Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


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Who Should Be Arsenal’s Next Captain?

With the exit rumors of current club captain Thomas Vermaelen heating up by the day, and with a mysterious injury keeping him from training, it seems inevitable that Arsenal will be looking for a new skipper soon. It’s entirely understandable that Vermaelen wants out (I wrote about that a little ways back here), but it’s also understandable that Arsene Wenger wants to keep him around as cover until a replacement comes in. The situation is not ideal.

I get that it’s been a bit of an embarrasment to hold the captaincy while on the bench, but Vermaelen owes the club one last duty as captain of the famous club. He needs to be at training right now so that he can be there as cover for Per Metesacker who has still yet to return from his post-World Cup holiday. There hasn’t been much said about how serious Vermaelen’s injury is, but as the club captain, he should at least be around the club right now, either on the pitch or as a spokesman. His absence when he is still needed signals the need for his removal from the captaincy.

However, I feel it would be unfair to strip him of his captaincy while he still is an Arsenal player, as up until this summer, he handled the ignominious demotion extraordinarily well over the last eighteen months. He could have spoken out against Wenger publicly, he could have demanded a transfer, and he could have thrown the dressing room into shambles. But instead, he put his club above himself, and said and did all of the right things while he was on the bench. It could not have been easy. So were Arsenal to hand the captaincy to someone else while Vermaelen still was on the roster, it would be an unnecessary slap in the face to the Belgian. And Arsenal is too classy for that.

At this point, the only solution is to wait out Vermaelen’s exit before naming a new captain. There might be a game or two when Mikel Arteta will have to lead out the side before he officially leaves, and there might even be a final appearance by Vermaelen himself should he regain his fitness, but it’s the right course of action. By the end of August, the Belgian will be gone, and Arsenal will be able to turn the page.

That then begs the question of who the next Arsenal captain should be. In my mind, there are three obvious candidates and a handful of other players who could be surprise picks to wear the band. But this is not a choice to be made lightly, as the club will have seen its last three captains leave the club in recent years on less than ideal terms. In my opinion, Wenger needs to pick a player who can hold the captaincy for years to come.

For me, that should rule out 32 year old Mikel Arteta from the running. However, due to his current status as vice-captain, he would seem in many ways to be the most logical choice. Arteta is the prototypical Wenger player – a pass-first midfielder converted to a deeper role – and is clearly a favorite of the boss. But given his age and Arsenal’s desire to replace him with a younger, more natural defensive midfielder, Arteta might find himself in a similar situation to Vermaelen in a year’s time. I don’t think anybody wants a repeat of that. So the only way I would give Arteta the captaincy is if Wenger thinks his obvious choice is eyeing a younger player for the job but doesn’t think that player is quite ready for the responsibility.

The next option would be Per Mertesacker, the current number three as captain. The big German defender has been Wenger’s deputy in the dressing room since his arrival, a player who goes around to collect any fines. Were he not held in high esteem by his teammates, that duty would be impossible. He also holds authority on the pitch as a vocal presence in the back. And when things go south, Mertesacker has his head in the right place – think back to when he chastised Mesut Özil for not acknowledging the traveling fans at Manchester City after the painful 6-3 loss. Few have the respect necessary to be able to do that. Seemingly as Arsenal’s first choice center back for years to come, the big German would be a great choice as captain. His vocal leadership style would harken back to the older Arsenal captains, and everyone would be better for it.

The third, more complicated option would be to give the band to Aaron Ramsey. While he is only 23 years old, he has already been captain of the Welsh national team for a short period, and he clearly has the leadership abilities necessary to do the job. Ramsey is indisputably Arsenal’s most indispensable player at the moment, having grown tremendously as a player in the last year. Handing him the captaincy would be a gesture to acknowledge that importance, and it would be something that might keep him from wanting to leave the club anytime soon.

While he wouldn’t be the vocal leader that Mertesacker would be, Ramsey could be of the Cesc Fabregas mold as captain, a role he’d surely grow into with time. Having given him the band in preseason, Wenger has realized the Welshman’s importance to the club, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leading the team out permanently. And I must say, his new beard makes him look regal enough for the job. The only hesitancy is that Ramsey struggled with the burden when he took over the job for Wales, but he was much younger then, and had to deal with the death of his coach Gary Speed at the time. It was a big ask for Ramsey at the time, and while he handled everything admirably, it clearly weighed on him on the field.

