Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A strange kind of chart

We all like to get on our high horses about these ridiculous rankings that are produced from time to time in football so the latest one from soccer statisticians is bound to provoke debate. According to the IFFHS the greatest club team of all time is - wait for it - Barcelona.

To be fair, they have only taken into account 1991 to present day which explains a lot about the skew of the figures. Indeed, Parma (11th) rank ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea. Cool.

From their chart I have extracted the Italian standings for my own strange satisfaction. I have put in brackets their overall rating too.

1. Juventus (2).
2. Milan (3).
3. Inter (7).
4. Parma (11).
5. Lazio (18).
6. Roma (22).
7. Torino (33).
8. Sampdoria (56).
9. Bologna (71).
10. Genoa (77).
11. Fiorentina (81).
12. Palermo (87).

The biggest surprise to me is just how highly Torino got ranked. I remember them having one good season in Europe but a lot of time in Serie B during the period in question. It was also a bit of a shock to see Palermo pop in there on the strength of just a couple of seasons back in the top flight. My own Italian top ten - including all time history - would be more like this.

1. Juventus
2. Milan
3. Inter
4. Roma
5. Torino
6. Fiorentina
7. Lazio
8. Genoa
9. Bologna
10. Napoli

The first three are a no-brainer, I reckon. After that, it depends how much you rate old Scudetti against the new. I put Roma up high because of their outstanding record in staying in Serie A. The others, to be fair, you could swap around in any order. Certainly any top division needs all those teams in it. At the moment we are missing four of them which is another comment on how low the league has sunk.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cuore Viola

It was one of the strangest games I have seen in my long years tracking Fiorentina but, in the end, the boys from Florence came away with three points. Prandelli's men must have had about 30 shots at goal but still found themselves 1-0 down thanks to the deadly Lucarelli of Livorno.

It looked like being one of those games as Adrian Mutu in particular saw his goal attempts thwarted or sail wide. Eventually it was that man Toni who got the Purples back on terms and good old Martin Jorgensen grabbed the win. It was all the more vital looking at the league table as it permitted the Florentine side to climb a couple of places in the table.

Elsewhere, a word of reproach for Gennaro Delvecchio of Samp. Idiot. He robbed us all of a good game as the Doria team and support looked up for the challenge against Inter until he stuck the head on Materazzi (it's becoming a theme!). Even so they put up a good fight but Mancini's men were just too powerful.

Finally, a word on the hilarious press conference Carlo Ancelotti held to defend His Royal Pieness, Ronaldo. He is not fat, apparently that is a myth. "He is an imposing figure, he is a robust player but he is not fat," insisted Carlo on a subject close to his heart. So, remember that the next time somebody calls you tubby after your eighth portion of pasta. "I am not greedy, I am just an imposing and robust eater..."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bentornato Tubby

Well, the big deal of the January window has been clinched. Milan have beefed up their attack (gettit?) with the return of Ronaldo to Serie A. We remember him, of course, from his times as part of that legendary Inter team which won nothing at all of note. The last time he was in these parts he tumbled over Iuliano's legs in THAT game sparking a million years of recrimination. So it is impossible to ignore his arrival - this time on the red and black side of the city.

Some view it as more of a media move than anything else. It has given good profile to the Rossoneri, is one in the eye for their city rivals AND secures the barrel-shaped Brazilian access to his own image rights. So everybody's happy, right. Right?

There have got to be big question marks over his fitness for the rigours of Italian football. How will he recover from a battering from Fabio Galante? Will he have the pace to outrun anyone? And will anyone else get a sandwich at the Milan buffet table?

In other news, Michel Platini becomes UEFA supremo. Good news or bad? On the one hand he has spoken some sense about football. On the other hand, he is French and an ex-Juventino. Watch out for a new law allowing the Serie B champions to play in the Champions League.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The last temptation of Totti

There were a few talking points arising out of this weekend's Serie A treats but none more so than Francesco Totti's expulsion from the Livorno v Roma game. Having helped his team fight back from a dodgy penalty behind he then laid his hands on Fabio Galante and saw red. It wasn't much of a push, especially compared to what followed when he clobbered his own personal trainer! He does get singled out for "the treatment" from defenders but still this will have confirmed his hot-head reputation in many people's eyes.

Elsewhere, Inter outclassed Fiorentina in the Meazza. The Viola went in with a far-too-defensive mindset and even when they went ahead it was only a matter of time before the Nerazzurri overwhelmed them. I think it is always a managerial admission of failure when you have to make a substitution before half time. Off came Liverani and on came Pazzini in a clear indication that the initial line-up had been too cagey. A dubious goal that barely crossed the line gave Inter the comfort they craved but it was a disappointing Florentine display.

