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

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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.

not gonna happen

Forget this writing gig… I’m going to become a bookie. Because if I’m really ever going to make some money out of my life long love affair with soccer, that’s clearly the best avenue.

Mourinho Caught Back in London

turns out having this guy pop up back in london will cause quite a stir. and just in case, i'm NOT talking about the dude on the right.

In order to get paid to play, I’d have to be good (I’m not). In order to manage, I should probably have first been a player (Ditto). I could be an agent or an administrator, but only if I knew the right people (I don’t know enough of them). Or I could always referee, if only I was a bit mental (I’m not that mental). And there’s a million writers out there, so I’m currently a dime a dozen (Sigh). So that narrows my options to just sports betting and organized crime… which are more or less the same industry, anyway.

For instance, take a look at the current betting odds on who will be the permanent manager at Chelsea Football Club at the start of next season, when Roberto “The Players Hate Me More Than AVB” Di Mateo’s stint as caretaker is currently scheduled to end. At the time of writing, the favorites are as follows:

Rank Manager Odds
1 José Mourinho 13/8
2 Fabio Capello 11/4
3 Pep Guardiola 4/1
4 Rafael Benítez 5/1
5 Roberto Di Mateo 10/1

So what about those numbers has me contemplating a career switch? Oh I don’t know… probably because there’s not a chance in hell that the man currently sporting the best odds will actually end up taking the Chelsea job. I think anyone putting their hard-earned money on Mourinho is simply giving it away to someone… why shouldn’t they be giving that money to me?!?!

Now after reading such a bold claim, I can understand if you’re questioning my confidence about the matter, what with so much time before the position will be filled and so many possible indicators already seeming to hint as much. I mean, he made no secret of his recent house hunting trip to London. Many fans will be quick to place a quid or two on Mourinho taking the job for just that reason, like they’ve forgotten that there will potentially be two other high-profile job openings in the same city this summer.

Either way, trust me when I say it’s not gonna happen. And it won’t happen for two very important reasons: what’s happened in the past, and what has to happen in the future.

Study the past, if you would divine the future.
Before we can even truly consider the Special One returning to Stamford Bridge, we have to look at why he left to begin with. It’s very important to remember that prior to leaving, José was literally a Messiah at Chelsea. He led the Blues to Premier League titles in each of his first two seasons with the club — their first in 50 years — and a club-first FA and League Cup double the following season. And while his departure seemed sudden and abrupt in September 2007, the seeds of discontent for the Portuguese manager were actually being sowed as early as 2006.

shevchenko and mourinho at chelsea

mourinho was never a fan of shevchenko, and yet roman insisted that he stay in the squad.

The first major sign of any trouble brewing between the Russian and Portuguese came with the 2006 summer signings of Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack. Neither fit the mold of a typical Mourinho signing — both were proven/veteran superstars instead of up-and-coming youngsters or relative unknowns — and many rightly wondered whether they were more of Roman’s signings than José’s. Shevchenko in particular had long been admired by Abramovich, and when his €30m signing effectively ate up all of Mourinho’s transfer budget for the summer, he was bound to be displeased.

Of course, the media were quick to jump all over the emerging rift, labeling these so-called “Abrambovich signings” as the proof that the Chelsea manager was being undermined by his owner. And while neither player ever lived up to their star billings, Shevchenko’s inability to adjust to life in West London was particularly glaring. Yet despite the Ukrainian’s obviously poor form, Roman continued to pressure his manager to play his pricey signing… something that did not sit well at all with Mourinho.

But even as these troubles were brewing in the background, José was able to rally his troops and produce successes. Disciplined counterattacking and a vice-like defense were the key tenets of the Mourinho’s ability to produce trophies, but by late 2006 it became quietly known that Roman was not pleased with such “unattractive” methods. The Russian oligarch desired free-flowing, attacking football out of his side. He wanted Chelsea to be the Barcelona of London, yet the complete opposite was on display week in and week out with Mourinho at the helm.

