May 18, 2011

And the Reds go marching on....

"Merseyside are you watchingggGGGGG!!!" was resounding all over and make no mistake Rooney made sure Merseyside did at least hear Manchester celebrating(You maybe forgiven for thinking Mancity is from Manchester and Everton from Merseyside!).

Well, Blackburn Rovers showed more intent than Chelsea to get three points but to use the phrase 'time and again' would be appropriate. Though the United lineup was a strong one there were many nervy moments but hey, I'm not here to talk about that match. United sealing it mathematically at Ewood Park(logically, the title could have been given at the start of the season) was irony at its best, the place which was considered the turning point last season, to prevent United getting that four in a row!

Other managers have been commenting on how United don't have a star player, how they lack the flair and pace - POOF! Even by standards of the weak(supposedly) United team, they have proved themselves too hot to handle for Chelsea and Arsenal. Hell with the star players, who needs better players than Giggs, Rooney, Vidic and Vandersar, to name a few. The fact is that other teams are getting bored of seeing United doing it again and again. But whichever team United has played down the years, the success can truly be attributed only to the 'great scot!' Ferguson!

To use the word Phenomenon would be an understatement to the gaffer's achievements. He has developed talents into top players, bought the right ones(Berbatov too!) and most importantly made transition of teams the proper way(Are you reading, Wenger?). He doesn't care who the player is, he makes sure people know who's the boss here, contact David Beckham and Diego Forlan for further details. People completely wrote United off after Ronaldo and Tevez left, but here he is lifting the 19th title for United and still chewing on his gum the same way!

This United team has got potential, the midfield may look a little worn out Carrick and Fletcher may radiate that sense of mediocrity(a borrowed phrase), but the truth is that they step up when needed. United have won the title and are in the final of the champions league, so no one can argue if this team can conquer the world. Maybe this team lacks a little class, but makes up for it with hard work. I expect United to make their mark yet again, winning the CL. Go United....


May 14, 2011

Barca Invincible(not the Madrid version)!

Barcelona are currently the most happening team in the world. Managers(even special ones!) have come and gone, trying to find a "weakness" in the side, but could not help but stare in awe(or cry, complain, whatever...) as their team was torn apart.

football formations

This should tell you why Barcelona side is feared by all. The thing is that they have got players for each position, with qualities that complement every other of the eleven. We take a deep look into the linkup play and the way Barcelona attack(read assasinate) :

-> The Xavi-Messi-Iniesta combo : No one knows what Messi's proper position is, a creative forward(Maradona!) perhaps but no matter where he plays, his ability to drop deep and carry the ball or push it forward remains a sight to behold. The spanish cabildero Iniesta and Xavi are like a soul split into two bodies(no, they aren't gay, thanks for the interest though!). If the trio can be stopped, the efficiency of the team will surely decrease.

-> Alves-Pedro-Iniesta : Pedro has been an unsung hero for Barcelona. His work ethic is absolutely fantastic. With Alves spending most of the 90 minutes in the other half, one can expect most of the Catalans' attacks from the right. While Iniesta can also seamlessly slip into the "Beckham" role to the right of midfield, curtailing Alves' freedom will be a major task, especially when his scoring boots are on.

-> Villa-Messi-Pedro : Without Messi, Barca wouldn't be half as strong(hyped) as they are. Villa's had quite a subdued role, playing slightly to the left but his finishing remains as clinical as ever and remains the catalyst in the counter attacks.

Barcelona is as good as any other European club in set pieces. Puyol has a really good head, while Messi and Pedro can run between the other's legs. With Xavi delivering corners with pinpoint accuracy and Alves putting in some powerful drives from free kicks, physical play against them isn't an option.

The thing with Barca is that, when you look at their departments separately, there is a feeling it can be matched by other teams("Messi" department not included!). But, it is their collective play and team ethic that has won them the trophies. Gone are the days when they used to depend on Ronaldinho; Guardiola's done a wonderful job maintaining the discipline and harmony, you don't hear players like Mascherano(THE Argentine captain!) complaining of lack of playing time.

The prospect of Manutd-Barca final remains as meaty as any other prospect. Though MUFC is more accustomed to the Wembley, I don't see the Catalans having a lesser chance. The winner makes the double.

