The Inevitable Van Persie to Barcelona Endless Speculation Transfer Story

February 2, 2012 — by Rob Kirby


With Arsenal currently sitting 7th in the Premier League table, it’s now truly inevitable that Robin van Persie will choose a new club come summertime, barring some miracle. But because it seems so predestined, the notion doesn’t trigger anxiety levels of Fabregas-ian proportions from summers past, where you just really didn’t know what was going to happen. Even with Samir Nasri, one thought Arsenal might just take the financial hit and force the Frenchman to stick around, because surely Wenger wouldn’t let two of his three/four best players go at the last possible moment, would he?

Anyhow, just as Robin’s departure seems inevitable, so too does speculation of the destination club. Cue the inevitable stories of van Persie to Barcelona.

Van Persie currently ranks among the most in-form strikers in the world. It’s only natural that he be linked to the best clubs in the world. Money is not the motivating factor. What Robin wants is to win trophies and play with other players of his caliber. Even the most ardent Arsenal supporter will admit that van Persie is in his own league. Wilshere could get there, but certainly not while he’s out for the season.

With talk of Barcelona being the best team of this generation, obviously lazy journalists make “Van Persie to Barcelona” their go-to. They’ve already got the templates, having been through the whole business before with Henry, who left for similar reasons. And they can naturally cut-and-paste parts from the Fabregas template. (Hell, even Alex Hleb!) Despite not currently topping their own league, Barcelona is the best team is the world at present. So, even without a shred of supporting evidence, the link makes sense.

Why player, club and every onlooker might think it’s a good fit is too obvious to really go into any further.

The real question (to me) is: Would van Persie do well at Barcelona? Would he be the preferred starter?

If not, if he knows he will only provide cover for the main striker, utilized mostly as an impact sub, would he choose Barça? (Impact subs get CL winner’s medals, too…)

Van Persie comes from a system not entirely different from the Catalan way, but so did Henry, and that wasn’t exactly an unqualified success. David Villa had played with the midfield maestros on the national team, which made him less of a risk, but Ibrahimovic never had and didn’t mesh especially well, whereas Eto’o did.

Individual chemistry with the team is the unknown and unknowable but crucial factor towards determining an import striker’s success at Barcelona.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Honestly, I really don’t know how it would pan out. Van Persie would certainly kill to play with Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas (again), but I find it hard to believe he’d settle for a spot on the bench.

I also find it unlikely he’d move to another club in England, so who else does it leave? AC Milan? Perhaps next year’s coach at Real Madrid can come up with a new hunter-animal analogy for him?

To be fair to both Henry and van Persie, the comparison with Henry is not entirely like-to-like. Many often cite age as a factor with Barcelona-era Henry, but Henry was only a year older than van Persie will be in the summer. (Henry turned 30 in mid-August 2007; van Persie turns 29 this August.) It really was more that Henry was not at his peak, whereas van Persie is most definitely enjoying his peak and may stay there for a few years to come. (He could even get better with excellent through-pass service, however there was no mistaking the gray hairs in Wednesday’s match against Bolton.) With Robin, it has always come down to his injury status. He’s never lacked the finish, simply the fitness.

Henry in his peak combined with the current-day Barcelona squad would have been incredible to behold. God, I wish that had happened. Except that they were all wearing the Red and White. (And except for the whingeing, whining, diving Dani Alves—Barcelona can keep him. Hmm, I just realized that if you take the “an” out of Dani and “Al” out of Alves, you’re left with “Dives.” Sounds about right.)


What to Watch This Weekend (Feb 12-14)

February 11, 2011 — by Suman

Here are a bunch of matches to watch over the next few days–a few on Saturday, one Sunday, and one Monday.  Which takes you right up to Tuesday…and the start of the Champions League Round of 16.  Bananas.

As always, all times ET, and a hat tip to WaPo’s Soccer Insider for posting the weekend listings every week.

Saturday, Feb 12

England, Manchester United-Manchester City 7:30am FSC: Manchester derby! Early in the morning! This is a big one–City is but 5 points behind Man U, after the latter finally lost last weekend.  See here for squad sheets.  Also, Mancini denies he is Italian.

England, Arsenal-Wolves 10am ESPN2: Why?  Because we have so many Gunners fans among us, because it will be interesting to see how they rebound after the debacle last Saturday at Newcastle, and because it will be interesting to see if Wolves can pull off two upsets in a row.  They just might.

"If Villa comes anywhere near my touchline during the game, I might just bite him"

Spain, Sporting Gijón-Barcelona 2pm ESPN Deportes: Not only because one should watch this year’s Barcelona side at every given opportunity–but also b/c we have a thing for Gijón, Manuel Preciado, and his moustache.  Another storyline here: David Villa is from Asturias (the son of a miner) and started his professional career with Sporting Gijón B at the age of 18 (1999-2001) before playing for the A team (2001-2003), followed by stints at Real Zaragoza (2003-2005) and Valencia (2005-2010).  Read this column by Sid Lowe from April 2009 about Villa and his relationship with Gijón–no, really, read it now.  For instance: ” ‘If Villa comes anywhere near my touchline during the game, I might just bite him,’ declared Sporting’s coach, Manolo Preciado, ‘but before and after, I’ll give him a hug. He’s the best player in this club’s history, after Quini.’ ”

Italy, Roma-Napoli 2:30pm FSC: We told you to watch Inter-Roma last weekend, and hopefully you did, as it was perhaps the game of the year in Serie A.  Unfortunately the result wasn’t good for Roma, as they fell further back in the table, in 7th place–10 points behind AC Milan, and 7 points behind 2nd place Napoli.  Here’s a chance for Roma to climb back in the race–or conversely, for Napoli to keep the heat on Milan (and stave off Inter, who are now only two points behind them!)

