Friday, February 24, 2012

Whats Wrong With Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder?

Wesley Sneijder, the talented player from Inter and Holland has completely fallen off the map, after his fantastic 09-10 form, and nobody seems to know why. However, the few that know a little about relationships on the pitch, and off the pitch for that matter attribute Wesley's decline to the departure of Jose Mourinho. Jose Mourinho is known as a psychological coach, and someone who prides himself on player management. His relationship with his players is extraordinary, and he is known to turn otherwise decent players into world-class performers. At Chelsea, for example Mourinho turned Eidur Gudjohnsen from a decent forward into an excellent central midfielder. Joe Cole seemingly played the only good football of his career it seems, under Mourinho. He also turned Frank Lampard from a decent all around midfielder into a player voted second best in the world in 2005. At Inter, the post Mourinho dip has been suffered by almost the entire team, but Sneijder the most. It's hard to say if Mourinho's presence has been felt so much by his players, but it seems it has, evidenced by the emotional bond felt by his players and Mourinho. It's hard to place Wesley Sneijder into same class with some of the lesser talents under Mourinho, but it seems his play is nowhere on the same level it was when he was playing the midfield for Mourinho. Granted, under Benitez, Sneijder was playing as a striker, and it was not his natural position, but this season Claudio Ranieri has tried to play Sneijder back at his natural spot, and it still hasn't worked out. With the European Championship coming up this summer, we all hope Wesley Sneijder can find his old magic form he showed under Mourinho again.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lukas Podolski Headed to England this Summer?

The Polish born German international, Lukas Podolski, has largely failed to live up to the hype that encircled him during the 2006 Fifa World Cup. At that time, the powerful striker was 21 and seemed destined for greatness. He had just completed a move to German powerhouse Bayern Munich and played as a starter on the national team. He scored three goals in the tournament, developed a shoe line, and was well poised for stardom.

However, his recent years seem to threaten that he was just another flash in the youth pan. His Munich career began quite well, as he scored 12 goals in 33 appearances, often being used from the bench. But he was never truly ingratiated into the starting lineup, and he missed time because of injuries. Italian giant, Luca Toni was brought to the club, and Podolski became the third wheel behind Toni and Miroslav Klose.

In 2009, Podolski was sent back to F.C. Cologne and has since fallen by the wayside. The club has not been very competitive in the Bundesliga, and Podolski has struggled to accumulate goals. In recent times, he has begun criticizing the club for failing to deliver upon promises about the team’s efforts to attract talent. Now it seems as if the club is going to fine him for the public disapproval. It seems as if his time in Germany is drawing to a close as he wants to move abroad.

The struggling Premier League team, Arsenal, is the team heavily linked to Podolski. They already have a clear-cut #1 striker in Dutchman Robin van Persie, but he could use a partner. Also, talk has emerged that Van Persie is unsettled and could be on the way out. As his contract expires in the summer of 2013, he could be sold elsewhere and leaving the Gunners scrambling for a replacement.

Podolski needs a change of scenery. Cologne has proved to be too small a fish in the turbulent sea of the Bundesliga. The player has spoken of his frustration as year after year, the team repeatedly finds itself in the heart of the relegation battle. Perhaps Arsenal can be the side to reinvigorate the once promising career. Arsene Wenger has been known to pluck talents whose careers have stagnated. One must only look to Thierry Henry as an example.

Perhaps this is the perfect match for the German striker. He has heaps of international experience in the big games on his side. He is still relatively young at 26, and he will be available at a bargain price. There’s no secret he is ready to move, and his stock has fallen tremendously since he was purchased by Bayern Munich in 2006. His rocket of a shot and nose for goal can still spark this career to greatness.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Arsenal Fans Divided over Wenger

