Jozy And His Cats & Lando’s Last Stand, More

TSG will be away from the broadband typewriter this weekend.

EPL

Big sendoff gets big picture...

• Birminghammers host the Toffees

(Saturday, 7am PST, FSC)

This is the one game I want to attempt to catch this weekend. The team I root for vs….the team I have a mancrush on this season, Birmingham.

Likely and scheduled-to-be Donovan’s final game in Toffee….pink, check out Cristian Benitez for the home side for the Blues and allow yourself to daydream for a second….Benitez is probably a perfect cross between a Robbie Findley and a Charlie Davies….maybe Landon can talk the Ecuadorian into sneaking on the plane with the United States with, say, a number  19 on his back?

Birmingham plays a solid team game and this should be a good fight for Everton on foreign terrain. Joe Hart, a potential Seamen heir, will be between the wickets for the home side.

• Arsenal at Hull City

(Saturday, 9:30PST, FSC)

Arsene Wenger is making a big deal out of Cesc missing this one? Are you joking? In the late game Saturday, Arsenal bombs its attack (count’em five big ones against Porto) northward to take on Jozy and his Tigers…I mean pussycats. At least that is how they’re playing. For perspective, Hull’s played 15 away on the year, conceded 39 and scored but 8. Sour.

Jozy: Flying forward in development...

I’m not sure if Hull has called it a day on the campaign or not, but this is the same team that kicked and scraped its way through a 6 goal shellacking by Liverpool early in the year. I’m not seeing the same pride.

Phil Brown’s strategy to me is confusing offensively. It’s like he can’t decide whether to go over the top or attack quickly from the flanks and thus he’s putting out line-ups that sort-of don’t make sense. If you’re going to play with some speed up top last weekend in Zaki and Garcia, then why do you start Nick Barnby on the wing instead of putting in Geovanni.

Conversely, you bring in Geo and now Jozy at the same time, who arguably play two different offensive styles. It’s almost like Brown is saying, “I don’t know….I give up. Maybe next time we’ll flip Myhill and VofH.”

If Jozy starts, look for the battle against Sol Campbell and Thomas Vermaelen…should be a good one.

• Chelsea v. West Ham

(Saturday, 7am)

This will likely get ugly. The Hammers’ defense look downright Hull City-like last weekend in taking a beating against none other than powerhouse Bolton. This weekend they travel to the Bridge and they’ll be singing the Blues.

Hopefully Zola keeps Diamanti in the starting eleven…as well as Specs.

• Yawn Squad

Bolton v. Wigan, Burnley v. Wolverhampton. The second one is relegation battle between two teams that deserve to vie for the top of the division…the Championship division.

Sorry Marcus…not looking great for your side right now.

Deuce: Bye, bye Valenia; hello, Rio Ferdinand...

• Manchester United v. Fulham

(Sunday, 6:30PST)

Old Trafford is the scene Saturday as the Red Devils arguably should face better competition from the Cottagers than they did from the Rossoneri.

All USMNT fans want to see here is a healthy Deuce don the pitch and get jiggy with Rio Ferdinand.

• Liverpool v. Portsmouth

(Sunday, 6:30PST)

Let me tell you a tale about two teams.

Team A is a top EPL club. They’ve had injuries to their top striker, a top 10 striker in the world. They’ve also had injuries to their number one playmaker here and there who is the captain and spine of the club.

They brought in a major acquisition in the beginning of the year to replace an outgoing fan favorite of a player.

Their fans believe they don’t spend enough money on players, however they brought in reinforcements in the January transfer window to give their offense a little pep.

Team B is a top EPL club as well. They’ve had injuries to their top striker, a top 10 striker in the world. They’ve also had injuries to their number one playmaker who is the captain and spine of the club. They too brought in a major acquisition in the beginning of the year to replace an outgoing player at a critical position.

Their fans believe they don’t spend enough money on players, and despite yet another injury to one of their strikers for the middle of the campaign they did not make a major purchase in the January issue.

