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 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.
WSOTP Pod: Season 1 Episode 2
So you’re back for more, eh? Delayed a day so we could squeeze in some discussion on Manchester City-Newcastle, Jeremy and D.J. will give you a full rundown on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. Was Jeremy was impressed with Mourinho’s second debut? Was D.J. satisfied with a retooled Spurs side? In addition to those thoughts, you can expect looks at Rickie Lambert’s extraordinary week, the USMNT’s comeback against Bosnia, a round up of MLS action, a quick review of the Football Factory at Legend’s in the WSOTP Soccer Pub highlight and much more. And this time, you get it all packaged in a slightly shorter package.
What a week it was for football.
Spain, long the kings of European club and international soccer, was humbled over the course of two nights in Germany. The shock waves of the thorough beatings received by Barcelona and Real Madrid are still reverberating a week later as we head into the return ties in Spain. Meanwhile, the Premier League saw not only a champion named, but also two sides doomed to relegation. The race for the top four in England also remains interesting, with Spurs and Arsenal seemingly trying to trip out of each others’ way nail down the last slot. The Columbus Crew’s scoreboard caught on fire shortly before its team did in a 3 goal victory over DC United for the Black and Gold. And the biggest news? I scored a hat trick in my coed indoor match midweek. Earth-shattering stuff, right?
So with all of the madness that went down last week, it would have been easy to miss an interesting story or two along the way. As we edge our way towards yet another week guaranteed to be full of even more twists and turns, have a read through some of the best content I gleaned from the web over the last week that might have gone under the radar.
An infographic explaining the NASL’s new Indy Eleven‘s name. – indyeleven.com
One small step for Pittsburgh, one giant leap for USSoccer. – theshinguardian.com
Meanwhile in Sweden, they’re paving over pitches. – whoateallthepies.tv
Honestly, I’d have a hard time fairly judging a Gooner. – guardian.co.uk
Nike have something crazy in store for us. – soccerbible.com
Bravo, Dirty Tackle: a marvelous bit on the Suárez bite. – dirtytackle.net
In a weekend where fan hooliganism made headlines on both sides of the pond, this week’s not-exactly-HD “Pic of the Week” comes to us from the aftermath of the Tyne-Wear Derby in Newcastle. Northeastern rivals Sunderland traveled to Newcastle to face the Magpies at St. James Park, and came out of the match surprise 3-0 winners. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t sit well with home support, who then spilled into the street surrounding the stadium and threw a temper tantrum of epic proportions.
The highlight of the scenery captured though has to be footage of the man above, who thought it best to not only provoke the policemen attempting to keep the peace… but also punch one of their horses in the face. Caught on camera several times before obscuring his face with his scarf, the lug wasn’t exactly able to land a solid blow to the equestrian guardian before gesturing “Come at me, bro” several times and then being tackled by the police. However, that likely won’t stop him from having picketers from PETA marching outside his house, or avoid a date with the Newcastle magistrate sometime in the next fortnight.
And for those animal-friendly readers concerned about the horse? Don’t worry, “Bud” as he’s called, has recovered well and will live to face drunken Geordies another day.
Though I’m a few days late in getting last week’s Pic of the Week up on the blog, you might be even more confused that to the picture I’ve selected because it most certainly wasn’t taken last week. In fact, the picture above was taken in 2006 during one of Paolo Di Canio’s final matches with Lazio before he retired. So why, then, did I pick this as this week’s picture?
Di Canio, a self-professed Fascist sympathizer, was named the successor to Martin O’Neil as manager at Sunderland at the weekend. And though the Italian lightening rod earned the opportunity to try to save the Black Cats from relegation thanks to a very fruitful two year spell in charge at League One Swindon Town, most of the rhetoric surrounding his appointment has concerned this six year old picture. Though a few of the punditry chosen to overlook the political leanings of a potentially very talented manager and debate his merits as as a manager — a novel idea, right? — many have decided to attack Sunderland and Di Canio for the decision by calling them “racists” and “unethical”. And while Paolo can be accused of having a fiery personality and is probably guilty of some poor decision-making in his past, that doesn’t mean he’s not qualified for the job. By all accounts, he’s a very intelligent man and a promising managerial talent.
