Tottenham On The Horizon, The Past Is Behind Us.
“Woe, woe and thrice woe” comes the cry from the English media. for the first time in the seven seasons, no English team will participate in the Champions League semi-finals. The Premier League is no longer King of Europe, the upstarts from the Iberian Peninsula have usurped the crown. What is wrong the with the national game, why have English clubs performed so badly this season?
Liverpool’s inability to progress beyond the group stage reflected their own domestic form, no surprise that they were eliminated at the first hurdle. Chelsea met a half-decent Internazionale and were undone by their own poor defending in the San Siro and dubious refereeing in the second leg combined with the consumate away performance by the Italians. Manchester United, the most ambitious of clubs we are told, were undone by ill-discipline, a half-decent Bayern side and a lack of ambition in the transfer market following the departure of their key player in the summer. Failure to replace Ronaldo has been very costly, intensifying the costly nature of their ownership model. The Emporer’s New Clothes indeed.
And what of Arsenal? Beaten by the current exceptional team, the heir apparent to Real Madrid, Ajax, Bayern, Liverpool and AC Milan. Barcelona seem set to follow in their path, retaining the trophy this season, at least. A sedulous media would look more historically at Euorpean club football. The cyclical nature of the European club competitions means that a style of football will dominate for a spell and then be adapted. All Barcelona has done is take the 1930s Austrian tactics, upgraded by the Hungarians in the 1950s, Real Madrid in the 1950s / 60s, Ajax & the Dutch national teams, Milan over a decade later, pick the best bits and work them from the lowest levels of their club upwards.
There is nothing new in doing this; others have done so in the past and will do so in the future. The club which immediately replaces Barcelona will be one that has put the preparations in place already. Arsenal are in a good position to be that team. The first team squad must be strengthened in the summer, contracts ending, players will leave or simply be replaced by someone better. Add in another one or two and this squad will be a long stride along that path. This season they have shown it. Weaknesses are apparent and they must be eradicated. That is not a blithe dismissal of them, simply a fact.
Any club which believes they are the finished product and cannot be improved is in for a nasty surprise; football clubs adapt quickly at the highest level but the ones which have longevity are those where the youth system prospers. Not many English clubs can say that theirs does. Arsenal is one of them.
This season has seen ‘physical’ sides overcome. It was a weakness of previous campaigns and has been rectified. Repeating the feat next season is imperative. The matches against close rivals have been an anomaly. I cannot recall the last time that an Arsenal side lost all of their encounters with the two sides immediately above them. Add in the defeat at Eastlands and not one point has been taken from the top four. Arguably, some should have been and immaturity combined with individual mistakes contributed immensely to those circumstances. A return to winning ways, at home at least, will add nine points to the total achieved.
Focus has immediately turned to White Hart Lane following defeat in the Camp Nou on Tuesday. Manuel Almunia offered:
Tottenham are playing for a Champions League place as well so it will be a very tough game…Tottenham are doing well, they play good football and they score a lot of goals. They are a great team and it will be difficult to beat them. But at least we are in the League, fighting for the top. That’s what we want, to fight in the last few games, otherwise we will be very disappointed.
It is an intriguing fortnight. Three points off the pace, with an inferior goal difference, leaves Arsenal hoping for others to slip. In the next ten days, Chelsea host Bolton and visit Tottenham whilst United visit Blackburn and Manchester City. The required four points could conceivably materialise in that space of time although the most realistic is that the gap closes to a single point by the end of it.
This assumes Arsenal win both of their games. Had Tottenham taken place this weekend, I would be concerned about the impact of the defeat in Barcelona on the players. A seven day break gives the squad chance to recover, physically and mentally, immediately addressing failings. Alex Song is still rated doubtful by Arsene although Physio Room still has him down to return at White Hart Lane, albeit with an indicative date. Mind you, given that Robin van Persie is out with a ‘sprained ankle‘, some caution should perhaps be applied.
Quiet time and a much needed rest for the players, a chance to regroup and to focus on the now. The future? Well, that seems to be in good hands if the past is anything to go by.
Posted on April 8, 2010, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 204 Comments.