Champions League - Round of 16February 14th, 2011
Somebody Please Fix Arsenal...
And we'll all have more fun watching soccer.
Okay, finally, the Round of 16 begins and we're all looking forward to watching Milan play Tottenham and Barcelona toy with, sorry, play Arsenal, right? Well, if you aren't, I am.
Tottenham-Milan is kind of mouth watering, I think. I know Tottenham is not playing quite as well as they played earlier. I know Milan is a load, a big offensive load to deal with but I am absolutely going to park myself in front of my DVR for this one. (Yeah, I'd love to watch the game live but I'm here in NorCal. There's a big time difference between here and Europe and my gainful employer seems to think watching the game is, "Not a best use of time." It's not fair how often he wins our arguments but, that's a different discussion.)
Let's begin by acknowledging that Tottenham's defense will have their hands full against Milan. Zlatan Ibrahimovic alone will sorely strain the Tottenham back line. Younes Kaboul is strong and playing well this season but he can't handle Ibrahimovic on his own. He'll need lots of help which will create room and opportunity for Robinho, Pato, Pirlo and company. At least when Tottenham's defense, wheezing but heartened by the sight of the end of the game begins to smile, Milan will not be able to unleash the all time leading poacher/pain in the you know what, Filippo Inzaghi. Then again, the Tottenham D may not be smiling as the game nears its end.
Of course Milan is not the only one of these teams with a fit inducing offense. Milan's defense will also be sweating bullets as the game goes on thanks to Earth, Wind and Fire aka Modric, Bale and Van der Vaart. For all his herky jerky style, Luka Modric is as down to earth as they come. He's always composed, confident and smooth on the ball. His passes are beautiful and well weighted, they are as intelligent as anyone else's in the game. Did you hear that Spain, I said anyone. Van der Vaart is a game changing force. He is an almost perfect combination of grit, determination, strength, guile and shooting accuracy, a combination certain other teams (such as perhaps, Arsenal?) sorely lack. And Bale, how fast is Bale? He leaves the wind in the dust. Did you see him beat Maicon down the sideline when those two teams played? No Mr. Maicon, his name is not Mercury, it's Gareth.
Watching Barcelona play against anybody is a treat. Just even watching them warm up is worth the price of admission. How do they do what they do? How do they pass the ball the way they do? How are they always exactly where the pass expects them to be? People keep telling me they do it because Barcelona is very, very good. Maybe as good as World Cup Champions Spain. Me, I tell those people Spain doesn't have Danny Alves or Lionel Messi. Barcelona may be better than Spain.
Arsenal, ahh Arsenal. When Arsenal play well, their offense is a joy to behold, it flows swift and free like a cool brook running past and through the rocks. At their best, they can be more entertaining to watch than Barcelona's highly precise, highly controlled passing clinic. They can be almost unstoppable as Newcastle recently learned. Of course, they are not always at their best. Too often they can be mushy soft, like pudding, as Newcastle also recently learned.
And now that team, the mushy soft one that blew the second half four goal lead over Newcastle is going to to beat Barcelona? I'll believe that when I see it. For now, color me skeptical. A deep shade of skeptical.
To win when it counts Arsenal needs fixing. Of course the fixing they need is not that easy to come by. John Terry is not on his way over, neither is Kolo Toure. But you know what I think? I think Arsenal can be fixed without finding the next Patrick Vieira. I think if Arsenal simply added a goalkeeper, an intimidating goalkeeper, say Tim Howard, they'd be a far better team. Not a more skilled team, they exude skill, but a better team. With Tim Howard in goal Arsenal's defense would not have allowed Newcastle those 4 second half goals. Why not? Because they'd be too afraid of what he might do to them.
With Tim Howard in goal there would have been no goal mouth kerfuffle. Tim Howard doesn't do kerfuffle, he does, "If you want me to notice you I will but next time you're visiting my goal mouth, don't blink."
The trouble with Arsenal is that they do blink. The trouble with Arsenal is they don't have Tim Howard and they can be mushy soft. Which I'm guessing leaves Barcelona with only three words.
Yum, yum, yum.
By: Mike Boyder