Monday, February 28, 2011

The Championships and Champions

By Bagga Wilks

Robben showed his class as one of the premier players of the world when he unleashed a shot at Inter Milan’s Julio Cesar, who fumbled the shot and allowed the strategically placed Gomez, Bayern Munich’s prolific striker, to place the ball in the back of the net and to give Bayern a 1-0 victory over Inter Milan, the defending champions. In the second leg of the knockout round of the Championship League, Inter Milan will have to travel to Munich, Germany trailing by one goal.

What was interesting about Julio Cesar’s error is that a similar error in the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup was instrumental in Brazil being knocked out and Holland going forward.

Robben showed in the World Cup 2010 that he is one of the more difficult forwards to mark and one with the most deadly and accurate kickers in the game. In fact, if Robben had finished the chances that he created, it would have been the Netherlands celebrating at the end of the final and not Spain.

Sneijder, the Inter Milan playmaker and also for Holland, was a big factor in Holland getting to the final and sending Dunga’s ‘pigmy-giants’ to an early end to the 2010 World Cup. Sneijder has been plagued with an injury for most of the season and has struggled to regain his touch and his form. Inter against Bayern Munich was back to full force with the exception of their exceptional central defender, Samuel, who is out for the season. But Leonardo’s Inter Milan has not been the same team that they were under Mourinho. Nonetheless, Sneijder featured in Inter Milan’s victory over Sampdoria which is an indication he may be returning to form which should make Inter more competitive going down the stretch.

Robben’s Bayern Munich, after defeating Inter Milan in mid-week, had to face Dortmund the leader in the Bundesliga on the weekend. Every time Robben received the ball, he was surrounded by three Dortmund players. Dortmund whipped Bayern Munich and increased their lead and enhanced their chances of winning the German League.

No Walcott, No Fabregas, No Carling Cup

Arsenal demonstrated to the football world that when they are at full strength, they can beat the best teams in the world. Against lowly placed Birmingham, Arsenal was expected to end their drought of not winning any silverware since 2005. The tragedy of Arsenal is for them to be spectacular, they need the artistry of Walcott, Fabaregas and Van Persie and all three are incredibly fragile. Fabregas is plagued with
perennial hamstrings and Van Persie and Walcott suffer from recurring ankle injuries.

Arsenal fought back from being one goal down and a combination of Arshavin and Van Persie ended with the latter scoring a spectacular goal. But it was a defensive lapse that gave Birmingham the Carling Cup. Koscielny was about to clear a lose ball and at the last minute left it to his keeper, Sezechney and Martins who had just been injected into the game accepted the sitter. Koscielny has improved his level of play and Sezechney has been superb in goal since the Polish youngster has been appointed Arsenal’s first string goalkeeper. Birmingham played above their pay grade and perhaps their taste of victory will help them to avoid relegation.

Arsenal is still in the European Championship Cup and is still in the hunt for winning the English Premier League. Their acquisition of silverware will depend heavily on the recovery and sustained fitness of Walcott, Fabregas and Van Persie. Arsenal should not panic, they have many years ahead to refill the cabinet with silverware.

The Pato show

Allegri has not favored Pato in his starting eleven but even off the bench Pato has displayed his goal-scoring prowess. Allegri had no choice but to start him against Napoli on a wet Monday evening at the San Siro where the two leading contenders for the Serie A clashed.

Pato put on a show for the fans and his coach must realize that Pato is the key to winning the championship. The offensive potency of Ibrahimouvic, Robinho and Pato is the best in the league. Allegri is too preoccupied with runners like Flamini and Gattuso. Neither should be playing over Boateng and it is counter-productive to substitute Boateng for Robinho when the individual coming off should have been Flamini or Gattuso.

A.C. Milan has now increased their lead in the Seri A by 5 points. Their hometown rivals, Inter Milan, are runners-up with 53 points. Allegri is still learning his craft and he needs to know the game is about finesse, not brawn.

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