Beyond those three, there are a couple of other decent options. While I don’t think Wenger will choose Tomas Rosicky, I think it would be a terrific choice, if only for the short term. Rosicky is Arsenal, and he does everything right on the field. He is a terrific example for all the young players at the club, and giving him the captaincy would be the ultimate sign of respect for the veteran Czech midfielder. He probably doesn’t play often enough to merit the job, but nonetheless, he’d be a great choice. The other option is Jack Wilshere. For years now, he has been mooted as a future Arsenal captain. But his immaturity off the pitch and recent struggles on it suggest he is not ready for the job. If Wenger wants Wilshere to be captain, that’s where I think he should go with Arteta for now, so that he can give the young Englishman some more time to mature. Laurent Koscielny, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Flamini and even Mesut Özil could all be options as well.

When Vermaelen’s exit is confirmed, Wenger will have a tough choice to make. But he has a lot of solid options on a team that has found a nice mix of personalities in the dressing room. Personally, I would like to see Mertesacker or Ramsey take over the captaincy. If I had to guess, I would think Wenger will go with Mertesacker, but you never know. And as far as vice-captain, it would be awfully harsh to take that away from Arteta should he not be selected for the bigger role.

Who would you like to see as Arsenal’s next captain? Please comment below


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When Baseball Is About More Than Just Baseball – Saying Goodbye

Today was one of the toughest days I’ve experienced as a sports fan. It wasn’t that today’s fire sale was unexpected at this point – I wasn’t blindsided by any means. And it wasn’t that I was upset with the overall return from the various trades. Today was about losing role models and people I’ve looked up to for years. It reinforced the notion that being a fan is as much about forming relationships with the players as it is about merely rooting for a group of individuals. Much like when the Celtics traded away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, I felt a tremendous personal loss seeing players that will define certain parts of my life go.

I’ll proceed chronologically with my reaction to the trades. Early this morning came the news that Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes were traded to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes. From a baseball standpoint, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that Cespedes was coming to Boston. He is exactly the type of player this team was missing- a right-handed hitting outfielder with a lot of pop who can provide excitement day in and day out. There aren’t many players that are objectively exciting in baseball, but Cespedes is one of that rare breed. And while he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season, he does have a favorable contract until then. He’s not your typical Red Sox player with a high on-base percentage, but I think the fans will love him for his power bat and his rifle of a throw from the outfield.

If the Red Sox weren’t going to re-sign Jon Lester, which I think is a mistake, it was the right move trading him now, as the value of Cespedes and the conditional draft pick received surpassed the value of the compensatory pick they would have gotten had he signed elsewhere. Cespedes’s arrival also signals the intent to compete next year, rather than waiting on any prospects to develop over time. With him only committed through next year, it will force the Red Sox to reload this offseason. And I think that’s a good thing.

For the A’s, this trade puts them in a great position for October. They get one of the best postseason pitchers ever in Lester to join an already loaded rotation, and they add a veteran presence in Gomes who is simply a winner. Whether he plays five times a week or five times a month, Gomes will be ready to produce in October, and he’ll be a spark in the clubhouse.

But as much sense as this trade made given the circumstances, I am still devastated to see two of my favorite Red Sox ever traded. I’ll expand on this in another post soon, but Lester and Gomes meant a whole lot to me. I watched Lester grow on the mound as I grew up as a person, and he will always be an inspiration to me. I can tell you exactly where I was when he announced that he had cancer, and I remember being near to tears. But I can also remember where I was when he returned to the mound triumphantly the next year in Cleveland. And I will never forget being at Fenway for his no-hitter the next year. That will always be my favorite Fenway memory. He was a hero, a role model and a true champion.

And then there’s Gomes. For all of last year, Gomes lived just a few houses from me. He was a connection to the team like I hadn’t had before. And of course he also did wonders for the team and the city during last season’s April hardships. In many ways, although he just played here for a season and a half, Gomes was the ultimate Red Sox. I’ll miss his wild style dearly. I am glad these two are going to Oakland, because I will have no problem rooting for the A’s. Wherever Lester and Gomes go from here, be it a return to Boston or a move anywhere else, I will be their biggest fan.

