ten words or less #68

Cristiano Ronaldo's headed goal against Manchester United

ronaldo was literally jumping through the roof over all of the football on tap during this stretch of the year.

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.

All goal line technology implementations handled by just two officials.
– bigdsoccer.com

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

I love soccer and dinosaurs. I don’t love them together. – kckrs.com

Just five minutes playing in Turkey… Drogba gonna Drog. – youtube.com

The official MLS #TrueColors posters are (mostly) pretty sweet. – facebook.com

See: Move to capitalize on Indian market exposure. – nikebiz.com

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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.

ten words or less #50

real madrid's cristiano ronaldo showing off his leg

there's been no word yet on whether cristiano will have to cover up his oily thighs when visiting madrid's new island resort in the UAE.

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

Liverpool has Pinterest: not shocking considering how soft they’ve played. – pinterest.com

We need this in the U.S. far more than the UK. – soccerlens.com

Have you ever wanted to control Arsene’s Swedish dance moves? – fuldans.se

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

Pardew likens Ben Arfa to Messi… a.k.a “a stretch”. – bbc.co.uk

brek’s big break

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.

fc dallas winger brek shea

shea's month with arsenal could be huge. emphasis on could.

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.

usmnt's brek shea

could shea landing at arsenal be an indication of the type of winger that klinsmann wants him to be for the USMNT?

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.

ten words or less #33

Aaron Biber and Tottenham's Peter Crouch

crouch visited and got his haircut by aaron biber. when biber's barbershop was trashed during the riots, the looters shockingly left the autographed crouch photo he's holding.

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

This took balls… brilliant work by adidas marketing. – kckrs.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

round up #31

I have to admit that I’m a little depressed this week. I cancelled a vacation day that I had planned for watching the second leg of the Tottenham-Real Madrid Champions League quarter-final, as it makes no sense to waste such a precious commodity on a tie that will surely see my favorite team exit. I’m not sure whether I’m more sad about Spurs’ eventual exit, or by the fact that I’m giving up a vacation day. Oh well, another 5-day workweek for me.

real salt lake celebrate their win against saprissa

is this the best MLS side we’ve ever seen?

While I’m busy bumbling my way through another rainy monday in Ohio, I thought I could provide you with som interesting links from around the tubes and my tangent thoughts associated with them.

———————————————

Actually, you are quite divisible – fromaleftwing.blogspot.com
Retro jersey design is all the rage these days and I, for one, am a big fan of the movement. Retro inspiration tends to be me minimalist in nature, something I highly value in design both inside and outside of football fashions. with Umbro and parent company Nike leading the retro charge, we’ve recently been given some excellent kits that hearken iconic, cultural symbols of days past.

However, even hip and popular designing trends can produce stinkers. And the new USWNT kits are definitely a big stinker. In a similar move to France’s badass aways inspired by traditional french naval uniforms, the new American women’s kit pays homage to nursing uniforms from the World War II era. Is this jersey supposed to trick Sepp Blatter into thinking that the women’s game is finally taking his advice? Because if so, they’re doing an awful job at sexing the game up with low-cut shirts that still cover them up. Nike blew a massive opportunity to create a super cool and sexy nurse kit.

Why Arsene Wenger’s all-powerful status may come to an end – goal.com
Another week goes by, another opportunity for Wenger to make excuses. There have been growing concerns over the last season or two whether the Gunners are really benefiting from being solely governed by King Arsene, and whether the professor is finally losing the course. However, Arsenal are likely going to finish their sixth consecutive season without a trophy. That’s plenty of time for the fans and media to finally start questioning his methods.

It’s an interesting idea to hypothesize that, with American Stan kroenke set to launch a takeover of Arsenal, this could spell the demise of the Frenchman’s complete control of the club’s sporting initiatives. Purging Arsene of some of or part of the responsibilities that he currently governs with an iron fist may allow him to focus fully on what should be his main priority: the results on the pitch.

Player answers phone during match, takes out opponent – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com
Seriously, who answers their freaking phone during a match? As video below shows, apparently guys who play German amateur football do. Unless it’s a family emergency, your house is burning down, or a call up to the national team, there is no acceptable reason to take a call while playing. And since this dude was willing to interrupt his call to go crack some skull, I’m guessing that it wasn’t such an important call to begin with.

Now dick tackle aside, how about the form on that tackle?! Seemingly out of the action while chatting away like your average teenage girl on their T-Mobile Sidekick, Matthias Hilbrands swoops in and blows up the opposing player on the break for Fortuna Veenhusen. I’d also like to note that it was a clean tackle. so the next question becomes, “Why the yellow?”

