Category Archives: Football

Why US Soccer hasn’t progressed under Klinsmann

The US Men’s National Team scored a 3-2 win today in foggy Slovenia with goals from Edson Buddle, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore. A positive way to cap off their two-match trip to Europe which saw them lose to France 1-0 in Paris Friday.

Today’s result was probably an accurate reflection of the match, although one could certainly make the argument that Slovenia deserved a point after hitting the woodwork twice in the second half. But that line of thought would lead one to ignore the long stretches of possession and pressure the US held in the first half. That said, this is still not a US side capable of playing with Europe or South America’s biggest nations.

Many had thought that former coach Bob Bradley’s inexperience in the game outside of the US had hindered this side. Bob Bradley’s MLS-bred tactics were believed to be no longer compatible with a largely European based national team, led by Fulham’s Clint Dempsey, Chievo’s Michael Bradley, Sporting’s Oguchi Onyewu, and so on and so forth.

Enter Jurgen Klinsmann. The former World Cup winner, manager of the German National Team and Bayern Munich was charged with adapting the way the US play to fit the style of their many Europlayers.

This charge is one-half of the problem. Although the majority of the national team is European based, the side doesn’t have the technical ability (bar Dempsey, LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan, and Bolton Wanderers’ Stuart Holden) to operate with a possession style of game (no matter how much this blogger would like to think it does).

Klinsmann has regularly opted for a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation, in which a target striker is left alone up top to be flanked (in theory) by wide attacking players and a creator playing slightly deeper into the midfield. The result of Klinsmann’s insistence on operating with a single striker is five goals in seven games. That stat is slightly misleading considering three of those goals came in today’s Match against Slovenia, in which Klinsmann reverted to a 4-4-2. So two goals in six games is a more accurate gauge of Klinsmann’s 4-3-3 experiment.

What this tells us is that the US do not have the supporting attackers to successfully support a lone striker. Or they don’t have a lone striker capable of operating on his own. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Altidore has progressed leaps and bounds since his transfer to Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the summer, looking like becoming the out and out striker the US have been desperately waiting for. But at 22 years old and just in the infancy of rehabbing his career from the bewilderment of his development at Villrreal and Hull City, he can hardly be expected to carry the brunt of the US’ attack.

Although Dempsey has turned into one of the Premier League’s best attacking midfielders, he’s Klinsmann’s only proven option in support at the moment. Donovan has been recovering from injury and focusing on his MLS playoff run for the past two months, Holden looks set to miss another four months with a knee injury after already losing the previous eight with another knee injury, and at 21 years old, FC Dallas’ Brek Shea may look like the star of the future, but his present is still rather inconsistent.

However, what may be Klinsmann’s biggest dilemma to this point is his midfield. His 2-4-1 record has been largely ignored amongst analysts and insiders because he’s still undergoing player evaluations. With no major tournaments to qualify for until next summer when World Cup qualifying starts, commend Klinsmann for taking his time to see what his best 11 is and in what formation. The biggest problem with his evaluations is that his midfielders are all the same.

Michael Bradley, who was an automatic selection under his father, seemed left out under Klinsmann (although just moving from Monchengladbach to Chievo, some believe Klinsmann wanted Bradley, a known quality, to settle in Italy before joining up with the Nats). With Bradley on the outside for the past few months, this allowed Rangers’ Maurice Edu, Schalke’s Jermaine Jones, Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman, and Hoffenheim’s Danny Williams to fight over the three midfield places in Klinsmann’s 4-3-3.

Each name on that list is a defensive midfielder by trade. Sure, Edu has progressed some while in Glasgow to be a threat going forward, Beckerman is the closest thing the MLS has to Xabi Alonso, and Williams can play anywhere on the pitch, but none of them are creators. In fact, even Michael Bradley has spent more time anchoring this US side’s midfield than driving it forward.

The biggest problem Klinsmann faces in evolving this US team is that he has no spark in midfield. He experimented today with moving Dempsey to a central role to aid this with some success. But the fact is this side sorely misses the impact of Holden, a player who may never be the same after a year out with knee injuries. Pachuca’s Jose Francisco Torres was an early favorite of Klinsmann’s, but a foot injury has left him on the sidelines for the past two months.

So if Holden never recovers and Torres never progresses past just the gobs of potential he has at present, where will the US get their spark? Those are two pretty far out questions to be asking some six months from the start of qualification, but they aren’t unreasonable. Players recovering from knee injuries have a history of being completely unpredictable as far as when or if their form will ever return. And the amount of young players with gobs of potential must outweigh proven playmakers 100:1.