So when Roman appointed Avram Grant as a Director of Football — a position normally responsible for overseeing player transfers – at the beginning of the 2007/2008 campaign, the not-so-private lack of backing was finally enough to push the Special One to the breaking point. After a string of disappointing results and a series of crisis meetings between Mourinho, Abramovich and the rest of the board, it was clear that there was no reconciling and the Special One walked away.

Saying that “bridges were burned” between Mourinho and Abramovich would be a gross understatement. It was more like the bridge had been bombed by Allied troops in World War II: if you hadn’t known there was a bridge there before, you would never know one had been there at all.

And though there’s been talk that some reconciling has taken place since, you have to wonder how much José trust his former employer anymore. If he were to come back to Chelsea, would the boss man be able to guarantee Mourinho the total (and I mean total) autonomy to run the club as he sees fit? Judging by the latest rumors indicating that Mou would be willing to return only if that autonomy is promised — along with absurd wages and that the guarantee that Ronaldo would be purchased too — shows that the Russian will have to put his money where his mouth is if he wants to convince him to go against his gut instinct.

To be honest, aside from the ridiculous wage demands, I don’t think Roman can promise Mourinho any of those things.

The future ain’t what it used to be.
Let us imagine for a minute a strange world where Roman Abramovich would actually be willing to give Mourinho all of the control his heart desires, and that Mourinho accepts said offer and returns to Chelsea. What tasks await him before he can right the ship? To answer that question, you have to first look at the current state of affairs at Stamford Bridge.

drogba, terry and lampard at chelsea

would mourinho even want to break up the "old boys club" that he help put together?

The anchor that’s been dragging the Blues down this season hasn’t necessarily been the manager — though AVB’s tactical and personnel choices weren’t always the wisest for the squad that he’s had — but rather an aging core of players that have an unusually large amount of influence at the club. Terry, Cole, Drogba and most notably Lampard were all reportedly at fault for undermining Villas-Boas both in the locker room and the board room. Yet aside from perhaps Lampard, none have performed well enough this season to justify such importance and sway.

When André Villas-Boas was brought in this summer, his first action should have been to break up the veteran-core. One thing that would allow him to do is implement his new playing system without the friction of the older players who are used to the old style of play. Secondly, breaking up that group would also lessen the odds of anyone challenging his authority.

Lampard and Drogba could have easily been shipped out for decent money, despite their lofty ages. Ashley Cole could have been put on a tighter, don’t-shoot-the-staff leash. And don’t get me started on how John Terry’s toxic ego is poisoning the drinking well. But due to drawn out nature of his appointment, AVB didn’t have enough time to flip them for new players before the start of the season… so he was stuck with them.

Unfortunately, this core group of influential players still remain very close to Mourinho. After all, he was the one that assembled and guided them to prominence. That they all admitted to regularly communicating with their old boss this season underlines how close they are to the guy still.

How is Mourinho possibly supposed to come back and tell them — the guys he’s still friends with — that he’s going to have to give them the boot?

Sure, he’s got a steely personality and doesn’t take smack from anyone. But would you have the cojones to tell a friend, who you’ve been propping up and reassuring all season through text messages, “Sorry guy, you actually do suck and need to move on”? I don’t think I could.

Even if Mourinho could push some of the old guard out, he still won’t be out of the woods. The Chelsea Mourinho would inherit now is not the up and coming squad that he took over in 2004, but rather a fading one with its best years behind it. There’s still a good deal of rebuilding left to do at the club, and he’ll need not only financial backing to bring in fresh faces, but he’ll also need time adjust them to the Mourinho code.

And time, if you recall, is exactly what Villas-Boas was reportedly assured of when he was charged with the project of overhauling the squad. We saw how well that worked out for the young manager. There’s no way a man as smart as the Special One could have overlooked that as anything but the same type of broken promises he’s seen before, right?