Mar 15, 2011

The Berbatov Conspiracy

Incensed by my piece about Arsenal a few of my close friends threw whatever they could lay their hand upon mercilessly at me(..Ouch!), not to mention unknown Manutd fans appreciating me which was a little demoralizing actually, given my love for both the clubs' traditions but I've longed to write about the changing culture at Manutd during the Rooney transfer saga but here it goes anyway. I admit the title looks fishy, let me assure you that it does not have any other meaning than how much you've understood in the first place. Many of you would go as far as raising an-eighth of you eyebrow as to read what this mumbo jumbo about Berbatov is, especially when he's on top of the scoring charts.

Well, happy as I am that Berbatov is the highest scorer, I am not blinded to see that Wayne Rooney hasn't got off to a scoring spree yet. But, in the recent matches it has either been a combination of Rooney and Hernandez or Rooney playing as the sole forward. Basically, I guess it was Sir Alex's idea that Rooney should play second fiddle to Berbatov early this season to justify the hefty price tag and his own poor decision making, and all that contract nonsense has of course helped the cause. Sure, Berbatov scored a hattrick against Liverpool and five against Blackburn but come to think of it, it was never Berbatov of the White Hart Lane. That Berbatov was playing at another level, a completely insane one!

One can argue that the decision not to start Berbatov against Chelsea was a tactical one to rest him for the clash against Liverpool. But the same cannot apply to his non-appearance against Arsenal. I mean, what's the point of signing a player for a club record fee to play just one match per week? Scholes has been playing back to back this season. Doesnt make sense at all!  So, this doesn't look anything more than a ploy to get Berbatov into the spotlight for a while and then back to the bench for the crucial fixtures.

Let me not take away anything from Berbatov as a player though. He is an absolutely phenomenal player, his touch and vision as good as anyone to have played the sport, but I only question his role at Old Trafford. Maybe he'll just push off his time for another two years and get down to coaching or going to Bulgaria, especially with Danny Welbeck and Macheda coming in. And now that Valencia's back and Jisung Park's edging closer to his return, I expect United to play that incisive 4-5-1 with high throttled attack from the flanks. The combination of Rooney and Valencia was absolutely sensational last season and now with Nani playing football(!), there maybe lesser chances for Berbatov. But I'm sure he'll give anything when it comes to the team, you can't feed personal egos at Manchester United unless you are Cristiano Ronaldo.

Looking forward to the CL home leg against Marseille.

So long,

Mar 13, 2011

Arsenal - That sense of Deja Vu

I read a post by my friend where she used the word "Arsenic" to describe Arsenal. Catchy it maybe, but Arsenal's recent play has been far from that particular term that is extensively associated with toxicity and poisoning. If anything, it looked like a self-poisoning of that hope of winning something or anything when it comes to that.

So, let me not single out matches against Barcelona(that away leg) or the FA cup loss to Manutd. Arsenal, in general and particular have been a mixed bag but full of talent. Sincerely, I'm at a loss to explain how Arsenal's strong midfield couldn't outwit United's made-up midfield with Rooney(as CM!), O'Shea, Da Silvas(Wings) and Gibson(Holding). Pit those names against a Nasri, Arshavin, Wilshere, Diaby, Denilson in their proper positions  and one cannot see reason why Arsenal's play was so cheap. Yes, sorry I told I wouldn't be talking about particular matches, curiosity got the better of me.

Right, so when people keep telling Arsenal have got it in them I have always reacted no more than giving a non committal jerk. Sure, on their day, Arsenal is right up there with Madrid and Mutd, no arguments there. But, as it always comes to blaming someone when you have a losing streak, I actually have someone to blame. Rather, it's the absence of someone that I'm gonna blame it onto this time(Yes I'm sane, thanks for asking!).

When you look at teams like United or Liverpool, they have that combination of physical players who can press and take the ball away from you. By physical, I'm not talking about the play dirty factor which Arsenal are currently applying but players like Vidic, DeJong or an Alonso who were born to be the dynamo of their team. Sadly, Arsenal have no such player in their ranks. I can find no one who have a better sense of technical play than the Gunners but that alone will not suffice. Arsenal have to face the fact that they have no proper leader, frankly Fabregas doesn't look the type to me. I was actually hoping Arsenal would go for David Luiz but no, maddening pig headedness over the youth policy is taking its toll.

