We’re Bored, So We’ve Decided To Couch Coach


I’m also inspired by having lost access to my soccer channels. Mostly because I am f–king tired of paying Comcast/Xfiniti (stupid name, by the way – it sounds like the title of some late seventies, sci fi themed, soft core porn) extortionate level monthly payments.

So, we’re going to muse fruitlessly on the summer transfer window and what kind of player I think some of the top Premier League teams should target. Yeah. This is almost as much fun as watching soccer on tv. Except I am not going to pay that company any more than I already am (for mind numbingly bad service and speeds) and won’t, even if I win the lottery. Bastards.

 

Arsenal:
It’s easy to say ‘striker’ and it’s true, but I actually think there are some bigger needs. That’s because Yaya Sanogo will be a little more experienced next year. Giroud is still solid and why doesn’t Lukas Podolski get more time at striker? I think they need a striker, but it doesn’t have to be a world beater. Mario Mandzukic is a classic, bustling number nine who is likely to available comparatively cheap. And there’s nothing wrong with Wenger doing his thing where he poaches some young striker from France. They just need someone worth 10-15 goals a year to play in rotation.

Where they really need some top class help is at the back and midfield. At the back, they need another center back. And not just any center back. Someone with some pace. They don’t have to be an automatic starter, but someone with recovery speed, which is something they lack with the current first choice pairing of Kolcsielny and Mertsacker. If Sagna leaves, they need a veteran right back to help fill in while the youthful prospect Carl Jenkinson matures into a regular starter. Finally, they need a central midfielder to play deep. Whether it’s a bruiser type or a more cultured player, it’s got to be someone with body mass who can’t be bullied and has the positional sense to hold things together at the base of midfield.

 

Manchester United:
Everyone talks about them needing an attacking central midfielder to link with the strikers, but I don’t think that’s their biggest problem. Last year, they were dependent on Michael Carrick to hold things together at the back. He’s a regista with great defensive nous, who helped protect the defense while also circulating the ball and who can hit some nice long diagonals help open things up. But this year, age appears to be catching up and you’ve got bet that the injury struggles he used to have will come back as the mid-thirties beckon (I say this as forty beckons me). Who will replace him? They need a midfield general with defensive positional sense and the ability to start the attack at the base of midfield (Ilkay Gundogan is an example of the type, but they just need to find someone with those qualities). With a confident player like that, I think that someone like Clevereley could improve his ability to carry to ball forward to the one of the attacker and help provide that link – if there’s someone behind him able to keep play moving from deep and protect the backline.

Speaking of the backline, they have the opposite problem of Arsenal. They have two young defenders in Smalling and Jones who are both mobile and skillful, but they need a big man to replace the departing Vidic and provide the muscle. And since it also seems like Evra is gone, a new left back is in order. But with all the needs they have, I hope they don’t blow twenty million euros on Luke Shaw (see Southampton), because they’ll need that money for the rest of the team.

 

Chelsea:
They’re going to buy a fancy new striker and that will pretty much take care of it. Maybe a second, younger striker as a future prospect and squad rotation. But they’re going to buy what’s necessary and don’t need to told so.

 

Liverpool:
Some squad depth. Henderson has been crucial, so maybe a box-to-box midfielder with a great engine. Probably a centerback or two and time to start thinking about what happens when Glen Johnson slows down. When Gerrard finally can’t do it anymore, they’ll need someone to take his place, but I think that Joe Allen is well suited to step in. He doesn’t hit the ‘hollywood pass’ halfway across the field, but if we’re honest, Gerrard actually misses a lot of those, so someone safer (more mobile) might not be a bad thing.

 

Tottenham:
My beloved Spurs… how you have wasted your chances. They need a reliable striker. Someone who can step in and produce double digit goals in his first season. They need another outside midfielder/winger so that Eriksen can move inside and the team can be built around him. Also, that outside midfielder needs to be fast. Right now, Lennon is the only reliable midfielder who brings speed down the flanks, so unless Townsend figures out how to stop wasting possession, they need someone else who can stretch the field a little. Beyond that, if they hold on to their centerbacks, they’re well stocked for now. And either start blooding Fryers more or bring in a solid left back, with the emphasis on solid. They already have Rose attacking like crazy, they need a safer alternative for some matches.

 

Everton:
If they keep Lukaku, they’re set at attack (maybe a young prospect), but, like Spurs, some pace down the outside wouldn’t hurt. They’re fullbacks are amazing, but in outside mid, only Mirallas has real pace. And a central midfielder utility player in recognition of the fact that neither Barry (if they sign him permanently) nor Osman are getting younger.