It’s not difficult to see that injuries have ravaged this US team. Those injuries have limited player evaluations and slowed this team’s adjustment to Klinsmann’s game to a snail’s pace. It would be foolish to write off Klinsmann’s attempts at this early stage, but it seems strange so few creators have found their way into Klinsmann’s midfield.

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What’s in a name?

Newcastle supporters have had a lot to complain about since Mike Ashley bought the club in 2007. His appointment of Dennis Wise as director of football, which subsequently led to the resignation of manager and fan favorite Kevin Keegan. The club being relegated in 2009 for the first time in 20 years. The £35 million sale of England striker Andy Carroll, seemingly with the funds being pocketed by Ashley.

But now it seems that Ashley has gone too far. What’s the latest “last straw” for Newcastle supporters? The renaming of their famous grounds, St. James’ Park. Ashley’s been working on selling the naming rights to the grounds for nearly three years now. In October of 2009, Ashley decided to name the stadium sportsdirect.com @ St. James’ Park, using his online sportswear retailer as naming rights holder in an effort to drum up interest in an outside group purchasing the rights.

This plan had not garnered the attention Ashley was hoping for, so this week he announced that the name St. James’ Park would be discarded all together. What was once St. James’ Park is now Sports Direct Arena. Again, Ashley using his sportswear retailer’s name to drum up interest in buying the rights to the entirety of the grounds.

“When we initially launched our plans at the end of 2009, we invited sponsors to attach their brand to that of St James’ Park,” Newcastle Managing Director Derek Llambias said. “However, it has become clear that in order to make the proposition as commercially attractive as possible, a potential sponsor must be given the opportunity to fully rebrand the stadium.

“Naming the stadium the Sports Direct Arena helps up to showcase the opportunity to interested parties. We are now actively seeking a long-term sponsor wishing to acquire full naming rights for the stadium.”

Considering this same strategy of using a dummy sponsorship deal to lure a real sponsorship deal has been unsuccessful for the past three years, I’m skeptical rebranding the grounds in its entirety will do much more, but I digress.

But are Newcastle supporters justified in their disgust over Ashley’s latest attempt at a money grab? After all, this is a club that plays in the Barclays Premier League, competes for the FA Cup with Budweiser and the Carling Cup, and runs around with Northern Rock plastered on the front of their shirts.

And selling naming rights isn’t that uncommon in the sport. Manchester City just sold the rights to Manchester Stadium for £400 million to Etihad Airways. In an effort to keep up with the mega money coming into the sport, Arsenal didn’t just sell the naming rights to Highbury Stadium. They turned the grounds into luxury flats, built a new 60,000-seat stadium a 10-minute-walk away, and sold the naming rights of that stadium to Emirates airline.

Roman Abramovich is trying to do the same thing at Chelsea. Abramovich tried to buy the publicly held Stamford Bridge from the supporters who purchased it in an effort to save the club in the 1990s in an effort to mimmic Arsenal’s plan and develop the current ground after moving to a new stadium. The Chelsea Pitch Owners declined Abramovich’s offer, and the naming rights for Stamford Bridge are expected to be sold beginning in 2012/13.

Some will argue that none of the clubs that have sold their rights have grounds with the tradition of St. James’ Park. I might disagree. Stamford Bridge is 108 years old, Arsenal up and left their home of 93 years at Highbury, and Liverpool have actively been looking for ways to get out of historic Anfield in order to turn more of a profit at a new stadium, which would undoubtedly sell its naming rights.

If Newcastle is ever going to compete with the big clubs, it has to put sentimental ideals like this aside and generate as much money as possible. Supporters need to determine what’s more important to them: the name of the stadium or having the old stadium at all. Because judging by other clubs, new stadiums with corporate names seem to be the way to go. Besides, soccer sold out many, many years ago.

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West London’s new look: Transfer activity from Chelsea and Fulham

The transfer window closed just more than a week ago, and we are starting to see the effects of the big buys. Chelsea were the big spenders of this month’s transfer window in spending £75 million (including bonuses) on two players. Operating on a substantially smaller budget, Fulham brought in three players who will have an impact on the club’s top half aspirations for the second half of the season.

First, at Chelsea and the name on every broadsheet and tabloid back page a week ago was Fernando Torres. Chelsea broke the British transfer record and splashed £50 million on the Spanish striker who’s been out of form since a knee injury suffered last April. Good bit of business for Liverpool, who’ve likely gotten £15 million or so more than the player is worth.

