Team Focus

You can browser our back catalog of soccer posts about Team Focus here.

New FBT, EGO, and Womens Sizes

We have added two new FBT styles of shirt to our catalog.  These shirts are available in 5 brilliant vivid colors.

Take a look at the new FBT12-207, and FBT12-208 styles by clicking on these links or the preview image below:

newshirts41

 

We have also added 2 new EGO brand outfield player shirts, 1 new EGO goalkeepers shirt, new EGO polos shirts and for the first time we have both outfield soccer player shirts in womens sizes, and polo shirts in womens sizes.

New Cash-Happy Arsenal Set to Buy Huntelaar after Sealing Big Sponsor Deal?

The big news of last week for Arsenal was that they signed a contract extension with Emirates that will total 150 million pounds over the course of five years to keep the airline company’s name on the front of Arsenal jerseys.  For the Gunners this is a huge financial bonus that has fans crying for manager Arsene Wenger to buy some new additions to the squad.  Almost immediately after the big money move for the club was announced, it seemed rumors began to spread that Arsenal may be looking to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.  Personally, I see this as the perfect move for both the player and team.

Huntelaar is a wonderful Dutch striker playing for Schalke 04 in Germany’s Bundesliga.  Last season he scored an astounding 48 goals in 47 total matches in all competitions.  He led the Budesliga with 29 goals, and helped his side reach the UEFA Champions League.  Facing Arsenal in the tournament’s group stage, Huntelaar scored twice in two matches, and his team earned four points off of the Gunners to take control of their group.  Apparently he caught the eye of Wenger in those games.

With his contract set to expire at season’s end, a move seems perfect.  Arsenal needs to replace striker Robin van Persie, now of Manchester United.  Huntelaar has always been the number two man for the Netherlands in international matches, and if he could become the new top man in England, he might just usurp that position.  He would have every opportunity to compete against his compatriot, and if he led Arsenal to glory, what Dutch coach could deny his starting role?  This is the perfect way for Huntelaar to emerge from Van Persie’s shadow!

For Arsenal the move is a no-brainer as well. Although the team recently purchased forwards Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud over the summer, only Giroud is a true striker.  And Giroud even stated upon arriving at the club that he didn’t intend to replace Van Persie.  Giroud is a good striker with a large stature, but currently Arsenal has no real depth behind him.  The option used so far this season has been the erratic Gervinho, whose play is best suited for the wing.

Think of the strikers at Arsenal’s competitors: Manchester City houses Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, and Carlos Tevez (4 world-class strikers!).  United boast a forward trio of Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, and Javier Hernandez.  Arsenal just has Giroud.

After their grand announcement of the new Emirates deal, the team stumbled to a 0-0 draw against Aston Villa.  Goal scoring has been a touchy subject for the Gunners this season.  They are tied for just fifth in the EPL with 23 goals from 13 matches.  This is the same mark as teams like West Bromwich, Everton, and Tottenham; not the stuff you’d expect from a team with a history like Arsenal.

Huntelaar brings experience and talent to the team.  He has been described by Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, as the “best player in the world, bar none (in the penalty box).”  At age 29, he is in his absolute prime and has played for many prestigious clubs including Real Madrid and AC Milan.  If he brings his talents to North London, Arsenal could once again have a fearsome attack, and Huntelaar may well be on his way to earning a starting spot for his national team.  Although Schalke may hold onto him until summer based on their good Champions League form, Huntelaar would be wise to join Arsenal sometime soon.

Chelsea’s Fast Start Smoldering Apart

One month ago Chelsea was cruising along in the English Premier League, brushing aside any and all opposition with ease.  After two victories against London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal, it appeared that Chelsea would be the pride of England after adding young superstars like Eden Hazard and Oscar to their midfield ranks over the summer.  But the EPL is a long and treacherous season and in the past fortnight Chelsea has suffered two draws and two defeats, sending the “Blues” down to third place and their fans into a slight panic with cries towards their owner to spend, spend, and spend come January.

