Tag Archives: USA

Gridiron Vs Football

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

Football is constantly in battle with itself.

Fans of differing generations put forth their strongest hands, claiming it was better in their day.

What is overlooked often though, is that all generations of the sport have their part to play in creating the behemoth we see today.

So, in essence, we are all correct and wrong simultaneously. The ills that blight the game are simply symptoms of the path the game has walked, set on its way by the elders we all look upon with the highest regard.

There are current factors in the game that are pored over thanks to their nefarious nature. Diving, playacting, pleading for set-plays and the booking of the opposition, the obscene amounts of money. All eating away at the soul of the beautiful game.

Well I’m here to tell you that we could have it far worse.

America embrace sports just as passionately as us. The big games across the pond are treated with such gravitas that they are akin to a public holiday – and none are bigger than the Superbowl.

The buildup to this auspicious day is so gargantuan it has now started to bleed into our day over here. Not only this, but American Football is now big business over here. Fan clubs and games played in the UK means gridiron is now standing alongside our very own sports for attention.

I have recently attempted to dip my proverbial toe into the waters of American Football. I follow pretty much all sports, some more avidly than others, but if it is competitive and has points, I’ll watch it. I have watched some games on the TV and recently, I went to Wembley with my brother and dad to catch a game.

It was an absolutely awful experience, and even though our very own football has its wrongs, they pale into comparison alongside gridiron.

We moan about stoppages in football.

We have NOTHING to moan about.

American Football, in the majority of matches I have seen, have three seconds of play, followed by at least three to five minutes of stoppages. It is so staccato, so regularly peppered with nothing, that the entertainment that takes place in these hiatuses in play is fundamental.

Without it, spectators would just be sitting and watching the players stand in a field. The blow is softened somewhat when watching on TV as pundits and replays fill the voids, but four quarters of fifteen minutes drips by thanks to this awful system.

And we thought we had it bad with players moaning at referees and holding the play up.

My experience with American Football has left me thirstier for actual football. If these two sports were movies, then football would be Die Hard and American Football would be Die Hard 4. With less action. And the guns replaced with balloons.

Gridiron fans wax lyrical about the hard hits these hard men take. Granted, occasionally these men covered in padding receive a really vicious tackle, but compare this to Rugby where players are constantly in the thick of it, not allowed to have a breather after three and a half seconds of action.

Stop, stop, stop, start. There is no rhythm to that American sport. It is frustrating to watch, it isn’t fun like sports are meant to be.

Anyone who disagrees with me, watch a game of football alongside a match of gridiron. Watch how time ticks by in a natural manner on the clock during ‘soccer.’

Then look at the gameclock during a game of American ‘Football.’ Gadzooks! Time stands still as if frozen? What is this sorcery?

Physical sport is meant to be frantic, it is meant to tick by. Even goalless draws have those minutes at the end of the game where chances are made and spurned. In Gridiron, there are exceptions, but it is hard to stay pumped for the duration.

The last two Superbowls are great exhibitions that this sport can thrill, but they are the exceptions.

American Football has the capacity for huge excitement. Of course it does, the audience numbers it generates are testament to this. Look at last season’s Superbowl comeback from the Patriots when they defeated the Falcons. That was a true spectacle.

It is also the exception though.

I think I’ll stick to football.

​A Day In The Life Of Stan Kroenke

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

Hands steepled together on fingertips, he leaned forward. The groan from the plush leather chair was the only noise in the room.


“So, does anyone have any ideas?”


The faces the question was aimed at, returned nothing but blank slates. Whether it was genuine unknowing or fear of suggesting something the Boss might not appreciate – was not known. Either way, there was no answer.


He stayed leaned forward, a signal that he was taking the lead on this issue.



“Just as I suspected. I’ve no idea why I still employ you. As usual, it will be my expert business acumen that will come to the rescue.”


Still, nothing from the ring of faces.


“You there. Go get me a muffin.”


The nondescript suited person that the Boss pointed at, hurriedly got to his feet and flew out of the door.


“Right. We are here because of my mind. It was I who dragged my teams to where they are today, and it will be I who keeps them there, at the top. Now, I have some ideas in regards to plans, and I want to know your thoughts.”


The horde of faces all nodded in unison.


The face that had been sent to grab a muffin burst through the door, red faced. He shuffled quickly to the Boss, and placed the plump muffin in front of him.


The Boss looked down at the bakery product, and said nothing. He simply gave one curt shake of his head, and the faces that ringed the enormous boardroom desk all massed together on the muffin-bringer. There were muffled noises, the window was opened, and then a swift movement saw the unlucky man hurled out of the window.