Before I had begun to get over my sadness about the first trade, John Lackey was traded to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. I am not sure about this one, but I do think it could have its long term benefits. Craig would seem to have no place on the field at this particular moment, and unless Mike Napoli goes anywhere on a waiver deal, I don’t see how Craig will find his stroke this year if he’s on the bench. And even next year, where would he play? He’s a standout hitter when he’s going well, but I’m not sure how he fits into the Red Sox’s puzzle. But I like that Kelly is coming to Boston. If Lackey and Lester are gone, there needed to be someone with some level of experience and talent on the roster not named Clay Buchholz. Kelly has had a down year, but he has a great sinker and pitched quite well against us in the World Series last year. He’s one to watch in the coming years.

While I always thought Lackey would retire rather than playing for the league minimum next year, it appears he will honor that with the Cardinals. It’s incredible how quickly Lackey turned his image around in Boston. Two years ago, everyone would have given him away for nothing. That the Red Sox were able to help turn his career back around to even get this kind of deal in return is remarkable. But if he would have played next year for only 500K, I don’t quite understand why the Red Sox didn’t want to keep him around. He’s a solid number two at this point of his career, and I think he would have had a valuable place on next year’s team. But I guess this was a deal made for beyond 2015, when Kelly should be better than Lackey.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really going to miss Lackey. He was a work horse on the mound and a true professional in his approach to pitching. He leaves a winner, and he’ll always be remembered around these parts for winning the final game of the World Series. Best wishes in St. Louis, Lack.

Then there was the Andrew Miller trade to the Orioles for 21 year old pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. This trade didn’t feel nearly as significant as the previous two, but even so, the Red Sox lost a true star in the bullpen. I’m sure many in the organization will be disappointed they couldn’t receive a better prospect in return, but this is still a good deal considering he will be a free agent this winter. Rodriguez has struggled this year, but he’s still only 21, and quite recently the Orioles rated him very highly. I’m sure we’ll learn more about him soon, but he sounds like he could be decent in a few years.

Miller was never flashy on the mound, but he was always there to get the job done. And when things didn’t go his way, he handled everything expertly, never one to give up on himself or his teammates. He had the stuff of a top of the line starter, but never complained about having to be the 7th inning man. I met Miller at a dinner back in early 2013 and he made a positive impression on me. I hope the Red Sox make a serious effort to bring him back this winter, because he’s a real winner. The Orioles will benefit greatly from his presence in their bullpen.

And lastly, there was the news that Stephen Drew was traded to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson. I doubt Johnson will ever get much of a shot in Boston, but this trade was clearly made to get Xander Bogaerts back to shortstop. It also opens a spot back up for Will Middlebrooks, who could really use a morale boost after a tough year and a half of baseball. Giving Drew away right now makes a lot of sense baseball wise, and it’s not like we’re competing directly with the Yankees the rest of the way.

I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll say it again. I really liked Stephen Drew. Boston fans never gave him a chance this year, and I felt his defense never got the praise it deserved. Stephen wasn’t J.D. by any means, but fans here weren’t going to see that. Stephen cared a lot, and like it or not, he was the starting shortstop on our championship team. He wasn’t great at the plate in his time here, but he contributed elsewhere, and was a model professional. Re-signing Drew in May wasn’t the best move in hindsight, but he shouldn’t be blamed. Blame the Red Sox management. If Drew gets booed tomorrow when he plays for the Yankees, I will be extremely disappointed. Count me as one who appreciated all he did here.

I would imagine the roster movement won’t stop here. More players will be designated for assignment in the coming days, and we’ll see a dramatically different Red Sox lineup the rest of the way. It won’t be pretty, but signs point to a renewal for next season. Overall, I think we are in good shape if and only if management is willing to commit money to a front-line starter in free agency this winter (I’m still holding out the faintest of hopes that they have a plan to re-sign Lester). But for now, let’s all take a few days to appreciate what this group of players did for the team and for all of us. Lester, Gomes, Lackey, Miller and Drew all leave Boston as World Series winners. They leave behind amazing memories that I’ll cherish as long as I live. In sixty years, I’ll be telling my grandkids stories about the 2013 Sox, about my crazy neighbor and about the player who beat cancer. And while it was an incredibly sad day, it might not be all bad.


