Weekend Revs: Reds, Blues and More

A great weekend of soccer just passsed is passing passed with lots of good play in the games TSG keeps track of.

We’re going to make a valiant effort to watch the Galaxy-Chivas game this evening in support of Houston fan Kevin who has been diligently waiting for us to follow the MLS. Winner there of course plays the Dynamo through on a 1-0 home win in 120 over the Sounders.

Manchester United – Chelsea

This game was the anomaly of the EPL weekend (lots of scoring elsewhere), ending in favor of the home side 1-0 on a header by John Terry. Man U came to the Bridge and looked

john terry

Join our Terry chorus: OVER-RATED! OVER-RATED!

to play a very technical, defensive game as Sir Alex opted for Anderson behind Rooney up top with Fletcher and Carrick in the middle. Chelsea countered with Deco up top–who was pretty much shut down and Joe Cole replaced him about half way through the 2nd half–backed by Lampard, Ballack and Essien. Deco looked both his age and his size against the Red Devs.

A defensive struggle, despite the Blues fluid movement through the midfield and Man U’s willingness to bring the counterattack and the counterattack alone.

Here are some observations:

• Despite John Terry being the hero with a glancing header (that Wes Brown may have actually stopped if Didier Drogba didn’t knock him down), the Chelsea man gets far too much respect from the refs. Early in the game Terry “accidentally” elbowed Antonio Valencia in the head and got nary a warning.  Per our stats earlier this year, Terry’s wear and tear is beginning to show and perhaps Chelsea should have let him head northward to Man City. The elder statesman is prone to grabbing, kicking and fouling on par or beyond Jamie Garragher only Garragher makes plays outside these fouls, Terry typically does not. The refs need to stop giving Terry breaks.

• Anderson’s talent for Man United cannot be denied. Plenty times the squat midfielder went up against TSG favorite Michael Essien and held his own. In fact, I shall call Anderson “mini-Essien” because in many respects–ability to maintain possession, visionary passing and generally being steely on the ball. Anderson, despite not playing forward all that much, made a number of good runs from the middle to the opposite post.

• Speaking of Essien, the Ghana national was again tip-top. Nobody calms the play down and switches field as well as Essien. Class in the midfield.

• Class in defense belonged a little bit to Wes Brown, but mostly to Ashley Cole this game. Cole was continually challenged yet was more than solid in defense and made some threatening runs forward.

• Antonio Valencia, to this writer, is somewhat confusing. Ronaldo’s replacement really looks like someone who needs the correct service to

valencia

WR: "Really man, I would have passed that last one to you if I had known you were on the pitch."

get the spacing he needs to do something. Unless Valencia  faced the opposing goal and had a moment to compose himself, he wasn’t very ineffective today. Somewhat incredulously as well, Valencia was absent nearly the entire day on the counterattack.

• And Cristiano Ronaldo would have been welcome in this game for Manchester United. United’s offense was a slew of counterattacking either initiated with run-ons by Wayne Rooney or through quick passing in the middle with Anderson (not Carrick or Fletcher both of who have offensive skills for that leave a lot to be desired). Giggs often joined as well, but you could say all of the Red Devils attacks lacked a certain creative dynamic.

Everyone knows that Rooney is going to threaten left and then look to get on his right foot. Everyone knows that Giggs is going to look to find the ball to his left foot for a pass or shot and now everyone knows that Valencia is going to primarily head to the baseline and wide to get space for a shot or cross. If I know it, then other teams know.

Berbatov in this game was nowhere to be found (perhaps too physical play). Without the floating Bulgarian there was just a lack of anything interesting on the attack. Man U is solid, but completely not spectacular.

• Further, speaking of the lone major offensive weapon in Wayne Rooney, the announcers commended him for getting back and defending on multiple occasions. Really?! Your top guy in your alignment and your main striker is in the defensive box and this is a good thing. Rooney, who Sir Alex commented last year needed to stay up on the pitch, must root himself above or just below the halfline at worst to create some space. Appreciate the effort, but don’t track back young man.

Our expectations were that this game would be won in the midfield, that is only slightly the case. While Chelsea won the defensive struggle, both teams played even enough for a draw. The advantage to Chelsea was that midfield as the Blues at least had some semblance of an offense where Man United was relegated to counter attacks and follow-up shots from Carrick and Fletcher –that’s just not going to get it done.

