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Friday, May 29, 2015

Adios!

It's the end of the school year. so I'm done with this blog. Here are some great websites to keep up on our global game:

And for the Arsenal supporters:
  • ArseBlog
    • The greatest Arsenal blog ever!!
  • The Short Fuse
    • SB Nation has the best network of team-specific blogs for any sport, and the Arsenal one is pretty solid
  • Gooner News
    • Aggregator of most of the Arsenal articles on the Web
  • Arsenal's Official Website
    • Great for checking the schedule, information on the Academy teams, radio stream for games you can't watch (I see you Fox Sports 2), and fun videos on their Youtube channel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The EPL season is coming to a close :-(

A failed save by Arsenal's David Ospina on a Gomis header
caused Swansea to win 1-0 (Sky Sports)
It is already the middle of May, and there are 2 games to go in the English Premier League season, except an Arsenal-Sunderland midweek game next Wednesday. This has been my first season really being immersed in the EPL and soccer in general. The World Cup had piqued my interest last summer, and I can't believe the season is coming to an end!

My beloved Arsenal had a disappointing result against Swansea on "Monday Night Football", which of course translates to "Monday Afternoon Soccer" in American English. The Gunners fell 1-0 on a late Bafetimbi Gomis header for Swansea. Although disappointing, the goal-line technology clearly showed it was a goal before David Ospina saved it. Arsenal should go after a goalkeeper in the transfer market, perhaps Petr Cech or Real Madrid's Iker Casillas. Either would qualify as the top-line keeper Arsenal would need to win a title. Otherwise, the only other move I'd suggest is a defensive midfielder to give Francis Coquelin more time to develop.

It's squeaky bum time for Arsenal as they take on Manchester United this coming Sunday. Manchester City sits in second with 73 points, while Arsenal has 70 and Man U has 68. Arsenal does have the extra game coming up next week. Arsenal would need to win all 3 remaining games with a Man City draw in at least won to finish second. This squad needs to strengthen at two positions, as stated earlier, to challenge for the title next year.

So until I return for my last post, I am looking forward to Arsenal's probable FA Cup trophy.


Upcoming Soccer TV Picks (thanks to LiveSoccerTV, home team listed first):
Wed. 5-13-2015 (2:45p), Champions League Semi 2nd leg, Real Madrid vs. Juventus (Juve 2-1 agg.), Fox Sports 1
Thu. 5-14-2015 (3p), Europa League Semi 2nd leg, Dnipro vs. Napoli (1-1 agg.), Fox Soccer Plus
Sat. 5-16-2015 (10a), EPL relagation whiparound coverage: Sunderland vs. Leicester, Burnley vs. Stoke, Tottenham vs. Hull City, NBCSN
(12:30p), EPL, Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace, NBCSN
Sun. 5-17-2015 (8:30a), EPL, Swansea vs. Man City, NBCSN(11a), EPL Man Utd vs. Arsenal, NBCSN
(9:30p), Women's Friendly, USA vs. Mexico, Fox Sports 1

Wed. 5-20-2015 (2:45p), EPL, Arsenal vs. Sunderland, NBCSN

Sun. 5-24-2015 (10a), Final day of the Premier League season, All games on these channels: NBC, NBCSN , USA, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Syfy, Esquire, E!, Oxygen
Mon. 5-25-2015 (10a), English Championship playoff final (winner to EPL), beIN Sports
Wed. 5-27-2015 (7p), Club Friendly, Toronto vs. Manchester City, ESPN2
(3p), Europa League Final from Warsaw, Poland, Fox Sports 1
Sat. 5-30-2015 (12:30p), FA Cup Final, Arsenal vs. Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium, FOX

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chelsea are almost-Champions, but 2nd place is still up for grabs


