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Eleven players I’d like to see leave the Premier League August 30, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.
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Today, it appears Joe Cole and Christian Poulsen are poised to leave Liverpool for Ligue 1. I’m sure Liverpool fans are pretty happy to see the two remaining emblems of Roy Hodgson’s era out the door. I’m also pretty glad to see them go. Poulsen’s talentless and negative and nobody likes to see him play. Joe Cole’s presence in the league was a monkey on its back: sure, everybody’s having a good time, but we should really resolve the Joe Cole situation. Now, at least, he’s under the rug where we don’t have to think about him.

But why stop at these two. The Premiership still contains plenty of players I’d like to see out. Here’s eleven of them:

Brad, don't listen to what Shay's telling you!

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan, Aston Villa.

This is an act of patriotism: When Guzan was learning his trade at Brad Friedel’s feet, he was the master’s apprentice. But with Friedel gone, he’ll be taking his cues from Shay Given, not good news for those of us who like to see American goalkeepers communicate with their defenders and claim crosses. Guzan would be better off coming back to MLS and being first choice.

Well that was a mistake

Right-back: Marcos Angeleri, Sunderland.

It seemingly became apparent to everyone within days of Angeleri’s signing that he was a huge mistake. I feel like he should be put out of his misery.

This is what I like to see

Center back: Steve Taylor, Newcastle.

I don’t like to see his I’m-God’s-gift-to-defending attitude on the pitch. John Terry has the same thing going on, but he also has going for him that he is an excellent center back who can read the game. Taylor just roughs people up.

Maybe this is why he hasn't been quite the same since the 2006 World Cup ...

Center back: Pablo Ibanez, West Brom.

Pablo kept Carlos Marchena out of the Spain team at the 2006 World Cup, a testament to his quality. Not being able to hack it at West Brom doesn’t mean a player’s not good — Borja Valero struggled there before becoming one of the best midfielders in La Liga. If Pablo returns to La Liga, I bet he’ll be a valued asset to someone. (Carlos Cuellar might like a return to Spain too)

We'll probably never see Beye play again

Left-back: Habib Beye, Aston Villa.

Beye spent a couple of seasons looking incredible in the Premiership, but lately Aston Villa managers have preferred Chris Herd, Eric Lichaj and Carlos Cuellar to him, none of them really right-backs. The Senegal international should get out and do something with his career, but he’s bound to retire, unnoticed, on the Villa bench.

Get out of there!

Right midfield: Giovani dos Santos, Tottenham Hotspur.

You get the really frustrating sense Dos Santos is just sticking around Spurs because he knows he won’t get that kind of money elsewhere. The silly thing about that is that Dos Santos could become one of the best players in the world if he found a team where he could fit in, like say Villarreal. Then a raise to a better salary than the one he’s on now would surely be forthcoming, rather than the decade of benchwarming that seems inevitable if he stays put for a couple more years.

This man is no fun

Central midfield: Steven Gerrard, Liverpool.

Look how much fun Liverpool’s players are having right now with all these zippy new midfielders, not to mention how much fun you’re having watching them. Once Gerrard comes back, the fun could be over; he’ll just muscle his way into the team ahead of one of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson and start spraying overambitious balls into the stands. I have a better idea: send Gerrard to MLS to become the US league’s next geriatrico.

You can make this face in the Championship

Central midfielder: Michael Tonge, Stoke City.

Tonge is one of a cadre of players with nominal, lower tier top flight experience Stoke kind of scraped together to fill out the squad following promotion (along with Andrew Davies, Tom Soares, Amdy Faye, Ibrahima Sonko). All of them were pretty much just punts and few remain. Tonge could do a job for a Championship team; let him return there. Soares, Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse are other hostages to squad depth who should drop down.

Wouldn't anyone like to buy a nice Russian international for a good cause?

Left midfield: Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Everton.

Everton coach David Moyes needs money to sign new blood. Won’t someone take pity on him and give him a generous sum for one of his more undesirable
players (I’d like to see Joseph Yobo and Yakubu Aiyegbeni find new homes in the Premiership, though)? There’s almost certainly a Russian team with 10 million or so to blow on a languid left-sided longshot merchant, right?