 

Manchester City:
Some depth. Especially in central midfield and defense. Their first choice center mid pairing of Toure and Fernandinho is the best in the league, but if one of them can’t play or has a bad day, the options are thin on the ground. It’s even worse in central defense. But no need to buy world beaters – these are squad rotation players. Either younger players to bring up slowly as replacements or experienced players who can fill in.

 

Southampton:
Easy, sell only one of Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana and if you do sell one, buy a strong replacement. Go ahead and sell Shaw, but charge over the odds and buy a left back ready to step in right away. In both cases, save a chunk of the change to buy a striker that you can be confident will bang in the goals. Do not sell Morgan Schneiderlin, because you’re unlikely to get enough of a transfer fee to actually be able replace with someone able to fulfill the same, critical role on the team as he does right now.

 

Newcastle:
Switch to a 4-3-3 to get the best out of Hatem Ben Arfa, but that also means buying a winger or two. Someone to play opposite Ben Arfa (Gutierrez is a maybe not the caliber you need) and someone to step in for Ben Arfa, who needs rest to avoid injury and burnout. And a leader at the back, because Coloccini is leaving.

Midweek Staff Meeting – Death Of A Poet


His political legacy is as important as his poetic legacy.

His funeral.

Soccer and tuberculosis and urban abandonment in DC.

DC United To Get New Stadium? Maybe? Finally? We Hope?


It’s a Christmas soccer miracle

Group. Of. Death.


blog-thaeger-sam-skull1

No More Poachers


First of all, let’s take care of old business: I have been swamped and overwhelmed lately, so haven’t finished any books in a while.

New business: Tottenham Hotspurs do not need and should not buy Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez.

He’s a talented and instinctive goal scorer and should be playing for a team of at least the quality of Spurs.

Spurs need a striker to bang in the goals.

So why not?

Because (excluding Adebayor, who is only consistent in his ability to make a lack of focus and poor touch completely cancel out his outrageous physical talent; and Kane who needs to get more minutes, but is not yet mature/experienced enough to be the man) Tottenham’s two striking options are both penalty box strikers.

Sure, Jermaine Defoe has improved his outside game and link up play and sure Roberto Soldado can score some outrageous long range strikes, but neither are modern, ‘complete’ center forwards. Neither is Chicharito. In fact, the only thing Chicharito has that is different (other than degree) is a little height. All three are classic poachers, pouncing on the slightest chance or loose ball to put away the goal. That’s a good talent to have, but Spurs need a ‘Plan B.’

Someone who offers something different.

Someone big and strong like Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who they’ll get) or Fernando Llorente (who they might), who can muscle opposing defenders, not just to crash the goal and score, but to win knockdowns and create space for runners from midfield through sheer physical presence.

Or else someone whose movement and creativity drags defenders away and creates space for others.

Spurs has numerous midfielders capable of scoring goals (specially Paulinho, Lamela, Sigurdsson, and Eriksen), but they need a striker who will distract defenders and also play lay offs for them to put away. Both Soldado and Defoe work by managing to go invisible, after a manner of speaking, and scoring by eluding the attention of defenders for just a split second.

I suppose if Chicharito is being sold on the (relative) cheap, you’ve got to go for it, but even if that happens, at least buy a Danny Graham or Rickie Lambert, too, just to provide a different (blunt… very blunt) option to mix things up.

Everton Wins The Day


Everton look like the big deadline day winners. Offloaded Fellaini for silly money, brought in Lukaku on loan to solve their striking problems, brought in a great box to box player in McCarthy, and have Barry to provide some veteran leadership and solid passing from deep.

Meanwhile, Man U papered over their deeper problems and Arsenal, Ozil coup notwithstanding, failed to resolve lack of defensive depth in both midfield and the backline.

Predictions for top four: 1) Chelsea, 2) Citeh, 3) Man U, 4) Spurs.

That’s right Gunners, despite this weekend’s victory, I still think Spurs finish ahead. After all, Spurs lost Capoue for a month. Their back up? Sandro. What kind of backups do you have in midfield, Le Professeur?

Fellaini Should Stay At Everton


While playing for Manchester United, Fellaini’s international future would be better served by staying at Everton, under Roberto Martinez.

David Moyes, Fellaini’s former coach at Everton and the new manager at Man U, preferred to play the afro’d Belgian high up the pitch and use his size and power to attack and score goals; whereas Martinez sees him playing in a deeper, defensive role.

