Monday, July 29, 2013

2012-07-29: More Offseason Thoughts

Delusions / Illusions of Grandeur
What about you David Moyes? What are you smoking?
Liverpool owner John W. Henry famously tweeted 'What do you think they're smoking over there at the Emirates?' over Arsenal's 40,000,001 GBP bid for Luis Suarez. I actually think that Barca president Sandro Rosell ought to say that about Manchester United too.
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What the hell are they smoking over this pursuit of Cesc Fabregas? If you think the Luis Suarez soap opera is ridiculous - then try this one! You're talking about a guy buy spent his last 2-3 seasons at Arsenal trying to worm his way back to his boyhood club... despite the wage increases, despite the Captaincy and despite all the sentimentality that he has developed with the North London club over the near-decade (or more) that he's spent there. What makes you think that you can get Cesc Fabregas to come to United?
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So-called experts have talked about how poor not-so-old Cesc has not been getting playing time at Barcelona because his adaptation process with the Tiki-Taka system has not yet been completed and that he is stuck behind the pecking order of Central midfielders behind Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. Newsflash boys: Cesc played nearly 50 games for Barca last season. He's not the poor, mistreated, bench-warming victim that you think he is. Besides, with the World Cup coming up in the next off-season, do you really expect the 33-year old Xavi to play 50 matches to keep Cesc off the pitch?
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It also seems to me that Manchester United may have overlooked that Arsenal supposedly have first refusal on Cesc should he decide to leave Barcelona again. 
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I honestly am wondering right now: Why won't David Moyes just call back his old Everton apprentice Maruanne Fellaini to join him at United? It's not as if the Belgian midfielder will be asked to shave his afro off if he joins them.
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Is it just me, or does Man U have the look of a team whose countless vulnerabilities (ageing defense, non-existent midfield, Rooney crisis, etc.), which were previously masked by Alex Ferguson's masterful management, are now about to unravel? Everyone knew how great Alex Ferguson was as a manager while he was at United. I on the other hand think that, it will only be when Man U don't have Fergie around in the Unted touchline, when we all truly see and realize how ridiculously great he was.
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Stung by the BVB
It's 'only' a Supercup - but it's still a win vs. Big, Bad Bayern.
A Big Congratulations to Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund! Not only did they manage to win 4-2 vs. arch rivals Bayern Munich, they also managed to get Bayern Coach Pep Guardiola to sound like ex-apprentice Xavi: "We domintated them! Didn't you guys see??? We had 64% possession!" (or something to that effect).
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In the meantime, Jurgen Klopp has now volunteered himself to play the role of being the Bundesliga's Mourinho as a counterpoint to Bayern's Pep. This time however, it'll be the immensely likeable Borussia Coach, (who fancies himself to be a modern-day football management equivalent to Robin Hood) coming out as the underdog hero (and not the quintessential Mourinho villain)... and the uber-hip Pep, now working for the big bad boys - Germany's very own version of the 'Evil Empire' (as Cules like to call Madrid) having to play villain. He may not yet be gouging the eyes of his opposing coaches, but he's been accused of standin up his ill friend in New York in the offseason, and is starting to literally slap his players around in public.
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I wonder if Pep is going to go through some kind of uber-hip, emo-type of existential crisis in dealing with his newfound 'villain-hood'... or if he can own it with a gloating smile like Mourinho. 
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Oh-No, Not Again
Just When I thought 
Late last May, I blogged about some of my post-season thoughts looking forward to the 2013-2014 season with a look at Real Madrid's offseason transfer targets. I distinctly remember writing about wanting to have Gareth Bale in the team (as an upgrade to the inconsistent Angel Di Maria) together with this offseason's Big Fish transfer target, Edinson Cavani (as a replacement to Gonzalo Higuain).
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It must be noted that all those thoughts were made prior to Madrid making any acquisitions (although progress was already being made towards the acquisition of Isco), and I wrote: 
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"...Malaga’s Isco, whom I regard to be a great player and is easily a Real Madrid-calibre player. But with Ozil and Modric already onboard capable of playing the ’10′, I do not believe that he ought to be a priority signing. In my opinion, a young pivot to blood in, is a bigger priority."