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Arsenal’s Underappreciated Star (And a Few Other Random Thoughts)

Today’s post is the fourth in a series profiling Arsenal players as we near the start of the upcoming campaign. Previously, I have written about Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere

When talking about Arsenal’s strong lineup of attackers this summer, everybody has been referencing new signing Alexis Sanchez as the catalyst. And when it’s not him, it’s Mesut Özil, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere that take the headlines. One name that doesn’t come up nearly as much as it should is Santi Cazorla.

The diminutive Spaniard has been rumored to be a target of Athletico Madrid in recent weeks, with some reports suggesting he is currently unhappy at Arsenal. But none of what’s in the news right now about Cazorla makes any sense to me. Cazorla has been nothing less than a star at Arsenal in his two years at the club, and Wenger seems inclined to do anything possible to get him in the lineup. Even when the more heralded Özil arrived a year ago, Cazorla still was a focal point in the attack when healthy.

It’s easy to forget at this point how good Cazorla was immediately upon his arrival in London. He took off from day one, going on to win the team’s player of the season award by a landslide in his first season at Arsenal, contributing 12 goals and 14 assists from his role behind the striker. And even last year, when pushed out wide to accommodate Özil, Cazorla still managed 7 goals and 9 assists in all competitions. His memorable free-kick goal to start the comeback against Hull in the FA Cup Final won’t soon be forgotten

His best position is unequivocally the number 10 role, as his creativity and vision in the midfield rank among the best in the world, but he has to play wider because of Özil. Out wide, Cazorla is not your typical winger. He isn’t going to blaze by any defenders with sheer pace, and he won’t send in many crosses. Instead, he drifts inside to link up with his fellow midfielders and his full backs. His short-distance passes are key to unlocking defenses, as they help create space for runners in behind. His head is always up, and at the edge of the box, his ability to finish with both feet is unparalleled. His two-footedness is part of what makes him so effective in the middle of the park, because defenders can’t gamble on one side versus the other.

But what Cazorla does on the wing better than any other Arsenal player is track back. His work rate has gone relatively unnoticed because of his stellar displays in the attacking third, but Cazorla always gets back when he is needed. Much like Tomas Rosicky, Cazorla buzzes around the middle 80% of the field, always eager to pick up the ball in his own half and take it forward. And on the left, he and Kieran Gibbs seemed to develop an understanding about defensive duties on the counter.

Cazorla might not be in many Arsenal fans’ starting lineup for the upcoming campaign. Most people, I’d imagine, would line up Sanchez, Giroud, Walcott/Oxlade-Chamberlain and Özil in front of Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta. But I guarantee you that Cazorla will be on the field more often than not. With Özil coming back to the squad late due to the World Cup, Cazorla will get a chance to start the year in his favorite position and I expect him to have an immediate impact alongside Sanchez. He will make it tough for Wenger to leave him out when Walcott comes back from injury. I think he’s going to have a great year.

At age 29, Cazorla will be one of the veterans in this Arsenal side. And while the young guns might steal some of the headlines, players like Cazorla will always be just as crucial to the overall success of the campaign. I’m not very worried about him leaving this summer because I think Wenger realizes how valuable his little Spaniard is. He’s the type of player you won’t notice how much he does for the team until he’s gone. And although he might be underappreciated and sometimes forgotten by Arsenal fans discussing the stars of the squad, Cazorla is just as important to this team as anyone else.

In a different Arsenal story, I am quite curious about why Calum Chambers was wearing a training shirt with number 5 on it for part of his first day at the preseason camp in Austria. Just yesterday, when Chambers was signed, he was assigned 21 to wear. And given that 5 is currently occupied by the captain Thomas Vermaelen, it seemed odd that the new signing wore that number yesterday, if only briefly. It might signal that the number will be his as soon as Vermaelen leaves on a transfer, and it could also be suggesting that a Vermaelen exit is imminent. Let’s hope nobody rushed out to buy the Chambers #21 kit.

