manager’s job at Olympique de Marseille, Marcelo Bielsa has always been a man who has spoken his mind. And given his track record of success, he’s entitled to. But sometimes, the man nicknamed “El Loco” — the “crazy one” in English — says a lot more than what his club would prefer. So after the transfer window didn’t go quite to his liking, Bielsa felt it was time to unleash a tirade on club president Vincent Labrune at a recent press conference. And the face of the club press secretary, seen in the background, during said tirade is priceless.

However, after a rough start to life at the Stade Veledrome, El Loco has righted the ship and currently has the French giants sitting fourth in the table after two straight wins. So odds are, they’ll tolerate his little outburst… for now.

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ten words or less #81

torres fans can take comfort in knowing fernando’s cat-like scratch of vertonghen’s face wasn’t viewed as ridiculous as luis suarez’s bite.

I don’t know if anyone else is feeling this way, but my cup runneth over with football at the moment. I already felt like my cup was full with the increased availability of Premier League coverage this season, but that’s feeling even more full given that the Capital One Cup and European midweek fixtures regularly on the calendar again. The MLS season has reached crunch time, providing a myriad of playoff races to and storylines satisfy one’s needs. And don’t forget: another round of World Cup qualifiers is just a fortnight away, too.

So with my attention span being pulled in a thousand directions at the moment, it’s been a bit difficult to crack out full-length pieces. But worry not, I’ve got you covered with the eighty-first edition of Ten Words or Less. And if I do say so, this one has some delectable links. Also, be on the look out for Episode 8 of the WSOTP Pod to drop later this afternoon, too. Though with both posts hitting you in short order, you might feel like your cup is running over too.

United fan marrying into City family trolls with his toast. – youtube.com

Dunny provides insight into how Generation Adidas got it’s start.
– theoriginalwinger.com

Spurs-Chelsea last weekend was a tactician’s dreamworld. – zonalmarking.com

Hey Geoff Cameron: less about you, more about the team. – espnfc.com

Would you eat — or pay $40.58 for — a Zlatan Burger? – guardian.co.uk

I back academies, but there are decent arguments against them. – latimes.com

For no other reason than tweaked nostalgia, I need these. – hypebeast.com

I’m no El Tri fan, but I dig me some Jorge Campos. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Great insight on year one of the MLS-USL partnership. – philly.com

This seems way more like something Sterling would do. – fanatix.com

pic of the week 7/22-7/28


Zlatan Ibrahimovic Bikini

When you are The Zlatan, you do what you want, anywhere you want. He’s pretty well proven that with his willingness to kick teammates all around Europe. And if The Zlatan wants to prance about in a “mankini” after a 0-1 preseason friendly loss against Real Madrid in his native Sweden, then you better believe he’s going to do it.

Why exactly did The Zlatan choose to strip down to what Who Ate All the Pies described as an “ultra masculine bikini”? I doubt it was so hot in Solna that it was necessary to ditch one’s shirt and shorts after the match. Maybe players swapping shorts these days too, and I’ve just not caught on to the trend. Or perhaps he’s worked out a Bendtner-Paddypower-esque deal with GPSports to help get their name out into the marketplace.

You know, on second thought, it’s probably best not to delve into the murky world that is Ibrahimović’s decision making and just let him do what he wants.

ten words or less #74

we check back in with dribble 4 toledo, who now find themselves in paulding, ohio.

we check back in with dribble 4 toledo, who now find themselves in sherwood, ohio.

It seems like everyone is hitting the road these days. Premier League clubs are playing one another in Yankee Stadium. Or how about Neyamar, who’s packing his bags and leaving Brazil for greener (potentially) pastures in Barcelona. Better yet, remember the guys I wrote about back in early February? You know, the band of four dudes from my hometown who were making an epic trip across the state with only a soccer ball at their feet and the goal of raising money and awareness for the poor of Toledo in their minds?

Well at the close of the ninth day of Dribble4Toledo‘s 250 mile route, I’m happy to report the guys already find themselves well over halfway through their journey from Monroe to Toledo. Along the way, they’ve had some interesting detours along the route, so be sure to check out their Facebook page to chart their progress and see what they’re getting themselves into. And congrats and safe travels again to the boys as they continue their path across Ohio!

