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Time to Celebrate

You ever scored an important goal? The winning goal? In front of your rivals? What kind of celebration is deemed "appropriate" nowadays? It seems that more and more incidents are causing debate, fines, and suspensions. A couple of weeks ago Adebayor’s emotional goal celebration has come under fire, and might cost him an additional match ban. (he ran the full length of the field, sliding in front of the Arsenal supporters, almost causing them to riot). Now in his defense…he didn’t leave the pitch, didn’t make any crude gestures, and didn’t even take any article of clothing off. What’s the big deal?

...and the crowd goes wild.

Here are some other famous celebrations, sure to trigger great memories:
Back when Tevez played for the wrong side of town. A tribute to his daughter, pulls out a "dummy". Hmm, Carlos....where were you hiding that thing? What if you didn't score? What if it would have fallen out while playing? Uhh, that isn't mine, I swear.
The Atterbury "ducks" doing their thing.
"The nutter with a putter", Bellamy, responds to allegations that he hit Riise with a golf club during training.
I'm Eric Cantona, look at me, I'm beautiful.
Crouch, and his famous Robot.
Paolo di Canio - "a facist, not a racist"
Edmilson Ferreira - playing against "the Rabbits", pulls a carrot from his shorts and munches on it.
Robbie Fowler snorts end line- Responds to Everton fans accusing him of drug abuse.
Gascoigne "dentist chair" - binge drinking national team remake
Gascoigne - against Celtic, Mimics Orange Order Flute, and later recieved death threats Tim Cahill doing "the handcuffs" - usually a tribute to a friend or family member currently in jail.
So as you can see, it's all in good nature right? How much is too much. Who draws the line? Pretty soon, our hero's will score a goal, and not be allowed to show any emotion, and just run back to half field, ready to go again (much line the great Zidane).

He's bringing sexy back

We are now six weeks into the English Premier League season and Fernando Torres is hitting his stride and looking as dominant as any other striker in the league. He already has 8 goals in the premier league which is more than half of the goals he had all last season (14). Granted, last season was somewhat a disappointment for Torres. After being traded to Liverpool from Atletico Madrid, he had a stellar debut season for Liverpool in 07/08 by netting 24 goals. He was the sexy young spaniard, El Nino, and he made a quick impact on the EPL. He then capped that off with a European Cup win with Spain in the summer. Granted, David Villa was the striker who really shined for Spain in that cup, but its hard to forget about Torres' goal in the final. He just abuses the defender and muscles his way into position to get the perfect touch before the goalie gets there.

Which is why he is scary good again this season. He is just abusing defenders. He's not like some forwards that know exactly where to be at the right time and they just 'pick up the scraps' and tap in all of the deflections. Think Raul or Ruuuuud van Nistelroy. Brilliant strikers that just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Rarely will they 'create their own shot' or hit a rocket from 25 yards out. I'm not even sure if Raul can kick the ball 25 yards. But somehow, he is in the right place at the right time and he scores goals, hence the reason he's still on the pitch after all these years.

Torres is more like a basketball player where he literally heads in the 18 yard box and 'posts-up' and waits for Gerrard, or Kuyt, or Benayoun to feed him the ball. And he has so many turn around and one-on-one moves that it doesn't matter how he gets the ball, he can and does abuse defenders all game long. Take the game two weeks ago against West Ham. Torres' first goal when he gets the ball and is facing the defender and just goes at him one-on-one, beats him in the space of about 8 yards and uses a nice toe punch over the goalies head. (Here are the highlights from the game. The goal comes at the 2:30 mark). The goal is remarkable not just because you rarely see the toe punch anymore, a lost soccer skill and art form, but also because his speed and ease of getting around defenders and getting to the goal.

Torres has the same speed and ease when his back is to the goal and he turns and shoots. Its not like he's playing pick up in the park with some slow 40 year olds. He's up against premier defenders (well, as premier as you can get with Hull) and he is making them look slow. Once any player turns, if they can get the defender to freeze, they have maybe half a second to get their shot off before the defender is back in position or at least can get a leg to block the shot. And Torres is able to get that shot off with such little time. Here is his first goal against Hull City. His move is good, but its more that he makes his move and gets the shot off before the defenders can get back in front of the ball.

