Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
HEADLINE | For years, Barcelona has been the byword for beautiful soccer, known for Lionel Messi and company passing the ball around so quickly that eventually the ball becomes a blur and defenders, enraptured by so much one-touch passing, fall to the ground and experience enlightenment.
But there are those of us who remember when it was Arsenal - Bergkamp and Henry, Vieira and Pires, Ljungberg and Wiltord and Gilberto Silva - who were known for free-flowing, effervescent soccer. And after Saturday's display against Norwich, in which the Gunners won 4-1, it's time to wonder again: is Arsenal finally back?
Watch the goals from Saturday's game; they're enough, at least, to remind us of some of Arsenal's best teams. The first goal in particular, when Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud, and Jack Wilshire pinballed passes through six near-stationary Norwich defenders, was as good as anything the Invincibles of 2003-04 ever produced.
Granted, Arsenal have played exactly zero games against Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool; in fact, only one of their first eight games, a 1-0 win over Tottenham, came against a team in the top half of the table. And true to form, Arsenal followed good things with bad, as they lost 2-1 at home to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday in the Champions League.
Still, though, there are positive things happening at the Emirates - and that hasn't always been true over the past decade.
PREMIER LEAGUE | Meanwhile, panic time is still on in Manchester, as United dropped points again on Saturday. Adam Lallana scored in the 89th minute, giving Southampton a shocking 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. United have yet to record consecutive wins under new manager David Moyes, who insisted that he's not worried about the team's stuck-in-molasses start - an attitude that must be more difficult when Sir Alex Ferguson is in attendance, as he was on Saturday.
ITALY | A word of congratulations to Roma, the last team left in a first-tier European league with a perfect record. The Giallorossi have an astonishing eight wins from eight, during which they have scored 22 and given up just one solitary goal. Roma beat second-place Napoli 2-0 over the weekend - probably the closest any team has come to dealing with Roma so far this year.
The weekend in Italy also saw Milan, Inter, Roma, and Torino punished for racist chanting, which I suppose is a reminder that Italy is still, unfortunately, Italy.
INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE | The official best name of SoccerCentric lost 2-1 over the weekend to - I just love this - Partick Thistle, 2-1. Kris Doohlan scored twice for the visitors, who took home the Thistle Trophy* for the win.
*Note: Not true, but wouldn't it be great if it were?
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