And to keep the trend going, I’ll also be hitting the road this week… albeit in significantly more lazy fashion, as I’ll be in a car and not hoofing it like the boys from D4T. First, I’ll be heading North to watch the US Men as they take on a Spurs-rich Belgium side in Cleveland. Then at the weekend, I’ll be sliding over to Chicago’s Toyota Park to watch the Fire battle DC United and kick off the next big project here at WSOTP. All told, it will be over a 1000 miles worth of driving just so I can fill these pages with content and keep your prying eyes coming back for more. Don’t worry, you can thank me later.

In the mean time, enjoy these excellent links from around the interwebs.

NYCFC’s logo won’t look like this; and that’s a shame. – mwillis.com

A brilliant breakdown of the reasons behind Falcao to Monaco. – reddit.com/u/nikcub

But will Monaco even be allowed to play in France? – guardian.co.uk

Neymar will either prove he belongs or crash and burn. – espnfc.com

The end of a beautiful friendship: Cosmos switch to Nike. – footballshirtculture.com

Trying to get into the Champions League Final… for free.
- supportersnotcustomers.com

Americanisms vs Britishisms. Funny thing: there is no right answer. – bbc.co.uk

Cesc on a mission to play for everyone I hate. – foxsports.com

This one is for mi amiga colombiana… crazy Colombian hair! – thebeautifulgear.com

Everton redesign their kit: fans hate it. Club’s response: surprising. – evertonfc.com

pic of the week 4/15-4/21


Beckham's kids at PSG training

Short of the (future) children of the royals, Brooklyn, Cruz and Romeo Beckham (L-R) are most likely the most famous children in England along with their sister Harper. And given their parents’ fame, it’s not so infrequent that the little rascals show up in the news. But are Beckham’s kids really so important that they should get to buzz about a PSG training session and have kick abouts with some of Europe’s most elite footballers? Come to think of it, the little bastards also took the pitch in LA and Madrid, too. Does David make sure there’s a provision in his contracts where his kids can enter the field of play at any time they please?

Now maybe I haven’t been to enough professional level training sessions; maybe it’s pretty normal to see the players’ offspring wandering around the grounds. And it’s possible that I’m just slightly jealous of the access given to Golden Balls’ progeny. But that doesn’t change the fact that it seems just a little unsafe to have your children anywhere near so close to the Zlatan.

This week’s “Pic of the Week” brought to you by… privilege.

pic of the week 3/18-3/24


David Beckham and his underwear

Yo dawg… I heard you like David Beckham’s new underwear, so we put Beckham in with a bunch of Beckham’s underwear so you can help him earn more money while giving him your money.

Sorry, I had to.

Though I was tempted to use a picture from Friday’s epic battle in the snow in Denver, I’ve already devoted an entire gallery post on the US Mens National Team’s now-protested victory over Costa Rica. No need for overkill there. So instead we get a shot of Golden Balls at an unveiling of his new H&M underwear line in Berlin. He even signed underwear at the event, so his fans could have even more David Beckham in their David Beckham underwear. Xzibit, no doubt, approves. How this guy has time to promote his underpants in Germany, slip and fall on his ass while in China as their “Global Football Ambassador” and play for PSG — all in one week — is a bit beyond me.

crisis management

Chelsea Fans Want Rafa Out

if you’ve only been in the job for a few days, and fans are already holding up signs like these… you might just find yourself in a managerial crisis.

The midpoint of the European season is often one of the most jam-packed, chaotic and turbulent portions of the yearly footballing calendar. Between the January transfer window, scheduling congestion between all of the major competitions — especially in England where there is not a winter break — and under performing clubs starting to realize that there’s hardly any time to left in the season to really turn their seasons around, the pressure mounting on some clubs and their managers often reaches a fever pitch.

Of course, the media love this time of year for just those reasons. It allows them the ability to not only fabricate report on stories concerning transfer speculation, but also pounce all over clubs who’s managers they feel aren’t able to control the crisis currently enveloping their clubs. Determining whether the agendas those media types are pushing are genuinely those of club’s or their fans’, however, can be a very difficult task. How are we, as media consumers, supposed to really know what’s going on?