It all began with a controversial match against Manchester United, where two Chelsea players were sent off and cries of a racist referee emerged from the team.  Their next two results ended in draws, one during a hard-fought away match at Swansea when Pablo Hernandez equalized with just minutes remaining.  Then Liverpool travelled to Stamford Bridge and claimed a point through a Luis Suarez goal.  However, this weekend’s trip to West Bromwich provided for a painful result as the high-flying West Bromwich side defeated Chelsea 2-1.

This weekend Chelsea hosts league leaders Manchester City, a full four points ahead in the leader’s position.  Manchester City are the defending league champions and are the second installment of super wealthy owners who have revolutionized average Premier League clubs.  Their feared lineup includes an exciting array of strikers like Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, and Sergio Aguero, each capable of taking over any game.

Chelsea, although a very strong side, is currently in great need of a decent striker.  50 million pound man Fernando Torres should go down as the worst transfer of all time, as the player has done nothing to merit wearing the Chelsea jersey, let alone cost the club that sort of money.  Backup striker Daniel Sturridge is a decent prospect, but doesn’t quite bring the talents a club like Chelsea would need.  It was always going to be a tough task to replace Didier Drogba, but after starting the season brightly, Chelsea have stumbled and their lack of a striker has been pointed to as the reason.

The team does own the rights to Romelu Lukaku, but the exciting Belgian is very young and is currently enjoying a loan spell at West Bromwich.  Dubbed the second coming of Drogba himself, Lukaku is a powerful and physical player who will very likely represent the future of the club’s offense.

But at the moment, Chelsea need a player and January will possibly provide just that.  The guy everyone wants at the club is Radamel Falcao.  The Columbian striker caught the club’s eyes after a dominating hat trick in the UEFA Super Cup match in August, when Atletico Madrid pounded Chelsea 4-1.  Since then, Falcao has led Atletico Madrid to second place in Spain’s La Liga and is third on the goals scored table with ten goals.  Although third isn’t that great, he is only following the soccer overlords of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.  For Chelsea fans, Falcao is the man they want, and the team would do wise to purchase him in January.

However, Chelsea is a fundamentally flawed club in their quest to simply buy the biggest names. Case in point: Fernando Torres.  Yes, they compete by simply buying the best players of the moment, but that strategy results in a team of over-paid prima donna’s who don’t click like a team.  Although Chelsea has won recent trophies, it seems as if their star is fading fast this year, and January is still seven EPL matches away, so they’d better start simply re-discovering that winning formula because any outside help is still quite a ways away.

Controversial Match Gives Chelsea First EPL Defeat of Season

Chelsea hosted Manchester United at Stamford Bridge over the weekend and the match proved to be one of the most exciting games of the young season, complete with impressive goals, questionable red cards, and resounding controversy.  Manchester United came away 3-2 winners in a stadium where they haven’t won in roughly a decade, and Chelsea were left to rue the questionable decisions of referee, Mark Clattenburg.

Manchester United came out soaring and quickly established a two-goal lead from some lovely play by Robin van Persie.  Chelsea settled into the game and actually established a dominance in time of possession, but the Manchester club was the more effective in the early stages of the game.

However, Chelsea was able to get back into the match shortly before half time, when Juan Mata directed a superb free kick into the side of the goal.  It was the perfect way to go into the break for Chelsea, and one could feel the momentum shift after the goal.

Early in the second half the teams were level when a succession of crosses finally found the head of Ramires, who guided the ball into the net and set the fans alight in celebration.  Chelsea now looked the stronger side and would have been the bettor’s choice to go on to victory.

However, the decisions of the referee soon took the game elsewhere.  Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a soft foul on Ashley Young.  In Clattenburg’s defense, Young was free in on goal and his foul denied him a goal scoring opportunity.

