Monday, March 23, 2009

Looking Ahead

For The Record-Arsene Wenger hasn't ruled out a "crazy" title win for Arsenal, and neither have I. It would be foolish to think that the possibility is realistic, what with 8 matches to go and being behind Manchester United by 10 points while United has a game in hand. However, with the recent league form that Arsenal has shown, it is difficult to give up the league title dream. 

Much of the league form can be attributed to Andrei Arshavin. After a tough start and adjustment to the Premier League, Arshavin has shown the brilliance that made him one of Euro 2008's top players. Furthermore, being cup-tied for Europe has meant that he has been only available for domestic clashes in the League as well as the FA Cup. While some may think that this restriction has been bad for Arsenal, it has enabled them to rest Robin Van Persie in domestic matches and to recover from the injury to Eduardo. 

Arshavin's hunger and determination has been pivotal to an Arsenal team that, despite being unbeaten in League play since November, found itself dropping points to the league leaders.

Yet we haven't seen the best from Arsenal. There hasn't been a point all season where Arsenal has been healthy, and although one can't point to games here and there where Arsenal should have capitalized. They are where they are. 

It's a scary thought that in a few weeks, Arsenal can have a line up in which Cesc Fabregas, Arshavin, Theo Walcott, and Eduardo all feature in a match. That probably excludes Robin Van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and possibly Samir Nasri from the line up. One has to wonder how far from the leaders Arsenal would be had they been healthy all season. It also gives hope for what may happen next year as well as the FA Cup and Champions League. 

Personally, I think some of the credit in the recent resurgence must be given to Nasri and Abou Diaby. Nasri is a very talented player, who was often injured in the first half of the season. Because of this, it took him a longer time to adjust to the premiership. While his creativity has suffered due to the fact that he hasn't had the partners to create with, he has thrived recently playing with Arshavin. Diaby was injured for most of the first half of the season as well, but Wenger has deployed him recently in Champions League play, and his play has garnered domestic action. Diaby has brought a calm to the midfield that neither Denilson nor Alexander Song could all season, which has helped an ever stabilizing defense.

Do I believe Arsenal can win the league? No, I don't. Am I writing them off? No, I am not. I am inspired by their recent play though.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Second Leg of the Champions League

I wanted to go on the record with a few thoughts heading into tomorrow's second leg of the Champions League. 
-Bayern Munich should advance easily after a 5-0 thumping of Sporting Lisbon on the road. You have to wonder how Klinsmann will use his players. Will Franck Ribery, Miroslav Klose, Luca Toni, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Phillip Laam all feature?
-While Liverpool has the vital road goal heading to Anfield, they cannot be happy with their fitness. Steven Gerrard has been a big question mark all season, and Fernando Torres was declared fit just today. However, Yossi Benayoun, the man that scored that road goal, is out with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, despite losing the first leg of the contest, Real Madrid is one of the hottest clubs in all of European football right now.
-Not really impressed with either squad when they played at Stamford Bridge, but I don't see how Juventus can advance. Chelsea has been playing better under Guus Hiddink, and at the very least should draw this fixture. Juventus is really going to have to press to win this match. It just looks like it's going to be a dull match.
-The Panathinaikos-Villareal fixture is one of the most interesting matches that isn't getting attention. I've taken a liking to Villareal given them being a smaller club and featuring players like Robert Pires, Marco Senna, and Joan Capdevila. It also helped that they played United tough in the group stage.
-Arsenal should take care of Roma after winning 1-0 at home. Having Eduardo and Walcott back, Arsenal should have no problems scoring. They should also have their normal defense with Kolo Toure returning from injury. I'm not sure what line up they would include, but it would be interesting if we saw Walcott, Nasri, Van Persie, Bendtner, and Eduardo all at once. 
-Atletico Madrid have their hands full considering they had a 2-2 draw at home. They have to go for the win because of the away goals rule. It should be a very interesting match.
-Barcelona heads home to the Nou Camp having drawn 1-1 at Lyon. While I totally expect Lyon to be a worthy challenge, I doubt with the return of Andre Iniesta, that Barcelona has any troubles advancing to the next round. 
-Lastly, in perhaps the most talked about fixture, Manchester United and Internazionale go back to Old Trafford. There are so many stories that have been talked to death. If either team loses, it will be a big loss to the competition. My hope is that Inter wins so that the talk of a quintuple gets put to bed. However, everything tells me that United will advance.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eduardo: The Straw That Stirs The Drink

For The Record-I believe Eduardo is the straw that stirs the drink for Arsenal. They might have the best passer and one of the most talented players in the world in Cesc Fabregas, but Eduardo instills a confidence in the squad that no other players can. One of the greatest struggles for Arsenal as of late has been finding the back of the net. When Eduardo has been on the pitch, there have been no problems with that. 

This season may have been a disappointment in regards to the league, but it can still be salvaged by winning the FA Cup or Champions League and finishing in the Top Four. Eduardo can lead them there. In Eduardo we trust.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Changes Need to be Made

For The Record-The Boston Bruins have to make some serious changes approaching the playoffs. While they may enjoy a large division lead and a decent lead over the New Jersey Devils for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, much of why they are in the position that they are in is due to early season success. Their play as of late is at best laughable. 

Part of the problem has been the struggles of the young players. David Krejci seems to have lost the form that made him the second leading scorer on the team, Blake Wheeler seems to have lost his brain, and Phil Kessel seems to have forgotten how to hit the net. While Kessel seems to have gotten out of the funk a little bit, Krejci and Wheeler continue to struggle. Playing together on the second line and sometimes on the penalty kill, their mistakes as of late have been very costly. 

Yet Claude Julien has been staying clear of making changes. He has yet to mix up the lines or make adjustments. He's using the same personnel in the special teams. There's no question that the way this team is going right now, they are set to make an early departure in the playoffs. 

Disappointment in Boston appears eminent. Let's just hope it's a front.