Tag Archives: theo walcott

Pieces of Eight: Why Spain is So Money and Other Euro Observations

Well that was fun.  Lots of goals, an upset or two, some behind-the-scenes drama… and for what? At the end of three weeks, the new Champions are the same as the old Champions.  The footballing universe is balanced and unsullied, and in six weeks, we can go back to watching club football.  In the meantime, enjoy my little observations about the highlight of the summer.  Don’t you dare mention the Olympics!!!

1) This Spanish side may be the best international side ever.  Duh.
Euro.  World Cup.  Euro.  Nineteen players in the side have now won both tournaments.  More than half of those players will still be under 30 by the time they reach Rio in two years time (not to mention next year’s Confederations Cup).  An average possession rate of at least 65%.  A side that has gone 646 minutes without conceding a goal in a knock-out match.  This is more than a “Golden Generation”;  this is utter and complete dominance.

2) Buffon and Pirlo are studs.
Despite every indication that they would do the opposite, the Italians (the Italians?) took the game to Spain, trying to play offensive and open-pitch football (seriously, the Italians?!?).  Prandelli’s tactics allowed the world to see Andrea Pirlo’s incredible play-making abilities. Pirlo is a big reason why Juventus won the Scudetto this season, and AC Milan (his old team) didn’t.   Meanwhile, Buffon faced a barrage of attempts, especially in the final’s second half. When the winners were getting their medals, Buffon was stoic in defeat.

Prandelli: “Balotelli has to learn to accept defeat.”

3) Balotelli needs to grow up.
He may have put on a clinic against ze Germans… but Mario is still a super baby.  He stormed off the pitch after Italy lost against the Spaniards and was the last person to receive his medal.  That’s too bad because he had an exemplary tournament.   Colourful players with heaps of talent have always made the game more interesting…. but Balotelli can be a detriment to his team(s).  Luckily for both Italy and Manchester City, his behaviour may mellow with time.  Witness another former petulant son in…

4) Cristiano Ronaldo.  He’s an incredible player… he just needs a team.
Like the Italians, the Portuguese weren’t expected to do much.   Critics assumed that Ronaldo would once again be unable to replicate his club form for A Seleccao.  But not only did Ronaldo have a great tournament, he showed tremendous un-Ronaldo-like restraint as teams gave him a kicking.   Old Ronaldo would have flopped around like a fish.   New Ronaldo recorded the most shots in the tournament.   Too bad that he also hit the wood work more than any other player… and let’s not even mention the penalty shot that never was.

5) The end of the Van Marwijk era means the end of the Van Bommel era, et al.  Praise Cheebus.
The Dutch gaffer opted for pretty much the same side as he used in the World Cup. Oops.

Before the tournament even began, the players exhibited symptoms of Dutch Disease: an in-fighting both in and out of the public spotlight that hobbled everyone. Their performance on the pitch reflected the lack of unity and tactics.  One hopes that it wasn’t nepotism that led Van Marwijk to start his over-the-hill son-in-law Mark Van Bommel.  The captain sums up all that’s wrong with the Oranje:  old, dirty, and petulant.  A mid-tournament rebellion in the dressing room, followed by an early exit,would make the Dutch this year’s France, except that…

6) France is this year’s France.
After a disastrous World Cup campaign in South Africa, you’d think Les Tricoloures would avoid their petty squabbles and unite under Laurent Blanc. Malheureusement, it was not to be. Reports of a dressing room bust-up after losing to Sweden in their final group-stage match was followed by Samir Nasri’s unseemly outburst towards a reporter. A tidy loss to the eventual champions meant the end of another tournament… and the dismissal of another manager.

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité… Someone tell the French players.

The other sad Mario…

7) Das Jahr der Schrecken for Bayern Munich players.
What a season for the eight men out who play for both the German national team and Bayern Munich.  Bayern suffered a double domestic loss to Borussia Dortmund in both the Bundesliga and the DKB-Pokal, followed by a baffling defeat at Chelsea’s hands at home in the Champions League.  Top that off with Germany’s semi-final loss to unfancied Italy and they face a tough summer staring into their schnitzel.  Mario Gomez even lost out on the Euro Golden Boot because he tied Fernando Torres in goals and assists, but took more minutes to do it!  Scheisse!

