Tuesday, October 19, 2010
by Bagga Wilks
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal eked out a win on Saturday, October 16, 2010 against lowly placed Birmingham. Arsenal was down 1-0 from a superb header from the 6’8” Zigic. Arsenal drew even when Chamakh was fouled unconvincingly in the box and Nasri put away the penalty.
Early in the second half, Arsenal went ahead with a goal from their newly acquired French striker. Chamakh. Birmingham fought back even though Arsenal, as usual, dominated possession. Arsenal without Fabregas and Walcott are a great east to west team. Neither Nasri nor Arshavin has the pace to beat defenders going forward. Wenger’s young lions are great at possession and play very well in the midfield but are far from effective in the last third and suffer lapses of concentration in the defensive third. Wenger’s young team suffers from an excess of sameness. They can pass the ball but the current team lacks an Henry, a Bergkamp or a Viera. Arsenal’s hopes of winning any trophy in the 2010-11 season will depend on the fitness of Fabregas and Walcott.
Berlusconi fired Leonardo and there was the fear that A.C. Milan would not field a competitive team in the Serie A. But Berlusconi at the eleventh hour acquired Ibrahimovic from Barcelona and Robinho from Manchester City. Also brought into the team was Prince Boateng. This meant that the new coach, Allegri, had an attacking line up that on paper could compare with the top teams in the world. Pundits wondered if the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pato, Ronaldinho, and Robinho would be able to play together. Against Cheivo this weekend, the Brazilians and the Swede gave a stunning display of offensive power. Ibrahimovic had two assists to Pato. When Pato was replaced in the second half by Robinho, in the closing minutes of the match a combination of Ronaldinho’s passing and Robinho running off the ball ended up in a beautifully executed goal which ended the game in a 3-1 victory for A.C. Milan.
The new Brazilian coach, Mano Menezes was in attendance and Ronaldinho played like someone trying to get back on the Brazilian national squad. After winning the 2002 World Cup for Brazil, the footballer of the year seemed to be wallowing in past glory and not doing the hard fitness training required to maintain that peak level of performances. Leaving Barcelona and coming to A.C. Milan, the first year under Ancelotti, Ronaldinho did a lot of bench warming as Ancellotti complained about his poor working habits.
The ever-smiling Brazilian fared better under Leonardo last season but continued to anchor himself on the left wing and have an impact through creating chances for his teammates. Despite Ronaldinho’s form, Dunga never recalled him to the Brazilian national team and built a team around the out-of-form Kaka and players in the image of the defensive Dunga. Brazil’s performance in the 2010 World Cup was disapointing.
Under the new manager, Allegri, Ronaldinho’s work rate on the field thus far has exceeded expectations. He is no longer afraid to come into the middle of the field and is no longer a defensive liability. A fit Ronaldinho is still one of the most exciting players in the world.
Robinho had a hard time adapting to the English Premier League and found living in Manchester, England, difficult for a young Brazilian. After coming back from an injury playing for the national team, both under Hughes and Mancino things went to pot. He was sent on loan to his old club Santos and got back his rhythm. In his last game for Santos before his transfer to A.C. Milan, the Santos fans gave him a standing ovation.
Robinho has started out gingerly in the Serie A but the goal against Chievo should give him the confidence essential for his game and he will be a critical player for A.C. Milan this season as he is to the Brazilian national team.
There is no question about the offensive might of A.C. Milan. For them to be a contender in the Championship League and the Serie, Thiaga Silva and Nesta
will have to stay healthy. Where A.C. Milan appears weak is in mid-field. Against Chievo, they started Pirlo , Ga Huso and Seedorf. Pirlo is beyond his peak and Gattuso’s claim to fame is that of an enforcer .. Soon they will discover that the team will be strengthened by making Prince Boateng a starter in mid-field. In any case, A.C. Milan will be one of the more entertaining teams for the 2010-2011 season.