Thursday, March 25, 2010

Midweek Matches: Recap & Review

Some big games this midweek in the Prem! First and foremost, title challengers Chelsea met Portsmouth, a club whose fate as relegation fodder has been sealed for some time. On paper, this fixture is a snoozefest, but Chelsea’s worrying dip in form lately meant that 3 pts from this match were absolutely vital. Beyond that, it’s always interesting to see a manager take on his former club, as Avram “the Grump” Grant did on Wednesday. But this one had no surprises, as the Blues ran out with a confidence boosting 5-0 victory. Drogba and Malouda each had braces, as Lamps rounded out the scoring with his head in the final minutes.

The ever-intriguing race for 4th had some big matches on Wednesday too, as Man City hosted the Toffees. A well-organized Everton finished 2-0 up, but the most interesting bit of this match was Mancini’s touch line bust-up with David Moyes. Moyes took just a little too long giving the ball back to a City player late in the game, and Mancini barged into the Everton gaffer, before the altercation got both managers sent off. Personally, I wouldn’t fancy Mancini in that one, nor would I like to go toe to toe with the gruff Scot.

Villa had a chance to boost their Champions League hopes as Sunderland came to visit, but Steve Bruce’s impressive side held on to come away with a point after Frazier Campbell’s earlier effort was cancelled out by the on-form Carew. On a side-note, no goals for DBent in this one, who is one of the most under-rated players in the Prem—at least in my humble opinion.

Blackburn Rovers also continued their remarkable run of form at home against Birmingham City, winning 2-1. In the FA Cup, ‘Arry’s Spurs sent Fulham crashing out with three 2nd half goals, but they still have Europa League aspirations after last week’s incredible triumph over Juventus.

As mentioned on Monday, Zola’s problems continued with a horrible loss at home to Wolves, 3-1. The Hammers only goal came in stoppage time, and the Upton Park faithful were calling for the manager’s head long before then. David Gold has asked for patience and support for Zola from the fans, but this problem isn’t going away.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Zola Dilemma

As a Chelsea fan, there are few people in the world of football I like more than Gianfranco Zola. I had high hopes for him when he took over the reigns of West Ham from Alan Curbishley in 2008. But quite frankly, it’s just not going right for Zola this season.

The Hammers find themselves very much in the relegation scrap, and after owners Sullivan/Gold initially said they had full confidence in Zola, they have now given him two days to save his job.

Unfortunately, it’s the right decision. Premier League management is not an easy or forgiving gig, and job safety is contingent almost solely upon the expectations at the club—just ask Mark Hughes, the former Man City manager, who is now being linked with Zola’s job.

So Gianfranco has two games, both against potential relegation battlers (Stoke and Wolves), to prove his worth. Supposedly 4 points from the 2 games will be enough, but that’s a high bar to set for the club that’s lost 4 straight.

Let’s hope Zola can get some results, if for no reason other than there are not nearly enough good people in top-level football.

Check out another quality football blog, The Business of Soccer. As you may expect, it’s a more fiscally-based blog, but these guys know their stuff.

Rooney, Messi, and the still Special Mourinho

It’s been over a year since the last blog post, but Wrong Side of the Atlantic is going to come back with a bang. And how could it not? We’re in the midst of the most gripping Premier League season in recent memory and the World Cup is just about 2 months away.

So let’s get cracking.

Over in the EPL/BPL/Best-League-in-the-World, it’s a three horse race, again. And although I have REFUSED to admit it until now, Arsenal are genuine contenders. True, they generally hit the stumbling blocks in the next couple of weeks, but they certainly don’t look like it. One thing that sets them apart from Utd and Chels: no talisman striker. You can choose to look at this as a blessing, because they’re not over-reliant on one player (see: Manchester United, who look like a pub team when Rooney’s not on the pitch), or a curse, because they don’t have a player who is consistently getting them that magic mark of a goal every two games. Somehow or another, the Gunners are keeping up, despite their own Nicklas Bendtner’s best attempts to miss every shot on goal he gets.

On the other side of London, the Blues have just come through their worst week this season. Bear in mind; if this is your first time reading this blog; I am a die-hard Chelsea fan. I make no apologies, for I am a firm believer that I can give objective, genuine analysis while still overtly supporting my boys. Although they have been breaking my little heart lately… in the past 7 days, Chels have crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of our old gaffer, Jose Mourinho, and then dropped two VITAL points in the title race against lowly Blackburn Rovers. Now, the Inter loss I can take. Don’t get me wrong, I’m dying for Champions League success just as much as JT is. But it was almost nice to get knocked out by a team who simply outplayed us, instead of dumped out by a dubious call or a 94th minute goal.

The Rovers draw is the one I can’t understand. Many pundits said in the lead-up, and the post match, that winning in Lancashire isn’t easy, particularly when Big Sam plays with such negative tactics. But the bottom line is this: after an early Drog goal, we went to sleep. It’s well publicized that the instinct to kill off teams is crucial in a title challenge, and we didn’t have it.

This becomes increasingly worrying for one reason: Rooney. The guy is literally unplayable. The worst part of it all is that he decided he want to start scoring WITH HIS HEAD. Old Shrek is about 5 foot nothing, and built like a garden gnome, but somehow, he’s plunking in buckets of goals from his rapidly-receding hairline. My not-so-bold prediction: if he stays fit, Rooney eclipses Ronaldo’s 42 goal mark.

Finally, I would be a fool to post this without mentioning Leo Messi. Let me give you some numbers on Messi:

· 11 goals in his last FIVE games. Including two hat tricks… in as many games.

· 34 goals in all competitions. (Rooney has 33)

· 5’ 7”. 148 lbs. 22 years old.

This is what his manager, Pep Guardiola, has to say about Lionel. And check out his goals against Valencia, particularly the first one.

Poor old Droggy would be leading the fight for the Footballer of the Year any other season, but plain and simple, it’s gonna be a dead sprint between the Argentine and the Scouser, which should make for some beautiful viewing in South Africa. Keep checking back in the coming weeks for all you need to know from the world of football, and please leave your comments without hesitation.

ALSO: take a second and go check out my good friend Jon's blog, The 7 Day Weekend. Probably the funniest/most random/addicting blog I've stumbled upon yet.