The Lead

Happy Easter! The time to celebrate renewal, rebirth, and the start of a something new, and wonderful. Save for the football world of course, both in the Premier League and Major League Soccer at least for Toronto FC.

This was the year Manchester City were supposed to dethrone their fierce derby rivals. They had stormed out of the gate in the early months, were five points ahead at the end of the November, two points ahead at the end of February. Now they languish behind Manchester United by eight points with Man City in full circus freak meltdown after an inept 1-0 loss against Arsenal. The Old World Order brought to you by Nike and Sir Alex Ferguson’s “Never Say Die Attitude” (offside, dive, red card, penalty) was fully operational when April arrived. The Premier League will celebrate its twentieth anniversary by crowning the same club Champion for the thirteenth time.

This, we’re told, is because Roberto Mancini is far too laissez-faire with his players (Alan Hansen did a Premier League column madlibs and said City need “Sir Alex Ferguson” to win, nice one, slow applause there Alan), or because Mario Balotelli is a prat. In any case, the prospect of a compelling title race is gone two weekends into April.

Also seemingly gone is Toronto FC’s hopes for a playoff season. The club lost to Montreal 2-1 in the 401 Derby, humiliating because Montreal had been 0-1-3 and were an expansion team, and because they’re supposed to be our rivals. Aron Winter’s side is now 0-4 in the league and have a puny two goals to their credit. The case many made last year that TFC’s 2011 MLS season was the mere scaffolding for this year’s triumph looks pretty hollow. As in the case with City, some commenters have laid the blame at the feet of a single player in Julian De Guzman, or because the players don’t get Winter’s “vision.”

Perhaps there’s an Oakland A’s style streak ahead, but the reality is likely that Toronto FC have managed to be consistently bad in a league that is notoriously inconsistent. That is quite a feat.

So Toronto FC goes 0-4 to start, and Paul Scholes helps fire United to another Best in the World triumph. It’s 2012, but it could be 2007.

The Premier League Podcast will be up later today at around 6:00 PM EST so we can discuss today’s full slate of Premier League fixtures.

Canada

Nigel Reed says Toronto FC are very limited.

Duncan Fletcher underlines the familiarity of TFC’s woes.

Daniel Squizzato admirably looks on the bright side.

Prepare your pitchforks!

Okay enough whinging! Montreal soccer has something big to celebrate!

Vancouver Whitecaps lose to San Jose.

England

Mario Balotelli may have played his last game as a City player, according to Mancini, though the player’s agent begs to differ.

Branislav Ivanovic could face FA charge for punching Wigan’s Shaun Maloney.

Kenny Dalglish admits he’s out of excuses.

Norwich’s Grant Holt could be in line for an England call-up.

Clint Dempsey to Arsenal?

Italy

Allegri still confident despite AC Milan’s shock loss to Fiorentina which put Juventus top of the table. And no, he’s not worried about his job, either.

Andrea Pirlo says “thank you very much” to his former club for losing.

Paolo Bandini on how Amauri finally delivered for the Old Lady.

Germany

Schalke move up to third place.

Borussia Dortmund v. Bayern Munich the biggest match of the Bundesliga season?

Spain

Real draw with Valencia 0-0.

Sid Lowe on Rayo Vallecano’s fight for top flight safety.

El Clasico moved up allowing Barcelona to focus on Champions League tie with Chelsea.

Bits and bobs

Tim Vickery on Santos’ growing global rep.

Sporting KC perfect against LA Galaxy.

Pepe kicks Arbeloa.

And that, give or take, is the story so far…

Comments (15)

  1. Balotelli needs a good beating. Seriously.

    Dalglish may be the worst manager in the PL.

    Allegri’s catching a lot of shit for a guy who a) won last year, and b) is a point back.

    Dortmund vs Bayern may be one of the matches of the season anywhere. I’m excited.

    • Even if he is, it’s not his fault Kuyt missed a two-yard sitter.