Well, we can’t. But it sure can be fun to speculate. So with that in mind, below are listed five managers that the media have deemed to be currently in the hot seat at their respective clubs. For each, we’ll attempt to sift through all of the BS surrounding their situations, and predict a fate for each of these under pressure managers.

Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

Arsenal's Arsene Wenger

wenger certainly won’t ever admit he’s feeling the pressure, but i think we can all tell he is.

The Situation: Of all the managers that the media are reporting to be in troubled situations at their clubs, as a Spurs supporter, Wenger’s crisis is the one in which I take the most joy. And though the “Professor” has been able to perform admirably on his shoestring transfer budget over the last few years, eight years without a major trophy appears to have rubbed the Gunners’ faithful the wrong way. Sure, sporadic calls for his head echoed around the Emirates in recent seasons, but those calls have grown louder and louder as time has worn on. With just one win in their last four, the discontent within their ranks finally boiled over in last weekend’s loss to Swansea with chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing!” audible even through the television. Wenger’s response? Despite languishing all the way down in 10th in the league table: “This club is in fantastic shape.” Delusional, much?

Crisis Level: 4 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: Despite the malcontent amongst their fans, Arsenal will at least stick with Wenger through the end of the year. Probably longer. Because while the fans are in an uproar, the club’s administration are perfectly content to keep selling off their best players and turning a profit… with or without trophies.

Carlo Ancelotti (Paris Saint-Germain)

“wait, you say that i am the one under pressure?”

The Situation: Despite outspending everyone in France by a country mile over the last few seasons, PSG and Ancelotti currently find themselves sitting second in the Ligue 1 table and facing mounting pressure. Big money signing and footballing anti-hero Zlatan Imbrahimović has come good for the Parisians, but the fact that he accounts for an astounding 54% of their goal tally in the league is immensely troubling for a side that also boasts attacking talents like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Maxwell and Javier Pastore. But as you might predict, Carlo has barely arched his super brow at the issue. “Things are going to change, because they’re not normal right now. The league isn’t finished. We’ll be competitive soon.”

Crisis Level: 5 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: With an ownership group that’s proven quick to pull the trigger on firing a coach (just ask Antoine Kombouaré), and oodles of money to attract a top manager, Ancelotti shouldn’t feel that comfortable at the moment. If results remain stagnant, expect PSG to make a change.

Martin O’Neill (Sunderland)

Sunderland's Martin O'Neill

considering his sunderland side’s current form, martin is justified in having that nervous look on his face

The Situation: For a man known for getting the most out of clubs without a lot of financial backing, O’Neill hasn’t been able to reproduce his successes at Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light. And with one less win in his first 24 matches in charge than his predecessor Steve Bruce had in the same span, not to mention the Black Cats currently sitting in the relegation zone, pressure must surely be mounting for the club to dispatch Northern Irishman. With just one win in their last 10 outings, time could be running out for O’Neill to save his hide. And a general rule of thumb is that any time you have to refute rumors of your own resignation, things aren’t going very well for you.

Crisis Level: 8 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: Sunderland’s ownership find themselves in a precarious situation: while O’Neill isn’t producing the desired results, who exactly are they going to replace him with? There aren’t exactly a number of managers in the market that have experience in rescuing clubs embroiled in relegation scraps. Mark Hughes is available, but he seems more apt to placing clubs in relegation battles than he is at getting clubs out of them. I’d doubt they would fancy another round of Roy Keane. And unfortunately, Roberto Di Matteo seems out of their reach. So with options limited, it seems Sunderland might just be stuck with O’Neill for the time being.

José Mourinho (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho

is mourinho feeling madrid burnout?

The Situation: The Bernabéu is a tough office environment, even for a manager known for his mental fortitude like the Special One. Not only are Real Madrid’s fans fickle and demanding, but the club’s history tells us their board and presidents are too. If you thought sacking managers after winning the Champions League was something invented by Roman Abramovich, Real were at it a decade before the revolving door was installed at Stamford Bridge. And with José’s men already 11 points adrift of bitter rivals Barcelona, pressure is mounting on the Portuguese manager’s shoulders.

