All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘alex song’

Wheat, Here; Chaff, There

Posted by hiphopmama on September 12, 2009

van persie man city
As much as I don’t want to say it, I feel like this may have been the week where the contenders separated themselves from the pretenders, or where the wheat finally separated itself from the chaff, if you will. It pains me, mostly because I’m an Arsenal fan but also because I’m desperate to see someone (ANYONE) other than ManU hoist that trophy, with as many changes in that top four oligarchy as possible – other than Arsenal’s place in it, of course.

Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United
1-0 Defoe, 1′
1-1 Giggs, 25′
1-2 Anderson, 41′
1-3 Rooney, 78′

So Tottenham playing well was a good thing for me, because, despite their heated rivalry with Arsenal, it was another team putting pressure on the biggies and they had the chance today to knock off the reigning champs. They failed, and big time. They opened the game in brilliant fashion with a laser of a bicycle kick from Jermain Defoe inside of the first 50 seconds putting the North London side up 1-0. But then United did what they always do – slow and steady to the finish line. In the 25th minute, Ryan Giggs curled in a free kick to knot the scoreline, and Anderson blasted one past Cudicini just before halftime to give ManU the lead for good. Paul Scholes had a typical Paul Scholes day, sliding into two dangerous tackles and earning himself a red card in the 59th minute. Being reduced to ten men didn’t hamper United much, though, as Rooney tiptoed right down the lane to slot home Manchester’s third and final goal of the game.

And just like that, Tottenham’s supposed coming-out party was put on ice, if not abandoned altogether, and their 100% record went out the window as well in favor of a clear statement of intent from the defending league champions. Spurs just seemed short of answers today, scoring early but then never really finding anything else to punish ManU with. Perhaps the loss of Modric had a role to play in this, but whatever the case, it doesn’t bode well for the longevity of their stay at the top of the table.

Manchester City 4-1 Arsenal
1-0 Almunia (og), 20′
1-1 Van Persie, 62′
2-1 Bellamy, 74′
3-1 Adebayor, 80′
4-1 Wright-Phillips, 84′
4-2 Rosicky, 88′

I don’t even want to talk about this one. Maybe I’m officially a soccer nut if a loss like this can screw up my whole day, because that’s what it did. I watched the rest of the matches I recorded today after this, but only grudgingly and with the bitter hope that the other big teams would fail too. I’m not going to bother describing each goal, because it will just depress me further. The first was tragically comical in everything from the ball’s lofted trajectory off Micah Richards’ bulbous head to Almunia’s hapless expression as the ball ricocheted off his own melon and into the Arsenal goal. 1-0 City despite Arsenal looking the better side in the opening minutes. Things were pretty even for a while after that, until Arsenal started piling on the pressure in the second half, eventually resulting in a goal by Robin Van Persie to tie things up. For a good ten minutes after that, it seemed inevitable that we would get another and take the lead, but there was some kind of lapse in the aftermath of Adebayor’s very intentional kick to Van Persie’s face and Alex Song’s foul of revenge on his former teammate. City parlayed the resulting confusion into a lightning quick counterattack and a strike from Craig Bellamy to restore their lead. And then Adebayor scored (that’s all the description I’m going to give) before jetting to the other end of the field to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans. Cunt. It might have been the fastest I’ve ever seen him run. If he had hustled like that last season, Arsenal might have competed better down the stretch. But no matter. He got his ticket (check?) out of London and over to the trendy new Manchester side, where it must be said he is playing quite well. He reminds me of my separated parents, only NOW doing all the things he should have been doing all along to salvage his former relationship. Do I sound bitter?

There was one silver lining in this match, and it was the return of Tomas Rosicky, including a sweet goal in his first game back. It came on some gorgeous link-up play between he and Fabregas, who lofted the ball to the little Mozart, who in turn needed just one touch to send it on its way. The whole Arsenal side looked better after he was introduced, so everyone just pray he can miraculously avoid anymore injuries for a while and we may have a winning combination on our hands.

