jump to navigation

Premiership weekend review and top five goals August 31, 2009

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

This season the top four could be really vulnerable. That’s what pundits say more in hope than expectation every year and it always proves false. Truth is, while clubs like Aston Villa and Everton can assemble impressive lineups, they can’t fund squads deep enough to sustain a challenge to the oligarchy.

So I’m sure you can see where this is going. Manchester City. I didn’t really believe it myself until this week, but it wasn’t the blues’ win over Portsmouth that convinced me, at least not entirely, that they might have bought their way into the elite. Rather it happened across town from the City of Manchester Stadium as Robin van Persie changed direction to cut onto his left foot and shoot at the Old Trafford goal.

It got me thinking of the anatomy of a title-winning team, to which I believe a brilliant playmaker and a deadly, exuberant, two-footed finisher are essential. Van Persie is Arsenal’s principal striker, but as his change of direction proved, he’s not two-footed, and as the distance between the shot’s destination and the goal proved, he’s not much of a finisher either. But Arsenal at least has the playmaker in Cesc Fabregas, and maybe Eduardo, Nicklas Bendtner or Carlos Vela can prove to be the finisher.

Who knows whether Manchester United has either. Wayne Rooney seems capable of being both, but undecided about which he prefers and a little bit wooed besides by the idea of pretending to be Roy Keane or Dennis Irwin every now and then. Dimitar Berbatov has done nothing to suggest he’s reliable. Michael Owen? It’s not impossible, but not probable either.

The point being, Emmanuel Adebayor and Steven Ireland definitely seem closer to that ideal than anything at either of those teams. And, for that matter, so do Jermain Defoe and Luka Modric. Tottenham Hotspur has always had billions, but has also always been too free with them. This summer, Harry Redknapp was admirably conservative (and I loathe the man), and it gave the Lilywhites something they’ve lacked: team chemistry, consistency and confidence. It’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible, especially not with the possibility that men like Giovani Dos Santos and David Bentley might suddenly prove themselves at any time.

For the record, I’m not saying Arsenal and Manchester United will drop out of the top four. Liverpool’s more likely to, because although Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard do fit the ideal, they are surrounded largely with knockoffs (Kyrgiakos, Lucas, Dossena). But I begin to think someone will fall. And it’s more expectation than hope all of a sudden.

Top five goals of the weekend:

5: Gabriel Agbonlahor vs. Fulham: It wasn’t a tremendously important goal to much of anyone. Much of anyone not named Gabriel Agbonlahor of course. The man’s long slump after Villa fans began booing him shows he’s a confidence player. And the thing about confidence players is, the slightest hint of confidence can suddenly spark brilliance in them. Agbonlahor didn’t score the first goal, but the P.A. announcer thought he did. And maybe remembering what those words sounded like and hearing the cheer that attended them drove him to hit that left-footed beauty past Mark Schwarzer.

4: Aaron Lennon vs. Birmingham City: I might have moved this one a little high because it felt good to me. Warning: this paragraph will be more criticism of Lee Bowyer than praise for Lennon. That tackle on Luka Modric was gruesome and violent. It hurt to see the league’s most horrid little man injure one of its most wonderful. When Bowyer scored, it made it even worse. The only thing that could have made Lennon’s winner better, then, would have been if he ran over to the former Leeds and West Ham man to rub it in.

3: Glen Johnson vs. Bolton: Glen Johnson’s proving to be a hell of a player. He’s not one of the knockoffs I mentioned above. Attacking fullbacks are the difference-makers in the modern game, and not many of them are as good at beating men or as skilled with their supposed weaker feet. Here Johnson demonstrated the talents that made him worth so much of the Reds’ cash by cutting inside a Bolton defender to fire off a perfectly placed left-footed laser.

2: Andre Arshavin at Manchester United: He gets extra points for having the balls to shrug off a shuddering tackle from Darren Fletcher moments before. Some players would have rolled around in agony. Arshavin’s eyes danced with flames. He chased the ball down. He used his next touch to set up a swerving wallop into the top corner, to take out his anger on the ball, and to ram it down Manchester United’s throats.