So I give Arsenal two options right now :
1. Offload those underfed defenders, Diaby (who was supposed the next Viera!) and Denilson. Buy a good strong established defender who can actually head the ball and clear lines. Buy a good versatile midfielder who can complement Fabregas and Song and most importantly is prone less to injuries. Certainly, Ramsey jumped to my mind but I'm not sure how much time he's gonna take to establish himself.

2. Simple : Kick out Wenger!

Actually, both the options are quite contradictory as Wenger will want to stick with his underperforming kids, and if Wenger goes obviously no manager in their right mind would retain these players and try making a Viera or Makelele of nothing. Not very optimistic.

Face it Arsenal, the present squad is a little flippy and is nowhere near the Invincible of recent past. Djourou and Kosclieny are no replacements for Campbell and Toure as Diaby isn't for Viera. I've been going on about Diaby for a while now, I admit he's not the first choice starter but when you need people to step up for a big club like Arsenal and they don't it's with a kind of hesitating weirdness that you come to look at them(him, in this case). United were missing ten senior players and Barcelona had their first choice defence pairing unavailable, but these are teams at a different level which can cope and not just cry over spilt milk. Only if Wenger uses his wits and money properly do I hope to see some smiles across the Gunners' faithful.
Otherwise, I may have to just copy-paste this post same time next year!


Mar 8, 2011

4-3-3 v/s 4-5-1

Daylight robbery, that's what I made of Barca's loss, rather than Arsenal's victory, in the first leg. Yes, it was quite evenly poised, but that was at the Emirates and I shudder to think the state of Arsenal's play in another country against the damn best team in the world. That was, to say, with Van Persie and Walcott in the starting lineup.

I expect Arsenal to play more through the centre as Barca is without Pique(suspension) and the spaghetti haired Puyol. Arshavin and Nasri should take up the flanks with Fabregas(doubt), Wilshere and Rosicky down the centre. Clichy will be up against the Einstein of football. I expect Arsenal to play long ball as Chamakh or Bendtner are quite good in the air and would shake up the would-be defence of the Catalans. Barca need to watch out for those slick through balls and defend on the counter.

Much will depend on the midfield trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Mascherano(Busquets is expected to play CB). It would be intriguing to see Nasri match his wits against Xavi, both of them being completely different type of players though. Javier Mascherano will have to prove his liveliness to the skeptics and if he can contain Fabregas and Wilshere, it should be a walk in the park for Barca. With Messi, Villa and Pedro constituting the Catalan attack, they sure will be a handful for any Arsenal defence, injured or not!

The Camp Nou has got more width and Arsenal should be making the most of this with Sagna and Clichy whipping up the ball into the box at will. Arsenal have always been weak in some department or the other, now with Van Persie a virtual non-starter it will be upto Chamakh to get back into form of his life to guide the Gunners to the next round. It will be more of a chess game rather than football, one wrong move from you and the other team makes you pay.

So, it remains to be seen if Barca can holdup the Arsenal attack without their first-choice defensive pairing or if Arsenal will take the game to their opponents and beat them at their own game.
P.S: If there was ever a match on which I wouldn't bet, this would be it.


King everything

I was saddened to see United suffer back to back defeats. Not only did Manc. Red lose points but also pride, which is what it was always about, at Anfield at least. Chelsea were outplayed for a large part of the game, but there wasn't much significance attached to the result as United looked to have got their moves right.

But at Anfield, it was a completely different story. It was like a Rapunzel without the hair or Korn playing pop music, whatever suits you fine. Five letters made the difference - Vidic. The defence was poor and I was surprised to see Scholes make more clearances in the box rather than Brown. I would've put Rio and Evans on wheelchair instead of Nani and Wayne(who), who seemed to make things worse. Another thing that completely blew me out was the mediocre performance of Vander Sar, who seemed determined to give Kuyt a well deserved hattrick. Liverpool's play reminded me of the 4-5-1 Manutd of last season.

