25 August 2006

Thatcher, Mendes, Gallagher

What a horrid, horrid tackle. If you haven't seen it, check out the video. Fortunately it sounds like Mendes will be OK.

If that's all there was to it, I wouldn't bother to comment, other than perhaps to wish Mendes well. But what's interesting to me is the controversy over how to punish Thatcher. See, the problem is that he received a yellow card from referee Dermot Gallagher. According to the FA's inscrutable rulebook, that means that his punishment has been dealt with, making it very difficult to punish him further.

Gallagher has a history of misjudgments like this, as I've commented previously. Once again, the FA is in agreement with me and have sent Gallagher back to the Colaship. Again. One might ask why they haven't learned their lesson with Gallagher, but nevermind that for now. Perhaps the third time is the charm.

But the larger question is, why is the FA so stupid about this rule? Regardless of Gallagher's failings, it's easy to imagine how a referee can miss an isolated call like this. If he sees it from the wrong angle, it looks less damaging. Or he just makes a mistake. Why in the world should that limit the FA on video review?

I'm a firm believer that the referee's decision is final... when it comes to the game. So there's no way that a match should be replayed or a result changed based on a reevaluation of a referee's call. Nor am I a fan of in-game video review. But neither of these points has anything to do with punishments that extend beyond the game itself. And this is an ideal example of a situation where the FA should have full authority to mete out punishment.

There are clearly major issues with the way soccer is officiated and judged. Beyond this sort of thing, you also have:I don't want to get into all this today. But this is one example of a way in which video evidence can really help out the FA, without any negative impact to the game. Perhaps the Ben Thatcher incident will be enough to cause a change. We can only hope.

And a final note. Reports indicate that Greater Manchester Police pursuing a criminal investigation of the incident. I find this sort of thing rather troubling. There may be some cases, involving serious injury, where it's warranted. But I would be very reluctant to involve police in any more cases than absolutely necessary.

19 August 2006

Cisko's EPL Predictions

OK. Landry has tossed down the guantlet. A case of Fat Tire? Very well, I accept. And besides, you're clearly wrong on your positioning of the scum. Wish you were wrong about Chelsea though; I have hopes, but not expectations, that they might fade a bit this year. We'll see.
  1. Chelsea
  2. Arsenal
  3. Liverpool
  4. Man Utd
  5. Tottenham
  6. Portsmouth
  7. Newcastle
  8. Bolton
  9. Aston Villa
  10. West Ham
  11. Blackburn
  12. Charlton
  13. Everton
  14. Reading
  15. Wigan
  16. Middlesboro
  17. Man City
  18. Fulham
  19. Sheffield Utd
  20. Watford

17 August 2006

06-07 EPL Predictions

After a glorious summer of World Cup action, it's once again time to raise the curtain on another season of enthralling EPL action. Once again, I'm throwing down the guantlet and challenging my blog partner to predict the standings at the end fo the 2006-07 campaign. Bragging rights, plaudits and, most importantly, a case of Fat Tire to the winner.

Here are my predictions for how the EPL table will look at the end of the 2005-06 campaign. Chelsea will have a much tougher go of it this season, but will still prevail. There's simply to much depth of talent on the squad. Reading will be the surprise of the promoted team and I'll be following their progress avidly. I can't wait to see how it will all play out!

  1. Chelsea
  2. Liverpool
  3. Man Utd
  4. Tottenham
  5. Arsenal
  6. West Ham
  7. Everton
  8. Bolton
  9. Newcastle
  10. Aston Villa
  11. Reading
  12. Charlton
  13. Portsmouth
  14. Wigan
  15. Blackburn
  16. Middlesboro
  17. Fulham
  18. Sheffield Utd
  19. Man City
  20. Watford

05/06 EPL Predictions - Final Accounting

Back in August, Cisko and I both made predicitions as to how the EPL standings would look at the end of the year. Lets see how we fared. I've calculated how many positions off each of us are based on the final standings and how the teams are fared against last season's finishing postions. Here's how things shake out...

2Man Utd*+2+1
9West Ham+7+7na
15Man City-1-3-7
16Aston Villa-5-8-6
19West Brom+1-1-2
total positions off6680

Really these numbers just confirm what we already know...

16 August 2006

Transfer Momentum

Good morning. Again, not so many posts here for a while, but that's because the biggest thing that's happening is nothing. At least publicly. Many of the biggest rumors center around Arsenal, but there's been no actual movement as of yet.

The Ashley Cole situation has settled down, in the sense that the volcano is no longer spewing lava, though it could erupt at any time. Both Wenger and Mourinho had set deadlines of last week for anything to happen... and nothing did. It appears that Arsenal are simply asking a price that Chelsea won't pay. So what now? There are still 2+ weeks for a deal to materialize, but both teams are probably looking to move on. The biggest news today comes from the Sun, which says that Cole's book will be held or edited if he stays with the Gunners.

