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Monday, December 26, 2011

Gotze's La Liga Dream - The Consequences

Borussia Dortmund wonderkid Mario Gotze has recently stated that his dream is to play for either of the two Spanish giants, Real Madrid or Barcelona. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder has been in scintillating form for Die Borussen over the last year, amassing 12 goals and 19 assists in 51 games. He was fairly influential in Dortmund's victorious Bundesliga campaign last season. Captain and pivotal figure Nuri Sahin left the German club this summer to join Real Madrid, leading many people to doubt Dortmund's ability to threaten for the league in Sahin's absence. But, the diminutive Gotze has only upped his game and been ever so influential in Dortmund's challenge this Hinrunde.




Whether young Mario wants to follow in Sahin's footsteps, or the thought of playing for one of the most successful clubs in the world is his main influence, Gotze's move to Spain seems fairly imminent. He surely won't make the move this January, but talks may start in June. Assuming Gotze does move this summer, here is a look at where he'd probably fit at the two clubs.



It's a Blue Blue Christmas..



It's a Blue Blue Christmas, but of a different shade. The 1st time since 1929 that Manchester City have been at the top of the table going into the Christmas season. You could also call it the Manchester Christmas in the Premier league coz not far behind are United with only a couple of points separating them from their rivals. And by the looks of their win against Fulham the title doesn't seem to be leaving Manchester for another season.

Mancini's side have been on a roller coaster ride since the start of the season dropping only 7 points out of a total of 51. While Manchester United have dropped only 9 and are in 2nd position they haven't been as convincing as the fans would have wanted them to be. On the other hand City have looked in command and have majestically surged ahead dismissing teams with ease. The number of goals they have scored in less than half the games played in a season have been testimony to the aggressive play. And it doesn't seem difficult for Mancini's men to beat the premier league record of 103 goals in a season set by Chelsea a couple of years ago. The attacking prowess at Mancini's disposal is something greatly feared in the premier league.



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Who Do Milan Need For The Second Half Of The Season?

Milan started the 2011-12 season on a very poor note, with heavy losses to Juventus and Napoli and weak draws against both Udinese and Lazio. These dismal results could possibly be attributed to the injury crisis that affected the Rossoneri up until October. Robinho's return to the squad was a big boost to the team when they hosted Palermo, a turning point in the season. The Brazilian was influential in that particular game, but has failed to replicate that performance thereafter.

Milan's midfield hasn't been the most efficient in Italy this season. Barring Antonio Nocerino and Kevin Prince Boateng, Milan's midfield has been very sluggish. The likes of Clarence Seedorf and Alberto Aquilani have failed to support in attack, while the experienced duo of Massimo Ambrosini and Mark van Bommel have been abysmal with their defensive duties. In attack, Milan have been far too reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Big Swede has scored 11 goals in the Serie A so far, and provided 2 assists. Antonio Cassano was in top form at the start of the season, but his illness has put him on the sidelines till the end of the season. Pato and Robinho have left a lot to be desired. Defensively, Milan have looked a little shabby when compared to last season. Thiago Silva and Ignazio Abate have been shining stars so far, while Nesta has shown his brilliance in spurts. The main worry, one that has haunted Milan for the last few years, is that left side of defence. Gianluca Zambrotta is clearly past his prime, Luca Antonini should be playing in the Serie B and Taye Taiwo hasn't been able to fit in, primarily because of Max Allegri's stubbornness towards starting the former Marseille man.

Adriano Galliani clearly has a good amount of work to do when the transfer window opens in January. Here is a look at some possibly useful signings that Milan could look to complete.




Friday, December 16, 2011

QPR TRIP AND EUROPA LEAGUE DRAW

It’s a trip to London this weekend as we head to Loftus Road to face a QPR side that have been solid at home. They are a very English side in the sense that they have a strong discipline and work ethic about them; they are very sound at the back and attack from the flanks with good wingers. 

