Barclays Premier League: Christmas Carousel

Written by :
Published on : December 30, 2015

 

 

For anyone interested in watching footy in America, the Christmas season is unparalleled. Many teams in Barclays Premier League play an absurd three matches in a week, eschewing all reasonable expectations for the human body to maintain itself. Luckily, teams like Arsenal have already gone through their yearly pandemic of injuries, so hopefully the Gunners are now in the clear, especially after persevering to a relatively successful holiday slate.

 

The highlight of this Christmas season was Tuesday’s match between Premiership contenders Leceister City and Manchester City, in second and third place, respectively. It was a fascinating, albeit scoreless contest, as English football’s pre-eminent economic powerhouse, Manchester City, battled the upstart Leceister City. Leceister rode in on an unlikely wave of brilliance from a trio of unheralded players in Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, and N’Golo Kante. The teams were surprisingly even, as City’s big guns couldn’t find any fluid combinations. Their best chances came by way of Raheem Sterling and his highly-overrated jet boosters; on the other side, each of the aforementioned troika had various opportunities borne of Leceister’s high pressure.

 

Yet the most buzzy match was clearly Monday’s supposed clash of titans, Manchester United and Chelsea. Each team has experienced its own brand of turmoil of late, with both managers being raked over the coals by the petulant English media. Whereas Jose Mourinho was the architect of his own demise as Chelsea’s season collapsed, Louis Van Gaal has had to navigate a morass of impulsive criticism about a fairly bad, but not disastrous run of form.

 

 Van Gaal

 

Van Gaal’s problem has stemmed from the appearance that his team is bereft of creativity; similarly, many of the transfers under Van Gaal have not panned out fully (Darmian, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin) or fizzled out terribly (Depay, Di Maria). It was clear, however, that on Monday, Manchester United was a team that simply was having hard luck. Absurdly inconsistent officiating, two shots off the woodwork, and near-misses all contributed to an ineffectual afternoon. But the performance was dominant in possession and they generated far more chances than did Chelsea. Anthony Martial, arguably Van Gaal’s best signing, continues to look like the next Thierry Henry; the 19 year-old may not be there yet, but he’s special. Juan Mata similarly buzzed around the pitch. Even Ander Herrera, another holdover from the David Moyes era of acquisitions, looked like a heady contributor.

 

On the opposite side, Chelsea looked like a team that was utterly psychologically broken. Their play was so disjointed that it seemed more a collection of talented athletes who may or may not have had any experience at all playing soccer. This is the indelible mark of Jose Mourinho, the Special One, the coach with a personality (disorder) that is inexorably stamped on all of his teams. The lovely problem Jose brings to bear is that his team has been so stamped with his personality that they are now flattened into oblivion. It’s almost as if, with every basic pass misfired, every buffoonish first touch, the voice of Jose remains in the heads of these players, undermining and second-guessing every decision.

 

 Mourinho

 

Last year the Telegraph published an article about sports psychology in football, describing “positive self-talk,” a key strategy used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The idea is that the more positive things you tell yourself, the more positive influence that has on neuro-psychological functioning:

“Negativity and criticism is associated with the stress hormone cortisol, which reduces the ability of the frontal lobe to function effectively. Positive, energized language releases dopamine, which is linked to certainty and confidence, as well as noradrenaline and DHEA which enable your prefrontal lobe to fire more effectively.”

 

Jose’s lingering ghost serves an opposite function; after all, he’s the manager whose work is “betrayed” by players. A manager who berates team doctors. Jose has a flair for maddening opponents with the perfect cutting remark. Imagine the cumulative effect this type of personality has on the players; no wonder Jose flames out of every job after a few years.

 

 

This is why Monday’s listless, scoreless draw in which Manchester dominated and Chelsea looked a disaster was such pleasurable schadenfreude. The rumor mill churns, and the folks at Old Trafford are considering bringing old Jose on to replace the venerable Van Gaal, as if no manager is ever afforded the benefit of the doubt amid a run of bad luck. It’s a dangerous game to look past the picket fence and long for greener grass; there is little guarantee that anything will improve. Even with one of football’s most accomplished managers in Mourinho, the coaching carousel can be a treacherous ride. Judging from Monday’s Chelsea performance, Manchester United’s faithful may want to consider staying on their current horse for the time being.