Sunday, Feb 13

England, QPR-Nottingham Forest 8:30a FSP: Take a peak at the Championship. Why? Why not? Well, these two are currently #1 and #2 in the table, so there’s a good chance one or both will be in the Premier League next year.

Italy, Juventus-Inter Milan 2:30pm FSC: Derby d’Italia! Juve needs a win to stay afloat (they’re currently in 8th place, one point behind Roma).  Meanwhile, Inter is hot as fire since Leonardo took over in December, and he has them “playing a brand of Brazil-like attacking football

Monday, Feb 14

England, Fulham-Chelsea 3 p.m. ESPN2: Torres, Demspey & Dembele, Valentine’s Day..


Shortlists for FIFA Balon d’Or 2010

October 27, 2010 — by Suman

2009 Balon d'Or Winners


The following 23 men (in alphabetical order) are in contention for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2010:
Xabi Alonso (Spain), Daniel Alves (Brazil), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlán (Uruguay), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Júlio César (Brazil), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Maicon (Brazil), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Müller (Germany), Mesut Özil (Germany), Carles Puyol (Spain), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), David Villa (Spain) and Xavi (Spain).

The odd man in there seems to Asamoah Gyan.  Don’t get us wrong, we were impressed by Baby Jet performances this summer in Africa (this one against the USMNT in the World Cup of course–but also this more recent performance)–but he hasn’t accomplished what the other players on the list have.  (Özil and Müller are two even younger players that one might argue about–but those two have already impressed and achieved more for both club and country than Gyan has.)

There’s more to the Balon d’Or than just the men’s player award however.  The shortlists for the other three categories:


Premier League Preview for the Chilean Miners

October 14, 2010 — by John Lally1

David Villa signed jerseys going down the shaft.

On August 5th, 2010, 33 Chilean miners got stuck in a mine and were down there for 69 days. While their story has been covered in depth, one aspect has not been mentioned anywhere else…Chile is a nation of football fans and these 33 guys have completely missed the first seven matches of the Premier League season. Just for them, here’s a look at the weekend’s fixtures with a Chilean Miner’s view (i.e. what you would have expected had you not seen anything in the last 69 days) weighed up against how the rest of us see the games.

Arsenal v Birmingham

Miners’ View: Arsenal too strong at the Emirates and won’t have any trouble dispatching with a middle of the table team.

Rest of us: Having slipped up at home to West Brom, followed by a loss away at Chelsea, Arsenal will be intent on not suffering three straight league defeats.  Birmingham have not started well, however, and lost at home to Everton last time out.

Prediction: Miners will prove to be right and that West Brom game will (unfortunately) be a minor blip on Arsenal’s otherwise formidable home form.

Bolton v Stoke

Miners’ View: Bolton tough to beat at home, Stoke not so good away from the Britannia.  Likely to be a narrow home win.

Rest of us:  Bolton have played three home league games so far, and drawn all of them.  Stoke started poorly, but have won 4 and drawn 1 of their last 5.

Prediction: An inevitable, scrappy, bore draw: 0-0. A game so dull that you’d almost consider going back in the mine rather than sit through it. Almost.

Fulham v Tottenham

Miners’ View: Fulham always good at home, Tottenham now resilient away from home under ‘Arry. A must watch game (even Chileans love Tottenham, in my world view at least)

Rest of us: Van der Vaart has shown he can win any match almost single-handedly, but the rest of the team might be distracted with a trip to the San Siro in midweek to look forward to.  Fulham are actually unbeaten thus far this season, but have also only won once.

Prediction: I can’t decide who will win but I feel confident the score line will be 2-1 to somebody.

Man United v West Brom

Miners’ View:  West Brom will be cannon fodder for United and will not put up much of a fight in an away game at one of the top four teams.  Coule be the sort of game where Rooney is rested, with Berbatov given the chance to impress.

Rest of us: Man Utd’s strike force has been the complete opposite of what you would have expected. Berbatov back to looking more like his old self from his Tottenham days, Rooney struggling with “injuries” and personal issues. West Brom won at Arsenal in their last away game and are level with the team from Woolwich and Spurs for fourth place.

Prediction: United to win, but in a close game.


A Continuing Obsession With Spain

June 26, 2010 — by Adam

It’s not often that a single strategic decision decides a football match, but that’s what happened yesterday, when Chile played Spain. The high defensive line played by Chile let Spain off the hook.

Chile play a very unusual system, in which they attack without cease for every minute of the match, and play what looks like six wingers. Sometimes, personalities or luck or athleticism decide which team wins a match, but because the Chileans are so novel, they almost always win or lose based on tactics.

One risky aspect of Chile’s game is the high defensive line they play. Chile shrink the field so they can make the short, angled passes that spring their wingers into space,, but to do this, their defenders need to stand very close to their attackers, so they can start their passing game with accuracy. Long passes are notoriously hard to complete and give defenders time to organize their shape. The virtue of Chile’s system is the claustrophobic terror it creates for defenders, and Spain were petrified today, at least for twenty-four minutes.