Tag Archives: graham wheeler

Breakfast: The Rafa Benitez rant we’ve been waiting for!

Over the past several seasons at Chelsea, the club has seen its fair share of high profile managerial scrutiny. Between the likes of the menacing “Jabba the Hut” stature of Avram Grant, and the underachievement of current Spurs manager, Andre Villas-Boas, the Blues are no stranger to weariness at the helm.

However, what happened yesterday seems to have raised the club’s normal standard for crazy.

Following a 2-0 FA Cup victory against former EPL side Middlesbrough, current manager Rafa Benitez sat in front of the media in what was supposed to be your typical game analysis and agenda for the near future. Instead, to the media’s delight, the Spaniard decided to go OFF on his club’s supporters AND his billionaire boss, Roman Abramovich (full tirade below).

Well, that’s one way to rally the troops. Just call out your fan base and announce you’re giving up at season’s end. Brilliant strategy, Rafa. I’m sure you haven’t given any more ammunition to your side’s supporters. They will definitely stop making banners and singing songs about your ultimate demise and departure from Stamford Bridge.

Regardless, I guess some sympathy may be warranted in this situation. The poor guy has to show up to matches, no matter home or away, and listen to songs about him being sacked and wanting Di Matteo back in charge.

However, this is nothing new for the London squad. Since his purchase of the club in the 03/04 season, Abramovich has been the most trigger-happy owner in England’s top flight hiring and firing 6 different managers in only 9 seasons.

As always, two sides of rumors have begun swirling following the press conference. On one end it has been noted that Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, will sack Benitez earlier than expected after his comments. Other speculations assume it is back to business and that Rafa will hold onto his managerial responsibilities until the end of the season.

This bumpy road for the Spanish manager just will not flatten out.

Check back for further updates on this story. @TheOrangeWedge has you covered.

Dinner: Barcelona in free fall?

For the first time since the end of the 08/09 season, Barcelona has lost 2 straight games.

After dropping the first leg of the Champions League knockout stage to AC Milan, the Catalan squad were booted from the Copa Del Rey by league rivals, Real Madrid.

Early chances saw a Messi opportunity flash in front of the Madrid goal and further development of slight chances here and there, but its looking more and more like their precision tight passing can only do so much for them. While the game’s possession was clearly in favor of Barcelona, this statistic won’t cut it anymore for the Spanish side. Lacking a certain attacking mindset, the players and coaching staff seem to be content passing the ball around the 18-yard box and hoping to occasionally thread the needle towards net.

We’ve seen this act before. Barca’s similar effort against Milan last week showed similar results. Not to say that either Milan or Madrid “parked the bus” on either occasion; an understanding of the Barcelona blueprint for success has simply been examined and countered.

Missing signs are currently being hung up all over Barcelona for their former golden child, Lionel Messi (it could happen). Silenced in these past 2 matches, Messi has had little opportunity to create those 1 on 1 chances he tends to prefer. Without being able to run at defenders, he is limited to possessing the ball far from net and giving it up to others. Not ideal, but Barca have succeeded on this tactic before. But even those quick give and go’s that we as football fans have all come to enjoy watching have been minimized thanks to several stellar defensive performances. Hard to think Messi will be missing in action for much longer, but at this rate I wouldn’t rule anything out.

Here’s the credit you’re waiting for, not to worry.

Real Madrid’s counter-attack was unstoppable (take notes, Fergie). Any chance they had, Di Maria and Ronaldo could be seen sprinting up the wings with the help of a perfectly placed ball on behalf of either Ozil or Alonso. Quite the opposite from the Barcelona mentality. It was this sort of counter-attack and pace that sealed the W for Madrid.

Add the highlights of Ronaldo’s clinical finishing, Di Maria’s crossing-up of Puyol and Varane’s towering header and it would seem there’s a new sheriff in Spain.

(click image to see Di Maria shatter Puyol’s ankles)

Too bad they’re 16 points behind 1st in La Liga. Regardless, Real Madrid seemed to have found their form at just the right time. They will meet EPL leaders, Manchester United, in the 2nd leg of the Champions League knockout stage next Tuesday, March 5th.

As for Barcelona, things have certainly looked better. The once kings of Europe have never looked smaller and need to regroup quick if they are to reestablish their reign as the world’s most feared club.

Somewhere in Germany, Pep Guardiola is having a light chuckle to himself as he sips from a gold-plated, sangria-filled chalice.

Dinner: Gareth Bale is ON FIRE

Image

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Take note, soccer universe. Gareth Bale is currently the best footballer on the planet.