8) England, thanks for coming out.
Joe Hart and Steven Gerrard played well.  Surprisingly, so did John Terry.  Andy Carroll scored the same amount of goals as Wayne Rooney, but played 50 less minutes.  Theo Walcott had a game to remember.  Now let’s never mention this again.

Brent Lanthier

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bundesliga, Euro 2012

England’s Unlikely Lads

“Help us, Oxlade-Chamberlain… you’re our only hope!”

For the first time in my living memory, England are not being trumpeted as a possible winner of a major tournament. No sane person, nor any insane ones, has England progressing past the quarter-finals.  In fact, most would consider it an achievement to get out of the group. So is there any way that England can possibly exceed expectations and actually win this thing?

Play like Greece

“Tell me more, tell me more, did they get very far?”

Well, yes they did. They won the whole bloody thing in 2004.

 “How?”

We’re not quite sure. But the Hellenic victory was built on a very solid defensive performance. They scraped through the group stages on goals scored, ahead of Spain. Then they scored a single goal and held on to win 1-0 against France in the quarters.  In the semis, they took the Czech Republic into extra time after a goalless 90 minutes and notched another 1-0 victory. And in the final — you guessed it — 1-0 against Portugal.

 “Er… can England do that?”

Why not, my curious friend? England’s strength is their solid defence.  Combine that with a world class goalkeeper in Joe Hart and tackling fiend Scott Parker protecting the back four, and you may have the Three Lions’ only chance.

“But weren’t Greece just lucky?”

Well yes, in a way.  But Italy have always based their game on a solid defence while nicking the odd goal, and they’ve not done too badly. Chelsea won the Champion’s League by parking the bus against Barcelona and Bayern and then riding their luck. Switzerland defeated Spain in the World Cup with a similar tactic.  So it’s not beyond reason.

Unleash the Ox

“Who is this Ox that you speak of?”

Well the Ox is a symbol of power, strength, resurrection, masculinity, fertility, fatherhood and kingship.  I know that sounds like John Terry describing a night on the town (or a tweet from Joey “I’ve swallowed Wikipedia” Barton), but in this case we are talking about Alexander Mark David Oxlade-Chamberlain.

“Is he any good?”

He has burst onto the scene similar to a young Wayne Rooney 10 years ago (yes, it was 10 years ago!).  He’s 18 years old, as strong as an… well, okay, an ox.  Plus he has electric speed and a cracking shot on him.

“He sounds great! What could go wrong?”

It’s England. We always have a player who will “win it all” for us and it never happens.  From Beckham to Owen to Rooney, we always seem to have somebody that we pin our hopes on. It’s like pinning the tail on the donkey… except that when you open your eyes, the donkeys are on the pitch.

“So how does England get the best out of him?”

It’s tempting to start him and then let him run at defences, scaring them half to death,  but I think in most people’s minds he’ll be an impact substitute. But do English fans really want to rely on the hope that AOC can change the game in the last 20 minutes? With Rooney’s absence in the first two games, it might be worth deploying the young Arsenal player from the start, using his youthful exuberance to give us a chance.  Roy Hodgson can always drag him off and put some other clueless wonder on.  Step forward, Mr. Walcott.

Wayne might be up for it

“Does Krakow have red light districts?”

Haha.. you cheeky scamp. We actually mean that, after a long season, Rooney will miss the first two games due to the red card he received against Macedonia.  After watching the sh!t show that is England stumble around for 180 minutes, Wayne will be chomping at the bit to get involved… and he just may be ready to take it out on the Ukraine and then be raring to go if we get to the knockout stage.

“Haven’t we been here before?”

Yes.  Sadly we have. Whether it’s the swish of red being shown, or a metatarsal snapping like a turkey wishbone, you can bet our hopes will be dashed upon the rocks like an Italian cruise ship. (Ed. Note: ATR takes no responsibility for this insensitive — and frankly, obvious — simile).