Liverpool 4-0 Burnley
1-0 Benayoun, 27′
2-0 Kuyt, 41′
3-0 Benayoun, 61′
4-0 Benayoun, 82′

Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea
1-0 Faye, 32′
1-1 Drogba, 45′
1-2 Malouda, 90′

Two very different victories here, but with very familiar overtones. Liverpool absolutely ran rampant over Burnley, with Yossi Benayoun netting a hat trick and effectively setting up Dirk Kuyt for the fourth by blazing the shot that Brian Jensen parried into Kuyt’s path. Chelsea, on the other hand, needed another late-game winner to beat a bottom half side, but they, like Manchester United, proved that it doesn’t matter how you earn those points, as long as you get ’em. They secured all three today and kept their perfect start going, now having won five games in five tries. Only they and Manchester City can claim a 100% record going forward, with Chelsea having played one more game at this point.

Which brings me to a question I have for my own theory: if the true title contenders are separating themselves from the pack this week, what does this say about Man City? Because I don’t really consider them contenders for anything other than a Europa League, or at least I didn’t before the season started. I’m hoping I’ve just come up with a faulty explanation for the weekend’s turn of events, but I’m beginning to worry. They can’t be the real deal, can they?

Advertisements

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Random Week 1 Predictions

Posted by hiphopmama on August 19, 2009

In a very limited number of matches, there have already been quite a few surprises and the question now becomes whether or not particular teams are as good/bad as they looked in their earliest outings. These are my gut feelings as to which teams are pretenders and contenders at this most preliminary of stages.

  • Manchester United are finally going to fall off their championship pace, but not by as much as many think (or as I would like). I know they’ve looked pretty mediocre in their first two matches, but they are a historically slow-starting team and Sir Alex is a strong enough coach that I’m sure they will eventually settle in and start rolling off games. If nothing else, Rooney will at some point hit a groove and score something like 30 goals in 4 matches to earn them a few points. Will it be enough to keep them at the top of the table? No, but they’ll do better than they should based purely on quality of management.
  • Manchester City will both exceed and fall short of people’s expectations. Now a lot of this depends on whose expectations we’re talking about, but the point is true nonetheless. They will exceed expectations because haters and hypocritically bitter opponents (see Chelsea fans’ “money isn’t everything” banter) are already writing them off as impostors masquerading as the real deal and are predicting middling returns on their investments. While I believe their weaknesses at the back will eventually be their undoing – and while I would love to see them flounder in general – I find it hard to believe that the assembled group of superstars won’t at least mildly improve their fortunes over last year, when they finished 10th. That said, I don’t see them making any drastic jumps in the table, and they will probably be lucky to qualify for a European spot at all. Having splashed out close to £100 million in the summer transfer market, mere qualification will inevitably not satisfy the owners and some supporters, who will have their own ideas about how the money might have been better spent. If a top four spot is in their future, it’s a long-term plan at this point.
  • Last season’s upstarts will be under pressure even if they produce similar results. I expect both Martin O’Neill and David Moyes to be on the hot seat at some point this year, mostly because they got their teams to perform so admirably last year. Everton and Aston Villa secured their positions as the best non-Big Four teams in 2008-’09, but this will be more of a curse than a gift in ’09-’10 as both will be expected to improve upon last year’s performances despite the improbability of this task. Fair? No, not particularly, but I see it on the horizon nonetheless.
  • Tottenham will be all up in the mix. No one doubts that Harry Redknapp produced magic when he took over for Spurs last season, but I fully expect him to continue the upward movement at the club and get the most out of a typically underperforming yet talented squad. Bringing both Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe back into the fold will bolster the team, as will the addition (again) of Peter Crouch. They’re currently sitting at the top of the Premiership table, and while that certainly won’t lost, don’t be surprised to see them hovering around the danger zone till late in the season.
  • Arsenal will surprise people with the consistency of their challenge. Yes they’re still young and still a bit iffy at the back, but they are no joke and this year Wenger’s faith in his youngsters will finally start to pay off. In just two games, we’ve already seen improvement from players like Denilson and Song, neither of whom was dubbed as having much potential to rejuvenate the squad last season. Now, with another season under their belts and that much more savvy to draw on – not  to mention with a healthy Fabregas and Arshavin for the full season – they will take their game to the next level. Look for them to be challenging for the title till the bitter end.
  • Chelsea are indeed that good and will likely win it all this year. They finished not far off the pace last season, and that was after a horrendous run under Luiz Felipe Scolari. Now, with a squad almost entirely carried over from last year’s, further time to gel, and (hopefully) some consistency in coaching, they are poised to reclaim the title and bring it back to London. Liverpool only just missed a chance to win the Premiership last season and would have been the obvious choice to hoist it this year had they not last their midfield maestro Xabi Alonso. Without him pulling the strings in the center of the park and making things go, I just don’t see them mounting the same kind of challenge. Chelsea, on the other hand, have essentially the same team they had last season with the potentially key addition of Yuri Zhirkov to bolster an already strong left side that includes Ashley Cole, Florent Malouda, and Joe Cole. Couple that with arguably the strongest central defensive pairing in the league in John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, as well as a playmaker with metronomic consistency in Frank Lampard and you have the recipe for a Premiership champion. I’m an Arsenal fan at heart, but I believe they’re a year and a defender away from true contention, so a Chelsea title would be the next best thing. Say it with me now: Anybody But United.