Crisis Level: 4 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: While winning the league and maintaining pace with their Catalunyan foes is important, the reason why Mourinho was brought it was to help Madrid win their long-sought 10th European crown. And while doing so would most certainly save his job, the odd thing is that he’s likely to leave even if he does win his third European Cup… on his own accord. Just as he did at Porto and Inter, José would probably fancy going out on top. But should he not achieve that goal, he’ll probably abort this project and move on to another, too.

Rafa Benítez (Chelsea)

Chelsea's Rafa Benitez

one look at rafa’s face, and you can tell he knows his days at chelsea are numbered.

The Situation: I saw a quote the other day describing the managerial situation at Chelsea that was pretty interesting. Five managers have won the Champions League in the last six years: Chelsea have fired three of them (Mourinho, Ancelotti and Di Matteo), and the other two (Ferguson and Guardiola) don’t want to manager for them. Benítez, a man who’s won one himself, had to have known that going in, right? And he also had to have known that the Chelsea fans hated him. And with this expensively assembled Chelsea side struggling to handle the high expectations being placed on them, Rafa had to have known the timing was bad, too. I get that a man may like a challenge, but at the same time, taking over the reigns at this point in Chelsea’s chaotic history seemed more like a suicide mission.

Crisis Level: 7 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: This one is the easiest outcome to predict by a landslide. Abramovich will fire Benítez. When that will happen is little less easy to predict, but knowing how fickle and trigger happy their Russian oligarch is, another loss for the Blues could just do the trick. But let’s be clear… it is going to happen. Just give it time.

new york, prepare for a french invasion

Normally when you hear about the French invading New York, many will quickly think of the masses of designers that descend upon the Big Apple for the city’s ritzy Fashion Week. If you’re not a fashionista and rather a historian, you might be thinking about the French and Indian War of the 1750’s — though those occurred in the upstate regions rather than within the city itself. If neither of those came to mind, it’s possible you were thinking about the weird flash-mob picnic, called the Dîner en Blanc, that popped up in NYC last August.

French Trophee Des Champions 2012

unlike your average european club game played in the states, this one will actually count for something.

But to be honest, none of those are events that this blog is really that interested in. So why then am I talking about the French invading New York? Well this summer, French football will be invading New York… well at least Harrison, New Jersey. Close enough, right?

For the first time ever, a competitive French professional soccer match will be played in the United States. The Trophée des Champions — the French cousin to England’s Charity Shield or Spain’s Supercopa — will be hosted at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, July 28th, 2012. It just so happens to be the first major silverware awarded in the French season, so it’s kind of a big deal. And since this is the fist time it’s been held outside of a predominantly French-speaking city, much is being made of the momentous occasion.

So what French sides will be leading the invasion? Facing off in the match will be last year’s Cinderella Ligue 1 champions, Montpellier HSC, who be squaring off against perennial power and Coupe de France winners, Olympique Lyonnais.

Montpellier will be lead by star names such as their captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, French international Olivier Giroud, and Moroccan hot-shot Younes Belhanda… assuming none of them are eventually sold between now and then. Fresh off the best season in club history, La Paillade will be fighting tooth over the summer and nail to hold on to the youngsters that helped them lift their first ever Ligue 1 title.

Meanwhile, Lyon are hoping to bounce back from what they would consider to be a lousy 2012/12 campaign. Having finished fourth, their lowest finish since the 1997/98 season, Les Gones were spared further embarrassment when they barely nicked third-tier, semi-pro Quevilly in the Coupe Final 1-0. Lyon’s gauntlet of stars will include French internationals Hugo Lloris and Yoann Gourcuff, as well as internationals such as Brazil’s Michel Bastos and Argentina’s Lisandro López.

Napoleon at Red Bull Arena

how the french plan to storm the harrison, nj, stronghold is still yet to be determined. but i wouldn’t be surprised if it involved a short man on a horse.

Who’s going to win? Assuming they will cash in on some of the more lauded assests, I’m guessing a depleted Montpellier side will struggle against a hungry Lyon outfit looking to redeem themselves. But as with everything in football, anything is possible bigger surprises have happened.

