At this point, I'm kinda over Cesc. He's an excellent player, and if he wanted to stay, I'd welcome him with open arms, but I'm just sick of having to listen to this excrement over and over again. I say let him dip out after this season, as long as we can get a good price for him. I love Nasri in that middle role, and I think he would do great playing in the central attacking position, and with the money we can get for Cesc, we should be able to make a couple signings (hopefully at least one of which would involve a central defender).
I was talking to my buddy about this (whose a huge Liverpool fan), and he said he had felt similarly about Torres. It just gets to a point where, if a player doesn't want to be on your team anymore, you get less and less keen on keeping him. I feel like Cesc is always hurt, and frequently underachieving even when healthy. It's time to move on.
Well, in Torres' defense, he wasn't going to see Champions League football in the short term staying at Liverpool, let alone a side that was fit to win the league. The financial uncertainty at the club, the situation with the old Hicks/Gillett regime, and the team performing well below standards when Roy Hodgson was boss were factors to him leaving. While the NESV ownership and Kenny Dalglish stepping in as manager have led to stabilizing the club a bit, I don't see Liverpool finishing top four next year at least. It was perhaps best for Torres to spend what should be his peak years (he's 27) not having to worry about his side not finishing top four at least.
As for Cesc, I think he's spot on to criticize Wenger and the club's mentality in general. The problem for Arsenal the last 5 years or so has been Wenger's stubbornness to his youth policy. Truth be told, his team has little wrong with it, aside from being a top central defender and a keeper away from winning major honors. The big thing Arsenal lack is really the cohesive mentality, the kind that comes with having the right mix of veterans and youth. Arsenal had that not too long ago (it seems like long ago) when Henry, Vieira, Bergkamp, etc. played for them. Since then, Wenger has gone overboard with developing young players and staying fairly stingy in spending.
The other thing is Wenger's indifference of the team not winning say, the Carling Cup. It's a Mickey Mouse trophy for a big club, but winning some kind of silverware is a boost especially for a young team. I remember United won the Carling Cup in 2006 when Chelsea ran away with the league two seasons running. The younger players like Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo at the time didn't win honors that they played a big role in, which made winning something instill that winning mentality over the last several seasons. You look at Arsenal bottling it against Birmingham and their usual second-half slide came right on schedule, since then.
That said, Cesc is a terrific player. He hasn't been in top form because of the injuries and Wenger's insistence to play him too high up the pitch this season. Cesc is somewhat like Rooney, in that he excels in a variety of roles. IMO, he was best in 2007-08 when he played as a cross between a deep-lying playmaker and one that can make direct runs at the opposition (more like the latter). In short, he's better when he's unpredictable because his movement off the ball is really good. Jack Wilshere is better suited as a deep-lying midfielder and Nasri has more of a free role (cutting into the middle) which sort of has Fabregas being somewhat utilized incorrectly.
If Cesc leaves, I think Barcelona is his first choice but I also believe he'll consider Real Madrid. There's a spot for Cesc in Barca's starting XI if Andres Iniesta plays on the left, replacing Pedro and Fabregas playing in front of Xavi/Busquets. The question is, if he'll get the consistent playing time. That's also a concern if he goes to Real. Kaka might be sold, however, and that could create a little competition between him and Mesut Oezil, two central attacking mids who are quite similar to one another.
Real Madrid beat Barcelona, 1-0 to win the Copa Del Rey. Real had the better of the first half, but Barca were improved in the second half. Iker Casillas made a few great saves. Ronaldo won the Cup that the Madridistas don't really care for, but sort of do now, with a great header.
