Football Station


Silly Season 2010

James Milner or Bruce Banner?

Even as the World Cup droned on, players were changing hands, contracts signed and bridges burned all over the world of football.  David Silva made the rare choice to switch clubs during the World Cup while being involved with it, Yossi Benayoun moved south and David Villa made what is probably going to be the biggest move of the summer to Barcelona.

Those are confirmed switches.  However, even before a deal is officially complete, everybody usually knows about it.  So what are the budding rumours?

Arsenal – The Gunners need a goalkeeper and a holding midfielder, that’s why it’s no surprise that two top notch keepers are linked in Schwarzer and Handanovic.  Initially, it was thought that the £4m asking price for the Fulham man was too high, seeing as how he is 37.  Handanovic is only 26 years old and would be a great signing for Arsenal.  It seems unlikely that Cole will sign as Wenger said that they don’t need any players in the wing areas, so it makes it more unlikely that Hazard will sign as he is the same sort of player and probably more expensive.  Fabregas looks set to stay for the season at least, but next year may find Barcelona too much to resist.  The biggest problem for Arsenal is that they are fully staffed in nearly every area of the pitch, but they are all around 21 years old and need time to mature.  There is a lot of promise to be had in Arsenal’s squad, but it may not reach its potential for a few years time.

Ins – Mark Schwarzer (Fulham), Samir Handanovič (Udinese), Eden Hazard (Lille), Joe Cole (Free)

Outs – Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Sol Campbell (Celtic, Sunderland, West Ham)

Aston Villa – Other than everything that is being clearly reported by the press, Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill is being

The Former Spurs' captain could be set for just about anywhere.

characteristically tight lipped about his transfer plans.  Once again, he is attempted to hang on to one of his star players despite interest from another club (once again Manchester City).  McGeady gets a lot of mixed reactions from EPL fans and whether he makes or breaks in the Prem will be a mystery until he potentially signs and plays for the first time.  Robbie Keane would be a great signing.  He’s Prem proven and a well rounded forward who has more finesse than John Carew but is more physical than Gabby Agbonlahor.

Ins – Aiden McGeady (Celtic), Robbie Keane (Tottenham),

Outs – James Milner (Man City), Nick Shorey (Liverpool),

Chelsea – With Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Deco all walking out the door of Stamford Bridge, it’s hard to imagine that Ancelotti won’t look to replace at least one or two of them.  He is a manager known for not liking complete overhauls, so it doesn’t seem like several major summer signings are in order.  Fernando Torres looks like staying this season after Hodgson came out and said they had good talks, but this is “Silly Season” and anything can happen.  If he does leave, it will be for a sizable sum (reportedly £50m).  Kaká has been linked in numerous locations, but it’s hard to imagine that Mourinho would dump the former FIFA World Player of the Year without much of a chance.  Don’t bet on him moving.  Sergio Aguero has been long linked with the Blues, and it wouldn’t shock me if he ended up making the change.  The young Argentine is worth about £30m and could be well worth it, but whether he’ll be a fit for the EPL is still up for debate.  Ashley Cole could well be bound for Real Madrid along with team mate Frank Lampard, as both will be keen to link up with former manager Jose Mourinho.

Ins – Sergio Aguero (At. Madrid), Fernando Torres (Liverpool), Kaká (Real Madrid)

Outs – Frank Lampard (Real Madrid), Ashley Cole (Real Madrid)

Everton – Shrewd, yet brilliant would characterize David Moyes’s transfer style.  He rarely breaks bank, but he manages to bring in outstanding talent for half as much as other players are moving for.  Steven Pienaar signed for £2m, as did Mikel Arteta.  Tim Cahill joined the Toffees for only £1.5m!  These players are worth more than triple those figures now, and everybody (myself included) are interested to see who Moyes brings in next.  So far, Moyes has brought in 3 strikers, which says something about what he sees as needing improvement.  Moyes, like I said, is very shrewd and not much transfer whisperings leave Goodison until it’s a done deal.  His biggest task of the summer will be convincing Steven Pienaar to stay around, with Tottenham & co. waiting in the wings.  A big boost for all of Moyes’s transfer dealings is that most of his players owe him quite a bit of loyalty, because, if it weren’t for him, they could still be rotting in Championship sides.

