Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Andrea Pirlo The Maestro Of Italy's 2012 Euro Run

         Throughout the 2012 European Soccer Tournament, there are many names that have been brought up, and with good reason, such as Xavi, Iniesta, Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the guy that has many people talking about his play for Italy is Andrea Pirlo, the Italian midfielder who is somewhat of a legend already. Pirlo's performances over the last 10 years with Milan, and most recently with Juventus suggest that he surely belongs in the same class as Alonso, Fabregas, Xavi, and Iniesta, all who play for Spain, by the way. Andrea Pirlo possesses a set of skills that make him a very special player. His range of passing is exceptional, he constantly makes the right decisions, and he always makes everything he does seem effortless. Pirlo is the leader, along with Buffon of this Italian squad which has seen so much controversy prior to entering the tournament, but they have bounced back with leaders such as Pirlo, and Buffon holding everything steady. Even with the Euro 2012 Finals loss, Andrea Pirlo has shown the world once again why he deserves to be mentioned, not only as a world class player by today's standards, but also, as an Italian legend.

Formation Change Ahead for Arsenal?

Arsenal has been employing the 4-3-3 formation for several years with mixed results.  On their day they are a fantastic side that can beat anyone in the world.  On their less impressive days, they look careless and suffer defeats to lesser opposition.  Perhaps manager Arsene Wenger is contemplating a formation change and a switch back to a 4-4-2.  With his business so far this summer, such a move is starting to look rather likely.

Arsenal’s first summer buy was German forward, Lukas Podolski.  The 27 year old enjoyed a fruitful year at FC Koln in the German Bundesliga, but has been continuously frustrated with the club’s poor record.  FC Koln was relegated this season and Podolski has decided to try his hand in the English Premier League. 

Wenger continued to boost his striker options with the acquisition of French striker Oliver Giroud from Montpelier.  Giroud led Ligue 1 in goals scored and helped lead his team to an improbable championship in France.  He is 25 and also looking to establish himself at a major club.

Assuming Arsenal captain Robin van Persie remains at the club, there will be a definite surplus of strikers.  Considering that the 4-3-3 formation typically only uses a single striker flanked by two wingers, Wenger may want to adopt the 4-4-2 so he can better utilize his new players.  As all these strikers are entering the prime of their careers, they will be looking for serious playing time.

Current wing players have struggled at Arsenal.  Andre Arshavin often looks lost.  Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner look utterly hopeless out wide.  Even speedster Theo Walcott struggles to put in decent crosses.  I worry that Podolski and Giroud would not play well in these roles either as they prefer more centrally located positions.

With a 4-4-2, many problems could be solved.  The midfield would benefit with the extra body.  Arsenal’s current defensive woes often occur when players struggle to make their way back and defend during counter attacks.  Also, Robin van Persie has often found himself lost without support up top.  With a second striker there would be more linkup play.  

Theo Walcott has talked about wanting to play as a central striker, and this formation would better utilize his quickness and small passing game while giving him more decent looks at goal.  

The central midfield pairing of Alex Song and Jack Wilshire could be formidable, and the wide positions could be filled with Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  These players are quite multi-positional and could cover in the middle as well.

Personally, I have seen enough of the 4-3-3 to know that it won’t work for Arsenal.  Sure, Spain and Barcelona have utilized it to win many trophies, but Arsenal doesn’t have the necessary talent level.  Furthermore, the formation was introduced with the idea of Cesc Fabregas orchestrating at the heart.  He is gone now and Arsenal needs to adapt.  With the signings of Podolski and Giroud, I feel that Arsene Wenger may be prepared to do just that and reintroduce the 4-4-2 to the Emirates Stadium.

Euro 2016 To Expand From 16 To 24 Teams

         With UEFA recently announcing that the number of teams for Euro 2016 will change from 16 to 24 from it's previous format, many people are already predicting many different things. On one side, there are a number of people that would prefer the number of teams to be reduced to 8 with only the strong participating, while the other prefer 24, because that will create more surprises, and more of a competitive tournament. However, if you analyze the World Cup and realize that there is 36 teams participating, it seems only reasonable to extend the number of teams in the European Championship to 24, to make it reasonable. There is a growing number of people that believe that every 4 years in the European Championship there is the same teams that consistently advance further, such as Spain, Italy, Germany, and Holland, and that by increasing the number of teams, there will be more surprises, and in effect, more excitement. Just like in the March Madness every year in College Basketball we constantly see top teams sometimes lose to a seemingly "overmatched" opponent, however, as we have learned sometimes the way two teams match up is very different than how other teams match up, so we really cannot tell who really is the overmatched opponent. Besides, we have learned that the American public will watch the tournament, as the ratings for this years Euro tournament were incredibly high, considering that the United States was not participating, and that soccer has repeatedly been a tough sell here in the United States. So as the soccer world braces for Euro 2016 in France, expect much more drama and excitement with the announcement of 24 teams participating instead of 16.