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Michael has a rant: The inconvenient League of Champions October 23, 2013

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Champions League, European soccer.
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It is 11:45 AM Pacific standard time, Arsenal vs Dortmund or Milan vs Barcelona? Maybe I’ll go a little bit further off the grid and make it Chelsea vs Shalke, but probably not. If only I was this spoiled for choice, when in reality my options are closer to 30 minutes of the Milan / Barca game or catch a glimpse of Celtic / Ajax?…. This is the life of a European soccer fan on the beautiful left coast of the United States, and it is the suck!

I should have prefaced this by saying, I’m aware I can’t change space / and time (even though it is just made up to appease our senses.) This is more of a contemptuous rant about loving Vietnamese food and living in Grand Forks North Dakota. A regular whine-fest 2013 about your total disdain for the sun’s harmful rays whilst enjoying the 7 piano bars and legions of fake breasts in Tempe, Arizona. This isn’t logical or helpful, and there is nothing I can do about it so let me just bitch for a second okay? Cool!

The European Champions league is the greatest tournament on the planet that isn’t the World Cup. That isn’t my opinion, its science and it was proven by the scientists. Unfortunately this tournament of champions happens on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the year beginning mid morning to early afternoon.  I wouldn’t say I generally have much to complain about working 7:30 – 4:00 Monday through Friday, EXCEPT this. My cubicle is not a safe haven for live streaming either, I’m fairly certain I could get choked out for something like that. And even if it were a possibility, I’m almost certain the first link I click on will inevitably bring down the company’s system as I duck out quietly into the lunch hour, never to be seen again.

1967 Lisbon Lions, a far cry from today’s Celtic FC













If I happen to catch a nice half an hour of the game at an outside location, there is a good chance it won’t even be what I want to see. Arsenal hosted Dortmund yesterday, in what was a match-up of two of the most in –form teams in the world, but it wasn’t on. Yes, thanks to the large Irish Catholic population in the States we received that hot Celtic vs Ajax action, which would have been relevant had it been 1971. Further infuriated by the fact I have no hot sauce for my burrito, everything has become dissatisfying at this point in my break, just in time to go back work.

In summary, Europe is very far away from the United States, especially Oregon AND ITS PISSIN’ ME OFF! Also why the hell is there no hot sauce for my burrito, what kind of restaurant is this? Oh right, my parent’s house, the perks of working 3 minutes from your childhood home. Time to step your game up, looking at you, European time zones and mom….

Manchester United did get what it deserved actually December 7, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Champions League, English soccer.
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This Surreal Football article does an excellent job of explaining why the governing structure of Manchester United got what it deserved:

The real brain-teaser is: why can’t Manchester United afford to make mistakes in the transfer market? City can: their famously expensive bench is largely a collection of overvalued disappointments; Chelsea can: Fernando Torres and David Luiz haven’t changed the club as was hoped last January and yet there is talk of further millions this time around. Glazernomics is the difference, simply.

True. And though I perceive, perhaps erroneously, that this is a blog run by Manchester United fans, they also hit the nail on the head when they say fans deserve it too. When Glazer came, all the worthwhile Manchester United fans followed the soul of the club over to FC United of Manchester. If you don’t believe this is a moral issue, listen to this Beyond the Pitch interview and educate yourself.

Similarly, Sir Alex Ferguson, narcissistic thought-terrorist that he is, deserved what he got. If you are arrogant or in denial enough to dismiss people who correctly suggest you aren’t living up to your potential, you deserve a reality check.

Not to mention that Ferguson’s tactics have somehow managed to be both arrogant and cowardly. Only in two games against Otelul Galati has he used two strikers in this season’s Champions League. Antonio Valencia on the right of midfield in all but the most recent, despite the fact that Nani on the right is the team’s chief source of creativity. Surely you can afford to take the initiative at home to FC Basel.

Yet he has also experimented wantonly. Anders Lindegaard has started two matches. At home to Benfica, Dimitar Berbatov started ahead of Javier Hernandez. Park Jisung played in the center of midfield against Basel, even though that is a position in which he has never looked like someone who knows what he’s doing.

