With January now upon us, you have probably heard something about the “transfer window”. And if you’re new to the sport, then you might be asking yourself what exactly that is. We here at Wrong Side of the Pond want to help. Below you’ll find sample excerpts from our own “Transfer Windows for DUMMMIES” to help make things at least a little bit easier for you to understand.
With the 2014 MLS season now in the rearview mirror, we could forgive you if you thought this week’s Pondcast would be on the light side. It’s not. An interesting weekend of Premier League fixtures kept D.J. and Jeremy extra busy, as did the conclusion of the Champions League group stages and an already hectic MLS offseason. There was also a need to chat about some potentially earth moving news that was revealed by our pal Chad from Reckless Challenge, and a serious rant against one notorious member of the American soccer community that spawned against it in our Winners & Wankers segment. And of course we made time for Fulham Watch and a few listener questions.
Should you desire to hear your question or topic covered on next week’s pod — and why wouldn’t you? — send it our way via email to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or hit us up on the social media links on the bottom of the page. Just make sure to get it to us by this coming Sunday.
The weekend is upon us, and the football will be coming thick and fast. Tomorrow morning we kick things off with a little Liverpool v Chelsea treat and the weekend is capped off off with some MLS Playoff action. And somehow, someway, I have to manage a way to watch as much of it as possible and NOT have my wife divorce me. I just keep reminding her we’re only a few weeks away from the end of the MLS season, and that seems to be working… for now, at least.
Also, a huge FYI. That official WSOTP scarf pictured above that still remains on pre-order? Yeah, we’re dropping the price. They’re now just $18. That’s two whole dollars we’ve lumped off the cost to encourage you to buy one. (If you ordered one earlier, worry not, you’ll be getting some money back.) We’ve also added an options for picking up the scarf from me personally so you don’t have to pay for shipping. And for those who have been concerned that WSOTP is getting rich off of your purchases, all profits go right back into the site — hosting, domain registration, and podcasting equipment isn’t free and has come directly out of my pocket for the last 5 years. So your moneys will be utilized to continue bringing you the wonderful content you’ve come to know and love. Plus it’s getting cold out again, and we want you to stay warm. So click here to buy one, please!
Once your done with that, feel free to check out some of my favorite links from around the interwebz from the last week and a half.
Puma had to choose a specific zipper just for Wenger. – youtube.com
So how did we end up with LAFC? – si.com
How did I not know this academy existed? – businessweek.com
Want proof that FIFA and Russia are in cahoots? – reuters.com
So African players are just a commodity? Got it. – soccergods.com
Gary Neville and I agree: defending is dead. – telegraph.co.uk
A magnificent piece of writing on Manaus’ World Cup. – deadspin.com/howler.com
Now contemplating auctioning my daughter’s support to the highest bidder. – whoateallthepies.tv
This week’s episode is something of a surprise milestone for the WSOTP Podcast — this is our 50th overall episode! Since neither D.J. or Jeremy remembered that fact until they sat down to record Sunday night, we don’t have anything too special planned for the occasion. Luckily, we get to celebrate by talking about the epic Wenger-Mourinho bout at Stamford Bridge, Spurs getting back on track against Southampton, and Champions League updates. Domestically, we’ll be talking about the intense MLS playoff races in both conferences, the MVP and Coach of the Year debates, Chivas USA’s shuttering/contraction and more Red Bulls drama. You’ll also get your normal weekly installments of Fulham Watch cataloging their plight in the Championship and the guy’s Winners & Wankers from the past seven days. That’s a feast for your ears if you ask me
Also, don’t forget to send us your topics and questions for next week’s podcast, either via an email to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or tweeting us or writing on our Facebook wall using the links at the bottom of the page.
The much loved — and maligned — summer transfer window will be slamming shut over the weekend, which means we’ll see a bevy of rumors either materialize into reality or fail to come to fruition. And for that reason, supporters around the globe will either be praising the arrivals of new saviors or end up cursing the chairmen for their supposedly penny-pinching ways. Rule number one over the next few days: don’t believe everything you read. Or at bare minimum, be sure to take them with a sizable grain of salt.
So with all of the stress that’s sure to come to pass over the next few days, I’m going to do my best to avoid transfer stories in this latest links round up. Keen observers will notice I did slip one in there, though we can blame its presence on me opting to take a dig at my favorite club’s rival supporters.
