Monday, May 7, 2012
The Glue of Udine
This has been a curious past couple of years for the team based out of the city Udine. Udinese has been known as the enigma of the Serie A and has had fans questioning where the team is heading. From flirting the top of the table and barely missing a European spot in consecutive years from 07’-09’ to shooting down to 15 in the league in 10’. Yet something happened in the 15th placed year that would change the club for the better moving on and his name is Francesco Guidolin.
The man who put together and built a 3-5-2 team that would struggle at the start of his tenure, would in later years prove to have made the right choice, with the right squad, in the right league. While Udinese was dropping down the league table, Guidolin was coaching Parma who would end the season at a surprising 8th. This was all the Udine giants would need to see as they made their dash for the coach. His first year at the helm ended rough, but the second had them jump up to fourth and into Champions League qualifications for only the second time in the teams history. What a great accomplishment this is for the coach and the team. Taking a step back and looking at the teams that they had to beat in order to place fourth, is great as well. From Roma, to Juventus to the surging Napoli as well, this turned out to be a historic achievement for both coach and squad. Yet it wasn’t until this year that we would see the true wonder of the 10’-11’ Panchina d’Oro award winning coach of the year.
A quick look of this years squad compared to last years fourth place squad, you will notice some major differences. Two of the changes stand out above the rest and with these two changes, you would expect a team like Udinese to fold, crumble and drop out of contention. These changes came because of two major powerhouses in Europe, Napoli and Barcelona. The things that made Udinese great to watch and a force to reckon with, was their midfield paired up with two of the top forwards in the Serie A. Everyone knows one of them, as he is still on the team and still scoring goals at an alarming rate, Antonio Di Natale. The other forward, a young man from Chile born eleven years after his teammate, Alexis Sanchez. This combo was putting on a show in every match that they played and Udinese was even dubbed the Barcelona of Italy. Well, with that type of reputation, it was only a matter of time before the real Barca caught wind and the eye of Sanchez, who would move to the Spanish giant in the summer.
The midfield had the same look as the forwards, with the Switzerland International Gokhan Inler, who was moved to Serie A giants Juventus, playing alongside Kwadwo Asamoah from Ghana. This tandem, alongside the strike force of Sanchez and Toto (Di Natale), proved to be wonders in the past, but worrisome for the future. With Champions League on the horizon and two of the teams major star players gone, how would, not only the team, but the coach carry on and hold their own. Little did we all know what would happen from here on out.
The start of the Sere A campaign for Udinese started out as good as they have hoped for. Conceding only one goal the first seven games in league play was a huge boost for the team, while the same time in Europe, they were having a much harder time getting adjusted to their new team and lack of attack up front. In their Champions League qualifiers, they were knocked out in a home and home against Arsenal with a 3-1 aggregate score and being pushed to the Europa League to try to fight for European glory there. Yet as they were shutting out the likes of Cagliari, Atalanta and Fiorentina, they were giving up goals by the bunches in Europe. In the first six matches, they conceded nine goals, most of which was topped off with a 4-0 win at the hands of Atletico Madrid. This seemed to have been the dagger in the Udine side that would end not only their chance of European trophies, but also, their chance to get back to the Champions League the following year.
Two star players gone, hopes slowly fading away and fans worrying for the worst, somehow, this team stayed even keeled. They were held together by glue that would hold them steady enough to stay amongst the top of the Italian League tables and stay relevant just long enough in Europe to make their move. And to this writers surprise, their move was made at the worst of times. Toto Di Natale was the Leagues top goal scorer for the past couple of years and was making his approach to the same position again until he went down with injury in February, the worst time for the team. They we in a tie with PAOK Salonika of Greece in the Europa League after a very disappointing 0-0 results in Udine, Italy. With this result, they had to fly to Greece and hope for either a win or at least a 1-1 tie to move on, but without Italy’s best striker, things looked shaky. Yet this glue that was doing a masterful job of holding the team together so far would seem to prevail again. With players stepping up to the task like defenders Danilo from Brazil as well as Maurizio Domizzi of Italy and the resurgence of Antonio Floro Flores, Udinese left Greece with a 3-0 win and a spot in the next round.
