You made it through the international break, not to mention a mad end to the summer transfer window. Congratulations. To celebrate, let's hop right back into one of the touchiest subjects of the last two weeks…
*Over the weekend, Raul Meireles insisted he wasn't a Judas but said that he'd explain in more detail later. Now he's gone and done just that, and for something he's had a week to sort over in his head it doesn't make for an especially convincing argument:
When I was in Porto, I knew that I wanted to go and the club wanted to sell me, and I only had to wait for the right choice.
I made the right choice last year to come to England and to come to Liverpool and this year was different because I knew that I didn't want to leave Liverpool.
I felt that the new owners didn't want to sell me, but when I knew that Chelsea and Andre wanted me, it convinced me.
Right, so he says that Liverpool didn't want to sell him. And also that he didn't want to leave. But that he had to leave when Chelsea came calling. And that's why it means he isn't a traitor.
If that doesn't start running circles in your head until it begins to feel as though it's about to explode, it gets worse:
It was strange, because I knew of the interest of Chelsea, and the interest of the coach, and it was a pleasure to come to this club but it was strange because it was on the last day.
So Liverpool didn't want to sell him and he didn't want to go and the whole mess really didn't start moving until the window was almost closed. Raul, buddy, usually when people say they aren't traitors and will explain at a later date, you expect epic stories of being screwed over and driven out. And not so much stories about being in a place you like with people who don't want you to leave but then deciding to bolt in the middle of the night like you decided you needed a pack of smokes and then just didn't come back. But maybe something's being lost in translation between English and Hipster:
I know that Chelsea is a great club, one of the best clubs in the world, and it [was] not too difficult to convince me to come.
I don't even know what to say: It's hard to work up a good head of indignant when faced with such an unrelenting wall of stupid. Maybe it's meant as a postmodern deconstruction of the struggle facing the modern athlete. It certainly doesn't do much to justify his transfer request and subsequent move.
* Moving on to happier news that lets you look at pretty pictures instead of trying to make sense of nonsense, the official site has photos of the squad training in preparation for Saturday's match at Stoke. The happy part, then, would be that you'll get your first look at new signings Sebastian Coates and Craig Bellamy training. You'll also get an injury update that hasn't been reported anywhere else on the site: Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard (and his groin) are back in training. Which is, you know, kind of a big deal.
* In case you missed it, Rafa Benitez' website had its official launch yesterday, and while it still has a fair number of yet to be fleshed out sections hinting at multimedia coverage of topics from Istanbul to training methods, there's a fair bit of backdated content waiting to eat up your free time this Friday. You've got Benitez breaking down last season's Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United; guest articles from the likes of Paco de Miguel, Rafa's old physical trainer at Valencia and Liverpool, who goes into great depth explaining stamina training for football; and a look into the differences between La Liga and the Premier League that will make stats geeks and anyone who's a fan of charts and graphs happy:
The number of passes per game is similar for the last 2 seasons in both leagues, although slightly higher in the Spanish league. There is not a significant difference.
More long passes in the Premier League, more in the opposition half and also more in the final third, but with less accuracy. This may be due to the fact that in the Premier League many of these passes came from the goalkeeper. Similarly, more crosses in the Premier League over the last 2 seasons.
The wealth of statistics on passing, sprint speed, tackles, cards, and all the rest do suggest that the Premier League is as many would suspect faster and more physical—and that teams there rely on more long balls—while La Liga is more technical. Still, it's a great deal of fun getting around to confirming what you always thought you knew.
Ed will be along later with the Stoke preview, but in the meantime, let's stick with Chelsea, Rafa, and happy pretty pictures….