Liverpool was looking shaky at the beginning of the season. They had an opening day loss to Tottenham. That loss looked bad until people started realizing that it might be the year of the cock and that the Spurs are somewhat legit. Will they finish in the top 4? Probably not, but they are by no means a push over. Liverpool really just looked lost for the first couple of games and like they didn't have an offensive game plan and no magic or inspiration to their play. Things are really coming together in the last couple of weeks. They still have pretty serious defensive issues which will be discussed in another post, but their offense is firing on all cylinders. Gerrard is a rock and the foundation and Kuyt and Benayoun are legit playmakers that can come at you from all angles. They are coming together and starting to create magic because they have someone to create it with. A nice pass or through ball only looks as good as the guy receiving it. When that guy can put the ball in the back of the net, then the pass is that much better and amazing. Liverpool seemed lost and without a plan, but now their game plan is simple: feed The Kid the rock. Simple, yet pretty effective.

The real test will come on Sunday when Liverpool travels to Samford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Chelsea is coming off a bad loss to Wigan and won't want to lose two games in a row, especially at home. Look, I said Torres' is bringing sexy back, but he's pretty much already proven in the first six games that the sexiness is already back. But if he and Liverpool can go into Samford Bridge and knock off Chelsea, then not only is the sexiness back, it might also be your best bet for how to lift the Trophy at the end of the season.


This is our first attempt at a podcast. Try not to judge us too harshly. They can only get better right?

ESPN agrees

Apparently we here at Fastbreak Futbol aren't the only ones that think La Liga could potentially be boring. In an earlier post we discussed Valencia's first lost of the season and that the only two remaining unbeaten teams are not surprisingly, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Despite the talent on those two teams, the parity between the top and the bottom isn't a good thing.

Lucy Turner, some blogger over at ESPN seems to have a similar view (you can read the full article here). She begins:

"Spain's La Liga brands itself as 'The League of the Stars' and, in fact, the celebrity summer signings fit the term perfectly. But those star names might not have the hoped effect of making the domestic league the best competition in the world....

Twelve months ago, Guardiola's side struggled to even draw against Racing Santander in the first month, while Madrid crashed against Deportivo in the league opener. So either Barcelona and Madrid have improved a lot, or their rivals are not as strong as they used to be. At the other end of the table we have two lesser giants, Villarreal and Atlético, in the Europa League and the Champions League respectively, who are now in the relegation zone with two points in four games and still waiting for their first wins this term.

A few voices have been heard complaining that the Spanish league is turning into a weak league, like the Scottish or Belgian one (apologies to any offended) in that there will soon be a huge gap between the top two clubs and the rest. Maybe now UEFA's proposition to set a spending and wage limit makes more sense. Michel Platini is busy designing his new 'Financial Fair Play' project to set some kind of ethics and logic in the business of buying, selling and paying players...."

She focuses her article on the spending of the two clubs and that their financial situation but she too questions if La Liga is becoming boring and mediocre. She concludes:

"But clearly, making one team strong with very attractive players, ensuring world entertainment, doesn't lift the whole of the league. The remaining 18 clubs below Barça and Madrid are struggling financially and competitively in a season that indicates it will have high levels of boredom and predictable results."

It true. We said the same thing. We used the grammatically proper term 'ho-hum' to describe the season, but boring works as well. Madrid and Barca have created impressive squads. They have somehow (a.k.a. good business and development of players within your system, and buying the best talent no matter how far it puts you in debt) gathered the premiere talent in the world. Both teams are like watching an All-Star team because top to bottom they have household names-assuming the houses aren't in the U.S. Most fans cant help but tune in and watch because of all of the star players. But has it been worth the cost? The cost being their league is struggling and cannot compete with their spending and thus their players and team. The two teams may have a superb product, but the league is so mediocre that the overall product is no good. Can winning the league even be considered much of an accomplishment?