1: Ashley Cole vs. Burnley: I’m a sucker for one-two passes. Even more so when they end with sumptuous, first time half volleys into the far corner from oblique angles. Before he married a celebrity and said some stupid things, he was just a very good footballer, remember?

Europa League draw analysis August 29, 2009

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Preface: Let it not be said by anyone that the newly-christened Europa League is not a farce. It is. You shouldn’t waste your time watching it. If you’ll notice, since its most recent format change, it’s been won three times by clubs from the former Soviet Union. That is not a coincidence, but rather an emblem of how seriously nobody takes the competition. Until the light appears at the end of the tunnel, nobody really cares whether he wins it, and when it gets to the business end, ex-Soviet teams dominate simply because their longer winter break allows them to hit their peak fitness right at the perfect time.

But the most recent edition gives me something to write about. And write I shall. Clubs in colors have won European competitions before

Group A (Ajax, Anderlecht, Dinamo Zagreb, Poli Timisoara): Three teams that have seen better days and one Eastern European irrelevance. Ajax still produces an array of skilfull players, so you’d call them favorites. Anderlecht is whithering faster than Dinamo, still Croatia’s best team, so I’m giving the edge to the latter, simply because of an affection for Igor Biscan. Blast from the past: Biscan, the Zagreb captain who won the Champions League with Liverpool but never looked fully competent. It all hinges on: Winston Parks, a powerful Costa Rican striker for Poli, who could help them spring surprises. Deserves better: Luis Suarez, the Ajax captain, an extremely classy Uruguayan who hauled them through the qualifiers.

Group B (Valencia, Lille, Slavia Prague, Genoa): This one is difficult, because it pits teetering Valencia against two of Western Europe’s up-and-coming teams and the Czech champions. The Spaniards will still probably make it, but don’t be surprised to see them bested. Genoa was stripped of its two best players by Inter this summer, so you’d have to give Lille the edge. Blast from the past: Vladimir Smicer, another Champions League winner with Liverpool who finds himself at Slavia. It all hinges on: Hernan Crespo, an Argentine hitman who has puzzlingly never really made it, Crespo needs to prove himself worthy of replacing Diego Milito at Genoa. Deserves better: David Villa, not an unknown, but it’s appalling to think that Europe’s most effective striker might not even be paid this season.

Group C (Hamburg, Celtic, Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Rapid Vienna): Hamburg have shot off like a rocket in the Bundesliga this year, so that’s likely to be their priority. However, even turning out second-teamers, they’ll likely best their sorry opponents. Don’t be surprised to see a solid Tel-Aviv overtake Celtic. Blast from the past: Vincent Enyeama, a veteran of several World Cups with Nigeria who now backstops for Tel-Aviv. It all hinges on: Aiden McGeady, upon whose inconsistent shoulders Tony Mowbray has rested Celtic’s hopes. Deserves better: Walid Badir, not necessarily for his performances. However, the ethnically Arab Tel-Aviv captain has a solid decade for the Israeli national team behind him, no mean feat.

Group D (Sporting (Lisbon), Heerenveen, Hertha Berlin, Ventspils): Sporting is actually an impressive team that was heading for the Champions League until Stevan Jovetic had his stay. Hertha threatened to win the league last season, but did so largely on because of the goalscoring of broad-chested Ukrainian Andre Voronin, now back at Liverpool.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see Heerenveen challenge the capital club for a place in the next round, but neither is too impressive. Who knows much about Ventspils? Blast from the past: Alexanders Kolinko, Vitalijs Astafjevs and Vits Rimkus, all members of the surprising Latvia team at Euro 2004 and of Ventspils. Nobody’s heard from that team’s members since. It all hinges on: Artur Wichniarek, the Polish striker will have to fill the gap left by Voronin, despite goalscoring stats that have never been world-class. Deserves better: Miguel Veloso, the impressive Sporting holding midfielder who has, for some reason, not made the expected move to a big-name club this summer.