Jamie Mackie made a comment that they will get into our faces in the game, well I don't want to make much sense from what the lad says, you can get into our faces as much as you want but at the end of the day you need to get the ball into the net to end up with something to show on the table and I don't think that will happen after the kind of resilient form we have shown away from home. Those classic defensive displays in grinding out 1-0 victories have made for a very impressive away column reading and it has already crossed the mark of last year. Well you already know that after the kind of woeful way we played away from home last season on our travels.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

ElClasico : Saturday Night Sensation for Barcelona

When the final whistle went off at the end of 90' at the Santiago Bernabeu the result 3-1 would have hard to sink in, if sometime had gone off to sleep at halftime. But this is Barcelona, the best team in the world at the moment and they would have left Mourinho gasping as to what is left for him to do to beat this Barcelona side something which he hasn't achieved in 4 league meetings, the first Real Madrid manager to achieve such a feat.

Since moving to a country with a different timezone my football viewing has been made more smoother with EPL at breakfast and LaLiga at lunch or tea time. And with ElClasico at a perfect time in the day I couldn't miss it for any reason. And while I was following it, the tension certainly was rising as each minute passed by even for the neutral in me. The Barca fans must have had a tough time in the first half and the Madrid fans in the 2nd. Add to that if I was told that 3-1 was a fair reflection of the game,I wouldn't  have an option but agree as Real Madrid were made to pay for all the missed chances they ought to have finished.The reason why you can't get off your couch when your watching a football match right from the 1st second till the end of the game was once again displayed today by the universal declaration of beautiful and scintillating football.

The fastest goal in an El Clasico - 23 seconds



REALLY, RED NEV??



I had been waiting all week if there would be a decent article this week from someone who really talks sense to come up with some sort of an convincing explanation about the demise of Manchester United in the UEFA Champions league. I had been waiting for a Gary Neville column or even some comments by Paul Scholes saying something that made sense about the demise, but out came nothing. These so called Red lads are Fergie worshipers and love their manager more than they do Manchester United, otherwise there would not have been a mum on their lips when the club crashed out of the UCL in midweek.


Monday, December 5, 2011

A SEASON DEFINING WEEK AHEAD

Manchester-United-Phil-Jones-cropped

It was a decent performance away from home at Villa Park, a place that we had not won for the past two seasons. Well if you look at our woeful away form from last season than endless stats of these type will pop up and we will keep them away for some other day as of now.
Victory was thoroughly well deserved after a solid performance defensively, Carrick is looking like a decent player again as he knew he had the reliable Phil Jones by his side who did all of the running for him. It was his trademark performance as he sat back, made interceptions and dictated the flow of the play to his liking. With each passing week its now turning into some sort of a habit to praise Jones as the lad keeps surprising me time and time again. No one had expected  him to play the no.of games he has at this point of the season but with injuries to players at crucial junctures and his versatality has prevented Sir Alex from a selection headache. It was a well taken goal by the lad who finally opened his account in the against column for the club.



Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Battle Of The Borussias : The Absence Of Reus, Gundogan's Failure And A Poor Gotze Show

Borussia Monchengladbach hosted defending champions Borussia Dortmund last night, in a game of utmost importance for both clubs. The two teams were joint table toppers before the game and were looking to keep that spot with a win. Monchengladbach were without their highly influential attacker Marco Reus while Dortmund were missing the services of Moritz Leitner, Sven Bender and Neven Subotic.

The absence of Reus saw Raul Bobadilla start alongside Mike Hanke in attack. This meant that Lucian Favre started with a 4-4-1-1 as opposed to the regular 4-2-3-1. Jurgen Klopp continued with his staple 4-2-3-1.





Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who is the real "Super Mario"?

Mario Balotelli was nicknamed Super Mario during his time at Italian giants Internazionale and has shown his immense quality on a number of occasions over the past few years. After the christening of Balotelli as "Super Mario", the football world has also seen the rise of two other players with by the name of Mario. Both of them ply their trade in the German Bundesliga. Both of them have represented Germany at the international level. They've both won the Bundesliga. I'm talking about Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze and Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez.