I’m holding out for a hero

“Is Bonny Tyler going to sing the half-time entertainment?”

No, but Martin Tyler might sing a ditty or two if we ask nicely.  What we actually mean is that we need someone to step up and grab this tournament by the scruff of the neck and drag us through to the finals.

“But who, good sir? Who can save us?”

Who needs to lead England to victory? This guy…

Good question. It’s about time Captain Hollywood — and by that we mean Stevie G — stepped up and played as well in an England shirt as he has for Liverpool. It’s his last hurrah as his career seems to be on the downward slope… so there it’s now or never. We’ll take a few Roy of the Rover moments.  A 30-yard screamer into the top corner as the Germans sink to the turf will do us just fine.

“Is he our only hope?”

No. Rooney is another player with the ability to put us on his back and crash us through the European defenses.  Maybe even Jordan Hend… what’s that? No! You said I had 30 minutes on the computer. It’s MY turn. I’m not taking those pills. You can’t make me. I don’t want to go to my room. Mother? Not mother? (Sounds of a struggle ensue, as the author’s screams reach a higher pitch.  This is followed by squeals of laughter as the author is tickled into submission.  How bizarre).

Kevin Hoggard is a frequent contributor to At The Rails about his miserable experiences as an England fan.

1 Comment

Filed under English Football, Euro 2012

Northeast gets Sweet FA from Cup ties

Winning never hurt so good...

The world’s oldest football tournament almost never disappoints, with its share of cracking matches, and sometimes… cracking bones.  Here are some of the highlights from Saturday’s FA Cup fixtures:

– Arsenal will have to travel to the hostile Elland Road for a replay, after barely drawing Leeds United 1-1 at the Emirates.  The only reason the Arse are still alive is because of a penalty given after a Walcott dive.  Kids today…

As if! Diouf can't believe what Neil Warnock said about him

– Speaking of dirty cheaters, El-Hadji Diouf did his best impression of a human heel in Blackburn Rover’s 1-0 win over Queen’s Park Rangers.  According to QPR gaffer Neil Warnock (who is no stranger to jackassery himself),  the Blackburn player stood over Jamie Mackie and taunted him as the young Scot writhed in pain from a broken fibula and tibia.  Diouf should thank his lucky stars it wasn’t Jamie Carragher

– League Two side Stevenage were the giant killers of the Third Round, taking out Newcastle United 3-1.  The Toon Army does not suffer fools — or managers — lightly, but apparently they aren’t as bad as the Stevenage fans.  They get upset even if their team wins!

–  The Newcastle loss means the FA Cup is going nowhere near the Rivers Tyne, Wear, or Tees this season. Sunderland lost 0-1 to Notts County, while Burton Albion beat Middlesbrough 2-1.

– A resurgent Southampton took down a reserve-side Blackpool 2-0.  Saints’ fans taunted Ian Holloway with chants of  “Premier League, you’re having a laugh.”  They should know…

Where Once We Watched King Kenny Play: Liverpool head to Old Trafford with Kenny Dalglish once again at the helm.  The Reds legend takes over from Roy Hodgson, who left after mutual dissent.  Unfortunately for Liverpool, he didn’t take Christian Poulsen, Paul Konchesky or Joe Cole with him…

Also on the Manager Merry-Go-Round:  Ipswich Town head to Stamford Bridge, sans Roy Keane.  They meet a Chelsea team whose manager might be joining Keane in the unemployment line, if the cup holders don’t beat the Tractor Boys, who sit 19th in the Championship.

Manager Merry-Go-Round, Part III: Tottenham Hotspur are hosting a gaffer-less Charlton Athletic  in what will surely be a second-string run-out for ‘Arry’s adolescents.  Look for goals from, um… that guy… off a cross from, uh, that fellow over there…

Brent Lanthier

Leave a comment

Filed under FA Cup

Fergie’s Fantasy: The Dream Team

Lamps' hernia operation means no fantasy points

We are only five weeks into the season, but many fantasy managers are already thinking about using their “wild card” to start again from scratch (unless you’re like me, and you’ve already used it).