“It’s a lot of money, but potentially worth it,” said The Times football correspondent, Matt Hughes. “I think long-term, he’s a replacement for [Didier] Drogba.” The problem with him being the heir to Drogba is what to do with both of them in the present. Chelsea have reverted to manager Carlo Ancelotti’s diamond midfield rather than the tried and tested 4-3-3 formation installed by Jose Mourinho. In Torres’ debut, Ancelotti’s diamond left the flanks empty, and the central of the park cluttered. To sum up, it was ineffective. Where Chelsea finds space for their new golden boy will be a difficult task for Ancelotti.

The second big name signing that arrived at Stamford Bridge this week was Brazilian David Luiz. Big name might not be the right phrasing, but you get my point. Luiz’s signing is as important to Chelsea as Torres’ is exciting. Chelsea have sorely missed Ricardo Carvalho, who was sold to Real Madrid in the summer, and that has been exacerbated by injuries to John Terry and Alex.

“I think it’s a good signing,” Hughes said. “Maybe slightly overpriced because it’s Chelsea.”

Luiz looks a like for like replacement for Carvalho, except perhaps slightly better in every department. In his 20-minute debut, Luiz looked composed, sharp, quick, intelligent and capable of carrying the ball forward. And at 23, could be the anchor of Chelsea’s defense for the next decade or more.

Of the players out the door at Chelsea, one of the most watched will be Gael Kakuta as he spends the remainder of the season on loan at Fulham. “He’s skillful and tricky and creative, which is one thing Fulham lack,” Hughes said. Kakuta is the 19-year-old French star at the center of FIFA’s investigation and ban (which was later overturned) of Chelsea’s transfer market activity after his former club, Lens, claimed Chelsea unsettled the player in order to secure his services. In other words, Kakuta is one of the brightest young talents in world football.

Fulham also added former Reading, Chelsea, and Aston Villa midfielder Steve Sidwell for a bargain £500,000. Sidwell anchored Fulham’s midfield against Villa on the weekend, breaking up opposing play and creating a fair few impressive passes and shots of his own. A player who was tipped to do little more than offer competition for Fulham’s present central midfielders Dickson Etuhu and Jonathan Greening, Sidwell looks set to displace both as a regular starter if he can continue his run of form.

Fulham also added former Chelsea, Barcelona, and Tottenham forward Eidur Gudjohnsen on loan from Stoke for the remainder of the season. Gudjohnsen isn’t likely to be more than a supporting player for Fulham, but his addition means a side that has looked relative toothless since the injury to Bobby Zamora in September, now has a wealth of options in attack. Gudjohnsen joins Moussa Dembele and Andy Johnson, both returning from injury, and Zamora, who should return to action by the end of February, as out-and-out striking options. Further, the addition of Kakuta means Fulham have another versatile goal scoring threat from midfield in addition to, Fulham’s most valuable player this season, Clint Dempsey.

Six weeks ago, Fulham were in a relegation fight. Since then, they’ve climbed to 12th in the Premier League. With these additions, Fulham should climb into the top half by season’s end. And European places, although a long shot, aren’t out of the question.

As for Chelsea, their weekend loss to Liverpool likely signaled the end of their title pursuit. However, the remainder of the year should be used to sort out how to effectively use Drogba and Torres simultaneously so long as they aren’t in danger of falling out of the Champions League places. Given the talent of that side, and Ancelotti’s prowess, that should be a no-brainer. But this season has gone anything but to plan for Chelsea.

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What’s wrong in West London

Although the Premier League table may say otherwise, there are no two clubs in the division playing worse football than Fulham and Chelsea.

Chelsea ended October as league leaders and were six points clear of their closest challengers. In that impressive first third of the season, Chelsea won eight, drew once and lost once, scoring 27 goals and conceding 3. Since the start of November, they’ve won just one of eight, drawing three times and losing four more, only managing 5 goals and conceding 12.

Fulham have not suffered the fate of two seasons. Theirs has been a rather monotonous, succession of mediocrity. In 18 games, the Cottagers have won just twice. Both wins came against fellow relegation-battlers Wigan and Wolverhampton. In that span of time, Fulham have averaged less than a goal a game.

So what’s in the Evian in West London?

For Chelsea, it’s a club undertaking massive personnel changes while attempting to defend a league title. The losses of Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack, Joe Cole, Deco, and Juliano Belletti were only softened by the purchases of Yossi Benayoun and Ramiers, and the addition of academy players Josh McEachran, Gael Kakuta, Patrick van Aanholt, and Jreffrey Bruma.

