My piece for BallsyBanter.com on Thierry Henry and his possible retirement.
Mike Holden takes a look at tactics in lower league English football here. Something insightful to read if you’re interested in those leagues.
Can’t say I know anything about those leagues besides dabbling in FM a few times. Will be diving into it this season though.
Very interesting look article here from Graham Hunter on ESPNFC. A look into the psychological side of things from a managerial view, with the focus on Atletico Madrid. Not much else to say except that it’s definitely worth a read.
As the basic premise of the article goes, it’s doubtful that we’ll ever see another goalkeeper like Rogerio Ceni, or the memorable Luis Chilavert.
As ESPNFC’s Gabriele Marcotti states, part of what makes Ceni special in this case is that he’s done it all while being a solid goalkeeper on a team that’s won its fair share of trophies. It’s highly unlikely that a young keeper today will follow suit as the models to follow are, quite understandably, the Manuel Neuer’s, Gianluigi Buffon’s, David De Gea’s and Thibaut Courtois.’
If you check out the Wikipedia list of goal-scoring goalkeepers there is a surprisingly high amount of keepers in the double digits but anymore additions will likely just have the customary one or two.
Mario Balotelli’s return to the Premier League has been a representation of his career thus far. Frustrating.
The highlight has undoubtedly the meme bonanza sparked by his jumping out-of-the-way for Raheem Sterling’s goal against West Ham. That’s been the tale of Balotelli’s career so far though. He’s capable of being the main topic of conversation for football and non-football topics. The non-football stuff wouldn’t matter as much if he produced more on the field.
Mario Balotelli’s start to Liverpool has vindicated the critics and silenced the advocates in his camp thus far. For all his talent, and let’s not forget the man is talented, Balotelli has been poor in a Reds shirt so far this season.
You could talk about his work-rate(non-existent), style of play(non-nonchalant), the challenge of replacing Luis Suarez(tough for anyone) and
adjustment to Liverpool’s tactics etc but you would still expect a player with his quality to have more of an impact than he has. Only two goals in 12 games to start the 2014/15 season means the likes of Southampton’s Graziano Pelle, surprisingly but deservedly, are now getting the call ahead of him for Italy.
The somewhat sobering fact is that we may be seeing all that Balotelli has to offer football. Yes, he’s still only 24 but he’s already headed to journeyman status.
Balotelli is now playing at the fourth club in his career and may be on to a fifth in January if, as many wonderful transfer-based articles have said recently, Brendan Rodgers is willing to let him go.(It actually will be a sixth when you consider he transferred to Inter after playing senior football for Lumezzane) It would be tough to argue that Balotelli moved to these clubs because they made irresistible offers. He is a talent but was always somewhat unwanted at the selling club when suitors came about.
While some big stars constantly move to clubs because they can or they want to, Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes to mind, Balotelli is seemingly following in the steps of another disappointing Italian. The frustratingly talented Antonio Cassano is now playing for the seventh club in his career, though one can’t fault the man for not turning down the chance to turn out for Roma, Real Madrid and the two Milan clubs. Balotelli’s list includes a similarly impressive haul of Inter Milan, AC Milan, nouveaue riche Manchester City and, now, Liverpool.
It’s highly unlikely he’ll make it to one of Spain’s big boys unless there is a dramatic turnaround in form and attitude. France may be out too but maybe Monaco or PSG are willing to take a chance. It seems as if he’ll spend his time bouncing between England and Italy if he continues at this rate.
In order to strike out a different path from Cassano, Balotelli must change his attitude and score as his talent suggests he can.
One interesting thing to note in Balotelli’s career thus far is how he’s produced for each club. He’s failed to score 20 or more goals so far in any season despite his talent. It’s true that Milan is the only club where could he have been considered to be the main man but even then they didn’t seem to bothered he was leaving.
His time at Liverpool presents possibly his best chance to become one of the world’s greats, and if he fails he may just go the route of his compatriot, Cassano.
Balotelli hasn’t played for a team with Liverpool’s footballing philosophy as yet so that’s part of the problem. The added weight of replacing Suarez on top of the, as Alex Hess puts in this article on Squawka.com, a manager still sorting out the best way to handle him make things that much more difficult. It has to be said that, for once in his career, Balotelli seems short of confidence.
His recent game-changing goal against Swansea may lead to a change in form, and that did come after some Rodgers praised his performance after the game against Hull City. He definitely has backing from one corner, with Italian legend Andrea Pirlo saying his compatriot can succeed with a little love.
We’ll see how things progress as the season, and Balotelli’s career goes on.
Super Mario, the ever-bouncing videogame character we all love, traveled plenty of worlds in his heroic quests, and it’s very possible that Super Mario, the enigmatic Liverpool striker, could follow suit.
ESPNFC’s Julien Laurens looks at the struggles of one of France’s most talented players in recent years.
Yoan Gourcuff has become almost a forgotten figure in World Football in recent seasons and, judging by some of the paragraphs in the article, he likes that. As the two goal clips and a title win with Bordeaux show, Gourcuff is an extremely talented player who was just not made it to that next level of stardom. Or didn’t want to make it.
This piece from FourFourTwo takes an interesting look at how football’s most talented introverts may be viewed and you get the sense that some of it rings true for Gourcuff. That, and the weight of being expected to emulate arguably France’s best player ever, Zidane. The title of the article itself brings up another constant part of football that affects talented youngsters.
The “Next” title.
I, for one, have never really been interesting with that kind of labeling. If you think of other players like Roma’s Juan Iturbe, who was labeled the “next Lionel Messi” early in his career they always fail to live up to the mark. Sure, there are going to be similarities between players with similar backgrounds and traits on the pitch. There’s also players who like to model their game after others.
