With the MLS 2014 season just days away, D.J. and Jeremy figured it was high time to give the domestic first division a full preview ahead of this weekend’s First Kick festivities. You’ll here the guys’ thoughts on this season’s playoff contenders, what they’re looking forward to the most for the upcoming campaign, and where they think the local-ish side will fare this year. The normal Premier League and Champions League run downs are also still in there, as is a look ahead at some of this week’s international friendlies. Plus, we finally share the “big news” that we had been hinting at for weeks.
Champions and Europa League football returned this past week, and it had a very interesting effect on the full round of Premier League action at the weekend. D.J. and Jeremy spend time analyzing the effect both sets of matches had on one another in addition to the run down of the rest of the weekend action. You’ll also hear the guys talk about the 2014 Class of inductees into the closet that currently is the US Soccer Hall of Fame, further thoughts on “triple punishments”, and discuss the newest developments in the Chivas USA saga.
Despite tough weather conditions last week in Great Britain, it was busy last week with an almost full slate of midweek Premier League action plus an almost full round of FA Cup fixtures — the “almosts” thanks to some postponed matches due to said weather. We cover all of that on this week’s podcast, but that’s not all. Jeremy and D.J. also delve into the hypothetical world of where FIFA would go if they actually yanked the 2022 World Cup from Qatar, a preview of this and next week’s Champions League knockout matches, a talk about all of the World Cup tune-ups to be played here in the states this summer, plus an in-depth look at the Julian Green situation with the US Men’s National Team. And we made time, too, for a quick shout out to the local side for their latest achievement.
You know what’s completely absurd? A club that has 71 players on their books. Seventy-one players: that’s slightly more than enough to field six whole match day squads.
The club with seventy-one players, at least according to their Wikipedia page: West London’s finest, Chelsea Football Club. Granted, a decent haul of those players are currently out on loan. Twenty-nine to be specific, again assuming that their Wiki page is up to date. Which means they still have 42 players between the first and reserve sides, and also hints at the fact that I’m not even including their academy players in these tallies. So in actuality, we’re these 71/42 players that we’re talking about are just the tip of the iceberg.
A look down the list of some of the players on Chelsea’s books yields an astonishing host of talented players that have seen little to no game time with the first team. Players like Gaël Kakuta, the 22-year-old French youth international who the club were almost given a transfer ban for illegally signing back in 2007, has managed only six appearances and has been subjected to an equal number of loans. Or how about Marko Marin, a 24-year-old German international signed in the summer of 2012 that has only seen time in preseason friendlies and seven actual matches?
But perhaps the real crown jewels in Chelsea’s stockpile are full Belgian internationals Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois. Though Lukaku has made 10 fleeting appearances since joining from Anderlecht in 2011, both he and Courtois have spent a majority of their time contracted to Chelsea loaned away to other clubs. Neither can get near the Chelsea first XI due to the incredible host of players that are in the first team, despite the fact that the duo are likely starters for the dark horse favorites in the World Cup this summer.
Should any one club really be allowed to stockpile so many talented players? Continue reading
For the first time in weeks it seems like, there was only a single helping of Premier League action for Jeremy and D.J. to cover on the podcast. And that means that there was ample time after the BPL round up — which includes discussions on Liverpool’s blowout victory over the Gunners and Gary Monk being the league’s second player manager since the turn of the millennium, among others – to dive into some other topics for a change. So what’s on tap? The guys share their thoughts on the quasi-announcement hosted by David “Beckman” and MLS in Miami, and a lengthy and in-depth response to a listener question about the best mobile apps to use to follow soccer while on the go.
Much has transpired since the last episode of the WSOTP Pod was published, so the boys had lots to talk about yet again. Two whole rounds of Premier League action went down, which we’ll spend ample time talking about. The US men’s national team had a friendly match squeezed in there too, despite it not being an international break. Also, MLS preseason has kicked off all around the country — well, at least the warmer parts — along with rumors of an impending Miami expansion announcement. And let’s not forget the January Transfer Window slamming shut… though there’s less there to talk about than you would think. And if you’re a fan of late 90′s British pop music, you might just find some extra joy in Episode 25!
Break out the champagne WSOTP Pod listeners — for the first time in several weeks, we were actually been able to get the podcast up for its regularly scheduled Tuesday publishing! And in this week’s on time edition, we take a look at the results from last week’s English Cup action and the transfer window — from Manchester United’s continued issues domestically to Juan Mata’s transfer from both the Chelsea and United perspective. We also share our thoughts on American soccer semantic snobbery, and preview this week’s hectic Premier League schedule. We even find time to talk about Ron Artest… but I’ll leave it to you to either listen or guess how we fit him into the discussion.