So my selection for this week’s Pic of the Week is meant to convey this simple message: let’s let current news and future results dictate our perceptions of someone, not their past indiscretions. Otherwise, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
The midpoint of the European season is often one of the most jam-packed, chaotic and turbulent portions of the yearly footballing calendar. Between the January transfer window, scheduling congestion between all of the major competitions — especially in England where there is not a winter break — and under performing clubs starting to realize that there’s hardly any time to left in the season to really turn their seasons around, the pressure mounting on some clubs and their managers often reaches a fever pitch.
Of course, the media love this time of year for just those reasons. It allows them the ability to not only
fabricate report on stories concerning transfer speculation, but also pounce all over clubs who’s managers they feel aren’t able to control the crisis currently enveloping their clubs. Determining whether the agendas those media types are pushing are genuinely those of club’s or their fans’, however, can be a very difficult task. How are we, as media consumers, supposed to really know what’s going on?
Well, we can’t. But it sure can be fun to speculate. So with that in mind, below are listed five managers that the media have deemed to be currently in the hot seat at their respective clubs. For each, we’ll attempt to sift through all of the BS surrounding their situations, and predict a fate for each of these under pressure managers.
Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
The Situation: Of all the managers that the media are reporting to be in troubled situations at their clubs, as a Spurs supporter, Wenger’s crisis is the one in which I take the most joy. And though the “Professor” has been able to perform admirably on his shoestring transfer budget over the last few years, eight years without a major trophy appears to have rubbed the Gunners’ faithful the wrong way. Sure, sporadic calls for his head echoed around the Emirates in recent seasons, but those calls have grown louder and louder as time has worn on. With just one win in their last four, the discontent within their ranks finally boiled over in last weekend’s loss to Swansea with chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing!” audible even through the television. Wenger’s response? Despite languishing all the way down in 10th in the league table: “This club is in fantastic shape.” Delusional, much?
Crisis Level: 4 out of 10
Predicted Outcome: Despite the malcontent amongst their fans, Arsenal will at least stick with Wenger through the end of the year. Probably longer. Because while the fans are in an uproar, the club’s administration are perfectly content to keep selling off their best players and turning a profit… with or without trophies.
Carlo Ancelotti (Paris Saint-Germain)
The Situation: Despite outspending everyone in France by a country mile over the last few seasons, PSG and Ancelotti currently find themselves sitting second in the Ligue 1 table and facing mounting pressure. Big money signing and footballing anti-hero Zlatan Imbrahimović has come good for the Parisians, but the fact that he accounts for an astounding 54% of their goal tally in the league is immensely troubling for a side that also boasts attacking talents like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Maxwell and Javier Pastore. But as you might predict, Carlo has barely arched his super brow at the issue. “Things are going to change, because they’re not normal right now. The league isn’t finished. We’ll be competitive soon.”
Crisis Level: 5 out of 10
Predicted Outcome: With an ownership group that’s proven quick to pull the trigger on firing a coach (just ask Antoine Kombouaré), and oodles of money to attract a top manager, Ancelotti shouldn’t feel that comfortable at the moment. If results remain stagnant, expect PSG to make a change.
Martin O’Neill (Sunderland)
The Situation: For a man known for getting the most out of clubs without a lot of financial backing, O’Neill hasn’t been able to reproduce his successes at Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light. And with one less win in his first 24 matches in charge than his predecessor Steve Bruce had in the same span, not to mention the Black Cats currently sitting in the relegation zone, pressure must surely be mounting for the club to dispatch Northern Irishman. With just one win in their last 10 outings, time could be running out for O’Neill to save his hide. And a general rule of thumb is that any time you have to refute rumors of your own resignation, things aren’t going very well for you.