RSL reserves topple Revolution – soccerbyives.com
I don’t know that we’ve ever seen an MLS side that’s as good as the current incarnation of Real Salt Lake. Despite the club having to defend its surprise MLS Cup championship last season, the Utahns (ick… wouldn’t Utovian sound cooler?) are steadily becoming a force to be reckoned with in the US. Having become the first MLS club ever to advance to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League last week, manager Jason Kreis decided to give a majority of his first team a much-needed rest against New England. And that was plenty good enough for the rough affair.

The real test, however, still awaits RSL. American sides have a horrendous 1 for 12 record against Mexican sides over two legs, and Salt Lake will be facing one in the final (Monterrey). There is some hope though, as one of only two MLS sides to ever beat a Mexican team is… drumroll please… Real Salt Lake! And if they are able to prevail in the continental championship, I may actually consider forgiving them for the stupid, stupid name.

Respect? I remember that one time at Old Trafford… – guardian.co.uk
According to Premier League chief dick Scudamore, next season everyone will respect the referees or else. Having grown tired of the near-constant bad behavior of the players in his league, he intends to crack down on the worst offence being committed by the ruffians — disrespecting the referees. To quote a tweet by the poorly punctuated Robbie Savage:

To much inconsistency in decisions from authorities elbowing wrong , air rifles wrong , swearing wrong, one only gets punished !

Scudamore’s efforts, while understandable, are way off base. First, there are bigger issues to tackle in his league than swearing at, surrounding,  or post-match calling out of a referee. Secondly, he is completely glossing over the bigger problem all together with respecting referees: his officials have been making a lot of mistakes lately.

How is a player/manager supposed to accept the criticisms of the fans and media, yet not be allowed to vocalize his criticisms of a referee who’s made an obvious mistake that could have had a huge impact on the outcome of the match? If you ask me, it doesn’t seem fair that referees are exempt from public thrashing that players receive when they don’t meet the grade.

ten words or less #18

now that ireland is at another new club, it was about time for him to bash his previous employers.

With the visual overhaul of the blog still ongoing, not to mention the need to continue to write for it too, I realized this morning that I reallly need to post this TWOL before the majority of these stories become outdated. If you happened to have read any of the following links already, just be sure to remember that you are not required to read them again.

A short history about baaallllllllllllsssss. – soccernet.com

Life lesson: don’t release owls during a match. – thespoiler.co.uk

I’ve never been, and never will be, this good. – youtube.com

Does anyone feel the excitement?!?!?! – soccerbyives.com

Great… a sound argument defending Allardyce-style tactics. – si.com

This is believable. – bbc.co.uk

The crazy free kick bar has been raised. – caughtoffside.com

Stephen Ireland wants to piss off everyone. – football365.com

ten words or less #17

why would rino think getting in this guy's face is a good idea?!?!

After a week of spectacular (and high stress) Champions League football, I feel like we need a break from the serious. So today’s TWOL will focus on the lighter side of the world of football. Well, I think the following links are light… A.C. Milan fans might disagree.

Kanye/soccer post? Love it, even if a bit forced. – unprofessionalfoul.com

“SMASHED IT!” — lol. – studs-up.com

I get how they would think this was real. – guardian.co.uk

Someone buy this for Gattuso. – shotdeadintheahead.com

The Unofficial Football World Championship… WTF. – ufwc.co.uk

Proof that John Carew has a vagina. – metro.co.uk

Support Grant Wahl for FIFA president, for real. -si.com

Meet Lee Trundle: the Welsh Premier League’s “David Beckham”. – inbedwithmaradonna.com

all but the nail in the coffin

do you ever get the feeling in the pit of your stomach where you know that something awful is just around the corner? sometimes it can feel like you’re being slowly dragged towards the edge of a cliff because you have an anvil tied to your foot. no matter how much you claw at the dirt or grab at the surrounding bushes, you’re going over that edge eventually, like it or not. or something like that.

that’s what i’m feeling right now, and it is making me sick.

my guess is that cesc has made up his mind about next season already.

why? cesc fàbregas, that’s why.

for those of you who know me or have read the blog for a while, you know i have a slight obsession with fab4. so what if he plays for tottenham’s arch rival. who cares if he bleeds blaugrana due to his barcelona roots. is there something so wrong about liking a guy who fits the definition of a player i should hate due to my club allegiances?

i love the way the kid plays: he is the master of the simple yet elegant. despite being a box-to-box player, he scores regularly (14 goals in 26 total appearances this season). and as you would expect from a central midfielder, he creates more goals than he scores (17 assists in all competitions). he shows for the ball all over the pitch, constantly putting himself in the right position to be an outlet. he plays the simple ball, rarely taking more than three touches. yet he does more with those three touches than arguably anyone else in england.

