Bill’s European Club Top 10 October ’18

(Note: Will try to keep my Liverpool FC bias to a minimum…)

  1. Juventus: With Dybala back in the side and some tough Serie A competition to keep them on their toes, can’t see anyone else on top.
  2. (tie)
    1. Liverpool: One loss, by a late goal away to another Top 10 side, otherwise undefeated in meaningful competition. Including an away win, an away draw, and a home draw against three of the other English Top Six.
    2. Manchester City: A bad loss in Europe, two draws in the EPL, while missing Kevin De Bruyne. Beat Arsenal away to open the season.
  3. Dortmund: Even with Pulisic injured and Goetze barely featuring, the Yellow and Black are top of Germany.
  4. Barcelona: A bad week made not so bad by a Messi masterclass against Tottenham. Still the team to beat in Spain and a threat to anyone in Europe.
  5. Chelsea: Sarri has made a difference, fast, though some results (West Ham, PAOK Salonika, Newcastle) are well below expectations.
  6. Atletico Madrid: Bit of a rough start to the season but clamped down on Real Madrid away. We’ll see if the rough patch is over when they meet Dortund on 24 October.
  7. Napoli: Beat Liverpool but lost two domestically and have been exposed at the back.
  8. Arsenal: Weak start but have won everything since and Unai Emery putting Lacazette and Aubameyang together up top may be the key change.
  9. Inter Milan: After a tough few seasons, Inter are making themselves heard again.
  10. Bayern Munich: Played very poorly last weekend in losing to Borussia Monchengladbach, a game I watched in shock. While the six-time defending Bundesliga champs currently sit sixth domestically they have too much talent to not be at or near the top by Christmas. Either first year manager Nico Kovac gets it done or someone will come in to do it (Zidane? Wenger?)

Real Madrid are struggling, #11 spot would be a toss-up between them and Tottenham.

Luis Suarez Walks Alone

Continuing to diss the loyal fans who supported him through the eight game suspension for being a racist and 10 games for being a carnivore in public, Luis Suarez continues his public campaign for Real Madrid to come in for him. But so far the Spaniards are apparently not willing to match Liverpool’s required fee.

And new boss Carlo Ancelloti may have a different EPL star in mind though as rumor has Los Blancos lining up a record transfer fee for the player who beat Suarez out for Player of the Year, Gareth Bale. How much? Let’s say £85 million, £5 million more than the team paid for Ronaldo.

But even with Bale on board will Ronaldo stay? So far he hasn’t signed a contract extension and so a handful of billionaire-backed clubs are preparing bids with lots of zeros at the end. Man City, PSG, Chelsea all seem interested.

Perhaps most intriguingly there’s Monaco. The team, owned by a Russian rival of Chelsea’s Abramovich, has already spent £120 million or so on three players but adding CR7 would surely be enough to take them from Ligue 2 to Champions League in one season, and not having to play in European competition this season would make him fresher for the World Cup next summer.

If he leaves Madrid, with Higuan also out the door, Bale would need someone more than Karim Benzima to partner with and then Suarez, even at £40-50 million, looks much better.

Hard to see the terrific LFC fans, supportive as we’ve been the past two seasons, getting past the poor-mouthing of Luis Suarez the last few weeks.

LFC Midfield Getting Crowded

The full list, 14 as of this moment:

Raul Meireles
Steven Gerrard
Joe Cole
Milan Jovanovic
Rodriguez Maxi
Dirk Kuyt
Leiva Lucas
Jay Spearing
Christian Poulsen
Jonjo Shelvey
Albert Acquilani
Charlie Adam
Jordan Henderson
Stewart Downing

Jovanovic, Poulsen, Acquilani and Cole are likely to be sold or loaned, Maxi is on the bubble and if I had to guess if any of those five stay Shelvey or Spearing will be loaned. That brings us down to nine or ten.

Which seems like a lot when you consider that when healthy every one except Spearing/Shelvey will expect to start and the Reds play a 4-4-2, not a 0-10-0.

Even if a player or two will always be missing through injury, suspension or the like but discounting that who are the four starters?

Gerrard still has to be the first name.

Lucas I think earned the defensive midfield spot as the team”s most dependable player last season.

Dirk Kuyt is the most important creator of goals the last few years and my favorite Red, starts on the right.

Downing probably offers the best supply from the left. That’s four.

Adams deputizes for Lucas. One intriguing idea floated a week or two back is to play Charlie as a central defender alongside Skrtel; Adams himself said that might be his best position.

Henderson can spell Dirk as he works his way into a starting position, especially if Downing gives consistent width from the left.

Mereilles seems the big loser in the three signings and if a deal can’t be made for Acquilani he might have to go instead.

The transfer window has six weeks left. Let’s see what Kenny, Comolli and John Henry get up to!

