Tag Archives: Champions League

EPL Reality Check

The odds for winning the Champions League provide an antidote to best league in the world boasts. Chelsea with a good draw are 14s best price with only 8 contenders. United are 33/1.

Fans of trends will point to the last time teams as poor as United left these shores Arsenal, Liverpool twice and Chelsea we had 2 winners and 2 runners up so United fans should book their final tickets and get on!!! However are United poorer than those teams?

Like many who watched Chelsea away in Naples, home and away v Barcelona not to mention the final. It still defies believe that 2 of the best players in the world missed penalties and Chelsea with 9 men and Bosingwa escaped the Camp Nou. That Lampard squeezed something from his many times used tea bags and Ramires was world class for 4 games.

Not sure that many thrills or that much luck await United fans.

EPL Not Good Enough

Arsenal were nowhere near good enough and that clearly is a matter of regret. For all it says about where Arsene Wenger is taking Arsenal and what he offers now buying 2nd tier pros and letting 1st tier go with lots of youth development on display at other clubs I’ve said enough on.

More worrying is that rather than doubts on English teams closing the deal which has traditionally been a problem this year’s Champions League and last if you watched the games rather then knew the names of the winners shows a poor set of teams.

Last year Chelsea with Lampard and Drogba and all hands to the pumps with an inspired Cech and Ramires were able to burgle the tournament. However Drogba is gone and it has to be said Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea are too brittle at the back and too lightweight in midfield.

United carry the torch but even they at times seemed to be Moses holding back the waves against Madrid. They at least look fit to be at the top table the others not so much.

Wenger Spits on Gibbs?

For a team who claim they don’t spend money to get players with Gibbs elbowed by a ridiculous decision to spend 8 million on a left back they will now deploy Wilshere and no one else from the youth system.

You might say no wonder Liam Brady is leaving youth development but as an Arsenal season ticket holder you might like to ask why a club who should be in the top 10 in Europe being conservative has no world class players – if you consider Barcelona, Madrid, Chelsea and Man City to be playing an unequal game then Arsenal would be in a queue behind Man United of teams who have some form of financial reality. Yet whilst they continue to make the Last 16 in Europe they have not threatened to win the Champions League or any league in quite a time. If they are top 10 it’s 9th or 10th.

If Gibbs is not discarded then Wenger has spent 8 Million and the contract let’s conservatively call it 20 Mn on a reserve. The real issue with this Arsenal side is for their immense wage bill (£143 Mn All Staff Included) they do not have a single world class player. Even with the inflated gifts from Man City for Nasri, Adebayor, Toure & Cliche they continue to field a workmanlike team that has brilliant periods. Their young players seem to experience often static development as rumours of zero coaching are spread.  Indeed anecdotally and based on what he said Walcott’s recent improvement may be down to after 6+ years Thierry Henry took pity on him and gave him some advice/coaching.

In the end Wenger can be self righteous about spending within means but it’s no longer clear he can identify undervalued players nor develop young players nor be anything more than a more pleasant version of ‘Arry outside the transfer market and that was not good enough for Spurs, is it good enough for Arsenal?

If they were merely backing up Gibbs then a £20 Mn reserve is more than they’ll earn from the Champions League. Regardless the odds a left back makes the difference is what? 10/1? Valuing the spot at £200 Mn which is 4 times what Chelsea earned for winning it. Or 50 Mn a year for the 4 years of his contract assuming Gibbs does not play. If Gibbs plays those odds drop (e.g 25/1 a reserve left back makes a difference)

For all Wenger’s smugness that’s QPR economics.

Turkey Shoot

People keep saying the Premier League is getting more competitive because Spurs were 9/1 in January. Certainly the top teams are becoming more entertaining as even ordinary winners look at 85 points plus to win it. That means winning 26 or more games. That beating lesser teams is a turkey shoot.