This group epitomized the meaning of a team, held together by a strong glue that has them currently in third in the Serie A standing. Held by a glue that has them only conceding seven goals when playing home, second to only the league leaders Milan. Held together by a glue that has eleven different players scoring goals. Held together by a glue that has a 34 year old playing like he is in his mid twenties and scoring goals in bunches and leading the league in goals once again. This glue is something out of this world, a substance the likes of Inter and Fiorentina would love to have. The only problem is that this glue is not for sale. You will not find it in any store nor will you find it at any other club. This glue is set on a goal and that goal is European greatness. Whether the glue is enough to achieve this goal or not is yet to be seen, but the ride is sure worth the price of admission. Francesco Guidolin is the glue of Udine and if things settle in properly, Udinese and Guildolin will be stuck together for years to come.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Growing up an IA here in New York City can only really be explained with one word, GREAT! Other then actually being raised in Italy itself, I could not think of any other city the NYC in which to be raised. The history that this city has with IA’s is astounding and very rich. From generation to generation, recipes, languages, personalities, looks and even some swagger has been passed down from our ancestors to the people you see walking the streets today. From Belmont to Bensonhurst, to Howard Beach to Bay Ridge and Mulberry Street Little Italy all the way to the original Little Italy Arthur Avenue, IA’s are everywhere. From cafes to restaurants to deli’s to butchers to that little shop that sells the huge $40 Sunday pasta bowls our stamp is all over the city. We are raised by a family, taught to love family and turn our close friends into family. Hold your friends and family tight, but you enemies tighter. The influence goes on and on and many great things have come out of this city from IA’s yet one thing truly lacks and February 29 is proof of that.
IA’s are all over the sports world of the U.S. mostly in baseball and football, but ask any person born in Italy, American football and baseball will not be the sport they either want to watch or play growing up. Soccer as we know it here is the main sport in Italy and one in which they are one of the best in the world at playing. So why is this sport not loved by the IA’s who love the Italian culture as much as they claim? When the home country of Italy takes on another country with it’s national team, it is a big deal, even if there isn’t much up for grabs. An international friendly means just as much to a fan of the sport as a cup game, for something as simple as bragging rights. The sport loved by more people around the world, yet means very little to the people of this country. And I know many of you reading this right now are saying the complete opposite. You are thinking, “Yes I do like soccer and it means a lot to me so how can you say that?” Well let me say this to you in response, February 29, 2012.
2:30 p.m. ET, February 29th, where will you be? Well I know where I will be. Macbook on lap, fingers tapping away as I watch the game I love, played by the country I love against the country I was raised in. Yes. If you haven’t figured it out by now, the Italian national team, the 8th ranked team in the world will be playing a friendly match in Genoa, Italy against the 31st ranked team in the world, the United States of America. When these two teams meet in this sport, it brings nations together. Will it mean as much to you as it does to me? Well if you didn’t even know they were playing, I doubt that.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Cesena 1-3 AC Milan
29’ Muntari (M)
31’ Emanuelson (M)
54’ Robinho (M)
65’ Pudil (C)
Following the destruction of Arsenal in the Champions League this past week, Sunday’s league match with Cesena would be a true test for the Rossoneri who were playing without their star striker Ibrahimovic due to suspension. with many people on the squad hurt, Milan were forced to put in many of the new faces acquired this past January transfer market. Maxi Lopez was in the stating 11 in place for Ibra and Mesbah was inserted into the left back position. The one unlikely of starters was the transfer midfielder Sulley Muntari who came over from city rival Inter. A once hated player from the Milan faithful, many actually still did, was given the starting roll after Kevin-Price Boateng was injured in the CL match with the gunners. How would the old Inter player fair on his new team. Will he start dishing out yellow card fouls as he has done in the past. Well it didn’t take us long to figure this out.
Right from the start, Muntari seemed to have the right footing. Coming right from the African Cup of Nations tournament, he seemed to be fit enough, smart enough, and in the right place at the right time throughout the match. First shot of the match, goes to Muntari. First real scoring chance of the match, goes to Muntari. First Milan yellow card, goes to Muntari. To be totally honest, when the play was replayed on my T.V, it was actually a foul by the Cesena defender Comotto. From precision passing, to a high pase runner, to a very opportunistic goal, this was by far a stellar game by the Ghana international. He even lead the match with the most correct passes at 63. Go back three days and tell the fans that Sulley Muntari would score the first goal and be a huge deciding factor in the 3-1 victory of Cesena and no one would believe you. Well it is time to start believing!