Crisis Level: 8 out of 10
Predicted Outcome: Sunderland’s ownership find themselves in a precarious situation: while O’Neill isn’t producing the desired results, who exactly are they going to replace him with? There aren’t exactly a number of managers in the market that have experience in rescuing clubs embroiled in relegation scraps. Mark Hughes is available, but he seems more apt to placing clubs in relegation battles than he is at getting clubs out of them. I’d doubt they would fancy another round of Roy Keane. And unfortunately, Roberto Di Matteo seems out of their reach. So with options limited, it seems Sunderland might just be stuck with O’Neill for the time being.
José Mourinho (Real Madrid)
The Situation: The Bernabéu is a tough office environment, even for a manager known for his mental fortitude like the Special One. Not only are Real Madrid’s fans fickle and demanding, but the club’s history tells us their board and presidents are too. If you thought sacking managers after winning the Champions League was something invented by Roman Abramovich, Real were at it a decade before the revolving door was installed at Stamford Bridge. And with José’s men already 11 points adrift of bitter rivals Barcelona, pressure is mounting on the Portuguese manager’s shoulders.
Crisis Level: 4 out of 10
Predicted Outcome: While winning the league and maintaining pace with their Catalunyan foes is important, the reason why Mourinho was brought it was to help Madrid win their long-sought 10th European crown. And while doing so would most certainly save his job, the odd thing is that he’s likely to leave even if he does win his third European Cup… on his own accord. Just as he did at Porto and Inter, José would probably fancy going out on top. But should he not achieve that goal, he’ll probably abort this project and move on to another, too.
Rafa Benítez (Chelsea)
The Situation: I saw a quote the other day describing the managerial situation at Chelsea that was pretty interesting. Five managers have won the Champions League in the last six years: Chelsea have fired three of them (Mourinho, Ancelotti and Di Matteo), and the other two (Ferguson and Guardiola) don’t want to manager for them. Benítez, a man who’s won one himself, had to have known that going in, right? And he also had to have known that the Chelsea fans hated him. And with this expensively assembled Chelsea side struggling to handle the high expectations being placed on them, Rafa had to have known the timing was bad, too. I get that a man may like a challenge, but at the same time, taking over the reigns at this point in Chelsea’s chaotic history seemed more like a suicide mission.
Crisis Level: 7 out of 10
Predicted Outcome: This one is the easiest outcome to predict by a landslide. Abramovich will fire Benítez. When that will happen is little less easy to predict, but knowing how fickle and trigger happy their Russian oligarch is, another loss for the Blues could just do the trick. But let’s be clear… it is going to happen. Just give it time.
The Euros are over, thus ending a three-week stretch where I’ve felt like I have been drowning in football. I mean, I’ve been seeing matches when I sleep… far more than normal, at least. I needed a break, which is something I never thought I’d say about the game. But the headlines just keep rolling out, as if I had forgotten that the world of soccer never sleeps, takes breaks, or allows me to catch up with the rest of my life.
I mean just some of the headlines that caught my attention, and probably deserve an article of their own. Thanks to an epic final, Spain have officially entered G.O.A.T. territory. Transfer madness is in full swing: big names already on the move, others look to be doing so soon, and – GHASP!!! — Spurs are even getting in on some early action.
So as I put the finishing touches on about four different articles, I figured I could pacify you readers with another edition of TWOL. And if that sounds like a raw deal to you, I’m sorry… but you’re going to need to deal with it.
