When there is so much going on in the world of sport it becomes very difficult to pick or even two things to focus on, both as a fan and as someone who writes his meaningless opinion on it for your pleasure.
In the world of football alone we have just had the end of the transfer window in European football along with the Socceroos in action (or at least their opposition were in action), the final round of the NRL and confirmation of finals match ups, the first round of AFL finals, the Wallabies horrendous Rugby Championships continuing and the start of the NFL season over in the States.
That doesn’t even include other events like the US Open.
But that’s always what it is like at the end of August and beginning of September because as the seasons change literally, they also are changing in the sports world. So today I will discuss the goings on in football (or soccer if that’s less confusing to you) and a quick point on the Wallabies. Later in the week I will share some thoughts on the NRL and AFL finals.
Firstly to the round ball code where much went down over the past few days. The Socceroos had a friendly with World Cup hosts Brazil and were soundly beaten 6-0. Obviously it’s a terrible result but seriously, what did you expect? We struggled mightily to qualify for the tournament at all and the good teams are going to do that to us. The only potential positive is that perhaps the added pressure on Holger Osieck could lead to a groundswell for them to consider a change as coach. Many articles are already being written about that possibility and whilst he did enough to get us to the tournament, the uninspiring play along with some frustrating team selections and tactics have put a lot of fans off. To be honest, whilst I would love to replace him if they can get a good candidate, I can’t see the performance at the 2014 World Cup improving all that much.
2014 is a transitional period for the Socceroos and as I’ve said for years, it is 2018 where we actually might be able to turn some heads.
Onto the transfer window where a lot of big business went down on an exciting deadline day. First and foremost Gareth Bale officially completed his transfer from Tottenham to Real Madrid for a record transfer fee. Whilst he is obviously a huge loss for Spurs, they have already spent a lot of the fee received on bringing in new players and it seems to be agreed by most that the money has been spent wisely. They had already brought in guys like Soldado and Chadli, but now they have added the likes of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela to replace the attacking prowess of Bale and whilst results remain to be seen, those are two of the highest rated younger players in the game.
They already had a squad in the hunt for the top four, but if they stay healthy I can genuinely see Tottenham competing for higher honours than just scraping into the Champions League.
Their bitter rivals Arsenal also did a big piece of deadline day business by finally bringing in the big name attacking player they spent the off season searching for. Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid and Germany comes to the Premier League and to prove how highly thought of he is, he went fifth in my Premier League fantasy draft this past weekend (to a Spurs fan no less) before he ever plays a game in England. He has the potential to be one of the top players in the league and whilst the Arsenal squad still has holes, he definitely improves their chances of making the top four.
Ironically, Arsenal can thank Spurs for selling Bale to Real Madrid as that made Ozil more available for them to get their man. Real Madrid also then sold Kaka back to AC Milan, but it remains to be seen how much the former star man has left. Perhaps going back to a club where he is loved will reinvigorate his career.
Champions Manchester United secured the signing of major target Marouane Fellaini from David Moyes former club Everton and he fills the biggest need they had in their squad as a goal scoring midfielder. It is a role that hadn’t been properly filled since Paul Scholes got old and then retired and Fellaini is a proven player in the league. However, United did fail in their attempts to sign Leighton Baines along with him, but they will be there or thereabouts again this season.
Liverpool made three deadline day deals with the signings of Mamadou Sakho from PSG and Tiago Ilori from Sporting Lisbon, along with the loan signing of Victor Moses from Chelsea. All three are young to go along with the young squad Liverpool already have, but their talent is unquestioned. Liverpool needed more depth and it will be interesting to see how quickly any of the three break into the regular starting 11. They also loaned out Fabio Borini to Sunderland to give him a chance to play and show if he can make it in the Premier League.
Man City signed Martin Demichelis to add defensive depth, especially with captain Vincent Kompany injured, but having seen Demichelis play in person and on TV over the years leads me to question this signing. Straight up I think he has never been good. He look like he should be awesome but he makes so many questionable decisions and mistakes. In fact if I were to write a Ben Roberts All Stars type piece for the EPL, he would definitely make it, whether he gets on the field for City or not.
Everton may have lost Fellaini, but along with hanging onto Baines they also made some moves of their own. They signed Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, Gareth Barry on loan from Man City, James McCarthy from Wigan and then sent Victor Anichebe to West Brom.
West Brom themselves were active by bringing in not only Anichebe, but also Stephane Sessegnon from Sunderland. They also got rid of trouble maker Peter Odemwingie.
Stoke signed Marko Arnautović from Werder Bremen and while I admit I haven’t seen much of him, he is supposed to be pretty good.
Obviously there were many other movements but at this stage they don’t seem to be interesting or relevant enough to comment on. Chelsea had already signed Samuel Eto’o but the rest of their deadline was about loaning players out, but the rest of the top clubs all made some waves at the deadline. How it shakes out and who did the best business remains to be seen, but it’s only four months until the transfer window opens again in January.
Onto more depressing matters where the Wallabies were smashed by the Springboks in Brisbane 38-12. The Wallabies may have a new coach but even the tune up of playing the British Lions hasn’t helped their cause to get over the ‘Boks or All Blacks. If they lose to the Pumas next and let’s face it, it is entirely possible, it would probably signal the worst era for the Wallabies I can remember in my lifetime.
There has been a lot of chopping and changing in the backline to try to find a cure, but in my mind we simply don’t have the forwards to win the arm wrestle against the better sides and we don’t then utilise our talented backline and get the ball out to them to take advantage of one area we can match it. We also need to play much more attacking minded because playing safe and conservative and taking the three points when on offer simply isn’t getting it done. They need to throw caution to the wind and start doing everything in their power to score tries.
What’s the worst that can happen? They lose badly? They are doing that already so why not try something new and get it out to the backs, try some tricks, kick for the corner on penalties and see if that helps. Again, at this stage, with the players available for selection, what is there to lose?
I don’t know how long it will take until the Wallabies once again become truly competitive, but with both rugby and cricket in flux right now it is not a great time for our once dominant national sporting teams.
Oh well, at least the NFL is starting up to distract me.