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: alex song, andrei arshavin, arsenal, arsene wenger, ashley cole, aston villa, carvalho, chelsea, david moyes, denilson, epl, everton, fabregas, frank lampard, harry redknapp, jermaine defoe, john terry, liverpool, malouda, manchester city, manchester united, martin o'neill, peter crouch, robbie keane, scolari, sir alex ferguson, tottenham, wayne rooney, xabi alonso, yuri zhirkov | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on August 15, 2009
Everton 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: alex song, andrei arshavin, arsenal, arsene wenger, david moyes, denilson, eduardo, epl, everton, fabregas, louis saha, nicklas bendtner, robin van persie, rosicky, tim howard | 1 Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on April 22, 2009
Too lazy to write a real post (or form a full sentence, apparently), so I’m going with bullet points. Feel free to appreciate my intellect at an appropriately discounted rate.
- Surprise, surprise: Derrick Rose was named Rookie of the Year for the 2008/09 season. Not that anyone didn’t see this coming, but the official word is always nice. He was a shoe-in, to be honest, mostly because of the composure he showed at the toughest position in basketball – point guard. OJ Mayo had a great year as a pure scorer at the two-guard spot, but that doesn’t come close to measuring up to the load Rose had to shoulder in running his team’s offense and managing the flow of the game. Plus he just looks so cool out there doing what he does. He’s got the less pompous version of Phil Jackson’s expressionless face. Through the good, bad, and ugly, Rose is unfazed, at least outwardly, which must give the team that follows his lead an assured sense of confidence in tight situations. Case in point games one and two of the Boston series. To quote my loquacious husband on that one: Die Celtics die.
- In another far from shocking decision, the Mavs’ Jason Terry was named Sixth Man of the Year. As usual with this award, it was handed out to a player who could just as easily be classified as a starter, but Cro-Magnon Man (AKA Mark Cuban) isn’t complaining. Terry is a great firebrand off the bench – when he actually starts the game there – and had a good season, averaging 19.6 points. Another almost-starter who could have been in consideration is the Lakers’ own Lamar Odom, but he started more than the eleven games Terry did due to Bynum’s injury.
- Lil Wayne is picking the Lakers to win it all this year. On his blog for ESPN, he also divulged that he’ll be rooting for the purple and gold in their quest for the title, and that “‘Bron Bron” has already been informed of his allegiances. Aww, how nice. ‘Bron Bron must appreciate his honesty.
- WTF is wrong with everyone but Manchester United in the Premier League? Does no one else really want to challenge for this thing? Fair enough, Liverpool and Chelsea were taking on class opposition in Arsenal and Everton, but all either could manage was a draw. Chelsea are much guiltier of letting one go in their 0-0 draw at home against Everton, where they really should have found a way to break the deadlock and stay on the pace. Liverpool at least gave a valiant effort against an inspired Arsenal side in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Anfield, but with Manyoo’s win against Portsmouth, United are now three points clear with that dreaded game in hand. They will need to fumble it away in order for Liverpool to catch them now. Boo.
- Why didn’t GolTV show the Barcelona-Sevilla match today?? I had reminders everywhere to make sure I set it up to record, but the damn thing wasn’t even on. I need a Setanta channel for La Liga and Serie A. Can someone make this happen for me? Pretty please? I don’t waste enough time watching sports yet.
- There is some great hip hop coming out right now. Aceyalone’s “The Lonely Ones,” The Grouch & Eligh’s “Say G&E!”, Cunninlynguists’ “Strange Journey Volume One,” Mr. Lif’s “I Heard It Today”… If you take it back a little further, you get Brother Ali’s “The Truth Is Here,” k’naan’s “Troubadour,” Drake’s “So Far Gone”… And we’re still waiting on new Busta Rhymes, Freeway, and (gulp) Eminem. I’m not expecting anything from that last one, but one or two good songs would be appreciated. Thank god we’re out of the first quarter of the year, when almost all hip hop life ceases. I can’t live without new music. Fuck MIMS – music is MY savior.
