Monday, November 17, 2008

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

Out. Many connotations in that three-letter word; and not many of them are positive.

As far as football goes, out could be out of the Starting Eleven, or out of favor with the manager, or in the case of a few, ahem, boys, a variation of out "outed" might not be good for the marketing angle of one's career.

But for today, we'll stick with a couple conventional outs, as in out of the lineup with injury and out of a job as we kick off this week's escapades around the football blogosphere.

  • With another loss in the books for Real Madrid, Bernd Schuster is likely out as coach-perhaps as early as today. Dirty Tackle puts it in plain English. Tocado? Translation anyone.
  • Uruguay World Cup Blog highlights Canobbio's goal that may end costing Schuster his job. Canobbio is Uruguayan; it's all about targeting your audience, you know.
  • Inside Soccer World continues the Schuster assault; first the Copa exit, now Saturday's loss.
  • Teamtalk fuels the speculation about today's press conference in Madrid. Tick Tock Bernd.
  • RealMadridDK tosses gasoline on Schuster's funeral pyre; apparently the boss headed for Salamanca on vacation rather than return to Madrid following Saturday's loss. Priorities Bernd.
  • More from on Schuster skipping what was a voluntary workout. Thought voluntary was for players, not coaches Bernd?
  • Spoiler calls it the most shameful defeat in Real Madrid history. Internet hyperbole.
  • Outing No. 2. Lampard and Gerrard out of England-Germany friendly.
  • Seems there's some doubt as to whether Stevie G. is really hurt. Liverpool Daily Post says he has to prove it.
  • Buzz in Football says a power struggle is brewing between Gerrard and Capello.
  • Spoiler wants to know if it's real, and questions how Gerrard played 90 minutes this weekend.
  • The Disabled List has some practical advice for Gerrard on how to treat a groin strain. Steve, if you're reading, click through.
  • Inside Soccer World has Frank Lampard regret-free over staying at Chelsea rather than following Mourinho to Inter. Surprise surprise.
  • BTW, Lampard is out of the trip to Berlin as well, so says the Daily Star.
  • OK, if you're into minnows, look no further than Portugal where Leixoes proved it's legitimate, beating Sporting, 1-0 this weekend. They're on top in the league. Read more at Portugoal.
  • Two of their wins, BTW, are at Sporting and at Porto, two Champions League teams. More at Four Four Two.
  • Finally, Soccerlens has the MLS season in review, if you care.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bad Day for Drogba, Van Nistelrooy and Maradona

What a nasty day Thursday was. Any time more news is made off the field than on, it qualifies as a bad day. Let's review and analyze:

PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?: Didier Drogba scores a goal against Burnley in this week's Carling Cup match. Fan throws coin at Didier Drogba. Didier Drogba throws said coin at fan. Let's just call this one universal dumbness. But there is no way in hell Drogba should be banned more than three games on this one, and the police should surely stand clear.

A ticket does not entitle fans to that kind of first-person participation. Boo, curse, chug your beer all you want. As soon as you start interfering with the enjoyment of the game by your fellow ticket-holders or become part of the proceedings on the playing field, then it's time to go--FOREVER.

The police should be looking at the clown chucking pounds at the players and not only ban him from the grounds permanently, but charge him with simple assault. This kind of ignorance cannot be tolerated or misinterpreted as passion for one's club. It's dangerous and stupid. Had the coin taken out Drogba's eye (yes, I sound like your bitty, old aunt here), then not only is the man's eyesight impaired, but Chelsea's multimillion-dollar investment is lost as are the fortunes of the club, the players and the fans.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Hammer the fan here; it's an opportunity that cannot be missed.

HOW RUUD!: Ruud Van Nistelrooy is done for the season, and perhaps his career, after knee surgery this week. The Real Madrid striker had the surgery in the U.S. and it's the second time he damaged the knee in his career. Love 'em or leave 'em, Van Nistelrooy is one of the decade's purest scorers. Always in the right position, Ruud was in top form at Manchester United for many years and his transfer to Madrid was huge news.

