The Beautiful Game
When the FA Cup started this season, before the "Proper" rounds of late, there were hundreds of teams competing the preliminary rounds. A long was still to go before the quarterfinals, this weekend's third round proper - the moment where Premier League and League Championship sides enter the fray - was full of what soccer fans: controversy, late goals, upsets and Arsene Wenger walking off the pitch with his arms crossed in hilarious and delicious disappointment.
If you happened to read my rambling post last week
and happened to, impressively, make it to the end of that monstrosity, you would have seen that I made some predictions for the round. And because I'm lazy and still hungover on the #ToiletWine I imbibed during yesterday's CrapTastiCast (expected to drop tomorrow), I suppose that recapping my predictions is as good/bad/pathetic way to talk about how the weekend went.
I... did not do so great.
Jet lag is a crazy bitch.
I've been back in the U.S. for under 48 hours, neither me nor my darling son are yet settled into the time difference yet, he's been crying for 87% of this New Year's Day, I've been beating myself up with the marathon of Being: Liverpool on FSC today with healthy helpings of mimosas and cookies while my lady looks on disapprovingly, the Buffalo Bills have been entertaining us all with a smoke and mirrors show the like we've never seen, and other than my piss-my-pants-in-excitement post cheering the firing of Chan "I refuse to use my suer-talented running back due to unresolved issues with my father and his tendency to call me a dickless failure" Gailey, I haven't contributed to this site in a few weeks which is long for me because I'm, well, obsessive about giving you fresh plates of steaming hot takes as often as possible.
Run-on sentences are my jam when I'm this tired.
I would talk at greater length about those Buffalo Bills but Joe Pinzone asked me to be on his podcast tonight so I wouldn't want to ruin it for the six of you that happen to listen. It goes without saying that, if you were to observe the spectrum of Bills' fan outlooks after Russ Brandon was elevated to President and CEO of Los Billeros, I would be somewhere close to the "dear god please stab me in the dick this team is perpetually shit and nothing is going to change that." Don't worry, sometime in March I'll be overly optimistic about our Bills and will lose my last shreds of credibility for the dozens of people that read this site, I'm sure.
Today, though, it's all about the footy - specifically the English brand of it. Just back from that transatlantic trip to London for the holiday, its unsurprising that I'd confine myself to the English game. After all, one game past the midway point of the Premier League season, things are starting to get pretty interesting, and with the FA Cup's Third Round on tap for this weekend, there's plenty to keep fans of the English game entertained.
And if you're not a fan of the English game, it must be said, you're a fucking moron. This shit is amazing.
After the jump -- Liverpool confound with their frustratingly inconsistent play, Manchester United continues to firm up their foothold on the top of the table while their Sky Blue neighbors flounder, Arsenal bounce back from their 0-2 defeat at home to Swansea, and Harry Redknapp is a blustered ball of frustration and I love it. Oh, and some unfounded FA Cup predictions because why the fuck not?
Welp. Hurricane Sandy is upon us, I’m holed up in Central Massachusetts in probably the first of many moments of overprotective parenting, The Scizz is ragestorming at the flippancy of twitter in a time of potential crisis, Yachtsman and Apologist are playing video games like the two brave burnouts they are, Outlander is cursing the fact he had to work and remain in close proximity to certified morons, and The Continental is currently cruising the aisles at her local supermarket in the hopes of bedding some hurricane tail.
Just so we’re all clear about the current state of things.
Don't Worry. I'm Here To Help.
This past week/weekend brought yet another slate of highly entertaining soccer, with MLS playoff implications to be decided, Champions League and Europa action, and a Merseyside Derby that will have my blood boiling for at least another week. Or, at least until I have consumed at least a dozen or so adult sodas in rapid succession.
On top of the events on the pitches of the footballing world, news has come out that NBC Universal has successfully obtained the American television rights for the English Premier League, and their announcement has made it clear that American fans should expect expanding coverage and, more importantly, options to watch all games in real time. While the skeptic in me reigns supreme, especially after the coverage fails during the Summer Olympics, I’m looking forward to what this might look like next year.
And, as Grant Wahl mentioned on Twitter today
, this deal may spell bad things for the NHL’s market share if they don’t fucking get their act together. Interesting stuff, in any event.
On to the steaming hot takes!!
Oh fiddlesticks in the meadow with the cows as they're coming home, it's 5 am and I can't sleep and I wager my son will wake up by the time I finish this poor excuse for a post and I have to be at church in 4 hours and woohoo! fatherhood!
Much of this may not make any sense. Also: Apologist may be posting on the heels of this, so with any luck barely anyone will read it. Also also: I do not intend to use impeccable punctuation, grammar or spelling. So be sure to hop on the comments to make yourself feel better by pointing out my errors. Only pimple-faced trolls make it a habit of starting fights on the internet, anyway.... /ignores clear hypocrisy of that statement /takes yet another bite of now stale baptismal cake from last week /gulps down half glass of milk mixed with my vanishing integrity
The world of world football marches on, despite my wish that it would take a slight break while I try to get some fucking rest, and this week was chock full of action and, happily, not the typical slate of depressing results. There are a couple of games to still happen this morning -- Roma plays, I believe, which would satisfy lingering Michael Bradley lust if I hadn't just watched Mr. Clean in USMNT action; and QPR is at home to surprisingly strong, but waiting for the other shoe to drop, Everton. Neither of these matches I will watch, though if anything all that interesting happens, I reserve the right to usurp Aps' post with a hastily slapped together update with some bad jokes about Italians and/or some BonerJamz references to my love for Timmy Howard.