Regardless the outcome, opportunities to watch a European match stateside that actually mean something are few and far between. And if you want to seize the opportunity and are interested in joining the French invasion in late July, be sure to peep TDC-NYC.com for tickets and additional info.

And for a limited time, you can also enter to win FREE tickets to the match. Navigate your browser to the match link in the paragraph above for a chance to win 2 club seats, an all-Inclusive food and beverage package and 2 mini Adidas game balls!

wrong side XI: left mid

this is part X in the “wrong side XI” series, where i’ll be selecting my very own starting eleven, assuming of course that i could choose any player from any team in the world. you can read the rules i’ll be following to make my team selection, and what formation i’ll be squeezing them into, on the first post in the series.

Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Juan Mata

my shortlist for left mid compiles players from all over the world: argentina, wales, belgium, portugal and spain.

At long last… we finally reach the front three of my hypothetical team. It’s been a long time coming, considering that this series was originally intended to wrap up prior to the end of Summer 2011. And while I’ve spent roughly the last 10 months (occasionally) working on this project, debating relatively boring positions, we’ve now crossed the threshold into the so-called “glamour” positions.

Whether you want to call this player a forward, an outside midfielder, or a winger, he’s almost exclusively an attacking player. Sure, my formation defines this position as one of the five in the 4-5-1. But in practice, it’s a position that behaves much more like one of the forward three in a 4-3-3.

In general, I expect these players to attempt to receive the ball high and wide on the touchline. From there, they can do what they like: drive further forward on the flank, cut into the middle, or drive in a cross. In fact, I expect a large majority of my attacks to funnel through the left or right mid’s feet as I would instruct my players to look to the wings as option #1. Defensively, I just want them to high pressure when the ball is near, and track back whenever the other side breaks.

The job of picking this player, as you might expect, isn’t very easy. The primary reason for this is the cornucopia of wide attacking players that I enjoy watching. The second is because many modern wingers are becoming more and more ambidextrous in their wing of preference. But I’ve got a good set of contenders in mind that I doubt many would argue with… jump past the break to see if you would or not.

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cantona: the people’s champion?

Eric Cantona’s recent announcement that he would be running in next year’s French presidential elections didn’t even cause me to raise an eyebrow in Ancelotti-esque fashion. When it was stated just a day later that his announcement was nothing more than a ruse to get actual candidates to pay attention to his push for better housing for the poor, I was even less surprised.

eric cantona throne

would you elect this man to lead your country?

The moves were textbook Cantona: unpredictably predictable.

Whether it be from decades of grilling by the media, or from years of shelling product for Nike / Umbro / the Cosmos, the often polarizing Frenchman has picked up a good deal of media savy. And he knows how to use it for his unpredictable bidding. His announcement was a perfectly timed way to get the political punditry, candidates and general populace all at least discussing his pet cause. Shrewd work, however you look at the announcements.

But the more I think about it, the more I think that the former football bad boy could present an intriguing option in today’s tumultuous European political climate. Assuming, of course, that he really was to making a run at the French presidency.

Now let’s get one thing straight before we get too far into this: I am by no means any sort of political analyst. While I have a passing interest in politics, I’m hardly familiar enough with the Europe’s political happenings to comment on who is or isn’t most prepared and well-suited for running one of the world’s most influential countries. And if you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you know that I rarely know what I’m talking about regarding football… so take everything below with a Napoleon-sized grain of salt.

But don’t discount Cantona as a viable “hypothetical” candidate just because of my political naivety.

The most common complaint that sprang up in the aftermath of the announcement was that King Eric’s celebrity status was the only reason he could even enter the discussion in the first place. “Everyone knows celebrities don’t make politicians.” Unfortunately, that’s a pretty weak argument. Plenty of celebrity figures with little experience in public office have been able to find their ways to seats of power. I mean if Arnold Schwarzenegger — a body-building, Austrian immigrant turned movie star who’s lines were often limited in complexity to make them easier for him to say — was able to run the world’s eighth largest economy decently enough, there’s no reason to believe that a footballer couldn’t do the same. Hell, there’s plenty of precedent to make that claim as well.