————————————————————-

Think about it like this: to José Mourinho, this Chelsea job is like a hot ex-girlfriend. Despite all of the feelings of nostalgia, the familiarity, and the everyone will totally understand why you hooked back up with her… because she’s hot. But everyone also knows that you really shouldn’t be hooking up with her either, since she’s got a crazy dad that says he likes you one day, but the next day he’s got a shotgun to you pushing you out the front door.

Long story short, I just don’t think there’s anyway that an ambitious Mourinho will take this Chelsea job. There’s too much history there, and deep down he knows he won’t get the control that he wants. Unless Abramovich promises he’ll stay far away in Russia and not pay attention to team affairs, a Mourinho-Chelsea reunion feels very unlikely.

Besides, there are potentially other jobs in London that he would be a much better fit for…

new year’s resolutions

As 2011 winds to a close and the dawn of a new year is upon us, I imagine many of you are in the final stages of planning for the annual — and often eventually pointless — ritual called “New Year’s Resolutions”. Every year, millions around the world make commitments to achieve personal goals over the next year such as losing a set amount of weight, breaking bad habits or forming good new ones.

times square soccer ball

now that a very soccer ball-ish times square ball has dropped, it's time to think about what we want to have happen in 2012

However, despite these resolutions generally being made with the best of intentions, for one reason or another, we normally have a hard time keeping them. Scientists tell us that only 12% of all of New Year’s Resolutions are actually met by year’s end, a rate poor enough to make you wonder why we even make them in the first place.

Personally, I like to take the easy way out by not botering to make resolutions, period. By taking this approach, it prevents me from feeling disappointed when I don’t meet the overly ambitious targets I always end up setting for myself. After all, the easiest goals to achieve are the one’s you never make… or something like that.

But just because I don’t set my own resolutions, that doesn’t mean that I can’t make empty promises for other people instead.

Why pass up soaking in all of the instant gratification of setting ambitious goals, especially when I’m not responsible for any of the work that goes into turning dreams into reality?!

With that in mind, I present to you my idealistic 2012 World Football New Year’s Resolutions list:

For Mario Balotelli to keep being… Mario Balotelli

 balotelli why always me

i don't know why, mario... but let's hope it stays that way.

To say that the young Manchester City starlet has endured a roller coaster 2011 might just be the understatement of the year. From the highs of driving around Manchester’s city centre in a convertible giving fans high fives, to the lows of lighting his own bathroom on fire with fireworks, the Italian starlet has been nothing short of a machine at producing ridiculous headlines. He seems more at home in a made-up comic strip than in the life of a real, live professional athlete. And that’s just the way we like it, especially since he tends to make my job writing significantly easier. So please, Super Mario, don’t go changing anything. Just keep being you: it’s what you do best.

For Jürgen Klinsmann to show his grand USMNT experiment is actually working.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m all for Klinsmann’s efforts to reshape the national team and build it a new identity, and I know that this transformation won’t happen overnight. It needs some time to set in, like any master plan, and I feel like a pretty patient guy. However, it’s hard to stomach loses and ties against sides that we had been — and should still be — beating. I’m not asking for us to start rolling over Mexico like the Spanish would Andorra, but I would prefer to see us start stringing together some positive results sooner rather than later. A continued run of bad showings could, after all, have a devastating impact on the team’s moral and confidence. And that’s definitely not something we need heading into World Cup qualifying.

For John Terry to finally get what’s coming to him.

I’ve made no secret for my distaste for Terry in this space, so it’s not surprising that I would want for fate to finally catch up with the bastard in 2012. And even though I don’t need to recant all of his sins since most of them have played out publicly, I still want to. So, here’s why John’s karma is long overdue to bite Mr. Chelsea: 2001) drunkenly taunts American tourists at Heathrow airport immediately after 9/11, 2002) charged with assault for an altercation with a nightclub bouncer, 2009) takes cash bribes to give unauthorized tours of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, 2010) may or may not have had an affair with a former teammate/friend’s baby mama, 2011) racially abuses the younger brother of international teammate during a match. Even though he’s been “cleared” in a majority of those cases, how can one guy be investigated for so many claims and they all be false? Oh yeah, they can’t. Cue the Law & Order dun-dun!