Team A has 48 points and sits 6th in the table and may have dealt themselves out of the Champion’s League picture in 2011. Team B has 61 points, is still in contention for the Premiership title AND is still alive in the Champion’s League 2010.

The difference?

Team A has Rafa Benitez. Team B has Arsene Wenger.

It’s not the ownership at Liverpool.

BUNDESLIGA

Playa

• Baron Von Bo’Munchen take on Wolfsburg

Baby Sweatpants meet Manchester United target Edin Dzeko who made TSG’s “All Not Going” (to WC ’10) team. Shut him down.

• Hannover vs. Frankfurt

We should just dub this the “Wannabee Starting Spot Cup” as it’s Stevie ‘Dolo vs. Rico Clark…neither are sitting pretty in the US’s top eleven, though both will likely make the plane in plenty of time.

ENGLISH CHAMPIONSHIP

• Watford, Plymouth Argyle battling to avoid relegation in the Championship

Jay DeMerit’s Hornets have the more pivotal game this weekend as they battle bottom of the table Petersborough United (once thought to be a suitable destination on loan for Aston Villa American Eric Lichaj). Watford folk have some opinion on JDM’s World Cup year form here.

Kenny Cooper just wants to get some run as Plymouth face Coventry.

Elsewhere

• Carlos Bocanegra and Rennes take on Valenciennes and Malian wonderkid Mamadou Samassa, 6 goals, 13 games on loan from Marseille.

Ferrari, "Hey Gooch, want to get a cup of coffee?"

• DMB, Mr. Twitter and the Rangers take on cagey Dundee United: Pencil in Dundee United as the team that does the most with the talent they have as they sit 3rd in the SPL table. Let’s also hopefully pencil in Mr. Twitter Mo Edu for a spot in the starting 11. A game winner at Celtic gets you two turns as a sub. That doesn’t make sense.

• We lost track of him there for a second, but now we’ve got ‘em. Gabriel Ferrari, loaned from Italian Third Division side Foggia to Ternana Calcia in the January window. Ferrari’s got 4 appearances and one goal for Terni…that one goal coming against Foggia. Suit him up Bob Bradley…along with Grella, Jemal Johnson, Preston Zimmerman and anyone with just a little speed, wink.

Where is our tie in? Ternana battles Rimini this weekend which hosts the largest beach ultimate frisbee tournament in the world, where TSG running commentary man Shaun has won the championship. What a stretch…

• I don’t know anything about the Portugese Liga except what I got from Freddy Adu tweets a few months ago. Now, I have a reason to pay attention as Syracuse, New York native Gale Agbossoumonde looks to make his first start for the 2nd place Braga. ‘Cuse, in the house!

• Oh, and Sunday–we should probably drop this one in there–top of the table Barcelona (it’s done on head-to-head folks, not goal difference) takes on 3rd spotter Valencia. Just some players in this one named Villa, Messi, Silva, Xavi and Ibrahimovic.

• Here’s my hope for Monday morning. That I wake up to 50,000 retweets about Chris Rolfe’s 2nd half appearance that yielded a goal and assist for AaB against FC Midgetland and how Bob Bradley needs to start him against Turkey. Look both you and I want that 80th minute option off the bench in South Africa. I’m sticking with Bedoya or the six million dollar man Charlie Davies , but it sure would be nice to capture some Charlie-In-A-Bottle with 90 days left from an unknown.

• And we’ll close with a preview for next weekend. In case you’re hungry, ESPN360 (love the product) gives you Bayer Leverkusen on March 14th….vs. Hamburger SV.

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24 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christian30 on 2010/03/12 at 6:43 AM

    Straight spot-on with your Liverpool analysis TSG and I’m a Reds fan
    When you take it up to the high level and look at the similarities between Arsenal’s season and ours, it’s astonishing.