The question now is how does Madrid answer? With Van Nistelrooy out for at least six months, and probably closer to nine months, it's unlikely he'll be ready for the start of next season. Where does Madrid spend in January and beyond? Carlos Tevez perhaps? Hernan Crespo's name is also being tossed out there. And how does this impact coach Bernd Schuster's future? For now, Gonzalo Higuain is Ruud's stand-in. Higuain is the Argentine who scored four times over the weekend in Madrid's 4-3 win over Malaga.

GO DIEGO GO!: And speaking of Argentina, new coach Diego Maradona was almost the old coach Diego Maradona this week. The legend apparently was in a snit when he learned his assistant coach selections were being questioned, and he threatened to quit. Maradona denies all this, but where there's smoke, there's fire... Concerns have been rampant about Maradona's fitness to run Argentina. His addictive compulsive personality will be put to the test severely, especially if the noose tightens on Argentina's run at qualifying for the World Cup. Failure is not an option there. All I can say is that this will be great theater going forward.

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Happy Birthday Starting Eleven

StartingEleven turns 1 today. On Nov. 13, 2007, I kicked it off with a short post, simply--and cleverly if you ask me--titled "Conception."

Since then, almost 25,000 page views later, I've hosted visitors from all over the world and received comments from some smart--and not so-smart--folks. From me to you, thanks.

I hope it's a fun read for you. I hope I entertain and inform. I hope I entice you to come back over and over.

I would like to see this grow, but I don't have a lot of time to do more than I do. But I do enjoy it, the subject matter never fails, and when you hit a nerve, it's fun to see the response from readers.

Send some gifts and well wishes via comments, and we'll see what we can do in Year No. 2.

Until then, here are a few famous No. 1's.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Gilles Gilbert

Katherine Heigl

Anna Kournikova

and Vitor Damas

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Debt, Doubt Surround Liverpool's Future

Those of you Liverpool fans who wanted American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks out of the way may get your wish after all.

Following months of speculation about whether either Gillett, Hicks or both would sell their shares of Liverpool, it turns out the recession may get the both in the end. Reports are flying fast out of England that there may not be a bank who will pick up a refinancing on the loans the Americans took out to buy the club. Gillett and Hicks have until January to pay back 350 million pounds in debt; their loans run out in January and the credit crunch is making a refinance unlikely.

In fact, Keith Harris, chairman of Seymour Pierce investment bank and a former Football League chairman, said Liverpool could be headed for a financial meltdown and that star players such as Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel may have to be sold to pare down the club's debt. And forget about beefing up the side for a title run during the January transfer window; that's been slammed shut and it's not even December 1 yet.

Stunning news. One has to wonder whether DIC or some other oil-rich investor will take a shot at buying the club now. Harris, meanwhile, says Liverpool is not alone. He's trying to find takers for Newcastle and Everton, without much luck. Harris is the man who brokered Roman Abramovich's purchase of Chelsea, and Manchester City's recent sale. The man is connected.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

StartingEleven Goes to Twitter

I've built a Twitter page. Bookmark it. Follow it. Let's see how it goes. If you've got a Twitter page, follow mine. Let me know. Spread the word.

Find my Twitter page at

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Mailbag Meandering on
WAGs, WAGs, and More WAGs

It's funny what StartingEleven readers will choose to comment on. Since the last mailbag on Sept. 29, we've had plenty happen: snooze-inducing World Cup qualifiers; the snooze-inducing Champions League group stage; and the news that Fabio Capello is cracking down on the WAGs.

Yet none of those induced comments from my loyal readership. No, instead, it was Joe Kinnear, Diego Maradona, and ugh, David Beckham that drove you to reply. So applying deductive reasoning, we can conclude that my readers care only about fat old coaches, fat new coaches and fatheads.