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Real Madrid's Current Depth Chart. Currently excludes: Casemiro (Defensive Midfield) and Cheryshev (Wing)
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That young pivot I noted to be the priority turned out to be Illaramendi (a fine signing, overpriced though at 32m). The acquisition of Isco however changes the picture entirely as it adds yet another player in the line of 3 behind the striker. Recent evidence taken for the team's preseason matches seem to show Isco having usurped Di Maria in the starting XI, with the young Spaniard playing as a '10' with Ozil playing on the right (with limited success). Having seen only one half of football among Real Madrid's 3 preseason matches (1st half vs. PSG), I note that the team also somewhat (maybe unintentionally) turns into a 4-2-2-2 (with Ronaldo surging to become a 2nd striker while Isco + Ozil play as twin playmakers behind). I've also read that 'experiments' have been made for Ronaldo to play as a '9', which have not worked out thus far. The 'depth chart' above shows the current team without even a place for Casemiro or Cheryshev... Thus the question then becomes: 
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If Bale comes, Where does he play?  
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-I forsee that one day, Ronaldo's pace will leave him due to father time: and will thus push him forward to play as a '9' when the time comes. That time however, is FAR from being now. Sof there's really no point in making him play as a '9' at the  moment just to accommodate Bale as a left winger.
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-Does the left-footed Bale play on the right as an inverted winger like Di Maria (who played on the left with Benfica)? I have absolute confidence that this will make for an exciting lineup (with the 2 switching wings , constantly, etc.). BUT - this will also mean that one of Isco or Ozil will have to go to the bench... with Kaka who hopes for another chance under Ancelotti. Sounds like a recipe to breed discontent.
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-What chance will recently-promoted Castilla startlets (Jese and Cheryshev) have with 2 must-play wingers in front of them all the time (with Ozil / Isco / Kaka also getting turns to play in the line of 3 behind the striker)?
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And finally - is he really worth 100m Euros? Absolutely not. Gareth Bale has played ONE good season at Spurs (26 goals from 44 matches, 21 in the league). In contrast, Cristiano Ronaldo had THREE great seasons at United (23, 42, 26 goals) prior to his 96m move to Madrid. I am of the opinion that Gareth Bale is, at best, worth only 60m. That's 30m (the price of Spurs target and ex-Castilla player Soldado) + Di Maria (whom you could value at 30m). Anything more, is IMHO, just throwing money into the ocean. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013-07-25 - Thoughts on Transfer Dealings

Neapolitan Flavors
Gonzalo Higuaín at Napoli
As a Madrid fan, I'm happy to see that Pipita will at least leave Real Madrid for a side whose fans will appreciate him. I'll always be thankful for all he's done for my beloved Real Madrid
Well, it now looks like Napoli have sewn up the deal to take Gonzalo 'Pipita' Higuain from Real Madrid. This will now take the Serie A runners-up Real Madrid signings up to 3 after signing Jose Callejon  and Raul Albiol ... and will take their tally of Spanish signings to 5 once you count the loan acquisition of Pepe Reina and the signing of Rafa Benitez in.
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A look at Rafa's 2013 Real Madrid summer spendings reveals something interesting:
1.) Gonzalo Higuain - Striker - 37m (+3m incentives)
2.) Jose Callejon - Winger / Forward - 10m
3.) Raul Albiol - Center Back - 12m
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Let's further add in their other additions:
4.) Dries Mertens - Winger (PSV) - 9.7m
5.) Pablo Armero - Left Midfield (Udinese) - 4m
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Altogether that's 72.7m spent on players. But when you factor in the sale of Edinson Cavani (64m) and Luca Cigarini (2.2m) - that's a net spend of only 6.5m. If that isn't great business on the transfer market, then I don't know what is. With none of Mila, Inter, Roma or Lazio making a big splash in the transfer market, Napoli may have pushed off from the rest of the pack in contending for the scudetto vs Juventus.
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Make no mistake about it, Juve have made some serious upgrades this summer with the free agent acquisition of Fernando Llorente and the purchase of Carlos Tevez - but with a team tactically built around the 34-year old Andrea Pirlo, it is not unfathomable for men men in black-and-white to lose steam and get edged out by Rafa's new look Napoli.
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North London Striker Crisis - Some CRAZY Ideas. (Absolutely NUTS!) 
Stats of Talked-About Strikers in the Current Transfer Market for the past 3 seasons. Prices are in Euros.
(Note: Stats are based on participation in League, Cup and Continental Competitions)
Short a collapse for either Manchester club due to teething problems due to their new managers, I expect to see Chelsea and both Manchester clubs in a dogfight for this coming season's Premier League title and thus establish the 1,2,3 order in the standings. I also expect the 4th place in the Premier League to be contended by both North London clubs (Arsenal and Spurs) unless we see Liverpool's young side click and put together a magical league campaign. 
