tirsdag den 18. august 2009

More (much more) football

Three matches I want to talk about.

The Manchester City-Blackburn game that I watched at the weekend and forgot about in the last entry.

A very entertaining Berlusconi Cup game between Juventus and AC Milan yesterday.

And finally the Champions League qualifier that finished a few hours ago between Celtic and Arsenal.

How much will be about the actual games and how much will be about the individual teams only time will tell...

Blackburn - Manchester City:

As everyone knows Manchester City have become filthy rich and have been more than happy to hand out tons of cash to secure (mainly attacking) talent.
Ignoring what came in last season this season alone in has come players such as Adebayor, Santa Cruz, Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry and Kolo Toure.
All to certain degrees world class players and they join what on paper was already a strong squad.
The overwhelming question is of course if Mark Hughes with all that talent can create a world class team so strong it can challenge the traditional dominating top four.

Personally I think they already underachieved quite a bit last season and this year with these players dramatic improvement is simply a must and I think there can be no excuse not to finish in the top 5.
Villa, Everton and Tottenham mainly, have good squads too but when it comes to world class talent and depth thanks to their enormous spending Manchester City have pulled away and is now up there with the four strongest teams.
When it comes to players. But what about the manager?

Mark Hughes has recived quite a bit of credit over the years. First as Wales manager with his team often performing gallantly and later what was seen as generally overachieving when in charge of Blackburn.
It was rather limited how much I saw those teams play and even more limited how much I actually remember...
But my general impression was one of a team rarely well organized and sometimes with a rather misguided game plan. For what its worth, limited sample size, bad memory and all, it was just one of those teams that sometimes didn't look all that well coached when looking at them, mainly without the ball.

For Manchester City the picture has been similar. Very up and down and Hughes record of 26 wins, 8 draws and 24 defeats so far, is far from impressive.

To be honest I'm not totally sure what system Hughes was playing against Blackburn and its pointless to get caught up in the numbers too much anyway since they change around so much.
The backline was obviously four people and they played very well I thought.
Then Barry and Ireland (out of need in a more defensive role) as central midfielders, and depending on where Wright Phillips, Robinho and Bellamy were located the system was either 4-4-2 or 4-3-3ish.
I actually think Bellamy and Wright Phillips did an admirable job working extremely hard both ways but they aren't exactly great defensive players and Robinho's usual lack of workrate prevented what was probably meant to be a 4-4-2 when defending sticking together and being effective, basically giving Blackburn very favorable conditions to almost at will move the ball to the final third of the pitch, where thankfully for City, both the defense and Shay Given played very well preventing goals.
Hughes putting Wright Phillips and especially Robinho on the wings of a 4-4-2 just will not work longterm and better attacking, more ball secure teams than Blackburn will likely pick it apart.

What should give City hope is the signing of Tevez who outside of Wayne Rooney could be the best two-way forward in the world. He is the kind of player who with his work-rate can complement the likes of Robinho and Adebayor so they can concentrate on what they're actually very good at. Attacking!
Meanwhile someone like Tevez will get it done both ways.

But in a 4-4-2?
A three forward line of Tevez - Adebayor - Robinho would seem more logical and get the best of out those players. Robinho is almost wasted as a wing in a 4-4-2. All Robinho should be asked to do in a game is to attack, to create, and further behind someone like Ireland is also much better with two more defensive midfielders. Gareth Barry being one. Nigel De Jong probably the other.
As well as they actually played yesterday, Bellamy and Wright Phillips with this competition are very good depth players getting games here and there. Starting either over someone like Tevez is a disaster.

Forward of course City looked very good. They can give any team problems with their pace and excellent skill up front and Adebayor, if Santa Cruz at some point doesn't come back and seriously challenge his starting spot, should have a monster season.

But this was a flattering score line I thought. Blackburn had the more chances. Way more shots and a midfield actually consisting of more than two players!
Individually though with everyone playing relatively well the quality gap was large enough in City's favour in order for them to secure a win.
As a team they and Hughes still has some way to go though I think, but put Tevez in a 4-3-3 with Adebayor and Robinho and I think we have a serious top 4 challenger!

AC Milan vs Juventus

For the glorious Berlusconi Cup:
Glorified friendly anyone?

But this was actually a really good game I thought with both teams competing hard seemingly with something to prove.

One very positive thing was seeing Alessandro Nesta finally back and looking pretty solid too.
It's very likely he won't remain consistently healthy but all the credit in the world to him for coming back after one injury nightmare after another.
Back when he was healthy he was the best defender that I ever saw. Simply an immense player.
Even as a Juventus fan I felt my heart stop a little every time he, and he didn't seem to hold back at all, went into hard tackles. Stay healthy Alessandro!

