24 July 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Summertime, And The Livin' Is Easy

Arsene wooed his man, who chose
North London over Merseyside
(Credit: Fanny Schertzer)
Sam: Well, it feels like ages since we last sat down to talk about the Arsenal. What with work getting busy, then enjoying the World Cup too much to actually take the time to write about it, and major transfers happening, the time has just flown by. So far, we've had a really busy summer, and I'm sure there's a lot more to look forward to. I also realized last night that Boston Gooners events are getting back in to full swing, with Arsenal playing friendlies every weekend until the new season opens with the Community Shield on August 10. So, Andy, how has summer treated you? What's been the highlight from an Arsenal perspective so far?

Andy: Some of us are lucky enough to have tickets to go see Arsenal playing their friendly in New York City against the Red Bulls so that is certainly on my mind at the moment. Overall though, the Arsenal based highlight of the summer for me has to be the signing of Alexis Sanchez. He stood out as a star among a game Chile side during the World Cup, but we all knew how good he was far before that. Players don't earn transfers into the starting eleven at Barcelona for being decent occasionally when representing their country and to be honest, it's still a shock to me that the Catalan club was willing to give him up.

05 July 2014

World Cup: Quarter-Finals Predictions, Day 2

Well, I was completely wrong about yesterday's results, but that's never put me off before, so here are my predictions for Saturday's quarter-finals.

Argentina vs Belgium
On paper, this match looks like it should the best of those on offer this weekend. On one side, you have one of the best players of his generation, Leo Messi, supported by a brilliant winger who is just starting to get the credit he's due, Angel di Maria. The second tier of players - Ezequiel Lavezzi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain - certainly have the talent, but haven't played their best (yet), while the rest of the squad is largely made of functional players - your Mascheranos and Zabaletas. The Argentines needed 120 minutes to beat well-organized Swiss side in their last match. On the other hand, you have most people's pre-tournament dark horses, who have so far failed to live up to expectations. The de Rode Duivels, however, boast an impressive array of attacking talent - Hazard, de Bruyne, Origi, Mirallas, Lukaku, etc - and are solid in the middle and at the back. They also boast a goalkeeper who has never lost on the international stage in Thibaut Courtois. Marc Wilmots selected Origi up front in place of Lukaku against USA, and the teenager looked sharp, worrying the American defense and only being kept at bay by an inspired Tim Howard. Once Lukaku came on in extra-time, his strength and pace changed the game, which may be a tactic the Belgian manager wants to repeat against an aging Argentinian back line.

04 July 2014

World Cup: Quarter-Finals Predictions, Day 1

Brazil's hopes rest squarely on Neymar's shoulders.
(Source: Danilo Borges)
The quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup take place this weekend, nicely coinciding with the Independence Day weekend, so even though the United States were eliminated in the last round, there should still be a major audience for the games. For the first time, all 8 sides that won their group have progressed to the quarters, and the only real surprise package is Costa Rica. For the first time this tournament, I'm going to have a shot at predicting the winners and score in each match; so if you fancy a little bet, whatever you do, don't follow my advice.