Thursday, April 20, 2006

Great Article On Milan-Barca

Having seen nothing more of the match than the highlights on's web site thanks to ESPN's perfidy, Roberto Gotta's observations will have to replace mine. He points out that one can tell so much more about what teams are trying to accomplish in person than on TV, which is an excellent point. I wish that more post-game articles followed this format. Instead, they simply tell the reader what he/she could have gleaned from watching the game on TV, spiced in with mealy-mouthed quotes from the players and coaches. This is true for just about every sport, probably because most beat writers are either too lazy or don't understand the game well enough to analyze it with any degree of detail, or, alternatively, their editors want to dumb the produce down so someone with a 6th grade education can understand it.

Speaking of not having much to say, I did watch the tape of Arsenal-Villareal last night, but the combination of two hours of sleep the night before and the inexplicable decision to have a glass of wine after getting home from work meant that I didn't take that much from the game. I did decide that I don't like Villareal, despite the fact that they're a great story (small-town club with no history nicknamed after a Beatles song makes the Champions League semi-finals), because their "South American style" (read: Argentinian/Uruguayan) is to dive and feign injury every time an opponent comes close. I lost count of the number of times the stretcher was called out onto the field, but maybe that was the result of the somatic state I was in. The Austrian ref was clearly pro-Arsenal, but that might have been the result of being annoyed with the obvious play-acting that Villareal was engaging in. (Two straight sentences ending in a preposition. Screw you, seventh grade English!)

Arsenal played very well, creating almost all of the good chances in the game. I had forgotten that Thierry Henry can be such a good creator. He was playing the role of a link-up attacking midfielder/winger, more than a striker, and Arsenal's movement allowed him to do so because they were getting midfielders (and even defenders, hence the goal from Kolo Toure) forward. Arsenal's defense is as good as advertised; they completely shut Forlan and Riquelme down. If Arsenal and Barcelona hold their leads, then the Arsenal defense versus Ronaldinho, Eto'o, and (hopefully) Messi will make the Paris Final one of the most hyped in recent memory.

One other thought: Derek Rae kept going on and on about the match being the last European game at Highbury, but how much European history can Highbury claim to have when: (1) for a period, Arsenal played their European ties at Wembley; and (2) Arsenal had never even made the semis in the Champions League up to this year? Is there anyone who has warm, fuzzy feelings about Highbury as a European venue other than Wayne Bridge?

Sorry Tim, but I could't resist.


Tim said...

Fair point about Highbury not being known for hosting anything other than YADNIEFA(R) - Yet another disappointing night in europe for Arsenal. The last night there though, may have been the best.

Score 2 for the good guys. And good luck next week.

Michael said...

I may be dumb, but what's the acronym?

Solon said...

Michael, Tim was good enough to write out the acronym. Arsenal supporters are quite used to it after these last several seasons.

A couple of notes--first, the Wembley "experiment," as I understand it, only lasted a couple of years. So, the vast majority of Arsenal's home European matches have been played at Highbury.

Additionally, while they haven't really done exceptionally well in Europe, given the sheer volume of matches played in the CL today, and the fact that Arsenal has been in it each of the last 8-9 years, probably ensures that it's somewhere in the Top 10 of stadia in terms of the number of European matches played there (similar to the dynamic of Raul and Henry being the top European Cup/Champion's League scorers in history, as opposed to someone like Di Stephano). Arsenal's also had deep runs in the Fair's Cup and Cup Winner's Cup in the past, so there's that to consider as well.

Obviously, it's not on the level of a Bernabeu or San Siro, but it's far older than either of those, and given that Derek Rae is a Brit I'm sure there's something special about it for him.

Tim said...

Not just the past couple of years, their struggles in Europe predate my fandom by quite a bit.

Tim said...

Oh, and I should probably give credit where it's due to the ever excellent arseblog.

Tim said...

Well, we've done our part. Hope to see your boys in Paris!