Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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Analysis of Arsenal’s Fixture-List

In what was the game of the tournament so far, the Socceroos nearly upset the Netherlands in a thrilling 3-2 loss earlier today. This game had everything you could want from the neutral standpoint. It had spectacular goals, an inspiring underdog, near-misses, and a little controversy. The swing from Australia nearly going up 3-2 on one end to Memphis Depay’s goal for the Netherlands on the other was brutal for those hoping for the upset. It was an impressive effort from the Socceroos, one that will endear them to millions of people across the world, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

The other news this morning is the arrival of the Premier League fixture-list. The reveal of the schedule is a sign that the next campaign is nearly upon us. In just a couple weeks, teams will be traveling across the world for their pre-season preparations. Usually this should be an exciting day. But in World Cup years, this particular day holds less intrigue. But at least it gives us an excuse to discuss something about Arsenal other than silly transfer rumors.

There is a lot to like about Arsenal’s fixtures. Unlike last season, there aren’t entire months in which you look at the schedule and say we’re one injury away from four straight losses. The big games are nicely spread out this time, with the only exception being a four game stretch in late September and early October that includes Manchester City and Tottenham at the Emirates followed by Chelsea away.

With all of the players at the World Cup needing an extra break this summer, they might not be completely ready for the first couple games in August. That’s why hosting Crystal Palace in the opener is ideal. A weaker Arsenal side might still be able to cope with Palace, whereas a trip to Anfield, as it was suggested might happen yesterday, would have been especially tough. Knowing there will also be a Champions League tie to play in late August, easier fixtures will be nice. Everton away might prove tough though in the second match.

April will be a big month for the Gunners, with Liverpool and Chelsea coming to the Emirates. Hopefully there will be some Champions League games to play then as well, so that could be a important stretch. A trip to Old Trafford in the second to last week of the season could also hold massive importance, but finishing at home against West Brom should see Arsenal finish the year with a win.

The other thing about the schedule that stands out to me is the Christmas/New Year’s stretch. I know there are always a lot of games to play in a short stretch then, but having to play two games in three days (QPR at home on Boxing Day and West Ham away the 28th) is asking a lot of these players. Having lost Aaron Ramsey to an injury during this period last year, Arsene Wenger will have to be extra careful to give his players the necessary rest to avoid injuries. Younger players could very well see valuable playing time in December.

While the release of the fixture-list isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, it does officially tell us that we are now 59 days away from the season opener. August 16 vs. Crystal Palace. Get ready.


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Imagine Kangaroos Playing Soccer

Good morning, everyone. Yesterday was a busy one for me, but fortunately I was able to see all of the Brazil-Mexico game. Having attended the Mexico-Portugal friendly, Mexico’s last before the World Cup, I have to say I am absolutely stunned at how well they are playing in Brazil. Guillermo Ochoa was the hero in goal, but for long periods of time yesterday, Mexico was the more impressive side. Should they advance, they will prove a tough out in the round of 16. I never would have guessed that after their uninspiring performance against Portugal. Brazil was unlucky not to win this game though, as Thiago Silva should have placed his free header anywhere but right at Ochoa. They will be fine, even with the draw, but they certainly do not look unbeatable on home soil, despite what the media keeps telling us.

I was at the Red Sox last night and saw another wonderful game by Brock Holt. Playing in center field for the first time, Holt made one of the more unbelievable plays I’ve seen at Fenway, coming out of nowhere to dive behind a lost Jonny Gomes in left field. Check out the video on the bottom of this article for the best look at this catch. Holt also scored both runs, and showed once again that he needs to be on the field every day. Were it not for Holt, the Red Sox would be borderline unwatchable right now, but the kid is playing out of his mind, keeping this team afloat. I should have a Red Sox themed post later today for you so stay tuned.

Now, after getting rather unlucky with my picks yesterday, I’ll try to rebound today.

Netherlands 3 Australia 0

The name Socceroos is perfect. Every time I watch Australia play, I can’t help but try and picture kangaroos playing soccer (I’ve looked on Youtube and can’t find a video of it). Wouldn’t that just be amazing? I don’t care if this Australian team isn’t as good as prior ones. They are exciting merely because of their name. But unfortunately, the Socceroos don’t have the talent to beat the Dutch today. As the tournament’s new it-team, the Netherlands are rolling. And they will face little adversity seeing off the Aussies. Robin van Persie will score two and Wesley Sneijder will add the third for the Dutch. The Netherlands will all but seal their place in the round of 16 with this win.

Chile 2 Spain 2

In what might be the tournament’s most important group stage game, Chile and Spain will battle it out in a hotly contested affair. Whether or not Vicente del Bosque rings in the changes, Spain will be fired up to prove to themselves that last week’s embarrassment was not an accurate representation of the state of Spanish soccer. However, things will not start brightly for the reigning champions. The defense will be left suspect once again, as Alexis Sanchez, who will be playing many of his Barcelona teammates, will find the net within twenty minutes. A second goal from Chile before the half, this one a brilliant effort from Arturo Vidal, will send the world into a frenzy. But the Spain we all know will be back in a big way in the second half, as a series of substitutions will turn the game around. Jordi Alba will set up Spain’s first goal for Cesc Fabregas. And with time running out on Spain’s World Cup hopes, Sergio Ramos will tie the game, scoring yet another huge goal. The lone point will barely keep Spain in the running for Group B’s second spot in the round of 16, but it will feel like a win after being down and out at halftime.

Croatia 2 Cameroon 0

With Croatia still steaming from last week’s controversial loss to Brazil, Mexico’s draw yesterday will only serve to add more fuel to the fire. Knowing a win is a must against Cameroon, Croatia will be ruthless, relentlessly attacking the Cameroonian defense. Likely without star striker Samuel Eto’o due to injury, the Indomitable Lions won’t be able to relieve any pressure up top, and Croatia will have their way. Luka Modric will deservedly get the opener midway through the first half. Without his long hair that marked his Tottenham days, he is a much more likeable player in my eyes. He will be excellent today. Their second goal will be set up nicely by Ivan Rakitic, who will feed Ivica Olic on the break for a beautiful goal. More pressure will be piled on in the second half, but no further goals will come for the impressive Croatians. This game should be very one-sided.

Enjoy the soccer today and continue spreading the word about this blog. Check back later for the Red Sox piece and for more World Cup coverage. Thanks for reading.