Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Deutscher Meister See Their First Transfer

It had been predicted for months now. Dortmund were going to win the league, but were going to struggle to keep their young teams of up-and-coming stars together through the summer. The first name to fall was Nuri Sahin, Dortmund's fantastic midfielder whose distribution has been key to BVB's success. His importance to the team was apparent in the last couple games that he has not played due to a leg injury. Instead Antonio da Silva has had the unenviable position of trying to fill the shoes of one of the Bundesliga's top players of the year. He did a good job in his role, but it was obvious how much Sahin was missed.

After taking the German domestic title, the team cheered and partied in front of the famed yellow wall of Westfalenstadion. The roar was tremendous and the players were hyped up, save for Sahin, who looked almost uncomfortable. It seemed that he knew he was leaving this and it was a tough goodbye for him. "Saying goodbye to my team-mates was very, very difficult. They are all so close to my heart and it was a very emotional goodbye. Everybody did everything for each other in this team and this is a fantastic team which has won a fantastic title," said Sahin. This was more than just a talented group of players. It was a team that played and lived together. You could see it in their play. They loved playing for each other. They loved playing for their manager, Jurgen Klopp. And, most of all, they loved playing for the 80,000 roaring fans decked out in black and yellow. Its a tough place to leave, but Real Madrid is a tough gig to pass up.

Real Madrid is now stacked with midfielders and could be planning on offloading at least one or two. With Ronaldo, di Maria, Kaka, Diarra, Xabi Alonso, Ozil, Khedira, and now Sahin, as well as Gago, Granero, Leon, and Canales all available to play midfield for Mourinho, its becoming a bit of a log jam. It'll be interesting to see if any of the big names move out of Madrid.

On the other hand, Borussia Dortmund now have a hole that needs to be filled. Fortunately, the front office has already planned ahead for just this thing happening. They have already lined up to sign on Ilkay Gundogan, who currently plays for Nuremburg. He netted 5 goals and assisted on 2 in 21 appearances for his club. "Ilkay has an excellent passing game and is overall a very high quality player who fits perfectly into our system," commented Klopp after announcing news of his transfer to Dortmund. 

It appears the Dortmund will not miss a beat. Losing Sahin will be a big blow, but the front office at Westfalenstadion has vowed to keep their players here. If they stay true to that promise and Sahin is the only big name to leave, Dortmund could represent a big threat in next year Champions League. They were incredibly dominant in Germany this year, scoring 64 and only letting in 21 goals with 1 game left. The squad is young and growing. Signs are pointing to this team only getting better with the only caveat being that they have to stay together. The unity of the squad, the fans, and the city ought to be a big draw for the club. I, for one, cannot wait to see them play mid-week games in the Champions League.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fulham v Liverpool: Picking Up the Pieces

32 seconds into the game and Schwarzer is picking the ball up from out of his goal. We all knew it was going to be rough from there, but it wasn't until 17 minutes later when we knew exactly how rough it was going to be. We were bad tonight. The defense looked poor. Maxi and Suarez ran around Hangeland and Hughes and the fullbacks did little to stop Liverpool from attacking down the flanks. There are a myriad of reasons (see excuses) that we can give. Hangeland is still recovering from his virus. We have nothing to play for, with no chance at relegation or a European position through our placement in the table. Nine days of no play left us rusty and killed our momentum.

Ultimately, we just had a bad night. The whole team looked flat and unenthusiastic, while Liverpool were up for playing and had a lot to play for. Suarez was brilliant on the ball and Maxi's hat trick struck a dagger into Fulham's heart. The back 4 was uncharacteristically poor. Even Schwarzer was miserably out-of-form, letting in Kuyt's shot that should have been easily saved. It'd be easy for me to go on about how miserable we looked, but I'd like to try and find at least a few positives, so here's my week attempt.

I think we found where Dembele needs to be placed. That is, in the midfield and not as a striker. I know that is a small sample size, but I think it holds a wider truth. Dembele is much more effective in the midfield than as a striker. He has shown off excellent ball skills, but hasn't shown great form at the tip of the attack in front of goal. In the first half, when he was playing as a striker, he completely whiffed at his one attempt on goal. In the second half, when he was playing deeper, he came in and attacked from a deep position to net our first goal. He looked more effective farther back; he was able to show his ball skills and passing skills.