Frankly, that's unlikely. Cole has burned his bridges, with the club, with his teammates, and with the fans. It's almost impossible to imagine him donning the colors again. But he's a top-quality English player, with a contract that runs through 2008, and there's no way the club should let him go without getting value for him. Perhaps they will look to sell him abroad, but of course that would need agreement from Cole also which complicates the deal. At this point, I'd say there's a 50% chance he still goes to Chelsea, a 10% chance he leaves England, probably for Spain, and a 10% chance he stays with the Gunners. That leaves a 30% chance that nothing happens, and he sits on the sidelines stewing until the January transfer window.

The story with Jose Antonio Reyes is something else entirely. On the one hand, it's looking very likely that he will leave for Real Madrid. If I read the tea leaves right, the deal is nearly there, and the clubs are working out the specifics. Real Madrid are probably going to send someone back the other way -- Baptista most likely, though Beckham is an intriguing possibility -- and involving an additional player will complicate things. But Reyes is clearly excited about the prospect, and has continually indicated his interest in the move.

And yet, I don't think fans are too upset with him. For one thing, he's been very complimentary to Arsenal in public. He's said that "Wenger has acted like he exactly is - a gentleman. I want to thank him publicly for everything he is doing for me." Emmanuel Adebayor returned the favor, stating that "Jose looks happy in training. He laughs and jokes and gets on well with the other players." So unlike Ashley, Jose isn't burning his bridges. But he wants away, and he'll probably get his wish. The latest news is that a delegation from Real Madrid are to arrive in London today. So it would not surprise me to see news on Reyes come out today. Here's hoping that it becomes a good move for player and club.

So we'll see what happens. I doubt we'll see either player on Saturday. Will Arsenal have any signings to report? We can hope!

08 August 2006

Arsenal Begins: 06-07

Good morning folks. Sorry about the gap in posts, but there's been eff-all to talk about. Lots of rumors but little action. For Arsenal, it's been a frustrating summer in many ways, and it's only tolerable because we've been through this all before, so many times.

The one definite piece of Arsenal news is that Sol Campbell goes to Portsmouth. It's a fairly big surprise in that Sol was supposed to go overseas. But he'll stick around England instead. It'll be interesting to see how he performs for his new club. I know it's fashionable to slag on Sol, and he certainly earned some of it. But it's obvious he's got problems and I wouldn't mind if he was able to turn things around and do well down south.

But otherwise things are moving slowly for the Gunners. The talk about Ashley Cole is beyond rumor stage at this point; it's obvious that Chelsea and Arsenal are negotiating. Ashley's done everything he can to burn his bridges, but it's not like Chelsea are desperate for a left back and Arsenal aren't going to let their only remaining major England player go cheaply. A swap is possible and troubled William Gallas is the obvious target, but Chelsea are doing everything they can to make him seem settled. And Gallas' major complaint is that he'd prefer to play center-half, so it's not like he's eager to take Ashley's place. Regardless, I fully expect to see this move complete. Wenger has set a deadline of the end of the week, and that's probably about right. Expect something on Thursday or so.

Added to the Cole rumors are the stories brewing about Jose Antonio Reyes is in the mix too. It's no secret that he hasn't adapted well to life in the UK and that he would prefer to play in Spain, for Real Madrid of course. And perhaps he'll get his wish. But even when he's failed to score, he works hard and has put in a lot of effort for Arsenal. He's at a great stage of experience mixed with potential, and I would hate to see him leave the Gunners right now.

Going the other way, rumors continue to circulate about Franck Ribery. It's difficult to see how Ribery would fit in... unless Reyes is really going to go. But we have a surfeit of wide midfielders, and Ribery is nothing but. Perhaps the plan is to play Aleksander Hleb or Tomas Rosicky or both in a central role. Other rumors have appeared, including Alou Diarra from Lens, Eric Abidal from Lyon, and Luca Toni from Fiorentina. (Warning: Italian exodus!) The boss himself has admitted that he's looking at a few players, including at least one with experience. But of course nothing concrete has developed yet.

So that leaves all us Gunners a bit unsettled going into the first match of the season. Arsenal are in Croatia to visit Dynamo Zagreb in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier. It's clear this is going to be a difficult match. Zagreb are already into their league season, and Arsenal are missing quite a few players. Ljungberg, Senderos, Clichy, and Diaby are all injured, while Henry and Cole are not yet match fit. The absence of Ashley of course is significant in other ways, as it keeps him available to play for a different team in the Champions League. And if Reyes doesn't play, I think you have a clear sign that he's leaving. In any event, Arsenal will have to field a young and unfamiliar team in a difficult and important match, early in August. Not a situation that relaxes the fans.

So lots of questions at the moment but few answers. That will begin to change tonight though; we'll know where we stand with Zagreb, while the transfer situation should start to settle out as well. But let's not lose sight of the most important thing: the season is starting. The Gunners are taking the field for real in a few hours. Get out your colors and warm up your voices...

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