Roberto Carlos doesn't know it, but he needs a Range Rover with pink hubcaps

Attacking midfielder: Stephen Ireland, Aston Villa.

I think I’ve already made clear just why and how he ought to find himself at Anzhi Makachkala.

This man needs to share his gift with the world

Striker: Ricardo Fuller, Stoke.

Fuller is a personal favorite of mine, a guy who’s so much fun to watch that it’s a crime to keep him hidden away on the bench. I totally understand Tony Pulis, because Jon Walters and Kenwyne Jones make a great strike partnership, but Ricardo Fuller’s erratic genius is something fans should get to see week in, week out somewhere. I would be incredibly happy if he signed for the Portland Timbers. Other forwards who should go where we can see their gifts include Craig Bellamy, El-Hadji Diouf, and Dimitar Berbatov, but they’re all likely to leave already.

Here are some transfers I’m trying to see on deadline day August 30, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer, Italian soccer, Spanish soccer.
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The transfer window will snap shut Wednesday, but before it does, there are a few things I’d like to see go down. I’ll go over some of them for you.

When Stephen Ireland moves to Anzhi Makachkala, it will be Samuel Eto'o performing the japery.


Stephen Ireland to Anzhi Makachkala

After accepting a drink from a shadowy man with a thick accent and a thicker mustache in a trendy Birmingham nightclub, Stephen Ireland wakes beneath a soiled newspaper in a dusty Moscow subway station.

His cell phone rings and its his agent, demanding to know why he signed for Anzhi Makachkala. His girlfriend has left him, his life is in tatters, and to make matters worse, on the training ground the next day, Samuel Eto’o delivers even more bad news: this time his gram really is dead.

Ireland, surprisingly, is gutted, and his despair over his grandmother, plus the Cameroonian striker’s obvious distaste for him, make the next six months a living hell. Eto’o, for his part, obviously disdains Ireland’s chrome-plated lifestyle and passes up no opportunity to play cruel jokes on the hapless playmaker. But one day, Anzhi finds itself 4-0 down at halftime against Zenit St. Petersburg and Eto’o puts his hand on Ireland’s shoulder in the changing room.

“Steve,” the striker says. “I made it all up. Your gram’s alive and well, and what’s more, she’s won the lottery. I’ve got her on the line for you.”

Ireland is overjoyed, and he and Eto’o each bag a hattrick in the second half, catapulting Anzhi into first place. Glad for the second chance to reconnect with his gram, he buys her a mansion in Moscow and he and Eto’o are over for tea after practice every weekday. It’s good for everyone; Eto’o’s burning desire and fierce intelligence have rubbed off on Ireland, making him not just one of Europe’s finest playmakers but a respectable man. Ireland’s gram finally feels like people aren’t constantly treating her as if she’s already dead.

As for Eto’o? He has found love. He proposes to grandma Ireland on the podium at the Champions League final and they live happily ever after.

It turns out well for Roberto Carlos, too, because Stephen Ireland gives the World Cup winner his garishly customized SUV, … and only then does the Brazilian realize a Range Rover with pink hubcaps is the only thing he ever wanted.

Ghost Dog to Arsenal.

With Arsene Wenger now the worst coach of all time, it’s clear that what Arsenal really needs is someone to kill him. Forest Whitaker’s character in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, the 1999 film by Jim Jarmusch has a well-documented inability to learn French. His love of exotic Japanese methods would quickly win him Wenger’s trust, but he has a proven history of turning on nebulously foreign employers whose leadership he can’t trust.

Marco Materazzi to Real Madrid

Let’s be honest, these two were meant to be together.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Arsenal

The Swede’s title-winning mojo is really the only thing Arsenal needs/the Gunners’ only hope.