But of course he did what he always does when Roy Keane pithily pointed all this out. He, like any dictator, believes that if he reacts with unreasoning rage to anyone who criticizes him, nobody will do it. Fair enough, as long as he can get to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

The real brain-teaser is: why can’t Manchester United afford to make mistakes in the transfer market? City can: their famously expensive bench is largely a collection of overvalued disappointments; Chelsea can: Fernando Torres and David Luiz haven’t changed the club as was hoped last January and yet there is talk of further millions this time around. Glazernomics is the difference, simply.

LIVE! Chelsea vs Valencia: Unnecessary game commentary December 6, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Champions League, European soccer.
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I’ll be right here with you making obscene gestures and lewd remarks the entire match.

First thought- The English are just a very distinctly different brand of pale. The contrast of all of those dark coats with desperately translucent faces makes for a nice backdrop.

– No Frank Lampard and currently no working cameras at Stamford Bridge? FSC broadcast quality matching its color commentating. NEED MORE TWELLMAN.

– How many Portuguese speakers does it take to make a watchable soccer game?

–  Great defending by Valencia, I think letting Drogba have a little more time on the ball would have been nice. 1-0 Chelsea.

– This game needed an early goal for a high tempo to ensue.

– Albelda!!!!

– Things have settled down about now lending me the realization that I can currently see my breath, heat is expensive. Do they make gloves specifically for typing and eating Doritos, I mean we did engineer the wheel.

– I find myself pondering what David Luiz’s parents do for a living.

– In conclusion the Valencia defense is playing in sand and Rameeeereshhh is very, very fast. 2-0 Chelsea. I think this one is over………….. Portuguese speakers 1-0 Valencia.

– Juan Mata looks like a condensed version of Xabi Alonso in more ways than one.  Also wrong footed, maybe he lives in an alternative universe. I don’t think we give that idea enough thought.

– So Genk is up 1-0  on Leverkusen. So if you are a member of the Genk hooligan crowd would you then be considered a Genkster? …. I had too, really.

Olympiakos-Dortmund makes it to NPR. October 20, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Champions League, German soccer.
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Here’s a quote from this National Public Radio segment about debates regarding what the European Union will do about Greek debt:

Here in Athens, the Greeks did have one small consolation: their soccer team Olympiakos had a big win against the German Borussia Dortmund team, and sports headlines today called this “the revenge on the Germans.”

Not being European, I hadn’t thought about it in that context, but maybe that’s a more cogent answer to the question “What in the Dickens is happening to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League?” than “What indeed?” which is basically the answer given in point five of Amy Lawrence’s list of five lessons from the midweek Champions League games in today’s Guardian. A football-as-catharsis moment, a one-off caused by outside factors like Helleno-German tension. On the other hand, what the Dickens is happening to Borussia Dortmund?

Who is Isaac Cuenca? October 20, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Champions League, Scottish soccer.
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In Barcelona’s routine victory over Viktoria Plzen Wednesday, Pep Guardiola put on a player called Isaac Cuenca. I’ve never heard of him. Evidently, he spend last season on loan at Sabadell in the third division and has only played three times for Barcelona B, let alone the first team.

It’s silly to judge players based upon their Youtube clips, but I can kind of see why Cuenca went out on loan. In the video, it’s evident that Cuenca is extremely fast and an excellent dribbler, but he rarely tries to pass the ball in the video and I don’t remember seeing any of the passes he did attempt connect.

There’s definitely something promising about him (his technique is on show in this clip and his passing seems more useful too; you’d have to say he must be quite highly regarded indeed to be on the field with what is otherwise the Barcelona first team).

(The second clip was uploaded by, seemingly, Cuenca’s girlfriend who is, seemingly, Marc Bartra’s sister. I’m debating whether that’s interesting.)

Looks like Shakhtar needs Mkhitaryan October 19, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Champions League.
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Jonathan Wilson writes in his most recent Sports Illustrated column that Shakhtar Donetsk “look a side that needs to control possession.” The game between Ireland and Armenia showed they have one player who can do that: Henrik Mkhitaryan. I got pretty enthusiastic about the Armenian midfielder in that game. Let’s be having him.