On another completely unrelated note, I wish I lived in a place where people cared about the Commonwealth Games (does that place exist?). I know very little about the competition, but I love the concept. Were I British, I’d be all over it. For all who don’t know, it’s a competition not unlike the Olympics which involves only the nations of the former British Empire. After watching highlights of the ping-pong yesterday, I instantly wished I cared about the event. Oh well.

And lastly, today might be Jon Lester’s last day in a Red Sox uniform. He was supposed to start tonight, but I don’t think anyone was surprised to see him scratched last night. I think a trade could be in the very near future. It might be a very sad day in Boston.

Check back later for reaction to any Red Sox trades. I’m sure there will be a lot to discuss in the next 48 hours.


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Arsenal May Have Lost, But It’s Not a Big Deal – Player Ratings for the Second Preseason Game

Arsenal may have lost a preseason game to an MLS team, but it was a game that meant little in the grander scheme. There is no need to panic. With only one true center back and striker on his roster, Arsene Wenger played an experimental side against Thierry Henry’s Red Bulls that didn’t create a ton of chances, losing 1-0. It was more of a training exercise than anything else, as I can’t imagine Arsenal will ever play with a false nine again this year.

It was a rather dull game, one I am glad I didn’t waste time and money traveling many hours to get to, given the lack of firepower from Arsenal. The Red Bulls played a good game, and showed themselves well, but the win means as little for them as the loss does for Arsenal. It’s always wonderful to see The King, Mr. Henry, around his old club, and he gave a satisfying performance. He looks like he still has a lot left even as he approaches age 37. The highlight of the game probably was when Henry was withdrawn, as it gave everybody a few seconds to appreciate him.

For Arsenal, integrating the next wave of World Cup arrivals will be crucial going forward, as there was a serious lack of depth in certain areas against the Red Bulls. With only a couple weeks left before games begin to matter, time is running short, and Wenger’s men will need to focus doubly on preparing for the opener. Promotional trips to New York may be fun, but training for the new season is much more important. The training camp in the quiet of Austria this week should do a lot of good.

On another note, the ESPN commentary during the match was quite noticeable. It was supposed to be Jon Champion and Taylor Twellman in the booth, but Twellman’s sickness brought regular studio analyst Alexi Lalas into the booth. I fell in love with Champion’s play-by-play style during the World Cup and I was not disappointed with him in this game. However, Lalas may have been the worst color commentator of any sport I’ve heard since Bret Boone in the 2003 MLB playoffs. Lalas had no idea when to talk, and gave way too many one-word answers. The awkward silences when Champion needed Lalas to say something were rather entertaining at times. It goes to show that not everybody is cut out to be a color commentator, even former players.

Player Ratings (1-10)

Tomas Rosicky – 6/10 – In the unfamiliar role of false nine, Rosicky gave an honest effort. While he never looked likely to score, he made a few decent runs and was always dropping deep to receive the ball. I don’t think he’ll play the role again, but it was fun for a half. In the second half, he was much more effective in his normal position.

Gedion Zelalem – 6/10 – With many eyes on the 17 year old, Zelalem may have underwhelmed a bit. It wasn’t that he was bad, he just didn’t seem eager to take men on when he got on the ball. He looked much less comfortable on the wing than he did last week in the middle. He did do well to set up Jack Wilshere on a one-two though.

Santi Cazorla – 6.5/10 – In his return to action, Cazorla looked his usual self, popping up in every position along the frontline to receive the ball. He had one nice effort from distance, and in general, I felt he looked quite lively. But his set pieces were far from impressive. However, that Cazorla was fit enough to go seventy minutes is a good sign at this point in the summer.

Aaron Ramsey – 7/10 – Despite having two blades of grass stuck to his forehead for much of the first half, Ramsey looked as calm as collected as ever, making driving runs through the midfield and winding up in dangerous areas. His tackling was effective as well. He looks just about ready.

Jack Wilshere – 7.5/10 – I felt Wilshere did quite well. He started in a deeper role, and won a few balls with well-timed tackles, showing off the extra pace he can add beside Arteta. And as the first half went on, he ventured forward and had Arsenal’s two best chances. On another day, he might have finished them. But it’s a good sign that he was finding himself in such good positions.