West Ham – Everton

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how Everton can’t play a good game. Yes, they are killed by injuries, but the Toffees made West Ham look like Arsenal on the day, absent the scoring.

That being said, at least Moyes’ team came away with the 2-1 win.

Many times it was only a Yobo thwarting that led to a denied chance right before Big T had to take action.

I felt like the announcer was Joseph Yobo’s proud parent or something. “Yobo, with a fantastic stop! Yobo, there at the last minute! Yobo, makes the play! Yobo, got 2400 on his SATS!” (Since when are they 2400?)

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the different in this one might have been the absence of Carlton Cole for the away squad as the Hammers couldn’t convert their chances.

fellaini

Finally, TSG gets to run a Fellaini pic this campaign

Not all was luck for Bluenoser City as Louis Saha looks to have fully reclaimed the form that made him the object off Manchester United’s desire  just a few short years ago. Lightening strikes lately from the Frenchmen.

Alas Saha would not have had the those chances if ‘Fro-man Fellaini (I never miss an opportunity to link to that video) was not distributing capably. Consider the big man a poor man’s Magic Johnson on the pitch as he stands  6 ft, 4 inches and distributes the ball like he can easily see over everyone.

USMNT fans should take note. With Herita Ilunga injured for West Ham that places 5th man Jonathan Spector squarely in the starting four–at leftback. Spector looked better and better as the game went on and even got involved in the offense occasionally.

Back to Carlton Cole. With the English team striker out for Gianfranco Zola’s squad, I have to question Zola’s decision to leave Alessandro Diamanti on the bench until midway through the 2nd half. We’ve mentioned Diamanti before (cruise to the bottom of that linked post). West Ham looked to need some more offensive firepower and then summarily looked better for it after Diamanti took the pitch. Maybe Diamanti’s fitness is not there yet, but still, Zola, what are you waiting for? You’re boys are bottom table.

Oh and more note here, not to tread on Timmy. Howard was beaten on an exquisite flick on the West Ham goal.

The goal was credited to an own goal by Goodison’s Tony Hibbert, but Howard was beat. Note, Howard came out for this one (correctly) and got beat left side as he tried to shut down the dominant foot of Junior Stanislas who was making a run on to a ball over the top by none other than Diamanti. Not a bad beat and otherwise Howard was his usual self, bulletproof as he swatted away shot after shot including a low liner from….yes…Diamanti. Timmy needs more press overseas….seriously.

Hull City – Stoke City & Fulham – Wigan

Not much TSG can add on these matches as only the highlights are available.

• Hull – Stoke:

• By now you know JZA started and played 83 minutes. Three notes on that move: 1) Jozy better be sending a thank you gift to Geovanni

bullard

Might this man hold the key to JZA's success at Hull?

for his red last week, because if Geovanni is there you’re probably getting him and Jan VofH again in the starting line-up, 2) Numero deux, consider everything between Altidore and Hull City A-ok if he’s now starting a few weeks after he counted sheep too long and found himself fined, and 3) With Stephen Hunt now accompanied by Jimmy Bullard in the middle you’re going to see more offensive ability from the Tigers. Yes that was 16 shots by the home side against a decent Stoke City defense today. JZA, you might as well send a gift to Bullard as well.

Oh, one more note on Drogba Jr. He’s confirmed his national team spot–we had no doubt–via his Twitter.

• Fulham – Wigan:

• I can tell you something you definitely know: Clint Dempsey scored (again.) I can tell you something you may know, Clint Dempsey didn’t play his forward role today, but played more of a mid/wing role away on the road. The road part is significant because you would expect Demps up forward with one less striker to play for the tie away from home–but you didn’t see that. That’s all I can tell you about this one.

demps_penalty

Dempsey: Rolling for Fulham

More to read here.

Saturday’s News

• In what we thought might be a closer encounter in our preview piece. Tottenham knocked off Sunderland at home with Darren Bent missing a

bent

Bent, no tongue-wagging this Saturday

vital penalty kick. That’s either karmic or unfortunate depending on your feelings about Bent. Alas, Bent has made the national squad side for their showdown this coming weekend with Brazil.

• Arsenal, as easily predicted by TSG and anyone with a pulse, scored north of 3 goals on the road and came away 4-1 at Wolverhampton. Yawn.

• Chicago beat New England for the right to beat up on Real Salt Lake. You would have thought a better effort would have come from the New England side. That’s it — give up the nickname NOW! Really, zero goals is not Revolutionary.