Kenny Dalglish has more than inspired the Liverpool team. He seems to have out some spell on them and the way he's getting Suarez, Kuyt and Raul to linkup will sure give the neutrals and opponents some food for thought.

Clearly, United have lost that attacking flair and need someone through the centre to pump it up. Come to think of it, all the top teams in the world have got extremely good players and big names on the centre of the pitch, maybe that's not the United way, but losing isn't the United way either.

Arsenal once again proved that it doesn't matter if it's their home or anything to draw matches rather than go closer to the top. Chamakh and Nasri were unlucky, but Sunderland played their socks off, England have a nice future striker in Welbeck. Whatever happened at Arsenal, draw was the least expected result. Winning against Barca and then drawing Sunderland doesn't make logical sense at all. Van Persie perhaps?

Moving to Chelsea, they seem to be getting stronger by time and victories over United(not very emphatic) and Blackpool would sure do a hell lot to ease Abramovich's nerves. Chelsea were particularly good against Blackpool and with Lampard back in the thick of action, maybe they can just pull of the title(provided Vidic, Van Persie,  Fabregas etc. remain injured). I wonder though, how longer Chelsea can depend on their defence rather than forwards for goals!

Things are really getting out of proportion here with the title race being very much open again. If United and Arsenal slip up, of which I'm pretty sure, Chelsea and City could be back in the reckoning, It all depends on how well they manage to keep that balance and maintain the freshness of players.

So, that's what I make of it all right now. But yes, keep your eyes open as the CL fixtures are taking place this midweek.


Mar 1, 2011

Post Mortem

I was actually going to make this post sunday night(Indian Time) but the cricket match between England and India kept me glued to my idiot box. Skipping - only way to describe the state of my heart yesterday. Picture this, a team posts 338 and the match gets to go as a draw, something like a 16-16 full time result(Ok, I'm exaggerating). Oh, how I would have welcomed that result if it were football. India drawing a football match against England!

Honestly, how many of you would have heard of Baichung Bhutia or Sunil Chhetri I'm not sure; not as many who've heard of Wayne Rooney for sure. There I go girlfriend threatened she wouldn't see me for a week if I even use three letters of Rooney's name(I'm supposedly suffering from Rooneymania) consecutively, but hell...I'll take my chances.

If you're wondering how the picture is relevant to my blog, P.S : READ BELOW.

"Wayne Rooney" picked up his disastrous form from where he'd left against Marseille. Sure, he got a goal but Berbatov could have got more; the only reason why Roo is preferred to Berba is his acceleration and work rate, which were not even better than a 36-year old named Scholes(normal, forget phenomenal). Spain calling perhaps?

WHU beat the kop out of a "rejuvenated/refreshed/fired-up/suarezed/dalglished" Liverpool team. Sympathies to Meireles for picking a knock, Liverpool did try but their defense just wasn't upto the mark. Doesn't matter if they can keep up their position in the table though, maybe some glory next season.

Picking up the last four words of the last para and adding a few more "nexts" , Mancity can use that as a tagline. And incidentally, I'm surprised Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko started the match given the high number of casualties on the flanks and centre of defence. Another Italian tactic maybe, ENCORE Mancini! If you can't pickup three points against Fulham at home, it doesn't matter even if you win against United or Arsenal.

Ah, now that I mention Arsenal, perhaps the bees have stung them too hard! Heartbreak, that's what I would call it, but Arsenal should've done better. With a team boasting of a midfield that can equal Barca's this was quite the anti-climax, Nasri and Wilshere did work hard but Koscielny took care of the result. Arsenal should have started with Chamakh or Bendtner instead of Rosicky. Second fiddle to the red devils and a CL quarterfinal berth(at most!) is where I can see them go.

The Chelsea v/s Manchester United fixture is (re)scheduled for tonight. Maybe Torres will get fired up when he comes against Vidic, Gawd knows Chelsea badly need a win, especially at home. I heard someone say United will use a Barcelona type formation with Roo and Chicharito supporting Berbatov from the flanks and Nani cutting in from the centre, interesting but not the United type. Curious to see if Rooney starts!

Till then, Ciao