Portugal Müllered, Balotelli But Please, Not Cleverley

Tom Cleverley? Chris Smalling? Jesus wept. The heralds have warmed up, their fanfare for the silly season has begun.

As a thought, is it too late to pull out of the deal to sell Djourou to Hamburg…?

And as transfer talk is where we’ve started, it’s where we’ll continue with the tabloids going into overdrive on the prospect of Mad Mario / Super Mario Balotelli joining Arsenal for £25m from AC Milan, who apparently need to cut their wage bill. There’s no doubt he is an immensely talented player who comes with baggage. For that price, it seems a good deal. His record since leaving Manchester City is a goal every other game and that satisfies Arsenal’s need for another scoring outlet to relieve the pressure on Olivier Giroud.

A penny for his thoughts on the matter. Giroud did not worry about Suarez joining last summer, believing they complimented each others style of play. He was more concerned by Higuain’s possible arrival, seeing the Argentine striker as a direct threat to his place in the XI. How, I wonder, would he view Balotelli? The Italian can play the ‘lone’ striker role as he has proved at international level to England’s detriment, Arsenal would offer plenty of service from either flank but he has the technique to offer something different to Giroud, to compliment him if you like, so the pair could work in tandem. Of the two options, the former seems most likely and Arsène is not the sort of manager to spend £25m and park a player on the bench unless they are on their way out of the club.

But with Balotelli, talk inevitably turns to behavioural issues. Since returning to Milan, he seems calmer off the pitch or at least better at managing the media coverage of his life. He’s older in any case, more mature, better at handling situations; more settled as well if reports of impending nuptials are correct. London offers all sorts of distractions and it will be something for him to consider, whether the paparazzi following him, waiting for the slip, is something that bothers him. But knowing this, if Arsenal do take the plunge, then it’s something the club lives with. There is no point in complaining about his behaviour if you know there is a high likelihood of it happening.

Do I think he is the answer? Of the forwards we’ve been linked with so far, Balotelli is by a long way, the best. And for that reason, probably the least likely signing of the summer. But we will end up with Tom bloody Cleverley.

Perhaps the most interesting rumour yesterday surrounded next season with reportedly, Arsenal facing an opening day trip to Anfield. It’s not dissimilar to the rumours at the start of last season or 2012/13 when the day before the fixtures were announced, Arsenal were left with tough away games to start with. It turned out somewhat different in both cases although there was an early season trip to Merseyside two seasons ago but not on the opening day. That’s not to say it won’t happen, we have to go there at some point and after last season’s mauling perhaps getting that, City and Chelsea out of the way in the first three away games is not such a bad idea; two or three draws from is not a bad return compared to last season’s big fat zero. It might also focus minds on getting deals completed quickly so that the strongest possible squad is available.

But the real thing is on its way and by tomorrow night, I am sure will have all worked out the necessary points for a top four finish.

To be fair, we normally have to wait until the end of the transfer window before Arsenal’s title chances are resolutely dismissed but Tony Adams has seen enough to know that it’s all over before it has begun. According to the former captain, Mr Arsenal,

I don’t think they will win the title as Chelsea and Manchester City are blowing the league apart and Man Utd will come again. I don’t think Arsenal will finish any higher than 4th at the moment which is a little bit sad, but they needed to win the FA Cup because they had stick from the fans.

They played some remarkable football at times last season, but they they do leave themselves open. When they come up against big teams they tend to leave themselves too open because they want to play freely and roll teams over.

Well, that’s the unbridled optimism for a new season well and truly punctured. Is there any point in the Premier League announcing the fixtures for 2014/15 tomorrow? Presumably Adams missed Liverpool’s efforts last season or doesn’t think they can repeat the second place finish because Luis Suarez will be leaving for Real Madrid this summer.

I admire Adams willingness to stick his neck out with predictions for next season but I’ll wager that most people will wait and see if Arsène manages to sign a player or two before the summer’s out. Ideally, before the World Cup final given all bar twenty-six players are available for talks at that point. To do so gives him most of the pre-season to work on integrating newcomers into the squad and setting the players so that they are firing on all cylinders when it comes to the first match of the season.

The World Cup continued space yesterday with Pepe’s dismissal serving to cement his position as the World’s Stupidest Defender. Considering his disciplinary history, to be sent off for such a crass act merely served to underline the idiocy of his actions. The Portuguese knew it wasn’t going to be their day when the lesser talented Ronaldo wannabe, Nani, spoiled a perfectly good opportunity for Coentrào who later departed with a strain of sorts.

Mesut Özil had a decent hour or so the pitch, decidedly one-footed at times and culpable of a poor finish when presented with a decent chance but in the first half, he was a constant thorn in the Portuguese side. Mertesacker was relatively untroubled throughout as what was shaping to be an entertaining encounter, was ruined by the first half shenanigans. Podolski, a late substitute, ambled on to the pitch in a quite impressive manner. You’ll guess by that, I am struggling to recall him touching the ball. Khedira, recently mentioned as a possible transfer target, fared well and was more impressive than in the Champions League final.