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The 2 bitter North London rivals are an interesting comparison in that Arsenal is managed by one of the EPL's last remaining long-term managers while Tottenham Hotspur is managed by a young up-and-coming manager with supposedly a boatload of fresh ideas (much like Arsenal's manger was some decades ago when he first turned up). It is interesting to note however that both clubs have the same hole in their roster to fill: a striker.
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Both clubs are saddled with the fact that they have subpar-level strikers in their squads to match their top-4 aspirations. Both clubs are in need of a 20-25 goal/season striker... which is why I am dumbfounded by the fact that neither club looked at Mario Gomez earlier in the transfer window. Let's remember that Mario Gomez spent the 2012-13 season as the second-choice striker behind Mario Mandzukic. But if you look at the seasons before that where he was the first choice striker, the numbers are compelling: 41 and 39 goals playing for a team in a league that plays only 34 games! With those numbers and his physical characteristics which are perfectly suitable to the Premier League, I'm astounded as to why he was not even considered by both North London clubs. He eventually went to Fiorentina for 'only' 20m Euros. 
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Instead, Arsenal loses out on Higuain when their 30m Euro bid is outdone by Napoli's 37m offer. On the flip side, Spurs are playing 'chicken' in the transfer market (as they do annually) to land Roberto Soldado whose price tag is 30m after their failed attempt to play the same game with Aston Villa for Christian Benteke. 
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Crazy thought #1: Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) / Daniel Levy/AVB/Franco Baldini (Spurs) ought to pick up the phone and call long distance to Germany. They should call Borussia Dortmund and have a go for Robert Lewandowski - he'll be out of contract by the end of the coming season, which means he can be acquired for 20-25m... and Dortmund are DESPERATE for any club not named Bayern Munich to land him. They should call Lewandowski and ask him:
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-Why not come and play for THE English Premier League?
-Why not come and play for a London-based club (Big Market Team) playing in the Champions League (disadvantage: Spurs)?
-Why would you wanna wait in Dortmund for one more season and then play for Bayern BEHIND Mario Mandzukic or some midfielder Pep will want to play 'false 9' experiments with? .... and instead you can come here and be THE MAN?
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Crazy Thought #2 (More Applicable to Arsenal): Call PSG and bid for Ibrahimovic. Of course they're talking about playing him with Cavani because they're not as dumb as David Moyes to suggest that one of Ibra or Cavani would be a 'backup'. But in the age of the lone front man, it would be tactically complicated to play the 2 together. Tell Ibrahimovic you would like to give him a chance to make his last hurrah as a big time player in the only major European League he hasn't played in yet (Bundesliga aside) and tell him and Mino Raiola that yes, you are willing to pay his ridiculous wages.
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At age 31, Ibrahimovic might be in the 20-25m GBP price range. 
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So what if he's 31? Didn't Manchester United pay 24m GBP for Robin Van Persie who scored the lights out for them to win the League title? 
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So what if he kicks his opponents and team mates? Arsenal are after all in desperate need of a player with Ibra's bad ass spunk who will kick opponents around just for fun and kick his team mates when they behave like wussies. 
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Arsenal need a badass - They don't come badder than the Zlatan. You just need to pay him.
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The Suarez Saga
''Bite Me!" -Luis Suarez
... Instead Arsenal are trying to buy Luis Suarez and has made a bid for 40,000,001 GBP - an amount, which according to Liverpool, will need to be raised to 50m for Suarez's services - minus 6 matches to start the season. I want to make it clear that I am a HUGE fan of Suarez.... but I just don't think he's the player that Arsenal needs. He's not an out-and-out striker and for a player who has publicly stated his disgust for the 'British Press', it doesn't exactly make sense for him to move to one of the world's Paparazzi and Tabloid Capitals where a slip of the tongue pronouncing the 'N-word' can be broadcasted to the world in seconds.
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They say that Real Madrid is his true objective. They say that Pipita's move to Napoli (and the 37m added to Madrid's coffers) paves the way for a move to my beloved Madrid. By I as a Madridista also do not feel the need for Suarez in our team (Don't get me wrong, I'll enjoy his presence in the team immensely if he does join): we already have an out-and-out striker to backup Benzema (Morata) and a creative, backup behind-the-lone-striker forward (Jese). 
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Suarez should instead have a talk with his bosses and come to an agreement: I'll stay and give my all, you install all the pieces around me to make us into a top 4 team. If we make it, I'll stay on. If we don't, then you let me go to any CL-participating team who is willing to fork out 'in excess of' 40m GBP for me.
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Yup, that means 40,000,001 GBP will do the job.