In modern sports, talent that is making the move to the majors is becoming younger and younger. Freddy Adu became the youngest ever professional soccer player when he debuted for DC United in 2015 MLS for soccer at the age of 14 years old. It is not uncommon for players to enter the senior tennis Tour at the same age as Freddy. It is however a bit sensitive for Sports such as NFL and rugby owing to their physical nature and health hazards. Today I want to talk about how young talent should be managed focusing on the sad case of one of Germany’s best young soccer prospects of all time Sebastian Deisler. For the benefit of my younger audience I will answer the question of who Deisler was.
He was an attacking midfielder who emerged in Germany in 1997 at that old favorite club of many, Borussia Monchengladbach at the age of 17 years old. His performances were so good it earned him a move to the capital club Hertha BSC two years later then a dream move to the monster club Bayern in 2002. I will focus on his time with Hertha and Bayern. Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers that sometimes people owe their success to being part of the “lucky sperm club”. What is this you might say? This is being born in a particular generation to be specific particular year. Sebastian was very unlucky to have emerged at a time of turmoil in German soccer. This was after all a time in which Germany were spanked 1-5 at home by England and exited Euro 2000 with out a single win. As a result of how bad they were they looked up to a 19 year old Deisler as their savior. Supposed he was born in 1990 instead of 1980, he would have been part of a young vibrant Die Mannschaft that went to South Africa 2010 and would have had players like Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Muller who were in the similar age group. They would have offered him support and he would not have been the only “great player” in the squad.
Sebastian battled silently with depression especially during his time with Bayern. He noted in his book that he felt tired and empty back then. I do not know if clubs back in the 2000s were serious about mental health but it seems no one at Bayern took notice. He was described as extremely introverted by many Bayern players at the time. That is one aspect of soccer that I do not like. Because players earn a ton of buck, they are treated as commodities and are expected to perform regardless of their mental state. I am happy though clubs are now taking issues of mental health seriously nowadays and often employ a full time psychologist. Soccer culture in the early 2000 was such that such things as showing your emotions would be frowned upon as unmanly. The sports world has changed and am glad it is learning.
It is not surprising Deisler also suffered from various injuries which eventually forced him to retire in 2007. Being depressed as a sportsman increases the likelihood of being injured. This is because the body will be tense all the time plus the mind won’t be focused on techniques to avoid injury during play. It also didn’t help that he was diagnosed with cancer just as he was starting his Bayern career. On the plus for Bayern they should not be beaten too hard. After all they took a gambit on Deisler when they brought him to their team knowing full well he was carrying an injury. So to finish how should clubs take young players away from the spotlight? Why not try a big brother approach to them, assign a moving specialist to help them settle at a new team and make them feel more at home. Like what they do in big corporations when they hire a foreign talent to local shores.
This is a worrying match if you are a United fan in more ways than you know. The result in the end is what matters but the performance also matters especially with Liverpool and the Manchester Derby on the horizon. Let’s begin with the Manchester United formation which has been a bone of contentious debate in recent weeks. Ole again went for his tried(don’t know about successfully tested) midfield anchor of McTominay and Fred. The side from Bergamo were all over them in the first half with Pasalic’s forward runs together with Freuler winning the ball time and time again. Bruno Fernandes came alive in the second stanza but boy was he struggling in the first half. His pass completion rate was very low for a player his team looks up to for creativity. Pogba was benched following his stinker at the King Power but came on to good effect in this one. Maybe this is the push he needed to kick on.
Harry Maguire had a nightmare game against Leicester. Although I believe it is unfair to scapegoat a player in a team sport, he was a bit of the pace then. He was in the first half against Atalanta probably culpable for the Demiral header, his positional awareness is suspect along with Lindelof. But the United captain has his own merits. In the two years he has been at United he has amassed 10 goals in the league and 8 assists as well. So along with Lindelof again they are very handy in attack., just like in this match. Harry’s half volley finish can make any striker green with envy. The exclusion of Duvan Zapata was a surprise to me. The Colombian would have added a different dimension to the Atalanta attack to Muriel who faded as the game went on. He wins a lot of aerial balls. When he came on he gave Lindelof a headache or two. Yes, great result for United who now top Group F by two points from Villarreal in second. But I will repeat, they are now seldom in control of matches they need that dominant central midfielder.
The Kremlin Cup is Russia’s showpiece tournament with a WTA500 rating. Aryna Sabalenka made her return to action for the first time since the US Open facing Aussie Ajla Tomlyanovic in the Round of 16. No doubt the match fitness of the Belarussian was going to be a focal point of scrutiny. She was stretched to the limit by Ajla in that first set. Let’s begin with Ajla’s opening service game at 1-0(0-15). The Aussie is comfortable grappling on the baseline as her smaller frame may not be made for the big serve. Her biggest asset is definitely the forehand so if Aryna was to win this one she had to play to Ajla’s backhand. On her serve, Sabalenka didn’t show any sign of nerves that punctuate some of her later round matches in tournaments. She was 61% on first serve for the match with 10 Aces. Check out what happened when she served to Ajla’s backhand abd 2-2 first point. Ajla struggled just to make the return and get to the middle of the court quickly. She did redeem herself with a rasping backhand at 15-0 though. Turning point of the match was in the breaker at 1-1. Ajla was on serve and didn’t hit the forehands deep enough top trouble Aryna who went on to seal it 7-2 emphatically.