It is impossible to tell the true worth of a transfer move within one game, but looking at Maxi Lopez, Sulley Muntari, Djamel Mesbah and Stephan El Shaarawy’s first games with the Rossoneri, this gives us hope for not only now, but the future as well. Forza Milan!!
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
With the knock out stages starting today for the highly anticipated champions league, there are many questions swirling around every team with many fans worried. From England, to Spain, to France, everyone has their questions and concerns, but none more then the Italians. With the recent success of other nations and the lack of success from Italy, calico is really being put to the test this year in Europe. How will we fair? Is Italian soccer really inferior to the other nations and major clubs? Can we earn back that coveted fourth CL spot?
With huge games in the upcoming weeks, we will soon find out the answers to these questions and more. Over the years, Italian soccer has been able to provide the world with great teams as well as great matches in Europe. Inter being the latest club to win the coveted cup a few years back., it is a little hard to believe that the country is in the spot that it is. Well believe it or not, they are. Over the years Italy has been able to get numerous teams into the champions league but have always been cut short on a roller coaster ride. They will go for a stretch of years as dominant clubs in the tournament, even winning them a couple of times, i.e. 2010, ‘07, ‘03. They even made the final in ’05 only to lose it to Liverpool in one of the most dramatic games in the tournaments history. But take away the wins and the teams that made it that far, where does that leave the other clubs? This question is one that has come back to haunt the country as of today.
Italy was able to have the top four teams in the Sere A go on to the CL and compete. Due to the fact teams like A.C. Milan have not been able to get past the first knock out stage in recent years as well as other Italian clubs not even making past the group stages, that fourth coveted European spot was taken away and now given to Germany. The constant poor play has caused this to happen and in a time of the game where all but one Italian team do not own their own stadium, hence have a much smaller advantage in money that can be spent on the club, lose out on millions that could be earned for Italian clubs. And even while being faced this year, it could soon be washed away due to the play this year in Europe by Italy’s finest.
Inter Milan, Napoli, A.C. Milan and Udinese were the four teams that made it into Europe, but Udinese were knocked out before making it to the group stage. This had a lot of the fans scared for the future of Italian soccer and with the group stage drawing, it didn’t get any better. Napoli was placed into the group of death with England’s Manchester City, Germany’s Bayern Munich and Spain’s Villarreal. Yet even with the deck stacked against them, they make it through with the German’s. As well as Napoli, both Milan teams have made it through, but only Inter having won the group. This lead to the current state of the CL and the hope of millions.
Between all the countries that are left in the CL, Italy is the only one with three teams left. Everyone has less and to the naked eye, this is a huge advantage but this is a very important round. What they can do from here on out is what really matters. Can an injury riddled Milan beat a slumping Arsenal? Can Internazionale beat a team from France, a country that in the past have given Italian teams problems? And can the slumping Napoli take advantage of a Chelsea team on the decline? Each game has their own back story and all just as important as the next. Where will Italy stand by the middle of March? One can only hope that they are actually still standing.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
2010 was a year to forget for all Milan fans. Well, A.C. Milan fans that is. We played horrible in the Champions League, Shit the bed in the Serie A and craped out of the Copa Italia. We had no major signings for a chunk of the year and looked like garbage at the beginning of the new season. Our coach quit on us, our new coach looked like he couldn’t get the best out of our start Brazilian, and the old guard were starting to show their age. Gattuso and Pirlo looked like they did in the World Cup; Seedorf looked, well like himself and all of our new signings are playing the worst. We are giving up goals left and right and scoring none. This is going to be a long year I thought. What else can go wrong? We needed life, we needed a sign, and the team needs some heart. And then it happened.
The 6 foot 5 inch monster was transferred to Milan. And it wasn’t Inter. How in the world did A.C. Milan get the beast known as Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Well who cares. It was all up to the powers that be and he now wears the Red and Black. And boy does he look good in those colors. He is a monster and scores goals in this league that hasn’t been seen in a long time. He was unstoppable with Inter, played well in Barca, but we have high hopes for him here. Just think about it, Ibra, Pato (if he can just stay healthy) and Dinho on the same field at the same time? O boy this will be a team to watch. But the transfer window is almost over and I wonder what else we will do.