Another example is Romelu Lukaku and the “next Didier Drogba” title. They certainly have their similarities but I’ve never thought Lukaku could replicate Drogba exactly and, if you want to be critical, his failure to break through at Chelsea says just that. Most of that is down to transfer hype and so on and it’s unlikely players or coaches themselves think like that, but the fans are the ones who almost live and die by that title, and thus affect the player.
There is only one Didier Drogba, only one Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo and, for sure, there’s only on Zlatan Ibrahimovic.(We’ll miss the big Swede for sure)
We’ll look at another player later in the day who may be headed towards a “next” title he really doesn’t want.
Very interesting piece here from ESPNFC’s Nick Ames at a team that has had a pretty big impact in Europe over the years. As noted in the article, plenty of talent has come through the ranks at Partizan Belgrade.
After European play during the middle of the week, which saw plenty of goals, we got some interesting results this weekend. “El Clasico” was worth all the buildup, Manchester United went back in time and Borussia Dortmund continue to lose.
Let’s take a look at this weekend’s results for the bigger clubs across Europe’s top five leagues.
Primeira Liga(8) and Eredivisie(Round 10)
One of the big three in Portugal no longer holds an unbeaten record this season as Benfica lost to Braga over the weekend. Here are the highlights for that game. Both Porto and Sporting Lisbon continued to trot along with wins which leaves just a one point gap between 1st and 2nd place. Benfica’s loss aside, the highlight of the week in Portuguese football was this goal from Gers0 Fernandes.
There are no more undefeated teams in the Eredivisie after FC Twente’s loss over the weekend. Otherwise, things went as normal for the big boys. PSV, Ajax and Feyenoord all won and those result mean they all top the standings. PSV still leads by four points after 10 games but there’s been no shortage of interesting results.
Ligue 1(Rounds 11)
Things took an interesting turn in Ligue 1 this weekend as Marseille’s great run finally ended. Marcelo Bielsa’s side lost to Lyon(who are now third after a poor start) while Paris Saint-Germain picked up a solid 3-0 win over a Bordeaux side that topped the league very early on. Lille also lost while Monaco won, and those two are on opposite trajectories right now. Marseille still has a decent four point lead but will be looking over their shoulder this weekend with the big match against PSG looming.
Ligue 1 highlights here
Serie A(Round 8)
Roma will be annoyed to have dropped points during the weekend after a 0-0 draw with Sampdoria, but the clean sheet is a good look considering what happened against Bayern Munich. Juventus, Napoli and Inter all won their games, while AC Milan drew with Fiorentina. Midweek games in Serie A means we’ll have plenty to recap next week with the big game this weekend being Napoli versus Roma. The gap is still only three points at this stage so Roma will want to avoid dropping even more points against a slightly resurgent Napoli.
Serie A highlights here
Borussia Dortmund is possibly the most surprising team in Europe right now when you consider their form. A sixth loss in the Bundesliga means Dortmund are looking way up the table from 15th place. The weekend match-up with Bayern Munich looks even more ominous now. Bayern were held by Borussia Mochengladbach while Bayer Leverkusen beat Schalke when they met. Not sure why I’ve neglected this fact so far but Bayern aren’t the only undefeated team in the league as Mochengladbach, and fourth place Hoffenheim, also have zero losses.
Bundesliga highlights here
La Liga(Round 9)
“El Clasico” lived up to its billing over the weekend with some fantastic football on display. Real Madrid came out on top over Barcelona, and the race for La Liga has gotten tight again. Barcelona were the only team to drop points on the weekend, as Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia also won their games. The standings after 9 games now sees Barcelona trailed by Sevilla, Real Madrid, Valencia and Atletico Madrid in that order.
La Liga highlights here
Premier League(Round 9)
Manchester United gets props this weekend for summoning good ol’ “Fergie Time” with a last gasp equalizer versus Chelsea. Chelsea is still in unbeaten and clear favorites for the title despite that result. Liverpool were also held to a draw by Hull City while Manchester City and Tottenham both lost. That means Arsenal was the only big team to win thanks to a very generous Sunderland defense. There’s no midweek games in the Premier League as the ever important Capital One Cup takes centre stage. The Manchester derby is next weekend which should be fun.
Premier League highlights here
Until next time.
Arsenal’s 2-0 away win versus Sunderland hasn’t really brought any change in view from Arsenal’s fans.
The result, while good, was still part of an underwhelming performance. Their was extra defensive solidity with Arsenal’s two “defensive midfielders,” Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta, and the return of the 4-2-3-1. The surprise was Alexis Sanchez in a No. 10 role behind Danny Welbeck.
Definitely worked out well.
Sanchez was again the man the club needed but even he may not have had an impact if Wes Brown and Vito Mannone weren’t intent on having their own Vine moments this weekend. The attack was still unable to muster much of a threat to the opposition defense and the two goals came down to Sanchez’s tenacity as much as his skill.
There really isn’t much else to talk about besides the result and Sanchez’s performance. Arsenal now sit in fifth place(trophy’s just one spot up the table) after other results and, surprisingly, may be the best bet for third place right now. No offense to Southampton and West Ham fans.
ESPN FC’s John Cross stated that Arsenal fans need a bit of perspective after that game. Yes, and no.
Throughout the years there have been injuries, new players and unsuspectingly good performances from teams that should’ve been beaten. Or otherwise poor performances from the Gunners.
But that’s exactly the problem. Those issues, and these results, have been constant for the last few seasons and it doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon.
We’ll see come January, and most importantly, come the end of the year what happens. Maybe it’s still too harsh to judge the squad when key players are still missing, and will be for some time. Burnley is up next and we’ll see if they prove a tough nut to crack at home.
Until next time.
My piece for Bleacher Report on Alexis Sanchez’s being the best Arsenal transfer in recent times.