Hence. United loaded up on strikers. Chelsea on attacking midfielders and Mikel aside do they have a defensive one? Arsenal loading up on 2nd tier players and using Arteta as a defensive players. Mancini is reduced to clown trying to fit a midfield in with 5 attacking players and a back 3. Villas Boas has a high line and no attempt at defensive midfield.

If anything the relative standard has slipped and anyone who watches English teams in Europe must wonder if the rest of the division is that good. A rubber tin opener could open up Chelsea for instance.

A turkey shoot of a home league probably does not help. Competitive? Really.

Can’t Play Won’t Play

In another hat tip to Roman Abramovich’s great ancient hero General Pyrrhus Chelsea reduced their chances of winning the Champions League and being in it next year to be a 4/6 shot to win a point-less bauble. Point-less in that the winning of it does not stop the Manager getting the sack. Therefore the manager is stuck with a moral hazard rather than what the employer would wish. Continue reading

442 In 90s Was As Naive As Spurs Bus Parking

When you’ve lost anything that could have changed history is obviously important and worth grabbing on to if your fragile ego cannot handle that 95% of the time 1 action of a referee even a seemingly big one did not cost you the game. Fans and managers will never focus on the far greater mistakes their own players made. TV companies when the team is a UK based team abroad are only too happy to press the xenophobic buttons. Continue reading

The Ultimate Short Term Deal

Chelsea may have blown their chances of meeting the FFP which will force clubs to not post massive losses if they want to play in Europe. In an effort to revive a flagging season where they are outsiders in the League and really only have a 70/75% chance of proceeding in the FA cup to the next round. It’s hard to see a midfield of this year’s Essien with Mikel and Ramires winning in Europe strutting out a 442 without some luck. Continue reading

Platini Considers Solvency Rules

The world is not full of people who want to take the nuclear option but I am wondering after the suggestion that in 3 or 4 years time that access to European football tournaments will require clubs to have spent about what they earned at worst.

The nuclear option and one I would like without really caring if it does not happen is for the top clubs to ignore it. To let the bloated Champions League die as the still born distortion to the season it is. It’s a load of crap where top clubs waste 6 games to make revenue before it even threatens interest. It can mean the best players in England and Europe are playing 3 games a week in the run up to the World Cup and European Championships.

I do not know what profit clubs make on the 40 million or so of REVENUE they can get in for the competition if they do really well but after fees, bonuses, taxes, policing, travel, expenses etc I doubt it means the difference between signing Dean Surridge for 4 years by Chelsea (cost 3.5 to 4.5 Million a year dependent on appearances).  One less 18 million signing cost like that a year would not hurt anyone bar poor unlikely to be anything footballers.

Anyway it will be interesting if such a move brings back the the G14 type organisation. An abomination of the top clubs poncing around pretending to be bigger than the game. Threatening everyone with their bully boy tactics – before they folded like the sheep they are. What you’d expect from something Peter Kenyon was a founding father of.

Like all rules to fix football this one seems to come with no promise of anything. What counts as revenue? Are we talking holding company or purely the club? What stops Roman’s holding company buying players and loaning them and their registration to Chelsea?

The 4 home grown and 4 English player rule (known as 4+4) is it really encouraging youth development when Man City will pay high wages to Wright-Phillips and Ireland to rot on the fringes of the 25? Or be the break in case of emergency only players on the bench? My point is that these rules may not achieve what bureaucrats like Platini expect.

My sympathy is with UEFA but frankly if one of the causes of their actions is to de-value the Champions League to the benefit of the Premiership, FA Cup and even the Carling good. If it excludes Chelsea, Man U or Man C I will not be crying crocodile tears it will just further make a mockery of the name Champions League.

The Champions On A Budget League ?

Churlish To Crib Inter? An Apology of Sorts

Having pointed out that United’s treble in ’99 could have gone so many ways and involved not deservedly beating anyone top notch it’s probably worth pointing out that Inter’s was a purer triumph.  They probably beat the 2 best teams in Europe (Chelsea home and away). Not to mention the champions of Germany in the final – thoroughly deserving their win.