Group E (Roma, Basel, Fulham, CSKA Sofia): If all the clubs here play to their potential, it will be Roma and Fulham going through. Both are built of solid parts. If one of them is to deteriorate, it will be the Italian club, whose only significant addition this summer has been the hapless Argentine defender Nicolas Burdisso, on loan from Inter. Basel is probably likelier to take advantage, with its impressive Champions League pedigree. Possible added interest: a meeting of the Riise brothers. Blast from the past: Pascal Zuberbuhler, Fulham’s Swiss goalkeeper who spent seven years at Basel. If he plays, it will be emotional, although he is third-choice. It all hinges on: David Pizarro, the Chilean midfielder who played little part for Roma last season but will need to compensate for the loss of the talented Alberto Aquilani. Deserves better: Brede Hangeland, a solid and classy Norwegian center half who has displayed laudable loyalty to Fulham despite interest from England’s heavyweights.

Group F (Panathinaikos, Galatasaray, Dinamo Bucharest, Sturm Graz): Don’t poo-poo Dinamo: Romanian soccer is an up-and-coming force and Red Dogs have a balanced and talented side. But Galatasaray and Panathinaikos are both very strong, deep teams you probably can’t see past, especially the Turks, whose squad contains tons of talent, including… Blast from the past: Harry Kewell, who once looked set to conquer the world, has played at left-back and even central defense for the Turks, but has also made a positive impression to become a fans’ favorite. It all hinges on: Gabriel Tamas, the Dinamo captain and center half, who has played for Galatasaray, and will have to be in peak form to repulse the onslaught likely to come from the southeastern Europeans. Deserves better: Arda Turan, Galatasaray’s 22-year-old captain, will be in Western Europe soon. One must also mention Sebastian Leto, whose impressive performances since he was jettisoned by Liverpool have placed yet another question mark next to Rafael Benitez’s judgement.

Group G (Villarreal, Lazio, Levski Sofia, Salzburg): Two big clubs, two little clubs. But Salzburg is impressively bankrolled by the energy drink Red Bull and Lazio is facing financial problems. Nevertheless, if they couldn’t even get past Maccabi Haifa… Blast from the past: Alexander Zickler, a 35-year-old German striker who spent 12 unimpressive years at Bayern but has nearly a goal every other game for Salzburg. It all hinges on: Somen Tchoyi, the Cameroonian who proved he has impressive talents against Haifa and will need to work hard to get Salzburg through. Deserves better: Matuzalem, the Brazilian attacking midfielder deserves better luck with injuries. He comes from the same outstanding youth soccer class as Ronaldinho, but his body has never quite allowed him to express his talents consistently.

Group H (Steaua Bucharest, Fenerbahce, Twente, Sheriff Tiraspol): Twente is an interesting team, and not at all just because smarmy former England coach Steve McClaren is the club’s coach. There’s an impressive roster of talent at the Netherlands’ second-placed squad: Chelsea wunderkinds Slobodan Rajkovic and Miroslav Stoch, outrageously prolific Swiss Blaise Kufo, and two exciting new additions in South African star Bernard Parker and Iraqi playmaker Nashat Akram. But this is also a pretty evenly matched group, with very strong Steaua and Fenerbahce teams and Sheriff, who played quite well in the Champions League qualifiers. Blast from the past: Roberto Carlos, the Brazilian left-back with the plus-size thighs is still going strong. It all hinges on: Juan Toja, a very talented Colombian playmaker who can make the difference for Steaua if he finds some form. Deserves better: Alexander Suvorov, the Moldovan who shares his name with a great general also has the talent to be the first man to make it big in the sport out of his country.

Group I (Benfica, Everton, AEK Athens, BATE Borisov): Benfica should be favorites for this tournament, at least among the teams currently in it and not from the old USSR. They have a bounty of attacking talent. Behind them, Everton ought to progress if David Moyes can sort them out, but you have the feeling he won’t, which could present a chance for a reasonable AEK side or the BATE team that presented so many problems for Real Madrid last year. Blast from the past: Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola used to be big stars and the big leagues, but between injury problems and coaches’ growing distrust for small men they’ve gone out of fashion. Benfica offers both a chance for rehabilitation. It all hinges on: Mikel Arteta, Everton’s Spanish lynchpin. He suffered a serious injury last season, but it’s difficult to see how anything other than the playmaker’s finding his best form will save the Merseysiders from their decline. Deserves better: Freddy Adu, who has probably suffered more than anyone from coaches’ distrust of small men. When he plays, he looks good, but he doesn’t play and nobody can explain why.