Law & Order exposes Russian football personalities. August 30, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Clumsy American attempts to explain soccer, English soccer.
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This comes courtesy of The Guardian. I felt it was funny enough to repost. One wonders whether Roman Pavlyuchenko’s residing in Sheepshead Bay, some distance from North London indeed, explains why he’s never really got up and running for Tottenham Hotspur, especially if he’s been “running with” fictional murder suspects and loansharks.

Don’t be surprised if Law & Order names its next three Polish characters Fabianski, Kuszczak and Szczesny (although it would be a surprise if anyone figured out how to pronounce “Szczesny”).

Djibril Cisse with an Eagle August 30, 2011

Posted by J.A. in Italian soccer.
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The title of this post reads, “Djibril Cisse with an Eagle.”  This is not an error.  Look.  This picture is an early favorite for the best picture in football.

I think it’s fair to say that the Eagle looks a little more alarmed in this photo.  Djibril looks like he’s been having Eagles perch on his arm since he was a toddler.

My first children’s book will be entitled, “Djibril and the Eagle” in honor of this photo.

Also, thanks to whoever posted this picture on twitter.

Rooney puts Piers Morgan on suicide watch August 30, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in English soccer, European soccer.
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Friendly banter? Probably not

Notorious Arsenal fan and  semi-famous  Simon Cowell impersonator Piers Morgan has put the island of Britain on high alert. His short but sweet tweet conversation instigated by Wayne Rooney suggests he may take his own life after what I can only assume will be a brutal stabbing of Arsene Wenger. Sounding like a disappointed mother or an opinion anyone gives two shits about Morgan  made many tweets in a matter of minutes questioning the French Manager’s future at the Emirates.

Shortly after Rooney tweeted that gem above, and received a crude Shrek comparison in return from the British Pundit. In retrospect Morgan could have just been pointing that Rooney is actually two persons that are vastly more popular than himself.

We at The Half Volley wish Morgan all the best, or whatever.

Valdes could definitely play 820 times for Barcelona August 29, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Spanish soccer.
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He could be doing this for a while.

 

At one point during Barcelona’s 5-0 victory over Villarreal today, ESPN commentator Adrian Healy, observing how little the victors’ keeper Victor Valdes touches the ball in your average game, joked, “If he has many more halves like this, he could make 410 more appearances.”

That’s how many he has at the moment, a record-setting number for a Barcelona keeper, and at first the idea of 820 appearances for the blaugrana sounded absurd, but then I remembered Valdes is only 29 years old. Valdes made his debut at age 20 against Atletico Madrid in 2002. He made fewer than 20 appearances that season, so he’s been first choice for eight years.

Edwin van der Sar just retired at 40. It’s not that rare for goalkeepers, after all, and at the rate he’s going, Valdes could double his tally by age 37. Definitely realistic, also pretty unbelievable.

Barcelona vs Villareal: First half thoughts August 29, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in European soccer, Spanish soccer.
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Senna

This is Marcos Senna, he should be on the pitch

 

  • Barcelona Looks good in a strange version of the 3-4-3. Abidal is all over the place every time I watch him I’m more and more convinced he is as important to the defensive cohesion as anyone else.
  • Thiago Scored his first La Liga goal despite the fact he is playing a less offensive form of a RWB. His greatest attribute may be what he showed on that goal, running down the center of the field and firing outside the box. Unfortunately at RWB that probably won’t happen too often
  • Cesc Scored, of course he did.
  • Christian Zapata looks like a good signing, though he hasn’t made any spectacular defensive saves, his pace and technique look spot on. Udinese could be really hurting this year.
  • Second half is about to start, look to see Rossi press the issue a bit more, I think he is still a bit upset he isn’t playing on the other side of things in this one
  • Well before I could post this, make that all 3 newcomers on the score sheet, Alexis makes it 3-0

2011-2012 La Liga Preview: Or, Barcelona is good, Malaga is threatening, Rayo Vellecano is ballin’, and there is a reason for Hamit Altintop. August 28, 2011

Posted by J.A. in European soccer, Spanish soccer.
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Yes, Eto'o and Guti made it

(Eto’o and Guti made it in.)