I made the Football Attics League of Blogs top 3! - twitter.com
Ever wonder how MLS sides utilize statistical analysis? – mlssoccer.com
Brazilian side Vitoria have a bloody brilliant kit promotion. Literally. – 101greatgoals.com
Who wouldn’t watch a late night TV hosted by Crouchy? – givemefootball.com
Why the international game lags tactically behind the club game. – newstatesman.com
Spanish B sides up for promotion are causing massive issues. – inbedwithmaradona.com
If all holds true, the Colorado Rapids are disgraceful. – prostamerika.com
Everything you wanted to know more about Italy’s kit font. – designboom.com
Never underestimate the combined power of the internet and idiots. – dirtytackle.net
Gyan is a text book case for “lack of ambition”. – theoriginalwinger.com
I’m not having a panic attack. I swear… I think. Maybe I am having one. Well, wait… no I’m probably not having a panic attack.
But with just a few days remaining until the Spurs’ delayed official start to the Premier League’s 2011-2012 season, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is officially making me lose sleep.
I know that last season was a bit of a mixed bag for Spurs and their fans. We were all enthralled by our magical European adventure, but also all rightly disappointed that the team couldn’t consistently put in the type of domestic performances that were earning them worthy praise on the continent.
As this post clearly points out, Tottenham were a team that could hang with the big boys. But on the flip side of the coin, they were decidedly average against team’s they should have been beating. The rigors of the Premier League, regardless of the competition faced each weekend, were too much to heap on players who were already being asked to carry heavy Champions League loads.
One thing that is certain is that the lack of activity in the January transfer window played a decently-sized part in the club’s eventual shortcomings.
The squad clearly needed reinforcements (in particular at the front end of the pitch) to continue battling on multiple fronts, and yet the only area they reinforced was the one area of the pitch that didn’t need that much help (although, a midfielder like Pienaar was a deal at the price we landed him for). Long story short, thin as the squad was, it couldn’t cope with a multi-competition battle.
So when Tottenham relinquished their short hold on a top four position back in the spring, both Levy and Redknapp admitted that big signings would be necessary to get the club back on track with their grand aspirations.
Initially, long-term “dream” targets came back to the forefront. Forlán, Falcao, and Rossi were all floated in the deep pool of summer transfer rumors. But for various reasons (too old, too expensive, and too not for sale) none were realistic solutions to the Spurs’ striking woes. It appeared that Tottenham would either have to pony up and spend like the club has a super-rich foreign owner, or unearth a diamond in the rough.
Fellow Ohioan Brad Friedel was the first signing of the window, and though he was also a bargain-buy that addressed a weak spot in the team, his arrival was hardly the “big time” signing that we all wanted and the team needed.
But I remained optimistic; perhaps Friedel’s signing was the beginning of a torrid of transfer activity at White Hart Lane. After all, we don’t just need to buy at Tottenham: we also need to trim. With one of the largest squads in the Premier League last season, Levy remained (rightly) insistent that arrivals at the club would necessitate cash from sales.
Yet Friedel, to this point, remains the only transfer dealing of this extremely crucial off-season. One free signing, and only two paltry sums coming in after the Lillywhites finally disposed of serial-loanees Jamie O’Hara (to Wolves for £3.5m) and Robbie Keane (to LA Galaxy for £3m)… nothing official about Jenas, Hutton, Dos Santos, Bassong and Palacios being sold off to raise the all important cash.
So while Tottenham Hotspur seem to be twiddling their thumbs, all of their direct competitors have been busy strengthening their squads.
Manchester City, the club that’s recently been Tottenham’s biggest rival (as far as league places are concerned) over the last few years, have continued to spend astronomical sums on players they may (Stefan Savić) or may not (Clichy) need (Agüero could be unneeded if Tévez doesn’t leave). Sadly, additional devastating signings this window seem imminent. If they’re not competing for silverware on all fronts this season with the talent in that squad, then Mancini will have proven himself a moron of a manager.
Liverpool, the club that Tottenham displaced in the Champions League last season, look to have finally gotten back on track with new owner John Henry and new (and old) manager Kenny Dalglish aiming to return to their rightful place as an English power. The signings of Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, and José Enrique on top of the January signings of Suarez and Carroll, mean that the Reds have dropped a reported £94 million on getting themselves back in the top four.