Ajla won the second set but it was a close affair again. The Australian didn’t start the set well though losing it to love. Such was the shot confidence that she played a poor backhand volley at 0-40. The technique was wrong hitting the ball on top of the racquet which was facing up. She came back strong though as the set went along. She went back to basics, the big flat serve(she was 67% on first serve) with the big forehand for the one-two punch. Check out 2-2(40-30). Set point 5-4 with Saba down 15-40 on her serve was the decisive moment of the set. Ajla’s backhand improved as well as the match went on and came to the party here. The two handed backhand is a favorite of many players in the women’s tour(instead of the one hander) for the power the left hand generates as well as the control in terms of the spin that the one hander does afford you.
All indicators were pointing to a long third set. How wrong I was. Saba was in the zone. Some impressive groundstroke winners in the first game coming back from 0-30 down. My favorite is the forehand winner down the line clearing the upper most part of the net at 0-30.The final nail was struck at 3-1(40-15) to go a double break up. Ajla should have done better with that forehand at the net. It was at a nice height for Saba to volley plus the angle of her shot was too obtuse. Saba , seeded one, advanced to the quarters will face an easy looking match with Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova. But nothing in etched in stone in women’s tennis as we have seen this year and throw in the home support it could be a tricky day for Aryna.
Here we go. The NBA season starts again and what a match to kick of the regular season. Two teams that disappointed last term, probably not a fault of their own but injuries wreaked havoc on both camps. It’s LeBron versus Steph again and just like the Play-Ins Golden State was top dog. Top scoring for the Warriors was Curry with 21 points, followed by Jordan Poole with 20. One of the reasons Golden State was average in the play offs last season was the over reliance on Steph for the points. It wasn’t the case here , scoring was well spread out with six players making double figures. I cannot say the same for the Lakers though. LeBron had a game high 34 points with Antony Davis a point behind but no one came even close to reaching 15.
LeBron looked sharp in preseason and he was in this match too. Check out the 3-pointer at 12-9 Warriors with the plenty of time on the shot clock. This was followed by the block at 14-12 Lakers. His defensive game was on point in this one with a game high 11 rebounds. Despite the impressive alley-hoop to Davis by Rondo at 23-18 Lakers, the Warriors overall were better from the paint. Watch this drive by Poole at 96-90 Golden State. This especially in the second half. Steph was the King of assists in this one with 10, the closest Laker was LeBron and Rondo with 5. Relaxed nature of the match saw a lot of 3-point attempts some from way down town but both teams were almost at par in as far as successful attempts are concerned. This looks like will be the pattern for the regular season, the Lakers getting the bigger two as high up on the scoring as possible. But they will struggle if they encounter a side like the Warriors whose shooting accuracy if off the charts(they were 25/30 on free throws to their 9/19).They need to get all their players to contribute if the Lakers are to get back on top of the ball game in 2022.
Refereeing decisions on the spotlight again but all three major ones were spot on. Salah continued his rich vein of form with another goal. The thing with the Egyptian is that you know what he is most likely to do, that is cut inside on his left attacking from the right side of the defense to get the angle for the shot. But no one knows how to stop him at the moment. Point on Salah’s penalty taking. His run up is always(acute) angled from the right. It has it’s advantages. The goalkeeper doesn’t know which side Mo will hit. The disadvantage is that the Mo is restricting himself to only two sides, his left side and the middle of the goal, such is the acuteness of his approach to the ball. So the goalkeeper might want to dive to his extreme right or slightly to his right leaving his legs dangling in the middle of the goal in case Salah goals down the middle(watch Maignan of Milan saving on match day one). Of course if the penalty from Mo is placed to far to his right he got no chance of saving it.
Back to the match. The high press from Liverpool won the day for them in that crazy opening 15 minutes. Most goals conceded are the ones in which your team loses the ball in that area just outside the 18 yard box. This is so unlike Atletico who are so organized without the ball , knowing the places to occupy under pressure. Look how easily Koke is dribbled by Salah in goal number one. The best player for Atletico was Joao Felix. The red card may have forced Simeone into subbing him but he was very bright creatively and with his pacey runs. He is now justifying that hefty price tag. Thomas Lemar is another who impressed, setting up the Griezmann goal with his pace as well. Pace is crucial for the counter attacking style that Diego Simeone desires. Last mention is probably on Liverpool who after all won the match. Trent Alexander Arnold’s defensive awareness has vastly improved from last season. No doubt his coaches have drilled him on this one. Check out the crucial (probably match winning) interception in the 19th minute with Yannick Carrasco in close quarters.