16 November 2007

Another round of applause for mid-season international breaks

As usual, an international break leads to tumbleweed rolling through these parts. This week’s led to me paying less attention to news around the football world than usual during these breaks, what with the media vacillating between doom and gloom and burying their heads in the sand over England, a shed-load of meaningless friendlies (and Liverpool players playing in said friendlies), and Gerrard’s lovely condemnation of foreigners in the press (let's call a spade a spade).

I did however watch today’s under-21 England match. Which was fairly boring outside of Theo Walcott’s play and Agbonlahor’s possibly serious injury (gotta love the international break). But it did give me the chance to see Nikolay Mihaylov for the first time.

Despite letting in two goals, I thought Mihaylov played well, and showed some of the reasons why Benitez went after him this summer. There was little he could do about England’s first, and he went the right way on Milner’s penalty only to see it slip under him. He made a great save on Walcott, showed good positioning, and came off his line well. The couple of bobbles under pressure on corners were just a symptom of his age. And yet I don’t know if we’ll ever see him play for Liverpool.

It might be reading too much into it, but in the articles recently regarding the sale of Carson, Benitez said "At the moment we have Pepe, Charles Itandje and David Martin as goalkeepers so we can manage the situation okay." I know Mihaylov has work permit issues, and his loan to FC Twente lasts until the end of the season, but it looks like Rafa’s saying the keeper position is set for the near future.

Martin and Mihaylov are close in age and experience. With the youth and potential of the two, it makes little sense to have them both on the books, even if one will end up on loan for the next couple of seasons. Not to mention that Hansen, Gulacsi, and Bouzanis are on the books as well.

I have a sneaking suspicion Mihaylov was bought to replace Carson when he went on loan, and once the work permit became an issue, Benitez shifted his attention to Itandje. However, given Mihaylov’s age and Benitez’s apparent desire to buy young keepers like they’re going out of style, I might just be making something out of nothing.

But then again, if this new rule that Liverpool’s captain supports comes into effect, the team will need players like Martin to satisfy the quota. And who knows what his valuation would rise to then, being English and all. Sigh. It's times like these I'm thankful for the European Union.

England’s just started one of those meaningless friendlies I referenced above, which I refuse to spend money on to watch or even recognize the outcome of. I may pop back in after Israel/Russia tomorrow and assuredly before England/Croatia on Wednesday, but otherwise it’ll continue to be quiet around here until the next weekend’s fixtures unless something newsworthy actually happens.

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