Sunday, February 22, 2009

Viva México!

So, I just got back from Mexico and, like an unbelievable geek, I spent a long time watching sports at the resort. You know, between drinking and sitting by pool/beach/bodies-of-water.

Anyways, Mexican football is something totally different. I've never watched Mexican football before, and the style is very different than the game I'm used to.

The central midfielder's role is very different than it is in the European game. Where in the game I'm used to the number 10 is a holding midfielder, responsible for the defensive and offensive side of the game, making runs, distributing passes, all that stuff. In the Mexican (or maybe South American, didn't watch enough of the rest) game, he's got a very different role. There, the number 10 has time to wait, see what happens, and distribute the ball more evenly. Also, he typically doesn't run, and doesn't find himself doing much in the defensive zone on a regular basis.

Also, they've (number 10s) figured out how to make defense unbelievably tricky. Long shots have far more importance. Smashing the ball from around 25 yards on a regular basis if there's no easy or obvious pass. I think it takes something away from the creativity of the game, but obviously it makes defending more difficult because you need to cover strikers, wingers and the long shot... which you typically don't see in the European game.

I say it wouldn't be a bad idea to implement the long shots into the English game - we pride ourselves on power and have been victim to a severe lack of creativity in the past 10-40 years. I say the hell with it, give the ball to Lampard/Gerrard/Carrick/whoever and let them smash the ball from 25 yards and confuse international defenses.

I'm not sure how coherent this post is, I haven't slept in a while - but yeah. Point being: Mexican football interesting, number 10 different role, long shots are awesome, defending is tough.

Last point: this picture is amazing, hopefully a sign of things to come? Mexico + Spurs = long shots and Giovani dos Santos being more used? I bloody hope so.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Most Underrated: Midfielders

Here's the second of three instalments in this series: The midfielders...

Albert Riera (26, Spanish, Liverpool)
A bit of a late bloomer, perhaps, but arguably one of the reasons Liverpool have been maintaining a title push this season. Of four signings made the improve the width of that team this year, he has been the only one to do so. Will never be a regular for Spain but his recent involvement in the team shows that he's gaining admirers.

Esteban Cambiasso (28, Argentinean, Internazionale)
Perhaps one of the most tactically gifted midfielders in the game, the Argentinean midfielder has a fantastic eye for a pass and splendid movement. Not the most glamorous player at Inter and certainly not for Argentina, but he is at his most effective when operating just ahead of the centre circle. His goal against Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup shows why a player of his style will always be in demand.

Michael Carrick (27, English, Manchester United)
I go on about Michael Carrick quite a lot on this blog, but I think he is still underrated. He has been very good for England when called upon and his neatness is the difference, for club at least, between 0-0 and 1-0 in tight games away from home. Pauk Hayward, writing in the Guardian today, insists that:
"Carrick is one defence against the entirely rational suspicion that Englishmen will never be able to pass or keep the ball as well as the best Europeans or South Americans."

For that alone we should applaud the lad.

Park Ji-Sung (27, South Korean, Manchester United)
This lad is all energy, but there is more to his game: in the defensively minded formations that won United the Champions League last year, Park Ji-Sung worked tirelessly to deny space and make the difference with limited opportunities. The young Rafael, at right-back, plays best with Park ahead of him - the Korean midfielder being more willing/able to go from one touchline to the other than many of his more fleet-footed Portuguese team mates. The functioning of Manchester United as a unit owes a lot to this man both in the dressing room and on the pitch.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Team Canada sweater released

Mostly because I haven't seen this anywhere but Icethetics, I've decided to throw it up here.

In November, I put up a post about how the IOC is finally forcing Team Canada hockey to move away from its classic logo, as no country is allowed to display their national sports federation logo during the Olympics. As such, Hockey Canada was forced to find something new.

Something new has arrived. Well, something new arrived months ago, but I just found out about it.

Behold: Team Canada's new sweaters.

I, for one, really like it. The colour is awesome, described by designer David Young as "Canadian blood red". The logo is classic, harking back to the Canada Cup days, but modern. Plus, it'll make my 1976 throwback sweater a little more modern (which has its good and bad points to it).