(Strange note: there are TWO professional footballers who have existed with the name Hamlet Mkhitaryan. Both have played for Ararat Yerevan, although the younger, Iranian-based Hamlet Mkhitaryan has more Armenia caps than the older one, who is Henrik Mkhitaryan’s father.)

Arsenal’s High Line DOOMS!!! Barcelona February 17, 2011

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Champions League, European soccer.
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So there is a second leg to be played, thus doomed is not only somewhat inflammatory but certainly a bit pretentious. On that note it sounds powerful and engaging so fuck you, you’re reading it now!

A lot of the blame from what I understand has fallen on the shoulders of Sergio Busquets, who for what its worth did not play his best game. But while his defensive mistakes may be more highlighted. The fact that Barce spent a larger portion than usual in the center of the field was due to being outnumbered. Wallcott and Nasri spent an uncharacteristically large amount of time pushed in and back stepping on the toes of Barcelona’s vaunted midfield. Along with Song, Wilshere and Cesc, who actually played higher up than Nasri and Walcott, created at times a 5 on 3. There were instances where Busquets like Xavi had no forward outlets, save Messi cutting into space. Busquets played poorly but much of it was due to the focus of Arsenal cutting down space, a place where Busquets operates in a normal match. Xavi and Iniesta play a majority of their game within inches of one or two defenders, it is abnormal for Busquets to be under similar pressure. So while possession was still heavy in the Catalonian side’s favor, it was always purposeful or rooted in a the ultimate goal of attacking, which is certainly not the case most weeks. Credit should also be given to Cliche and Eboue who also cut down the prominence of the Barca’s fullbacks, Alves played well but had very little effect on the game outside of box play on both ends. His game was sorely missed in the middle of the field, and it would not be surprising if Barcelona made it a point to fight down the wings 3 weeks from now. When Arsenal takes its first leg lead to Spain it needs nothing short of an exemplary performance yet again to avoid a similar exit to last years fixture. Barcelona is the only teams in the world that would go into a second leg down one goal and still favored against a top 5 team in the world. But with an on form Wilshere and Nasri Arsenal may be poised to do what i’m sure their captain didn’t truly believe, survive Camp Nou, Verb choice, Check…

Ajax v. Milan thoughts September 29, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Champions League, Dutch soccer, Italian soccer.
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Not in an entirely good way, watching Milan these days always throws up the unexpected. Here are a few points about their performance Tuesday.

  • Pressure Ajax’s wide players? Why bother, right? It’s such a glaring, fundamental weakness, and one that has cost Milan every goal the Rossoneri have conceded this season.
  • I always wonder how Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri thinks he’s going to get away with that. The obvious answer is that he is forced to accommodate as many as possible of his star forwards — Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato, Robinho and Ronaldinho — none of whom track back*, otherwise Italian Prime Minister/Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi will fire him. Fair enough, but surely Berlusconi will also fire him for losing a bunch of games, which he will do if he doesn’t defend out wide, right? Except …
  • He would probably lose a bunch of games anyway, since he doesn’t really have too many useful fullbacks, who are supposedly the most important players in modern football. Gianluca Zambrotta, Massimo Oddo and Marek Jankulovski were world-class when they were in their mid-to-late 20s. They are now in their 30s and very slow. Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini are dodgy at best. Daniele Bonera is slow and doesn’t go forward. Despite this, Milan has never turned to loan signing Bruno Montelongo, so you know he must be putrid.
  • If that wasn’t enough, (hackneyed point warning): Milan is extremely old. It was kind of sad to see Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo wandering through midfield in the last fifteen minutes like disoriented geriatrics who had somehow ended up in a motor speedway, while Eyong Enoh, Demy de Zeeuw and Rasmus Lindgren whirled around them stealing the ball before they even saw it coming, dribbling, and generally being big bullies. The entire Milan team started looking desperate for the final whistle.
  • You have to wonder about what happened at Milan this summer. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho are two of the most obscenely talented players on the planet, but Milan already had a pretty stacked forward line, picking from Pato, Ronaldinho, Marco Boriello, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Pippo Inzaghi and Clarence Seedorf. They cried out for a midfielder who could do some running, and genuinely pacy fullbacks. If Milan could pay the wages of the two they signed, plus the transfer fees, then surely they could have thrown together enough money for Raul Merieles, Cristian Molinaro and a loan for Martin Caceres, which probably would have been much closer to what they needed.
  • Luis Suarez is a dirty little player, isn’t he, but Mounir El Hamdaoui is fun to watch.