“I don’t like blueberry. Now, are we all ready?”


The mass all returned to their seats quickly.


The Boss stood up and began to walk around the desk ponderously, simultaneously speaking to them all and no one.


“KSE Group is at the pinnacle of sports entertainment. Colorado Rapids, the Avalanche in the NHL, the Nuggets in the NBA and the LA Rams in the NFL – they are all the biggest teams in their respective competitions. Thanks to KSE and our expert management of assets.”


No response from the men and women again, bar one woman at the back, who arced one eyebrow at this ludicrous statement. 


She continued her silence though.


“Now, with our hunting channel showing all the glory of the kill, we stand on the precipice of the next level of evolution for our teams. How can we combine the two?”


He continued his slow lap around the furniture and faces.


“Look around you on the walls. Do these animals who have been bested by my rifle not instill in you the thrill of destroying a life? Do they not give you the first seeds of an idea?”


The faces matched the rhino, lion, tiger, bald eagle and giraffe heads that adorned the room. Blank.


“I propose to install half-time shows in all games for my clubs. These shows will capture the glamour of hunting animals or the team mascot in front of spectators. One lucky fan who will be drawn at random, will be handed a gun and an animal will be set loose on the pitch. If they kill the animal in one shot, then they get to take home the carcass as a trophy!”


He wheeled around and awaited a response.


The faces all clapped furiously, desperately trying to curry favour. The woman with the raised eyebrow refrained from clapping. 


She instead raised her hand.


“Mr Kroenke, Sir.”


He turned to face her.


“Speak.”


She stood up slowly.


“Sir, You have a fantastic record in business, and it has nothing at all to do with the fact you were given limitless funds from your wife’s family. You have not dragged your purchased teams lower than they have ever been and making the Rams switch states was a stroke of genius rather than a brainless idea which ignored fans wishes. You have fantastic business sense.”


Stan waited for her to continue.


“I think though, Sir, that bloodsport combining with ACTUAL sport, might just be a little…..barbaric?”


Gasps rang around the room. How dare she question this man? He is beyond reproach!!!!


Stan lowered his head. He then spoke.


“Mary. May I call you Mary?”


Her name was Stephanie.


“Mary, I respect your cojones. You are the only one in years that has spoken in open defiance to my genius ideas. You deserve my respect.”


Stephanie visibly relaxed, shoulders lowering and she let out a deep sigh.


“However, you are wrong.”


Instantly, her chair erupted, driving her straight up toward the ceiling, where she met the concrete with a wet noise. For a second, she stayed up there, until she crumpled to the floor.


“Now, any more objections?”


Not even the slightest movement from the rest of the room.


“Ok, so it is settled. KSE will move sports forward with this excellent idea. We will usher in a new dawn of sport! Hunting in a wonderful duet with sport! The crazed support will want nothing more than a show of blood and death! It is the next step for fans! It is the next step for us!!”


Applause, and whoops of joy. KSE, after starting their hunting channel and facing an enormous backlash, had decided to go full throttle instead of showing refrain.


After all, there is nothing money cannot do. 

Chivas 1-3 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

The next match on our US tour, taking place after a glitzy kit launch in LA, saw another win for Arsenal.

Rob Holding – and the new alternate 3rd kit – took centre stage, but another much changed lineup saw the Gunners put a physical Guadalajara side to the sword with some physicality and a sprinkling of invention.

Some may argue regarding what can be taken from a friendly game. The pressure that either makes or breaks a player is less stifling, so any displays must be taken with a pinch of salt, but objectively, there is also plenty to be taken as positives after such a result – much like our 2-1 win over the MLS All-Stars.

The ninety minutes that unfolded in the StubHub Center gave plenty of pointers for the coming season, and there is plenty of cause for optimism – and angst….


Rob Holding continues to impress, and may have bearing on our transfer targets

The fresh faced 21yr old signed from Bolton less than two weeks ago had an impressive 70 minutes in the victory over the MLS Allstars, but it was his first game, and there is a meagre amount that could have told us whether he will be a success. This match is much the same for the youngster, but a consecutive impressive appearance and his first goal could tip the balance in the pecking order for the centre backs at the club. He is comfortable on the ball,and his reactions are superb. He will hit a rocky patch in the future, but he is showing why he was so highly rated during his debut season at Bolton. Will Wenger now invest in an experienced central defender if Holding continues this incline?

Jack Wilshere is only out for a week – not a year.