On to the hot takes!!*
comin at ya, sucka emcees
With the Deeg fully ensconced in the game of American Throw, Catch & Run Ball, and with fatherly duties perhaps keeping me away from my obviously more important duties here at the Deeg, it would be easy to coast a little bit with my contributions. Yet, if last Saturday night's "live" blog and the subsequent opportunities to watch a little more soccer than usual while on a slice of paternity leave, it's that I fucking love this sport. Sure, the NFL is tons of capitalist fun, but good Christ - there is little in the world that compares to watching the uninterrupted action of a game of soccer played at the highest levels of the sport.
So, for those of you who share that love or who like what I write enough to suffer through posts about one of your least favorite sports, I'll be trying to re-settle into a niche here at the Deeg while everyone else is talking about CJ "Blue Jesus" Spiller and the Bills' two lines of monster football players who remind us all (a little bit too much, probably) of what went down in Orchard Park about 20 years ago. (Not that this will keep me from chiming in on the Bills, since it is game day...)
The format for these forays into footy, if you give a shit, will be a breakdown of the handful of games that I got a chance to watch or follow closely over the course of the last week, followed by a sprinkle of quick thoughts about the squads that matter to me, whether it be Liverpool, the Red Bulls, (mostly because I love Michael Bradley) Roma or the US Senior National Teams. With the kiddo and my waning attention span, your guess is as good as mine as to how long I keep at this with any frequency. Finger crossing, as with all things, is encouraged.
Click "Read More" to, you guessed it! -- READ MORE.
With the Scizz striking a positive tone in his latest thoughts on our Buffalo Bills
- thoughts I generally agree with, even if they make me backtrack on some of my more ominous predictions of last week
- and with my vested interest in the Sabres still a few weeks away, I'm going to try to channel my scattered mess of soccer thoughts into a regular routine. I think it's fair to say that there's a growing interest in the sport amongst Buffalo sports fans, due in part to the growing popularity of the US Men's and Women's teams, as well as local favorites WNY Flash (champions!!) and FC Buffalo (future champions!!). And while crotchety members of the Buffalo blog/social media sports scene may begrudge this growing trend, associating it with some sort of annoying hipster vibe even, those hard-nosed, resistant-to-change douchebags probably don't read this blog anyway. (Sidenote: I get the argument that soccer fans are occasionally smug about their fandom. Much in the same way that opponents of the Iraq war came off as smug about our opposition to Bush's blood for oil scheme. Sometimes, when you're right, it feels like you're living in crazy town talking with people who have yet to step out of the cave and into the light. So, yeah, you get smug and reference Plato, envelop yourself in your own superiority, and come off as a dick. What can I say? It's a burden being so awesome and enlightened in your worldview.)
So I bring you now the first installment of my Closing Arguments on the Premiership - the Week 3 Edition.
Liverpool 3, Bolton 1
Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson celebrate breaking through at Anfield
Unless I'm unusually depressed about the result, these posts will always feature the Reds first and foremost. A Red supporter since the days of Michael Owen before his transfers to Real Madrid and Newcastle - I am ever the sucker for prototypical good looks in my sports heroes - my interest has been rejuvenated of late by the King Kenny Revival currently in full swing in Merseyside. As I've discussed in previous posts on the subject
, the summer was full of transfer news for the Reds, and - like many fans - I was very eager to see if the money spent would have a positive impact on the pitch. (Sound familiar, Sabre fans?). After a disappointing first week result, Liverpool took advantage of a weakened Arsenal team last week, and was looking to continue that success against perennial mid-table dwellers, the Bolton Wanderers. With a ridiculous 9 straight wins against Bolton (including many that came during the recent Dark Ages for Liverpool football), few doubted that the stacked Liverpool roster would fail to secure three points at home.The Reds did not disappoint, and they took home their most convincing win of this young season, particularly since the scoring came from players who had yet to find
themselves with goals this season. Jordan Henderson, the young midfielder acquired from Sunderland during the summer, scored the first of the afternoon as he found the net with a beautiful strike from distance. While Luis Suarez was kept off the score sheet for the first time this year, his pass on the leadup to Henderson's goal was the kind of thing that makes you recall why you love the game so much in the first place. Just watch how he gets the ball into the box.... (and my apologies if the EPL shuts this video down at some point; for some reason this league HATES making highlights accessible to fans)
Henderson's strike was, of course, well-taken and impressive in its own right. It was nice to see the kid break through after being so highly touted this summer.