Posted in hip hop, soccer, tv | Tagged: aceyalone, arsenal, barcelona, brother ali, busta rhymes, chelsea, cunninlynguists, derrick rose, drake, eminem, epl, everton, freeway, goltv, jason terry, k'naan, lil wayne, liverpool, manchester united, mark cuban, mr. lif, oj mayo, portsmouth, primera liga, sevilla, the grouch & eligh | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on April 20, 2009
Manchester United 0-0 Everton
Everton win 4-2 on penalties
It wasn’t as sweet as it could have been, with Ronaldo and his crew of merry men on the bench, but any day ManU loses is a good day. Fergie blamed the Wembley pitch condition for his decision to leave out some of his regular starters, but even with a couple of allowances – which still didn’t include CRon – it was clear that this was a fairly low priority game for the Manchester giants. Sir Alex trotted out a line-up of youngsters and reserves, including Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson, and they never looked like the threatening side we’ve seen this year (and last, and the year before that…).
The two teams just sort of sparred with each other for most of the game and extra time, setting up a penalty shoot-out that included more drama on paper than in reality. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t get excited as this one drew to a close. Even in the midst of penalty kicks, I wasn’t particularly enthralled, even when Tim Howard made two stops against Berbatov and Ferdinand to ensure his team a victory and a place in the FA Cup final with Chelsea.
I can’t quite figure out what Fergie was going for with the line-up he chose. Was he waving the white flag? Did he know challenging for five titles was too much and decide to hedge his bets? Did he really think his B, or perhaps C team was enough to oust Everton? I think it’s probably a combination of all those reasons that influenced his decision-making process, but whatever the case, the quintuple dream is over and no one is happier than me. I don’t want to have to hear about this team for all eternity, and Ronaldo doesn’t deserve that swan song on his way out of Manchester anyway. He’s welcome to win title after title once he gets to Real Madrid, but hopefully he’s finished for now. As long as this doesn’t give them extra ammunition in their other competitions, it will be a positive for everybody.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: berbatov, cristiano ronaldo, danny welbeck, darron gibson, everton, fa cup, manchester united, rio ferdinand, sir alex ferguson, tim howard | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on October 20, 2008
This game saw both Arsenals show up: the one that looks completely hapless on defense and can’t contain squat, and the (much more pleasant) one that dominates possession and links up for beautiful goals. They opened the game with the first Arsenal present, and Everton struck quickly to take a 0-1 lead. Osman scored on some relatively average build-up play but, to his credit, put the cross he received away with ease. Arsenal sort of muddled through for the rest of the first half but returned rejuvenated in the second, playing their typical Arsenal football. It was truly a pleasure to watch, and it was capped off by a goal from Nasri. Arsenal had definitely begun to pick up the pace, but Nasri officially turned the tide when he hit an incredible strike from a few yards outside the area that might have taken a slight deflection and jetted its way into the back of the net to tie the game. The next goal came after they had about a gazillion touches in the area, and for a second it looked as though they were going to squander another opportunity looking for that perfect goal. Adebayor turned his back on one chance, then dished it off to Fabregas, whose shot was blocked by Howard. The rebound bounced to Van Persie, who headed it home to take all three points.
It was a nerve-wracking performance, to be sure, especially coming from a side that desperately needed a win. They knew they couldn’t fall behind the three leaders by an additional three points so early in the season, and they gutted out a victory. It’s reassuring that they can win this kind of game, after going down a goal early on, but that they had to do so at all is somewhat disconcerting. Three points is three points, though, and Arsenal will take them any way they can get them at this point.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: adebayor, arsenal, epl, everton, scores, van persie | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 25, 2008
The biggies are all still alive (Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool), but Tuesday’s Carling Cup action saw a couple of big upsets, the most startling being Man City’s penalty shootout loss to League One team Brighton. All the goals came late in the game, with Fernandes Gelson netting the first in the 64th minute and Stephen Ireland scoring the last to tie it up in the 108th minute. Brighton ended up winning 5-3 on penalties when goalkeeper Michel Kuipers stopped Michael Ball’s spot kick and Matthew Richards nailed one past Kasper Schmeichel.
Aston Villa were ousted by Championship side Queens Park Rangers (QPR) 1-0. Villa had a number of good chances, many off of play by the continual bright spot which is Ashley Young, but they were unable to convert, allowing QPR to secure victory on a 58th minute goal by Damion Stewart.
Elsewhere, Tottenham edged Newcastle 1-2, essentially kicking them while they were down, and Chelsea routed Portsmouth 0-4, handing Pompey its second wipeout defeat in as many games. Everton also got the boot at the hands of Blackburn, 1-0, as Martin Olsson and Robbie Fowler combined nicely, leading to Olsson’s first goal for Rovers.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: aston villa, blackburn, brighton, carling cup, chelsea, everton, man city, newcastle, portsmouth, qpr, tottenham | Leave a Comment »