Both the Germans have been far more influential than Balotelli in their clubs' domestic triumphs. Gotze was part of a Dortmund squad that was much weaker than Jose Mourinho's Inter, where Balotelli was at the age of 19. Gomez has shown the world how clinical a striker he really is, while Balotelli has merely been shrouded in controversy.

Here's a more detailed look at the three players




CLASS OF 2011 - HOMECOMING

After the hammering handed out to Newcastle in the 1-1 draw at the weekend we are back in action tonight with a Carling Cup quarter final at home to Ipswich Town and from the looks of it it wil be a young side containing the class of 2011 who won the FA Youth Cup last May .The likes of Ravel Morrison, Larnell Cole, Paul Pogba, Ezekiel Fryers are all expected to play some part in the game tonight. The game being played at home wil be an advantage for the young side as they will be playing in an familiar environment rather than daunting Portman Road had the tie been the other way around.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 Reasons Why The Game Ended 2-1 To Napoli

Napoli picked up a memorable victory against Manchester City last night courtesy an Edinson Cavani brace. Also, Walter Mazzarri finally picked up his first win over Roberto Mancini in eleven meetings. Napoli now sit in second place in Group A of the UEFA Champions League and a win against Villarreal will confirm their participation in the knockout phase of the Champions League.

Here's a look at 5 possible reasons for the Partenopei triumph :

1. City forgot that Dzeko is good in the air





Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bayern Munich V/S Borussia Dortmund - Key Battles

Bayern Munich host defending champions Borussia Dortmund tonight in a clash of mammoth proportions. Bayern will be without the services of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Anatoliy Tymoschuk, but have Arjen Robben returning to action. Heynckes will probably decide to start the Dutchman on the bench and expect him to run riot against the Dortmund back four when he comes on. Dortmund's only player on the injury list is center back Neven Subotic and he will be replaced by Felipe Santana.

Dortmund beat Bayern in both ties last season, but are without the services of the ever so influential Nuri Sahin, who moved to Real Madrid this summer. The other goalscorer for Dortmund over the two games last season, Lucas Barrios, will probably start on the bench yet again. Both teams are brimming with quality and this is proving to be a mouth watering clash. Both teams are not the most efficient defensive units, so if you're a neutral, this could prove to be a highly enjoyable goal-fest.

Let's take a look at which personal battles could prove to be crucial in tonight's game.



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Possible Draws For EURO 2012

Portugal, Czech Republic, Republic of Ireland and Croatia confirmed their participation in EURO 2012 last night by qualifying for the tournament via the play-offs. With the qualifying round of EURO 2012 coming to a close, UEFA announced the seeding of the teams for the tournament in June.

POT 1            POT 2           POT 3       POT 4
Spain              Germany        Croatia       Denmark
Netherlands     Italy               Greece       France
Poland            England          Portugal      Czech Republic
Ukraine           Russia            Sweden      Ireland

Based on current form and quality of their squads, Spain, Netherlands and Germany will be the early favourites, but the European Championship is known to produce upsets with Denmark and Greece going all the way to win the tournament in the recent past. Italy, England, France and Portugal have fairly good teams on paper but are not the most consistent and disciplined teams in the tournament. Croatia and Sweden have the potential to pull off a few major upsets and will be the prime dark horses for the tournament. The remaining teams may not be up there at the moment, but another stand-out performance, accompanied by some luck, could see teams like Russia and the Czech Republic pull off something similar to Greece's EURO 2004 triumph.



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

EURO 2012 Play Offs : Preview (Part Two)

Czech Republic Vs Montenegro

The Czech need to keep their fans away from this!
Granted full membership by UEFA just half a decade ago and Montenegro are currently on the verge of qualifying for Europe's most prestigious international tournament. They have indeed come a long way and will be greatly supported by their 250,000 odd nationals. On the other hand, the Czech have hit a new low. Group toppers in the qualifying stage for EURO 08 and EURO 04 and are currently on the verge of being denied a spot in the 2012 edition.