it’s like he’s been playing with the brain of a 30 year old since he was 17 years old (i’m not quite going to give him the same credit for his first year playing in arsenal’s first team… but it was close). and cesc has been playing this way for so long that it’s easy to forget that he’s only 22. i mean he probably has another six years before he even really hits his prime.

it’s no wonder the world’s biggest clubs are circling him like vultures. win the fàbregas sweepstakes and you get one of the best five midfielders in the world over a half decade before he will supposedly peak. if i were a club with £40 million to burn, that sounds like quite a deal to me.

and it’s the idea of those circling vultures that has me feeling like i’m being dragged off that cliff.

back in november, i wrote about arsenal’s desperate need to open their wallets during the transfer window. my reasoning was that if the gunners had any serious hope of keeping cesc after this season, they had to win trophies. and if they seriously intended to win a trophy this season, they had to set about bringing cesc some more help.

so the transfer window has come and gone, and yet again, arsenal did nothing. wenger apparently felt content not to sign the target striker that everyone knew they needed, and would rather let an unfit bendtner try to fill that gaping hole. the french manager also seems more than happy to let a subpar goalkeeper (almunia) deputize their often porous defense. no one was brought in to help improve their defensive midfield deficiencies.

arsenal and wenger’s inability to pull the trigger this january was effectively a giant “f*ck you” aimed directly at their best player.

at least if i were fàbregas, that’s how i would take it.

and after arsenal’s comprehensive loss to chelsea this past weekend, fàbregas might finally be willing to entertain the thought of inviting the vultures to the feast. the gunners’ deficiencies were glaring during the london derby contested between the two title challengers, and the glare was so bright that not even fàbregas could ignore it. picking up a needless yellow card, he was visibly frustrated at the end of the game.

by not signing anyone this january, wenger might have inadvertently pointed fabregas towards the door.

so why does the fàbregas entertaining the idea of leaving scare me so much?

the biggest reason is his likely destination: barcelona.

i can’t stomach the thought of my favorite player playing for the enemy, especially when you add him into an already barça’s already scary good midfield. the blaugrana have dominated all of the clásicos midfield battles the last few years.  adding cesc to that mix will surely mean that madrid can continue to expect to be dominated in this arena for a long while.

and though i get why he wants to go back to his home city and first club, that unbelievable midfield is the very reason i find this to be a stupid move for the young spaniard. you can only fit so many center mids on the field at a time. he’ll not be a guaranteed first team pick when competing with xavi, iniesta and the ever-improving pedro for one of two starting spots. but he’d be joining a championship pedigree club, drastically increasing his chances of winning that all too elusive silverware.

barça have presidential elections at the end of the season, and both front runners are claiming that fàbregas is their number one target. real madrid are also vying for his signature, dubbing the endeavor “operation cesc.” although with real rumored to be offering gonzolo higuaín as swap bait in the deal, i’m not near as sold on the a move to the bernabéu as i initially was. so arsenal can likely expect a bidding war for cesc’s playing rights, resulting in a bid of around £40+ million that wenger would be hard pressed to pass up.

secondly, i really don’t want to see cesc leave the premiership. his style suits the league extremely well, and watching him play week in and week out is one of my favorite parts of every weekend. and seeing as how the premier league is much easier to watch here in the states, it means i’ll get to see fab play less and less.

oh and how could i forget how fàbregas’ departure would seriously dent my annual fantasy football plans.

so, long story short, i think cesc is gone this summer. the chelsea loss was just about the last nail in the coffin for him. and unless arsenal can pull off a miracle and win a trophy this season (the league is out of the question, so we’ll pin all of their hopes on the champions league), you can pretty much book his moving van back to iberia. if i had any money, i’d be willing to wager a good deal of money on the boy leaving.

and when the gunner faithful are enraged when the club sells off their best player yet again, they’ll know exactly who to look at. here’s hoping that wenger will be willing to face the fire on that day.

round up #15

for as much as i hate the highly packed winter schedule that the premier league throws at the clubs (it’s like 15° outside and the league feels it’s necessary to make each club play three times in two weeks. why put so much stress on the players?), i go a little stir crazy in between game days. getting near daily doses of high quality football, my brain get’s acclimated and i end up developing a soccer dependency. it makes me feel like a coke addict or something.

luckily, i’ve had the transfer rumor mills and stories of clubs up to their necks in debt to help me keep distracted during days between matches. although, i could really do without all of the major injuries to USMNT members as of late. that’s getting annoying.

anyway, here’s a small sampling of what i found worth reading over the last week or so.

racing's sergio canales has shown up on the radar of many of europe's top clubs.