The former Everton boss has seen his side fall well-behind in the title race, languishing lowly in mid-table for the first time in ages. They’ve regularly dropped points at Old Trafford, which has become something of a rarity over the years in the fortress that was the Theatre of Dreams. He’s also seen them crash out of the FA Cup and now the League Cup, this time to lowly Sunderland. One could see them facing a similar fate in the Champions League, too. So while Moyes finally won his long-awaited first managerial trophy in last summer’s Charity Shield, I hardly think he or the board will be pleased with the measly trophy count of one they’re likely to end the season with.
Holes are noticeable all over the squad, particularly across the back line and in the middle of the park. Center back looks a major concern with Vidić likely to leave in the summer, Rio past it and neither of Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling or Phil Jones locking down the spots. They’ve also clearly needed an engine to drive the side from central midfield for quite some time. And Moyes either doesn’t want Kagawa to be that guy, or doesn’t think he’s capable of doing the job adequately.
So word of Juan Mata coming over from Chelsea in a club-record deal would absolutely one way to fill the later of those two prominent holes. But the move itself is very puzzling.
Why would Chelsea help a rival like that? How could they put themselves in that position?
In the short-term, this isn’t really a move that can hurt Chelsea. They’ve already played United twice and have little chance of meeting them again. So there’s little chance to for Johnny Killer — a literal translation of his name, by the way — to rain down angry retribution on his previous employers. United have almost zero chance of catching Chelsea at this point either, so it’s not like they’re even a rival to Chelsea at the moment.
Hell, a conspiracist’s argument could even be made that his being sent there to might even help the Blues. A Mata-powered United would arguably be more likely to take points off Arsenal and Manchester City, right? That’s definitely something Chelsea would in fancy in this steadily intensifying title race.
Can’t you just imagine José and Roman having a giggle as they take United’s £37 million check in exchange for such a sympathetic gesture to a struggling rival? It’s such a vivid image that I could paint the scene if you gave me a brush.
The problem with that line of thinking though — supposing it is the reason they sold him on to the Mancs — is that United’s struggles are currently only restricted to this season. There’s no guarantee that they’ll face similar troubles next season.
As easy as it was to imagine Chelsea’s bosses thinking they’d pulled one over on a hapless foe, it’s also just as easy to picture United now having a great young player to rebuild their side around under Moyes. Think about it: Juan Mata teeing up a front two of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. That’s potentially lethal. Assuming all are healthy and none of the departs, of course.
Mata’s arrival could even free up the sputtering Maroune Fellaini to play less a less effective creator role and focus on his more preferred destroyer role. Add a few more pieces in the summer, and you could be talking about an almost completely retooled United side. And Mata is the class of player to be the foundation to rebuild upon.
So while Chelsea may not be worried at all about selling Mata to Manchester United this season, I can’t imagine they’re so shortsighted as to not realize they should be worried about selling Mata to Manchester United now for next season.
Of course, this is supposing that Moyes is capable of making all of these puzzle pieces fit. His struggles to get this United side firing on full cylinders this season — even though it’s effectively the same one that won the title last year with a record points gap – is surely enough to question whether he has the stones to fully remake the team in his image. And will signing a player like Mata be enough to galvanize other big names to make the jump to Old Trafford, too? How the rest of this season plays out will likely go a long way to giving us that answer.
Still though, from a Chelsea perspective anyway, is a shot at the title in the short-term worth that kind of a long-term gamble? Mourinho and Chelsea seem to think so.
And even if it proves the wrong choice, they still have £37 million to wipe their tears with.
The latest episode of the Wrong Side of the Pond Podcast – slightly delayed as D.J. continues to man the editing while Jeremy’s computer is out of commission — is finally available for our listening enjoyment. It worked out well, as it allowed the guys ample time to reflect upon an interesting weekend full of Eto’o goals, missed calls and continued Manchester United misery. In addition to the normal Premier League action run down, the guys also dip their toes into the MLS SuperDraft, the latest national soccer broadcasting news and ugly kits and crests.
Most January transfer windows our eyes are glued to Europe, waiting for one of Europe’s uber-elite to overpay for the luxury of stripping away another side’s best player in the middle of the season. But it would be a cold day in hell when an MLS side is the one making the biggest waves in the transfer market. But thanks to Toronto FC’s $100 million dollar gamble to bring in England striker Jermain Defoe and US national team midfielder Michael Bradley, someone definitely needs to go check the underworld’s thermostat. So Jeremy and D.J. spend a sizable chunk of Episode 22 talking about those arrivals, and the long-term implications of the growing trend of USMNT players returning to home to play in a so-called “lesser” league. We did find time to talk about European transfers and the normal EPL round-up too. So worry not Eurosnobs, this isn’t a completely MLS-centric podcast.