In the madness, dont’ forget that there’s also a full slate of European and domestic action on the docket this weekend, too. So there should be more than enough to distract you from dealings of your favorite club.
Sitting in the wrong section requires tremendous restraint. – telegraph.co.uk
My favorite ‘Jermaine Jones to MLS Saga’ reaction. – hottimeinoldtown.com
Chris Rolfe needs to join the FFA. – washingtonpost.com
A ranking of every generation of Nike’s Mercurial line. – sneakerreport.com
Puma learns a lesson in internet trolling. – eveningstandard.co.uk
Without a shadow of a doubt, mid-February has to be one of my favorite portions of the entire footballing calendar. The major European leagues are entering the home stretch of their seasons, with the races for final league places really heating up. The Champions League knockout stages have kicked off, presenting us with loads of truly world class football to admire. Add in a sprinkling of World Cup qualifiers here and there, and factor in that MLS First Kick is just around the corner, and you can start to understand why I’m so infatuated with a month normally hated by most American fans.
But with so much soccer to take in, my very A.D.D. brain often has a hard time digesting it all. Which means my efforts to pump out full-length postings becomes infinitely harder. I’ve probably started a dozen new drafts in the last week; my guess is only around a third of those will end up seeing the light of day.
So while I strain out the garbage and identify the gold in my writings, I present you with a sampling of my favorite links from the last week. Bon appétit.
How “what could have been” in Manchester was derailed. – inbedwithmaradona.com
Jorge Campos-inspired posters remind me of the 90’s. – behance.com
For a few Nigerian prostitutes, it’s time to pay up. – dirtytackle.net
This Genoa centenary shit just exudes retro awesome. – footballshirtculture.com
Screw? Loose. Other shoe? Waiting to drop. – guardian.co.uk
Just five minutes playing in Turkey… Drogba gonna Drog. – youtube.com
See: Move to capitalize on Indian market exposure. – nikebiz.com
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
We’ve finally made it to the half century mark for my TWOL series. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure if I should be celebrating that milestone, seeing as how the series exists simply because I’m a blogger who is too lazy to write his own original content all the time.
Admittedly, I’ve been a bit stretched lately due to an increased workload in my real world job, and moonlighting as a guest blogger on some other sites. But that’s no reason to ignore this space, so my deepest apologies if you’re feeling neglected. I do have some pretty interesting original content in the pipeline for you… though the ten links below will have to suffice as I continue to fine tune the new posts for the limelight.
See WSOTP (#11) on The Football Attic’s “League of Blogs”. – thefootballattic.com
We need this in the U.S. far more than the UK. – soccerlens.com
Why MLS should avoid foreigners with a long wrap sheet. – soccerbyives.com
Real builds $1b resort, removes logo’s cross to appease locals. – dirtytackle.net
Your side can’t score? Remind them where the goal is. – 101greatgoals.com
For nerds only: Kit Supplier statistics from around Europe. – sportundmarkt.com
(warning: PDF download link)
Ronaldo vs Nadal: part of me wishes this was real. – youtube.com/NikeFootball
If you were to ask any knowledgeable US Men’s National Team fan who they think the next “big thing” is for the national team, there’s a pretty good chance their response will be a young man by the name of Brek Shea.
The lanky, bleach blond winger has been one of the few bright spots in Jürgen Klinsmann’s short tenure at the helm of the USMNT. Shea has logged consistently solid performances for both club and country this season, and consequently, he’s received the lions share of the recent fan and media attention that had previously been reserved for Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore. Rumor is he’s even being tracked by some of Europe’s big boys.
For the most part, I’ve jumped on Shea’s bandwagon too. He’s quick for a kid of his size and strength, and is capable of taking part in an intelligent build up and executing the crafty flick here and there. He can play anywhere on the left flank, and seems to relish having the ball at his feel while he makes (sometimes overly) confident runs at defenders. His combination of speed, size and skill have even seen him go as far as to be labeled as the “American Gareth Bale” by at least one overly zealous writer. That said, he’s still a rough product that needs some development to unleash all of his potential.
But Brek’s potential is still considered of high enough quality to open up some doors this MLS off-season. At the urging of the Jürgs, the next “it” thing in US soccer has landed himself an enticing opportunity: a month-long training stint under the tutelage of Arsène Wenger at Arsenal.