Benayoun only featured in three matches before a torn Achilles ruled him out until the end of March, and Ramiers has looked astonishingly poor since his £18 million switch from Benfica.

Meanwhile the youth movement has had mixed results. Kakuta has shown glimpses of what scouts saw in the French prodigy, but he’s looked immature and out of place more often than not, while Bruma has only been used in defensive emergencies and his performances did little to inspire confidence.

McEachran has been the bright spot of the lot, but at 17, he can’t be relied upon to pick up all of the slack of players like Cole and Ballack. van Aanholt has also looked like a player ready to step into the side. Unfortunately for Chelsea, widely-heralded as the best left back in the world, Ashley Cole already occupies that position.

What Chelsea need is new faces. Players with the ability to change the game. It’s been nearly three years since Chelsea did anything close. Their addition of Nicolas Anelka in January 2008 was not seen unanimously as a game changer.

It’s nearly a certainty manager Carlo Ancelotti will add a central defender in January. The question is, how big of a gamble do they take? Gary Cahill of Bolton could step in and deputize respectfully for Alex, but at 25 and with only one cap for England, he may not be to Chelsea’s standard. Especially not at £15 million. Benfica’s David Luiz is the player with the most upside, but at £30 million and unfamiliar with the English game, it’s a pretty high-risk move. Roma’s Philippe Mexes offers a more tested option, and with only one year remaining on his contract, could prove to be the economical choice.

Past the defending, nothing is out of the question for Chelsea. They are in desperate need of creativity and goals. Some will argue the return of Frank Lampard is all the creativity and goal-scoring Chelsea need. Perhaps, but that won’t change the form of Anelka, Kakuta, Salomon Kalou, or Florent Malouda. Since Malouda has cooled off (zero goals, one assist in his past nine games), Chelsea have lacked any and all flair and trickery to complement the power of Didier Drogba. If they’re serious about retaining the Premier League title, Chelsea need to add a true game changer to flank Drogba.

For Fulham, the solution is pretty obvious, but the questions are rather confusing. The injuries to Bobby Zamora and Moussa Dembele have decimated Fulham’s attacking options. Recently-fit Andy Johnson and habitual Fulham reserve Eddie Johnson simply have not been able to stand in for Zamora and Dembele. The over-reliance on midfielders Zoltan Gera and Clint Dempsey has been glaringly obvious, scoring two goals or more on just on occasion since Zamora’s injury.

A proven striker is what Fulham need more than anything. However a central midfielder would be close behind. Danny Murphy looks to have lost a step from last season (which is saying a lot as he was nearly 33 a year ago) and Dickson Etuhu has been a near disaster this season. If there is any consolation for Fulham, it’s that its defense has been only worrying compared to the midfield and front line’s calamitous reputations. The return of Philippe Senderos from injury in February should allow more flexibility at the back to allow Aaron Hughes to cover for John Pantsil, Carlos Salcido, Stephen Kelly, or Chris Baird (whichever is playing most suspect at that time).

The solution at both clubs is the same (past spending money). Give the managers time.

Ancelotti is a proven winner, he picked up two Champions League trophies with Milan, one of which was at the beginning of their penny pinching days. If Chelsea is serious about building a perennial championship contending team (you know, like they had when Mourinho was in charge), they need to give Ancelotti time to build a squad in his image. Ancelotti should be given until this time next season.

Hughes should also be given time over at Fulham. However, the circumstances are more dire, meaning Hughes won’t have the luxury of another year of patience. Hughes will likely be given another week. If Hughes fails to produce three points from the next three matches (away to Stoke, away to Tottenham, and home to West Brom), he will likely be sent packing. What’s in Fulham’s best interest is to support whoever manages the club in January and allow him to improve an aging and mediocre squad with funds appropriate for this league (that would be more than £10 million, Mr. Al-Fayed).

The biggest difference between the two: If Chelsea fail to improve, they’ll have a furious Russian owner with questionable character. If Fulham fail to improve, they’ll be relegated. For both these West London clubs, it’s do or die.

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World Cup host selections 2018 and 2022

FIFA announced Thursday that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup.

The announcements weren’t complete shots in the dark, as both Russia and Qatar were amongst the favorites going in to the voting. However, both nations had serious question marks looming over their bids. Allegations of corruption within England and Spain regarding the Russian bid have made the rounds for weeks now. And Qatar will need to build many stadiums and training centers in the next 12 years.