Since Carrick has the deeper role locked down at Manchester United, there’s no reason to believe that Fellaini wouldn’t be pushed higher again under Moyes.

But at the international level, if Fellaini is playing in an attacking role, he won’t get a sniff in the Belgian team because of how stacked they are in the attack. And if he’s not playing regularly in a deeper role, the Belgian coach is unlikely to trust him in that role.

If he stays at Everton and makes that holding midfield role his own, he becomes a near certainty to be a starter on a squad that is officially a dark horse contender for the next World Cup. If not, he will spend it on the substitutes bench.

A Little Gripe About Tottenham


I like Tottenham Hotspurs. I play them on FIFA13. I root for them to win against any other team in England.

And they’ve done some great things in the off season. Picking up Paulinho? Great move. Their midfield is stacked, whether they play a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, they’ve got both great starters and top class depth in the midfield. And I hear they’re close to picking up a speedy winger for some depth on the outside, which is important, because they could look downright sluggish if Aaron Lennon or Gareth Bale weren’t available.

But, c’mon guys. Everyone and their uncle knows that the difference between their fifth place finish last year and getting into the top four (which has some big implications) was the lack of a top striker, someone capable of scoring twenty goals a season.

Nothing has been done to fix this.

Sunderland, a mediocre team who were almost relegated, bought the en fuego American, Jozy Altidore (yah, Jozy!). Spurs… nothing.

The nearly as mediocre Norwich City bought the highly touted (and awesomely named) Ricky Van Wolfswinkel (I told you his name was awesome). Spurs… nothing.

Atletico Madrid, in Spain, pipped Spurs to one of their targets, the clinical veteran, David Villa. Spurs… nothing.

Mario Gomez left Bayern Munich and bought up by Fiorentina for a cut rate price. Spurs… nothing.

Little ol’ Swansea in Wales seems about ready to lock up the highly touted Wilfried Bony. Spurs is about ready to lock up… nothing.

Now, their number one striking target for the last couple of years, Leandro Damiao, is making eyes at Napoli. Ugh.

Tons of lesser teams have bought quality strikers, while Spurs are still dependent on the lazy Emmanuel Adebayor and the hard working, but insufficiently prolific Jermaine Defoe. Ugh.

It appears they might wind up overpaying for Christian Benteke, who wowed the league in his first season in England, but could turn out to be a hugely expensive one season wonder, but, for heaven’s sake, pull the the trigger on someone!

Fix this. Fix this now.

Just Because… ‘The Face’ By Clint Dempsey


Gareth Bale Should Only Go To Madrid If Cristiano Ronaldo Leaves


Caveat: I am a Tottenham fan and don’t want to see Bale leave the Spurs at all.

That said, it does not make sense for Bale to leave for Real Madrid so long as Cristiano Ronaldo is there.

Both players need to have the team formation built around them and the roles of the other players determined in light of supporting their attacking moves and compensating for their defensive deficiencies.

At Madrid, Ronaldo is a one touch, penalty predator who charges into the box from wide, similar, in truth, to Robert Pires in his prime. He doesn’t track back and doesn’t stay wide, so needs a fast, powerful fullback behind him who can cover the entire left side of the field on his own, because Ronaldo does not adhere to any tactical role except for getting on the end of crosses and through balls in order to score.

It’s easy to say, ‘just put Bale on the opposite wing from Ronaldo, no problem.’ But it’s actually a huge problem. With two wide players roaming the field at will, it opens up huge gaps, particularly on the wings, with opposing fullbacks and wide players doubling up on both Madrid fullbacks, who will be isolated by the unconstrained nature of Ronaldo and Bale. Central midfielders can help cover, but that then opens up gaps down the middle.

One anarchic player, if he or she is of sufficient genius to make it worthwhile… well, accommodations can be made for genius, but it is not possible make that allowance for two players without completely disrupting the team’s shape.

Bale, if he transferred, would either quickly be marginalized (brought in for games when Ronaldo was being rested) or else put in a constrained role that did not play to his strengths. Either way, the swashbuckling attacker who is taking the world be storm, would sink beneath the waters.

If Ronaldo were to leave Madrid, absolutely, Bale could go. He could be plugged in, playing as close a like for like as you are likely to see for the departed Portuguese winger-cum-striker, with little tactical tinkering necessary. But until that happens, Bale needs to stay where the team will be built to emphasize his strengths and accommodate his weaknesses. Right now, Madrid is built to accommodate someone else.