How else can you make up for mistakes, like thinking poor World Cup play by Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres wouldn’t carry over into the Premier league? Did you really think this is the year Cesc Fabregas stays healthy? How could you guess that Frank Lampard wouldn’t even rate as one of the three Chelsea players you should have in your line-up?

To help you in your search for the “best of the best”, here’s the top scoring players at each position so far. Without regard for the rules of the fantasy game — you can only have three players from any given club, and your salary cap wouldn’t allow you to afford all of the players below — I bring you the dream starting 11… (if you had to play by all the rules, it would be a “dream” team now would it?)

FORWARDS

Didier Drogba – Chelsea

As I mentioned, two of the most threatening strikers in the league — Rooney and Torres — are off to very slow starts. But last year’s Golden Boot winner Didier Drogba has picked up exactly where he left off, and thus is the Premier League’s most valuable fantasy point getter. He’s also the most expensive player in the league but I suggest you suck it up, pay his price, and make him your captain every week until he starts to slow down. Drogba is not only scoring goals, he’s also setting them up and taking the corners while Lampard has been injured. That makes him even more valuable.

Berba finally starts flying...

Dimitar Berbatov – Manchester United

On a team with Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, and new signing Javier Hernandez, Manchester United’s Bulgarian striker had to show some spark early on and he’s done just that. Witness how he single-handedly took apart Liverpool last week with a hat trick,  including a bicycle kick goal that will be a contender for goal of the year. With play like this, it will be impossible for Sir Alex Ferguson to keep him out of the lineup.

Carlos Tevez – Manchester City

This Argentinian bulldog is technically tied with Newcastle’s Andrew Carroll at this point… but I expect Carroll to fade and Tevez to come on even stronger. Man City have a wealth of striker options but Tevez seems to be the only one with any consistency right now. The fact that he’s regularly outperforming Rooney couldn’t be more annoying for United fans.

MIDFIELDERS

Florent Malouda – Chelsea

Here’s a player who has overcome his World Cup woes after playing for France. Malouda has shown an impressive scoring touch so far, and an obviously improved chemistry with his teammates after taking the bulk of last year getting used to life in the Premier League. I see no reason why his form would dip. A must-have purchase for all fantasy managers, as his price keeps going up.

Kalou on top... but for how long?

Salomon Kalou – Chelsea

Kalou is reaching the potential Chelsea thought he would have when they signed him. His four goals in five games is all the more impressive when you consider he only started two of those games. He could be a risky long-term prospect as I’m not sure he’ll start as often when Lampard comes back… if the rest of team stays healthy. But he’s on fire right now at a good price: he could be a strong short-term pick-up.

Nani – Manchester United

You are likely smarter than me anyway, but you are definitely smarter than me if you took Nani at the beginning of the season. With Valencia rounding into form at the end of last year, it appeared Nani might be a useful substitute. However, he’s now proving to be an indispensible supplier of crosses into the box for United and has the ability to score, given the chance. If another player brushes up against him, he goes down like he received an uppercut to the face, but there’s no fantasy deductions for that!

Theo Walcott – Arsenal

Gooners were ecstatic to see Walcott get off to a flying start with four goals in the first three games… especially since he’s never scored more than four in a whole season! His pace gives him the ability to score almost every time he gets the ball and some space to work in and now he’s playing with a lot of confidence. The only problem? He’s injured and it’s likely he’s won’t be back until sometime in October. Keep an eye on him when he returns as he could be worth a transfer into your squad if he keeps it up.

Defenders

Ashley Cole – Chelsea

The quantity of Chelsea players on this list is a bit annoying, but there’s nothing bad you can say about Cole’s performance this year. He’s made great runs down the left side for years, but now it seems those crosses always get to someone in blue who will put them in the back of the net. Cole is pricey, but he’s the top scoring defender in the league right now, so you get what you pay for.