As you could probably guess, this is a really good thing for Shea, MLS and US Soccer. First and foremost, Wenger is famous for his ability to bring out the best in young, talented players. Brek will almost certainly improve in small space situations through the training (after all, this is Arsenal we’re talking about), and hopefully he’ll gain some valuable insight by picking the brains of the Gunners’ big name stars.
Whether a month is enough time for the Frenchman to make a drastic impact on his development remains questionable, but he’ll still undoubtedly benefit from the drastically more competitive/intense training environment present at the Arsenal’s Colney training complex. Even greater dividends could be paid if he’s able to get the nod in a reserve match or two.
So while I’m elated for the guy, I can’t help but wonder why it was Arsenal where Shea landed. Yes, Arsenal are a “big” club with “top” players that looks nice on a press release. Yes, their manager is renown for unearthing diamonds in the rough. And yes, I know he’s going to get excellent training with the Gunners.
But, for those who do claim that Shea is the American version of Bale — a comparison I find a bit overblown for a number of reasons — where he’ll bomb up the left side of the pitch, scoring and providing world-class service, I just don’t think that’s Arsenal’s developmental forté.
Why? Quick, name me the last great winger that came out of Arsène Wenger’s squad.
Andrei Arshavin has looked more a flash in the pan than legend in the making. I hope you weren’t thinking Theo Walcott, seeing as he’s a self-professed center forward. Samir Nasri would be a good answer, but he played his best football for the Gunners while filling in through the middle during Fàbregas’ absence last year. You really have to stretch all the way back to Robert Pirès back in 2000-2006 before you get to the last world-class winger that called the Emirates/Highbury home.
Truth be told, Wenger’s teams usually employs inverted wingers. These guys generally aren’t pushing all the way down the touchline and trying to get off a cross, but instead they like to cut in from the flank towards the center. If precedent tells us anything, Arsene’s influence on the impressionable Shea will likely cause him to pinch inside a bit more frequently too.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt for Brek to hone this area of his game too. It’s just not entirely Bale-esque if you ask me… but then again, maybe that’s the point.
Is this a clue as to how Klinsmann is trying to shape our national team? Are we moving away from the traditional American 4-4-2 with wide wingers, and moving towards a more modern 4-3-3 with an interchangeable front three?
If we were really aiming to hone Brek in the Bale fashion, you would think we would have sent him somewhere that normally utilizes traditional wide wingers. If he had gone to Spurs, he could have learned from playing under Bale himself and Lennon. At Liverpool, he could have worked with Henderson and Downing. Or if he went to train with Manchester United, he could have been tutored by Nani, Park, Valencia and Young. Wouldn’t those players be better templates to mold a young player on that was going to be utilized on the wings of the pitch than with the inside cutters at Arsenal?
Of course, it is entirely possible that I’m reading way too much into this. Maybe Shea ending up in North London had more due to with being a random opportunity, a personal relationship that Klinsmann has with Arsenal’s management, or (more likely) the handy work of agents rather than a handpicked club that will sculpt Brek into a particular type of player.
Perhaps this is actually more of a trial than Arsenal are actually letting on at this point. The Gunners aren’t exactly a team with size, and you could see a use for Shea in Wenger’s side if he can develop properly. Assuming Arsenal are sizing up a potential move for the FC Dallas winger, you can understand MLS’s willingness to risk injury to Shea in a training arrangement. Considering they just inked Brek to a three-year extension earlier this season, his price tag should be significantly higher.
Let’s be honest though, we don’t really know all of the inner workings of why Shea is going to Arsenal, nor do we have any guarantees that the experience will be a gigantic boost to his abilities. All we can do is speculate and hope for the best… and maybe Arsène forcing him to get a haircut.
Welcome back, distinguished readers, and thanks for reading my latest article on wrong side of the pond. I am attempting to keep today’s posting very formal, proper, and short as this blog needs to get into in-season form for the start of this European campaign. So with that in mind, let’s skip the silliness today and get on to the sub-ten-word links below.
No word on whether he was red carded or not. – mirror.co.uk
WTF is that face, Landycakes?!?! – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com
Farewell to the best defender of his generation… after Maldini. – therunofplay.com
Sir Alex 1 : the Daily Mail’s Bob Cass 0 – whoateallthepies.tv
A tip of my hat to 2-time defending fantasy champion Lippadona for pointing out this link.
The new La Masia: now that’s an academy. – theoffside.com
Don’t care if everyone’s linked to it… brilliant. – arseblog.com
The Canadian MLS clubs always nail branding. – designfootball.com