Fans must have seen both Wales and Switzerland finish ahead of Montenegro in Group G but the Montenegrins proved them wrong. A memorable draw in Wembley and a remarkable comeback against England in Pogdorica has seen this little country come so close to a spot in the group stage of EURO 2012.
The Czech Republic had no hopes of finishing in first place in their group. With Spain as clear favourites in Group I, the Czech had to rely on being the best second placed team in all groups but failed to do so. After a remarkable performance in EURO 2004, the Czech have failed to get past the group stages of the following European Championships and World Cups. Their defence was fairly resolute in the qualifying stage but will be in for a real test against the Montenegrians.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

EURO 2012 Play Offs : Preview (Part One)

Bosnia vs Portugal

Another triumph over the Balkans is on the cards

Bosnia have never qualified for a major international tournament. The European Championships have been Potugal's forte but the trophy has eluded them to date. The last time these two teams met was in the play-offs for the 2010 World Cup and Portugal emerged victorious in both legs of the tie.

In the group stage of qualification, Bosnia finished just a point behind France to qualify for the play-offs. They won all their games at the Bilina Polje and their only loss at home(to Les Blues) came at Asim Ferhatovic stadium. With a 62.5 win percentage at the Bilina Polje, Bosnia seem to be in a fairly good position with respect to the numbers game.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Far From A Tribute. Disaster in Minsk

Appalling, deplorable, repulsive, ghastly! I can't find a superlative to do justice to Milan's performance in Minsk. Milan's trip to Belarus showed just how unprepared they are for the Champions League. The club announced that this game was going to be a tribute to Cassano(taken in ill for an ischemic stroke after the Roma game) but it was far from it. It disheartens every Milansti to see the team put in such a terrible performance after all this talk of it being a tribute.

Tribute? More like a disgrace.
 Allegri was cut for choice with his strikers and was forced to start Robinho alongside Ibrahimovic. This proved disastrous. Misplaced passes and wasteful finishing characterised Robinho's game last night. A completely wayward pass to Taiwo was the start of his disastrous night and it was concluded with the goofing up of a simple one on one. Boateng had another fruitless night. Poor movement and poor delivery seemed to be his forte for the night. As a Milan fan, this inconsistency in attack and Fantantonio's absence fluster me.


Monday, October 3, 2011

To Play or Not To Play : A Big Debate

As the blog title suggests , this isn't about Tevez refusing to come on as a substitute for Manchester City against Bayern Munich. So if you are looking out for some news on the already excessively hyped story you might be disappointed.

Comes a time when the fans start complaining of boring weekends due to international matches during a football season. Well, boring or not the players have to step on to the field once again as international players, be it for qualifiers , tournaments or meaningless friendlies. Add to this a new trend where a club team in between a full fledged season travels to the owner's home country to play a game(to appease the owners offcourse) with the manager stating that the trip will be beneficiary for his side to recover from the recent slump. Yes you are right. I am refereeing to Venky's Blackburn Rovers who are travelling to India to play against Pune FC which by far could be one of the most ridiculous decisions a team's management could have made in a season.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

GULF OF SPAIN




Long have gone the days when an unfancied Valencia side devoid of any superstars could challenge and beat the mighty Real Madrid and Barcelona to win the La Liga. Infact it is nearing a decade since a side outside of the top two won the league. The huge gulf in quality between the top 2 and the rest has never been greater and the chances of any team challenging the might of the top 2 are remote and only a fool would even consider betting on a team to even finish within 10 points of Real and the majestic Catalans. So many factors could be attributed to the occurring demise of La Liga. The independent tv rights deal is one major reason why the wealth is so skewed in favour of the top clubs in Spain. The clubs for one have the complete independence to negotiate their own tv rights and thus Real Madrid with their Galacticos and the technically excellent nimble footed Catalans end up getting the most lucrative share of the pot with the lower clubs trying to scramble over the leftovers. And this pool of lower clubs has now even engulfed the 3rd and 4th best teams.