Finally, Lazio and Milan dished up a drab affair in the Stadio Olimpico. The Biancocelesti were too well organised for the Rossoneri to break down and they rarely looked dangerous. Kaka was very subdued indeed. There might be a lesson - and encouragement - there for Milan's upcoming Champions League opponents.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Grazie Mantova!

You know those things that you don't experience for a long time and wonder if they will still feel the same when you do? Those matters that give you great pleasure and are all the sweeter because they don't happen all that often? Well, the weekend furnished me with one of those - Juve got beat by Mantova (what did you think I was talking about?).

I had pondered whether relegation to Serie B might make the Bianconeri more endearing. Their humbling during Calciopoli might have made them less dislikeable. Indeed, their new faith in young Italian players could even have prompted me to consider them a role model for other sides. But, instead, no. It felt great to watch them lose.

No doubt they will still get promoted but it's just nice to see them taken down a peg or two. At the winter break the papers were all full of "Who will Juve sign WHEN they return to Serie A?" stories. Now, if there is one thing Serie B does not like it is arrogance from big teams. So it was fitting that little Mantova kicked the Bianconeri in the balls. They bounced back, of course, against Cesena. But still, it was fun to see them get beat again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why I love Serie A

I always knew he was a crackpot but just the same, it is fine to see Livorno President Aldo Spinelli in top form. Not content with firing his Coach Daniele Arrigoni after the 5-1 defeat by Atalanta, he has now got it in for his best players too. Check out his bile for goalkeeper Marco Amelia who spoke up in the manager's defence.

"Amelia loves the sound of his own voice - like all Romans," he ranted. "I hope we can sell him as soon as possible.

"As for Lucarelli, he is our captain, but if the team wanted to save their manager they should have played better."

I can remember Spinelli from his Genoa days and he seems to be getting more barmy with age. In recent times, of course, he effectively pushed Roberto Donadoni out the door when Livorno were flying high. Earlier this season he "dissed" the UEFA Cup by saying it was a pain and hoped his team was out of it soon.

It is this kind of oddball activity which makes Serie A such a loveable spectacle. Even in a predictable season like this (see below) you still have the likes of Spinelli, Cellino and Zamparini to liven things up every so often.

Stop press: Incredibly, player power appears to have worked and Arrigoni retained his post thanks to pressure from Lucarelli. Truly amazing!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hand over the title

I watched Inter overcome Torino on Saturday night and thought they looked ominously strong. They bossed the midfield in some style and took the lead deservedly. When Torino managed an equaliser they went straight up the field and scored again. It was all ruthlessly efficient.

Then on Sunday afternoon Roma ended up dropping another two points at Messina. A bit of a foolish tackle by Christian Chivu gave the home team their penalty to snatch a draw. The end result is Inter even further clear with nobody capable of holding them. Serie A, which used to be one of the more balanced leagues, is in danger of becoming so one-sided it will fall over. Here's hoping for better next campaign.

I won't even mention Fiorentina, the match with Samp was one of the worst of the season.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Don Fabio's greatest challenge

Even in the great career of Fabio Capello he can scarcely have faced a tougher challenge. To transform Real Madrid from a bunch of gifted, skilful, overpaid, headless chickens into a winning football team. Think of all the ingredients working against him.

1) Being in Spain. The diffidence/hostility of La Liga towards all things Italian is the stuff of legend. They don't like to see one of their top teams being run by a man from the land of "catenaccio". Nonetheless, it needs a man of Capello's strength to solve the club's problems.

2) The Galacticos. The club seems to have been run for years as if by a primary school pupil. Buying up every player possible with no real concept of building a "team" or strengthening positions where you are weak. At least he has weeded out David "Becksy Boy" Beckham by the looks of it.

3) Antonio Cassano. Even the Don must have run out of patience with the boy from Bari. OK, he is the only manager so far to manage to tame him but just the same, he must drive him nuts.

4) Fan expectation. Real have been much more competitive this season but they have had a bad run of results of late. If he fails to deliver something this season just how much time will he be given? Probably not much.

I've got a lot of time for Fabio because he scored the first ever goal to beat England at Wembley AND he took over Sacchi's Milan and made them even better. If anyone can do the job, he can. If not, I hope he comes back home. We miss him.

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's been too long

This winter break is driving me nuts. Alright, I wouldn't go down the English route and play every couple of days but nearly three weeks without Serie A action is killing me. What to do of a Sunday afternoon? The lack of action and controversy is frustrating in the extreme.

I did, however, get the chance to settle down and watch the highlights of the summer once more. What a team the Azzurri were, what brilliant moments they gave us. I can only hope for more of the same once things get back under way. How many days until Sunday?