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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oh dear.

Dyer has broken his leg. Oh dear.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Could be better, could be worse

Well, for a moment there TDH really thought that we'd grabbed three points on Teesside. It wasn't to be. TDH joined Big Ham in feeling a bit like the result was a loss, not a draw, especially with the new injuries. That said, TDH couldn't understand Big Ham's affection for Carr, and the alternatives must be better. And moreover, 5 points from 3 matches puts us on course for 63, which was good enough for fifth last year.

TDH and friends watched a bit of almost everything over the weekend: England, Italy, Spain, Germany, Argentina, even snatches of Mexico and MLS. Despite the overseas pundits' contention that Manure are stronger than ever, they seemed weak to the experts assembled Chez TDH. The offence of Tevez-Scholes-Giggs played like an inverted triangle, Tevez drifting over to his preferred wing while no one assumed full striking duties up front. Without Rooney, Saha - oh, for chrissake, what TDH really means is without Van Nistelrooy - Manure doesn't seem like such a threat. So, Chelsea to walk it without breaking a sweat, Liverpool a couple of strides behind. (P.S. Spurs deserved at least a point, as did City. No justice in football, eh?)

Over in Spain, it's anybody's guess. What if Riquelme goes to Atleti? Another Argentine contingent will be spoiling for a title. Barca can't score with all of its don't-call-them-galacticos, and TH must be a little surprised to be Messi's sub. (He shouldn't be, of course; both players score goals by outrunning the defense, drawing the keeper out and slotting home somewhere between the 6 and the 18.) Real have lost their service with Becks in Los Angeles, and Valencia looked woeful at Villareal despite their own cavalcade of stars. Wide open.

Italy is showing some life after some boring and scandal-plagued years. Could you tell that Juve were glad to be back in Serie A? Could you ever. TDH doesn't like the big Juve names much, but there's something to be said for the loyalty of these players. With Del Piero, Trezeguet, Nedved and Buffon firing on all cylinders, Livorno didn't stand a chance. (Ibrahimovic? Who he?) And then there was Milan, another team playing with a squad virtually unchanged from last year. Their class still shows, though TDH wouldn't necessarily put money on them to repeat.

The TDH experts concluded that there really was only one team in Germany. And Bayern with Ribery in the mix was not un-entertaining. But Bochum v Hamburg was simply a mess, barely worthy of being called football. Check, please.

Back here in Argentina, TDH's panel grudgingly accepted that Independiente was the lone "candidato" to win it all this half-season, but TDH doesn't want to get excited yet. El Rojo is a streaky team, and bad streaks can follow good, even in a 19-game tournament. Vamos a ver.

Finally, TDH sends congratulations to all the Yanks who got the start in the top leagues over the weekend, and especially to Clint Dempsey for scoring early for Fulham. The ranks are growing....

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another chapter in the England saga

It all started out so promisingly, England showing more action in one half than it had in the entire World Cup. But really, it all came down to the same old story: forwards can't convert, overreliance on Becks, dodgy keeper.

Becks was far from his best, hitting virtually every ball too low - a sure sign of fatigue, or perhaps jetlag. He still manages to give himself plenty of time on the ball, but without enough gas in the tank it's not worth a damn.

Owen is still a few extra Y chromosomes short of being the stone-cold killer that Sven used to eulogize, but he's heading in the right direction. Dyer should have scored... oh, too bad. Micah Richards was quite right to demand the ball with more regularity, as he, SWP and Young Joe seemed to be the only ones posing a regular threat. And as the Tees Mouth says, with some humor, it's time for Robinson to go.

Still, TDH shouldn't complain too much. It was the most entertaining England performance in many moons.


If there's a team whose psychology is as screwed up as England's, and is thus equally vulnerable to bloodless Northern European efficiency, it's Argentina. Such was the case in Oslo yesterday evening.

Now, TDH would like to point out that Norway may offer the best value for money of any FIFA member. For a country with fewer than 5 million inhabitants (fewer than Scotland, half that of Portugal), it produces some outstanding footballers and a decent number of trips to the major championships. With Carew, Riise, Braaten and the Gamster, it posed a mostly England-based threat that Argentina woefully underestimated.

Carew basically did whatever he wanted for an hour, and that was enough. With Messi playing as enganche, Lucho supposedly commanding the midfield with Mascherano at sea in the back, and Milito looking woeful up front, something had to change. Saviola came on and lit up the front line, and after Maxi's goal the team suddenly decided to show up. In came 10 minutes of the fastest, most sparkling football TDH had seen since, well, Argentina in the first round of the World Cup. But 10 minutes isn't enough. TDH's friends in Buenos Aires were left shaking their heads.


TDH made it back to La Bombonera on Sunday, incidentally. Diego was there, despite the cold and some light rain. The match against recently promoted San Martin de San Juan - their fans traveled over 1,000 kilometers for the match - had plenty of action but little football. Really could have gone either way. After selling more than $100 million worth of players in the off-season, Argentine football is looking a bit anemic - and it's no surprise. Still, TDH won't mind if Independiente, with Captain Rolfi perhaps now the best player in the league, takes advantage by winning the Apertura....