Either way, I was really worried about what they were going to do with the new Team Canada sweaters, but I really, really like this.

Good job, Hockey Canada!

EDIT: August 14, 2009. Hockey Canada's 2010 Olympic jerseys were leaked... see them here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Phil's Notebook: Chelsea go wobbly, Platini speaks sense

Another week has passed. If you're looking for information on David Beckham, please look away from the information herein.

Chelsea in trouble

Who would have thought that the well-oiled machine bequeathed by Avram Grant (credit where credit is due!) would disintegrate so fast? Scolari's latest Portuguese signing, Ricardo Quaresma, is only 25 yet has already flopped at Barcelona and Inter. He is so remarkably one-footed that he uses the outside of his right foot, the trivela move to cross and shoot, all the bloody time. It is as bizarre as it is sad, highlighting a remarkable deficiency in a footballer once on a par with Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of potential. Chelsea take on Hull at Stamford Bridge this weekend, but I think Hull are in with a chance here especially as Hilario will be in goal due to Petr Cech's injury. This could be the upset of the weekend.

Italian football returns?
Looks like AC Milan can still attract big names (and big offers), and the Serie A itself is as competitive as it has been in some time. Roma and Genoa are competing for 4th spot, and Cagliari are on fire of late. Diego Milito, a striker I rate extremely highly, is back from injury for Genoa to face Roma on Sunday - it could be a decisive encounter. I don't think Italian football is in a renaissance: one only needs to look at Roma's finances to see a microcosm of the general situation there. A more organised method of selling TV rights as well as ensuring safer stadiums - a la Premier League - might be a start.

A sentence or two on Fulham (I want to get this over with as much as you do)
Their oft-overlooked manager Roy Hodgson was silly to let go of Jimmy Bullard, but he's stabilised Fulham remarkably and made one or two good loan signings this January. They play far more attractive football now and thoroughly outplayed and beat Arsenal earlier in the season.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, Sunday 1330 GMT
This is going to be a very good game involving two sides with a lot to prove. One is a talented squad unexpectedly battling for survival, the other a club which has seen its perennial challenges for honours wither away in the Abramovich era. Predicting a result for this one looks near-impossible, but a win for Tottenham is a real likelihood. Debuts for Robbie Keane and Andriy Arshavin look likely, so goals should be plentiful. An atmosphere of civility and healthy banter in the stadium and outside it (and 3 points for Arsenal) would make it a perfect Sunday.

Marek Hamsik
The young Napoli midfielder is getting attention from Juventus and Real Madrid, after impressing for two seasons in Serie B and Serie A and coming close to joining Inter in the summer. I rate Hamsik alongside Lassana Diarra and Daniele De Rossi as a top class ball-playing central midfielder. He is ready for the step up to the elite, in the €30million fee bracket most likely.

A word from Michel
As the debate rages about the merits of having a transfer window at all, UEFA president Michel Platini has echoed one of my own concerns, asking:
"What next? Clubs signing a player for one game? The Champions League final?"

He has gone on to say that a system will need to be devised to prevent such excesses, but that the transfer window itself does not look viable in the long term. Good man.

Premier League Punditry
is back on Sunday, same time same place. I'll bring you a post on underrated midfielders some time soon. That's all for today, enjoy the weekend!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hartsburg fired


Please refer to my past rants on firing coaches too early, I don't like repeating myself and I am literally shaking with rage right now.

I was pretty excited when Hartsburg came, but really, really hoped the Senators organization would grace him patience as he was taking on his first major coaching role in just under a decade.

This was, of course, the perfect year to bring in an inexperienced coach. This year's Senators are probably the worst team we've had in a very long time - slow defence, unproductive and single-plane offence, no goaltending. No coach could possibly be expected to really succeed with this unit at their disposal. I hate to tell you this, Bryan, but Craig Hartsburg isn't Gordon Bombay. He can't take the shittiest team ever and make them beat evil Icelanders to win the Junior Goodwill Games*.

So, after 48 games, they're giving him the boot. Another good coach gets thrown to the wolves because someone in the higher echelons of an organization can't get their shit in order. This is the season when all Ottawa's dumb management decisions finally caught up with them, and Hartsburg is being made to suffer for it.