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gunners Win In Glasgow

Posted by hiphopmama on August 18, 2009

arsenal-celtic

Celtic 0-2 Arsenal
0-1 Gallas, 43′
0-2 Caldwell (0g), 71′

Two games, two wins. Top of the Prem table, in line for Champions League qualification. Yeah it’s early, and neither has much predictive value at this point, but I’ll take what I can get.

While both games witnessed some traditional Arsenal football, they both also featured some atypical goals, and this was especially true today against Celtic. Arsenal are certainly renowned for the flair with which they play and the manner in which they move the ball around the field, but grinding out victories has never been their strong suit. Yet in one of the most hostile environments in Europe, the Gunners walked out with a comfortable win and two crucial away goals in their pocket. And they did it in a rather fortuitous manner, scoring two goals on two deflections. The first came off a Fabregas free kick, which accidentally ricocheted off the back of William Gallas and past the outstretched arms of the keeper. The second resulted from a nice build-up by substitute Diaby and Gael Clichy, whose cross was deflected into the net by Celtic defender Gary Caldwell.

To be fair, Arsenal deserved the two-goal margin they got, dominating possession throughout and creating a multitude of chances besides the two that went in. Celtic did have a few nice opportunities, but they were mostly isolated incidents and the Arsenal defense always looked capable of handling the threat. Gallas, who looked to be on his way out around this time last year, has regained his form remarkably and looks to be a team stalwart at this point. He was partnered well by Vermaelen, who seems to be settling in as nicely as could have been hoped for. Sagna, Fabregas, and Denilson all played despite questionable injury status, and their inclusion surely helped stabilize the line-up by providing consistency from one game to the next. Bendtner was slightly anonymous for most of the night, but the rest of the front line covered the gaps, especially Arshavin in his roaming, creative role. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Alex Song, whose steadiness in the holding midfield role laid the foundation for the team’s forward movement by helping secure the back line. He caught a lot of flack last season from fans, myself included, who felt the team lacked both experience and steel in the center of midfield, but he has really stepped up to the plate this season and proved us all wrong. In my own defense, the team was in need of a wily veteran in the middle of the park last year, and could probably still do with another player in that area, but Song is developing right on pace and fulfilling that role better than I could have imagined. Kudos to him, and may he keep it up all this season and the next.

