What is it about Walter Pandiani?
I happened to catch the Espanyol vs. Getafe match, which turned out to be one of the more entertaining fixtures I watched over the weekend. And this was true before Walter Pandiani, the 76th minute substitute, scorer of the winner in aet, commandeered the match and its surroundings and tacked the message to every forehead.
Aka “El Rifle”—the nickname he tells us that was given to him very early in his career, back in Uruguay, by an assistant coach who said that when he, Walter, had the ball at his feet, he would “shoot” the goalkeeper. Even if something is lost in the translation, you get that his deadly explosiveness is a notable characteristic, a hint of which was discernible during his development.
Pandiani also confesses without a prompt that “many people” thought—and presumably still think— “El Rifle” meant he is well endowed, which he doesn’t exactly deny, “When I insisted that it was to do with scoring so many goals, people would just laugh – they didn’t believe me!”
If so, or just rumor, there is something more telling about this euphemism than there is in the analogy of the shooter. The young Uruguayan can set something in motion, he possesses the essential, if raw quality, of a catalyzer, measured by those who spot it, and then evaluate it with the properties of transience and resolution.
But Pandiani is much closer to being “El Bullet” or “El Bala”—he’s the thing in motion. On the pitch he is on a trajectory that rips through space, bends and pulls everything around it like speedy things in cartoons. He may even be the trajectory itself with the capacity to generate a ton of internal energy and occasionally unleash it into a match, the bullet’s sense of pure motion and direction. Here was a fifth week league match with the feel of a cup-tie.
*A simple search reveals countless jigsaw puzzles of Manchester United. Most feature a player, team photo, aerial shots of the stadium, or a classic squad from the past. There is one with David Gillis, before a Champions League match vs Porto FC, holding up one side of poster-sized Ford Foundation check, while a woman, presumably a Ford Foundation representative, is holding up the other end. In between and just behind the two stands what might be a Porto mascot who has, in a creepy way, put his puffy hand on the woman’s shoulder. There is also a puzzle of the pre-Glazer finance director Nick Humby posed at his desk. Hmmmm… Last, there is a puzzle of Manchester United vs Birmingham catching Walter Pandiani in action.
Tottenham hipster’s mastery of emotional distance guarantees results won’t hurt.
At the end of last season, Arséne Wenger admitted that they could not win the league while conceding 41 goals. For a man who prefers qualifications and assessments made in terms of approximation, this was a rare to-the-point assessment.
One year later, and his statement proved true once again. Arsenal could not win the title conceding 42 goals.
The Mercy Kill or The Last Game of the Season.
The search for answers can begin.
This season referees have been messing around with what is considered “actively involved” in an offside play. If the aim is to favor offense, any benefit is outweighed by confusion.
Narrowing reading of “actively involved in play” is one reason John Carew was not deemed offside. Or, John Carew, in an offside position and actively involved with the obstruction of Lukasz Fabianski’s view, is not considered interference.
In 2005, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) clarified when a player is “actively involved in play”:
1.) Interfering with play means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team mate.
2.) Interfering with an opponent means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.
3.) Gaining an advantage by being in an offside position means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a post or crossbar or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.
A sequence of plays in a Champions League game between Auxerre and Real Madrid illustrates the disadvantage the defending team faces when active involvement is too narrowly interpreted.
Real Madrid is in firm control of the game, pressing the Auxerre goal. They are moving the ball around freely and beginning to stab Auexrre’s midsection. From the center of the pitch, maybe five meters outside the penalty box, a Real Madrid player sends an angled pass over the top of the Auxerre defense toward two Real Madrid players. The Auxerre defense, after attempting to clear the ball, had pushed up field, leaving the Real Madrid players lingering in an offside position.
The pass nearly reaches them, but is headed away by an Auxerre player standing just in front of them. The Auxerre back line pauses, looking for the offside call. There isn’t one. The header can’t clear the ball effectively and Real Madrid retains possession and momentum. Xavi Alonso is particularly good during this stretch of the match, effectively pinning Auxerre deep and putting balls into the penalty box for his strikers.
Although the ball had only nearly reached the Real Madrid players, they are not deemed actively involved. It can be assume that if one of the Real Madrid players touches the ball, then the call would have been flagged and whistled. With this in mind, the play was not a threat, although the Auxerre players couldn’t be certain of this until the play was stopped.
The emergence of a tale of two halves for Blackpool's first ride through the Premier League may have to go unpublished, at least for this week as they beat Tottenham 3—1.
Blackpool has made their case as survivors in the months of November and December by losing once in eight matches. The cold winter that forced the cancellation of two home fixtures couldn’t disrupt a team whose mantra is “Progress.” Cruelty tidily was pushed back to January and February of the New Year, which witnessed an immediate dip in form. Coming into the home match against a hot hot Tottenham side, the ninth league game of the new year, Blackpool had won only one—the rescheduled home game against Liverpool and lost seven (five by one goal), which included a five-match losing streak.
But the match turned out to be arguably the game of the round. Blackpool stayed true to an attacking strategy that had proved successful thus far and won supporters far outside Lancashire. It can be seen as bold, blind, or sensible to remain faithful to an approach deemed risky for a promoted team with a porous defense and doubly so against a freewheeling and confident Tottenham side that drools at the sight of open space.
But the formula nearly produced a perfect outcome. Only an own goal in stoppage time prevented Blackpool from recording their first clean sheet of the season and spared Tottenham the shame of the first not to score at Bloomfield Road. This would have come as a surprise if the match statistics were somehow presented beforehand. Tottenham recorded twenty-six goal attempts, although only five were on target. Regardless, these numbers qualifies as an onslaught that Blackpool was able to withstand, if only due to the aid of Tottenham’s profligacy.
The highlight of the match was Blackpool’s second goal, a product of winter transfers. The experienced James Beattie and unknown Sergei Kornilenko (one must ask where he came from?) connected through back heel and flawless cross to produce a goal of the season for DJ Campbell. To call the sequence Barcelona light would be condescension. This was a dreamy goal, the signature of Blackpool. It is unfortunate that a single sequence of beauty isn’t enough to guarantee Blackpool a second season in the league, for the entertainment and sheer joy they bring to fans and neutrals in moments like this is invaluable.