Chelsea are the Champions-elect
It was an important fixture yesterday, as Chelsea is trying to wrap-up their 3 Premier League title in the last 11 years (they won another in 1954-55). They were taking on resurgent Leicester, who are just a point clear of relegation. Leicester went on top late in the first half on a Marc Albrighton goal. But, Chelsea coasted to a 3-1 victory in the second half. Chelsea deserves the title, but they have had many comeback wins lately against lesser teams.
0-0 Arsenal vs. Chelsea
Oh yes, in a particularly dull game for both sides, Arsenal and Chelsea had a nil-nil draw on Sunday. Chelsea appeared to be playing for a draw and the Gunners couldn't break through. The referee Michael Oliver was involved in a controversial decision in the first half, as Cesc Fabregras was assessed a yellow card for flopping. Arsenal was lucky that Chelsea wasn't given a penalty kick. It did appear that Santi Cazorla took a shot to Fabregras' knees.
Only 4 games to go! 
Chelsea now can clinch with a win against Crystal Palace on Sunday, while 3 teams fight it out for second: Manchester City and Arsenal with 67 points, Manchester United with 65. A deciding fixture could be May 17th as Man U hosts Arsenal. Arsenal does have a good chance of remaining in 2nd at the end. Liverpool and Tottenham are just a point ahead Southampton for 5th, and I hope Southampton qualifies for the Champions League because they aren't a big-money club.
Relegation and Promotion:
Sunderland, QPR, and Burnley appear to be going down as their form has been awful as the season winds down. Watford and Bournmouth are on the way up for a big EPL payday, to be joined by Middlesborough, Ipswich, Norwich, or likely Derby. Watford striker Troy Deeney scored 20 goals this year in the Championship and they may stay in the Premier League past next year. Singer Elton John is one of many famous fans of Watford FC. It was an awkward interview BBC Radio 1's Chris Stark conducted with actress Mila Kunis that led to her becoming a fan of the club.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A bit too late: Arsenal's late push for the title may not be enough

Alexis Sanchez (red, middle) score against Beskitas in
in the Champions League group stage (CNN International)
Arsenal has been in the best form in the Premier League as of late, winning in their last eight games.That is followed closely by Manchester United winning 8 of 9 EPL games with 1 draw. Alexis Sanchez appears to be on the way to a possible Player of the Year award, proving that a 51.7 million dollar transfer fee was worth it for Arsenal. Goalkeeper David Ospina has been playing great, conceding only 9 goals in 16 games since overtaking Wojciech Szczesny for the starting role in January. I think this was the right move for Arsene Wenger, as Szczesny had been close to awful in goal and had been caught smoking in the showers after his last Premier League game against Southampton.

As it stands, Arsenal is 7 points shy of first place Chelsea. Chelsea does have an extra game in hand though against Leicester. Arsenal has a date with Chelsea next week, which with a win, could really make the season finish more exciting. This week against Reading, it would be smart to rest players in the FA Cup semifinal. Arsenal fans will be pulling for Manchester United to come out on top against Chelsea this coming weekend.

Although we set in second place, it appears that Chelsea will probably win the title. I would still consider second place a good finish for Arsenal, having been ravaged by injuries early on and setting in 5th as late as December.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The *kinda* International Break

Skreened.com
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, with popularity in every continent. The World Cup is the second most watched international competition, only beat by the Olympics. Soccer is essentially year-round as their are domestic leagues running throughout the whole year. The European leagues generally run from August to May, while America's MLS runs March to December. Other leagues schedules vary.

FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, sets 4-5 international breaks in the year so the national teams can play their competitions and meet in friendlies. The problem is the MLS and some South American leagues choose to play on these weekends. The MLS loses many of their top players that leave to play in the international games. The LA Galaxy's Robbie Keane, reigning MLS MVP, left to join Ireland, and the Galaxy also without Americans Gyasi Zardes and Omar Gonzalez for their match versus DC United. Overall 58 of 560 MLS players were with their international teams instead of playing with their club teams.