Müller’s hat-trick was overshadowed by his part in Pepe’s downfall, which if he possesses the famed German sense of humour, will be the title of a chapter in his memoir. It was a staggeringly stupid act of the Real Madrid defender’s part and entirely in keeping with character. The Germans would have identified his temperament as a weakness and sought to exploit it. Müller did just that and Pepe fell for it.

Play acting, exaggeration, call it what yo will; over-stating the impact of physical contact is deceiving the referee and thus cheating. It’s nothing new though and I struggle to understand the vitriolic response this incident engendered when others are let go without comment. There have been plenty of exaggerated dives already, tumbles made to look a lot worse than the contact merited, if there was any.

These players are professionals, they have played a long time at the top-level. They know what will happen in those circumstances, they have been guilty of the same ‘crime’. It doesn’t make it right, of course but as Patrick Vieira observed, that behavioural trait is never going to be changed in players unless you change wider aspects of the ‘management’ of the game, e.g. empower the fourth official to become involved in these incidents real time. Still, it was funny seeing Chiles already sunken brow sink further down his face as the rage made it seem like a waxwork melting under intense heat.

And amid all this, sitting bemused by the furore erupting from his left, Fabio Cannavaro wondered what all the fuss was about…

’til Tomorrow.

188 thoughts on “Portugal Müllered, Balotelli But Please, Not Cleverley

  1. @Big Al

    I followed him only casually when I would read bout the Bundesliga, and every time I would read there would be glowing commentary on him.

  2. belgium have lots of individual talent but as a team they are naff…

    its like they spain side of 20 years ago…on paper they were bringing through loads of talent but they didnt really develop a system to accomodate that talent until later..

  3. Considering the Belgians are my dark horse for the final………. they didn’t impress me today. The last 10 minutes they livened up but until then, the Algerians controled most of the match.

  4. Brazil:



    Ochoa, Rodriguez, Marquez, Layun, Moreno, Aguilar, Herrera, Guardad, Vazquez, Dos Santos, Peralta

  5. None of the Belgians until really the last goal looked like they wanted to play together or even pass to each other.

    I wasn’t impressed though with them outside of the striker they brought on for Lukuka in the 60′, he has pace to burn and he’s big and strong. Plays for Lille I think but is very young.

  6. Glad I finally get to listen to Henry! He should probably hold a class for some of the rest of these morons that like to talk.

  7. Neymar with a great header, Ochoa makes a fantastic save.

    End to end stuff just as many thought and o watching Brasil brings me such joy. Not as maddening as Arsenal!

  8. @North

    I appreciate it! I could have went on and on and took over Yogi’s blog for the Brasil match!

  9. Silva is such a dominant defender. Having Silva, Gustavo and Paulinho really does allow for Luiz to be the wild card that he is without really hurting them.

  10. I expected Mexico to be better than their shaky qualification record but I didn’t expect Brazil to be this tepid. Fred and Ramires are so weak that the attack stutters. Neymar and Oscar are so good compared to the rest.

  11. When Neymar turns on the jets, he can fly throw and cover so much space in such a short period of time and is on the defenders before they can blink.

    Really do make me miss Theo running down our right flank!

  12. Maybe even Jo would be better. Can Neymar play up top himself with Bernard and Willian either side of Oscar? Might be more creative…

  13. Hi NB, Hi C! Am I going to have to keep you two apart?!

    Let’s pick the hosts for harmony’s sake! Though I do have a soft spot for Mexico from Concacaf…

  14. @LSG

    The thing with Fred is that he is poacher but also makes smart runs that helps create space as opposed to dropping deep to pick up the ball. He works for this system because he doesn’t get involved in the build up play and makes runs in and around the box.

    I completely agree with you on Ramires, centrally he works well but as a winger he is impotent. I was hoping that either Bernard or William started and don’t be surprised to see one of them sooner rather than later.

  15. @LSG

    Given that scenario with Neymar uptop, you would see a more free flowing style, thing is though, Big Phil loves to have a traditional #9.

  16. Agree, Bernard or William makes sense. Scolari missed a trick there, I think.

    Gustavo has been very uninfluentialc chained to the cB’s, basically to cover for David Luiz.

  17. Of course you pick Brasil, you all have to back me!

    In the pre-game, Henry said that Fred was a good striker and the little things he does really makes this system work because he is more about being effiicent then constantly being apart of the build up because he stays out of the way of the creative talent.

    If Henry says he’s a good striker than who are we to disagree!

  18. Don’t be surpised if Alves and Marcelo are playing as wingers and Ramires and Oscar are playing at FB!

    Ochoa is a good GK.

    Bring in Bernard for Ramires and really have a go.

  19. @North

    Extremely hot and humid but it probably doesn’t help that I’m drinking rum and cokes while watching my favorite national team at work!