Ins – Joao Silva (Desportivo Das Aves), Jermaine Beckford (Leeds), Magaye Gueye (Strasbourg), Jan Mucha (Legia Warsaw)

Outs – Steven Pienaar (Tottenham), Mikel Arteta (Manchester City), Jack Rodwell (Manchester United)

Announcing his hour long TV special, "The Decision" in the next few days...

Liverpool – Until they kick their campaign off against Arsenal at Anfield, many questions will be asked of Hodgson’s side (and will probably be asked after that, as well).  Obvious transfer rumours include Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano’s futures.  If Hodgson can convince at least two of them to stay, the Anfield faithful can breathe easy again.  Mascherano looks already out the door as he has made no secret that he wishes to join up with Benitez again at Inter Milan and is reportedly dodging Roy Hodgson’s calls and texts.  Liverpool have made an approach for Joe Cole, and though Spurs look the likelier destination, he may not be out of the question for the Reds.  Rafael van der Vaart has been linked as well, but that would concede Steven Gerrard to a more central role in the pitch.  That or…he could be leaving.  For once, it seems, most of the transfer rumours (In’s at least) have yet to surface, as Hodgson gets a better look at his squad.  They have, however, declared their interest in speaking to some of Manchester City’s more disenchanted players.

Ins – Joe Cole (free), Stephen Ireland (Manchester City), Shaun Wright-Philips (Manchester City), Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid)

Outs – Steven Gerrard (Real Madrid), Fernando Torres (Chelsea, Barcelona), Javier Mascherano (Inter Milan), Emiliano Insua (Fiorentina)

Manchester City – This could well take up 2000 words, so I’ll do my best to keep it short.  Linked with just about any player who has featured for a national team in a major competition, Manchester City’s strategy mirrors that of Chelsea’s.  Money talks.  If it doesn’t, try more.  Seemingly a band of well paid mercenaries, the Blues at Eastlands don’t seem to find much of an emotional attachment to any of their players.  Boys move seamlessly in and out, but it’s hard to ignore the talent that now forms their Starting XI.  Mancini is known to be an admirer of Fernando Torres, James Milner, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko.  All four of which are serious possibilites, however it is hard to see Torres moving to such a heavy rival to Liverpool.  But Milner and Dzeko look to be really itching to join ranks at Eastlands, where it looks like a matter of time for Balotelli.

Ins – Mario Balotelli (Inter Milan), Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg), Fernando Torres (Liverpool), James Milner (Aston Villa)

Outs – Craig Bellamy (Tottenham), Joe Hart (Arsenal), Carlos Tevez (Real Madrid, Inter Milan)

Manchester United – The finances of The Red Devils are really a mystery.  Does Ferguson have the sales from CristianoRonaldo?  Do they have to sell to buy?  Regardless, like every summer window, United are linked with a host of top players.  Vidic looks set to move to Real Madrid, and then the question becomes: who will replace him?  Despite the fact that Ferguson came out and said they aren’t interested in Joe Cole, the gaffer is known as a master of mind games and may well be working a number in the transfer market.  Wesley Sneijder has been linked, but there looks little possibility that the Inter Milan man will leave.  He’s among the most talented players in the world at the moment and enjoying playing with the European champions and is coming off a trip to the World Cup Final.  Luis Suarez is another name that has popped up on the radar, but the striker would only be brought in should Berbatov be sold.

Ins – Luis Suarez (Ajax), Jack Rodwell (Everton), James Milner (Aston Villa), Steven Pienaar (Everton)

Outs – Nemanja Vidic (Real Madrid), Dimitar Berbatov (Bayern Munich, AC Milan), Patrice Evra (Real Madrid)

Tottenham – Top 4 new boys, Tottenham Hotspur will really be looking to show the Premier League that they are no slouches, and they won’t have to wait long as they open their campaign with Manchester City at White Hart Lane.  Then they enjoy an October by hosting Everton and Aston Villa and traveling to Old Trafford to finish up.  However, Harry Redknapp hasn’t made a lot of noise in the transfer window so far other than rumblings.  He’s set to sign 21 year old Internacional holding midfielder Sandro once their domestic campaign ends, but don’t put it past Redknapp to have more than a few lines in the water.  By the sounds of it, those include Joe Cole, Steven Pienaar, Craig Bellamy, and Luis Fabiano.  Clearly Redknapp sees improvement in the attacking aspect of his squad and looks to be doing his utmost to see talent brought in.  And with their newly attained Top 4 spot, not many of their players seem to be looking for the exit.