Only minutes later, the red card made a second appearance as Fernando Torres received a second yellow card for diving and was sent off. This was a very questionable decision as replays showed that Jonny Evans had made a slight touch.  Torres probably embellished the foul by falling so hard, but his sending off was a very harsh move by Clattenburg.

As Manchester United took hold of the game with a two-man advantage, they pressed forward and finally scored with Javier Hernandez from a short distance after a great cross by Rafael. Replays showed that Hernandez was slightly offsides at the time of the pass, but he was moving back and was behind defenders when he scored. In real time the decision would have been nearly impossible to see, but in examining the highlights, Chelsea should rightly feel slighted.

Controversy erupted from here on out.  The managers were shown exchanging less than friendly words on the sideline, and a steward was injured late in the match.  Reports surfaces that he was injured by items thrown from the stands, and this could be an embarrassment for Chelsea.  Further accusations erupted soon after the final whistle when Chelsea filed an official complaint to the FA that Clattenburg had not only ruined their chances, but had also used inappropriate language towards Chelsea players, including using a racial slur.  Time will tell if these accusations are well-founded or arose from resentment over how the game enfolded, but this truly has become a match of supreme controversy.

Regardless of the findings of these investigations, Manchester United came out to play, and were well-deserving of the victory.  The race at the top of the table has now tightened, and hope has been given to all of the other title contenders this season.

Everton Looks to Build Onto Hot Start in Derby Against Liverpool

The Merseyside Derby is always an enticing affair between the two Liverpool clubs, and next week’s Premier League match should be no different.  Although Everton haven’t won against Liverpool since 2010, they have had the more successful season so far this term and will have the home-field advantage playing at Goodison Park in this match.

Everton is currently in 4th place in the league after beginning the year with an enthralling 1-0 win against Manchester United.  They built off of that victory and have since defeated Southampton, Swansea, and Aston Villa.  Their only defeat has been away to West Bromwich who is one of the surprising darlings of the young EPL campaign.

Everton has built a solid start from some of their excellent players and solid defensive play.  American goalkeeper Tim Howard is a great presence between the posts while offensively the team has benefited from relatively new striker Nikica Jelavic and midfield dominator, Marouane Fellaini.  Steven Pienaar has also brought a real edge to the team, although he will unfortunately miss the derby due to a suspension from a red card he earned last weekend at QPR.

Everton has slumped recently with two draws in their last two Premier League matches, although one could argue the QPR draw was a success since the finished the game with only 10 men, and both matches have been away from home.

Understandably, the team has seen a rather easy start to the campaign with Manchester United their only true test, however, that is set to change starting with this Liverpool match.

Liverpool has been woefully average, and this poor run has continued into this year.  Other than the five goals by Luis Suarez, the Reds have not been anywhere near up to par.  They are currently 12th in the table and have only managed two wins in eight matches.  They head into this match on the brink of desperation, and would be especially embarrassed should they fall to their greatest rivals, who look to be overtaking them as far as the most successful football club in town.

As bright as Everton have looked, this match will be quite tough.  Derby atmospheres always make for an unpredictable game, but with the injured Fellaini struggling to gain fitness for this match and the suspended Pienaar, the team could find chances difficult to come by.  Perhaps Kevin Mirallas can earn some playing time in this match and make a difference.

Either way, the Everton Liverpool game is sure to be an exciting match as these two clubs, both hungry for a win tussle horns in a heated rivalry battle.  I foresee an Everton victory 3-2.

Belgium Looks Strong in 2014 World Cup Qualifying

Ten long years have passed since the European nation of Belgium last played in a major international tournament.  They were once regulars and boasted strong teams.  However, after an abysmal decade, the “Red Devils” look to be in serious contention for a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and feature a squad filled to the brim with exciting young talent.

