A great weekend of football

I saw a lot of folks complaining about the “lack of real football” this weekend and every time I see it, I just have a little laugh. It’s fine if you have that opinion, honestly. Like what you like, hate what you hate. If these are the end times, who am I to get in the way of your celebrations or mourning? I’m here to assist, ignore, or get out of the way. So, if you hated this weekend “without any football” that’s cool, I happened to have a great weekend watching football!

My favorite match Saturday was Napoli 1-0 Spezia. It wasn’t great because there were a lot of goals but rather because I got a chance to really watch Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. What a delightful young player. When he has the ball he shimmies and shakes. His dribbling with the ball is utterly unpredictable, like a trying to catch a leaf blowing in the wind. Tipped in 2018 by the Guardian as one of the 60 best players in the world it’s astonishing that he went to Rubin Kazan for less than 1m Euros in 2019 and that Napoli got him from Rubin for less than 10m (because his contract was terminated due to the Russian invasion and attempted genocide of Ukraine). My gut instinct tells me that he’s going to go to a big team for 100m soon, but he’s such an odd player, someone who doesn’t tick all the boxes and sort of plays just however he wants, that I don’t know who will plunk the money down on him.

Another player in that team who deserves special mention is Anguissa. He played for Fulham and was sent on loan when they were relegated in 2019. He played for Fulham in 2020, and then back on loan to Napoli when Fulham were relegated in 2021. Napoli paid a mere 16m for him and I’ll be honest here and say that I’d love him at Arsenal. He’s big, he’s got incredibly silky touch, and he’s got the kind of dribbles that we used to see on Santi Cazorla. Not quite as visionary as Cazorla but still. Why we didn’t try to get him is a mystery. He’d easily cost 60m for a PL side to get him from Napoli now.

I also watched Marseille on Saturday. Alexis Sanchez scored a fantastic goal for Marseille. The ball had been played slightly behind him and it looked a bit like it had accidentally ricocheted off him to go in but on the replay you can see he slowed himself down and really measured a shot. It was a special goal. Kolasinac also set up Gigot for the winning goal.

On Sunday I watched Nice and Reims. The Nice match was pretty boring. Reims however, was super weird: it was played on BeinSports4 and there was no commentary. Now at first I appreciated the fact that there was no commentary but after the first half, I started to miss the announcer at least telling me the player’s names. Balogun played the full 90 and got four “shots”, none of which were even remotely threatening and one was a glancing header from like 15 yards out after a huge cross. He did have some great touches in and around the box but he’s incredibly raw. I hope he gets a great education there. Reims had a player sent off so it was probably never going to be a good game for Balogun. Oh well.

In the Nice match, they won 1-0 and according to WhoScored Pepe was the man of the match. I actually find that unbelievable because he did almost nothing. I didn’t even know he was on the pitch until the 30th minute or so. Nice played Ajaccio which is a team from Corsica, an island in the Mediterranean sea. I spent a lot of the match looking up the history of Corsica and why their flag has the severed head of a Moor on it. It’s because of a story about a Moorish slaver who stole a Corsican woman to sell her in the slave markets. Her fiance, Pablo, went to save her and during the battle the Moorish leader Mansour Ben Ismaïl was beheaded! Sardinia has a similar flag with 4 severed Moorish heads and a St. George’s cross.

The best match of the weekend however I fell into by pure accident. Rennes beat Auxerre 5-0 and I got to see Amine Gouiri play football for the first time. This is another young talent who is a pure joy to watch and who was also picked by the Guardian as one of the best young players in the world in 2017. This match had everything! A great goal by Gouiri kicked things off in the 2nd half for Rennes. And they scored a goal from a goal kick! It was a scrappy goal too, with both the striker (Tait) and defender tussling for 30 yards, then Tait headed the ball around the keeper, more tussling, and he scored from super close range while falling over a bit! Rennes has a lot of young players and they get a lot of playing time. I added them to the list of matches that I record so I will be eagerly watching them in the future.

Right, so a great weekend of football. I didn’t miss the Arsenal AT ALL. And I didn’t get upset at the refereeing even once the whole weekend. Arsenal may or may not play on Thursday this week Arsenal will not play football on Thursday – this time not due to forced mourning but rather because the police force might be stretched a bit thin. I honestly don’t care if they do or don’t play. They can have a couple more weeks off for all I care! It just means I get to watch different, and in some ways better, more relaxing football.

Qq

26 comments

  1. I also had a great weekend of Ligue 1 😉. O was annoyed not to see Arsenal but clearly I have sufficient appetite for other leagues that it did not bother me too much. Reims is becoming of my favourite team in France. I like what they do but they seem to be so shaky at the back… It is a proper hit and miss team and somehow I like that.