Onto the latest mailbag:

Joe Kinnear's meltdown on Oct. 2 in front of the press is the stuff of legend, I must admit. At the pace he was going, he was going to drop more F-bombs than Joe Pesci did in Goodfellas and Casino combined.

Footy Boots Boy wrote: "I couldn't stop laughing when I heard this for the first time! Such an elegant opening few lines of dialog - makes anything by Shakespeare look crap!"

and then there was this from Jeremy Jacobs: "A wonderful advert for football. Not."

Reply: Well Footy, I am a fan of Twelfth Night, quite a bit of snarky humor there, I think Joe's just a tad short on that end. And as for you Jeremy, you should really sink more dough into your hockey team. For Chrissakes, we haven't had a Stanley Cup here since 1972; do you know how many hockey moms have become hockey grandmoms during that time? What the hell are you doing, trying to rival the Red Sox for championship futility? Great, they went 86 years, so applying that logic, the Bruins won't win until 2058. Thanks. You suck. Sell the team...

Moving on, Mark Meadows wrote us in response to: Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup of Oct. 14:

I think the English press are vastly underrating Belarus and think they are going to be like Kazakhstan. They've quickly forgotten that ex Arsenal player Hleb is just one of several skilful Belarus midfielders.
A draw there would be a good result I reckon, especially as the atsmosphere will be something even England's jet-setting players wont have experienced.

Reply: Turns out Mark, that England won that match 3-1, the WAGs weren't allowed near the boys' boys and Capello is a genius.

Next... John wrote in response to: Maradona to Coach Argentina; Is this a Risk Worth Taking?

As a big fan I'm happy for Diego on his appoitment. He deserve his second chance in the National team. I pray that he can deliver us the World Cup.

I'm sure he will get the players respect as many of them have always look up to him. He can be a great motivator in the dressing room. Diego has been my hero since I was 6 years old.

Though I was born in Malaysia, he is my idol.

Reply: Well, where to begin? I'm all for idolatry and hero worship, but if Diego Maradona wants the players respect in the dressing room, he should trot out thong-wearing WAGs two-by-two. May not get their respect, but it will get their attention.

The Soccer Blogger also commented on the Maradona post:

I hope he does well, but I can't help feeling this has got disaster written all over it. Maradonna has been on a general downward spiral since defeat to German in 1990, he just seems to be one of those people that naturally self destruct. Like I say, I hope he proves me wrong and this is what he needs to truly get his life back on track, because let's face it, it's been a bit of a train wreck the last 18 years. Such a stark contrast to the previous 10 years before 1990.

Reply: Finally. Somebody who appreciates a good train wreck the way I do. Disaster is Spanish for Diego, no? Suerte yourself.

And finally, Anonymous (he/she writes a lot) comments on Beckham Milan Deal Done; Will He Come Back?

100% in agreement with the blog. If the Galaxy had any class at all(which they don't) they'd part company with Beckham once he told them that Milan was on his radar screen. The lengths that this man will go to in order to stay relevant is appalling.

Reply: Dude you know where I stand, plus, Posh gives WAGs a bad name.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

European Soccer Tables
Turned Upside-Down

As intriguing as the current edition of the Champions League may be, there's a chance the 2009-2010 tournament could be one of the strangest, parity-rich events in football history. Seems someone has taken the snow globe that is European football, given it a good shake and the flakes aren't landing where people expect.

The tables in Germany, Holland, Portugal and even Italy don't resemble what we've come to expect as status quo, and as a result, the trickle-down to next year's Champions League could be fascinating. Not only could you have some very fresh names, faces and kits in the fray, but they'll be usurping some very established entities, including a couple of past champions.

Starting in Italy, where Inter Milan is in the lead with 24 points, you've got a gaggle of teams behind Mourinho's men that includes Napoli, Udinese and Genoa, all within four points of the top, and all within at least a shot of getting into the qualifying rounds. And standing on the outside looking in would be Juventus, Roma and Fiorentina, three teams that are in the hunt in this year's Champions League.