The man best known for netting 64 goals for Manchester United, popped collars, and kung-fu kicking a fan during a match is — as mentioned earlier — also rather well known for his spontaneity. While many star players from yesteryear tend to take a career in football management, move into the punditry, or just fade into obscurity, Cantona chose a path slightly different… acting.

Though none of his performances have garnered any sort of critical acclaim, the career move has gone a long way to endearing him to a wider audience. Which is obviously crucial for anyone attempting a run at the presidency, as football fans alone cannot a president make.

So aside from a growing fan base, what is it about Cantona that has convinced me that he could be a candidate at least worthy of consideration? The issues, of course.

pete mckee's "why Cantona would make a good President"

cartoonist pete mckee hit the nail on the head with his assessment of cantona's strength in france's upcomming elections.

One of the biggest issues plaguing France at the moment is the backlash against the supposed erosion of French culture by means of immigration. The country has spent the better part of the last decade attempting to figure out assimilate the masses of immigrants into French culture, instead of having the varying cultures slowly erode the country’s proud national identity. The issue is pervasive across French society. You might recall the French national team’s controversial “policy” that aimed at limiting the number of dual-nationality African players being drafted into France squads in favor of increasing “traditional French” players.

Who better to lead a country caught in this battle than a mad who embodies both characteristics? Cantona’s heritage — his mother’s family is from Catalonia, while his father’s from Sardinia — makes him the ideal spokesman for dealing with the integration issue.

His family’s immigrant background would not only gain him the support of France’s growing immigrant population, but also to better understand their needs better than someone stemming from the bourgeoisie. Perhaps Eric’s efforts to bring better housing to the poor are rooted in his family’s meager roots: his stonemason grandfather and father carved their home into a Marseille hillside around the freaking cave in which they had been living.

Likewise, Cantona being a second-generation Frenchman means he seems like a “normal” Frenchman… or at least one traditional enough to appeal to the “normal” French people. He looks French, if nothing else.

Next year’s French presidential elections won’t just focus on the country’s racial tensions, though. While that will surely play it’s part during the course of the campaign, the biggest issue will undoubtedly be the economic crisis that’s currently plaguing the European Union. And surprisingly, Eric seems like the perfect candidate to tie France’s socio-economic classes together on this front, too.

I mentioned earlier that he’s already championing efforts for the poor, and that his family’s former days in the cave-dwelling lower class, so he’s got the plebian vote accounted for. And because of his middle-class upbringing in and around the 1981 global recession, he’ll understand how Europe’s economic downturn is affecting today’s stagnant and struggling middle class. He’s also rich: works-on-three-continents rich. And there’s nobody that rich people trust more than other rich people. Generalizations? Sure, but Cantona’s economic bridging at least smells like a classic Michael Scott “Win-Win-Win” scenario.

Issues aside, there are a number of other reasons that would make Eric Cantona a quality French presidential candidate. His self-professed love of philosophy and poetry mean that he’s — if nothing else attempting to be — some sort of an intellectual, a growing rarity in today’s political sphere. He’s also not afraid to say whatever he wants, as is evident by his one sentence, historically cryptic response to the press after he kicked the Crystal Palace fan:

“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”


cantona kung-fu

if king eric were to run for president, any political opponents might want to watch what they say about him.

Anyone ballsy enough to deliver that kind of gibberish to a room full of journalists has more than enough personality and mental toughness to handle running a country. Not to mention that he’d be just as likely to harpoon one of his political foes as he did to Palace fan Matthew  Simmons in 1995.

Not that any of these quality reasons are of any importance anyway, since Cantona’s team has already announced he’s not actually running. I hesitate to even venture a guess at what kind of cockamamie initiatives he would have dreamed up on which he would have run his campaign platform. Whether he could have gotten enough people to take those ideas seriously is another matter all together.

Would I vote for Cantona? It’s kind of a moot question, seeing as how I lack any sort of French citizenship. But if only we could find a way for him to get on the US presidential ballot — I’m just playing a red devil‘s advocate here — that might just get my vote.

I mean, Cantona 2012 can’t be any worse than any of our other options anyway, right?