People want to see quality sport. That is why a league like the MLS struggles. The players aren't bad by any means, but they just don't compare with the top quality players in the EPL and other european leagues. The game in the EPL is just better and faster. Madrid and Barca may have quality teams, but you also need quality competition, otherwise the game gets boring. You have to have quality, but its worth reducing that supreme quality if it means that it will bring up all of the other squads. I'm no socialist activist or anything. I'm also not presenting any solutions to the issues with La Liga. But it is certain that as good as these teams may be and amazing as the talent may be, they are both heading for boring seasons, because of their competition.

English Premier League: Manchester United v Manchester City - Craig Bellamy, Bad Defense, and Michael Owen

In the English Premier League, Manchester City lost to Manchester United in the last minute of extra time after Craig Bellamy equalized only minutes earlier. Michael Owen came off the bench to poke the ball past Shay Given as time expired after the ageless Ryan Giggs sent a perfect pass into the box.

First off, in England, they pronounce derby as "darby." Why? Weird.

Second, Craig Bellamy celebrated a while, punched a fan, and made a fool of himself but that can't take away the fact that he had an incredible game.

Third, Manchester City's defense is terrible. They cannot finish in the top four if their defense doesn't get organized. Why was Michael Owen give that much space? Why were they hoofing the ball up field for the last 5 minutes instead of controlling and passing? It seemed like Bob Bradley took over the Manager's spot for the last 5 minutes and implemented his super secret strategy for blowing 2 goal leads: just boot it.

Watch the Match of the Day highlights here.


Probably not the real deal

Valencia suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday night. Valencia had a surprising start to the season by winning its first two games. No one expected much from Valencia this season with all of their off the field issues, evidenced by the fact that they tried to sell their two marquee players in the off season in order to save money. However, they started off with two strong wins which shouldn't be too surprising for any team with David Villa. The strong start created a little stir and excitement that perhaps Valencia was once again contender. The excitement was short lived after Valencia suffered a 2-2 draw on Sunday to lowly Sporting Gijon. That was followed by a 3-1 loss to Getafe on Wednesday. More importantly, it leaves Barcelona and Real Madrid as the only two undefeated teams left in La Liga.

It is of course far too early to make any conclusions about any particular team or the league in general, but Valencia was the lone bright spot in what has been an otherwise predictable start to the season for the Spanish league. It is hard to see great talent like David Silva and especially David Villa wasted on a club that does not play in the Champions League. A consolation would have been for Valencia to at least challenge in La Liga, despite being practically bankrupt financially.

Again, it is early in the season, but it is already looking like La Liga will be overlooked and overshadowed by the English Premier League. On the European stage everyone wants to know if Barcelona, which only looks improved from last year, will be able to dominate the rest of Europe. People are equally as curious to know if Real Madrid with their bottomless pockets, can actually buy themselves another championship. Unfortunately, there are no other teams left in La Liga. 8-10 years ago Valencia would have challenged for the top spot. Champions League qualifiers Atletico Madrid have had a dismal start in the league. Sevilla is decent again, but they wont be able to challenge the top two. Barcelona and Real should make waves on the european stage and they might make headlines when they clash for El Clasico twice this year, but otherwise, it will be a ho-hum year for La Liga. One can only hope that I'm wrong but it already appears that the gap between the top two and the rest of the league increased instead of decreased.

Contrary to La Liga, the EPL finally has contenders that are looking like legitimate threats to dethrone one of the Big 4. It has taken Man City a couple years, but they are proving that they can buy wins. Tottenham is already falling, but their start at least created story lines. Plus, with the early struggles from Arsenal and Liverpool, the door is at least open that another team might displace one of the four. In the end, the normal four might end up at the top. But at least as of right now, it isn't ridiculous to think that a team like Man City or Aston Villa could claim one of the top spots. Something that already can't be said about La Liga.

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