canales wanted by manchester united & chelsea – telegraph.co.uk
when a highly rated prospect pops up on the radar in continental europe, it can almost be expected that major clubs will be rumored to begin circling like sharks come january. the newest, and possibly most inspiring, to garner the attention from the big boys is racing de santander’s 18-year-old starlet, sergio canales. i’ve watched the young attacking midfielder several times this season (he was particularly impressive against sevilla, netting a brace), and have been thoroughly impressed with his play and style. and since he’s out of contract this summer, he can be had cheaper as his club look to cash in on him before they lose him for nothing. and while chelski, the mancs, and arsenal are all rumored to be leading the race for his signature, i would really prefer that madrid sign him as the primary back-up to kaká.

fox to launch 2nd soccer network – sports.yahoo.com
it looks like fox has noticed that it’s north american based fox soccer channel has garnered a rather large following in the last few years (i’ve been a subscriber for the last five years), and it plans to build on that success and launch a brand new network in 2010. the new network, to be dubbed fox soccer plus will look to expand on their current content offerings by showing additional english premier league, FA cup, serie A and champions league games. additionally, the entire network will be broadcast in HD, which is a more than overdue offering for he american market. while i have absolutely no problem with fox adding another channel devoted exclusively to soccer, i have two problems with this announcement.

first, i was hoping they could use the new channel to  expand their line-ups to include matches from other leagues (la liga, ligue 1, or bundesliga perhaps?). i know a lot of this has to do with getting the contracts with those leagues (which can be pricy), but they can’t even adaquately fill FSC with a full day’s worth of content. now they’re adding a whole other channel to show the same exact leagues they already show. however, the nice part is that they should be able to show a full slate of weekend premier league games now.

problem two involves the complete lack of time frame and information about who will cary the network. the article states that fox is “negotiating with cable carriers to determine whether they want to place it on a select tier or offer it as a monthly subscription service for a fee.” so there is no guarantee that every network will carry it or not, and you may have to pay for it separately each month. and considering all of the trouble that fox has created by raising it’s licensing fees as of late, i’m not optimistic that cable/satellite carriers won’t just pass on the costs to me and my fellow consumers.

wenger: donovan can shine at everton – arsenal.com
if you had the chance to watch either of landycake’s first two matches for the tofees, you would be hard pressed to disagree with the arsenal manager. despite having just stepped off the plane from sunny southern california into snowy, frozen over england to play an away match against one of the title contentders, landon handled himself very well. so, yes arsene, i agree with you that landon has — so far — passed the premier league litmus test.

but that’s not what interested me in this article, as i expected so much out of donovan. what was much more interesting was wenger’s comments regarding his views on the american talent pool. the arsenal manager, who has quite the track record for developing young players, thinks that the US harbors a large, capable set of youngsters that could become great players and that he would like to open an academy in the states at some point. however, the current climate is not suitable for doing so because of england’s stringent work permit restrictions. in wenger’s words:

It would be very interesting if we had really a good potential to get the players easily in here, we would create a full-time academy over there and get the best young players and work with them to get them over here. But at the minute that is impossible and that’s why I believe we have a big handicap.

unholy row over world cup trumpet – bbc.com
as much as i’m looking forward  to this summer’s world cup finals in south africa, it’s no secret that i’m not at all looking forward to the constant drone of those damn vuvuzela horns that will accompany each game. don’t remember it from the confederations cup? here’s a short video link, but be prepared to want to rip your eardrums out of your head to stop the sound. and despite the fact that TV broadcasters hate them, the players hate them, and most fans hate them, fifa have stood tall in defense of the horns due to it being “a part of the south african football culture.”

i'll back any efforts, no matter how ludicrous, to bring death to the vuvuzela horn.

well, it appears that some crazy form of christianity (shembe) in south africa claims that they invented the horn. their church leaders are planning to bring legal action against the tournament organizers to ban their use next summer due to an invasion of their religious practices. look, i’m certainly not a fan of a religion that bans “smoking, drinking and fornicating,” but i will gladly stand united with them in their efforts to prevent the sound of a million angry hornets coming out of my tv in june and july.

so will rooney be the next to go? – thesun.co.uk
the tabloids are having a field day with manchester united’s debt issues as of late. it’s become popular knowledge in the last week or so that the red devils are in a precarious situation, with mountains of debt piled against the club due in large part to the glazer takeover in 2005. with a reported £700+ million in debt to try to clear, rumors are beginning to swirl of the extreme measures that united will have to take to keep the club afloat. there is speculation that the club might have to sell their carrington training ground, and possibly even old trafford (this will cause severe rioting if it goes down).

it’s likely that ronaldo’s lucrative sale this past summer was fueled by the need for cash, probably also explaining why sir alex wasn’t able to use all of that money to restock his squad. it’s also been mooted that rooney could be put up for sale as well, since he’s the only other player in the squad that could bring in another large sum. while i could easily see the mancs selling carrington, my guess is that the sales of the theatre of dreams or rooney is purely tabloid filler… for the time being at least.