Group J (Shakhtar Donetsk, Club Brugge, Partizan Belgrade, Toulouse): Last year’s champions have a pretty easy group ahead of them. Brugge is the third best team in a weak Belgian league, Partizan’s squad is thin, and Toulouse is punching above its weight just being here. It’s difficult to pick the runner up, but let’s go for the French team. Blast from the past: Mathieu Berson, whom Aston Villa fans voted player of the season while he was on loan at Nantes, in protest. It seems a while since they’ve had much to complain about. It all hinges on: Soren Larsen, with his impressive scoring record for Denmark, has utterly failed at replacing Johan Elmander for Toulouse. Deserves better: Mircea Lucescu, the Romanian coach who has done well at Shakhtar for years without much of an offer from elsewhere.

Group K (PSV, Copenhagen, Sparta Prague, Cluj): Another fairly weak group. Cluj would have been a good bet for a surprise before, but these days the oil money’s dried up. PSV’s a good bet to make it, but behind them you wonder which of Sparta’s pedigree or Copenhagen’s biting at big heels in recent years will win out. Blast from the past: Patrik Berger, who played some good years in big leagues, is now too oft-injured to feature regularly for Sparta. It all hinges on: Sixto Peralta, the star for Cluj in last season’s Champions League. If he and Yssouf Kone turn up big again, Cluj can book tickets to the next round. Deserves better: Carlos Salcido is another man who would have made it really big long ago if there weren’t a prejudice against small men.

Group L (Werder Bremen, Austria Vienna, Athletic Bilbao, Nacional (Madeira)): Bremen’s talent just keeps on growing and the Germans find themselves in a pretty easy group. Athletic struggled against relegation last season, while Nacional and Austria both had unimpressive finishes in their divisions. If Athletic puts too much emphasis on this competition, the Basques will probably be relegated, so you’d probably pick Austria. Blast from the past: Jacek Bak, the long-serving Poland defender apparently has not yet retired. It all hinges on: Carlos Gurpegui, one of Athletic’s key men until a positive drug test robbed him of some years, he’ll be important to the club’s hopes in this competition since Bilbao will likely rely on reserves. Deserves better: Naw, everyone ought to be happy to be here.

Champions League draw analysis August 27, 2009

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Group A (Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux, Maccabi Haifa): Haifa is the obvious outsider, but the other three teams are on reasonably equal footing. Juventus, though, is probably ahead of the rest, simply because none of the other teams come close to matching an attacking arsenal that includes Diego, Alex Del Piero, Amauri, Vincenzo Iaquinta, David Trezeguet and the promising young sprite Sebastian Giovinco. Between the latter two, I’d spring for Bordeaux because the way Bayern Munich is set up seems to be hampering a team that should be performing. Franck Ribery is a consummate winger. He loves to beat his man and send the ball in. But Bayern coach Louis van Gaal loves crushing spirits and it appears the craggy Frenchman is his next target.

  • Key player: Yohann Gourcuff. If a team can stop him, it can stop Bordeaux. And the flipside to that is that if he manages to slip into gear for even a second, it only takes one surge or sleight of foot for him to upset a big team singlehandedly.
  • Laughingstock: Mark van Bommel. Loves a good dive and a good moan. Unfortunately, considering he fancies himself a consummate allrounder, he’s not such a fan of a good tackle or deadly pass.
  • Poised for the springboard: Yaniv Katan. Haifa’s captain didn’t make it at West Ham, but he’s sturdy and subtle and capable of hanging with the big boys, even if his teammates aren’t.
  • Horror hair: John Culma. I’m sorry I couldn’t find a picture of Haifa’s Colombian enforcer with the scraggly beard he sported against Salzburg. He looked like the consummation of Beauty’s marriage to the Beast.