Not even England is immune to this phenomenon. Despite the Big Four of Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United being entrenched as the top four, Hull City had a prominent spot near the top of the table for much of the opening weeks, and they're still within reach in sixth position with 20 points, only one shy of the top four.

The best story might be in Germany, where Hoffenheim has been at the tippity-top of the Bundesliga alone until this weekend. Hoffenheim may be in there for the duration; it's won five in a row and now shares the lead with Bayer Leverkeusen. Bayern Munich is charging hard and it will be tremendous to watch if Hoffenheim can find a way to hang on.

Az Alkmaar, meanwhile, took over the lead in the Dutch Eredivisie and has the lone automatic Champions League group stage spot right now. Behind AZ? Well, sure, Ajax is there, but so is NAC Breda and Groningen. Breda and Ajax are tied on points with Az, and Groningen two points out.

In Portugal, if things ended today, F.C. Porto and Sporting would be OUT altogether. OUT. Sporting, which has already earned a spot in the knockout round, is five points out, and Porto's miserable start has it even further back. Leixoes is in the lead. Who? Leixoes. Nacional da Madeira is three out and Maritimo five back. Benfica is the lone giant in the top three. And Benfica is somewhat woeful as far as big clubs go.

It's early, but it's fun to look ahead and acknowledge what these minnows are doing. The longer it goes like this, the more fun it becomes. And perhaps next August, you just might seeing a Champions League draw with clubs such as Hoffenheim, Az Alkamaar and Leixoes joining Inter, Chelsea and Barcelona in Pot 1. Now how much fun would that be?

This post originally appeared at ChampionsLeagueTalk.

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Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

I frikkin' hate math. Makes my head hurt. Don't like algebra, geometry or long division for that matter. Statistics, however, interest me. They demonstrate trends, y'know, tangible stuff. If you look to the right of my page, you'll see a poll on essentially the player of the year for 2008. Right now, Cristiano Ronaldo leads with 94 of 235 votes. That translates to 40 percent of the vote. Fernando Torres is next with 40 votes, or 20 percent of the vote. Leo Messi is next with 31 votes (13 percent).

Now, granted, I know this isn't a scientific survey. The methodology is flawed since I don't know who's taking the survey or how many times you've voted; for God's sake, Other has more votes than Arshavin, Ballack and Villa combined.

But on Dec. 2 when the Ballon D'Or is handed out, it will be interesting to see how this informal sample measures up to the final result. As of this writing, there are a few more hours to vote, so chime in.

Now on to this week's jaunt around the football blogosphere:

  • 101 Great Goals notices United's one-step-forward, two-steps-back dance it's doing this season. Question: Are United and Berbatov in crisis?
  • Arsenal News Review is of little faith, even after Saturday's win over United. They're pegging Liverpool or Chelsea for the title.
  • Arsenal FC Blog says the win was one part luck, one part desire.
  • Soccerlens turns its lens (ugh) on the officiating in the Arsenal and Chelsea verdicts.
  • Off the Post compares and contrasts Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp.
  • Inside Soccer World has the recap from the Premier League.
  • Soccer City FC looks at stats and Anelka; how kind of them to follow my theme.
  • GoonersGuide takes a quick look at Serie A. Inter is on top alone after Milan's draw with Lecce.
  • Football News Blog checks out the goings-on in Germany where Hoffenheim's stay at the top has been interrupted.
  • FootballCupLeague checks out the Portuguese Cup derby between Sporting in Porto. Slumping Porto somehow beat Sporting on penalties after losing THREE men to red cards.
  • Soccerblog has a short item on poor attendance numbers for the MLS playoffs. Woeful is a good word.
  • has a look at Real Salt Lake's passage to the semifinals (I will not call it what it is, the conference final).
  • Only One Football chronicles the end of a dynasty; Red Bull knocked off Houston. Better question: Why is New York in the West? Can't MLS do anything right?
  • NotAbbott points out what he learned from the Dynamo upset.
  • Finally, to come full circle, EPL Talk has three points from the weekend.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

With a day to go before the presidential election in the U.S., I will pay tribute to spin, truly America's pastime. And for the best spin of the day, you gotta turn to the Chelsea fanboi sites.