For Jose Mourinho to finally to overhaul Barcelona as the best side in Spain.

mourinho eye poke

if mourinho doesn't come out on top soon, i fear for eyes the world over.

I know it’s pretty unrealistic to think this could happen in the 2012 calendar year, despite the fact that Real are currently three points clear of rivals Barça going into the Winter Break. Pep Guardiola and his men definitely still have a death-grip like hold over Mourinho and his charges’ confidence, as is evident with their impressive strings of results in the multitude of Clásicos in 2011. And while I’d love to see Los Blancos regain the edge in the rivalry for reasons that include restoring “parity” to Spain (and I very loosely use the word parity considering it’s a league where only two teams ever win) and being a fan, my main reason for wanting to see Mourinho finally overcome his demons is much, much more important. You see, I fear that if the Special One’s galácticos don’t take over the crown as Spain’s best soon, I think he’s going to poke out EVERYONE’s eyes.

For Alex Morgan to increase the number of shoots she books like this one.

So what if I’m married? I’m allowed to have internet crushes on attractive celebrities just like anyone else. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with desiring to see more scantily clad pictures of my chosen crush. I mean as far as the picture shown, it underlines her ability to look attractive in both classy and sporty attire, not to mention her ability to knock the balls around… knock balls around the pitch you dirty perverts. And thanks to the WUSA WPS getting a renewed lease on life from US Soccer, Miss Morgan should stay in the limelight just a little bit more.

For Daniel Levy to not only continue sticking to his guns on not selling, but also pull the trigger on some big buys too.

Look, I’m stoked that the Tottenham chairman told Chelsea to shove their £40 million for Modrić where the sun doesn’t shine over the summer. It showed ambition, and sent a message to the rest of the growing egos in the locker room that nobody was bigger than the club. But aside from the last minute swoop for Rafa van der Vaart two summers ago and the bargain buying of Scott Parker from a desperate-for-cash West Ham, Levy hasn’t exactly shown any willingness to spend to match the club’s ambition. Though the free signing of Brad Friedel and the short-term solution of Adebayor up top have proven to be shrewd bits of business, the club desperately need to make a statement buy. Otherwise, can Spurs really consider themselves title challengers if we’re the only side that’s not continuously bringing in world class, young talent? I don’t think so.

For Neymar to finally move to a team in Europe, and for said team, to make him cut his hair.

neymar and his hair

hey, rufio. leave your hair in brazil once you leave for europe.

It might just be me, but I’ve grown extremely tired of the weekly Neymar transfer rumors. At this point, I’m not sure if the constant stream of “done deal” rumors to Real Madrid/Barcelona are actually true, or if it’s just an elaborate ruse by Santos to raise their asking price for the extremely talented young starlet. And if anything was learned from Barcelona wiping the floor with Santos at the Club World Cup final, it’s that Neymar needs to move on to a club where he’ll be pushed to raise the level of his game… and that clearly can’t happen in Brazil. And let’s be honest, a classier club will actually make the kid cut off his stupid rooster hair so he looks like a proper footballer.

For Blackburn Rovers owners Venkeys to finally put their manager out of his misery.

Don’t let yesterday’s upset win away at Old Trafford fool you: even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time. Said plainly, Rovers boss Steve Keane is not a Premier League caliber manager. The rumors of his impending sacking have been circulating since at least the tail end of last season. And to be completely honest with you, I have no clue how he’s still in his job. The Ewood Park outfit have struggled in nearly every department on field this season, and the fans have stood in unison for months saying that want the poor guy out. Maybe the Venkeys think they can save themselves from the drop if they just stick it out with the same manager all season, who knows. But regardless of whether you have a shit manager or not, if you don’t end up spending a significant amount of money to bring in fresh blood this January, you are going down.

For Carlos Tévez to end up at A.C. Milan.