    Nice is a mess. I was hoping that with the return of Favre we would see the return of the all attack football he was so known for. And all we seeing right now is a complete sense that the first 11 has no clue as to what they supposed to do.

    Rennes… Not far from being the most clever recruitment in France right now. With this talent, they can be a threat for sure.

    On thing to mention is the first game played on Amazon prime with a microphone on the referee. This was a trial during the Paris-Brest and I really hope they will carry on with this experiment. It added some interesting insight on how players speak to the referee. Interesting.

  2. I watched Napoli game because of Tim’s recommendation on Kvaratskhelia, the new Maradona. I was a little bit disappointed his performance was not as shine as that in the game with Liverpool, and was substitued after 66 minutes.

      1. I also watched this game based on Tim’s Kvaradona tip. I agreed with the announcer who said something like “you don’t usually see dribbling like this unless it’s a U10 game.” Amazing stuff, with the caveat that he was given acres of space on the left to get a head start running at the defender.

        1. ha! I got the sense that a number of the Napoli players were hungover from the Liverpool game. A lot of guys were going it alone when just one more pass would have probably scored. Oh well.

          Big game this weekend on Sunday: AC Milan v. Napoli!

          1. Giroud scored again for Milan. Seems like he’s still got legs and scoring instinct.
            I think they are probably going to have to postpone PL matches to after the new year to get in the EL group stage matches.

  3. I applaud people who can watch football (or any other sports) games without being invested in them somehow. Personally, I find it a bit boring to watch something that I have no real interest in. That, and I guess I can find a few other things to do with my free time (like binge watching the latest season of Cobra Kai in a little over 5 hours yesterday 🙂 ). That is why I only watch Arsenal matches (and some other handpicked EPL games to see what we’re up against), and Inter in Serie A as I’ve been following them since the days of Wesley Sneijder. I’m also a diehard Bills fan so I don’t miss any of their games as well. That’s it. Having said that, I do play pool sometimes with a (random) game on TV in the background. But typically, I just have music on instead.

      1. LOL. I do indeed. But I’ve cut down significantly over the years. I used to watch a ton of basketball games in the past (good ‘ole days of Clyde “The Glyde” Drexler). Some occasional hockey here and there. Few MLB games. Not anymore. Like I said, I have to be invested in order for those to keep my interest. I don’t miss Arsenal games for sure… or try not to, I should say. In fact, in the last 10 years or so, I’ve probably only missed 2-3 games (and this includes preseason, and all the various cup competitions). Inter – not so much. I typically only watch so called “big” games. Juve, Milan, Napoli, Roma, etc… I don’t usually bother with much else. P.S. I’ll be in London in a couple of weeks for my FIRST live game at the Emirates. And against the Spurs, nonetheless. Can’t wait!

          1. Indeed. I know it’s selfish but I’m glad that the queen passed when she did. A couple of weeks later and I’d be majorly screwed. Still don’t understand why the FA decided to cancel last weekend’s games which you’ve talked about yourself a few days ago but it is what it is. So yes, fingers crossed.

          2. Some of the major pods are suggesting that the FA were worried that some fans might be disrespectful. I guess that makes some sense? But they canceled literally EVERY level of football.

  4. i’ve been a milan fan since giroud went there last summer. it was a brilliant move for him, milan…..everyone, except chelsea. they haven’t won a thing since the big frenchman left. ironically, since he left arsenal, giroud has won everything; premier league, europa league, champions league, world cup, scudetto. i love the big guy.

    everyone that’s kept faith with giroud has been rewarded. it broke my heart seeing wenger do stupid stuff like play theo and alexis at center forward with a fit giroud. alexis was a better player than giroud but not a better center forward. the same goes for lacazette and aubameyang. when he was at chelsea and there was a big game to be played, giroud always got the nod, despite the big money spent on “giroud upgrades” (including lukaku). this goes for sarri, conte, lampard, and tuchel; they were all rewarded. even deschamps. mbappe is a better player than grioud but not a better center forward.

    the what breaks my heart most, even more than the fact that he absolutely destroyed arsenal in the europa league final, was the fact that he had to leave arsenal to win the premier league.

    1. He also gets unfairly blamed for the 2015-16 season. He went cold for a little bit but it was actually Wenger dropping him which caused the scoring to dry up. He wasn’t egregious with missed big chances by that point in the season, it was actually early in the year where Giroud had problems and cost us points.

