Weekend Review: Five Quick Observations

And….quickly:

Terence Howards scores for Granada

5. La Liga: Oops, Wrong Scoreline 

Levante took down Mourinho’s Madrid in an unexpected win at home. Bigger? Granada with its first win–in 35 years in La Liga by beating reeling Villarreal–in a chippy affair that saw the recently-promoted El Graná survive seven yellow cards without a red attached.

On-loan Villarreal striker Ikechukwu Uche notched the lone tally while New Jersey native Giuseppe Rossi missed a penalty to even it.

Villarreal are thinner squad this year and Champion’s League has taken their toll on them. They should rebound after they get knocked out there, but I have a bad feeling for the Yellow Submarine this year.

4. MLS: The Pacific Northwest 6, The East 0

Nagbe: Can't see the ceiling yet...

Darlington Nagbe. Whoa Darlington Nagbe.

I was going to tweet on Friday the following, “Every time I see Nagbe play, the kid is more mature than the last time.” Then Nagbe scored on a great positional header and I thought, “If I put that tweet out now, I’m going to sound like a homer.”

But wow. Nagbe’s got the handles, he’s always looking up with the ball at his feet and he reads the game very well, being complementary when called for or being responsible to find the open spot when a primary option is needed.

At some point Timbers fans, be prepared for that kid to go to Europe. Timbers set the Revolutionaries packing on Friday, 3-0.

Up the I-5, Seattle (as we surmised in our preview) proved that United last’s trip out West to face Chivas was a fluke, with another 3-0 whupping of an Eastern Conference foe.

At the beginning of the year, we questioned Freddy Montero’s commitment and while Montero is misfiring Mauro Rosales has been absolutely critical to any success up in the Emerald City with his playmaking. Going to be interesting facing Seattle in the playoffs, if Rosales is healthy after the player was cut down in the waning moment Saturday and left the affair with a knee injury.

(As for the third northwest team, the Whitecaps got smashed–as we easily predicted as well–at the Galaxy, but mea culpa to Bruce Arena who actually rested Landon Donovan and David Beckham when the game was in hand.)

3. EPL: Flying…

Norwich City as TSG’s Neil Blackmon pointed out in his EPL preview are going to sneak up on some folks. Well, they flat-out thumped Bolton on Saturday. A 2-1 scorline, but the Canaries controlled long stretches of the run-of-play.

How good is Stu Holden? Bolton are lost without him calming the midfield. They look terrible in the center of the pitch and are having a real hard time linking up to Kevin Davies without him.

(And note: The value of Gary Cahill has dropped about 33% – 66% since the campaign began.)

2. Liverpool: Jettisoned…

A 4-0 loss at White Hart Lane. Moving on…

Aquilani probably had one of the worst dives ever on Sunday in Serie A...that's saying something...

It certainly seems that at least personnel-wise the Reds’ skipper Kenny Dalglish knows what he’s doing. Two central midfielders shipped out this campaign, Alberto Aquilani (despite a header for his first Rossoneri goal this weekend) and Raul Mereiles look underwhelming in their new club situations.

The former got lit up with his new side by a brilliant hat trick from probably the best pure ball striker in the game today Edison Cavani while the latter….

1. EPL: The Big One In the Barclays

Manchester United continued it’s torching of opponents. This time with a clinical dissection of Chelsea at Old Trafford, 3-1.

I watched this game on delay after countless announcers called it a “well-played game by both sides.”

Didn’t see that.

Just pass the torch right there Terry, Jones is the real deal...

United stretched the field perfectly with excellent off-ball movement by Chicharito, Nani and Phil Jones. The Red Devils kept running, kept moving throughout and their width opened up opportunity after opportunity.

In the back, Phil Jones is sure looking like a more powerful version of the next Rio Ferdinand with his ability on the ball going forward, balanced by his strength and speed combination in defense. Outstanding pick-up.

Even Anderson–despite a few errant touches–was active in creation in the 1st half. (Note, he shouldn’t be the long term answer in the midfield for United, but he aside from one very poor 5-minute stretch was snappy in providing support and deft in getting the ball wide once he received.)

Meanwhile, Chelsea–well it can be sugar-coated a million different ways, but if Chelsea are this season the Chelsea they were Sunday, it’s not going to be a pretty one.

Once again Chelsea relied too much on it’s fullbacks to provide width while a strategy in the first half to flood their right flank with runs by Ramires, Sturridge and Torres with Mata filling behind them was a poor one. Ramires doesn’t have the on-ball creation and Torres–despite his single wonderstrike on the day–was statuesque on many an occasion.

Raul Mereiles and Frank Lampard joined the party in the attack all too infrequently as well.

