Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Players Here, Players There, Players Every F***-ingwhere, Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na

Unlike my co-bloggers--both of them Hammers loyalists--I have no particular allegiance within England's Premiership. There are teams I like better than others, of course, and generally--at least in matches that feature squads from the top half of the table--I find myself rooting for one team over another. Last season I rode along on the love-to-hate Chelsea bandwagon until I realized I liked a lot of Chelsea players and it was really Jose Mourinho, not the team itself, who I loved to hate. And then we all went too far and Jose's been giving us the silent pouting treatment, which takes all the fun out of it. Let's hope once the season gets underway he'll be unable to restrain himself.

But the point is, I am pretty neutral in English football. And yet--while I remain peeved at Arsenal for giving up their dazzle in exchange for a lackluster and undeserved win against Villarreal in last spring's Champions League semifinal (a strategy which I believe cost them the final) and I have not forgiven the far-more-elegant-on-the-pitch-than-off Thierry Henry for letting slip that uber-cool persona to expose a whiny blaming ungracious footballer underneath, the Gunners are threatening to seduce me once more with their recent signings. First was Czech wonderboy Tomas Rosicky and now, it appears, French sensation Franck Ribery is poised to don the red jersey. (And as I write this, Arsenal is delivering a Champions League thrashing to Croatian squad Dinamo Zagreb to the tune of 3-0.)

Meanwhile, Hernan Crespo's happily headed back to Italy where he'll be joining Inter Milan, which means that Derek is going to have to do some reshuffling of his Fantasy Football league, and Bolton announced that Mexican striker Jared Borgetti was going to Saudi Arabian club Al Ittihad, only he isn't. Sam Allardyce's insistence on keeping Borgetti on the bench this past season was a source of endless teeth gnashing and general frustration in these parts (as Derek has mentioned here before, I hold Allardyce responsible for Mexico's World Cup loss, as he ensured that their main striker wasn't match fit!), although you can understand perhaps why Big Sam didn't want to tamper with a lineup that was really working for him (not). Anyway, we hope Borgetti finds a good home soon where his talents will be appreciated; he's not getting any younger but he still has a good season or two ahead of him if he can just sign with a team that will actually play him.

In big news for American soccer, MLS has signed a new deal with ESPN/ABC which expands coverage to prime time, among other things, and gives the network responsibility for promotion and success. In even more exciting news, MLS is on the verge of announcing more details about a plan to develop players through team-run European-style soccer academies. It's not quite those sweet magic words "system of promotion and relegation" but this is a significant step toward making the US a more competitive soccer nation.

And oh yes! The Timbers did play this weekend, as a matter of fact. None of us has had the heart to write about it because, frankly, how many different ways are there to say we suck? And we've run clean out. The one advantage of having such an abysmally dreadful team is that you no longer spend the 90 minutes watching with your heart in your mouth, clutching your scarf till your fingers cramp and living and dying a thousand deaths in ninety minutes; instead you turn up assuming you're going to sing some songs, drink some beer, and lose. And guess what--you'd be right!


Shaun Huston said...

By all means, give into the allure of Arsenal. Most of the time you won't be disappointed. Plenty of pretty moves to be had, even when they have seemed incapable of keeping pace with Chelsea, Man U, et al. The game with Villareal was very much an aberration. Every team has their panic moments. The Champions League is the one title that has alluded Arsene Wenger and I can't blame him for playing it safe when on the cusp of the final (even though, like you, I am disappointed when otherwise fearless attacking sides reign themselves in for the sake of a result). In spite of his moment of weakness, I think that Wenger, not to mention Henry, should be applauded for sticking with Arsenal instead of pursuing their unfinished glory elsewhere.

Zach Dundas said...

I'm just as torn about who to support in the Premiership as I am about who to root for in the NFL (and yes, I'm trying to figure that out—seems like I should at least pay passing attention to the biggest sports league in the country).

The only place I've spent any time in the UK is London—so do I go with a London team? I saw Fulham play once (they were in the old Second Division at the time and actually still had an all-standing terrace, which was cool). Should I go with them despite the fact that they have no emotional resonance for me at all?

Arsenal seems a cliche choice...but attractive all the same. Chelsea is right out. West Ham, Charlton or one of the other more blue-collar teams would seem a bit...forced for me. Spurs? C'mon. I'm not a glutton for that much punishment—being a Timbers fan is enough. Liverpool? A lot of my friends are into 'em, and they seem the only personally plausible non-London choice.

I need to figure this out.

Lynda said...

I've always liked Arsenal, which is why I have gone way past beating a dead horse and well into whatever comes next (burning it? burying it?) in my disappointment in them and Henry in the Champions--with the vehemence one can only feel post-betrayal. If I were to go by location, London and the southeast are the only parts of England I could remotely claim as stomping-grounds. The truth is that while I like watching Premiership there is simply no team that inspires me to an unwavering support. But it's still fun to watch. And Arsenal's gonna be a lot of fun this year.

Besides, this season with the Timbers combined with the World Cup has left me feeling kind of flayed alive and I don't think I have any energy left at the moment for more punishment. I'll stick with La Liga; at least with Barca I can be reasonably sure of a good season, even if it's not as successful as this past year's.

Shaun Huston said...

Here's a good article on why Arsenal should be fun and exciting to watch this year: http://msn.foxsports.com/soccer/story/5858666

Lynda said...

Thanks for the link, Shaun--a good piece.

And now it sounds like Ribery's staying at Marseilles after all!