      1. Big misses that cost Arsenal that season:

        Walcott 0.44xG in the 2-2 draw with City
        Iwobi 0.15 xG in the 0-0 draw with Sunderland
        Welbeck 0.3 xG in the 3-3 draw with Wham
        Giroud 0.32 xG in the 1-2 loss to Swansea
        Welbeck 0.45 xG in the 3-2 loss to Man U
        Monreal 0.4 xG in the 3-2 loss to Man U
        Ozil 2 misses in the Southampton draw
        Kos southampton
        Alexis Southsampton
        Walcott southampton
        Flamini in the 0-1 loss to Chelsea
        Giroud in the 0-0 draw to stoke
        Giroud in the 3-3 draw to Pool
        Ramsey in the Pool game as well
        Ozil 1-1 Norwich
        Ozil 1-1 Norwich
        Cazorla missed penalty in the 2-1 loss to WBA
        Joel Campbell also missed aa big chance in that game
        Giroud in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham
        Giroud in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham
        Alexis in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham
        Giroud in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool
        Giroud in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool
        Giroud in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool
        Alexis in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool

    2. i really have come to like milan. they’ve got a good young keeper and some good defenders. they had frank kessie who’s moved on to barcelona but reloaded. they’ve still got this portuguese striker named rafael leao, who is the man and seems absolutely unplayable. unfortunately, he got a red card on saturday and will be suspended for the napoli game.

      ironically, they’ve got two young players i mentioned here last summer, sandro tonali and a belgian kid named charles de ketelaere. milan had tonali on loan a few years ago and i thought arsenal should make a bid for him…..but arteta was on that other kid who went to juventus. milan are playing de keteleare as a #10 but he can play as a #8. i thought of him as a replacement for xhaka but arsenal brought in sambi. de keteleare is a good player with a good motor. he’s a big kid too, probably as tall as giroud and reminds me of vieira both in how quickly he can transition to attack and how effortlessly he can cover ground. looking forward to the game, despite leao being suspended.

    3. Slight correction: Giroud never won the Premier League. It’s a weird Chelsea thing, they’ve never become a league-dominant club (in terms of actually winning the title) in the way it seemed they might when they first hired Mourinho. 4 years between his 2006 title and their next; another 5 years until the one after that, then another 2 years later (Conte), and none since (5 years and counting).

  5. Great post Tim. Glad you enjoyed the football.

    Josh. I think you guy overrate Giroud. He averaged slightly more then 13 league goals per year with arsenal. In 15/16 he scored 12 goals in our first 21 games and we were in first place or very close after those games and was our leading scorer. Then he did not score another goal for the next 15 games during which time we fell 10 points behind Leicester. I am not suggesting he was the only reason Leicester finished ahead of us but its difficult to contend when your leading scorer goes barren for that long. After he left Arsenal he scored only 17 league goals in 3 1/2 seasons with Chelsea. No one would suggest that Wenger, Conte and Sarri were bad managers and there was a reason none of those managers used him as their first choice CF. He did not score enough.

    1. this is why you’re so frustrating; your arguments aren’t in good faith. during that 15 game dry spell for giroud, he wasn’t in the team so how can he score? everybody knows that he wasn’t in the team, including you, but you continue to make that illegitimate argument….as if you’re the only one who watches arsenal.

      at chelsea, giroud was never meant to be the main guy as they paid big money for the likes of higuain, morata, werner, havertz and others. however, when there was a big game, ie. cup final, guess who got the nod at center forward? it was ALWAYS giroud, regardless of the manager. why? the managers all knew giroud gave them the best chance to win.

      number of goals isn’t the absolute value of a center forward. we saw giroud rip arsenal a new one in the europa league final. although he did score once, he assisted the hazard goal and won the penalty that hazard scored. that’s 3 direct goal involvements in a final against our team. if you watch a highlight video of arsenal’s best team goals when he was at the club, giroud is at the middle of nearly all of them. giroud won the last world cup and didn’t score a single goal. would france had won if giroud didn’t play? no. in fact, i believe the difference between france and germany at the last world cup was that france had giroud and germany didn’t.

      1. …in fairness, germany had mario gomez, who’s a proper center forward, but they didn’t really play him. they opted to play timo werner at center forward. the problem is werner isn’t a center forward and, despite being more talented than gomez, he couldn’t lead the line effectively…either for germany or for chelsea. go figure. in the one game germany won at the last world cup, guess who started at center forward? mario gomez. germany finished that game with ten men and still won. the other games, timo werner started at center forward and germany lost them all.

    2. lastly bill, we just come on this forum to talk. every post doesn’t have to be an argument or debate. do i know the game? yes. do i think i’m always right? absolutely. however, i understand that i don’t know everything and i’m willing to learn from anyone. i have learned a lot about the game from this community. this forum is different. be willing to learn, brother. be more engaging and less confrontational. if you make arguments, make them in good faith and folks will have a greater respect for you.

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