What worried me is how will Massimiliano Allegri be able to handle this team and Ibra’s locker room antics. Well here is an idea, let’s get another potential problem child. So we did and here came in ROBINHO. This is one player, being an Italy national fan, I could not stand. He is a cry baby, show off and causes problems when making more money then anyone. But as a Milan fan, o boy was I happy. He is flashy, draws attention and the thought of him, Pato and Ibra together has me smiling like a little girl. This is going to lead to greatness and I cannot wait. And after all of this, reality starts to hit me. Where have all the Italians gone on the number one Italian team?
Goalies, Defense and midfielders are Italians, but we have no strikers. Where are all the great Italian strikers? Well Juventus has a couple, Roma received one of my favorites in Marco Borriello and Totti. And we cannot over look the great (past two years in league play anyway) striker in Udine based striker Antonio Di Natale who has been leading the league in scoring. But not use, Milan have none. Well we do have Filippo Inzaghi, but he is done for the season and is on the bench most of the time. So I will consider him not on team at this moment. So what does this mean for the striking ability of these Italian giants. Well nothing really, just that there are no Italian greats. For now!
December 29,2010 is a day that will be a day of infamy forever to all A.C. Milan supporters. If there was ever a way to just slap us in the face, our city rivals have figured it out. As if winning everything last year, and I do mean everything, wasn’t enough, they had to go and do this. How could they? How could he? Why? What was he thinking? What is Adriano Galliani thinking? Well let me tell you what I am thinking.
Leonardo was a A.C. Milan legend not only as a player, but as a figure head for the team, what they were, what they are, and what they were to become. He came up through the ranks not only as a player, but also as a coach. He was THE Brazilian that was Milan. And the real Milan, not that other blue and black team. He wore the red and black proud and transcended everything that was Italian football even though he was Brazilian. You couldn’t ask for a better person in your organization at the time. He was loyal to the very end. He help all the young and old Brazilians get acclimated to the different weather and different atmosphere that is Italy. While Brazilians go to England and hate it, they come to Milan and love it. Whether it is the party life, the woman or simply the football, they end up loving it here. Was it like that before Leo? Sure. Will it be like that after Leo as well? Of course. But let’s not short change his impact over time. Leo is Milan. The only thing is this time around he is Inter Milan this time.
On December 29, 2010, Leonardo had his first press conference as the new head coach to his former bitter city rivals Inter Milan. What a blow to the A.C. Milan community. What a traitor he has become. He went from a beloved member of the rossoneri and become a villain in a weeks time. What are we to do? How can he do that? O my, he better not win anything! Well today is January 19, 2011 and let’s see where he is at this point.
Inter is not in first, well that is a plus. But they haven’t lost or even tied a game under him. OK, well that isn’t good. Some of their players are still not playing up to par, like Snyder, which is a plus. But others like Et’o are starting to play stellar. Players are still getting hurt and are still hurt, like Cesar. Then there is Milito who is getting healthier and playing better and better as the games go. Well it is OK. We are A. C. Milan and we are in first place. We are six points on them and we can do this. Wait, we have 1 game on them and we still have the two derby’s?? O man here we go all over again.
Inter have been playing with a spark, let’s just hope this spark will not last. A.C. needs to be the water that shuts down Inter and we better do it fast. If not, it’s going to be a long year!
Monday, July 26, 2010
So here we are, it’s the end of July and the football season is almost underway. This is the time for preseason trash talk, and I have been a victim of many rants already. Living in New York City and being a fan of some of the greatest teams in any sport, I am very used to it. The only thing is I usually get it from people I know or from people whom I can see in person. But with the invention of Twitter, I have been getting it from people all over and most likely from people whom I will never meet. Well, because of this I have decided to start my season off early. And this year I will not be holding any punches. This year I will be going in on any of my GMEN haters and I will start off locally. These next couple of posts will be directed against our home town Red Headed Stepchild. If you guessed the JETS then that is correct. So without wasting another minute, I will get right into it. O and in case anyone was wondering, this goes out to @LilMissNYJet @D_wyatt13 @beeeebzy @DrewfromJersey and to the rest of you JETS fans out there. Enjoy.