Given the current format to La Liga, there are four distinct groups where a given team might finish. The groups are The Title Contenders (spots 1-2, Hint: there will be Clasicos involved), the Europe or Bust group (spots 3-8, a.k.a don’t finish 8th), the Won’t-Be-Relegated-But-Otherwise-Underwhelming (spots 9-14) group, and the Relegation Battlers (spots 15-20). This preview will attempt to determine who will be in the aforementioned groups, who the impact/surprise players might be, and who is in my perfect starting 11 (who I want in my entourage). Finally, I will assess how baller each team is based solely on mine own subjective, and most likely inaccurate, portrayals of various footballers.*

Group 4 – Relegation Battlers

GRANADA

Had 12 players on loan from Udinese last year. They won the play-off for promotion last year, so they must be scrappy. However, given the liberal amounts of Flamenco and Alhambra 1925 Reserva (Arguably the best Spanish beer) it’s very difficult to achieve anything productive. They’ll be battling to stay up. Baller scale: 7

LEVANTE

I know nothing about Levante. I don’t really want to either. I’m happily arbitrarily putting them in the last group based on prior seasons and a lack of interest. Their break-out player will be an on-loan Wellington Silva. Baller scale: 1

OSASUNA

A perennial La Liga title contender (in Fifa 2007). Raul Garcia will bolster their attack, and their Iranian 2nd vice-captain will mean something. Probably the least likely to go down in the group of relegation battlers. Look for them to finish somewhere around 15th. Baller scale: 4

RACING SANTANDER

My roommate from Santander will not like this, but Santander is going down. The eccentric owner Ali Syed has lead Racing into administration and they have lost players. Look for Swede Kennedy Bakircioglu and captain Munitis to impress in an otherwise depressing season at the Sardinero. Baller scale: 5 (I’ve got love for the north of Spain, otherwise it’d be a 2)

RAYO VALLECANO

Rayo Vallecano’s stadium has three sides, lets get that out there right now to breath. It’s also in the middle of a not-so-good neighborhood of Madrid (where many of my students are from). The players barely got payed last year and many of them have left this year. On the upside, their stadium will be rocking (probably literally) for the derbies (if you can call them that) against Atletico and Real, and tickets will be cheap. It’s actually kind of a heart-warming story how they gained promotion and will now be playing in the top league in Spain, because circumstances dictate that they shouldn’t have any business being here. Root for Vallecano, but don’t expect them to hang around the top league for long. Baller scale: a fluffy 8

Z(TH)ARAGOZA

Although not terrible on paper, Javier Aguirre does have some magic to work. Past experience says he does. With Pablo Barrera, Uche (I couldn’t be bothered writing his first name) and intriguing youngster Juan Carlos (Real Madrid youth product) they have attacking options. They stay up. Baller scale: 6

Did I mention I hate Levante?

Group 3 – Won’t-Be-Relegated-But-Otherwise-Underwhelming

REAL BETIS

Perhaps I’m being generous saying that they will stay up, but Betis romped through the second division last year, and with quality (maybe) in their squad, look to have a promising 11-12 La Liga campaign. I got all the information about Real Betis from a 6-year old student of mine. Baller scale: 4

ESPANYOL

I might be harsh to say they won’t compete for a spot in Europe, but they did finish last year 9 points behind Atletico. They have lost lots of players who I cannot name besides Jose Callejon. Unlike Levante, I’m trying to see Espanyol impress me this year. I will predict a derby win against Barcelona. I take back my previous statement. Baller scale: 5

GETAFE

Getafe is balin’. Why? Because they signed Diego Castro, the jack-of-all-trades player formerly of Sporting Gijon. Is this whole prediction based on him? An emphatic, Marv Albert-esque, “Yes!”
Baller scale: 8

MALLORCA

Have you been to Mallorca? Then you know how awesome Mallorca can be. Also, Mallorca was too broke to play in the Europa league last year. The Europa league! How broke is too broke to play in the Europa league? Ask Mallorca. Also, Mallorca would be a great club for a super rich play-boy multibillionaire to buy. Just saying. Baller scale: 8 (Under certain circumstances, being broke is baller).