Group B (Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg): It’s difficult to see any serious challenge to Manchester United’s progress out of this group, but they’re looking a bit ropy at the moment, while all three challengers have the men to cause them problems. CSKA Moscow has been hurt too much by Yuri Zhirkov’s departure and will probably finish a distant fourth, but both of the others are built on a solid backbone of top-class talent. I’d fancy Wolfsburg to finish first, since there are few teams out there with three strikers as brilliant as Obafemi Martins, Grafite and especially the terrifyingly complete Edin Dzeko.

  • Key player: Nihat Kahveci. Nihat can beat any team singlehandedly on his day, but he struggles mightily with injuries. If he can be fit enough to figure, he can propel Besiktas forward.
  • Laughingstock: John O’Shea. The Irishman finally found consistency last season, but you always have the feeling he’s going to fall flat on his ass and concede a last minute goal. Wolfsburg is also replete with hapless defenders (error-prone Ricardo Costa and Cristian Zaccardo come to mind).
  • Poised for the springboard: Alan Dzagoev. The gifted 19 year old is likely to want a move sooner rather than later if CSKA coach Zico keeps playing him on the left, rather than behind the strikers (maybe he should trade for Ribery).
  • Horror hair: Vagner Love. If Love’s reputation is well-founded, these grotesque neon tendrils do not scare women away from Russia’s deadliest frontman, but I’m a little put-off.

Group C (Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, Zurich): Don’t let the presence of a big name like Milan’s fool you: this is a walk for the Spanish champions. The Rossoneri are in a bad way right now, while I don’t think Brandao, Mamadou Niang and Hatem Ben Arfa boast quite the firepower to take Marseille past the Spaniards. Zurich is a non-entity, I think. On the other hand, I can see Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Gabriel Heinze going into these games for their respective sides with massive points to prove against the Spanish team.

  • Key player: Ronaldinho. If the greasy Brazilian makes good on his promise to get his stuff together, it might not matter how creaky the knees in the Milan engine room are. And he has a hell of a record against Madrid.
  • Laughingstock: Brandao. Marseille’s Brazilian battering ram is highly rated, but it will be difficult for opponents to tolerate him if he turns in performances as violent and petulant as the one he put in for Shakhtar against Barcelona last year. Of course, I’d love to see him against Sergio Ramos.
  • Poised for the springboard: Johan Vonlanthen. It’s difficult to believe the Swiss playmaker is only 23, because he’s been around forever without quite making it. But indications are the return to Zurich has finally sorted him out and he could be ready to try a stab at the big time again.
  • Horror hair: Mathieu Flamini. Grease. Thinning hair. A bad dye job. A potent combination indeed.

Group D: (Chelsea, Porto, Atletico Madrid, APOEL Nicosia): Cypriot teams have evidently been emboldened by Anorthosis Famagusta’s impressive performances last year, but Ivan Jovanovic would have to get it very right to progress from this group. The most vulnerable is Porto, a team that has lost its two key men to France without finding adequate replacements. Neither of the aforementioned will likely be a match for Atletico’s fearsome front four or Chelsea’s surfeit of gifted midfield men.

  • Key player: Falcao Garcia. Lisandro Lopez’s quality is being proven in France, leaving the Colombian signed from River Plate with important boots to fill. If he and Fernando Belluschi can match Lopez and Lucho Gonzalez, Porto might have a chance at progress.
  • Laughingstock: Florent Malouda. On his day, Malouda is a dynamic, effective winger. He also likes to pretend sometimes that he has no idea how to play the sport. He also has a fondness for the occasional dive.
  • Poised for the springboard: Sergio Aguero. It’s impossible to believe Atletico will be able to hold on to the limitlessly gifted Argentine much longer. Then again, if he continues to improve, he could make Madrid’s second club a real force.
  • Horror hair: Jose Bosingwa. That unibrow is always good for a laugh.