The most dazzling of such players is Eden Hazard.  After establishing himself as a star in Lille of France’s Ligue 1, Hazard moved to Chelsea this past summer and has emerged as a brilliant young player. The winger has great speed and touch on the ball that terrorizes defenders.  In just seven EPL matches this year, Hazard has already notched 6 assists and scored 2 goals.  He also has drawn penalty fouls on several occasions.  At only 21, the sky is the limit for this wonderful playmaker.

But that is merely the tip of the iceberg.  Belgium has a set of young, fearsome strikers in Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke.  Lukaku is a Chelsea player on loan at West Bromwich, and has scored several important goals for the club.  He is a large, physical presence that many in London hope will resemble former Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba.  Benteke is also a strong and big striker and recently moved to Aston Villa.  He has already opened his scoring account there and also scored the opener in Belgium’s 3-0 victory in Serbia this past weekend.  A third striker in Kevin Mirallas is very capable:  He also scored in Serbia, and now plays for Everton after he led the Greek league in scoring at Olympiakos.

Another Everton player who is vital for Belgium is Marouane Fellaini. The massive central midfielder with a big Afro has been a great physical presence in the center of the pitch.  Also, he has a wonderful ability to score the occasional goal, like his winner for Everton when they beat Manchester United on the league’s opening day.

Defensively, Belgium is also stacked with talent.  Center backs Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen both captain elite Premier League clubs in Manchester City and Arsenal.  Jan Vertonghen is another great defender and recently signed with Tottenham.

What makes this team so exciting for now is that nearly all of these players are under the age of 25.  They are all growing up together and just getting their careers started at major clubs.  Manager Marc Wilmots must be licking his chops in preparation for what could be the best feast of football that Belgium has ever delighted upon.  Their 2014 World Cup qualifying group is winnable for the team with only Croatia and Serbia as main threats, and they have started the group well, beating both Serbia and Wales and drawing with Croatia.  They next play Scotland and will surely be eyeing three points.

Marc Wilmots was captain the last time Belgium was at a World Cup in 2002, and is now their manager.  Hopefully he can help create some magic within this squad because on talent alone, they could be a major threat to any team hoping for World Cup glory in Brazil.

Chelsea Just Keeps on Winning

The London club has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders this season, winning 6 matches and drawing only once in the early stages of the English Premier League campaign.  Many predictors’ worries over the Chelsea squad came down to whether or not Fernando Torres would be able to keep up the goal-scoring to the levels that Didier Drogba had before his departure from the club this past summer, but Torres has played in wonderful form.

Torres has scored four goals this year and looks to be back on the right path after he struggled so much when he first joined the club nearly two full seasons ago.  Residing under Drogba’s shell, Torres went countless hours without goals and was even benched during big matches, but this season as Chelsea’s single striker the Spaniard is looking to be solid.

Another Spanish player who is taking aim at the Premiership is Juan Mata, who arrived at the club last year.  He has become the creative force in the midfield that is giving teams fits across England.  The midfield is full of playmakers including recent buys Eden Hazard and Oscar.  Both players are young but incredibly talented.  Hazard has scored twice and added four assists.  Oscar has yet to score in a Premier League match but did net a fantastic goal against Juventus in the Champions League.

The young midfield trio has been so spectacular that Frank Lampard has actually been relegated to the bench on occasion to make way.  He does play well when called upon and is second on the team with three goals.  However, he is aging at 34 and the team is being smart by beginning the process of replacing him.

The one danger with excitement surrounds the teams they have played so far this season.  Although they did beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates just over a week ago, they haven’t played very well against big teams and have enjoyed a rather easy start to the campaign.

How Chelsea fares against Manchester United and Manchester City will show us what caliber of team they possess and I still fear that Chelsea will struggle against strong defensive teams.  But nevertheless, the team’s start needs to be commended.  They have beaten all the clubs that they are supposed to beat and that is the toughest task in the EPL, so Chelsea should enjoy themselves and feel positive about how this season develops.

