Thursday, April 27, 2006
Markus Merk: the Most Popular German in Barcelona since???
A few thoughts on Barca-Milan:
1. Is there anything more unsatisfying or guilt-inducing than when your team wins as the result of a bad call? I kept trying to rationalize Marcus Merk's call on Andriy Shevchenko's goal yesterday (Barca outplayed them anyway, the ref might have seen something earlier in the play, there must have been a whistle because Valdes didn't move, Barca got screwed last year on Terry's winning goal at Stamford Bridge, etc.) and kept coming back to the fact that the tie should have been knotted on aggregate with Milan having momentum. At some point, I need to blog the top occasions when my team has benefited from crappy officiating and I felt guilty after the game. The Glavine strikezone will certainly get a mention. Georgia-Georgia Tech '97 comes to mind. There's nothing that gnaws at a sports fan's soul quite like winning on a bad call, unless you're Argentinian and you've screwed England, in which case the English red-faced indignation is double the fun. Penn State fans and their complex about Michigan and officiating is similar.
2. Victor Valdes gets better and better, but he always does one thing to scare me every game. For instance, palming a cross yesterday right into Cafu's path when he should have punched clear. Wenger will look at that tape, recognize that Gio (a former Arsenal player, IIRC) is "defending" Barca's left flank, and then attack in that direction with crosses, English style. The Hobbesian choice Barca opponents face is that if they attack Barca's defensive left, they reduce their defensive cover on Ronaldinho's side.
3. Speaking of Ronaldinho, I came to the decision yesterday that he's the best player since Maradona. I know I'm biased and all, but every game, he makes 2-3 passes that split open a defense. The "foul" on Sheva would have been an irrelevant footnote if Belletti wouldn't have whiffed on a sitter that was set up by a sublime pass from Ronaldinho that freed Giuly down the right. Compare Barca defending a 1-0 lead and creating a terrific chance for a defender with Arsenal defending a 1-0 lead and putting up an electric fence preventing their defenders from coming close to midfield. (Then again, Barca was at home, which makes risk-taking more palatable.) Anyway, back to Ronaldinho, his passing is incredible. I always loved Zidane, even though he played for teams that I didn't like, and he had similar passing talents, but was never quite the dribbler that Ronaldinho is. Ronaldinho is slumping with his shooting, especially on free kicks, so it's unlikely that he'll score an all-time goal like Zidane's winner in the Champions League Final in Glasgow in 2002, but Ronaldinho's passing and control make him extremely dangerous nonetheless. I can't wait to see what Arsene Wenger decides for defending him. Gilberto is the obvious option, but do you want the screen for your back four out that wide? And what if Messi is healthy? Does Wenger take his chances with Ashley Cole defending Messi without help or does he draw his midfield back a little?
4. Speaking of Messi, his presence makes it seem impractical to me that Barca will sign Henry, since Barca plays a three-pronged attack and if Henry, Messi, Ronaldinho, and Eto'o are all healthy, then who sits? Henry would be a perfect fit on the right side with Ronaldinho on the left and Eto'o in the middle, but he's entering the downward phase of his career, whereas Messi will keep getting better (provided that his hamstring doesn't go the way of Fred Taylor's groin). Signing Henry is a Real Madrid/New York Yankee kind of thing to do, overpaying for a Galactico's decline period. You get a couple great years from him and then you have to keep playing him in his inconsistent, injury-prone later years.
5. Brewhouse was packed yesterday. I shudder to think what it's going to be like for the Final on May 17.