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 8

Written by :
Published on : November 7, 2015

 

As we reach the halfway point of the NFL season, and the first college football playoff rankings are revealed, we crown a true champion in this week’s Champ and Chump. The World Series is over, the dust has settled on the infields soon to be covered by snow in many parts of this nation and we bid farewell to America’s past-time for 4-5 months. This week we welcome a couple first timers to our Champ and Chump section, but also see a familiar face. Spoiler alert: My Detroit Lions are the definition of “Chump”. Alex always said in his NFL Spread picks, “Always bet on the Packers”, well you might as well always bet against the Lions. But before I go on a 6-page tangent that goes through all the feels, six beers, and a box a Kleenex, I’ll just cut to the picks for Champ and Chump this week.

Champ: Kansas City Royals

The Royals getting hype in the 9th inning of their series winning game 5 matchup with the Mets.

 

Not too much of a surprise here. Let’s face it, if you win the World Series, or any championship for that matter, you have a great shot at finishing as my Champ of the week. A year after losing Game 7 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, the Royals had one goal all season long, and for the most part they played pretty consistent baseball to get there. As a Tigers fan, I know all too well how good these Royals are and have been the past few years. Often described as a gnat, or pest, that just won’t go away, they battle for 9 innings, and most times end up on top. They made great moves at the trade deadline, and I declared them winners there, and a few months later, those moves paid off. A quick 5 game dismantling of the New York Mets gave the Royals their first World Series title since 1985. Hats off to them.

 

Honorable Mention:

Drew Brees- 39-50 for 505 yards with 7 touchdowns. 91.7 QBR and a passer rating of 131.7 begs the question, “Is this a video game?” Big win over the Giants and Eli, mentioned below

Eli Manning- Weird to have a loser from a game in the same “Champ” category but what else could you have asked Eli to do vs the Saints? 30-41 for 350 and 6 touchdowns with zero turnovers. QBR or 94.1 and a passer rating of 138.2, insane.

Andre Drummond- Pistons fans haven’t had much to cheer about the past six or seven years but they have an absolute star in the making at center. Through four games, Drummond is averaging 20/20 a game following a monster performance vs Indiana where he scored 25 and ripped down 29 boards.

 

 

Chump: Minnesota Golden Gophers’ late 4th quarter clock management

Because of the terrible clock management, Michigan once again holds the Little Brown Jug.

 

A little over a week ago, Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill had to resign due to health reasons. In a very sad press conference, Kill was emotional as he knew that coaching the game he loved was taken away from him far too soon. Kill was building a very successful program at Minnesota, a tough feat to achieve. From a 3 win season in his first year, to coming one win shy of a Big Ten West title last year. He led the Gophers to a 4-2 start before having to say goodbye. Tracy Claeys, an assistant under Kill, took over the job as interim head coach and figures to have a legitimate shot to become the long term replacement. After an emotional week, the Gophers and Gopher fans were ready to “win one for the gipper” as they say. They welcomed the Michigan Wolverines for a game on Saturday night. A back and forth game had Minnesota driving deep into Michigan territory, down 3 with under a minute to play. Then with 19 seconds left Minnesota thought they had it, a touchdown pass to win the game, but it was reviewed and called down. Minnesota had the ball, first and goal at the 1-yard line. Apparently, Minnesota spent no time drawing up a play just in case their touchdown was reversed because they got to the line, the ball was spotted, the clock began and they went on to waste a dozen seconds before even snapping the ball. Minnesota’s quarterback then ran around and threw the ball away leaving them 2 seconds left. They called timeout (yes they had a timeout) and ultimately opted for a quarterback sneak which came up short, and they lost. Two things really bothered me about this complete mismanagement of the clock: For one, call timeout as soon as the play is reversed and you would have four cracks at it from the 1-yard line, and secondly, you’re down 3, kick the field goal and force OT. Michigan was down to their backup quarterback due to an injury, so trust that your quarterback can outduel him in overtime. Also to quote Brian Piccolo from the famous Brian’s Song, “When you dedicate a game to somebody, you are then supposed to go out and win it, idiot. Pat O’Brien never said let’s blow one for the gipper.”

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Detroit Lions- Congratulations to the Lions as they now suck on two continents, a tough feat. Falling to 1-7 across the pond to the woeful Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 45-10 has led to the firing of their President and General Manager, a week after firing a couple coaches. Cheers Lions fans, it literally cannot get worse (we’ve already achieved 0-16), so hang your hat on that.

Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers and NBA fans couldn’t wait for Kobe Bryant to return this season, and in what may be his final season he is far from riding off into the sunset on a high note. Sitting at 0-4 Kobe’s $25 million per year contract is easily the worst contract in sports right now… well, aside from Bobby Bonilla still getting paid in New York. The guy is shooting 32% from the field, and just 20% from 3-point land, averaging just 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. To make matters worse, first round pick Deangelo Russell appears to be struggling compared to a lot of the other top-10 picks from this past draft.

