Top five Champions League conclusions, 20-21 November
Some Anglocentric lessons Learned from another bad week for English clubs in the Champions League
1. The European stock of Premier League clubs is falling faster than the BBC’s. Nearly.
After something of a purple patch for English clubs in Europe which saw two winners, six final appearances and numerous semi-final outings for THE BEST LEAGUE IN THE WORLD, we seem to be experiencing something of a dip in Champions League fortunes.
Our league champions have secured a group stage exit for the second successive season and Chelsea are well poised to go the same way. United have qualified as group winners from a frankly pathetic collection of teams, while Arsenal have struggled against a superior Schalke side and are surely heading for their annual early knockout round defeat to one of the big boys.
Last season wasn’t much better for most, with both sides of Manchester keen to impose themselves on the prestigious Europa League and the Gunners capitulating in their first leg against Meeeelan.
Before you start, yes I know Chelsea were champions last year, but would anyone really argue that they are or were one of the best sides in Europe? Yes, we know you would JT, sit down. And I said our stock is falling anyway. So there.
2. Mancini will survive… but he doesn’t make it easy for himself
Although City’s results in Europe have been pretty rotten, they have had some terrible luck with the draw and not every performance has been as woeful as their group table would suggest.
Mancini could quite easily have played damage limitation and given any number of reasonable excuses, yet he decided to reveal that he hadn’t really prepared the team properly as well as spouting some nonsense about the team having no European experience. Malaga and PSG, both in their first seasons in the competition for ages, have shown how it is perfectly possible to succeed without tons of experience. Besides, City’s squad has a whole lot more European pedigree than the inexperienced Ajax side that they only managed to take a solitary point from.
And admitting “I didn’t prepare the players, it’s my fault”? Well, that’s just stupid. Almost as stupid as wearing a David Platt mask to a press conference.
3. Chelsea aren’t dead and buried
The general feel of doom and gloom surrounding Chelsea’s apparently imminent exit from the Champions League seems a little excessive. The odds may be against the Blues but it was the knee jerkiest of knee jerk reactions from Roman Abramovich to bin his eighth manager in nine years – the one who won the bloody thing last year – and bring in the cruelly dubbed ‘fat Spanish waiter’.
Roberto Di Matteo at least deserved a chance to oversee a (hopefully) rather large victory over Norway’s finest commentator’s nightmare, Nordsjælland, in the final group match while sweating like a suave, well-dressed Italian pig on the outcome in Donetsk. A Shakhtar win puts Chelsea’s fate firmly in their own hands, and even a Juventus triumph will only need Chelsea needing a four goal swing in their favour to qualify.
So, here’s a tip Rafa: try playing a striker. Oh, and I’ll have the bill please. There’s a good chap.
4. It’s reassuring to see Alan top the scoring charts
Rather predictable feel to the top scorers list again: Messi, Ronaldo and Alan hogging all the limelight as usual.
In all seriousness (kind of) I find it remarkably reassuring to see the 33-year-old Brazilian, presumably named after Lord Sugar (his families first PC was an Amstrad, probably), rubbing shoulders with the big boys for a few weeks.
Yes, he’ll do well to be there in May but for a few weeks at least it’s nice for Alans all over the world to have a champion. Alan Rickman has already sent a signed copy of Love Actually to the boy from Braga and until Alan Pardew remembered he wasn’t going to bother strengthening the Magpies this season there were reports of him considering a bid.
5. Three at the back probably won’t work in the Europa League either
Just for future reference, Mr Mancini. He once again meddled with his defensive pet project against Real Madrid… and once again City were left playing catch-up after failing to perform with a back-three.