With the dispute between Carlitos and City having now extended an entire half of a season, the Citizens are finally ready to rid themselves of this headache permanently. And luckily, they’ve lowered their asking price enough that a few other clubs are at least considering the thought of making a move for the temperamental striker. Though Corinthians have renewed their interest, the club making the most noise about signing Tévez are the Rosaneri. So why do I want him to end up there? Well, if Carlos is signed permanently, Milan will have the undisputed craziest front line in the world: Robinho (the brat), Pato (the indifferent), Cassano (the mad hatter), Ibrahimović (the bully) and Tévez (the ego). And with Silvio Berlusconi resuming his duties as club chairman, I’m really hoping he forces Allegri to play all five of them at once.

And lastly, for Fernando Torres to keep looking like this:

sulking torres on chelsea bench

ten words or less #43

real madrid christmas marcelo, ramos, perez, mourinho, cassilas, higuain

even the men of real madrid thought it worth celebrating the blog's 20,000th visitor.

Despite the fact that the holidays are generally a festive time of the year, we have extra reason to celebrate on Christmas 2011: wrongsideofthepond.com crossing the 20,000 unique visitor milestone. I devoted an entire post — and even unveiled an official URL — to commemorate eclipsing the 10,000 mark, so I lament to report that I’ve only prepared you a lame-o TWOL post to celebrate this time around. I’m bad with Christmas gifts, what can I say?

I do have to admit that, after looking over that 10k post, I feel like the blog has come lightyears since. I’d like to think that my content has improved, as well as my writing… though I’ll allow you readers to have the final say on that. If nothing else, it’s been pretty cool to see how fast the site’s traffic has actually grown: while it took just under two years to hit 10,000 visitors, it only took around 10 months to double that figure. And I have to thank you, my readers, for the large part you played in helping to spread the word.

So as you gather with family, friends and the like this today, regardless your traditions, just know that whatever parades and celebrations you see on TV today are being thrown to celebrate this blog reaching such “historic” heights… and not some longstanding religious tradition or anything like that. Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

‘Arry get’s busted. Very circuitously. But still busted. – unprofessionalfoul.com

SWRL: the world’s first freestyle soccer lifestyle brand… pretty sick. – swrlworld.com

Seriously. What the hell is wrong with the Belgian league? – cheeseslices.co.uk

Not exactly a normal academy, but a great idea regardless. – kckrs.com

Enrique’s progress on bringing Barcelona to Rome. – zonalmarking.net

The Blizzard… my first digital periodical download. – theblizzard.co.uk

So if I followed, Borges is the Brazilian Darren Bent? – inbedwithmaradona.com

Even if Pepe breaks your leg, he’ll make you cookies. – dirtytackle.net

ten words or less #41

mourinho rides callejon

callejón is content to be josé mourinho's "human segway".

I literally had to flip a coin to decide which picture would end up as the headlining selection for this week’s post. It was a dead heat between the eventual winner entitled José Rides Forward and Beckham Budweiser Ballin’. Each is awesome in their own right for various reasons. But I’m glad Mourinho won out though: just look how intensely he’s riding José Callejón, like an overdressed Portuguese jockey in the Kentucky Derby. The ride also must have proven inspirational for Callejón, as he bagged a brace in the very next game out for the Spaniards.

Picture of the week honors? Fate chose wisely.

Are Spain slipping, or is del Bosque losing the plot? - zonalmarking.net

Dear family members: here’s what I want for Christmas. – soccerbible.com

Marketing gone bad… so bad it could literally hurt. – football-shirts.co.uk

Which unnamed DP will be the recipient of this money? – kckrs.com

So what if it’s Nike’s old commercial in reverse. Brilliant. – grantland.com
(…props to my boy Marc for digging this out)

Marouane Fellaini: The Human Chia Pet. – FHM.com

Anybody else feel like booking a trip to Buenos Aires? - hotelbocajuniors.com

The tactics behind this week’s super entertaining Barça-Milan match. – zonalmarking.net

ten words or less #32

potential corinthians signing bing chang bao

i'm fairly certain bing chang bao's potential signing by corinthians is not what's kept the club from being able to buy tevez.