    Aquilani was a flawed purchased, but Vermalen has certainly worked out for Arsenal.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/12 at 10:40 AM

      People call Arsenal ‘old, stuffy and Etonian’, but they have to be applauded in the way they have been financially responsible. Wenger has done a brilliant job at Arsenal, and recognises that Arsenal cannot compete financially with the likes of Man. United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca, and now Man. City. His youth policy, and shrewdness in the transfer market are second to none – and I am not only talking about acquisitions, I am talking about selling players for large sums at the right time (eg Overmars, Viera, Henry, Adebayor) – to have his net spend and always finish in the top 4 and last 8 in the CL is phenomenal. I think the only thing that is holding Arsenal back from really dominating European football is their wage structure – the recruit these youngsters and nurture and polish them, but when the big fish offer GBP +100K per week, their heads turn (eg Hleb, Flamini) and then Arsenal are back to square one – and are a team “always in transition”. With their new stadium receipts (rumoured to be one of the highest in Europe) and relatively low (and manageable) debt the future looks good. I feel they are two (maybe three) players short – goalkeeper, centre back and defensive midfielder (and height).

      Liverpool have not progressed since Roy Evans, and they have spend an awful lot of money on players who are quite frankly not going to improve the team. Benitez is a good coach but shite in the transfer market – that is the biggest difference IMO. They are several players away from being about to compete and realistically win the Prem. I think they should go for Joe Cole if he become a free agent – he would be a good addition.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/12 at 11:25 AM

        George — having written the above I agree with most of your sentiment.

        Rafa is terrible in the transfer market, but he’s also had some winner.

        I’m not so sure Rafa is a good coach so much as an above average coach. With the talent he has he should be more competitive against the Tier 2 and Tier 3 EPL teams than he is. That’s not just depth…that’s knowing how to win (or draw).

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/12 at 11:42 AM

          I guess what I am sort of saying is that they go hand in hand – buying shit players and then being surprised that they cannot perform…

          The good players he has bought, he has spent good money on them. He and Houllier before spend decent money on crap!

          Reply

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your take on Phil Brown’s tactics. I know I am subconsciously but surely enormously biased, but Hull play better when Jozys involved, do they not?

    Reply

  3. I left Gale Agbossoumonde off my list of emerging players yesterday and then had the gall to complain about a lack of defensive prospects. Do we have any intelligence suggesting he’s threatening to get on the pitch for the first team? (My Portuguese isn’t up to much.)

    Reply

  4. There is one issue I have with your Liverpool assessment; you forgot to include the Chicago Cubs-esque tendencies of the fans, and the club as a whole to tout every new season as their year to win (at least for the last two decades) when everyone in their right mind knows that they will fail to impress yet again. The similarities don’t stop there either; the Cubs over the last decade have spent loads of money on players that fail to meet expectations, not to mention the managers who come in with reputations and prove to be nothing more than average. Sure they make a run at the title a few times, but inevitably a Bartman or a Beachball gets in their way. The only major difference is that Liverpool were once THE club in England and are tied for having won the most titles, while the Cubs haven’t won anything in a century.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/12 at 12:50 PM

      Sounds a bit like pre-2004 Red Sox fans and England fans at every tournament… I call it ‘massive-itus’ – a mental disease that makes one think of themselves bigger and better than they actually are!

      Reply

      • I think we can say that Newcastle United suffers a little from this as well. I meant to include England fans and media but didn’t want to ruffle your feathers George.

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/13 at 6:19 AM

          Ha, thanks Nick!
          Sometimes I miss London, but I do not miss the nonsense speak of co-workers at the office during the run up to a major tournament. Especially from those who look down at football 95% of the time and then jump on the bandwagon come Euros or WC…

          Reply

  5. Spot on with your Liverpool judgement. I think they need to win the Europa Cup just to qualify for Europe for next season. They may not make it in the league.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Matt B on 2010/03/12 at 2:49 PM

    Given that Rafa is generally considered a good tactician who makes bad decisions on buying players, he would do well in an American sports type system, where the coach and GM responsibilities are separated into 2 positions. Even the best American coaches seem to struggle when they are given total control, and I am surprised that is something that hasn’t been exported to Europe. Of course, I can understand that most managers don’t want to give up any control, but it is something to think about.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/12 at 2:59 PM

      My feeling with Rafa is that he is phenomenal tactician…when motivated. He seems to be at his best when playing his best. When he plays lesser competition he seems to just go with his pre-game approach and then just work the refs.

