Champions LeagueEngland

Milan Embarrass Arsenal

February 16, 2012 — by Sean


A slow, tentative Arsenal team visited Milan in Champions League knock-out play yesterday, and by god were their frailties exposed. Milan ended 4-o winners on the night, and that was a kind scoreline to the Londoners. Milan, far from the best squad they’ve ever had, abused Arsenal’s weak defense, and if Pato and Nocerino had been more composed it could have easily been six goals to the rossoneri.

Milan is not exactly impressive. They don’t seem that inspired in their build up play. Most times they try and bypass the midfield with a lob to Ibrahimovich, hoping the big Swede can bring the ball down and hold it until reinforcements arrive. Last night, it worked – a lot.Whenever he gets the ball it just feels confusing. He’s a big, weird looking, lanky guy with enormous feet. He’s fast, technical and can score, but none of it seems like it should ever happen because he’s just so strangely constructed. His weird little mustache and ponytail give the impression of a sideshow magician, and maybe that’s what he is, an oddly proportioned freak with just enough magic to befuddle defenders.

Ibra has taken flack over the years for his lack of scoring in Champions League play, and last night was no different, except he was playing a team with an incredibly porous defense who let him run the channels at will and spray passes all around the attacking third. He was supported by Boateng, who played well enough but never really seems fully in control of his body. When Boateng gets the ball you don’t think, “oh he’s going to unlock the defense this time.” Robinho was similarly uninspired, even though he put two goals past Szczęsny.

Still, Arsenal’s defense was just so poor. So, so poor. It didn’t matter that Milan aren’t a giant this year. The marking was poor, the high line they play just invites a ball over the top and a rush to goal (which they can’t handle),and then there’s Johan Djourou. This guy has no business being on the field. If he was a true talent, wouldn’t he have been in Africa with the rest of the Côte d’Ivoire team, losing to Zambia? No, he’s playing in the Champions League away to Milan – a team that has won seven European championships to Arsenal’s zero.

Milan’s defense never had to deal with any serious challenges. And Arsenal’s bread-and-butter – their wing play – was severely negated by both their lack of passion and the terrible condition of the pitch. Seriously, the field looked like a polo match had been played on it the day before. The wings, in particular, were chewed up. No coincidence perhaps that Milan play a compact diamond in the center of the field with very little wing play, while Arsenal spend most of their time advancing the ball up the wings. But yesterday I can’t even remember seeing Sagna or Gibbs bomb forward, and it wasn’t until the introduction of Oxlade-Chamberlain that Arsenal made their way down the left flank.

In the end, I never thought Arsenal were going to win that game, but I didn’t think they were going to be humiliated. But they were, and by a Milan team that is just not very good. Arsenal will probably win 2-0 in London, but it won’t be enough. Considering Milan went out at this stage of the competition the last three years, they were lucky to meet such a week side in the round of sixteen.


My Kingdom for an AFCON Group of Death

January 25, 2012 — by Rob Kirby


Without a “Group of Death,” and without 5 of the top 8 ranked African countries (Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa all failed to qualify), the opening stages of the African Cup of Nations lacks a bit in the tasty fixtures department. For perspective, Tunisia, the participating country with the fourth-highest FIFA ranking is still behind tiny Cape Verde Islands (who also did not qualify).

Far too sensibly, the four teams with the best shot at hoisting the trophy—the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia—each belong to a different group, so there’s no early heavyweight matchups. (Damn Pot A…) Tunisia and Morocco dueled in a North African derby of sorts on Monday, as did neighbors Mali and Guinea yesterday, but until the tournament enters the knockout stages, it’s hard to call any match a must-see event. (Tunisia and Mali both won.)

Even if something must-see does arise, it’s impossible to see any of the matches without the glitches and freezes of streaming video. Did the absences of Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa make the Cup of Nations a less appealing broadcast prospect? Presumably other factors dictated that, but one can see why a broadcaster wouldn’t break the bank for the rights to show Sudan versus Burkina Faso.

On the immediate horizon, the Ghana-Mali match on Saturday looks interesting. (John Mensah, Ghana’s lone scorer and gamewinner against Botswana, misses out due to also grabbing the lone red card. Ghana are also without Kevin Prince Boateng, who retired from international soccer, to focus on AC Milan.)

However, it all looks somewhat tame until the quarterfinals on February 4. Come February, though, there could be some excellent matchups ahead. Despite Senegal’s stumble to Zambia in their opening match, the four frontrunners will likely top their groups, and host nations historically make the quarters and semis with freakish regularity, so there could be a lot of energy pinging about. Both Equatorial Guinea and Gabon won their first matches, so they’re starting off on the right track, especially considering Equatorial Guinea is ranked 151st in the world.