Taking the pitch today at Boelyn Ground to face the West Ham Hammers, Bale didn’t care much about the homage towards club legend, Bobby Moore. Instead, he decided to put on one of the better performances of this year’s English Premier League campaign.

After a lousy turnover just outside of the West Ham 18-yard box, Gareth Bale capitalized with a clinical left-footed finish to put the Spurs up 1-0 in the 13th minute of play. The remainder of the game proved to be one of topsy turvey fashion as both sides went into the latter parts of the match all-squared at 2-2.

One single firework ensued.

Bale’s laser from 25 yards out put his Spurs ahead in the 89th minute and was the ultimate deciding factor as Tottenham snagged a crucial away victory, 3-2. The win also secured an a 3rd place spot in the EPL for the Spurs as they leapfrogged Chelsea, who lost to Manchester City yesterday.

A massive result, indeed. But what’s more impressive is the Welshman’s current form in both the EPL and Europa League, respectively. With 2 goals against Newcastle on February 9th, 2 goals against French-side, Lyon, on Valentine’s Day (both stunning free kicks) and 2 more crackers in today’s match, Bale is having one of the better month’s in recent memory.

This season, a tally of now 21 goals in all competition has shown supporters and naysayers alike the widened skill-set he has. We’ve always known about his speed and ability to distribute from a wide position. However, not since the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo as a member of Manchester United has the world seen such pure shot power from both active plays and free kicks.

What’s even scarier? He’s showing no signs of slowing down.

At just 23 years of age, Bale has proven he’s got more tricks up his sleeve than once recognized. At this rate, he could end-up making a serious push for the EPL’s coveted “Golden Boot” award for the most goals scored by season’s end.

The summer transfer window of 2013 will certainly be an interesting one as all eyes will be on Tottenham Hotspur. Will they be able to reach deep enough into their pockets to keep this high-flying scoring machine? If he stays in this kind of form and good health, it will be an interesting development to follow.

I’d assume he may be complaining of some irritable back issues as of late, after carrying his team now for well over a month.

Lunch: Sports at the Oscars ’13 (Silver Linings Playbook spoiler alert)

Photo: Silver Linings Playbook Facebook

Photo: Silver Linings Playbook Facebook

Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love and home to some of Hollywood’s most recognized cinematic sports figures: Rocky, Vince Papale, Pat Solitano…wait who?

That’s right Philly, there’s a new mentally unstable sheriff in town.

A hint of sports and a whiff of hilarity can be found at this year’s Oscars through the screenplay and flawless character development of David O. Russell’s, “Silver Linings Playbook”. We’ve seen sports films wow us at the Oscars before, but this movie just feels different. “Silver Linings Playbook” may be one of the more balanced films I have seen since “The Social Network”. Nominated in such categories as Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director, this well-rounded film displays the insanity of the diehard sports fan amidst a tumultuous NFL season. In this case, that sports fan is Pat Senior, played by Robert DeNiro (nominated for best supporting actor).

He rubs up on his lucky handkerchief, shifts things around the living room, and has Chris Tucker hold the TV remotes for good measure. I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t slightly remind me of myself during a Sunday NFC east showdown. DeNiro’s character embodies the passion found within fan bases across the country. Sure, he’s a bookie and has extreme OCD, but his love for the Philadelphia Eagles, football, and his family is something the majority of us diehards can surely relate to.

DeNiro’s son in the film, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper – nominated for best actor), is returning home from a mental institution. While he still loves his Eagles, it’s apparent he no longer shares the commitment and/or mental capacity to enjoy a game with his father. Regardless, that doesn’t stop him from showing up to a dinner party wearing his favorite DeSean Jackson jersey – a power move at its finest. This sort of team passion seemingly follows the cast everywhere. At home, at the tailgate, even at therapy.

While I might be criticized in dubbing this a “sports film”, it offered a unique variety of athletic endorsement between the Solitano’s Eagles obsession and Tiffany’s (Jennifer Lawrence – nominated for best actress) dance competition.

After roping Bradley Cooper’s character into participating in the contest, we as the audience find ourselves jumping back and forth between the crammed, bustling environment of the Solitano football-infused living room and the quiet, open space of Tiffany’s dance studio. It becomes refreshing to see Pat remove himself from the potentially toxic atmosphere he finds at home. The appreciation behind Pat and Tiffany’s work is finally realized as you applaud their crazed performance at the dance competition.

A juggling act of two completely opposite ends of the athletic spectrum;  “Silver Linings Playbook” has my vote in every category it is nominated for. Check out to see how the film holds up against its competition tonight on ABC at 7pm EST/4pm PAC.