Seattle Sounders M Clint Dempsey was among
several Americans on international duty this past
weekend. (World Soccer Talk)
Orlando City manager Adrian Heath appeared to be disappointed in the non-observance of the break, but pushed ahead with the team available. With injuries, Orlando was out 12 players. Heath said to MLSsoccer.com, "It is the smallest squad I can ever remember having for a game. You don’t ever imagine being in this situation when you have 28 on your roster. We have brought everybody who is fit but we have been saying since Monday about thinking positive and just controlling the controllables.". The Orlando squad only had 5 players on the bench, relying on veteran Brazilian midfielder Kaka to carry the team. Kaka scored the late equalizer last Saturday for a 2-2 draw against Montreal. Most MLS managers and fans are keen to eliminate these overlapping games, as it causes the best of the league to miss 5-6 games a year.  MLS needs to fix their scheduling if they want higher ratings and attendance.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Topsy-Turvy Table of the Premier League

The English Premier League teams are just over three quarters of the way through the season, and the race for top places is heating up. Also, the relegation battle is one of the closest in years. As a reminder, the top 4 qualify for the Champions League, 5th place goes to the Champions League playoff, and the bottom three are relegated to the second-tier Championship. Liverpool and Swansea still play on Monday and Chelsea and Leicester have a make-up game on April 29th.

My predictions are in the bold text...

1st Place: Chelsea-- sits at the top of table and appears to be breaking through after back-to-back 3rd place finishes. The power of Diego Costa, Eden Hazzard, as well as manager Jose Mourinho and many others should be enough to win the title. Maybe they don't lose again this season? Arsenal meets them in late April in a possible title-decider.

2nd, 3rd, 4th: Arsenal, Man City, Man Utd: Man City appears to be free falling and although they have strikers Aguero, Dzeko, and newcomer Wilfred Bony, the team just hasn't been as good as their hot start to the season. Manchester United has been consistently 3rd or 4th the whole season, but the fans crave more. Louis Van Gaal has been trying to find the perfect formation and I believe they should stick to four defenders, because otherwise they constantly get beat on defense.  I do think if Van Gaal continues with a 4-3-3, they can finish 2nd or 3rd. Arsenal is in great form right now in the league and with a bevy of talented midfielders (Ozil, Cazorla, Walcott, Ramsey, Coquelin, Sanchez) on the roster they should finish 2nd and challenge for 1st. I didn't even mention Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who should be returning to full health in a few weeks.

Battle for 5th: Southampton, Liverpool, Tottenham: A surprise at 4th much of the year, Ronald Koeman's Southampton side has fell down a bit in the standings. A tough and tactically minded side with a strong defensive core and goalkeeper, the "Saints" don't make a big money signing and rather focus on developing young players. NBC did a great documentary on this a few months back, I highly recommend it: http://sportsworld.nbcsports.com/pl-download-the-southampton-way/.

The Premier League is like any competition, there always teams that come out of the woodwork to have a good, maybe even great season.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How important is cup competition vs. the Premier League?

The FA Cup is considered the most important domestic cup in the world, but for teams chasing the title, players may be rested as the top places are consider more important. Chelsea and Manchester City bowed out early due to resting their players for the title race. Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United have placed increased importance on winning the FA Cup due to the limited chance of winning the Premier League.

Less important is the Capital One Cup with Chelsea taking on the 7th placed Spurs today. Tottenham Hotspur should go all out to win today, being eliminated from the FA Cup and a longshot for the top 5. Winning any piece of silverware is important for the Spurs, as they just exited the Europa League as well.

The Europa League remains important for relegation-threatened Everton. Advancing to the round of 16 last week, I think Everton should play most of the first team there and in the most EPL games while giving players rest against lesser teams such as Burnley.

The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious club competition in the world but Arsenal and Manchester City find themselves down going into the away league. It should be pretty tough to overcome AS Monaco and Barcelona at their home grounds.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's goal wasn't enough for Arsenal to salvage a draw last Wednesday against Monaco.