Vancouver Whitecaps FC v New York Red Bulls

More on the Thierry Henry suspension – a cynic’s view


I almost mentioned this in the previous post, but decided we needed a clean break in the conversation.

Because generally speaking, I am not a conspiracy theorist. I always say, five people in a room can barely agree on where to go for lunch – much less cook up and plan something more complex and nefarious.

We talked before about Thierry Henry being suspended for opening a sneaky can of whup-ass on Kei Kamara. Naughty, naughty, Thierry.

The league suspended Henry for a match.

But was it really a suspension?

It was in the technical sense, that Henry will be ineligible to play Saturday against the New England Revolution up in Foxborough, Mass.

But if you consider “suspension” to be some punitive act, a penalty with some real bite that causes someone to actually consider the consequences of a harmful or illegal act – well, this one hardly qualifies.

It’s as much a penalty as telling a fifth-grader who didn’t clean his room that he will not be allowed to go to school that day. “Now see here, young man, you’ll play video games all day and eat spaghetti for lunch … so I hope you’ve learned your lesson!”

Henry, like so many others with hard and fast roots in the foreign game, detests playing on artificial turf. (Gillette Stadium has the fakey.)

Heck, Red Bulls manager Hans Backe made no attempt to obscure the weekend’s plans. What he said on a conference call Friday:

We weren’t expecting him to play because of the turf. It’s more about the history with his Achilles’ problem. He always picks up some kind of injury on turf. The turf in U.S. is not the best, it is really hard to play on. I think the only one decent is in Portland.”  

So, if I put on my cynic’s hat (it’s not a bit fashionable, so I don’t show it in public very often), I might say that this made the disciplinary committee’s decision easy.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.