REAL SOCIEDAD

Hand Xabi Prieto the keys to the offense and let him do work! Also, Carlos Vela is somehow on this team. Situated in picturesque Donostia, Anoeta is one of the stadiums I have to get to this year. Maybe not comfortably, but Sociedad stays up. Baller scale: 7

SPORTING GIJON

Gijon can, at times, be the stingiest team in all of La Liga. They defend defend defend, then, when you aren’t paying attention, Barral, Billic, De Las Cuevas, or someone else snags the lead. Ask Jose about Gijon if you don’t believe me. Gijon play their football in a beautiful ocean-side stadium called the “Molinon.” Go there. NOW! Baller scale: 9 (Barral beat Madrid, and the coaches almost came to blows, pretty baller).

Group 2 – Europe or Bust

ATHLETIC BILBAO

“Hi. My name is Fernando Llorente. I’m going to net 30 goals in all competitions this year. Someone is going to buy me for lots of euros. I’m going to get a hat-trick at home against Real Madrid. I’m going to score the winning header in stoppage time at the Nou Camp after a nifty cross from Iker Muniain. Deal with it. Also, I’m really f-ing jacked. 4th place.”**
-Fernando Llorente as told to me in July 2012

Baller scale: 9

ATLETICO DE MADRID

Get used to the rowdy crowds at the Calderon singing new songs about Falcao and Turan. It’s too bad nobody at Atletico ever heard the phrase, “defense wins championships.” If the D comes together, they’ll get a place in Europe. Too bad the D won’t come together. Baller scale: 7

MALAGA

It’s a sunny albeit cool October day in Malaga, and you’re some random defender for Levante who nobody cares about. A hulking figure takes the kick and passes back to a diminutive winger. Next thing you know the hulking figure receives a pinpoint pass right back and begins to make what commentators would call a “run” but what is really more akin to a rhino charging—but directly at you. That’s when you recognize the forward wearing the purple jersey is actually Julio “The Beast” Baptista. Just then you notice the other forward, who is making a way-too-casual diagonal run from Baptista is the one and only Ruud van Nistelrooy. You glance back from Ruud just in time to get run-over by the purple rhino that is Julio Baptista. As you lay there deciding whether or not your lungs will work again, the little winger comes over, cracks a smile and offers you a hand up. “Sorry, he does that sometimes—Julio, tell this guy you’re sorry.” Turns out that little guy is Asturian wonder-kid Santi Cazorla. As the medic comes out to provide wonder spray to your ankle for what doctors will later diagnose as 2 collapsed lungs during your 14 day stint in the hospital, you realize that Malaga is the real deal, and that nobody wants to see those purple kits in their stadium.

Baller scale: 10

SEVILLA

Frederic Kanoute is a boss. Everything about him is bossy (this is also worth seeing, but I won’t touch it). They also have a couple dudes named Negredo and Navas who I hear are decent. They win the Copa del Rey because of Kanoute’s greatness (See Barcelona section).

Baller scale: 9 (It’s all Kanoute)

VALENCIA

Like last year, but without Mata and with Canales. Aduriz is an underrated striker and I’m trying to see more Maduro. Baller scale: 6 (They have a giant Bat on their logo, it’s dope.)

VILLAREAL

Like last year but without Cazorla. Maybe with a little more crafty Marcos Senna. Nilmar and Rossi aren’t bad either. They leapfrog Valencia this year. If they stay healthy they take 3rd. Prediction: Borja Valero will get 15-20 assists. Side note: I’m absolutely pumped to see Villareal vs. Napoli in the group stages. Two teams with an attacking mentality. Baller scale: 7

GROUP 1 TEAMS WHO WIN THINGS***

BARCELONA

They just managed to get Cesc and Sanchez. No biggie. Probably going to roll again this year baring any major injuries to Xavi or Messi. I’m also interested to see how Sergio and Mascherano continue to evolve in their center back roles. Barca loses twice. Once at Rayo Vallecano because they are confused at why they are playing in such a terrible stadium, and once at home to Bilbao. They lose the Copa del Rey to Sevilla 3-2 because Kanoute gets a hat-trick—all in the 63rd minute. MARK IT DOWN. However, they do win La Liga by 5 points over Real Madrid. Baller scale: 8 (This would change if Messi had a Ronaldo sized opinion of himself).