Indeed from the knock out stages of the European Cup they did have some luck (who does not) but they were only really out played once after what may have been an unjust sending off – then they battled to hold the score to one off no possession (almost literally).

To gripe they barely won the Italian title scrambling a 4-3 over Chievo in the penultimate week rather ignores that it’s hard to know what say Chelsea beat in England or Barcelona in a Spanish league with 2 teams with record points. Chelsea won by 1 point and grabbed the FA Cup do they get either if they had to try to play say 5 more European ties? 86 points in a Premier season where 3 clubs had 30 or less is low by recent standards – especially as they had to play right to last weekend.

For Inter it was 13 games of European football, all those 2 legged cup games and hold off Roma over 38 games. Especially noteworthy when the chairman’s target was not those other competitions.

Indeed suggesting they might not be one of the top 4 sides in Europe (as I did) may not be sustainable as it’s unclear after watching Arsenal be so outclassed by Barca that the 6-3 aggregate loss was extremely flattering to Arsenal how good is the English league? You think 10 Inter players could not hold out against Bavarian for 30 minutes as United failed to do? Think Inter give away the bad goals United did in both legs?

It’ll be interesting how Inter a side expensively gathered for this season progress as they are not that young but then again neither are parts of Chelsea and Man United. In Spain it was such a turkey shoot that Madrid were able to win 18 of 19 and push arguably a much superior Barcelona to the last game – they were 28 clear of the 3rd drawing their last game. Arguably Inter are a team who will not miss one or two elements as well unlike what injuries could do to Madrid, Barcelona and United.

Losing your coach off such a year may seem almost perverse but some people need to move on. After the last 3 full season stint Mourinho left with the team if not in free fall considerably weaker than 12 months previously with the most powerful squad in Europe down to 10 or so players and filler. Other than that Mourinho has left every club bar Chelsea prior to a likely fall (due to where he took them to a large degree)  .

  • Benfica he resigned after 9 games  after a fit of pique by the President who would not extend him (some regrets there!).
  • União de Leiria he took them to the never before dreamed of heights of 5th.
  • Porto’s 2.5 years were just sensational even if as this year his needs meant he was not even there for the victory parade.

Chelsea maybe only needed a little step in the Premiership but his tactics turned it into an August to May title fight rather than get in position and surge from January. Also despite personal mistakes in games against Liverpool and Barcelona his Chelsea were arguably the best side in Europe for 2 years. A far more cohesive unit for 2 years than he took over.

With Madrid and Barcelona likely to slug it out even more next year. Madrid might improve even without a coaching change as they bed in and some rumours suggest off load the position less entertainer Kaka. Despite not getting headlines from the UK media who count trophies as marks of everyone’s individual achievement Ronaldo was pretty damn sensational. In any other year I can recall the player of the world again.

The point is Inter could well slug it out again at the top table and at home. What it will say about their old or new coach if they regress (assuming the unpredicatable one leaves) will probably depend on if you are ambivalent like me or a worshipper.

The Significance Of A Few Results To Managers

Had Milan held a lead better Ancelotti, a manager who I was skeptical of before he managed locally and maybe churlishly am still skeptical off now he has won a double, would have won 3 Champions Leagues. He’s even won a couple of league titles now – managed it with Kaka and Sheva as no doubt he texted his good friend Jose Mourinho who is on his way to Madrid.

As anyone knows whilst accepting his organisation and macro tactical abilities my bête noire Mourinho ended up with the same points per game as Grant – indeed all the Chelsea managers have remarkably similar records despite Mourinho having the most and best players. Mourinho has 2 Champions Leagues elsewhere and whilst one can crib taking probably the most expensive team in Europe to a win no one can not crib taking Porto to 2 European titles, one the biggie. Mourinho at least would still be in big demand by teams who discount tomorrow or at least beyond 2 years without the cream on top of Champions Leagues. Do we take his record overall or look at the titles at Chelsea? The price of his teams and his never having renewed a team. I doubt many people have Inter in the top 4 in Europe but they got their results when they counted in the Cups this year unlike previous years – surely only fetishists have them as better than Barca who they beat once in 4 games. Should that timing reflect on the manager or is it random chance?