While it’s often times more fun to squabble and make a fuss about all of the (likely) false transfer rumors that abound this time of year in the soccer blogosphere, I find it interesting that this particular TWOL posting get’s half of it’s links from mainstream media outlets. They’re not usually known for diving into the transfer drivel, so you’ll get some interesting reads this time around.

And since it’s not very often that the likes of CNN, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports get to grace the hallowed spaces on my blog, I’m sure their editors are rushing to publicize their distinguished appearances on today’s quick update.

Ronaldo, Coentrão and Mourinho… you dirty dogs. – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com

How I feel during every USMNT “home” match.” – cnn.com

Ooooh… that burns, doesn’t it Messi? Doesn’t it!?!? - whoateallthepies.co.uk

Signing a rubbish player probably won’t catch the Chinese market. – ojogobonito.com

Nobody on the FIFA executive committee gets dirty money. – nytimes.com

The typical American soccer fan? I hope not. – reddit.com/user/devineman

Yet nobody wondered when decent-named players signed in Turkey. – si.com

A brilliant piece on the state of the women’s game. – foxsports.com

ten words or less #31

It may just be me, but the summer tours by European clubs are nothing more than a gigantic tease.

cesc, luka and sam... trying to break the chains of "slavery."

All summer long, we’ve had to make do with watching international football (or not watching it, in the case of watching the Copa America in the U.S.) and patiently wait for the club season to resume. For many of us it’s been a torturous off season, watching our clubs walk a treatorous tightrope through the hectic transfer season. So the second we get a sniff of our teams playing again, we’re on it child predators to a newly opened playground.

It’s not until we see those sides give minutes to 23 players during the match, or only play their superstars for 25 contractual appearance minutes, that I begin to realize they’re just here to add to the clubs’ bottom lines.

If you don’t want to stay, don’t sign long contracts. – skysports.com

Why Mourinho-football is good for the game, perfectly explained. – soccerissue.com

To avoid frustration, Everton fans should not click this link. – evertontime.com

Promoted Club Tijuana has organized crime connections? No way!!! – inbedwithmaradona.com

It’s taking everyone forever to realize the brilliance of Sandro. – ojogobonito.com

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is girlier than a little girl. – kckrs.com

Can’t stop hyping this rivalry… and it’s MLS! – theoriginalwinger.com

A “+1″ for the Brighton & Hove stadium contractors. – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com

round up #33

diego forlán of atlético madrid

the form of former tottenham target diego forlán has fallen off steeply; harry’s wheeling and dealing sensors must be tingling.

I admit that I’m really trying to steer clear of transfer rumors stories in my latest Round-Up and TWOL posts, mainly because I’ll need something to write for the rest of the summer. That said, there are some stories below that do mention the possibilities of transfers, so don’t skewer me when you come across it.

As we enter the final weekend of matches in the 2010-2011 Premier League season, it’s all pins and needles for no less than five clubs at the foot of the table, and Tottenham have a chance to keep a tiny trickle of European relevancy running through White Hart Lane. So needless to say, I’m on pins and needles a bit too.

So moving along to today’s round-up, we’ll start off on this side of the pond…

The New York Cosmos take to the field this summer – totalfootballblog.com
And so it begins. Even though the “Zombie Cosmos” will begin their climb up the American professional soccer ladder at the lowest rung, the u-23 Premier Development League (PDL), I think it’s fantastic first step for an organization trying to earn what’s likely to be the 20th and last MLS franchise. This will give the club a great avenue for continuing to identify talent from their already established youth academy, a major pillar of the club’s philosophy.

The author of this article did fail to mention one of the other major benefits that this news will provide for the cosmos: a revenue stream. Aside from the revenue that have been generated by the club’s bad ass Umbro apparel, they really didn’t have another major source of income. By fielding a PDL side, it allows the club to charge fans to come and watch potential future Cosmos stars and pour some money into their coughers. It’s not a cheap to fund a campaign to join MLS, and the club is going to need some source of income to help them reach their eventual goal.