Arsenal’s recent 4-0 loss in the first-round of their Champions League matchup against AC Milan has added more fuel to an already simmering rift between Gunner fans. Ever since the heartbreaking departure of both Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal fans have been passionately divided over whether boss Arsene Wenger should remain at the club.
Although there have been a few bright moments, and Arsenal currently holds the valuable fourth position in the EPL table, it has been another dismal season, and fans are becoming furious.
Poor performances from new signings Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, and the especially disastrous Per Mertesacker have put into question Wenger’s ability to find reliable players to fill the huge voids being left throughout Arsenal’s lineup. To make matters worse, Wenger refused to make any significant signings in the most recent transfer window, despite being pitifully shorthanded on defense (among other positions).
Over the years, Arsene Wenger has remained stubbornly defiant against popular media and fan criticism, and he’s failed to acknowledge some of the team’s most obvious deficiencies (remember his unflinching faith in Fabianski?), preaching his philosophy of training young or unheralded talent in the “Arsenal Way.” Unfortunately, once trained, many of these rising stars are simply sold to larger clubs (Henry, Toure, Clichy, Nasri, Fabregas...and now van Persie?).
To compound his problems, Wenger has made a series of unpopular lineup gaffs that have seen Oxlade Chamberlain exit early (to be replaced by the hugely unpopular Arshavin) during the recent Manchester United match, and fielded a very conservative squad against AC Milan.
Wenger’s supporters faithfully back the manager and insist that he’s still the best man for the job despite their recent struggles. They point to his amazing record of keeping the club in the top four ever since joining Arsenal, and they make the good point that the club’s spending purse is drastically smaller than Manchester City’s, Manchester United’s, and Chelsea’s.
Pro-Wenger fans also note that the club’s finances are healthy and that the club steadily gains a profit even while many Premier League clubs are sinking in debt (even some of the “big clubs”). They also suggest that Arsenal’s murky system of administrative leadership often mistakenly paint Wenger as the “bad guy” even though he may not even have the authority to make such decisions. For example, while many of the larger clubs allow their managers to solely make personnel and transfer decisions, Arsenal’s board of directors and unique ownership model may actually restrict Wenger’s freedom to make such moves, and when the ownership fails to make a “big buy” or “transfer move,” the blame often falls to Wenger since he’s the most public face of Arsenal.
Although Wenger’s popularity continues to wane with each passing defeat, one has to wonder what Arsenal would look like under a different manager. If things continue to get worse for the Gunners, we may find out sooner than we think.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Prioritizing the Premier League's Competitions

It can become painfully obvious a few weeks after opening day that most Premier League teams wont have what it takes to win the title, and by midseason the race has usually dwindled down to just a handful a clubs. Fortunately, the Premier League— like many other international soccer leagues—has an array of competitions still worth competing for.
The league title is every coach’s and fan’s first priority, but here is a ranking of which competitions come next:
1. Champions League
The Champions League is arguably the best and most exclusive competitive soccer tournament in the entire world (including the World Cup). Only the very elite clubs can qualify, and the level of play is breathtaking. Winning the tournament often associates a club with being the world’s best team.
Financial incentives are also lucrative. Making it into the tournament equates to millions of dollars in revenue. If clubs are fortunate enough to reach the latest stages, they can accumulate close to €3 million per match. Last year, runners-up Manchester United earned about €50 million.
2. FA Cup
Within the Premier League, the FA Cup is the most prestigious domestic competition. Open to nearly any professional team in England and Wales, the competition involves hundreds of teams. Started in 1871, it can boast to being one of the world’s first ever soccer tournaments, and is especially famous (and enticing) for having smaller clubs eliminating the league’s “big clubs.” The prize money for the winner nears close to €1 million, and even though this is far less than the Champions League, it’s nearly double that of the Carling Cup.
3. Carling Cup
Although the format is somewhat similar to the FA Cup, the Carling Cup (also called the “Football League Cup”) is smaller than the FA Cup and has a reduced financial prize: €500,000. Over the years—due to Arsene Wenger’s tradition (along with other managers) of benching first-team players—the Carling Cup has lost its prestige and now serves as a tournament that showcases young talent and second-string players.
Top teams still competing for the league title and other more important tournaments will usually rest their top players during the Carling Cup, making the tournament far less appealing to both fans and media alike.
4. Europa League
The UEFA Europa League is essentially a “poor man’s” Champions League. The Europa League is formatted similar to the Champions League, but the qualifying clubs consist of teams not good enough to play in the Champions League.
In the Premier League, the three qualifying spots for the Europa League are determined by the winners of the FA Cup, the Carling Cup, and whoever is in the fifth spot on the league table.
5. Earning a Top Four Finish (and the Fifth Position)
If a team is no longer in the running for any tournaments, they will definitely want to be in the one of the top four spots of the league table when the season ends in order to qualify for the Champions League. Although the fifth position is far less lucrative, it still earns a berth into the Europa League.
6. Avoiding Relegation
For teams having a nightmarish season, a manager’s priorities become focused on survival. The bottom three teams in the Premier League are relegated to the lower Football League Championship. Not only do relegated clubs lose the honor being in one of the world’s top soccer leagues, but they lose close to €20 million in lost television revenue. For most clubs, this financial shortfall is a harsh hit, and it can take years to recoup such losses.
The beauty of the Premier League is that even if your favorite club isn’t competing for the title, they are most likely involved in either one or more of the above scenarios. This multifaceted structure of competition makes watching soccer one of the most unique, entertaining, and popular sporting events in the entire world.