(Update: Senegal lost to Equatorial Guinea, which sees them eliminated from the tournament even before the third match vs. Libya. Thanks for making me look like an ass, guys.)

I watched the Mali-Guinea match yesterday. Pretty interesting game—relaxing without being boring—and then I realized, no vuvuzelas. Ahh.
Load up your favorite stream for these upcoming fixtures:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
11:00 ET Libya vs. Zambia Group A Estadio de Bata
2:00 ET Equatorial Guinea vs. Senegal Group A Estadio de Bata

Thursday, January 26, 2012
11:00 ET Sudan vs. Angola Group B Nuevo Estadio de Malabo
2:00 ET Ivory Coast vs. Burkina Faso Group B Nuevo Estadio de Malabo

Friday, January 27, 2012
11:00 ET Niger vs. Tunisia Group C Stade d’Angondje
2:00 ET Gabon vs. Morocco Group C Stade d’Angondje

Saturday, January 28, 2012
11:00 ET Botswana vs. Guinea Group D Stade de Franceville
2:00 ET Ghana vs. Mali Group D Stade de Franceville

Sunday, January 29, 2012
1:00 ET Equatorial Guinea vs. Zambia Group A Stade d’Angondje
1:00 ET Libya vs. Senegal Group A Estadio de Bata

Monday, January 30, 2012
1:00 ET Ivory Coast vs. Angola Group B Stade d’Angondje
1:00 ET Sudan vs. Burkina Faso Group B Estadio de Bata

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
1:00 ET Gabon vs. Tunisia Group C Stade de Franceville
1:00 ET Niger vs. Morocco Group C Stade d’Angondje

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
1:00 ET Botswana vs. Mali Group D Stade d’Angondje
1:00 ET Ghana vs. Guinea Group D Stade de Franceville


The Game is The Game

March 12, 2011 — by John Lally1

The Baltimore Waterway
So that's where you keep the sugar

**WARNING** – This article – teased a long time ago here – contains spoilers for all 5 seasons of The Wire. If you haven’t watched The Wire yet, go to; buy the complete set, watch all 60 hours, then read this. You’ll thank me for it (probably more for having seen The Wire than for this article, but still).

Non-Spurs Fan: “If you know they’re going to end up disappointing and frustrating you, why do you keep supporting them?

Me: “Got to. This Tottenham, man

As my wife would attest, I have a special way of watching Tottenham’s games – leaned forward, literally on the edge of my seat, with a nervous look on my face and the occasional nail being bitten – similar to how I used to sit in  the Paxton Road end of White Hart Lane, now transferred to our sofa in Brooklyn.  The only other thing that has brought me to this viewing position, this physical display of angst, nervousness and sense of impending doom, was the greatest television show ever made, The Wire.

Each season of The Wire is set up very much like one for Tottenham Hotspur: first you have to get used to a new cast of characters and squad members; the story of the season then unfolds with various highs and lows; the penulitmate act brings some type of heartbreak and you then lick your wounds, wrap up and look to see where it will go next year.

Ever Expanding/Changing Cast

The Wire was unique in the way it approached it’s story telling with such a large number of characters – introducing many new ones through the years and trusting that the audience would keep up. In the same way, many a time I’d arrive at White Hart Lane one January and have to try and figure out who the Japanese player wearing number 4 in our midfield was (turns out it was Kazuyuki Toda…no, I have no idea what happened to him either).   Take a look at the major characters introduced through the five years of The Wire (listed as when they became involved in the plots not based on first appearance, cf. Prop Joe is in Season 1 but his significance becomes more apparent from Season 3 onwards), and the players who signed for Tottenham in that same time period (2002-2008)

Tottenham: (2002) Redknapp, Acimovic, Blondel, Ricketts, Hirschfield, Keane. (2003) Toda, Postiga, Zamora, Mabizela, Kanoute, Dalmat, Konchesky. (2004) Brown, Defoe, Robinson, Fulop, Defendi, Mendes, Sean Davis, Leigh Mills, Reto Ziegler, Erik Edman, Timothee Atouba, Naybet, Edson Silva, Pamarot, Carrick, Davenport.  (2005) Mido, Hallfredsson, El Hamadaoui, Radek Cerny, Dawson, Andy Reid, Stalteri, Lennon, Huddlestone, Tainio, Routledge, Young-Pyo Lee, Rasiak, Jenas, Davids.  (2006) Danny Murphy, Ghaly, Berbatov, Assou-Ekotto, Zakora, Dervitte, Malbranque, Chimbonda. (2007) Rocha, Alnwick, Bale, Taarabt, Bent, Kaboul, Rose, Boateng, Gunter. (2008) Woodgate, Hutton, Gilberto, Modric, Dos Santos, Gomes, Bostock, Bentley, Pavlyuchenko, Corluka.