Chelsea Football Club- In England’s Premier League, Chelsea has enjoyed much success in the 21st century and have done so while having some of the most loathsome creatures take the pitch in their all blue kits. Being a Manchester United fan, there isn’t much I enjoy more than seeing Chelsea completely crumbling right now. Currently sitting in 15th place in the table, just four points from relegation, has Chelsea frantically clawing to stay above the cut. While I am sure they will avoid relegation, it is still a bit satisfying to watch them struggle.

 

 

 


Open Letter to Eva Carneiro and Arsenal

Written by :
Published on : August 13, 2015

 

 

Dr. Carneiro, et al —

 

My name is Antoine. I live in America, and, according to my Facebook, I’m the Chief Technology Officer at Unemployed. I also write for this website, at times. Throughout my long and industrious career, my “bread and butter” has been seeing connections where others don’t see them. Of course, this has led me down enough rabbit holes that I have learned to see the limitations, as well. Not everything is tied together with an invisible string.  But when a connection screams to me as loudly as this, I must take to the mountain tops, or at least to the internet. It is so clear to me now.

 

After learning about this first Premier League controversy of 2015-16, I’ve solved a grim dilemma.  Dr. Eva Carneiro should work for Arsenal.

 

Eva Carneiro

 

Dr. Carneiro is a brilliant and accomplished physician with an excellent track record of keeping players healthy and on the pitch. For example, in 2013-14, while she was a first-team doctor during José Mourinho’s return campaign, Chelsea posted the second fewest days lost to injury, at 556. Only Stoke City lost fewer days to injury, with 555 (stats courtesy of physioroom.com).

 

In contrast, Arsenal have long been the poster children for fragility in the Premier League. Some injuries have been tragic, such as Aaron Ramsey’s broken leg; some have been absurd in their repetitiveness (see: Diaby, Abou; Wilshere, Jack; van Persie, Robin; Rosicky, Tomas). The preceding list is so long and easy to recount that it leaves me flabbergasted.

 

The Gunners have been in poor health, and they need a better doctor. I know, sure, they hired former German National Team trainer Shad Forsythe only a year ago. But if Jack Wilshere or Mathieu Debuchy’s entire lower halves have anything to say about it, I remain skeptical. Dr. Carneiro joining Arsenal’s staff as a first-team physio is written in the stars. There’s no need to sell Eva on the new locale — she already works in London! As far the working environment, well, let’s just say Arsène Wenger is clearly not Mourinho. For one, I know for a fact that Wenger doesn’t demand daily bowel movement reports, as I’ve heard rumors that José may or may not require of all his staff.

 

Jose Mourinho

 

More fundamentally, Arsène does not suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is a Cluster-B personality organization that stems from central ego deficits. He won’t harangue you in front of the media for doing your job, and then ostensibly demote you (in spite of the fact that the physio’s job is apparently an impossible balancing act of knowing when your asshole players are faking it, having the full tactical acumen of a coach to know when exactly to ignore a potentially injured player, and then also deciding to not do your job sometimes).

 

Go to the Emirates, Dr. Carneiro. You’ve been treated in a ghastly manner, and surely the Gunners hierarchy could find a place for a mistreated yet excellent staff member.

 

By the way, does anyone reading remember the number of days lost to injury for Arsenal in 2014? 1,716. Yes, that’s well over three times that of Chelsea’s.

 

Good luck to all parties this year!

 

Sincerely,

— Antoine Poutine.

 


Five Thoughts on Arsenal’s Win Over Chelsea

Written by :
Published on : August 2, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arsène Wenger Overcomes José Mourinho for the first time in a hundred and fifty eight years, in a game with no meaning.  

 

 

  • While it was clear that Chelsea was never in fifth gear, they pressed Arsenal for the second half of the game with a greater sense of incision. Replacing Remy with Falcao, and, more crucially, Ramires with Oscar, opened up the field with more creative movement. However, Arsenal’s defense looked stout. Perhaps most importantly, there was a palpable air of confidence about them. The addition of Petr Cech may well prove to be the missing ingredient for an Arsenal team that never seems solid or organized under pressure.

 

  • Chelsea still has a scary “on” switch. Substitutions notwithstanding, Fabregas was the straw that stirred the drink in the second half. When he started finding those deadly passes to runners-on like Hazard, and when Hazard started running hard at defenders, the complexion of the game changed. Playing so forcefully against a well-drilled, organized squad, without a striker of Costa’s caliber, illustrates that Chelsea are still the prohibitive favorites to win the Premier League this year.