The last time Jack Wilshere played a friendly in the US, he incurred an injury which kept him out for an entire season. This time though, Wenger has reassured us fans that Jack has merely strained the patella in his knee and is expected back within a week – but may miss the match against Manchester City in Gothenburg. Whatever injury he has picked up, what is imperative is that he gets the required rest. We pray that the week that has been diagnosed is not an Arsenal week, which would mean at least 32 weeks out….


Xhaka made his first start – and looked like he had been there for years
.

Granit patiently bided his time before he could start a game, offering fans only tantalising titbits of action and sightings. This game was the equivalent of when a gameshow finally shows contestants what they could win – and boy is it good. His positional play is so disciplined, and he seems to have an unerring ability to be exactly where the team needs him – be it in attack or defence. His passing was on point, his tackling just as good, and he seems to be as fit as a fiddle. Could we have another five of him please?


Coquelin, Santi and Elneny all at loggerheads for spots

What has been apparent is that Coquelin has taken no prisoners during this tour, and is keen to press home the one advantage he has over his midfield rivals, and that is his tackling. Whilst he has been snapping away at the opposition tirelessly, Santi played in this game too, also donning the Skippers armband. Santi is perhaps one of the most blessed in terms of talent, and his workrate is not to be sniffed at. In terms of who looks to have the advantage so far though? Elneny may just be edging it. Tireless displays, great passing, and he hasn’t been afraid to push forward and have an effort from outside of the box. It may just be fitness that stops Santi getting the spot ahead of Elneny, but against Guadalajara, Coquelin and Xhaka started in the 2 of a 4-2-3-1, with Santi taking the coveted Number10 role. Elneny came on at half time, but will he get the nod to partner Xhaka against Liverpool on the 14th? 

Debuchy is that doggy in the window

It could be misconstrued that with Mathieu Debuchy gaining so much game time so far in the friendlies played, that the French rightback may just have forced himself into the Managers thinking. 

With Hector Bellerin slowly proving to everyone what a world class talent he is though, will Debuchy be happy playing second fiddle? Well, tha answer to that was apparent last season, when Debuchy went on loan to Bordeaux, rather than sit on the bench. Of course, he had dreams of making the Euro 2016 squad, but Debuchy wants to play, and his displays so far have had a slight air of needing to impress. It won’t be Wenger he is trying to lure with his gung-ho attitude though, it will be the managers who would have been watching the match. He will proveto be a fine acquisition for a top team, but Debuchy gave away the penalty which allowed Chivas to score in this game – and his aggression was at times too high for a game designed to be a barometer for his side rather than touching the mercury. Debuchy will no doubt earn a moe from Arsenal, but stranger things have happened.
Other noteworthy mentions would be Chuba Akpom scoring his second in two cameos on tour, which indicates a high level of confidence for the youngster. He is full of willing and has a good touch, but needs to work on his hold up play a little. Chambers played well alongside Holding, and Theo takes the brunt of the abuse, but I predict he will come good. Also, The Ox scored an absolutely great goal, cutting in from the right, skinning his opponent, before curling past the keeper. The sky is the limit for him, if he can maintain a modicum of form and fitness. Both are equally important and have been just as rare for the young England man.

Like I said, there was plenty to take from the game. Fitness levels looked good, and with two friendlies yet to be played, there is still time for some fine tuning – and perhaps an addition or two would be welcome?

One more thing that we can take from this game? We scored from a set-piece. A rarity in domestic fixtures, but Santi flighted in a free kick, Chambers knocked it back at the back post, and there was Holding. Why can’t we do that more often?
My thanks again to @kittyglitter – a Gooner who is a must follow.

MLS All-Stars 1-2 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Upon first inspection, Arsenal’s friendly versus the creme of the top flight in the USA on Friday morning (or Thursday night, dependent on location), could be overlooked as a money-spinning exercise, or as an elaborate parade to garner more fans across the globe. 

At the very least, it was a vital warm-up for our players as they slowly ascend the gears and shake off summer excesses, in a bid to fine tune their bodies for another slog of a season. For the competition this coming campaign will be fiercer than ever, so every measure must be taken to ensure optimisation of every asset.

This match represented a notch up from the previous friendly game – the 1-1 draw versus RC Lens last week – so our squad, or at least the men selected to travel across the pond, could see where they needed to work a little harder before ceremonies begin on the 14th August against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

It may be quite difficult to take anything of note from the game, other than our players are being put through their paces – but with a keen eye, there is plenty for us Gooners to suckle upon until we again take to the pitch on Monday the 1st August versus Chivas de Guadalajara. 