• Blackburn hung a 3-spot on Portsmouth at home after the break to prove that they should be just above them still in the battle to leave the Premiership.

• And does Marcus Tracy have a shot? Not mentioned–and rightfully–in our piece yesterday about the forthcoming USMNT roster, Tracy, who plays in Denmark, subbed in and scored over the weekend. If anything gets Tracy a shot at the bench, that would be it.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. [...] TSG Weekend Review: Weekend Revs: Reds, Blues & More [...]

    Reply

  2. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/11/08 at 11:52 PM

    the SATs are out of 2400 now. .. .not 1600. . .might want to check up on those typos also. And Bent didnt really “miss” the penalty as it was on target, he just hit it poorly and as the announcer noted it was “telegraphed”. On the replay I saw his eyes looking at that bottom right corner like it was public enemy number 1

    Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/08 at 11:57 PM

    Damn, really — I’ll update 2400? No kidding.

    If you don’t make it in you miss the penalty. It’s simple. :>

    Reply

  4. RE: Terry: Obviously you guys have no love for Chelsea. No mention of Johnny Evans’s Eric Cantona impression on Didier Drogba but John Terry gets singled out for criticism? Wow. If the referee had had a better view, Evans would’ve been sent off and Fat Frank would’ve been putting a penalty in the back of the net. Instead Drogba, who has given up amateur theatrics this season, was inexplicably yellow carded. Evans also lashed out at Carvalho, who did a revival of the performance that got a young Rooney sent off at Euro 2004. Still, I agree with the assessment that John Terry has probably peaked and seems to have suffered a mild decline in athleticism, he’s still one of the better center backs in the world. Terry does sometimes take risks, so he needs to be partnered with an intelligent central defender. Being partnered with Rio helps explain the drop in performance for England.

    RE: The Goal:If you watch the replay of the goal, at the same time Drogba is getting “getting beyond” Wes Brown, Anelka is being shoved to the ground by another Man United defender (Evans again, i think, but was hard to be certain). It’s the type of 6 of one, half dozen of the other stuff that goes on all the times during free kicks and is occasionally whistled but often not. There’s just no way Brown is getting to that ball anyway. It was pretty clearly a case of instant Karma and another tantrum for Sir Exploding Head.

    RE: Essien:Ancellotti has encouraged Essien to take on the Pirlo role and express himself from the base of midfield. Unlike Pirlo, who needed to be flanked by two hard-working ballwinners, Essien is truly a one-man midfield Dynamo and quite possibly the best player in the world. Essien’s performance was all the more impressive considering Fergie tasked Anderson with sitting just in front of the central midfielders to disrupt the space in which he usually operates. He’s finally showing the form he shows when playing for his country for Chelsea.

    RE: Defensive:The match was tight and the final ball never really came off for either side but this was not stolid defensive football of the Mourinho years. I expected to see Carrick and Fletcher in central midfield and they kept the Deco from being terribly effective. The improvement after Joe Cole came on was marginal. Chelsea’s defending this season has the fluidity of the best Italian defenses and isn’t based on only keeping a static shape. I think many of the goals the conceded to begin the season (resulting in two losses) were the result of teething problems with the move to this approach. It really is the sort of thing only the very best teams can pull off. It say something that Chelsea made no tactical adjustment based on their opponent, while United did. I recall a couple of times late in the first half when Chelsea was attacking with 8 players. United were far more conservative. Both teams created chances. (In Man United case, when I say “team” i mean “Wayne Rooney”.) But Chelsea never looked likely to concede, despite the impressive one-man performance from Shrek’s doppelganger.

    RE: Dempsey: While he broke into the first team at Fulham playing up top, he has been a fixture on the outside of midfield for Fulham from sometime around the Christmas fixtures last season. It’s been over a year since he’s played up top for his club and he’s clearly a very good midfielder and now he’s even taking penalties for a very good mid-table side capable of beating anyone on their day. That says all you need to know about his standing at the club.

    RE: Spector: He’s always needed games to develop into the player he’s capable of being. He’s one of these players who’s suffered from being a little bit too good for the reserves a bit too early in his development, even at United. He was clearly not out of his depth in his first-team appearances at United, even the Champion’s League. However, stepping up to the first team he’s never really found regular minutes he’s needed to develop so he plateaued or even declined. Maybe this is his season to show he can play regularly and show he can consistently find the high level we’ve only seen from him in flashes.

