Monday, February 27, 2012

Villas-Boas Lives to Fight Another Day

Ball Harambee By Bagga Wilks

The 34 year old Portuguese coach who took over the reins at Chelsea this season has had a rocky ride. Villas-Boas’ boss has the reputation of not suffering fools gladly. Coaches who have stumbled have been summarily dismissed. Andre Villas-Boas has been on the precipice. Chelsea in the first leg of the Champion League knock out stage were thrashed 3-1 by Napoli and is facing a jagged mountain climb at Stanford Bridge to whip Napoli by a two goal margin.

This weekend Chelsea faced the lowly placed Bolton and the buzzards were buzzing that if Villas-Boas lost to Bolton, the man-eating snakes would eat the young thirty-four year old Portuguese coach alive.

Villas Boas survived to fight another day. Chelsea after a first half without any of the teams netting, Chelsea put three goals in the back of the net to close the show in the second half with a convincing victory. David Luiz, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard tallied for the Blues.

Apparently Villas Boas’ experimentation for the rest of the season might be over. He brought back Lampard into the starting lineup and placed Essien at defensive mid-field. Sturridge, Mata and Drogba were up front and Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz and Cole were the back four. Mereles was confined to the bench. Malouda suffered the same fate.

David Luiz, the silky Brazilian played his best game since he began wearing the Chelsea Blue. He showed his versatility by scoring the first goal and made no silly mistakes in defense. David Luiz is an immensely talented footballer who is still learning and still adjusting to the English league. David Luiz will play a major role in Chelsea’s success in the future.

Manchester City – The Juggernaut Rolls On

Blackburn Rovers did not show up to extend Manchester City in any respect. Manchester City were back to full strength. Yaya Toure was back from the Africa Cup and Balotelli was back from suspension for stomping.

Manchester City is not only leading the League but is back to looking like a great team. Their strike force of Aguero, Balotelli, Johnson, Silva and Toure play with a fluidity and an interchangeability that has become the hallmark of great teams. Mancini who began as a defensive –minded coach, has put together a team renowned for its staccato attack. Manchester City is now a joy to watch as they have developed great dexterity in what Pele calls “the beautiful game”.

Is There an Italian Soccer Renaissance?

The English Premier League is recognized by many pundits as the most competitive soccer league in the world. The ease with which A.C. Milan trounced Arsenal and the way Napoli outscored Chelsea, we are forced to re-examine how good the top class teams in England are.

English League play is first class when one watches the artistry of Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham yet none is playing in the Champions League at the moment. English teams in the mid-tier play too defensive, too flat and too predictable.

We were treated to a great game on Saturday when League leaders, Juventus clashed with the on-form A.C. Milan. The game ended in a 1-1 tie although A.C. Milan was robbed of a goal when the ball crossed the line in the first half and Milan should have gone up to 2-0. Juventus made adjustments in the second half and squeezed out an equalizer.

There was no Ibrahimovic as he was serving a suspension. Boateng is nursing an injury and Seedorf is hurt. Pato started but did not come out for the second round.

The Milan coach, Allegri, has begun to use Robinho in a different role. When Robinho initially joined Milan, he was used as a striker. But in recent matches, Allegri now uses Robinho as a roving playmaker, playing behind the lead striker.

In the game against Juventus, Robinho played right behind Pato. When Ibrahimovic returns, based on Robinho’s form, I imagine Allegri will play him right behind Ibrahimovic. That is the role that Robinho plays on the Brazilian national team. Using Robinho in that capacity fits into Allegri’s system as the coach likes to bring his midfield players into scoring positions.

The Milan team seems to have rediscovered their swagger. The draw against Juventus might have been befitting as it will be a horserace coming down the stretch. Allegri’s chances of repeating as champions are excellent especially if he can obtain the most from Ibrahimovic, Boateng and Robinho. The Serie A is becoming just as competitive as the English Premier League. We may be witnessing the renaissance of Italian soccer.

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