      Anyone else think there’s a small chance that Suarez’s header off the post may have crossed the line? Looked to me like Given was on the line and then sort of reached behind him to pull it out. Just saying, it was close…

      Can United bring Roy Keane back for one game, just to snap Balotelli’s legs with a vicious tackle? Please?

      • Balotelli will be suspended for the rest of the season. Plus, I believe Nigel de Jong will take care of Balotelli is he shows his face at training. I figure Balotelli is in Italy right now.

        Actually, that’s a fun game; Where in the world is Mario Balotelli?

        • I’d play it haha.

          But yeah Kuyt did have yet another horrific miss. I really think KK has lowered his confidence to an all-time low. Still no excuse.

        • The rumour on the UK blogs was that Kompany actually knocked him out in the locker room after the game,which would be awesome….

  2. Montreal was not 0-3 going into Saturday’s match. they were 0-1-3, having earned a draw in their home opener vs Chicago.

    Also, TFC has two goals this season – they lost 3-1 to Seattle before this game.

  3. Is it just me or does anyone think that Balotelli is trying to force City to dump him? I mean showing up at your old teams press conference, then getting in a spat at the training ground and playing like you were looking for a card on Sunday. Seems to me that he doesn’t care to be there and is trying to force them to sell him.

    • Or he is Just a Psychopath. I mean if this type of behavior only just started maybe you could think that, but it is his 4th Red for Citeh I believe. And as far as off the pitch incidents, going to the inter presser was kind of tame for him….

  4. in italy all the milanisti are viewing the loss to fiorentina as “scandaloso”

    allegri is in trouble because of a) what happened to T Silva b) the way they were booted out of UCL c) not getting up for a game against fiorentina who were in a relegation scrap going to milan. it’s one point yes but if milan do not win the scudetto this year is a failure. no trophies for milan = unacceptable.

    where will balo end up? probably inter or AC at this point. i don’t see any other teams in serie a taking the risk, save maybe lazio if they end up qualifying for UCL and can get him on the cheap. dark horse team could be PSG, although i know nothing about ligue 1

  5. The Arsenal way trumps the vulgar Man City way. Who’d have thought that selling our over the hill and/or overrated players to City for inflated prices was a sign of prudence rather than weakness? Apparently not many commentators who called us a selling club.

    I want KJ to admit that he was wrong when he said that the modern game had passed Wenger by. That statement seems far more applicable to Dalglish, Mancini and AVB, because the modern game has more to do with man management than X’s and O’s.

    • AVB was a good coach who couldn’t earn the respect of players who were either older than him, or too old to respect such a young guy telling them what to do. All the younger guys are still speaking glowingly of him (Ramires even saying he cried. AW!)

      The fact still remains that Arsenal have no realistic chance of competing for any type of trophy with their current squad. And if RVP is indeed lured away this summer, it will be that much more difficult. Once upon a time, Wenger could be counted on to bring home trophies and that simply isn’t the case anymore, and I don’t think that’s an unfair statement.

      • “with their current squad” is the operative phrase. I think/hope they’ll add. Saying Wenger is cheap is one thing. Saying “the modern game has passed him by” is a ridiculous claim.

        And our current squad is definitely good enough to win the Carling or FA cup. The team just doesn’t care about these trophies, which is fine by me. If you’re in the competition, great; if not no big deal. They are not priorities. Sacrificing the League for FA/Carling cup “glory” is backwards.

        Why do you say AVB was a good coach? Have the dictionary people modified the definition of “good”? AVB was all squat thrusts and nonsensical public statements. He might be a good coach someday because he’s young and has the chance to learn from his mistakes. If he manages the same way, he will fail.

      • The Lusophones are speaking highly of AVB, nobody else. Maybe Mata; Torres doesn’t like him.

  6. Plus, Balotelli, de Jong, and Nasri in the top 100? Pleezzzzzz. Dzeko is playing or (not playing) his way out; Hart, Kompany, Toure, Aguero and Silva can keep their places.

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