      My lone impression here?

      Agree completely that it is interesting that the coach has as much control in the Euro leagues’ as they do.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/13 at 6:39 AM

        I sort of agree with that. The lesser teams generally play with men (which is quite normal) behind the ball and Rafa’s Liverpool find it hard to break them down.

        With transfer / aquisition policy, I do think that the manager should not have sole responsibility, but I also think that he shouldn’t be out of the equation altogether. After all, it is his gonads on the line.

        I mentioned in a prior TSG article about Man City and their new owners wanting immediate success – they’ll keep chopping and changing their manager and the new manager will want his own people… the US model may eliminate some of this…

        Reply

  7. lol march madness. don’t you mean 2-3 zone? I’m pretty sure Syracuse would get destroyed if they played a 3-2

    Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/03/12 at 5:41 PM

      His soccer mind caused him to name the formation starting from the back of the defense.

      But there really is a 3-2 zone. Aimed specifically at preventing perimeter shooting

      Reply

      • haha yah but you would get trashed by any good big man.

        Reply

        • Posted by Swa on 2010/03/12 at 10:14 PM

          you can set up a zone defense in any way that you want, they’re all going to be susceptible to outside shooting. and a 3-2 would never get cuse destroyed or “trashed by any good big man”. it’s not like the lane is left wide open. a good big man is going to get his numbers as long as he gets touches.

          Reply

  8. Posted by Bob on 2010/03/13 at 4:24 AM

    Wow! Just read the link to the Watford forum. Those fans are pissed at Demerit. Now, it may be just a few who have access to the a computer, but where there is smoke there’s fire. First, I did not know he was their captain. Very interesting! Second, if they don’t think he is up to championship league form, how good is he? Is the championship league comparable to MLS? Obviously, they agree that he will be on the move after the WC as he will be a free agent. That may bode well for us if he plays lights out to garner attention from an EPL team or someone else. But, and I hate to say it, at 30 will he get much love from any international clubs?

    I wonder how many other Americans abroad are disliked by club fans and we just don’t know it since they play for teams outside the MLS and EPL.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/13 at 9:22 AM

      I think there are both sides to the equation…most message boards are some negative from time-to-time…we put up a link from the same forum last week where they loved him.

      A few things…Championship is a good league…and beyond Watford is fighting for relegation…
      Watford has a lot of heat coming on him at the defensive end…bodes well for us in regard to being ready.

      On being a CB…those are “longer term” positions — since there is less movement there….many CBs play to 35 or so….

      Reply

  9. Does anyone else think Jimmy Bullard looks like Scorpio?

    Reply

  10. Posted by Scott on 2010/03/14 at 4:39 PM

    Only place I could find for my weekly Bradley Jr update rant. I’ve taken to TIVOing the Monchen games over the last few months just to see how he plays in that setting. I still find it amazing that they give him that holding role just like his dad does. And he can’t hold. And doesn’t provide much distribution other than the obvious ball right in front of him. And holding true to form he stops following his mark after the 60 min mark. Stops running and jogs after being beaten. How many USMNT games have you seen him defend until he’s beaten and then jog after his mark? He did it at least 5-6 times today (in a 4-0 drubbing by W’burg) and left his right back or CB completely at sea with 2 men to mark.
    I know this is useless ranting and Pops has him in granite for the starting CMF role but in my opinion after really watching his performance over the last few months: he just doesn’t have what it takes to drive a team in that role. Not saying he doesn’t belong in the side but to have ceded this role to him while he continues to lack the ability to drive a team in those key area is really poor coaching.
    I feel better now…

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/14 at 4:53 PM

      Scott — I agree with those comments…and I’m not sure why Bradley gets great press as he appears too.

      He’s a good player. To me, he’s a Mathieu Flamini…who is an excellent player who doesn’t start for France or Milan.

      Reply

  11. [...] as we wrote in our weekend preview last week, it appeared Brown had finally lost the plot unveiling “interesting” line-up selections [...]

    Reply

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