Group E: (Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debrecen): Lyon has never looked so poised to actually make a big impact. Years of titles made Les Gones complacent, but Bordeaux’s success last season made them reexamine their position. Lisandro Lopez has begun taking the league by storm, Miralem Pjanic has begun to deliver on his immense promise, and Aly Cissokho and Michel Bastos are a formidable left side. Liverpool and Fiorentina, meanwhile, look worse than last year. Of all the minnows in this year’s pond, I fancy Debrecen looks the likeliest to perform an upset, but not enough, surely, to bet Liverpool.

  • Key player: Alberto Aquilani. Lucas Leiva is manifestly not the one Liverpool needed. With no financial room for error at the Kop, England’s most storied side needs the oft-injured Italian to carry the mantle left by departed Xabi Alonso gracefully.
  • Laughingstock: Alberto Gilardino. Leiva’s hapless performances put him in the running, but it’s difficult to forget the Italy frontman’s disgraceful dive against Celtic all those years ago, not to mention the general haplessness of his spell at Milan. Of course, there’s also Per Kroldrup, the 6′ 3″ Fiorentina center half who’s afraid of heading the ball.
  • Poised for the springboard: Stevan Jovetic. I’m not inclined to argue with my colleague’s assessment of the Montenegrin attacker.
  • Horror hair: Sebastien Frey. Fiorentina’s goalkeeper has run the gamut in his time from hidden messages in his 90’s-style curtains to these truly regrettable sideburns.

Group F (Barcelona, Inter, Dynamo Kiev, Rubin Kazan): This is one hell of a difficult group in terms of talent. Inter Milan is likely to top it, simply because I can’t see Samuel Eto’o not scoring bucketloads against Barcelona (and Thiago Motta will also be itching to prove a point), while I fancy Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s response will be more muted. The Russian season makes the Champions League difficult for the country’s clubs, while Dynamo lost its best player over the summer when Ishmael Bangoura went to Rennes, but both are still dangerous. Barcelona will be the second to qualify, but it will be close-run.

  • Key player: Artem Milevskiy. Dynamo’s principal striker and captain will need to step his game way up to compensate for the loss of Guinean star Bangoura.
  • Laughingstock: Dani Alves. A very talented player, to be sure, but also a bit of a diving scumbag. I’m a Barcelona fan and I’ll admit that.
  • Poised for the springboard: Alejandro Dominguez. The Argentine playmaker has hit an insane number of goals since switching to Rubin from Zenit St. Petersburg. If he can do that in the Champions League, he’ll probably be able to book a ticket to South Africa, assuming Diego Maradona’s men head there at all.
  • Horror hair: MacBeth Sibaya. An interesting merger of the dreadlock and the chomage.

Group G (Sevilla, Rangers, Stuttgart, Unirea Urziceni): Unirea is the littlest minnow in this year’s pond, without the oil money to match last year’s impressive performance by compatriots at Cluj. The other three are no more than middleweights. Rangers knows how to grind out results, but even the lightest of blows in the right place could shatter their confidence and puncture their wafer-thin squad. Sevilla and Stuttgart are both solid and probably good for progress, if little more.

  • Key player: Kris Boyd. The only way this won’t become a two-horse race early is if Rangers can suckerpunch Stuttgart and Sevilla after soaking pressure. The team’s creaky spine will be instrumental, but so will the limited but effective goalhanger Boyd.
  • Laughingstock: Jens Lehmann. Stuttgart’s demonstrative goalkeeper is prone to entertaining antics. Alex Hleb’s cowardice is also laughable.
  • Poised for the springboard: Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Diego Capel. The three Sevilla attackers are looking to make the Spain squad in South Africa, but they’ll need their biggest seasons yet if they are to convince Vicente Del Bosque.
  • Horror hair: Romaric. He makes Djibril Cisse look like Forrest Gump.

Group H (Arsenal, AZ, Olympiacos, Standard Liege): Olympiacos has a curse over it when it comes to European competition, so the teams from the Low Countries will probably vie with one another for passage into the next round with Arsenal looking strong. It’s dificult to choose between the Dutch and Belgian champions. Both are talented, young squads full of invention which have lost key players in the summer. But AZ is the only one to have lost a coach, and Ronald Koeman’s performance at Valencia leads me to believe that he’ll be no match for Laszlo Boloni, one of the most underrated managers of all time.