Mikel Arteta – 5/10 – Arteta looked slow against some of the Red Bulls pacier players, and wasn’t at his best in the middle of the park. Most of the Red Bulls attacks came straight through the middle, and Arteta wasn’t dealing with them properly. While he completed a number of passes in the back, he did have one noticeably bad giveaway that any Premier League striker would have finished. He also was a step slow on the Red Bulls goal, failing to get to Wright-Phillips in front of the net.

Kieran Gibbs – 7/10 – Gibbs appears to be as ready for the season as anyone. Looking quite comfortable in his new number 3 shirt, Gibbs got to the byline a few times and wreaked havoc whenever he got forward. Defensively, his positioning was solid as well. And he played the entire game.

Nacho Monreal – 5.5/10 – Monreal played a foreign position at center back and it was pretty obvious he wasn’t at ease in the middle of the defense. I would imagine he and Hayden haven’t played together too often, but it was noticeable that the Red Bulls had little trouble passing the ball to a runner in between the two of them in the first half. He’ll have his work cut out if Wenger wants him to be an option in the middle. He also was in no-man’s land on the Red Bulls goal from the corner.

Isaac Hayden – 6/10 – Along with Monreal, Hayden looked a tad inexperienced. While he did make a couple of nice tackles, he wasn’t always aware of where the strikers were around him. As he matures as a defender, he’ll need to focus on the communication aspect of the defending, as he and Monreal looked like they were two individuals rather than a unit at times.

Carl Jenkinson – 6.5/10 – Jenkinson always is ready to play. Knowing his time at Arsenal could be limited, he was an eager runner, getting forward quite regularly. There wasn’t much for him to do defensively, but he had one or two timely headers. I hope this isn’t the last game he wears an Arsenal shirt.

Wojciech Szczesny – 6/10 – Szczesny was a little busier in his half than he would have liked, but he did well to deny Henry in the opening minutes. He was also quick to get down on a second occasion that went wide. But on the goal, he could have been more proactive in getting off his line. The fault should be on the marking, but the Polish keeper will feel he could have done better.

Substitutes

Chuba Akpom – 6.5/10 – The young striker continued to show confidence beyond his years. He looked dangerous every time he got near the ball, and nearly set up a goal for Diaby. He might have done better with the left-footed shot he got on the break midway through the second half, but overall, it was another performance that showed Akpom could be useful in the near future.

Kris Olsson – 5.5/10 – Having stolen the show a week ago, Olsson failed to make the same impact in New York. In a 20 minute cameo, Olsson couldn’t find the right passes. And his free kick in extra time was disappointing.

Jon Toral – 5.5/10 – Toral hardly had a kick in his 20 minutes on the field. He played one nice through ball to Gibbs down the left, but overall, he didn’t set the world on fire.

Abou Diaby – 6.5/10 – Diaby was relatively quiet, but it was another 45 minutes without injury. And his brilliant finish on a disallowed goal should give him some confidence as well. He looked composed on the ball as always.

Mathieu Flamini – 6/10 – Flamini played a few nice balls down the right for Bellerin, but he didn’t have a whole lot to do overall. Alongside Coquelin, he kept the Red Bulls relatively quiet in the second half. But he might have marked his man better on a cross late in the half.

Francis Coquelin – 5.5/10 – Coquelin seemed to be pressing, trying to do too much with his opportunity. While he showed a lot of desire to get forward, and put in a good shift defensively, he lost the ball carelessly a couple times. It’s admirable that he is trying so hard to get back on Wenger’s good side, but he’ll need to be more disciplined to earn the manager’s trust again.

Ignasi Miquel – 6.5/10 – Miquel wasn’t involved much in his half of football, but he made a few nice clearances. One tackle in particular, followed up by a wonderful ball over the top, nearly set up Akpom for a tying goal. It was a quiet performance, but he didn’t do anything wrong.

Hector Bellerin – 6/10 – The young right back was lively going forward as always, but his crossing wasn’t accurate enough to create any chances. He wasn’t called upon to defend often, but he let his man get in a cross too easily at one point. However, he does look dangerous when he’s running forward down the right.