The second half saw Chelsea move Sturridge to the fight flank and go missing while the Blues did get some things running through Nicolas Anelka of all people on the left flank. Still a very discombobulated team at this point with a midfield that looks to lack creativity as a unit.

And finally, whoever is the fitness coach at Chelsea should be fired. Period. Hands on hips in abundance early in the second half  for many of those in Blue. That’s absolutely unacceptable.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. I disagree with your Chelsea assessment on many levels, while United clearly dominated and deserved to win, Chelsea showed the frailty at the back of United, and with better finishing could quite easily have drawn (and with better referees, possibly won).

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/19 at 10:52 AM

      Thanks for the feedback Chamo. While Chelsea were certainly negligent in defense, the pressure being put on them was because of a midfield that was apathetic about defending.

      Stop the tape a few times and you’ll see a Chelsea middle band of four that was discombobulated, arguing with one another and I’ll-positioned.

      The Ashley Young free kick comes because of late help. Juan Mata played matador on the Nani goal.

      Additionally ibthought Chelsea’s tactics were terrible on the attack. Essentially you had Ramires controlling much of the run of play–he’s hardly a playmaker and you had Sturridge only making down the line runs while Torres camped out in the whole and was easy to defend.

      The announcers praised a reinvigorated Torres, but I saw a player who was all too stationary to make himself available. On the two runs thy Torres DID make, one was his splendidly taken goal. The other was his Kei Kamara impression.

      That and oy the fitness. Manchester United whupped Chelsea up and down the pitch.

      Reply

      • I still think you are cutting Chelsea a bit short, while maybe not as creative on the attack as United, just look at the statistics, Chelsea had considerably more scoring opportunities than United, and while they certainly could do a thing or two about their finishing, they carved apart a defense that so many people keep praising.

        Phil Jones might be a mighty fine attacking center back, but he certainly doesn’t know how to mark anybody. I’ll agree that Chelsea’s fitness was suspect, but I can’t believe you consider the player that created all four of Chelsea’s best scoring opportunities was lazy. Two runs? Really? What about the run that created Ramires’ dreadful miss? Or his mazy run through the standstill United defense that resulted in a suspect de Gea save and almost a rebound goal?

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/19 at 11:56 AM

          He was great when he had the ball. But the fact remains on Torres that if we moved *more* Chelsea probably has a lot more offense to show.

          On the chances, is that the real data. I saw some chances…some that certainly should have been buried, but I don’t think many were quality chances. I don’t think they carved the United defense up at all.

          Take a look at a game and you will watch Torres standing in the hole all too often, not running from it so others could inhabit it either.

          The more active Torres was the better.

          Chamo–asking the question–are you a Chelsea fan.

          The Chelsea I know for the past 5 years is top 2 or 3 team in the EPL. Mostly top 2. The Chelsea out there on Sunday was a far way from that team.

          Reply

          • I am absolutely a Chelsea fan, and I came into that match expecting to lose considering United’s formidable form. While I was not pleased with our performance (in particular our terrible finishing) I came out of that match much more pleased with our play than I had in previous weeks.

            I agree, right now our form is not of our typical quality of recent years. Taking that into account, our play was much more fluid than it had been, and against much tougher competition. Right back is a huge issue, as Bosingwa is simply bad at defense, but with the return of David Luiz we get the option of pushing Ivanovic back out to the right, where while unconventional, he has been surprisingly effective in recent seasons.

            As for the statistics, any time you force United’s keeper, regardless of who it is, to make 7 saves you are obviously doing something right, which likely means the defense is doing something wrong. Jonny Evans is an incompetent buffoon not fit for a Premiership team in the top 10, though I know he is only playing due to the injuries to Vidic and Ferdinand. Jones is more impressive offensively than defensively, and I think eventually a quick team will exploit that.

            My point is, while United certainly deserved their victory, Chelsea should be somewhat pleased by obvious progress, considering the first 4 matches of the season were utter crap.

            Reply

            • Posted by Jared on 2011/09/19 at 12:49 PM

              I disagree that Chelsea should be pleased. They lost a game that they probably should have at least gotten a point from. If they are pleased with that then they might as well set their sights on 3rd. David Luiz has a lot of room to grow before he belongs as a starter in the Premier League. He is a red card waiting to happen virtually every time out.

              Evans is only playing because of injuries to Vidic, Ferdinand and Rafael otherwise it would be Jones and Smalling in central defense.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/19 at 1:13 PM

              Fair — I have not watched a ton of Chelsea this year.

              Two things must be maddening for their fans. They still lack a #10. I don’t think that’s Juan Mata. He prefers to pass a little bit more than go for the kill. Maybe teams will respect him overtime, I’m not sure.

              #2 They are really lacking creative players. Agree on Bosingwa in defense, he’s definitely fallen off a cliff there.