Captain Schtupping has yet to face serious opposition

John Terry – Chelsea

I wouldn’t necessarily introduce him to my girlfriend, but it’s hard to do better in selecting a defender. Again, he’s expensive but you get what you pay for. Chelsea are likely to continue racking up clean sheets and Terry is virtually a constant presence on their back four.

Micah Richards – Manchester City

Richards has played every moment so far for Manchester City and has helped them keep two clean sheets, along with the occasional assist. You could also look at Nemanja Vidic from Man United or Alex from Chelsea, but Richards is a lot cheaper and is sure to play in every game.

Goalkeeper

Hart has only allowed two goal so far

Joe Hart – Manchester City

A big part of the reason Micah Richards is on this list is the amazing play of Joe Hart. He’s showing that he should have been the man for England in South Africa (i.e. he has yet to throw a ball into his own net). Hart has a bright future and his fantasy value is also only going to go up.

Scott Ferguson

Leave a comment

Filed under Premier League

Of insults and injuries


After an international break that saw several England players stretchered off with injuries, it’s back to business in the Prem this weekend. And right at the top of the schedule is what could be a volatile affair at Goodison Park, if Man. United’s repentant Wayne Rooney puts in an appearance at his former stomping grounds. Verbal stomping is sure to fly from the stands as the onetime Donkey of South Africa, now the Big Man of Basel, makes his Merseyside return. United lost 3-1 the last time they paid a visit to David Moyes’ men, who have just one point from three games.

Former United coach Carlos Queiroz may be feeling a bit insulted today, having been sacked as manager of Portugal, one week after he was hit with a six-month ban for disrupting a drug test. His lawyer is already on the case, looking for compensation.

And Serie A footballers are so insulted by new transfer limitations that they’re threatening to strike. AC Milan defender Massimo Oddo, spokesman for the player’s association, said the shut down is scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26.

But back to those unfortunate souls being stretchered off as England beat Bulgaria and Switzerland. First to go was the unfortunate Michael Dawson, expected to miss six weeks. The old Wheeler Dealer Arry Redknapp had barely finished writing ‘Gallas’ in his next team sheet when Jermain Defoe, fresh off his hat trick last Friday, was carried off in Switzerland with an injured ankle. He’s now expected to miss the entire Champions League group stage, which begins Tuesday at Bremen. The only comfort for Spurs is that Bremen defender Per Metersacker has picked up a knock on international duty and won’t be fit.

In between Dawson and Defoe’s stretcher-assisted departures, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott was carried off with an injured ankle while the aforementioned Rooney was still celebrating his Swiss strike. It’s turning into a bit of a rough go for the Gunners, with Robin Van Persie set to miss six weeks and Nicklas Bendtner still sidelined.

There was international injury pain for Liverpool, too, with Dirk Kuyt shelved with a sore shoulder.

And finally, there’s Becks, who still harbours hopes of future England glory, despite mixed messages from the gaffer, and who is close to shaking off his own injury woes and returning to the pitch for the LA Galaxy, who host Columbus on Saturday night. LA, Salt Lake and the Crew are all tied atop the league with 44 points, although RSL has played one more game. TFC, who have seven matches to go, are currently in ninth place, out of the playoffs, with six Western teams competing to qualify. Toronto is home to DC United on Saturday.

Ian Harrison

Leave a comment

Filed under Bundesliga, English Football, MLS, Premier League

Capello’s Dilemma

Fabio Capello announced his team selection on Saturday, his version of England Redux for this week’s friendly against Hungary that no one seems to want. The thinking was the game would prove to be cathartic for players, fans and the gaffer himself… a chance for brave Albion to regain their dignity and confidence.

But of course, no one is happy. Capello brought in several players who didn’t make the trip to South Africa, including something we haven’t seen for years: the selection of more than one Arsenal player.  However Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, and Jack Wilshire weren’t exactly starters last year. None of them played more than 16 games apiece.  It’ll be interesting to see how Capello uses them, especially after Walcott’s uninspired performance this summer.