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bathing in a sea of football

Oh, it truly is a fiesta of football for TDH these days. What better way to kick things off than with a week in the UK? TDH saw a bit of Chelsea, a bit of Manure, a slice of the SPL and other bits and pieces. So far, so good.

Yes, TDH is joining much of the English media in salivating over this season. So many good players added to so many teams, with the middle of the table - perhaps up to the top two spots - lying wide open. And even at the top, nothing is certain. Manure looked fallible this week. Defenders have twigged that keep Kiki Ron out wide may neutralize much of the threat. Chelsea seem to play better without Ballack and Sheva (no surprises there, eh?), and Alex - a player whom TDH loves - will boss the back with Carvalho or Terry. But they'll need to score more than last season, even with Pizarro occasionally playing as a lone striker.

TDH took in a bit of Scotsport early this week, witnessing a pretty good performance by Beasley with Rangers and the dismantling of Falkirk by Celtic. The highlight was definitely Celtic's Nakamura, who has, in TDH's opinion, joined the elite club whose members have hitherto included Juninho Pernambucano and one David Beckham. At his best, he's automatic. Just like Beckham the other night in the Superliga semifinal. As the Argentine commentators said, his teammates mobbed him as though he'd just won the World Cup. Nice that he can feel that kind of love for once (at least since 1999 against Bayern).

Adding to TDH's joy at Newcastle's favorable start has been the top-of-the-table performance of Independiente, which seems to have found an able strike force in 20-year-old Ismael Sosa and German Denis, aka The Goofy-Looking Human Tank. Rolfi Montenegro is, of course, pulling all the strings.

In other news, TDH has been wondering who on earth is striking for Bayern these days. Pizarro is at Chelsea, Makaay is back in Holland at Feyenoord and Santa Cruz is at Blackburn.... Well, they finally picked up Klose, but who's the mystery man? None other than Luca Toni. They've both scored already. Still, TDH isn't expecting big things from Bayern in the Champions League this year. If either of these guys gets crocked, there's no one except Podolski to pick up the slack. Compare that to Chelsea, Barca, etc. and you'll see what TDH means.

Finally, TDH watched "Goal II" on the plane on the way back to Buenos Aires. Not having seen the first part in the series, TDH had to make do with few shots of Tyneside and the Toon faithful. But the film was almost engaging enough to have TDH rooting for the Merengues in a Champions League final, somewhat strangely at the Bernabeu, even more strangely against Arsenal. Rutger Hauer played the Real coach-of-the-week, a stoic Dutchman who didn't seem too differend from Bernd. Again strangely, there was a shot of (an unidentified) Wanderley Luxemburgo prowling the sideline during the supposed cup final. Well, fair enough; to the film's credit, it does let you dream, specifically of being a star boy footballer in a man's body. To judge by the closing credits, there are more "Goals" to come.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Alone at the top!

Yep, the air's a little thinner up here, atop the Prem after a complete matchday. TDH held the proverbial until Sunday's matches were over, and it was worth the wait. The starters were a bit surprising (Zog in defense?), but the team clicked. TDH particularly likes Butt and Smith in midfield until Joey gets back from jail. Job well done to Big Ham - histrionics and all - and to some other unlikely candidates....

First off, of course, was Sven. Shore, he noo owl de tam det hee het harred sum goot plares. Elano is definitely a talent. But it was remarkable to see them playing such elegant football with so little preparation. Perhaps Sven should simply take teams over on rush jobs, say six matches at a stretch.

And then, TDH must give special mention to Marcus Hahnemann, Reading's American keeper, who stifled every dollop that Manure could throw at him. It ain't easy, getting a point at the Theatre of Screams.

Fulham's American contingent weren't as lucky, with McBride and Bocanegra both managing to miss a goal that could have yielded a point. TDH has grave doubts about Lawrie's losers... they'll have to wait to see if three teams are really worse. Can it be? Brickface Bruce seems to say no.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Transfer market update

Okay, here are the Toon signings so far under Big Ham, with TDH's ratings:

Mark Viduka (7) - proven goal scorer, hopefully a bit of Big Ham discipline will keep him at his best even as he ages

Joey Barton (6) - a midfield boss man that we needed after selling Scottie P, but attitude problems worry TDH

David Rozenhal (8) - apparently quite a good defender, should make a good partner for Taylor

Geremi (7) - solid, versatile player who will keep us from playing Nobby at the back

Alan Smith (4) - TDH must ask why, with plenty of strikers and midfielders already at our disposal, and the headcase aspect is cause for concern

Cacapa (8) - an intriguing capture of a Lyon regular that gives us yet another much-needed option at the back

Jose Enrique (7) - a young, strong defender, just what we need except that he's only proven himself in Spain

So far, Big Ham seems to have more brains than all of our last few managers. With four potential defensive stalwarts among the signings, TDH couldn't be more pleased. Big Ham hasn't even spent half of his purported 50 million pound kitty. And the window hasn't closed yet.

We might actually compete this year. Might.