Ins – Joe Cole (free), Steven Pienaar (Everton), Craig Bellamy (Manchester City), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla)

Outs – Robbie Keane (Aston Villa, Celtic)

Allegedly one of Hodgson's "disenchanted" stars who could be on his way out of Anfield.

Summary – Joe Cole is one of the biggest English talents on the move this summer, and he looks set for either Tottenham, Liverpool or Arsenal, but his wages seem to be a sticking point for most of them.  Still, Spurs look likely.   Fernando Torres is a big name player who could be on the move, but looking at Hodgson’s comments today, he may be sticking around Merseyside for a season longer.  Somebody who doesn’t look to be is Javier Mascherano.  The Argentine captain seems to be ignoring the new manager’s calls and texts about his future.  If that is the case, then his professional attitude needs a serious adjusting.  James Milner to Manchester City could well be on the cards if Martin O’Neill doesn’t stand in his way…however the North Irishman has a nasty habit of doing just that.  Milner is about a 50/50 at this point to stay.

There is still much more than any regular fan can fathom at this point, and with the World Cup over, we can watch it all unfold.

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Fresh Meat

NETHERLANDS – SPAIN

“Fresh Meat”

Final – Preview

July 11th, 2010

There’s a first time for everything, and for Spain, it’s a World Cup Final.  For the Netherlands, it could potentially be their first ever World Cup trophy after featuring in the final in 1974 and 1978.  Those appearances coupled with their Euro 1988 win give the Dutch the historical edge, but recently, Spain is the more accomplished of the two sides after winning Euro 2008.

Neither side is a sure bet for the win, as they are both more than capable of winning the tournament.  The pitch will be packed with talent as the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt will take on the Spanish Armada consisting of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and David Villa.  Ironically, both teams have been notorious for choking in the past, yet both find themselves thrust onto literally the greatest stage in world football.

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Netherlands –

The Oranje are a well oiled machine.  Any questions that were asked of them before the tournament have promptly been answered as the Dutch are now 6/6 in South Africa.  They’re not as flashy as some of their supporters would like, but you can’t argue with the results they’re cranking out.  Beating Slovakia, Brazil and Uruguay is no small order but the Oranje have done it well.

In a rich vein of form, the Inter Milan man could win the Champions League and World Cup this year.

Stengths

The Dutch have world class talent littered across the pitch.  Wesley Sneijder is almost without question, the best attacking midfielder in the world and he’s flanked by Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt – two very different players but both extremely effective in their play.  Against Uruguay, their back line looked a lot better than it did in the first half against Brazil, and all four starters should be fit and ready to go against Spain.

Weaknesses

Their defensive unit.  Van Bronckhorst, their captain is 35, Joris Mathijsen is 30 and Andre Ooijer (should he be used) is 35.  Now Van Bronckhorst showed that he still has quite a bit of power in his screamer against Uruguay, but he still can be exposed by speed and trickery.  Notably, he will face quite a bit more of that against the Spaniards, who are brimming with confidence and skill.  If David Villa has a bad game (you never know), then it could really open the match up as Netherlands will be able to fortify the back line while using van Bommel to help defense flow seamlessly into attack.  Also, the Dutch will really have to hope that Robin Van Persie finds some kind of form, because their striking department has lacked bite.

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Spain

If there’s any time to buckle, this is not it.  However, you can’t help but feel that having never been to the finals, that this might be their most likely time to do so.  With so much expectation and playing such hot-and-cold football, who really knows what Spain team will show up against the Netherlands.

Strengths

What isn’t a strength for Spain?  The boast one of the best keepers on the planet, Pique and Puyol anchor the back line, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta and Pedro/Busquets make up the midfield and they have one of the most in-form strikers in the world in David Villa.  They play classy and attractive football, and should they score the first goal, the Netherlands will find it incredibly tough to bounce back.  They’re the strongest squad on paper going into the final, but, as we all know well, that doesn’t mean much.