On one hand you see a Madrid pocketing a cool 130 odd+ million $ in tv rights alone and on the other hand you see Atletico pocketing 40mn$. And this directly increases the amount that the teams will be able to spend on player acquisitions and wages. No wonder Madrid and Barcelona have the luxury of smashing the transfer record at will. Barcelona were able to splash more than 50mn on only two players and this inspite of borrowing a loan in the region of 125mn pounds a year before just to pay the wages and operating costs!!!

So far so good, now bring into picture the so called revolutionary Financial Fair Play regulations of Michel Platini. A club would have live to within their earnings, Spend as much as you earn and what will it do these clubs where clearly the top teams are earning 100mn more than the rest. What message will it send out to a sheik in the middle east who wants to buy a club in Spain. Will he be able to buy his club a Champions league or even a Europa league for instance? I don't think so. Wonder how Malaga will cope once these regulations will be brought into play and how much will they be able to spend once the strings in the purse of the sheik get tightened by the FFP regulations. Will he still be motivated to hang around and watch in awe the tiki taka brilliance of the Catalans against the substandard teams of the league? Surely not.

These things have woken up the Presidents of the other league from their deep slumber and they are protesting, not everyone as of now but still are. Threats of playing a substandard side against the big 2 if they do not budge are also being branded about. These are early days after all. The big two on the other hand have their own stick to beat these lesser guys with. We are reason why people watch you, we are reason why you get the huge sums when you play against us, we are the reason why the La Liga is famous is what they are saying.

 A talk of a European super league is also being mentioned and this although remains a pipe-dream that their fellow clubs from England, Germany and Italy would be less forthcoming on joining them into. The shadow of the Scottish league looms large in Spain and don’t be fooled by the recent draw that Barcelona suffered at the hands of Sociedad at the weekend. The top players in the league that play for the other teams have started departing abroad already. The benchmark is to make a move to the top two when you start reaching the top or else go abroad. Silva did so last year. Aguero, De Gea, Mata were not hesitant to follow suit either. Aguero confessed that the lure of winning trophies at Eastlands was too hard to resist. Mata was more forthcoming when he summed up the situation more perfectly by confessing that come January there would be nothing worth fighting for, The league would be out of grasp with no hope of catching up what so at all.

The balance between Spain and England could shift again with the marquee players starting to move abroad and the EPL clubs benefiting from it. Should the current trend continue we could see more top players moving to England, wonder what will it do to the competition and the quality of the opposition that Madrid and Barcelona will face week in week out in the La Liga. The chances of having another all English final again are distant but not an impossibility that people make it out to be because of the brilliance of Real and Barcelona. Remember it is the lesser sides that make them look even more majestic and beautiful then they really might be. Ask Milan or Inter or perhaps Chelsea even.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Football Fiesta At Kolkata, A New Experience...

A country of over a billion people would certainly have die hard football fans in every nook and corner of the country. But with the national team which is languishing in 144th position and certainly not going places as of now, a friendly game between top two teams in the world in a neutral venue is certainly  a delight for the neutral fans. Yes I am talking about the Argentina - Venezuela game to be played at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on September the 2nd. The first FIFA sanctioned game for India  involving two of the world's top teams which would certainly be no less than a carnival in one of India's football crazy towns. Argentina are currently ranked 9th while Venezuela are 44th.

The hype around the big game can certainly be attributed to the presence of Messi , the little genius and European footballer of the year. For fans watching him each year on TV , to watch him perform his tricks right in front of their eyes will certainly be a dream come true for the ones who can make it to the Salt Lake stadium.