Headlines blare today about Chelsea's decision to cut into massive expenses and whack 15 from its scouting department: "Chelsea sack scouts; pressure mounts"; "Chelsea tighten belts as economic crisis worsens" "Abramovich sacks 15" . Whether this is penny-wise and pound-foolish remains to be seen, but the spin from the Chelsea end is really remarkable. From "Chelsea Refocuses Scouting."

Nuff said? I think so.

Now for this week's jaunt around the football blogosphere:

  • This Arsenal blog looks at the Chelsea scouting situation in contrast to Arsenal's super scouting and development. It's an interesting look at contrasting philosophies.
  • points out that Luis Filipe Scolari's January spending budget has been whacked down to zero.
  • 101 Great Goals has links to all the English papers' takes on Chelsea.
  • More spin: Liverpoolbanter blames the Reds' injury-time loss to Tottenham Saturday on Lady Luck. What number was she wearing?
  • All hail Harry Redknapp, says Sportscorner, which has a nice rundown of the weekend's action.
  • RedFloyd uses the L-word again in regard to Tottenham's win, and we're not talking Jennifer Beals' L-Word.
  • New Voice of Football says Harry will cash in with a $4 million bonus if Spurs stay in the Premier League. Cha-Ching.
  • Spurs The Offside asks if Tottenham games can be shimmed down to injury time exclusively?
  • As for LaLiga, Inside Soccer World laments Real Madrid's missed opportunity to join Barcelona up top. Barca? Unstoppable?
  • Dave's Football Blog throws Jozy Altidore a bone. Altidore scored his first La Liga goal scoring within 15 seconds of coming on as a substitute for Villareal.
  • Talk about an upside-down world. Look at and no further than Portugal where Porto is dumped again (three straight losses) and Leixoes and Nacional are on top. Calling Benfica, Sporting, Porto.
  • More misery at Porto the Offside.
  • Soccerlens previews Celtic-United tomorrow in the Champions League. Man. U. are one of several teams in line to move on to the Round of 16 this week.
  • The Original Winger has Maradona's appointments of former teammates to his coaching staff.
  • Newcastle FC Blog also has a bit on Maradona and his praise of two Tooners.
  • The New York Times' Goal blog asks "What does Maradona mean for Argentina?"

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Magical Harry, Spurs Upset Liverpool

Move over Houdini and Potter, there's a new magical Harry in town. The town is London, the club is Tottenham and the Harry is Redknapp.

Harry Redknapp's Spurs knocked off the top dog in the Premier League yesterday, beating Liverpool 2-1 with a stunning injury-time strike to win it. Roman Pavlyuchenko's redirected game-winner two minutes into extra time provided Tottenham with its seventh point in Redknapp's three-game reign. Still in the relegation zone, Spurs are certainly looking up in more ways than one.

It's hard to dispute that Spurs needed a change. Since Juande Ramos was sacked, the club has won twice and has a moral victory ina 4-4 draw with Arsenal midweek--a true classic. Is it all Redknapp, probably not, but it certianly isn't hurting.

Redknapp's pushing all the right buttons. Yesterday, he brought on Pavlyuchenko at the half, and he connected on the game-winner. Aaron Lennon came on at 75, and he was a spark for the Tottenham attack. He also had some help from spotty Liverpool defending on the game-winner. David Bentley architected a blistering shot on goal that Pepe Reina stretched himself to make a fingertip save. The rebound deflected to Darren Bent; shockingly Andrea Dosseana initially challenged Bent the stopped and allowed the cross through. Pavlyuchenko rushed the goal and Daniel Agger failed to intercept him or the ball and the Russian chipped the ball over Reina.

Sensational finish and something special happening for Spurs. Redknapp is inspiring a lot of this right now with his experience and attitude.

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