    Hows France mate?

  20. @Yogi

    I did have a pretty good goal scoring record when they played me as a striker and even know in the leagues I play in!

  21. He isn’t really good at the build up play but he really does make runs to help create space for the midfield and wingers and is a natural poacher.

  22. I’m back in Kingston, ON–small city in Eastern Ontario 2.5 hrs from Toronto, but I’ll be back in the big city later this week. Mild weather–really hasn’t warmed up too much yet this summer. But just warm enough to barbecue–had a group over for Argentina–Bosnia. Still enjoying the steak, tuna steaks, chicken and grilled vegetables! No sausages this time, however!
    Might go sailing Thursday. Not quite as heavenly bucolic as Cbob, but pretty nice all told. Only thing better would be to be in Rio for the WC!

  23. Titi is a gracious diplomat and member of the striker’s fraternity. I trust his views but have also never heard him harshly criticize a player either!

  24. Yea the mosquitoes and the fucking nats are annoying as hell but the rum and coke always make things so much better.

  25. Look at that pace from Bernard! Simply electric, and people wondered why I wanted Arsene to sign him!

  26. That’s a good idea North, just remember he isn’t a burner just a poacher that makes good runs.

  27. This is the fear for us Brasilian fans, that they don’t always show up and have matches where they struggle and just don’t have that explosive striker that Brasil is accustomed to having. I really do wish Pato would get his head on right because people forget that he is only 23-24 years old.

  28. @North

    The thing with Fred is he isn’t apart of the build up AT ALL and that is how they play.

  29. True, C. If Pato wasn’t busy squandering his gifts or recovering from injuries, he could be helping this team a lot.

  30. @LSG

    He is still so very young at only 23-24. He has gotten his head on straight but now needs to find a team that will given him a chance. In the winter I would have gladly had taken him on loan until the end of the season. I would take him now if the price is right.

  31. @North

    I know, just think, you don’t have to watch Fred anymore because he is coming off for Jo.

  32. @MA

    Tend to agree but he isn’t the same Oscar since he met Mourinho, he’s lost his genius and needs to get away from the Chavs!

  33. My pick is looking shaky. Brazil never drops points in the group stages, you know. Missing some attacking flair and finishing, apart from Neymar. Oscar has receded in the second half.

  34. MA

    On the matches I’ve watched so far, then Germany, Holland, France and Costa Rica look impressive

    Fuck… the Mex GK does another miracule save….

  35. Ochoa plays in Spain for a side that got relegated but I just did a bit of research and he played well and it was down more to the side not being very good.

  36. May not be a bad thing for Brazil if they do drop points. They have been a little pants in the competition to date.

  37. Yes, but if they can’t play well with their first 11, there is very little game changing talent on the bench.

  38. @Lime

    Poor results happen though. Brazil know they need to be better and on form you’d question there ability to win he competition. But, these games are all cup games.

  39. Good result for Mexico… who’d have thought.

    Miami…….. tell Mrs Miami I’m supporting Germany. If she wants to read my blog, I’d be happy with that. If she wants to give me a ring… my number is: 04.69…. lol allez les gars. a demain

  40. I just read the comments and I understand Al’s concerns about Balotelli and I will certainly admit I don’t follow his form in Italy. If he is not the right fit then we need someone else to be our CF next season. I would be OK with Benzema if he is the best available option.

    I was being a bit tongue in cheek when I suggested we buy Balotelli, Reus, Campbell, Aurrier, DM, and back up GK this summer since I know that would never really happen. However, there really is no logical reason why something like that shouldn’t happen. We have spent 8 trophy free season saving our pennies and nickels and watch every shilling like a hawk. It’s especially frustrating watching the 2010-13 period when all of the evidence indicated that we had money but for the most part we were unwilling to spend it. What was the point of all of that ultra frugality if we are not going up use our financial muscle to make a huge splash at some point. Is our goal to actually win things or is our goal to try to win while spending as little as we can. I certainly hope for the former. Now that we can afford to spend, lets do it. I understand that you don’t spend money just for the sake of spending, and spending money is no guarantee, however no matter how you slice it, spending that money will give us a better chance to win. We need a couple of top quality goal scorers and those never come cheap. Come on Arsene we have waited patiently, (at least some of us have been patient) it’s supposed to be our time now. Gooooo Arsene.

  41. Jonny.

    Thanks for the copying and pasting the write up on the USA game. If we win against Portugal we will be in.


    I never said it this morning because I was trying to kid around about the USA game but thanks again for another great post. You are the blog master supreme

  42. Our goal should be to use our resources to build the best team in world football and not to build a team that is probably good enough to compete. There is no such thing as a team that can’t be improved by adding better players. It makes no sense to stop using your resources because you think you are good enough. You can always get better. If you aim for total world domination then you have a better chance to reach your real goals which is to win the PL and truly compete in the CL.

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