Also finding the net, with both a goal and a great helper on a corner kick, was Charlie Adam, another of Liverpool's summer signings. Reds fans have been without a quality corner kick taker for a few years now, particularly with the left foot, and Adam showed on Saturday why this is considered one of the better parts of his game. His assist on Martin Skrtel's second half header was simply great. Adam's goal, which came only a minute later, was also quite good, though some of it has to be laid upon the failures of Bolton's back four, as Adam had a TON of space as he converted that chance. That said, Liverpool is going to be mighty tough to beat if Adam starts finding his feet over the next few games. Now if only Andy Carroll can get going...shit will get real.
Chelsea 3, Norwich City 1 Fernando Torres: Still Ineffective. Still a Little Bitch
The other big match of Saturday - in that I watched most of it and had a vested interest in because it featured two of my least favorite Premier League players - was Chelsea hosting recently promoted Norwich City. Unlike the Liverpool game, which was not as close as the 3-1 scoreline suggests, Chelsea's two goal win over Norwich was much closer than one might think. After taking a 1-0 lead, Chelsea allowed the game to be tied on a nice volleyed shot over the keeper by Norwich striker Grant Holt. Chelsea ultimately took the lead back on a questionable call (#understatement) following a take down by the Norwich keeper in the box, leading to a red card and subsequent Frank Lampard penalty on the freshly substituted backup keeper. I say questionable because Liverpool's Luis Suarez was taken down in a similar moment in Week 1 against Sunderland, and - while a penalty was similarly awarded then - no red card was issued, meaning no keeper coming on cold to handle the subsequent penalty kick. (Not that Luis's attempt was missed because of the keeper...but, still).
After Lampard scored, the game was essentially over, and was sealed soon after by Spanish player.Juan Mata. See! Spanish players can score for the Blues. Just not ones named Fernando Torres. Because, as has been established, dude is a little bitch. Speaking of bitches, Didier Drogba was taken off the pitch with a very serious concussion - reports are that he was out cold for 30 minutes or more, but is recovering ok. My hatred for Drogs runs very deep, mostly because he often represents the kind of whining and embellishment that gives soccer players a bad reputation. It is taking a lot of willpower to not kick him while he's down about the delicious irony inherent in his injury after years of embellished falls on the pitch. Get better, Drogba, so I can give you a proper verbal lashing without the guilt.
Man City 5, Tottenham 1 - Man Utd 8, Arsenal 2 Emblematic of the Spurs' effort on Sunday
I put these games together because, as a Liverpool fan, these two matches meant A LOT for the Reds' 2011-12 chances of a top four finish. As an initial matter, the winners of these two matches are looking to be the top 2 teams of the EPL this year, and it seems pretty apparent that the two Manc sides are STACKED. Man City benefited from four tallies from Edin Dzeko, who has admitted in interviews that he was scared of being cut from the City roster given the quality of players. And City also benefited from a weak Tottenham squad - maybe thrown off by the riots that delayed the start of their season a couple weeks back? - who is suffering from drama over transfer rumors implicating possible losses of stars Peter Crouch and Luka Modric. Harry Redkapp, the Tottenham skipper, has noted that there is a distinct downturn in player morale given these issues, particularly since ownership has made it very clear that neither player is for sale. Not good times for the Hotspurs (currently in the relegation zone with ZERO points and a -7 goal differential on the year, albeit in only two games). Was going to post a Wenger crying pic, but even I have limits
After the early match on Sunday, Fox Soccer's featured match of the day came up between Manchester United and Arsenal, last season's #1 and #4, respectively. As Liverpool saw last week, Arsenal just isn't the same this year, and United continued the theme with an ABSOLUTE ASS WHOOPING. Rooney scored his triple, and Arsenal looked a fucking mess. Now barely above the relegation zone themselves, with a -8 goal differential, it looks like it could be a seriously long season for the Gooners. To be fair, of course, Arsenal has just played back-to-back matches against two clubs - LFC and Man Utd - that are both favorites for the top 4, but it doesn't change the fact that they simply look terrible. There's a difference between losing and losing like Arsenal did on Sunday, and even though Wenger is said to be secure in his job, I can only wonder how long this can last without some heads rolling at the Emirates.
Either way, the state-of-things for the Spurs and Gooners is promising for the Reds, as the failures of these teams would seem to open the door a bit to LFC taking one of those top spots for a Champions League birth.
And the rest...
I didn't watch much else of the EPL this weekend, though I did catch some highlights. Wolverhampton are early surprises, though their schedule has not been terrible challenging. Queens Park Rangers, while losing this past weekend, are notable for their win at Everton on August 20th, and their loss to Wigan included three dingers off the post, which should be heartening to those fans who want to see QPR succeed in the Premiership after winning the lower-tiered League Championship last year. Fulham, led by Clint Dempsey and owned by a bat-shit crazy fucker that puts Ralph Wilson to shame, have been disappointing for fans who want the best for Clint or who weirdly support teams with Michael Jackson statues outside their parks
And with that, hope you all enjoyed, since the EPL is on a hiatus for international play over the next couple weeks. I'll be back after Week 4, hopefully with continued good tidings regarding the Reds and continued bad tidings regarding the Gooners and/or Mancs and/or Blues. If you're a fan of these teams, my apologies, though I can't be blamed for your poor choices.Follow me on Twitter.
Or don't. Whatever works.