I was tossing around the idea of where to start this little battle. Should I go at the teams as a whole? Naaa, I think I will go by position. This seems more fun for me and it will show where we stand against each other. So with that being said, I believe it is obvious where and what position we need to start. The quarterback position is the center piece of every team and this is so true with both teams. Eli Manning is the starting QB of my NY giants and Mark Sanchez is the starting QB of that other New York team, the NY JETS. Now I think it would be fair to start this off that Sanchez is still very new to the NFL and Eli has been around for a number of years, but it also fair to say, that I could care less about that and I will still go in on them both. So let’s start with some numbers, shall we?
One of the big numbers that most people look at when talking about QB’s is there completion percentage. With lucky for me, Eli’s was much better. At 62.3% it was almost ten points higher than Mark’s, which was 53.8%. If you put them against each other and the rest of the NFL, Eli was ranked 13 and Mark was 29th. Just to remind everyone, that was out of 32 teams. So let’s think about this for a bit, what does this actually mean? This means that every team in their division ranked higher than him. But to be fair, the same was for Eli except for Donovan McNabb. But not to be fair, this can just be assumed that the NFC East surpasses the AFC East in this regard. Well done guys.
The next stat I wanted to look at was passing yards and I noticed that Eli attempted 145 more passes than Mark did so I was a little wary about the passing yard stat. But when Eli throws for 4021 to Mark’s 2444 yards, I have decided that I will talk about this. Eli threw for over 1500 more yards than Mark and it does seem like a lot, but here is a better way to look at it. The number one ranked passer in yards per attempt in the NFL last year was Philip Rivers and it was 8.75 yards per attempt. Well if Mark attempted the same amount of passes as Eli, he would need to average 10.86 yards per catch to just match Eli’s numbers. Let’s just say that wouldn’t happen shall we.
Next up, TD’s. This will be a quick topic, no worries JETS fans. Mark threw for 12 TD’s. Yes, I said 12, Eli, threw for 27. And that is it for this topic… NEXT…
This may be my favorite number of them all. QB rating. Why is this my fav? This is the only rating system that people even pay attention to where you can get a grade over 100. That interests me and I will tell you why. The top ranked QB was Drew Brees with 109.6 and the lowest rated QB was JaMarcus Russell with a 50.0 rating. Well don’t worry JETS fans, Mark wasn’t that low. His rating was 63.0 haha, o sorry for laughing. It wasn’t as low as that bomb of a QB Russell, but it wasn’t far off. That is a horrible rating for a QB who was part of a team that went so far in the playoff. Let’s just say that if he played any better, maybe I wouldn’t be sitting here bashing the team. I can honestly say that this was the weakest part of the team and if he played any better, we would be talking about the Super Bowl winning JETS. But he didn’t so we aren’t. NEXT…
Well this will hurt us Giants fans a little. There is one category that Mark was right at the top of, where Eli was ranked lower. Mark was ranked number 2, with 20 interceptions. Eli did throw 13, but it still wasn’t 20, so I would like to say congrats to Mark for winning this round. I mean, we can’t win them all.
Now here is the part that JETS fans will without a doubt say back to me. It is the win/loss column. Which QB brought their team to the most wins. Well the JETS won 9 games to the GIANTS 8 wins. But let’s be honest here, Mark didn’t lead his team to any wins. If it wasn’t for the defense, the JETS record would be much, much worse. Eli led HIS team in those wins. Again, I know it is super early in Mark’s career, well I don’t care. We are talking about what will happen this next year. Eli’s receiving core will be the next topic of conversation and this will have a huge factor in how each QB will play next year. Have the GIANTS or the JETS gotten any better in this regard? Let’s just wait till the next blog to discuss this.
Now all the fans out there will have a lot to say about this blog. I am just putting out numbers. I am not really saying anything but stating stats. Well, numbers do not lie and it is a great way to sit back and look at things and fully assess the situation. The JETS defense was proven to be much better than the GMEN (we will discuss this and there is no doubt that the JETS will win that talk), which means that Mark really didn’t have to take as many chances as Eli, yet he wasn’t any where nearly as affective. So JETS fans, do you really want to take a step back and look at the overall picture of this QB position? I think not and I suggest you chalk this one up as a loss, because there will be many other battles.
So I thank you all for reading and to keep an eye open for the next segment, where we will discuss the Wide Receiver position.
And sorry Drew, I will never bleed Green!