With the 2-0 victory and two away goals, Arsenal have set themselves up for a relatively straightforward home leg of this tie and are clear favorites to advance. With the extra money that a Champions League spot will ensure, I have some hopes, however mild, that these funds may be reinvested in the squad. With Arsene Wenger, though, and given the stellar start to the season he has enjoyed, I don’t put much stock in them. There’s still a little time left before the transfer window closes, and even just one addition could be key in the team’s push for silverware this year. With both Liverpool and ManU having lost important players, the time could be ripe for Arsenal to sneak in and steal one. Fingers crossed on my end.

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Happy Birthday To Me

Posted by hiphopmama on August 15, 2009

arsenal-evertonEverton 1-6 Arsenal
0-1 Denilson, 26′
0-2 Vermaelen, 37′
0-3 Gallas, 41′
0-4 Fabregas, 48′
0-5 Fabregas, 70′
0-6 Eduardo, 89′
1-6 Saha, 90′

So yeah, it’s not really my birthday, not even close, actually. But it’s as good as, with the Premier League starting back up today and finally bringing to an end the mortifying period when European soccer, basketball, and American football are all in their off-seasons. Aside from the occasional MLS broadcast, only baseball is still in action, which is a non-entity in my book anyway, even with the Dodgers leading their division. Praise be unto the lord almighty that they don’t much believe in the concept of “rest” for their footballers in Europe, because their abbreviated off-season has mercifully sprung me from the depths of sporting boredom.

The new season was perfectly inaugurated by my Gunners, who put a hurting on Everton in their season opener. Aside perhaps from Liverpool-Tottenham, Arsenal easily had the toughest fixture of the Big Four sides in their trip to Goodison Park. Plenty had been made of the “losses” of Adebayor and Toure, as well as the limited acquisitions the team made in the transfer market, plus all the usual guff about the team’s (excessive) youth and lack of killer instinct. Yet while Chelsea needed all of extra time to pull out a victory against Hull City, Arsenal made quick and easy work of David Moyes’ side, netting three goals per half, including a brace from captain Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard helped set up the first goal as well, laying it off nicely for Denilson to send one wailing goalward from just outside the box. Newcomer Thomas Vermaelen headed home the second off a Robin Van Persie free kick, and Gallas scored on another header shortly thereafter. Fabregas got his first on a classic Arsenal counterattack to start the second half, tucking it under Everton keeper Tim Howard, then knocked in his second on a quick strike from distance. Eduardo put the capper on it in the dying minutes, slotting home the rebound off a shot Arshavin never should have been allowed to get off. Saha did eventually get Everton their consolation goal in extra time, but it did little to dampen the euphoria of the 6-1 thrashing.

It was all done in typical Arsenal fashion, too, making it that much sweeter to watch this group of youngsters pull off what Wenger always believed they could. The question now will be whether or not they can replicate this kind of performance, but for now I’m not going to let pragmatism cloud this victory. I was a bit surprised to see them come out in the formation they did. The 4-3-3 itself wasn’t really a shock, but Bendtner playing out wide with Arshavin in the center of the front line was not what I expected to see. Wenger clearly knows more than me, though, if you didn’t already know that, because Bendtner played beautifully on the wing and Arshavin gliding around in the middle. The Dane used his size to control the ball well and used his skill to set up his teammates in and around the box. It was his good work on the flank that helped pave the way for Denilson’s opening goal. So while unexpected, his performance out wide was excellent, and Arshavin can obviously play anywhere on the field he likes. With Eduardo still working his way back to full fitness and Rosicky’s potential return on the horizon (I can dream, right?), Arsenal’s prospects for the season are exciting if they can hold their mettle in the middle of the park. Let’s all pray Alexandre Song keeps eating his Wheaties and the center-backs stay fit, so we can ignore the team’s thinness at those spots and revel in the creative potential of the squad. Today, at least, we look like we can win it all.

Posted in soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »