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Pre-Season Friendly Report

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2009 by kemgooner

CORRECTION Inter Milan AC Milan Soccer

Pre-Season friendlies have begun to kick off around Europe as teams prepare for next season, some teams have started slowly against lower league opposition, while others have taken on other big teams in tournaments around the world.  Already Chelsea have claimed the title in the World Football Challenge, while the Peace Cup is still taking place with teams like Juventus and Real Madrid as just a couple of the major teams participating. This pre-season has also seen the debuts of star players like Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid against Shamrock Rovers, and the introduction of Michael Owen as a red devil.

Here is a brief summary of pre-season matches so far from some of Europe’s big clubs:

England

Arsenal: vs Barnet 2-2, vs SC Columbia 7-1, vs Szombathelyi H 5-0. Leading Scorer: Bendtner (4).

Chelsea: vs Seattle 2-0, vs Inter Milan 2-0, vs AC Milan 2-1, vs Club America 2-0. Leading Scorer: Lampard (2), Drogba (2).

Everton: vs Bury 1-2, vs Rochdale 4-1, vs River Plate 0-1. Leading Scorer: Jo (2)

Liverpool: vs St. Gallen 0-0, vs Rapid Vienna 0-1, vs Thailand 1-1, vs Singapore 5-0. Leading Scorer: Nemeth (2)

Manchester City: vs Orlando Pirates 0-2, vs Kaizer Chiefs 1-0, vs Kaizer Chiefs 0-1. Leading Scorer: Ireland (1)

Manchester United: vs Malaysia 3-2, vs Malaysia 2-0, vs Seoul 3-2, vs Hangzhou Greentown 2-8. Leading Scorer: Giggs (3).

FLB-US-ENG-ITA-CHELSEA-INTER

Spain

Atletico Madrid: vs Colmenar Viejo 3-0,  vs Benfica 2-1, vs Ajax 3-3, vs Sunderland 0-2. Leading Scorer: Simao (2)

Barcelona: vs Tottenham 1-1, vs Al- Ahly 4-1. Leading Scorer: Bojan (2)

Real Madrid: vs Shamrock Rovers 1-0, vs Al-Ittihad 1-1. Leading Scorer Benzema (1), Raul (1).

Sevilla: vs Juventus 1-2, vs Seongnam 0-0. Leading Scorer: Squillaci (1)

Valencia: vs Den Haag 4-1, vs Udinese 0-0. Leading Scorer: Navarro (1), Gonzalez (1), Michel (1), Alba (1).

Villareal: vs Navata 27-0, vs Vilamalla 10-0. Leading Scorer: Pereira (10).

SPAIN/

Italy

AC Milan: vs LA Galaxy 2-2, vs Club America 1-2, vs Chelsea 1-2, vs Inter 0-2. Leading Scorer: Inzaghi (2)

AS Roma: vs Riscone 9-0,  vs Viktoria Plzen 1-1,  vs Blackburn Rovers 2-2. Leading Scorer: Totti: (3)

Fiorentina: vs Cortina 13-0, vs Belluno 7-0.

Inter Milan: vs Club America 1-1 (4-5 pks), vs Chelsea 0-2, vs AC Milan 2-0. Leading Scorer: Milito (2)

Juventus: vs Cisco Roma 4-1, vs Nancy 1-1, vs Vicenza 1-1, vs Sevilla 2-1.

SOCCER-SPAIN/

Some teams have started off their preseason’s with a bang while others have started slowly. How important are preseason games to how you feel about your team’s chances in the upcoming season?

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Pre-Euro 2008 News and Rumours

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2008 by kemgooner

As I sit in my living room watching the third place match in the Toulan Youth Tournament it strikes me how much more I am going to enjoy this summer than last, football wise at least.  Last summer dragged by with never-ending transfer rumours that largely amounted to nothing, and waiting for the start of the new season to begin. This summer we have the Euros, the Olympics, and yes, never ending transfer rumours that will largely amount to nothing. However, some deals have gone through such as Alberto Gilardino leaving AC Milan for Fiorentina, and Chelsea signing Jose Bosingwa for 16.6 million, and some rumours must amount to something (right?!) such as the already getting long saga of Samir Nasri and if he will or will not be moving to Arsenal.

Apart from the transfer rumours we have also had the joy of watching and waiting to see who will be part of the Euros. Teams have now submitted their final rosters, and there are a few surprises.  One of these ‘surprises’ is the inclusion of Antonio Cassano on the Italian squad. Now most probably know what a loose cannon Cassano can be, but for those who do not take in his reactions to be sent off in Sampdoria:

However, while there have been plenty of moments like the one above in Cassano’s career, he is also a fantastic player who could be a wild card for Italy in the tournament. One thing for sure is all eyes will be on him when takes the field.

The other main shock when the squads were named was the exclusion of not only David Trezeguet from the French squad, but also AC Milan’s new boy Mathieu Flamini and Roma defender Philippe Mexes.  All three of whom have had great season’s domestically, and its really surprising that Domenech has left them out. However, none have ever seemed to be in Domenech’s favor in the past, so its not as surprising as it should be.

What makes Euro 2008 different from previous tournaments for fans in the United States? ESPN has deceided to show every match live over its family of networks. Yes, there is no need to pay for those annoying online streams anymore. Please try to contain your excitement, and check out this schedule of matchs here which will be useful for anyone planning on watching the tournament.

 Finally, if anyone is interested in writing about Euro 2008, the Olympics, or just their club’s news in general just drop me a note.

“Supporters” and “fans”

Posted in Arsenal, Football, sports, Welcome! with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2008 by GooneRC8

I grew up watching football both at the stadium and on TV. In fact, some of my earliest memories are from when the Chilean National Team played in international competitions. I remember the crowded room; 6 people in a tiny apartment celebrating and suffering the fate of ‘La Roja’. One memory stands out; I’m being held by my mother, who is protecting me from the sheer euphoria emanating from a post-goal frenzy. She was the only one who paid attention to me at such moments… she obviously wasn’t as fanatical as the rest of the people in the room.

When things are going well, the behaviour of all football aficionados is essentially the same. They go to the stadium, they love to brag about being the best, they get on the internet or buy the morning papers to find out about the latest news involving their beloved teams – You’d swear all of those interested in ‘the global sport’ are a homogeneous mass of invariable behaviour. But you’d be wrong. Just like you may think all brides and future husbands are the same if you only watch them during a wedding, people, even those who follow the sport closely, can be fooled by the seemingly die-hard attitude of the people who “the others” refer to as Glory-Hunters.

Football followers can be divided into a number of sub-species, but I think the most essential and definite line to be drawn is that which separates “supporters” from “fans”. The roles of these 2 different kinds of followers are very different, as is their behaviour both on and off the terraces. Nowadays, with high ticket prices, metro-sexual players, celebrities, and impressive stadiums, football has become (regrettably) fashionable. 75% of the people who watch football every week would agree that football is ‘just a sport’. And many of them are only “fans” when their team is enjoying the sweet taste of victory, whilst they suddenly ‘lose interest’, generally due to unrelated factors (yeah, right) when the team experiences a rough patch.

People from all over the world “randomly” pick a team to follow and stick with it as long as it is successful or has a chance of being successful. Because they don’t have a real link with the team, they team represents a choice, a bet, so to speak, that they want to win in order to brag about their good taste or prediction skills. And just like with these examples, there’s always a space to make a step back and say ‘I was wrong, I’ll change my prediction for next time’.

That’s exactly what’s going through the minds of those that switch from ManU to following the Chavs in a matter of months and without further remorse. This may seem to be completely ilogical for a real supporter, but for someone who does not feel a sense of belonging at a club, there really is nothing tying him up to the cause. Likewise, I know a couple of Arsenals fans who’d probably stop supporting the club if we started playing ultra-defensive football. This is because the sole reason they like Arsenal is because of the football they play, and should it stop, they’d stop feeling identified with the club. Sadly, this is not only a foreign phenomenon; many of the people who go to matches in England and around Europe think like this, as do many of the South American “clasiqueros” who only turn up for big games.

A supporter, in the other hand, is someone whose ties with a club are so difficult to torn apart that in all likeliness this person will feel represented by the institution for as long as it exists (and even ’til after it ceases existing in some cases). Supporters don’t go to the stadium to see if the team wins, they go to try and collaborate with the collective objective of actually helping the team obtain 3 points. They don’t go to watch a show or be entertained (even though it’s really nice when that happens), they go to help making sure that efforts of ‘their people’ are rewarded. Effectively, a football team is like a nationality – there are certain values that are inalienable to both the club and yourself, and that make this sport all the more interesting.

Football is, or used to be, a mean for the people to express themselves in an official stage where the superiority of one of the contestants could be proven over the other. Football makes the poorest soul wealthy, because it gives it something to lose. While the higher classes prefer to feel identified by what they own, those who do not own anything significant only have their honour (in the shape of their local representatives) left to lose. It’s a damn shame that those who are there to enjoy a show are now taking that away.

I didn’t become a supporter up until I met Highbury and its people. That’s when I truly became part of a community of people whose will for something that’s essentially out of their hands captivated me to the point of no return. I now know that irrespectively of what happens from now on, I’m condemned to die a Gooner, and to suffer or enjoy whatever happens to the pride of London for the rest of my life.

Fans can be turned into supporters, but first of all they need to learn that football, above all, is about identity and representation.

If football is just a sport, my heart is just a muscle.

Where does this leave them now?

Posted in Arsenal with tags , , on April 20, 2008 by marooner

Three Premier League titles (five times runners-up), four FA Cups (and another four runners-up medals), runners-up in the League Cup, again in the UEFA Cup, and again in the Champions League: I am drooling already, and I haven’t even mentioned the calibre of players he brought in (Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Cesc Fabregas), nor the forty-nine games his team went unbeaten for in the league, or the scintillating football with which they achieved this. If your interest in football hasn’t served that long, or if you happen to have the memory of a fish, perhaps you should try doing a bit of research. Trawl through YouTube, click through Wikipedia, maybe rent out a couple of DVDs, and experience those achievements and the journeys each one of those teams went through to about a millionth of the degree that I did over those twelve years. And then perhaps the few people (and yes, I realise it’s a minority who share about four brain cells between them) who’ve been calling for Arsene Wenger’s sacking might think again.

 

A lot of people forget the position Arsenal was in at the beginning of the season. They hadn’t won anything for two years (apart from being runners-up in the Champions League, and then again with a young squad in the Carling Cup), and had just sold two of their most experienced players in Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg. I still remember the first day of the season, and the initial stab of pain in realising, I thought, that it was going to be the same story all over again, when Jens Lehmann gifted Fulham the opening goal just two minutes into the game. It was a pain like no other, to have to sit through the next eighty minutes, one eye on the game and one on the away fans as they jumped up and down, sardonically rotating their song-list between “Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry” and the good ‘ole “We love you Freddie” classic, as if to highlight the fact that Arsenal was nothing without them. Some pundits predicted that Tottenham would finish in fourth place at Arsenal’s expense. A foreign takeover was imminent, Arsene Wenger would desert the Gunners, and with his departure we’d all see the likes of Cesc Fabregas heading for the door. Something happened, though. The board got their act together and made measures to ensure the club remained in the secure hands of its current shareholders, Arsene Wenger signed an extension on his contract, and the team started playing with a certain freedom we hadn’t seen properly since that unbeaten run, and when they needed to grind out a result, they could do it. Talk of the impending downfall of Arsenal FC slowly fell away, while talk of Real Madrid or Barcelona snatching away the talented twenty-year-old Spaniard amounted to nothing more than just that, and some were even so daring as to say that Thierry Henry’s departure from the club was a good thing.

 

What some people don’t realise, though, is that football is an emotional game. Even though it is, as I keep reminding myself, just a game, it’s one which has led to grown men blubbering like babies, and to groups of otherwise-sane human beings attacking total strangers, and to normal- albeit, slightly inebriated- adults attempting suicide. After Eduardo’s horrific leg-break against Birmingham in February, several players spoke with passion about how inspired they were to go on and win the title for their injured team-mate. I don’t doubt for a second that they tried. But if football is an emotional game, then the current Arsenal squad has to be one of the most emotional teams I have ever seen. Maybe that’s due to youth and inexperience; maybe that’s due to Arsene Wenger fathering his squad and sending them off to school equipped with Power Rangers lunchboxes and lollypops. A team like Manchester United, a squad bursting with experience in the form of Scholes and Giggs and Neville, and with a manager not afraid to spit his words of wisdom into his player’s faces, might have been better equipped to handle such devastating events, had the bad luck befallen them and not Arsenal. But as it was, the bad luck went Arsenal’s way, and it was such that the players had neither the mental nor the physical strength to overcome it. Four so-called ‘easy’ fixtures set Arsenal up with a mere four points, and by that point, it was too late for them to clamber back up onto the horse. Was it Arsene Wenger’s fault that the team didn’t have the strength in depth and mental stamina to overcome their run of bad luck? Perhaps. But one thing that the manager can’t be blamed for is standing by his players and instilling the faith in them that allowed them to come so far in the first place. He has won three Premier League titles (five times runners-up), four FA Cups (and another four runners-up medals), a runners-up medal in the League Cup, again in the UEFA Cup, and again in the Champions League. We as commentators have won nothing. So let’s all shut up and let him get on with it.  

 

The Silver Lining

Posted in Arsenal with tags , , on April 12, 2008 by marooner

I don’t want to be one of those plastic fans whose face-first dive into the world of football dries up as soon as their team has thrown every ounce of ambition straight down the shitter. Even though I feel well within my right to wallow in my own self-pity right now (having spent, I’d say, at least a grand on match tickets, shirts, stadium tours, magazines, membership subscriptions and the like, have pissed my boss off big time on numerous occasions by asking for days off work so I could go and see them play, and have only had about fifty minor heart failures during the season), I’m tired of mourning four thrown-away cup hopes (two particular cups spring straight to the front of my mind, though) and dwelling on the season that nearly was. I write this now as a Gooner, and as stupidly sentimental as it may sound, acknowledging that (almost) every cloud has a silver lining is, I’m quite sure, the only plaster strong enough to tape over my bleeding red and white veins. Time for some First Aid, Theo Walcott style. Hallmark that

 

That glorious run down the pitch, which for a moment caused memories of Thierry Henry storming through the Spurs squad fifty million years ago to flash through my mind, which should have and nearly did win Arsenal the match, was just one of the few glimpses we have seen lately of the just-turned-nineteen Pap’s Prodigy. He’s been hyped up so much in the last few years by senseless journalists hoping for another Wayne Rooney-esque English saviour (God knows they need someone to lift their fat-headed National Team), and I blame partly them for his apparent ‘slow’ development. But then again, what did we all expect? For a sixteen-year-old to automatically materialise into an English Thierry Henry and be banging them in left, right and centre every week? His talent may have been undeniably evident while he was playing for Southampton, but jumping up onto the big stage from there was a bit too much to ask of Theo Walcott. Arsene Wenger has done the right thing by him in allowing him to slowly flourish on the wing and not heap too much expectation onto the young lad. He’s given him the time the rest of us should’ve offered, to come into his own.

           

A few people have remarked just lately how horribly unfair it is on Theo, that each time he produces a moment of magic, his team are left shrivelled-up behind, defeated physically and emotionally. The first time was against Chelsea in the Carling Cup final, two short years ago. How raw that defeat still is. The Young Guns gave everything in that match and the lead-up to it, overcoming the likes of Liverpool and Spurs in breathtaking fashion. Theo broke the deadlock, but the combination of Abou Diaby almost breaking John Terry’s skull and Cesc Fabregas almost breaking Frank Lampard’s neck (not to mention the painful fact that we ultimately lost) overshadowed his first goal in red and white. Then of course there was that heartbreaking incident up north where, following Eduardo’s leg-break, Theo Walcott almost salvaged a deserved Arsenal victory. But no such luck. Another late penalty, and the events which followed killed not only our game, but our title hopes.

           

Just over a month ago, I said in great optimism that, if the same side that beat AC Milan in such astounding fashion turned up for the rest of the season, we would be well on our way to lifting trophies come May. I still stand by that. It’s just a shame a different side chose to show up for the remainder of the season.

 

In hindsight, that night at the San Siro almost feels now like a pointless waste. Yes, we screamed until our lungs burst when Cesc Fabregas scored that late goal, and we cried tears of joy at full-time- but for what? It was another stepping stone towards a Champions League cup victory, and our failure to overcome Liverpool has meant, some might say, that that 2-0 orgasmic performance was for nothing. I disagree. We showed on that night what we are capable of, and even though the goods may not be with us come next month, each memory of what those Gunners have overcome this season will lift us up and carry us through the next year. We can do it and we will do it. This just wasn’t our year.   

Bolton vs Arsenal

Posted in Arsenal with tags , , on March 31, 2008 by kemgooner

Football can be such a crazy horrible wonderful game, as Arsenal and Bolton fans today must feel. The game kicked off in the pouring rain today, with Arsenal resting striker Emmanuel Adebayor, and at first Arsenal seemed to be dominating. Then Bolton scored from a cross and Arsenal fans around the world groaned in frustration. Not again was going through the minds of even the most optimistic fans. Then Diaby was sent off for a bad tackle. Then Bolton scored again. Bolton fans must have been ecstatic, their team seemed in control.  Arsenal fans were ready to kill themselves, how could their team go from league leaders to losing 2-0 to a relegation team.

The second half began and for the first 10 minutes or so nothing changed, Bolton was in complete control and I really couldn’t see Arsenal turning it around at that point. Bolton even came close to making it 3-0 but for a great save by Almunia. Then the whole game changed when Arsene Wenger brought on Adebayor and Theo Walcott. The pace picked up for Arsenal, they seemed surer in possession and were putting Bolton under more and more pressure. Then the captain, William Gallas, scored from a corner when the Bolton players seemed to fall asleep in defense. Just a few minutes later Alex Hleb was fouled in the box, and Robin van Persie scored the penalty.  Time continued to tick away, and then right at the last minute Cesc Fabregas shot and after being deflected by about 3 Bolton defenders the ball was in the back of the net. His face after the goal echoed the passion felt by Arsenal supporters anywhere.

So in the end the final score was 3-2, and after such a rollercoaster game Arsenal fans finally get to see another W.  This doesn’t solve the problems of the past 5 weeks or reverse them, but it does show that even when things are awful, even when you’ve felt you’ve hit rock bottom, and all there is, is despair eventually thing can come around.  Watching the team in the second half and feeling the relief of getting that goal at the very end just makes me believe that things are turning around for us. I still doubt that we will be able to get back in front of the league, but stranger things have happened so who knows what will happen next.  The Champions league game is midweek, and this result also gives me more confidence going into that.  Come on You Gunners!

The Title Chase: Premier League

Posted in Arsenal, chelsea, Manchester Utd with tags , , , , on March 26, 2008 by kemgooner

With no midweek games thanks to the international break we finally have time to sit back and look at the premier league race so far, and preview what is still to come.  Most of this years campaign has been about the battle between Arsenal and Manchester United trying to grab the top spot. However, with Arsenal’s run of poor form in the last month, and Chelsea’s surge into second place the race is too close call, though Manchester are the team with the advantage. Arsenal drop in form began with their 2-2 draw against Birmingham when striker Eduardo was injured. Since then Arsenal have been struggling to score goals, while the defence has been exposed at the back on more than one occasion.  Chelsea are riding their momentum now that they are getting players back fit and on form, now that Drogba seems to be back on form Chelsea look like a very dangerous team going into the final weeks. Manchester United are currently leading the title race, and as long as Cristiano Ronaldo keeps scoring (34 goals and counting) it is hard to find a team that looks able to stop them.

United are in first place, 5 points above Chelsea and 6 above Arsenal. United still have to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea are virtually unbeatable, and Arsenal at Old Trafford, a fixture which they lost last year, so there is still plenty of time for the race to change even more. All the teams though have a remaining schedule where it seems possible for them to drop points. Here are the remaining schedules for the 3 title contenders, note that more Champions League matches could be added to the schedule should any of these teams advance to the next round. Who do you think will end up Premier League winners?

Manchester Utd

3/29 vs Aston Villa

4/1 @ Roma

4/6 @ Middlesbrough

4/9 vs Roma

4/13 vs Arsenal

4/19 @ Blackburn

4/26 @ Chelsea

5/3 vs West Ham

5/11 @ Wigan

Chelsea

3/30 vs Middlesbrough

4/2 @ Fenerbahce

4/5 @ Manchester City

4/8 vs Fenerbahce

4/14 vs Wigan

4/19 @ Everton

4/26 vs Manchester Utd

5/3 @ Newcastle

5/11 vs Bolton

Arsenal

3/29 @ Bolton

4/2 vs Liverpool (CL)

4/5 vs Liverpool

4/8 @ Liverpool (CL)

4/13 @ Manchester Utd

4/19 vs Reading

4/28 @ Derby

5/3 vs Everton

5/11 @ Sunderland