The USMNT and the Gold Cup

From a SportsFilter discussion of Bill Barnwell’s Grantland article:

In general, I agree with the article though winning this Gold Cup would have been useful as entry ticket for the next Confederations Cup. If Bradley’s strategy had gotten us the trophy I could accept the roster choices.

As it did not there are definitely questions. For instance, why not play three young defenders plus Boca or Cherundolo for a bit of maturity? Putting those two as the first choice fullbacks meant a complete lack of pace out wide since our so-called wingers were constantly cutting inside; 4-6-0 was more like 4-3-3-0 with no one except Adu consistently getting wider than the 18 yard box.

Edu has consistently not gotten the playing time I think he’s earned from Bradley despite his club form. Jones hasn’t shown me the ability to do the offensive business required from his position, so I’m just not getting the decision.

I think the author doesn’t take injuries sufficiently into account though. With healthy Stuart Holden, Charlie Davies, Tim Chandler, and Jozy not going out so early the team would have been much younger and pacier. Add in Edu over Jones and I honestly think that team would’ve steamrolled the Gold Cup.

FIFA: Consider the open source model

In this World Cup, as in past tournaments, referees have made numerous, game-changing poor decisions on goals and possible goals. Tevez scoring from offside against Mexico, Dempsey ruled offside against Algeria, Lampard’s tying goal against Germany not being over the line are just three examples from this time around.

Just as in the past calls have come in again for technical assistance to be adopted and just as in the past FIFA are saying no. FIFA decided in March that technical solutions will disrupt the flow of play or cost too much to be deployed at all levels of competition and using them only at the national team and professional competitions will rupture the universality of play. After the round of 16, with the disallowed English goal, the possibility of using two goal line assistant referees, as trialled in this past season’s Europa League, was allowed as a future change.

Let’s separate technical assistance into two options: instant replay and sensors. Instant replay has not worked well in the NFL but somewhat better in the NHL. Regardless of the quality of the decisions in both leagues the decisions simply take too long but since the broadcasts can go to commercials, which would otherwise require TV timeouts, there’s some relief. I agree with FIFA leadership, though, that with currently available systems instant replay would be too disruptive to play in soccer.

Sensors are another story and I think FIFA are missing an opportunity here. I’m sure the cost of the recent systems with which they did experiments are quite high but their mistake was going to the big sports equipment makers for the solutions. Instead, FIFA should open an X Prize-like competition to spur development of inexpensive, open source hardware and software.

The software, especially, should be open source, not only to get a lower price tag but also to ensure against tampering and other malicious interference. One has only to look at the recent troubles with electronic voting software for a good comparable.

Additionally, the software system can be strengthened by running a master copy server and requiring a fresh copy be downloaded to the game server just prior to kickoff. The download can be validated by a one time key or biometrics.

Given the near universal appeal of soccer even among geeks I think this prize competition would be enormously popular and in fact drive improvement in sensor software and results processing for many uses beyond sport as well.

So Sepp, what do you say?

Welcome Roy Hodgson

Liverpool FC today announced that Roy Hodgson has joined the club from Fulham as the new manager and I’m pleased at his selection. He famously rescued the London squad from the brink of relegation and took them to the Europa League finals just weeks ago. Amusingly while our former manager took the Inter Milan job, our new boy is a former Inter Milan manager.

Hodgson’s first job is to settle three of our top stars before they bolt. Rumors abound that Chelsea, Man City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan are all willing to pay big money for one or more of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Macherano and that Masch at least is interested in going. If the Reds are to get back to the top four this coming season we cannot really afford to lose even one of them. Fabio Aurelio has already been shown the door and though not a great fullback he did add needed depth to the squad, while Chelsea will be taking Yossi Benayoun after the transfer window opens.

Roy is quite a contrast from Rafa, temperamentally and tactically. Though strong in his self-belief I’ve rarely seen or read of Hodgson showing strong negative emotions publicly while Rafa has no problem letting off steam. Working with, let’s face it, a good but less talented squad, Hodgson matched his lineup and match planning to the opponent while Rafa (when players were healthy) adhered to his own rotation system and on the road at least almost always set out a 4-5-1 defense-oriented formation.

Hodgson has also been good at getting value for money in player purchases. His former club will likely turn large profits selling on Brede Hangelund, Mark Schwarzer and Bobby Zamora this summer, to give three recent exemplars.

If our three stars stay and stay healthy, as all missed big chunks of the ’09-10 season, and the net talent inflow exceeds the outflow I think the prospects are bright. Hello Roy, shows us what you can do!

Reds win for a treble!

Going for their second cup championship of the week, the score was Liverpool 5, Alaves 4 as an own goal from the Portuguese’s side goalkeeper late in overtime brought Liverpool the UEFA Cup only three days after winning the English FA championship over Arsenal. The team won the Worthington Cup earlier this spring for the unprecedented treble. In late August, they’ll face either Bayern Munich or Valencia in Monaco for the Super Cup. Finally, after a slow start in the current Premiership season, they look good for third place and an automatic bid to next season’s Champion’s League.