Rafa Benitez won the Champions League in his first season thanks to a remarkable piece of luck which is coming back from 3-0 down and winning on penalties when his team were on top for no more than 10 minutes – his selection was baffling.  Would he have lasted 3 years without that win?

I’ve pointed out recently that the 1999 Man United team were in my humble one nowhere near the best United team relative to their era never mind absolutely. A missed penalty by Arsenal, 1 point in the league (4 points over a Chelsea team who sucked), facing the 6th and 9th teams in Italy in Europe and winning despite being outplayed by Bavarian in the final.

Do we skew everything on a few knock out results? On trophies over points over years? How Bayesian is the system? How much luck is involved?

Is a Wenger or a Ferguson who tries to build a team and find players and then do it over and over again better or worse than managers who take over short term and spend vast sums and leave behind debt and players not guaranteed to be good for a long time?

Personally be very interested to see if one or two results have shifted the Italian media on Mourinho. The English media and rose tinted Chelsea fans were polishing the statues and shrines to him in their gardens this morning.

Wenger Bets 7/1 Shot Over A 5/2 Shot For Less Reward

Allowing for a Bookies profit Arsenal are 5/1 to qualify against Barcelona and excepted that would, or should, be favourites to beat CSKA or the team officially renamed “Jose Mourinho’s Inter” they are 19/1 to win the tournament which may be because of a vast over rating of Inter but you get the point. Even after sacrificing 2 points last week to ironically muck up his selection for the Barcelona game Arsenal are 6/1 for the title.

Therefore if Wenger had to rotate then surely he plays the reserves in the Champions League? Instead he took 2 key players out for the season and his most important player for an indeterminate amount of time and lost 2 points chasing a 7/1 cup over a 5/2 shot at the league. A week later he makes the same mistake when the difference is over 3 times the odds having blown both tournaments!

If like United you have won the league for 3 years and have not won a Champions League ever and your manager’s vanity is the most important thing then maybe – arguably Ferguson put this ridiculously over rated and over blown cup competition first with his selection as well i.e. it’s not justified for Man United to do it given they’ve won the trinket a couple of times in the last 12 seasons.

Wenger’s position where they have not won a domestic title in over 5 years surely makes the title the more important trophy? The Euro bauble a bit like an Olympic gold medal is only really meaningful as the cream on top of a great career or team. Like Liverpool winning in 2005 without coming near the title it’s more of a curiosity. It actually demeans the trophy itself in the winning.

Regardless for a top club there are 2 trophies worth winning and even if for some perverse reason you think the cup is more valuable taking into account the odds and risk and reward it makes no sense what Wenger did. Now that the odds about Europe are near 20/1 to further weaken their chances of the title this weekend made no sense (19/1 on exchanges which are a near perfect 100% market).

Personally I would be happy to see the Champions League down graded as frankly it’s not a Champion’s League or a Champions’ League as you can tell from the name. It’s just a cup which pays very well.

Wenger says his primary feature is stubbornness and he’s not wrong about that.

Manchester United Tactics Can’t Trump Attitude

I won’t dwell on United in Munich but it was a shockingly torpid performance much like Chelsea’s with Inter and yielded the same dangerous result.

Ferguson played a middle 3 but they could not pass water tonight. Indeed United were staying overnight and the way Scholes, Carrick and The Fletch passed the ball they will not be able to pass water for the drug testers till tomorrow. You can play any formation you want but if the players are not up for it or you pass the ball badly what does it matter?

Like City yesterday it made no sense to me to line up all 10 back at a corner. It may require some zonal marking but corners should be a springboard for counter attack as even the most goal shy team feels the need to go forward. Whereas United had no one further forward than the edge of the area. It smacks of a fear of the opposition not being careful.