Manchester United, the club that doesn’t ever have a down year, also look primed to continue their run of dominance over English football after finally dolling out a big chunk of the Ronaldo-sale money. Ashley Young, David de Gea and Phil Jones have arrived on the back of £50 million, plus there is emergence of Tom Cleverly and the possible arrival of Wesley Sneijder from Inter to further bolster their ranks. When Sir Alex said Tottenham could compete for the title this season, he must have forgotten that his team were competing in England this season.
Then there’s Chelsea, the club that’s played the part of Luka Modrić-stalker all summer long. To be honest, they’ve not spent much on players so far this summer (Lukaku and Romelu)… most of their outbound cash was to pry away
Mourinho-lite Andre Villas-Boas from Porto as their new temporary manager. Their lack of player spending has definitely been surprising, as the club’s senior citizen squad looked in the most need of reinforcements. However, I fret that they might not quite be finished for understandable reasons.
And then there’s our North London rivals, Arsenal, the club that… well, thank god at least one of our rivals is looking to be in worse shape than us. Serves them right, that scum.
I sit and watch world-class players arriving at those clubs, and I think to myself: “Those are the types of players we need.” But then I remember, the reality of it is, we can’t afford those players.
Stuck in an undersized stadium that’s unable to generate the necessary revenues to truly invest in a squad, Harry and Daniel have openly admitted that we can’t compete with the big boys when it comes to wages and transfer funds. So, now we’re having to make do with less ambitious targets.
Blackburn sweeper/striker Chris Samba‘s name keeps coming up, though improving the back four isn’t and shouldn’t be near the top of the club’s priority list. There have been links to another central midfielder in Real Madrid’s Lassana Diarra, which would make some sense if Palacios leaves. I’d love to see Twente’s Costa Rican striker/shampoo-commercial model Bryan Ruiz get bought, but with so little time left in the window, a deal like that would be tough. Maybe a loan move for everyone’s favorite mercenary, Emmanuel Adebayor, seems the most likely, but do we really want a player that nobody else wants?
And that’s not even touching on the possibility of Modrić leaving and how that could blow everything to hell. Levy seems to have the kid in a vice grip at the moment, but who knows what Chelsea’s millions could persuade the chairmen to do.
Look, my club’s biggest adversaries have spent over a combined £185 million pounds to solidify and/or improve their places in the league. Tottenham have spent zero. Everyone knew that Spurs needed to improve if they wanted to achieve their dream of becoming one of the big boys, and yet the club has done practically nothing to this point to show any of that necessary transfer ambition.
Sure, Harry Houdini could have another late-breaking, wheeling-and-dealing transfer that he’ll pull out of his sleeve like he did with van der Vaart. Maybe he’ll deliver the striker we so desperately need at 11:59pm on August 30th. But if he’ goes that long without a signing, I’d be more willing to bet that it will be another midfielder than a striker… ‘Arry seems to love those center of the park ballers.
And if that’s the case, someone call me a doctor… I’m going to need a prescription for Xanax that will last much longer than just through the remainder of this transfer window.
I took a small break last week from the blog as I was having trouble balancing work, soccer, the 4th of July weekend and my 29th birthday along with my writing responsibilities. I really screwed the pooch in the lead up to that, blowing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make my 29th TWOL post on the 29th of June on my 29th birthday…. further proof that I’m really just flying by the seat of my pants with this site.
Increasingly important to remember in today’s media-driven world. – therunofplay.com
This is the shit. – thebeautifulgear.com
I found this on a college team’s website. College. - spaldingathletics.com
The funny thing is, we’ll need this. - hasandrevillasboasbeensackedyet.com
Remember when the game was this awesome? - kckrs.com
God banishes lesbians from Nigerian national team. – thespoiler.co.uk
Nike gifts golden R9 Mercurials to o Fenômeno. - facebook.com/nikefootball
A yearly Anfield ritual… rinse and repeat. – surrealfootball.com