  • Key man: Alex Moraes. Standard’s fortunes will rest on how the Brazilian replaces departed defensive lynchpin Oguchi Onyewu.
  • Laughingstock: Raul Bravo. Despite error-strewn spells at Real Madrid and Leeds and half a year of being frozen out at Numancia, he still finds himself in a job.
  • Poised for the springboard: Mounir El-Hamdaoui. There are half a dozen outrageously gifted young men at AZ and Standard, ones whose names will be sung from the tiers of elite stadiums in coming years. AZ’s Moroccan, though, is probably the most talented man at either club, a f0rward in the Ibrahimovic/Berbatov/Kluivert mold.
  • Horror hair: Bacary Sagna. There is no explanation or excuse for the lengths of rope tied to the Arsenal right-back’s head. His is easily the worst hairstyle in the sport.

A few 21 and unders’ to keep an eye on August 27, 2009

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Uncategorized.
add a comment
  1. Sergio Agüero, Atlético Madrid- age 21. “Kun” Aguero who makes up half of the formidable striking duo along side Diego Forlan isn’t exactly an unknown. After being courted by the likes of Chelsea and other top clubs this is a fairly easy choice. The reason he makes this list is one, he is 21 and two he plays in La Liga and not on a squad by the name of FC Barcelona or his cross town rival Real. He put away 17 last year but was overshadowed by Forlan’s league leading 32 goals. He is a hyrbid of quick acceleration and top speed a mix between the intensity of a Samuel Eto’o and nearly the quck cutting ability of his countryman Lionel Messi. clearly He is the striker of the future for his squad, it is just a matter if they can keep him in town.
  2. Jozy Altidore, Hull City (loan)-  age 19. Altidore got his chance in the premiership via loan and hes taken advantage of it quickly. The large framed American striker has put in a spectacular assist and a booming goal from distance in two games with the Tigers of Hull City. Don’t expect brilliance from distance all the time with Jozy, he excels at boxing defenders out and gaining control of balls which shorter and more stature challenged strikers struggle to handle. his ability to turn and fire from the top of the box can make him dangerous a la an aging Ronaldo. Being a citizen of the United States I often find myself criticizing his lack of touch and ball control, but I just remember the kid is 19,  The U.S shouldn’t screw up this situation by over hyping and pressuring this potentially excellent striker, we don’t need another Freddy Adu case on our hands.
  3. Stevan Jovetić, Fiorentina- age 19. Technique, technique, technique. This youngster began his career like most, starting his campaign in the Serbian league playing for the Belgrade side Partizan at the ripe old age of 16. At that same time he an others were heading the drive for a Montenegro national team, which he now earns caps for. okay so not exactly “normal”. The only thing that may keep this kid from being a star is his wavy locks of hair getting in the way. I hate to try to compare up and coming players to those who have established their talents but he reminds me of Andriy Shevchenko with a dash of Zlatan. mixing in high intensity runs with great technique inside the box, he just seems to have a nose for the goal. Don’t be surprised to see him earn a lot of playing time along side Alberto Gilardino for purple side of Florence.
  4. Franco Di Santo, Blackburn (loan)- age 20. Yet another talented front man for Argentina, but he is head and shoulders above the rest, literally. The 6’4 striker has yet to earn a cap for his national team side scoring 5 goals for the U-20 squad. It should just be a matter of time before he makes his debut, and it should be noticeable amongst the rather small lineup Argentina plays with now. Rarely does a move from Chelsea to Blackburn institute need for excitement, but in Di Santo’s case it gives him the opportunity play nearly every match and earn valuable time on the pitch against the best teams in the world, Daniel Sturridge in contrast may just ride the pine right through the season. Di Santo is all kinds of fast and strong shrugging off defenders seems more or less like second nature to this striker. Shall I say an Argentine Drogba, not that he has grasped the art of diving quite like the Ivory Coast national. In the case of both Argentina and Chelsea I suppose the rich get richer.