Following the international break, the schedule is set to become harder.  Chelsea next travels to Tottenham before a double slate of matches against Manchester United, one in the Premier League and one in the Capital One Cup.  Fortunately, Chelsea will have the home support of Stamford Bridge, but they will need their fans’ support as they embark on the tough matches ahead this year.

Borussia Dortmund will Struggle to Repeat as Bayern Munich Starts Hot

Last season, the German powerhouse team Bayern Munich started incredibly well with 12 straight victories in all competitions.  Their season fizzled out, Borussia Dortmund overtook them, they lost the Champions League Final against Chelsea, and they were beaten soundly in the DFB Pokal final by none other than Dortmund.  Thus, their bright start to the season finished with Bayern Munich coming away empty handed.

This year, Bayern has again started in scintillating fashion, claiming 9 straight victories and already hold top position in Germany’s Bundesliga.  Their goal differential of 17 is far and away the best of any team, and once again the club feels poised to have a wonderful season.

For Borussia Dortmund, who valiantly fought back to win the title last season, they are once again on the back-foot to begin their season.  Dortmund’s 31 game unbeaten streak was ended a few weeks ago by Hamburg, who look decent with the return of their former star player, Rafael van der Vaart.

Then Dortmund played out a fantastic 3-3 draw with Frankfurt, a team currently second in the Bundesliga who look better and better each week.  As a result, Dortmund currently sits third in the table on 11 points, a full 7 points behind Bayern Munich.

Perhaps their struggles have been due to the departure of Shinji Kagawa, and excellent Japanese winger who moved on to Manchester United this summer.  Although Dortmund does still have a very talented side, they lost their most creative attacker.

A lot of the workload will fall onto new signing, Marco Reus.  The young German forward is a full international, played at EURO 2012, and has already scored five goals for his new club.  Sharing the offensive duties with Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, and Ivan Perisic, goals will be sure to come through for Dortmund.

Their defense has also been solid with Mats Hummels leading the back line.  The big young defender is already an experienced starter for the Germany National Team and has earned praise as one of the nation’s most impressive youngsters.

But once again this team will have to fight back from behind to overcome Bayern Munich, and although they managed the feat last year, I feel it will be very hard to overcome the deficit again.  Munich has an incredible roster with Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, and a whole crew of Germany’s finest players like Philip Lahm, Mario Gomez, and Thomas Muller.  Their new summer signing, Javi Martinez is an experienced midfielder and has been a part of the Spain National Team squad that won both the 2010 World Cup and EURO 2012.

Surely, the Budesliga campaign will have some more twists and turns before the season is out, but I think Bayern Munich means business this year.  Their season fell horrendously short last year, and their players will be ever so hungry to achieve some success this time around.  For a team that has so much promise and talent, I think they will be a hoisting a trophy at the season’s end, and my bet is that they will become German Champions in the Bundesliga.

How is the New-Look Arsenal Shaping Up?

Arsenal has played six games this season (5 in the EPL, 1 in the Champions League) so I feel it is a good time for an assessment following the big changes in their lineup from last season.  Through the matches, Arsenal has won 3 and drawn 3.

After a few nervous 0-0 draws to start the season, the Gunners have come alive.  New signings Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski have provided excellent goals and the team looks very strong in defense.  Abou Diaby has thankfully stayed injury-free and provides a large force in the middle of the team.  Long forgotten are the high-scoring Robin van Persie and the tackling of Alex Song who have seemingly been replaced with ease.  Theo Walcott has been relegated to the bench over his contract situation, but hasn’t been missed thanks to the good play of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Against Manchester City, Arsenal looked the better side although they did have to fight back for the 1-1 draw.  This match was their first real test of the season, and I felt they came through in exciting fashion, earning a draw away to the Premier League Champions.