Another player who also did this was of course Gattuso who looked much better than in the Confederations Cup and almost got into a fight with new Juventus signing Felipe Melo.
Melo himself saw the red card plenty last season and I definitely expect fireworks from these two when they cross swords later this season in Serie A.
Melo I hope will be a monster. He is a great physical talent with very smooth passing skills.
For Gattuso everything will be about his health. If not 100 percent fit he really isn't good enough at the highest level anymore. Flamini for an example is definitely better at this point. Lets see if the Milan hierachy will finally be broken under new coach Leonardo or if Flamini is still behind veterans Ambrosini and Gattuso in the pecking order.

Other than the new coach the biggest questionmark for Milan this season is of course Ronaldinho. In this game it was basically the usual from the last couple of years with perhaps a better workrate though. At least in this game. I'm not totally sure. But in spurts he did look good.

One interesting thing though is that he wasn't playing his old role or the role previously occupied by Kaka at Milan.
Pato actually did this and was much more of a forward in this game bordering on attacking midfielder involved in buildup, than being a pure striker. He still made some great speedy runs though. Really he was kind of an everywhere man.
To a lesser extent the same was the case with new signing Huntelaar. He was seen a lot of other places than in the box, working really hard.
Personally I think Pato can be great in that role. His talent has no limit almost but to put Huntelaar out of his element like this just to accommodate a Ronaldinho not at his best anymore and not good enough to play the role he used to, having other people to do that, just so he maybe can be effective around the penalty area, WHERE probably the likes of Huntelaar and Pato would be more effective anyway.
It seems when Ronaldiho plays this is what they will do. The question then of course is how much he will play? We shall see.

Finally on Milan and their players, I also thought new Brazilian defender Thiago Silva looked good and a definite upgrade over the likes of the unreliable Kaladze and the ancient Giuseppe Favalli.

Juventus I could probably go on and on about but will try to restrain myself and just concentrate on what I saw in this game.

First of all David Trezeguet sadly looks just about done to me. The last many many times I've seen him play there has been very little productivity and close to zero value for his team and yesterday was no exception.
I can't rule out him finding form again here and there but in this new Ciro Ferrara three-forward line I absolutely hate him playing a vital part. The unrealistic exception being if the other two parts were to be Giovinco and Del Piero.

When it's with Amauri or Iaquinta I just hate what he does to their game and forces them away from where they are best, just so Trezeguet with his non existant workrate can be where he frankly isn't that great anymore and definitely not as good as the alternatives.
Even, if possible, moreso than before he has become strictly a penalty area player and when he isn't even effective there I'm not sure there is room for that in what is supposed to be a flexible 4-3-1-2, or similar, system.
Another challenge for this system looks to be width where Milan for good parts of the game had the edge. When neither Del Piero or Giovinco plays where is attack from the left side gonna come from?
Molinaro is ordinary personified and De Ceglie still has some way to go in my eyes. Then there is the matter of defending the flanks where the midfield really has to find the right constellation in order to not become too stretched out. At least against good teams.
Against a lot of teams however I think most of the likely midfield formations will control games well enough for any width weakpoints not to be a deciding factor. Not least thanks to additions Melo and the excellent Diego.
A Sissoko, Melo and Marchisio/Camoranesi midfield with Diego in front of them looks very elite and I also think, despite some people's opinion, that Christian Poulsen can go in and contribute positively there over a long season.

The game itself was very back and forth with chances for both sides finishing 1-1 with Milan winning THE BERLUSCONI TROPHY on penalties.

Celtic - Arsenal

This was game two (competitively at least) of Arsenal's new 4-3-3 and while things didn't work out perfectly like at the weekend there were still some positives.

Mainly the midfield play where especially Song looked strong and fully capable of fulfilling his role there satisfactory.
Denilson was less eye catching but defensively this was one of the best games I've seen him in. His positioning was really good compared to in the past where it's been way below par.

One positive in a negative was that it was never really from any established Celtic attack that Arsenal found trouble defensively but only from poor decision making resulting in ball losses when in possession. And that's something that actually was below par from Arsenal today. Arsharvin was even more of a shadow of himself than in the weekend and just looked lost at times, while both Van Persie and Bendtner were quite a bit below the level they showed at the weekend.
In the other end Vermaelen looked extremely impressive and already looks like a great signing.
Celtic as expected fought hard but as local analyst here, Martin Laursen brought up, passing it around too much in their own half at times, especially after halftime, didn't do anyone any favours except Arsenal who could quite easily anticipate and at times even intercept.
Celtic should probably have tried skipping that ball movement, played much more direct and made the match even more into a physical battle.
Easier said than done of course and now with a 2-0 to overcome it's extremely difficult to see them having any chance of going through.

My goal is to have the next entry be some kind of Serie A preview before the weekend.

I will also be watching the Athletics World Championship on and off, as well as of course the Tennis from Cincinnati.

1 kommentar:

Morten sagde ...

Berlusconi Cup?! No chance in hell Milan was going to lose that game.

And great entry, by the way - as always. Almost made me interested in football again. Almost.