Perhaps more shocking than the selections of Russia and Qatar, has been just how poorly favorites England and the US faired. England, the bookies’ favorites coming in, received only two votes and were knocked out of the first round. The bid from the Netherlands and Belgium received four and they were at 50/1 winners compared to England on less than even money.

The US was outvoted in the early rounds by Japan and Korea, hosts merely eight years ago. Eventually the US bid made the final round of voting, but was beaten by 6 votes of 22 available.

Clearly, there was some overconfidence within the England and US camps, but why? The FA is confident, bordering on arrogant, regarding everything. So this isn’t a major surprise. But surely it would have only taken a decent bid to win with the infrastructure already in place and such passion for the game.

And the US, really, why the overconfidence? I’ve never really understood why US Soccer Federation Sunil Gulati remains in charge. He’s failed to attract a top-level manager for the national team and it’s stagnated in the past World Cup cycle and failed to attract a World Cup. Time for a change.

What’s really sad in all of it has been the reaction of soccer media in the US. One of the most respected bloggers on the subject in the US, Ives Galarcep, said the following on Twitter after the announcement:

“I apologize in advance 4 my language since I keep it clean on here usually, but 2 quote Kanye West, this is ‘Fucking Ridiculous’#SoAppalled,” “Whether it’s Jose Mourinho, Jason Kreis or Caleb Porter, whoever coaches USA in 2022 better put up a five spot on Qatar in group play.” and “I would have said more than a five-spot but considering it’ll be two thousand degrees, may be tough to score more than five on Qatar.”

What’s worse, was the response of US star Landon Donovan on Twitter, “I have an idea..we play Qatar in a friendly(they can even host it), and the winner gets to host the 2022 WC..wait, do they even have a team?”

Sure, as a fan of the US National Team and current England resident, I was bummed to hear the news. And sure, I blasted FIFA over their decisions amid corruption (you can read those bits on twitter, @austinlindberg). But it’s time to grow up, guys. Everyone knows there’s at least a hint of corruption within FIFA, but that’s the way it is. No sense in blasting Russia and Qatar over it.

Because when it comes down to it, Russia and Qatar will put the necessary effort into making their World Cups a success. No one wants to be remembered as the host nation of an awful World Cup. And in the case of Qatar, the spectacle of the whole thing will be a lot of fun to watch.

So settle down. Even if the US was hosting in 2022, it wouldn’t make much difference. Their home matches against the world’s best are usually better-supported by away fans, anyway.

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El Clasico

Barcelona thumped Real Madrid in Monday’s Clasico by a result of 5-0 with a brace from David Villa and further goals from Xavi, Pedro and Jeffren.

Barca were absolutely superior for the entirety of the match. Stringing together beautiful passes, finding acres of space and providing the perfect ball, and performed more than their share of flicks, back heels and tricks. But perhaps more interesting was how abysmal Real played.

This season’s Clasico carried more weight than those in recent memory. In 2009/10, Real missed out on the title by a mere three points after one of the most impressive seasons in the history of La Liga. However, they lost this very fixture last term and those three points were the difference between an empty-handed Real and title-winning Barca.

And with the arrival of Jose Mourinho to Real, it appeared as though Los Blancos were ready to have a go at winning their first derby in five tries. That wasn’t to be.

There wasn’t a single Real player who appeared up for the match. Sergio Ramos and Marcelo continually gave possession away in their own third, Pepe was turned inside-out with regularity, and Ricardo Carvalho was lucky to remain in the match after many close calls that could have warranted cautions.

Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso didn’t seem to be anywhere. Neither of the two provided the deep passes expected of them, nor did they provide adequate cover for the back four. It was literally as though they weren’t in the game. They weren’t anywhere. They couldn’t aid in picking up the runs of Leo Messi or Pedro, nor could they distribute. This is not exaggeration, it was as if they weren’t there. Count their positive contributions. I mean real, positive contributions, not just completed passes. I’ll bet there are fewer than five between them.

The attack would have been just as invisible if it weren’t for those glowing Nike Mercurial Superfly II Safari CR7s of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo struggled to get going, and never posed any real threat in open play. Two free kicks from dangerous areas missed the target, even if they did have Victor Valdez sweating. Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil, and Karim Benzema all contributed equal parts in the sense that because of the names on the backs of their shirts, you would think they might be able to create something, anything for themselves or Ronaldo. Wasn’t to be. Lassana Diarra was inserted at half for Ozil and the hard-tackling Frenchman was more productive going forward than the German visionary.