The Champions League semifinals are the more significant games, as far as I'm concerned. It appears that after the last two Clasicos, the games will be a bit scrappy. Mourinho's big tactic is to play Pepe as an extra defensive midfielder and not give Xavi/Iniesta too much time on the ball, so that the passes/through balls are a bit off. Barca were able to get in behind Real's defense, however. It'll be an interesting tie. Barca have looked ordinary the last couple of months, fatigued perhaps with too many games for club and country under their belt, and David Villa's doing his best Fernando Torres impression (think I read even Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a better strike rate last year than David Villa). Anyhow, the best laugh could be had in Barca advancing to the Champions League final at the Madridistas' expense, but it'll be difficult as Mourinho has a hard to beat tactical plan in good working order and Pep Guardiola isn't exactly a tactical genius.
A Fleshner Fantasy wrote:Is there anything more depressing than being an Arsenal fan?
To be honest, I was paying more attention to the Spurs-Arsenal second half than I was in the first half of Barca-Madrid.
That was really a terrific game for the neutrals. Open, end-to-end game, and it really could have gone either way. Arsenal should have killed off the game with Walcott's shot going just wide of the post and Van Persie's failure to not pick out Walcott for the easier chance on goal (instead RVP took on the shot). Spurs were getting overrun in midfield when they pushed up the pitch and gave Arsenal plenty of space. Arsenal were getting skinned down the flanks in the second half and it really was to their undoing (the Lennon penalty decision). Again, another game in which Arsenal bottled a lead and could have been worse, had Modric capitalized on that glorious chance on Szczesny's goal and if VDV put more power into his shot.
Still, that 3-3 was one of the better games this season, surely in the Premier League. Too many game-turning incidents to note. A really great advertisement for the league.
Chelsea won at home against Birmingham as expected. United with a 6 point cushion over both Arsenal and Chelsea.
4/23 - West Ham (H) 4/30 - Tottenham (H) 5/8 - Man United (A) 5/15 - Newcastle (H) 5/22 - Everton (A)
Arsenal (64 pts, 33 games)
4/24 - Bolton (A) 5/1 - Man United (H) 5/8 - Stoke (A) 5/15 - Aston Villa (H) 5/22 - Fulham (A)
Manchester City (56 pts, 32 games)
4/25 - Blackburn (A) 5/1 - West Ham (H) 5/7 - Everton (A) 5/10 - Tottenham (H) (5/14 - Stoke, FA Cup Final) 5/? - Stoke (H) 5/22 - Bolton (A)
Tottenham Hotspur (54 pts, 32 games)
4/23 - West Brom (H) 4/30 - Chelsea (A) 5/7 - Blackpool (H) 5/10 - Man City (A) 5/15 - Liverpool (A) 5/22 - Birmingham (H)
I think I said at the halfway mark of the season that I didn't really care where Arsenal were in the table with respect to United, more so about Chelsea. Arsenal are more likely to drop points than Chelsea are, but truth be told, it's all United's to lose. That said, getting three points against Everton is imperative and Sir Alex has to field the best team with the PL taking most priority. The two games against Schalke might throw a spanner into things. Still, every reason to be confident United can have #19 in the bag, although knowing United, they'll do so the hard way.
I'm also interested in seeing if Spurs can once again leapfrog City. Tottenham have the harder run-in, going to Chelsea, City, and Liverpool. Last year, we said the same thing and they were able to win big games vs. Arsenal, Chelsea, and at City to qualify for the Champions League. They can't afford to drop points at home to opponents they should be able to beat. That has been sort of a habit of Tottenham's recently and probably drives home the need for a top-class center forward.
This should give Sheikh Mansour ideas to rename Manchester City, "Manchester City of Abu Dhabi". Then again, that would mislead foreigners as City are clearly the club most in Manchester support.
Good thing the Glazers didn't rename United, "Manchester United Team America: World Police". Even though I heavily dislike anything about jingoism (the American kind, especially), that actually does sound cool.
I experienced some insomnia last night and consequently watched a soccer game for the first time ever. The Reds vs. Wartatahs and It was mad entertaining. I think that Cooper on the Reds is one of the best soccer players in the world. 10/10 Would watch again.