The other thing we can take from this game is that the team didn't give up or lash out when they went down so quickly. At 0-3 down, I was worried about two things: that we would drop out of the game completely and lose by 7 or 8 and that our players would get angry and play rashly, causing us to pick up red and yellows that could hurt our chance of a Europa League spot through the Fair Play table. Thankfully, neither happened, though the first did a little. I was impressed by how the team fought back at the beginning of the 2nd half. We placed a lot of pressure on Liverpool and there was a lot of spirit in the team after Dembele's goal. Maxi's hat-trick-completing goal put a damper on that, unfortunately. In the last 5 minutes of the game, the Whites still had some fight in them. After Sidwell's goal--which was a gorgeous strike--Kakuta ran to the goal to get the ball quickly in order to get the game started again. Soon after, Schwarzer made a really good diving save, which was encouraging after his miserable mistakes earlier in the game.

The game was a bad one, but there were some positives, even if they are small. Let's hope this was a one-off thing and we can rebound against Birmingham this weekend. COYW!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fulham v Liverpool: The Reds Come to Town

Mark Hughes has told us all season that Fulham is a top 10 club and it hasn't been until two straight convincing 3-0 wins really convinced the fan base that the manager might just be on to something. The team has played really cohesive, flowing football that has been an absolute treat to watch. Furthermore, its offered a small taste of the potential within this team that many, including myself, are hoping blooms big within the next couple years. Zamora has been in tip-top form since coming back from his injury. Davies has shown what he can do in midfield. Dempsey has shown off his work rate on and off the ball and his ability in front of goal. Hangeland and Hughes have proven themselves as a powerful duo in the center of a defense that has let in more goals than only Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City.

Fulham rides this wave of good results back home to face a Liverpool team that has surged since January and is looking to snag 5th place and its corresponding Europa League spot. While the Reds have looked very strong and their new signings, especially Suarez, who has been absolutely brilliant since going to Anfield, have given them a big boost, their away form has not been spotless. In 4 away games since February, Liverpool has only taken 4 points, with the one win coming at slumping Sunderland and losses coming to bottom-table West Ham and West Brom.

Liverpool will be a tough match, but its certainly one that Fulham can take 3 points from. After 9 days off, all the minor injuries ought to be gone and Hangeland and Dempsey ought to be back in the line-up. And, we're going to need both, but Hangeland especially. Suarez and Kuyt have been lethal in front of goal. Suarez's play inside the box has made defenders look silly and has been incredible to watch. The defense will need to be compact enough to give him little space to move about.

Our defense has been excellent all season, but has turned it up a notch further in recent weeks, especially when playing in the banks of the Thames. We just don't seem like conceding here. After beating Liverpool at home last year, only letting in a goal in this season corresponding fixture off of Pantsil, and with Gerrard off the pitch, Liverpool look ripe for being clean-sheeted. It will take a really good effort from the Whites, but we have it in us.

With Dempsey back and Zamora in top form, it would be quite a task to keep us out of goal. I see Fulham taking this mid-week match 2-0.

On a different note, I'm excited to see QPR take the Football League Championship trophy and its more valuable prize, promotion to the Premiership. Doubling the numbers of West London derbies ought to make Fulham football that much more exciting next year.

If you can't tell, I'm really excited about what's in store for the Cottagers next year!

Waterboarding and Hypothermia

With the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, many commentators have jumped at the opportunity to claim that extra-legal prisons, like Guantanamo Bay, and enhanced interrogation techniques (see torture) have been the key to the government's ability to knock off #1 from the FBI's Most Wanted list. While these claims ought to be questioned, as all pronouncements from government ought to be, for the purpose of this entry, I'll grant that claim: one of the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay was unwilling to hand over vital information, but after being waterboarded and left in freezing cold prison cells, the prisoner gave the information necessary to find Al-Queda's leader.

The question we are still left with is: does that make these interrogation techniques legal? And, more important, moral? Is it permissible to engage in these activities just because they give us information that might save lives? The answer is no.

In the 1940's, Nazi doctors performed a variety of experiments on prisoners. Most notably, they did a wealth of research on how the human body reacts to freezing temperatures. Doctors forced young and healthy men into icy vats of water after placing a thermometer into the subject's rectum to record their internal temperature. They collected data to see how the human body responded to the harsh cold. It is reported that around 100 people died due to these experiments.

Through the death, though, the Nazis learned a great deal. In fact, the Nazi research is effectively the entirety of mankind's knowledge on how the human body reacts to freezing and hypothermia, and its not a stretch to see how this sort of information has saved human lives.

Here is the dilemma that the supporter of waterboarding must face: if waterboarding is perfectly moral, because it helped provide vital information to save lives, they must be willing to admit that people like Josef Mengele were not monsters of medicine, but rather misunderstood saviors of mankind. The principle is the same in both: the horrific pain inflicted upon a few people (or the people killed) is less important than the new data that could be extracted from that pain.