A perfect transition from the States back to Europe, a story about a player that used to play on this side of the pond:

Rohan Ricketts’ Moldovan nightmare – column10.com
With the big dogs in Europe trying to right their financial ships before UEFA’s financial fair play rules come into effect (well, some of them aren’t), it’s a little bemusing that UEFA don’t seem to be taking much interest in how finances are playing out in the lower tiers of the European football too. For example, consider this linked article about former Arsenal, Tottenham, Wolves, Barnsley, and Toronto FC winger Rohan Ricketts.

While ricketts is a textbook journeyman footballer, crisscrossing the glob in search of glory/paychecks, the hardships he’s endured at Moldovan side Dacia Chişinău are a far cry from what any professional should expect. While the big clubs are always getting the headlines about the dirty tricks their owners play when trying to screw over players, little clubs are often times just as guilty, if not worse. The problem is without the financial gain of European competition to hold over their heads, the smaller clubs often go unpunished for such actions.

Though to be fair, Ricketts probably should have assumed that something retarded would go down when signing up for squad in Moldova.

Speaking of a player that should have made a move elsewhere last transfer window…

Forlán’s relationship with Atlético seems damaged beyond repair – si.com
Football is a rollercoaster, ain’t it? I’m sure if you were to ask Diego Forlán that question, the Uruguayan would probably agree right about now. Last summer he was named the best player at the World Cup, fresh after winning the European golden boot for Atlético Madrid. Now, just nine months after Los Rojiblancos were demanding £20 million for the 30-year-old striker, they appear to be trying to give him away.

The article states that Forlán’s difficult personality has strained his relationship with Atlético’s likely-to-be-departing manager Quique Sánchez Flores. But I do wonder if that’s really enough to have forced him out of a mid-table starting XI despite being in the running for the Ballon d’Or just a few months ago. Maybe Diego is trying to engineer a move away from the capital club because they wouldn’t let him leave last summer? All I can say is that with the kind of season that he’s had, I’m really glad Harry Redknapp didn’t convince Levy to dump a ton of money into some empty Spanish bank account for his services.

I hope you’re not afraid of being spied on if you like to attend sporting events…

Wembley 360 – thesun.co.uk
I’m going to go out on a limb and make the assumption that you have yet to see every single person who attended the FA cup final between Manchester City and Stoke City this past weekend, nor am I guessing that you actually wanted to. But in the off-chance that you do want to see that, thanks to big brother The Sun, you can now look at and Facebook tag every single person sitting in England’s hallowed national stadium at somewhere between the 19:52 and 21:27 marks of the match.

While I can see the appeal of such a unique feature — and also impressed by the technology the oft-dubious tabloid used — I’m not convinced that I actually like the idea of a high-def stadium wide panoramic. It comes off as extremely Orwellian, especially with the paper imploring it’s readers to self-identify themselves and rat out their friends. Wembley 360 tastes of invasion of privacy. I mean, tell me there weren’t some blokes there playing hookie from work to go watch the Final. Now they’ve been made by the sun‘s all-seeing eye. Not cool.

Sometimes clubs need all-knowing presence floating behind the scenes to make things tick.

zidane still involved at real madrid

zizou is often greasing the wheels behind the scenes in madrid.

Real Madrid still benefiting from Zinedine Zidane’s presence. – si.com
Not sure how I missed this from about a month back, but this piece does an excellent job of answering a question I’ve been contemplating for a while: what exactly does Zizou do at Real Madrid? Author Ben Lyttleton paints an excellent picture of Zidane’s role at his former club, where he’s serving as the club’s “special advisor to the president and first team”… quite the title.