One player that I feel is beginning to really add to the team is Carl Jenkinson: the young right back. He has had his share of growing pains, but against Man City he was terrific.  He repeatedly made forward runs and even got completely free in on the end line during the first half, beating Joleon Lescott and setting up a good chance.  He also provides good low cross, which resulted in a goal against Montpellier, and almost beat goalkeeper Joe Hart during this match.  Crossing has been suspect at Arsenal for as long as I can remember, so this is a valuable addition to the squad. I feel that Bacary Sagna may find it hard to break back into the team once he recovers from injury.

It’s not all great for Arsenal though.  Olivier Giroud has failed to take over the central striker role, and Arsene Wenger’s plan B, Gervinho, isn’t necessarily the answer either.  He scored two goals in the 6-1 drubbing of Southampton, and he got a tap-in for the victory against Montpellier, but he sure does make a mess of most his chances and was woeful against Manchester City, the first good defense he has faced.

He is a very unpredictable player.  He’ll get the ball and one simply cannot reason where he’ll go.  The only problem is that 95% of the time he is dispossessed.  He wasted a golden opportunity at Manchester City in the first half when he was free in on goal, and his first touch gave the ball right to Hart.

Personally, I feel that Lukas Podolski ought to be given more opportunities in a central role.  Perhaps place Gervinho back out on that left wing where his trickery and pace are more useful.  Podolski looks the man who can actually score goals in the Arsenal offense.

But what makes me most excited about this team is their defensive improvements.  This is not only evident in their back line, but in the overall defensive effort of the entire team.  Everyone looks far more determined to win the ball back, and rarely does the team get caught on a counter attack.  They have only conceded three goals through six games.  Therefore, I have high hopes for the season and feel that Arsenal could have a say in the title race come the New Year.

What Does Liverpool Need to Do?

Liverpool has been in a state of disarray for roughly three seasons with final standings of 7th, 6th, and 8th in their most recent English Premier League seasons.  This campaign currently finds them in 17th place with only two points from four matches.  The start under new manager Brendan Rodgers has been the worst start to a Premier League campaign in over 100 years for Liverpool.  It seems as if the Reds are a team of the past and that their star is fading fast.  What can they possibly do to correct this team?

Clearly, the team suffered following the departure of Xabi Alonso, who was an anchor in the heart of the midfield.  Quite astonishingly, the club hasn’t really made any serious moves to replace him.  Javier Mascherano, his supposed replacement left the following year.   Recently the club brought in Raul Meireles, who performed very well but then set sail for Chelsea after only one season.

And now, instead of investing in this position, Liverpool has spent their funds on seemingly every position but the one they need, with big purchases like striker Andy Carroll and a host of more attack minded English midfielders like Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, and most recently Joe Allen.  These players are largely inexperienced and have failed to establish a solid midfield at Anfield.

What is most alarming has been the downfall of captain Steven Gerrard.  Gerrard is by far the most acclaimed Liverpool player and was one of the best during the mid 2000’s, leading Liverpool to a UEFA Champions League victory with stunning goals and relentless leadership.

But in recent seasons, Steven Gerrard has disappeared.  Since 2009, after his last season paired with Xabi Alonso, Stevie G has failed to score ten goals a season in the Premier League.  That season he amassed a personal best of 16, but he has yet to rediscover that sort of form.  Worse yet, he has been sidelined for much of the last two years through injuries and clearly Liverpool lacks the depth to replace him.

He seems to play desperately now.  In the most recent match, a 1-1 draw with Sunderland, I saw him repeatedly go for glory and miss on several long-range efforts, the kind that he used to score.  Also, I noticed that he would receive the ball at midfield and hopelessly blast it up to a forward but end up turning the ball over.  This occurred several times throughout the match and perhaps one could suggest that his best days are well behind him.  At age 32, Gerrard should be playing near his top and this drop in play is frightening.

In summary, I feel that Liverpool needs to buy a good defensive midfielder, with experience, who can come in and help re-establish the heart of Liverpool.  Perhaps that will re-kindle the fire in Steven Gerrard, but I worry that we may never see his former greatness again, and that Liverpool may want to part ways with their captain if they wish to once again see sunlight.