Mourinho has said all along that Real is a work in progress. That’s certainly true, but his teams have never been beaten by more than three goals, much less five. And this is arguably the most talented squad Mourinho has ever had to work with. And this was the one game Real couldn’t afford to get thumped.

Things need to move forward at the Bernabeu at a quicker rate or else the Galacticos 2.1 experiment is going to be an awfully expensive and embarrassing mess. For Real and Mourinho.

And Barca? Carry on, lads.

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Ancelotti’s overhaul why Chelsea struggling

Chelsea are in the midst of a dismal run of form in the Premier League. Just one win and one goal in their past four matches.

This was a side only beaten once previously in the Premier League and was scoring for fun. So what’s changed?

Chelsea is a relatively old and injury-prone side. Of Chelsea’s preferred starting outfield players, four are past 30 and it will be six in December. Loking past the age, the squad’s depth has a history of injuries in Michael Essien, Jose Bosingwa and Yuri Zhirkov.

Add those factors up and you have a championship-calibre side short on available players. Making matters worse is manager Carlo Ancelotti’s decision to allow Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Deco all to move on this summer. It wasn’t a terrible move at the time as Chelsea, for the first time since coming into money, have a wealth of young players waiting to step into the first team.

Patrick van Aanholt, 20, looks to be ready to step into Ashley Cole’s boots if he decided to retire right now. Gael Kakuta, 19, is the wunderkind Chelsea nearly received an 18 month transfer ban over when he swapped Lens for west London and has looked capable of filling in on the wings or behind Drogba. And Josh McEachran, 17, is the new Jack Wilshire (that would be the next savior of England for those of you unfamiliar).

It seemed a good play, after all, it’s not like all three would be required to play for considerable amounts of time simultaneously, right? That’s been the problem for Ancelotti and Chelsea.

Essien has been injured and suspended, Frank Lampard is still injured, Yossi Benayoun could be lost for the season, Didier Drogba has been suspended, Bosingwa is just returning to match fitness after year on the treatment table, Zhirkov hasn’t been 100 percent healthy since he arrived at Chelsea in 2009, John Terry may well resume to action in weeks and not months after his leg/back injury, and Alex’s knee problem is still an unknown.

Ancelotti said Friday, “It is not the time now to speak about the missing players. We have to stay in focus with our players, they have good ability and did good performances before this moment, so we have to stay focused on these players.” That’s very positive and good management and all that, but it can’t be ignored that his side is hurting and his lack of depth is showing.

Commend the man for infusing Chelsea with a bit of youth, the club’s players were beginning to look like what the club is synonymous with. Pensioners.

But one can’t help but wonder if Ancelotti’s youth movement couldn’t have been implemented at touch slower rate and retaining some of that experience allowed to walk out the door for a combined £7 million. A bad bit of business, but will Chelsea pay the price?

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England misses the mark in World Cup bid

So the vice-president of England’s FIFA World Cup 2018 bid said today that England have a better bid than competing bids from Russia and the joint bids from Spain and Portugal and Holland and Belgium.

Without doubt, England has been the favorite for logistical reasons and the numerous stadiums in place with more on the way for the 2012 Olympics in London. Gordon Taylor, the VP, also said that England’s football heritage is another trump card. Meh, does that really matter anymore? Three of the past five World Cups have been held in developing football nations. So, short answer, no.

Then Taylor said something really interesting, “Politics could scupper England’s bid, but it shouldn’t be allowed to as politics should not dictate to sport, and when you look at the bid process, it shouldn’t have an effect. Instead, look at the bids – that’s the idea of it, and our bid is the best.”

This statement comes after speculation that recent probes into the bid process by The Sunday Times, exposing some FIFA representatives selling their votes, has hurt England’s chances. Why? Because English news publications are out to sabotage other bids in the name of England, according to some.

Heaven forbid somebody shed a little light on the goings-on within FIFA. But therein lies the problem and what makes Taylor’s statements so comical.

There are representatives out there with World Cup votes for sale, or at least it appeared that way based on the evidence if you want to get technical about it and avoid libel lawsuits (like I do). I would think the last thing FIFA want at their crown jewel of 2018 is reporters snooping around, trying to dig up a story. It would be much more convenient to have a host overjoyed to be able to host such an event and cater to FIFA’s every request. Some place like Russia, or Qatar (in 2022).

So if England don’t get the bid for 2018, it won’t be because there is a better bid out there, Mr. Taylor. It will be because FIFA don’t like looking foolish and the English press has no qualms about making anyone look foolish. That and The FA won’t stump up £500,000 per vote.

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