United can be glad it was only 2-1. Once again in Europe you think if the label on the opposition said Spurs a likely better team than Munich, certainly a Munich with injuries and unfit starters, that United have this much trouble? I guess we’ll see in their league fixtures with Chelsea and Spurs.

Adding to the negativity of the players how can anyone countenance removing Park or Nani for Berbatov? Then bringing on Giggs who for all the praise moves very slowly now. Indeed with Neville, Scholes and Giggs at the end Valencia became the only out and he’s a nice player but hardly a burner.

I like tactics but players and how they play trumps everything.

Even The Fletch sucked.

Premier League Endorse McCarthy’s Position

If you’re one of those people who cannot work out why not playing more than 1 first team regular in a league game in December is in any way wrong you are crushingly naive and to my mind stupid so read no further.

Wolves got a £25,000 suspended fine! Wow that’s a right back’s wages for a week. What for a 2nd offence £50,000 suspended? I would imagine now 3 or 4 clubs have written out the cheques ready for the dark days of March and away trips to Chelsea and Man United so when the fine is enforced for a 2nd offence they can pay immediately.

To recap allowing this to happen is:

  • A gambling nightmare. Already the EPL allowed 4 managers who had gambled £20 Million to escape investigation or censure. Gamblers who owe money are pliable and knowing their club will get a paltry fine what’s to stop a manager fixing a game he expects to lose anyway?
  • An insult to people who paid to go to that game and saw a half paced practise match. Wolves should have been made to refund the 75,000’s attendees’ costs and whatever expenses they seek to claim.
  • It also gave United 3 points and an easy ride when they were struggling. It’s as close to match fixing from a Chelsea Point of View as you can get even if you see a distinction from straight match fixing.

This is a growing problem in sports especially with top teams at the end of the season – marred the NFL season last year. I do have more sympathy with teams like United and Chelsea at the end of the season with no more to play for but only marginally so. They should be clamped down on as well.

Sadly the EPL did nothing when Liverpool put the laughably over blown Champions League over a fixture with Fulham and made 9 changes. Now they do next to nothing for 10 changes. Really what is the purpose of their rules? It’s a match fixers charter.

In the end whilst Wolves could point to precedents themselves this sets an awful precedent. It’s a decision supported by TV fans who do not go to games live (like the calls for video replay and other nonsense). I would argue for 3 to 5 point penalty and a 7 figure fine plus compensation to fans affected – not sure many could refund a home day Man United crowd with so many flights involved.

Competitiveness in games if not for the title is the strength of the Premier League. It does seem that the EPL cyphers who do not understand that they should or have no power to act against clubs. One can only hope the riot act has been read internally.

If they were going to let Wolves off do it in December but no. EPL wait for 2 months to pass and after a lot of Champions League controversy to slip it in.

A good day to bury bad news.

United Beat Ageing Milan

It was purgatory watching United in the first half till The Fletch and Paul Scholes standing leg contrived to put some sense into the score. 2nd half Milan just tired and Rooney deigned to move and not wait for the ball directly to him. Being a lone centre forward for a good team is cheap headlines sometimes albeit it was his worst game I have seen in some while as he has on the whole been excellent this season, truly world class if he could finish slightly better.

It was maybe a marker for Europe where I was concerned that all our top teams have either gone backwards or in Arsenal’s case failed to go forwards. This maybe due to fringe contenders in England gobbling up larger squads of what would once have been squad filler – Villa, City and Spurs for example. Plus the top teams have not exactly reloaded unless you’re a particular fan of Valencia, Sturridge, Aquilani and Zhirkov with Ronaldo and Shabby going the other way.

However Milan were a team of players most of whom had seen better days and quite some time ago. Quite how United allowed the movement less Ronaldinho to hurt them and took so long to use the flanks the likes of him left unguarded will be a mystery every bit as hard to understand as the formation, selection and substitutions for last year’s final.

Personally I had The Fletch as man of the match especially for that slide rule aiming the ball in off Scholes standing leg.

Cream on Top Madrid’s loss.

Maybe English clubs can improve our awful, relative to power of teams, record.