Damian Martinez 6.5/10 – I have to admit I have very low expectations for Martinez, and his wild flail at a header that went well wide did little to settle my nerves when he touches the ball. But he ended up doing quite well, coming out with confidence to claim a few crosses. It was a good performance from the young keeper.


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My Thoughts on Evan Turner, James Rodriguez and Jake Peavy

I’ll get back to my Arsenal player previews tomorrow, but today I’d like to address a few topics from the rest of the sports world.

The news broke in the last few days that the Celtics have signed former number two overall pick Evan Turner. At first glance, this seems an especially strange free agent pickup considering what the Celtics are trying to do with their roster right now. With an already crowded backcourt, adding an easily disgruntled me-first shooting guard seems risky for a number of reasons. The Celtics need their young players to get playing time and they need them to feel comfortable shooting the ball. Turner, it would seem, could only hinder their progress. And with the team a long way away from competing, why would you pay someone relatively big bucks to block the team’s development?

However, I’ve learned to trust Danny Ainge’s judgement for the most part. Aside from Brian Scalabrine’s long-term deal, Ainge has generally done well in getting something out of players that have lost their way. Jordan Crawford was the prime example of such a player. Crawford took his lumps on a losing team, but rediscovered his game and earned himself a way out of town via trade, getting the Celtics a few more draft picks. Turner can be a similar type of project. If he plays, he’ll be able to get off a lot of shots on this team, as few players will take them from him. Then, he can reestablish his market value and the Celtics might be able to sell high on him in February. If he doesn’t play well, he can sit on the bench and watch James Young and Marcus Smart battle in front of him.

At the very least, Turner is someone who wants to score. Last year’s team was a little too pass-heavy at times, and the offense became rather predictable. On his day, Turner can contribute a triple-double. And players like that can attract fans to the TD Garden in a down year. Overall, I’m not quite sure what I think about the signing. It doesn’t seem to fit with the team’s philosophy on the court, but yet it seems strangely right up Ainge’s alley.

Moving to soccer, yesterday’s big news was the confirmation of Colombian World Cup star James Rodriguez’s big money move from Monaco to Real Madrid. By now we’re all quite familiar with the left-footed number 10, and his talent level is off the charts. He certainly is good enough to play for the biggest club in the world, and he’ll immediately form an incredible front 4 alongside Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Add in Toni Kroos and Xabi Alonso/Luka Modric in midfield and that lineup is simply unbelievable. The scary part is that the players and their styles of play complement each other, unlike whatever Barcelona is trying to do with Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi.

This move would also seem to indicate the imminent exit of Angel di Maria and/or Isco. Both of these players are world-class, and it’s astounding that players such as these two who have proven themselves more than worthy of places in the side won’t be able to get on the field. Any team will be lucky to sign any of the unwanted Real Madrid castoffs, as they are all sensational talents. But for Madrid, however good they are, they are expendable now. In order to form super-teams, you need to be ruthless to improve great teams. And Carlo Ancelloti have certainly wielded the axe ruthlessly. I won’t want to face Real Madrid any time soon.

However, this move does call into question what FIFA’s Fair Play regulations actually do. How is it that Real Madrid can keep spending absurd sums to their heart’s content? I know they have sold a couple players, but the numbers don’t come close to matching.

Lastly, while I didn’t get to watch last night’s Red Sox game, I wanted to share a few thoughts regarding Jake Peavy. The former Cy Young winner contributed to last year’s World Series championship by bringing a winner’s mojo into the clubhouse upon his arrival at the trading deadline. Even if he didn’t win every time out, he was still bringing positive vibes to the mound. Now, a year after his arrival, everything has flipped. Whenever he pitches, there is bad karma everywhere. He hasn’t pitched well by any means, but it’s no coincidence that he has the worst run support and worst record in the league.

It’s time to get rid of that bad karma. Brandon Workman can fill his role in the rotation, so the Red Sox should take whatever they can get for Jake Peavy, even if it’s a quarter on the dollar. I’m not saying this because I dislike Peavy or think he is as bad as his 1-9 record. I just think the Sox can’t afford to lose their belief every fifth day. We’ll always have the championship with Peavy. And he’ll always have the duckboat. But the Red Sox don’t need to always have Jake Peavy losing games. It’s time for a change.

That’s all for today. Hope it’s a good one.