              But really the only attacking verve–the only thing that made Manchester United think, “Okay, we’ve got to watch this guy”–was from Anelka on the left wing in the 2nd half.

              I’m not sure what Sturridge was going on the right wing in the 2nd half. He was useless.

              With Meireles, Ramires, Lampard (who is his talent ability matched his intellect he’d be frightening), Sturridge…none of those guys really make a defense think, “Okay, I’ve got to watch out for this guy.”

              Anelka, Torres (somewhat) and Mata a little more so, but I think that’s going to hurt Chelsea this year. Maybe Drogba, but he’s so “what have you done for me lately.”

              Arsenal still has RVP and Arshavin (when he’s on once every four months), United of course have a boatload in Valencia, Nani, Rooney and Little Pea.

              Liverpool at the very least have Suarez, maybe Gerrard and frankly maybe Charlie Adam from the early going.

              Tottenham Bale, RVDV at least.

              I love Chelsea as the villain but I’m worried someone’s stepping on their super-cape.

            • I can see where you are coming from, and you are absolutely right, we don’t have a #10, yet. Mata is a winger, sure he can come inside a bit, but that’s not really his forte. Lampard is severely off form, but I love that AVB has the balls to react to that and sub someone so many consider an “automatic” starter.

              Sturridge isn’t a winger, and will never be a winger. Given AVB’s affinity for attacking outside backs, I’m actually a bit surprised he hasn’t tried more of a 4-3-1-2 formation with Mata allowed to roam a la Dempsey (obviously, a game against United is not one to test a new formation out on). That would give Torres a partner who would also make runs, potentially opening new space. Since Drogba is more of a holding, power forward, that never was the case when they were paired, but Sturridge and Torres could potentially prove a lethal combination.

              Anelka is much like Arshavin, great that once or twice, at least while he’s in form, but you never quite know what you will get with him. I would have preferred selling him (and Kalou, who is utterly useless) this past summer. That said, Mata has oodles more creativity than anyone else we put on the pitch, and once he fully adapts, I believe could potentially mold into a more unconventional #10 role.

          • I think you’re pretty harsh with your assessment of Chelsea. The fact is that Lampard was appalling in the first half. Hence the increased threat when Anelka (Yes, Anelka) came on.

            The biggest problem was that John Terry was almost as bad in the first 45 – just seemed off the pace and slow to react – failed to mark anyone on the first offside goal, failed to step out to Nani on the second offside goal and failed to clear on the third. Steadied himself somewhat in the second, but I think the writing is on the wall for two players that have been Chelsea’s core over recent years.

            The starting 11 that Chelsea used in the Champions League is much closer to their current best than this one. Malouda in the midfield three came out to the left flank to help Cole provide width when Mata drifted across the field between the lines. Last season I went on and on about Malouda creativity being more effective from deep. Here’s AVB utilizing that. Luiz is a very very classy player and Chelsea certainly missed him against United.

            Up front, AVB wants Sturridge to play the Hulk role in the system he used at Porto. He’s fast, a good passer and creative. He had an excellent first half in the Champions League and can certainly be effective out there. Torres team play is much improved – that was something that was often missing from his play even when he was scoring at Liverpool. I think you’re particularly harsh on him. The movement asked of him by the system at Chelsea is different than what he did for Liverpool and he’s adapting to it, finding spaces when Chelsea attack with possession. And the fact that he scored has been a bit overshadowed by an almost inexplicable miss.

            Torres pockets that chance and we’re in for one hell of a finish. I’m fine with Chelsea’s slow start because promising signs are there. Chelsea is very much being a work-in-progress right now, but AVB is methodical and showing good judgement. These teams are a lot closer to each other than the scoreline suggested.

            Reply

  2. Posted by Crow on 2011/09/19 at 10:42 AM

    A great weekend for soccer- Chelsea, Liverpool, Villareal, and Real Madrid all lost. City blew a lead and tied. Love it!

    Reply

  3. Posted by John on 2011/09/19 at 10:52 AM

    The MLS playoff race is going to cause me serious heart related issues, and the late starts on the west coast are going to cause the upstairs neighbours some shocks.

    Every game right now is a must win. Good Grief.

    I would not have blamed the upstairs folks for some floor pounding/yelling when the group in the house started screaming/dancing/jumping up and down as Nagbe put in goal #3 this weekend.

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/09/19 at 11:33 AM

      Saw some YouTube clips of the Portland crowd getting positive comments from Brazil, Europe, you name it. MLS needs more of this. Great MLS weekend as well. I hope Philly and Portland somehow meet in the MLS Cup.

      Reply

  4. Posted by John on 2011/09/19 at 10:54 AM

    BTW: The hands on the hips position is called “Doing the Joe Cole”

    Reply

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