Not only does it explain that the French legend takes time to work with the players and provide welcomed insight from Mourinho, but he also smooths over the political rifts within the club (Ex: Valdano vs. Mourinho) and is in tight with the president too. In a nutshell, he’s the glue that keeps the modern Real held together. Until he head butts Ronaldo.

the inevitable is there

“they’ve done well, but the inevitable is there,” said ray wilkins during his commentary towards the end of last night’s game. and while the former chelsea first team coach’s words were a generous yet accurate assessment of spurs’ performance, the sting was still there. we all knew it would end this way.

ricardo carvahlo pokes the ball away from gareth bale.

even bale's immense talent isn't enough to ward off the inevitable.

thank god for ray, though: he was a like a machine gun that fired off training ground quips at random intervals. if it hadn’t been for his entertaining commentary, i doubt many tottenham fans would have in any way found the match enjoyable.

either way, let’s just say i’m glad i didn’t make any predictions in yesterday’s column.

in a rare display of common sense, even i knew that i would end up putting my foot in my mouth by making some absurd prediction of a tottenham victory in the bernabéu. the yids had already pulled off a miracle this season at the san siro (an argument could even be made that they pulled off two miracles there), but asking for another magical european night facing another storied opponent? nobody’s luck stays good so long.

besides, redknapp had already been mugged in madrid once this year. would it really be that surprising if it happened again?

even with the man advantage for three-fourths of the match, madrid clearly looked the better side. the interplay at the

di maria celebrating his scorcher against madrid

angel di maria's belter was the nail in tottenham's champions league coffin.

top of the pitch between the two-goal adebayor, ronaldo, ozïl and di maria was, at times, a force of nature. the tandem of xabi alonso and khedira completely neutralized any central threat from modrić and jenas. (tangent warning: is it just me, or is jermaine jenas the worst player ever to play in a champions league quarter-final? he didn’t play one positively directed ball, and when he attempted to, he coughed it up every time. i hate him.)

without crouch up top to divert their attention, the madrid back line did little wrong in handling counter attacks sporadically coming out of the tottenham end. and with less defensive responsibility, it allowed marcelo the freedom to regularly join the madrid attack. judging by his performance both tonight and over recent months, i’m guessing the special one is feeling rather justified with hanging on to the emerging brazilian.

sure, the red card certainly threw tottenham’s match plans out the window. but i would venture to say that even if

crouch sees red against real madrid

crouch's stupidity likely didn't impact the eventual outcome that much.

crouch hadn’t been an idiot, spurs would still have been tactically out matched. massimo allegri and rafa benitez are great managers, but neither prepares their side as well as mourinho. and though harry’s not as big of a tactical moron as some like to claim, there’s no doubting that mourinho is a class above in that department.

but like mr. wilkins noted in the opening quote, tottenham’s performance wasn’t all bad. there were positives to glean from the horrid 0-4 scoreline:

  • bale seems to be getting his mojo back. he was able to really open it up a few times last night, a first since he went out injured. moments that stick out were the near miss in the fist half after beautifully chesting down a long ball at the top of the madrid box, as well as a very accurate long throw to van der vaart. he was dangerous enough to draw a ban-inducing yellow on pepe, and should have earned another from sergio ramos on several occasions.
  • michael dawson is definitely emerging as a premier level center back. despite the score, he handled himself very well when facing up against one of the most gifted attacking groups in the world.
  • sandro’s rise to prominence continued last night, though his decision-making at times made me sweat (quit dribbling out of the back!). regardless, his distribution is light years better than palacios and he may soon find himself ahead of even huddlestone when he returns from injury.
  • spurs defended very well with ten men for stretches, and it’s a bit shocking that they held off until the 57th and 72th minutes before conceding the second and third goals. if they had been at full strength, i think a 1-2 or 1-3 scoreline would have been more likely.

despite these bright spots, and even if there had a been a few more, i still knew this was coming. it was “the inevitable.”

yes, the second leg still remains. but it would be foolish to predict another miracle. beating madrid by five goals, even at home, is pure fantasy. getting knocked out the champions league wouldn’t be the worst of scenarios either, allowing spurs to fully focus their efforts on finishing fourth and qualifying for the champions league again.

but i am hoping tottenham will make it competitive this time around. it’s been a fun ride this year, and i’d love to get to see some of the attacking flair that was deprived us last night. and if we’re so lucky, we can all enjoy just one more european night at white hart lane.