 

 

  • Then again, did anyone notice someone missing from Arsenal’s side? Yes, that was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the role of Arsenal’s Best Player, Alexis Sanchez, filling in admirably with an incredible offensive display. Despite that glorious goal, Ox is not a player of Sanchez’s ability. It bodes incredibly well for Arsenal that they may actually boast the depth that’s been proven to be so necessary for challenging for the title. I think of Manchester City and the Dzekos and Milners of their recent heyday, plugging holes and scoring goals (also the title of my favorite erotic film about soccer).

 

  • Olivier Giroud continues to outclass his reputation. The man has everything you’d want out of a striker except speed; his vision and touch are reliable and deft, he’s physically capable of both being a link in a chain as well as a holding fulcrum. He can finish in the air, with both feet, uphill, in the snow. Arsenal detractors can just stay away from this blind spot. It has a hawk’s profile and swooping hair and I love him.

 

 

  • Jose Mourinho will undoubtedly return to his immaculate, hermetically sealed underground chamber this evening with a small tic. He’ll hand his game clothes to his personal assistant, referred to only as “Object,” for incineration. Object will return to the sleeping quarter with an elegant Cat O’ Nine Tails, decorated with golden filigrees and the name “Arsène.” At this point Mou says calmly to Object, “initiate the sequence.” Object begins the Flagellation Ritual Of Defeat to Mourinho’s abject horror and delight. The game’s greatest manager will relish this loss for its meaninglessness. Object begins to clean up and prepare Jose’s Oxygen tent for sleeping.

 


A Note on Manchester United

Written by :
Published on : July 31, 2015

 

Please bear in mind that this has nothing to do with performance or prediction; I have (so far) watched a single half of football played out by this team, this absurd, spoiled brat’s toy chest of a starting eleven called Manchester United. They have nonetheless beautifully encapsulated their aspirational, indefatigable idiocy. Their team is what happens when one removes all restrictions from some Fantasy Football Manager, or Fifa Career Simulator.

How can there be Manchester United Fans? What are they fans of? Leveraged Buyouts? Those up-and-comers at Och-Ziff Capital Management Group? Another question: what happens if the team wins anything this year? Another question: Can you imagine how strange it will feel for nearly every relevant player on the pitch to have hauled in a trophy after only being at the club for like, a day?

These players are all excellent, by the way! I witnessed the fluid talent of Memphis Depay – whose last name I recall manically, nasally repeating in Ian Darke’s brogue during WC14 – pirouette with grace through three Paris Saint-Germain defenders. His backheel was anticipated before a cunning play could even happen, but one sensed the spirit of innovation that might awaken the likes of Mata, or Januzaj, or maybe even Cantona. Perhaps Louis Van Gaal’s legendary testicles will even remain concealed for the whole year. Yet no matter how they perform, United are not united, they are not even a fictional army of one. They’re Blackwater.


memphis

 

Do I care that five years ago, PSG was in the exact same situation, perhaps more ridiculous for their complete and decades-long irrelevance from world football? Do I care that United have essentially copied the formula of their traditional lesser, Manchester City, or Chelsea before them (only instead of having the benefit of an infinitely rich angel investor, they remain nearly four hundred million pounds in debt as a club)? Of course not. Manchester United are stupider, and are stupid now.

 

PSG

 

They were almost incredible to watch, by the way; Mata almost combined intuitively with Memphis, who could almost finish a beautiful lay-off. At one point Rooney almost scored a goal but instead misfired the ball wildly to nobody like his legs were defective Roman candles. It didn’t matter that they were quickly losing, first by one, then by two. I watched a bit of the second half, when they substituted Schweinsteiger for Schneiderlin in some sort of reverse-Vichy move. The latter was appropriately gun-shy. It didn’t matter that Angel Di Maria didn’t even play. It doesn’t matter. None of it.

Manchester United are the Team of Magical Thinking; of debt peonage and aggressive branding. All it took was the mere sum of two hundred twenty million pounds to form another fictional super-squad that might be good. Be proud, sons of Old Trafford, as your hallowed halls ring with that richness of tradition; Sir Alex’s years of psychological mastery are slowly fading into the new era. It is one of auto-generated players unsure of what city they live in, barely recognizing each other, lifting trophies forged in the fires of Mount Meretriciousness. My only request of United fans: tell us poor serfs what it’s like to sit on the Plastic Throne once you get there.

 

 


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