The result of this might be immaterial, but there is certainly one winner and that is the Salt Lake Stadium. Commissioned in 1984 the stadium has been in misery thanks to the apathy of the officials. Now thanks to this big game the artificial turf,which was laid a couple of years back, has received extensive repairs and is back in fine condition.The entire stadium,too,is being given a facelift. Broken seats in the VIP area have been replaced with new ones and the stadium looks like it has got a new lease of life .The players dressing rooms have been completely refurbished, new lockers,toilets and massage tables are now in place to meet international standards.The players tunnel,too,has been done up.The stadium now boasts two new warm-up zones and medical and dope-testing rooms.The press box is now Wi-fi enabled and the electronic scoreboard has been replaced with a brand new giant LED screen.The floodlighting system has been a source of embarrassment over the years as scores of matches have had to be halted following breakdown.

With such extensive preparation for a game which the Indians fans would have only dreamt of watching it happen in their country there cannot be two ways but that the game has to go well. Some have even gone to the extent of saying that the stadium is capable of hosting World Cup games. I wouldn't go to the extent of agreeing with that statement as preparing a host nation for a football world cup is a different ball game altogether , a tournament considered bigger than even the Olympics in terms of fan following and TV viewership.However, the successful hosting of the Argentina-Venezuela match will pave the way for soccer's national body to organise more international friendlies and AFC tournaments in future.

The September 2 friendly will no doubt help widen the fan base for football in India,but it would be a challenge for the football fraternity in the country to keep them interested in the beautiful game where Hockey is the national game and Cricket a religion. But with European giants Liverpool ready to setup their academies in India, Manchester United already tapping the commercial market with Cafe Bars and EPL Team Blackburn Rovers being owned by an Indian firm there would be an Indian footballer playing in the high grounds on an European team sooner rather than later.(Baichung Bhutia has played 37 games for Bury FC in Greater Manchester, England over a period of 3 years while Sunil Chhetri has trialed with MLS club Kansas City Wizards).

With more than 100,000 fans expected to throng the stadium and millions more glued to their television sets in 152 countries as they tune in to watch Messi and his mates,India could well emerge as a hot spot for top European clubs when they plan their pre-season tours.Indian football has nothing to lose,but everything to gain from this Messi visit.

For football viewers in India the match will be telecast on 2nd September at 6:50pm onwards on ESPN.



Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Former No.7 Moulds His New Side Around His Current No.7

 

It was a family feud, Pep Guardiola did not want his brother agent to have a profit and thus vetoed a deal that would take Luis Suarez to Barcelona last January, Barcelona bought Ibrahim Afellay instead and the rest as we say is history.

Suarez is growing into a Kop idol at Anfield, he is getting the love that the kopites used to shower on Fernando Torres. Joining at a time when Fernando was agitating for a move to Chelsea there were talks that he could have been talked out of it and asked to give one last try but Torres grew impatient and we were deprived of a mouth watering partnership that would have surely guaranteed goals.

Suarez meanwhile has gone from strength to strength as he has seamlessly adapted himself into the hustle and bustle of the Premier league. Technically excellent, good balance, neat quick feet and equally adept at either foot he has added a new dimension to the attacking and brave Liverpool that are taking shape under the careful eye of Kenny Dalglish.

He has been a revelation for the last three games in a false no.9 position that Messi has made so famous. Leading the line from the front, he uses his footballing brain to drop of into pockets of space with his intelligent movement to link up with teammates. His excellent close control and link up play with his teammates as shone through as he has made a blistering start to the season. His long term fitness and stamina could very well come into play in the latter half of the season when he starts feeling the after effects of the Copa America and a non-existent pre-season he has had this time around.

The midfield signings have been good, although some of them might have been uncalled for given the riches that were already on disposal. Meireles has found himself on the brink of the substitution bench for no fault of his own and must be wondering what has he done wrong to warrant this. Similarly Kuyt was very unlucky not to have started the first game of the season and could have to face similar days as those later on, as Dalglish would try to keep everyone happy. The most notable non-existent benchwarmer has been Joe Cole, its been surprising that he has not been moved on this season. A move to Spurs seemed on the cards but has not materialized yet, it could in the coming days come to fruition though. I still feel the revival Cole could make Liverpool into more of a fearsome team than they now currently are.