Brazilian right backs guilty on first two goals of semi final, left back also under question. April 22, 2010

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Brazilian soccer, Champions League, European soccer, Italian soccer, Spanish soccer.
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As though Dani Alves was saying to Maicon, “I got chyu”. Alves promptly stood a good 7-10 yards out of position leaving Wesley Sneider wide open for a near post dribbler to past Valdes in goal. A bit earlier in what some might describe as an out of body experience Maicon let fellow Brazilian Maxwell mosey his way down the left side into the six yard box before crossing a ball which was put away by Pedro. It was as though he knew Cambiasso was beaten, but failed to recognize his part once it occurred. Dropping back into the box marking the always elusive “air” and “space” Maicon watched as the ball rolled passed his feet onto Pedro’s boot. So I ask you, in this triangle of Brazilian brotherhood was there something fishy going on? No, just coincidence but that’s no fun to write about.

Los Blancos tossed out of the Champions League March 11, 2010

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Champions League, European soccer, Spanish soccer.
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I guess this just adds incentive to win La Liga now that their European run has come to what many would deem a premature end. A mess of blown chances including an empty net that Gonzalo Higuain missed egregiously off the near post, just to watch it dribble across the goal face nearly adding insult to well… insult, did the Whites in, well sort of. Miralem Pjanic on a crafty HALF VOLLEY!! in the 75th minute truly put the French side of Lyon through to the next round. I’ll apologize in advance I’m sure the minions at UEFA will be in great need of self acknowledgment and have this video destroyed in a hell pit of fire in due time. I’m also aware the 8 of you reading this have the wits about you to find another source.

To be sure I am no fan of Madrid, but I respect the talent they have on their team. Despite the chances they created; mind you mostly in the first half, The whites looked like they didn’t really have a plan and what they were doing tactically was questionable either by design or by player movement. I understand the importance of fullbacks in the offense, shit I’m a Barcelona fan, Alves is a defender in the same sense Americans are environmentally conscious. Sure we’re aware of it but we’d rather be barbecuing for our obese friends. (I guess that makes the likes of Ibra and Messi obese fans of BBQ). MY POINT being yes they are important but watching Madrid play was extremely aggravating. Arbeloa and Ramos spent a majority of their time as high up if not higher up than Ronaldo and Higuain, while Lass and Guti fell back in support. Fine, I understand the shift, but this should be temporary. I’m sorry if I’m not respecting the offensive prowess of Arbeloa. But I think having the passing ability of Guti who has been on great form of late and the play making shiftiness of Lass would bode much more effective in going forward. On a related note, RAMOS STOP TRYING TO CROSS THE FUCKING BALL EVERYTIME, EVERYONE KNOWS IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN!

Next point, which isn’t to say it has nothing to do with my point prior. Madrid does a good job spreading the field, but the aforementioned Ramos and Arbeloa were the main cogs in that attack. Interestingly enough Real Madrid Ronaldo on their side. and yet instead of running him wild down the left side they chose to run Kaka, Ronaldo and Higuain right through the center. I’m sorry if this doesn’t seem flawed to you, but putting all your scoring threats in one spot not only diminishes your attacking ability elsewhere but it diminishes its worth in area where it is concentrated. At many points in the game the three players made individual runs at the defense while the other two stood by the wayside. Madrid has an absurd amount of talent but if you can get away with containing their three most potent attacking threats with your central defense the scheme is inherently flawed. My suggestion is start Ronaldo on the wing, no seriously play him there. I know he “starts” there but rarely does he end up in that position. In fact the goal he scored was a screaming run down the left side, what changed? Complacency on offense. To blatantly use a basketball term their half court offense made them sputter. It created a system where fullbacks were forced to be play makers and their attacking options got bogged down fighting for space amongst each other. I’m no tactical genius, which is to say It is more pressing that an average Joe like me notices such problems, I’m sure actual scholars of the game would have much harsher criticism.