Weaknesses

The Spanish aren’t flawless, as many would like to believe.  They have tendencies and soft spots that can be exposed if rubbed the right way.  Playing with a lone striker allows teams to crowd them out and frustrate their attack.  Netherlands isn’t known as a counter attacking team, which isn’t good news for Spain as their style is tailormade for stiffling counter attacking play.  I’ve always said that Joan Capdevila is their weakest player, and while that says a lot about their starting line up (because Capdevila is a solid player), he will be facing Arjen Robben and likely Dirk Kuyt.  As the Germans tried to exploit (albeit unsuccessfully) were the soft spots behind the holding midfielder and in front of the defense.  And with Ramos pushing so far up the pitch, Sneijder will make a killing off those pockets in which he can work with Kuyt or Robben.

Gelson Fernandes scores the winner for Switzerland against Spain in the Group opener.

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Prediction – Both teams are formidable sides, but it’s hard to look past Spain now.  Germany was probably their sternest test, and with that out of the way, they look like they could well go on to win it.

Netherlands 0 – 2  Spain



Round 2 – Germany v. Spain Preview

A late addition to Football Station, I know, but today is a vital match up between familiar foes who have met on the international stage before in Euro 2008.  In that instance, Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game as the Iberian squad marched to victory over the Germans.

David Villa has carried the goal count almost entirely (Iniesta has one!).

This time, it’s different.  Much different.  Germany are steamrolling teams and looking like an downright powerhouse going into this tie, and despite the fact that Spain has one of the most talented rosters in the world, they haven’t hit top gear in South Africa just yet.  After losing to Switzerland, the Spanish have won every game, but they have yet to play a team such as Germany, and their shortcomings could become evident while playing such a team.

Do the Germans have any flaws?  You bet.  They aren’t as deep a squad as they would like, luckily for the Germans, it doesn’t look like they need one.  However, with Thomas Mueller suspended from the freak “handball” call in their game against Argentina, the youngster will have to sit this one out.  Piotr Trochowski the 26 year old Hamburg man, takes his spot and will be looking to take the Spanish apart with his skillful dribbling.

The Spanish don’t exactly have many flaws.  If the form of Fernando Torres was present in one of their full backs, then there might be a real problem.  Maybe that’s why he isn’t starting.  But the nice thing for the Spanish is that you can afford to have a

Mesut Ozil has been key for the Germans in South Africa.

forward not on top form.  That said, Spain’s biggest problem, historically, is their inability to finish teams off.  This could be entirely possible if Torres doesn’t hit top gear.  Villa has been carrying the goal load almost single handedly in South Africa and could really use some help from his striking compatriot.  Germany play rough and tough defense, something Torres will be familiar from being a Liverpool player.  Will it pay dividends?  Eh, we’ll see.

The Spanish have a loaded midfield full of talent, pinpoint passing and plenty of guile.  Well isn’t that convenient…because so do the Germans.  Germany have Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Ozil and Podolski.  Spain have Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets.  It’s close but the edge may go to Spain.  Spain are vulnerable to the counter attack, though, as their striking department contain the most pace on the pitch.  Xabi Alonso isn’t known for pace, nor is Busquets.  Puyol can be vulnerable to a pacy player and Capdevila (probably the weakest link for the Spaniards, which is saying a lot) has been exposed in the past as well.

Germany’s biggest fear should be extra time.  Should they have to draw from the bench late on in the game, the Spanish can take it.  Also, the Germans haven’t had to really chase a game this World Cup, and when they did, they lost to Serbia.  If the Spaniards score first, that could be curtains as well.

Prediction

If the match doesn’t go to extra time…

Germany 2 – 1  Spain

If it does…

Could go anywhere…but we fancy Spain.



Bad Blood – Germany v. Argentina Preview

GERMANY – ARGENTINA

“BAD BLOOD”

Preview

July 3rd, 2010

When the ball drops Saturday in Cape Town and it will have nearly been a week since Germany and Argentina had secured their places in a mouthwatering quarterfinal fixture that has nothing less than a finals atmosphere.  Arguably the most anticipated quarterfinal matchup was created from two very similar second round matches as Germany sent home fellow European “rivals” England with their tails between their legs upon capitalizing on a Lampard goal-that-never-was that seemed to deflate any English momentum as the Germans went on to dismantle the absent English defense on second-half counter attacks.