So, here at The Hot Stepanovs, we thought we would provide you with a bite-size, handy article which points out what will give Arsene Wenger food for thought, and what us fans can use to soothe us during the traumatic transfer window….

Theo still has low confidence – but there are signs of life.

Theo once again was given the benefit of the doubt –  that heaving, dark doubt that shrouds the majority of fans thinking – and given the sole striker slot. He had three opportunities, and two were off target, with the other drawing a smart save from All-Stars keeper Andre Blake. 

Theo may have failed to register a goal, but he was in the right place to take the chance. His positioning is improving. His runs are being found – and all this without the King of Assists in the team. This isn’t a declaration that Walcott must start, or that he is the striker we need – far from it. 

Just that he shouldn’t be written off. Not at full fitness, in a team that was far removed from what we will field for our season opener, this display was a subtle signal that he has something to offer.

Don’t get carried away with Rob Holding

The boy only completed his move last week, and before he knows what is happening, he is jetted away to San Jose, California, to play the best that Major League Soccer has to offer. 

For such a whirlwind week, Holding did well – and that is the problem. He will either be the next Martin Keown, or consigned to the scrapheap as soon as the smallest mistake rears its ugly head. It is never grey, only black or white.

Holding played well, but it is far too early to gauge where he stands in regard to being able to fill in where necessary in the heart of our defence. Holding must be treated like a goldfish you have just won from the fair – keep it in the bag as you gradually intorduce him to the new water in the shiny tank you’ve bought him. Patience is key, but he did his no prospects no harm.

Holding surprised most of us with his display, especially as he was tasked with some contrasting styles to combat. The guile of David Villa, the trickery of Sebastian Giovinco, and……

Didier Drogba continues to haunt our consciousness

The Ivorian ruined our defence repeatedly whilst plying his trade for Chelsea. He even ruined a few careers too (we remember a Philippe Senderos before Drogba was unleashed upon him). 

The facts spell it out quite clearly. Prior to kickoff in this game, Drogba had plundered fifteen goals in fifteen games against us.

Provided a chance thanks to Sacha Kljestan of NY Red Bulls, he took a few attempts to put it past Petr Cech and Holding, but he did just that. 

That makes it 16 in 16. If Didier Drogba runs a business into his fifties, there can be no guarantee that they will be the ruination of our football club. Everyone needs a nemesis, and Drogba’s campaign to elect himself ours is quite frightening.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is hungry

Against Lens last week, and during the seventy minutes he played in this game, The Ox and his direct manner stood out against the large sedate sections of the game. He took people on, as is his wont, but his end product and composure looked a little more fine tuned. 

Whether it is practice drills, just a flash in the pan, or a little experience seeping through? Who knows. When in full flow though, The Ox provides entertainment. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

Krystian Bielik has been schooled well, it seems.

Much like Dr Dre accuses us of, we forgot about him. Not the good Doctor, no, but Bielik. His time for the reserves has sauteed his talents though, added the spices and taste that he needed. He was alongside Rob Holding at the start of the game, and Bielik looked like he had been playing for many a year. 

Will he even gain a place on the bench? Surely a loan beckons for this young man though, as it is now time where the only thing that can aid his career further is gametime. One thing is for sure, it looks like whatever club is the recipient, they stand to receive a very promising player. 

There were many more pointers that warrant mentioning. The MLS talent pool is quite clearly burgeoning, and the healthy flow of cash can only help attract more to the league. It was a very competitive fixture, and thanks to a few MLS defenders and Francis Coquelin, it meant that the winning mentality was on show from both sides. 

This MLS All-Star team played tottenham this time last year – and won 2-1. Our victory can be written off, but seeing our backup players given a chance to shine – which they duly accepted – and a confidence boosting win in the bag, can only be taken as a positive. 

Joel was again impressive. Akpom scored the winner and Jack managed forty five minutes. All plusses. 

A big thank you to Jeanne. You kept me in the loop until I could get home and glean as much as I could. I doff my cap to you madam!

Coming To America – Arsenal in 2016

Arsenal recently announced their plans for the pre-season of 2016-17 which involve two games played across the pond in the United States.

image

These two matches, one against the MLS All-Stars at the Avaya Stadium in San Jose on the twenty eighth of July at 9pm ( ET ), and the other against Chivas de Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles on July the thirty first, represent a welcome return to the States for Arsenal. The last trip to the US was in 2014 and involved a game versus New York Red Bulls, which was ridiculously well received.

Continue reading Coming To America – Arsenal in 2016