    RE: JZA Encouraging to see him get a start. Didn’t see the match but hopefully his dynamism will give the manager something to think about even though VoH scored the winner that brought them out of the drop zone. VoH needs service while Altidore can create his own chances.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/09 at 12:20 PM

      Yeah the criticism of Terry had me puzzled. I hate Chelsea (though not as much as United), and I can’t help but love the guy. If he didn’t play for Chelsea, he would probably be one of my favorite players (I guess that statement means he already is one of my favorite players).

      Oh, and I watched the Hull City match. I was looking for Jozy and I barely even noticed him. WIth VoH coming on for Jozy and getting the winner, I doubt Jozy did enough to put up a real challenge for that starting role. VoH was pretty much handed a free goal (I think it came off a rebound and all he had to do was not miss a wide open goal), but still, I wonder if Jozy would have been in the right place at the right time and if he would have actually hit the wide open goal. Jozy has missed many easy chances. Man, I sound like such a hater right now.

      Reply

  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/09 at 12:23 PM

    Wow — a lot to tease apart here Tuesday….

    First, I have no love for Chelsea or Man United.

    One thing I should have put in is how Wayne “Shrek” Rooney (as a leader and despite all his skill) leads the “departure from calm” for his side….Rooney started piping up to refs early in the match and then just let loose 20 minutes from time. To which youngsters, like Evans followed suit.

    Speaking of Evans, agreed. Some juvenile play, but Ricardo Carvalho almost made me want to reach inside my set and punch him in the face with his antics. So while Evans’ actions were worse, they even out Carvalho.

    Agreed on the goal — I’m not sure Wes Brown is getting to that one and Drogba knocking him down wasnt necessarily a foul to me–more a result of the circumstance.

    On Dempsey — great point on taking kicks (though when you have Bobby Zamora you might as well have even the goaltender come up).

    I’m going to combine your Essien point–disclaimer: he is this author’s favorite soccer player–and your defensive point.

    When you have a player like Essien who is at once good with and an offensive threat in possession and combine his ability to position and shut down the interior, you can play one man instead of two in the middle with the wings drawn in.

    If teams go wide on Chelsea — they’ve got Ivanovic and Cole (now injured for a few weeks–should be interesting)–if they go through the middle everyone collapses. Again, this is where Man U were powerless without Ronaldo, someone who can outpace the defense setting up and carry the ball as oppose to going over the top.

    Already looking forward to the teams’ next match.

    Reply

    • No criticism intended but for what’s usually a nerve-wracking encounter between these teams, I had very little doubt about the result while watching the game. As a Chelsea supporter, I thought I’d add my completely unbiased two cents.

      If Carvalho was a Harry Potter Character, he’d be professor of the dark arts. I referenced Rooney’s sending off against Portugal because I’m still not sure Rooney intentionally stomped him as much as Carvalho gave an Oscar-worthy performance.

      Essien is so well suited to that role and both Lampard and Ballack are players of the highest quality that can drop in there and cover for him and wait to join the attack in its final stage. Essien could really play any position in defense or midfield, which means Carvalho or Terry can join the attack given the opportunity. However, United’s shutting down Deco robbed Chelsea of some fluency and exposed their lack of width in the attack at times given the conservative play from the fullbacks.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/09 at 1:53 PM

        No criticism received.

        I support Everton, who started three youngsters up the pitch–one who is a rightback by trade, another defender in Leighton Baines up the pitch, and one Austrlian passed his prime.

        Not to mention the Everton defense of Distin (showing his age), Yobo (Herculean actually on the day), Tony Hibbert (please man, game over) and Transpotting’s Heitinga.

        Poor Timmy, who just got pummeled with shots towards the end of the match, must have thought he was already on international duty.

        “Oh man, so we have friendlies now against West Ham, Slovakia and Denmark?” I’m so confused.

        Reply

  6. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/09 at 4:27 PM

    One more note here, which my girlfriend told me to mention.

    The guy behind the Manchester United bench I believe who was chewing on a toothbrush.

    This was the discussion between my girlfriend and I:

    Matt: Look at the dude behind the bench brushing his teeth
    Matt GF: Why is he doing that?
    Matt: Because he is an idiot

    Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/09 at 5:59 PM

      there is a video all around the net (saw it on deadspin and on twitter like 100 times) of that guy brushing his teeth. very odd.

      Reply

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