REAL MADRID

Cue the music: The Champions!!!

It’s tied 2-2 in the 118th minute in the finale of the champions league. Villa opened the scoring with a fantastic Half-Volley (had to get that in there!) and Messi—with a dazzling run that only he can make—puts Barca up 2-1 after a Ronaldo header. In the second half Madrid presses hard for an equalizer, but nearly go down 3-1 many times if not for Casillas in goal. Madrid looks determined and want to make up for two Clasico losses. In the 80th minute, a beautiful move by Ozil leads to him firing in a low cross that everyone in the stadium knows is going to be cleared easily by Pique—except for Marcelo, who, at the last second, darts in front of Pique (probably dreaming of Shakira) and puts one past Valdez. Marcelo does back flips. 2-2, we go to extra time.

Barcelona has used their 3 subs, (Thiago, Sanchez, and Hleb—yes Hleb). Madrid counters with Sahin and the mercurial Royston “Rickie” Drenthe (yes, Drenthe). Jose has one more move to make. Does he bring on Kaka? Does he bring on that new signing from the January transfer window that has done reasonably well? Does he bring on Higuain? No. He brings on Hamit Altintop. For Ronaldo. Benzema quickly gets fouled just outside the penalty area showing of some nifty footwork that surely would not have lead to a goal. Ozil to take the kick. Does he go for goal? Does he make a crafty pass? The tension is palpable. The referee blows the whistle, Ozil takes a deep breath—and watches Altintop step by him and take the kick, bending it beautifully over the wall and into the top corner of the goal. Check and mate, Pep, check and mate.

Baller scale: 10 or 1

*How “Baller” a team is has no correlation with how they will finish in La Liga
**Opening day tie with Rayo does not change my prediction. It only makes it stronger.
***I may have changed the group names, I’m not worried about it.

Allow me to introduce myself August 28, 2011

Posted by J.A. in European soccer, Spanish soccer.
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My girlfriend and I

Hello everyone! I’m the new guy at The Half Volley and I’m uniquely qualified to be here insofar as Mike and Alex have given me consent to write on the blog.  I’m really into obscure Monday night La Liga matches and I live in Madrid.  Most of what I write about will probably have something to do with Spanish soccer.  Or not.  I figured I’d list all my credentials below as to why anyone should pay attention to me.

  • Fifa 2007 (On the ‘cube) genius.
  • Euro 2008 and World cup 2010 fantasy soccer champion
  • In a related story, I was kicked out of the University of Oregon Euro fantasy soccer league for too much trash talking.  Twice.  Mike and Alex quickly took up arms (literally) to defend me and were promptly booted as well (thanks!).  In my defense, I was up by over 100 points after the group phase thanks to an Andrea Pirlo penalty that somehow got me like 107,323 points
  • I’m a big fan of old washed-up forwards who were probably never that great (Looking at you, Hernan Crespo)
  • Xavi likes me
  • I once got a red card for rejecting a throw-in Mutombo style
  • People’s champ

If anything about my voice makes The Half Volley seem slightly less credible you should probably just keep reading.

La Liga is here, Earthlings take notice. August 28, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Uncategorized.
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Naldo

Ronaldo on his way to bagging 3 in a 6-0 Route of Zaragoza

Ronaldo already has his first hat trick of the season in route to Madrid’s 6-0 dismantling of Zaragoza. Along with that there is this video circling the web, or at least Andres Iniesta’s social media outlets. Apparently this is supposed to gear us up for the campaign to come. I do not in fact speak Spanish, but I’m assuming Iniesta and Casillas are fighting over the rotation of the earth, or possibly attempting to create their own gravitational pull?  Whatever it is, here is the video