The scuffle in Germany, 2006.

Argentina’s “Hand of God” sequel compliments of Italian referee Roberto Rosetti’s un raised arm seemed to take El Tri’s mind off of their game plan and more on exacting revenge by way of a half-time tunnel scuffle.  An early Tevez bullet after the break sent El Tri on a one-way ticket back to the beaches of Acapulco.  It’s fair to say that both teams arrived in the Quarterfinal on questionable circumstances.

Historical bad blood has sparked Germany’s captain-in-waiting Bastian Schweinsteiger to take the opening shot of what has developed into a war of words between the two heavily decorated sides. Schweinsteiger has recently accused the Argentineans of displaying a “lack of respect” during their second round tilt against Mexico. The German midfielder went on to cite that Diego Maradona’s squad are anything but reluctant to influence the referees in any way possible for their benefit. “It starts before the match. You see how they gesticulate, how they try to influence the referee. That is not part of the game. That is a lack of respect. They are like that. We should not be provoked by them.” Schweinsteiger continued to legitimize his claims by pointing out that this has been commonplace of the Argentinean mentality and character on the pitch.

It is clear that the Bayern workhorse has still not forgotten the post-game clash that erupted after Germany’s victory in penalties over Argentina that produce a clash between the players and coaching staff from both sides during the 2006 World Cup Quarterfinals. Schweinsteiger has come out and said that he has made it a point to remind his team-mates of their history and to not react to any Argentinean provocation come the start of Saturday’s showdown, which doesn’t seem to be quite a bad idea with the immense presence of the seemingly card-happy officiating thus far in the World Cup. (i.e. Kaka)

On the other hand, who was surprised to see the constantly outspoken Carlos Tevez presenting his rebuttal to the off-field German offensive? Not me.  Tevez combated Germany’s critiques of his side’s character by insisting that Mexico are a far more formable

The Manchester City man has been more than happy to have a spat with the Germans.

and fearsome squad than the one anchored by Schweinsteiger. “The Mexicans play better football. They took the ball from us in the first minutes of the first half and at the start of the second. We should have suffered more if we hadn’t struck at the right moments.”  Shortly after the Schweinsteiger comments, Tevez told Clarin that he was more afraid of Mexico than Germany despite an absolute showcase of pass and move counterattacking against the star-studded Three Lions.

It is clear that Tevez’s confidence may arise from the two sides’ last meeting during a Friendly match in Munich where Diego Maradona’s squad defeated the Germans 1-0 in a less than strenuous effort. When brought to his attention, Schweinsteiger seemed unmoved by this fact saying, “One, it was a friendly. Two, they did not create many chances either. Three, we have gained a lot of confidence by beating England and the good tactics we used in that game.” Those good tactics will undoubtedly need an encore against the South Americans who seem to be unstoppable at the moment, having not lost a single match yet during this year’s World Cup campaign.

The two sides look to be extremely well matched, which seems to be the reason for the sudden outburst of words from either camp as each team seems to be desperately looking for added ammunition to use as motivation in a quarterfinal match that looks to be as unpredictable as the Argentinean master and commander, Diego Maradona.

Liverpool hard man, Mascherano, will be key to stopping the young Mesut Ozil.

I have no doubts that either team will come out at their strongest to live up to either country’s immense expectations. Argentina has more than an adequate supply of attacking power with a laundry list of world class finishers (Higuain, Messi, Tevez, Milito, Aguero) but their defensive play has long been suspect. As if the England game doesn’t provide enough evidence, the Germans have a reputation of capitalizing on such weaknesses by utilizing the speed and width play of their youth movement. Look to Germany to continue their balanced and control-based passing game with calculated and organized counterattacks, which will test the nerve of Argentina’s back line.  Even more so than any other game, the capitalization of chances will be crucial for either side in a match where the sheer presence of world-class talent will be on full display.  I see Germany putting away at least one or two of these chances against a possibly more vulnerable back line than previously presented to them by England, where Argentina’s strike happy hit men will see fewer opportunities against a veteran German back line.  Ozil may play less a part in this game as he sizes up against Captain Javier Mascherano.  The latter is certainly capable of neutralizing any offensive threat in the world, and the German youngster is no different.  Still…

Prediction:

Germany 3 – 2 Argentina

– Eric Fortin