Defence has been a problem as has been their problem in maintaining clean sheets. Jose Enrique could well solve the troublesome left back problem and the emergence of the highly promising Martin Kelly and other academy lads Robinson and Flanagan gives everyone hope that this academy still has the capability to produce world class talents that could follow into the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors.

The squad is a very competitive one and have all the capability required in mounting a title challenge should they have a good first half and stay in contention come January after the christmas period.
It would take a lot to heal the wounds that have been inflicted onto the fans by the sheer unproductivity and the inability of their team to win a league title in 21 years. The signings look promising, the display at Bolton last afternoon gives every fan inside Anfield a reason to stay optimistic of their team's chances this season.
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AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT

For all the attacking might of Barcelona, it really leaves me wondering whether they have missed a trick by not signing a centre half. That area really looks worrisome with doubts over the long term fitness of talismanic captain Carlos Puyol, surely the short Mascherano could not be the answer if the Catalans would have to make a trip to their bogey ground of Stamford Bridge.
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As transfer window draws to a close wonder whether we would see another deadline day worth 100mn pounds. Nervous times for the managers ahead.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Where is Juventus heading to?


It has become familiar now that there is a 'revolution' every year at Juventus. It starts with a change possibly in every level of management. Sometimes, it's the transfer director or the CEO, even more often are the coach and the players! However, this time it is the turn of the coach and some players, and a new stadium adds to further freshness. Antonio Conte, fans' favourite during his playing days at the Bianconeri, has now been handed the responsibilty of bringing Juventus back to the glory days.

Just when his reign hasn't even started with an official match, Italian media is already buzzing with talks of Conte deploying a highly attacking 4-2-4 formation. In reality, though, it can only be played with a safe 4-4-2 as Delio Rossi, former Palermo coach, pointed out. With such little experience in managing a serieA team, there are inevitable signs of the extent Conte could succeed. When Del Neri was appointed, he stuck to a strict 4-4-2 but the transfer activity was blamed. Now, with Conte, they're all doing the same thing again: Sell majority of the players who didn't seem to be good enough, buy another set of mediocre players. It's hard to call certain players they bought this summer as 'mediocre' but for a team who finished 7th in serieA (presently, not the best league either) last season, this set of players isn't the solution to make the giant leap in quality. Not to mention the number of spots to qualify for the Champions League being reduced to just three. It's simple to illustrate, just a comparison of how complete the squad is with the other contenders fighting for the those three spots in Italy. Inter might be on the verge of selling Eto'o but there have been useful additions to a team with a proper base. Napoli have shown their intentions too, and Milan is already riding with a complete team.

August 19th isn't the best day to pass judgements on the transfer dealings as there are still 12 days for the clubs to pull off some signings. Marotta's promise of 2-3 more signings have made the news in Italy but the significant part is how big those signings will be. Interest in Emanuele Giaccherini of Cesena is exactly the fault Juventus management is committing. Last year's overhaul resulted in a squad filled with Martinezs, Pepes, Mottas! Vidal is one of the few impact makers emerged from the summer shopping.

If the team looks like this at the start of this year's championship, what was the point in changing the coach at all? Marchisio cannot play at the left and changing his playing positions constantly is hampering his development already. Michel Bastos was the ideal player that was linked with the Bianconeri for a long time. And for good reason. His pace, skill and workrate could have been the spark what Juventus needed with Krasic on the other wing. His performance on the crucial Champions League qualifier against Rubin Kazan was outstanding and would have increased his market value if he decides to move out of Lyon. If Juve buys anyone other than Bastos, or a player inferior to his caliber, is a huge step down. No Calcio fans want such a great club walking backwards every season.