Shame, shame, shame.

* I don't know where all the Mighty Duck references came from, but I'm running with it

Return of the King

I'm not thrilled about it, in the analytical sense... but as a football supporter I couldn't be more pleased.

Robbie Keane is back, we spent £15m for him. We sold him, of course, for £20.3M. So, good profit and he's back.

Let's break down the Tottenham players who came back after 12 months or less.

Jermaine Defoe
Pacy striker, incredibly useful under the instruction of Harry Redknapp. Pavlyuchenko's greatest skill is providing perfect through balls, he should continue to flourish at Spurs with good service from the midfield.
Good Buy

Robbie Keane
As I said yesterday, I'm fearful of what might happen. I hope he doesn't feel dejected by Liverpool selling him at cut-price, he unfortunately couldn't perform under the instruction of Rafa. What Keane needs is a free role, to move as he pleases around the 18 yard box and be provided service from the midfield, and he'll get that from our current midfield and Redknapp. Like I said above, we still make a little over £5M from the deal, so it all works out.
Good Buy

Pascal Chimbonda
One of the true cancers to the Spurs dressing room last season. He walked out of the Carling Cup final after being substituted. He refused to play center back when asked, even though we had no one else who could play the position. He was the true definition of ass. I'm still not sure why we brought him back, we have two of the most promising right-backs in the Premier League in Vedran Corluka and Chris Gunter... we need help on the left. THE LEFT, 'Arry! I don't understand the point of buying back Chimbo, I hope he isn't as cancerous as he was last season.
Bad Buy

With Wilson Palacios in Tottenham's midfield now (having recently arrived from Wigan), we have a stronger, more creative holding midfielder, finally replacing Michael Carrick.

At any rate, recent developments would suggest we certainly aren't headed for relegation, but I doubt we'll get a Europe spot now.


EDIT - Robbie Keane was in fact bought for £12M, making it a nearly £10M profit.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

If you can't beat 'em, for the love of God don't let 'em beat you!

I can't believe Tottenham. Honestly, we're horrible. I don't know if any other team has allowed more goals i the last five minutes of a game than Spurs. I also don't know how to find that stat, so we'll just assume I'm right.

At any rate, Spurs went down 2-0 at the Reebok - but then they fought back to 2-2 thanks to some good effort from the team and *sigh* Darren Bent. Who would've thunk it?

But then, four minutes to time, we lost. 3-2. Off a corner. Story's in the books.

Now, the question comes back to "what to do?". I'll tell you what not to do: bring back every former player and their grandmother. Unbelievable. I love Jermaine Defoe and Robbie Keane, I was extremely happy with their play at White Hart Lane and I was horribly sad to see them go. When Chimbonda left - I was excited.

And yet - we've spent far more money than we made trying to bring these guys back. Defoe's been off his game, but he's getting there. That said, it's a slightly different situation - he never wanted to leave and he's coming back to play under his favourite manager. Chimbonda was shite at the Lane, bad for morale, bad for the team. Now - Robbie Keane. His boyhood club was Liverpool. If I were a professional footballer and Spurs offered me the chance to play in North London, I'd be there in a second. Then, if Spurs decided they didn't really want me anymore, and sent me back to the team I came from for half the price they bought me for... well I'd be crushed. And I certainly wouldn't be excited to play. That's what's going to happen if we bring back Robbie Keane, and it's a scary prospect.

Anyways, this is a team that needs to do a few things;
1) Have the mental strength to pull through the last minutes of a match
2) Be smarter than a monkey with a wheel when it comes to transfers

Now, in university 'news':
1) Men's basketball played a hell of a game against the Varsity Blues. With a minute and a half left they tied it up. With 17 seconds left they went down by 4 points and the game was lost.
2) Men's hockey had one hell of a weekend - they beat Ryerson and U of T with minimal fuss, though they almost blew it against the Varsity Blues.
3) I've been throwing around ideas for how our football team is going to do next year, and I'm starting to get increasingly excited by our prospects. Maybe we're not going to fall apart next season?

As always, Andrew, Phil and I will be doing Premier League Punditry today at 1:15 p.m. at Sporting Madness, be tharr or be squarr...