The media had called for wholesale change after the Bombing of Bloemfontein.  But Capello was as defiant of the pundits as he was of John Terry’s “rebellion”, keeping Captain Schtupping and Co. in the side despite his insolence.  Don Fabio also tried to soothe feelings… but some players didn’t forget their World Cup snub.  Both Wes Brown and Paul Robinson said “Thank you, no”.  In this writer’s opinion, no big loss.

Capello has found out that being England manager is a thankless task… trying to appease a nation full of unrealistic expectations with a team of mediocre millionaires.  Some sections of the media already believe that Capello is a dead man walking.

O'Neill's Villa frustration boils over

Those rumours are given even more weight because his supposed successor is suddenly free of  his club obligations now that Martin O’Neill has quit Aston Villa just five days before the start of the Premier League season. The bookmakers have him at two-to-one odds that he will be next to lead the Three Lions.  But he may find Randy Lerner’s stinginess preferable to the smothering expectations of the top job in England.

Brent Lanthier

Leave a comment

Filed under World Cup

It could happen…

Kevin Hoggard

10 Things that I hope will happen in the Premiership this year:

1.       Roy Hodgson’s new cuddly approach will involve having a sleepover for his squad.  All the players will get dropped off by their mothers and they’ll all share one big bed.  Gerrard will suck his thumb and fight with Torres over his teddy bear while Woy reads them a bed time story about one night in Istanbul.  Dirk Kuyt will run around the room for 90 minutes without actually achieving anything.

Granddad Woy shows the lads what the CL trophy looks like…

2.       That all players have to grow facial hair, of their own choosing, until they score a goal.  Note to Fat Frank: “Deflected goals do not count.”

3.       Rory Delap has an operation to make his shoulders double-jointed.  He will now be able to launch a throw into the area from any position on the pitch.  A sign in the Stoke tunnel will read you must be 6’4” to go on the pitch.

4.       Penalty kicks will no longer decide cup matches.  The match will now be decided by a cage match involving four players from each team.  Players will have suitable monikers and be required to wear skin tight lycra.  John Terry, or ‘The Terry-nator’, will be a figure of hate as numerous WAGs grab the microphone and tell of how they’ve cheated on their man with the Chelsea captain.

5.       A two-week winter break is introduced and the top 10 managers in the Premier League will go into the Big Brother house and battle it out for the public’s vote.  Big Sam will spend every waking minute in the diary room complaining about everything.  Harry Redknapp will constantly tell people that the food in the cupboard is down to the bare bones.  Alex Ferguson will be found in his bedroom with every bottle of alcohol stacked in the corner, whispering the words “My Precious” and clawing at anybody coming within range.

6.       Rio will roofie Wayne Rooney two hours before the game.  Whilst asleep Rio will paint Rooney’s face green and wake him up 5 minutes before kick-off and he will run onto the pitch in complete ignorance to the sniggers of his team mates.  Donkey will be in the technical area shouting out instructions.

7.       Shaun Wright-Phillips will run out of the tunnel at the Eastlands only to have a sharp steel girder drop down and take his head off.  He will continue to run around for 90 minutes and nobody will notice the difference.

8.       Arsene Wenger is affected by the same truth wish that Jim Carrey had in Liar Liar.  When asked after the game if he saw an incident, Arsene will reply “Yes of course I saw it.  Why wouldn’t I?  I was watching the game.”  “So do you think Bendtner took a dive?”  “Definitely!  I’ve seen it on the monitor and nobody touched him.”  Arsene will look bemused as if he can’t believe he just said that out loud and, on parting, he will turn to the camera and say “And before you ask, Walcott really isn’t very good.”  Arsene will leave shaking his head.

9.       The British Government will kidnap Lionel Messi and put him into a village, like in The Prisoner.  He will be kept there by a big bouncing Jabulani ball.  The only other residents of the village will be 300 fertile young women.  2028 will be the start of 16 years of dominance by a pint sized England team and David James will still be in goal.  England shirts will be sold for $10 as they all have the same name on the back and are purchased in a massive job lot from China.

10) Shakira is given an honorary season ticket for Blackburn.  Her love affair with football finishes by the end of August 2010. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Premier League