Then Saturday Comes… the half decent football blog


Champion’s League (and the League of the champions)
April 30, 2009, 7:33 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog

1. Champions League: a waste of time?

Pep Guardiola reacts to the latest sham of football in the sports self-proclaimed greatest competition

Carolos Puyol reacts to the latest sham of football in the sport's self-proclaimed greatest competition


Apologies for the vulgar nature of this picture, but it sums up my opinion on the Champion’s League.

To the first legs of the Champion’s League are over, and to nobody’s surprise, they served to show once again how poor a competition it really is.

I know it’s common decency to love the Champion’s League and crow about how it’s the greatest stage of all etc.  But, to an objective viewer, the Champion’s League is an abomination of a competition.

The matches follow a very obvious pattern due to one huge problem that makes a mockery of the competition: the shackels of the ‘away goal rule’.

The logic of the ‘away goal’ is confusing, as surely the purpose of a two-legged tie is to remove the variable of home advantage.  Still, UEFA swear by it, presumeably because they fear penalties so much (which is strange, seeing how bad English teams are at them!).

The ‘away goal abomination’ makes for inevitably cagey or erratic games that reward nonsense rather than actual intelligent footballing tactics.  Matches follow one of two patterns, simply defined by whether the stronger team is drawn at home or away for the first leg.  Check out these diagrams what I done made to done illustrate this point;


champsleg1

1. Better team at home in first leg

This is the most boring route.  The home team either grinds out a routine win at home, or it ends 0-0.  The stronger team then goes away, scores an away goal and the tie is over.

See; Manchester United vs Arsenal, Manchester United vs Porto, Chelsea vs Juventus, Arsenal vs Roma,


chmplg21

The second scenario is undoubtedly more exciting, but also not really football.  In this circumstance, the worse team is drawn at home.  The first leg either sees a turgid 0-0 draw where the worse team tries not to concede an away goal and then get destroyed in the 2nd leg (see Internazionale vs Manchester United, Villarael vs Arsenal), or the better team winning despite being away.  In this eventuality, the media profess the tie to be ‘over’ and the better team just try not to concede… they inevitably do and then panic as ‘drunk football’ takes over (see: Liverpool vs Chelsea, Lyon vs Barcelona).

The solution to this is quite obvious; do away with the stifling away goal rule.  Matches follow my above theory at such an alarming rate that it’s not even worth watching Champion’s League; the only time there is a good match is when a technically poor team becomes desperate before going out away and goes all out to chase an away win.  Which is obviously the essence of cup football and the way it should be from the beginning.

The solutions to the away goal is obviously the penalty shoot-out immediately after the second leg if it’s a draw on aggregate.  Goals do not count double no matter where they are scored.  Just let the teams play football twice and see which team is better.  It’s a stupid rule that ruins the spectacle for neutrals.

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2. NEW CASTLE, SAME OLD PROBLEMS

"Rest in peace, like"

"Rest in peace, like"

Newcastle United could only muster a limp draw in their first of their “7 points or we’re doomed” home games against Portsmouth, Boro and Fulham.  Although that doesn’t mean the gig is up (especially with Hull’s terrible form), it does make the task look increasingly difficult.

I still think they will stay up.  They will condemn the lacklustre Boro to relegation when they beat them, which will put them on even points with Hull.  Regardless of the naysayers, Hull will probably end the season fairly strongly, with matches against teams with little left to play for (Villa, Everton) and teams who will probably not be interested when they play them (an almost safe Bolton and champions-elect Manchester Untied).  They have got lucky with the fixture list.

My brave prediction is that joining West Brom, Boro (and Leicester) in the Championship will be Sunderland.

They have a similar run-in (Villa and Bolton) to Hull, but they have the problem of prematurely celebrating staying-up after they beat Hull last week.  I’ve seen that before with Leicester, after celebrating beating fellow strugglers Barnsley we thought we were safe.  The foot came off the pedal because we thought we’d done enough to stay up, but we forgot that Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday could (and would) catch us.

Sunderland will find themselves one point above Newcastle when the Mags beat Middlesborough.  That’s when it really becomes squeaky bum time, and as much as the bleating Newcastle fans bemoan him I’d rather have Michael Owen in a pressure game than Djibril ‘wifebeater’ Cisse.

However, in one final parting shot at Newcastle I am surprised how quickly their fans are throwing in the towel.  They always claim to be the best in the world, but seem to be missing now that the team actually needs them.  Though he is shocking recently, surely these ‘supporters’ should actually support Michael Owen, rather than constantly pining for a scapegoat.

Alan Shearer has retired.  You can’t always have 30+ goal scorers.  Get over it and support his replacements.

The real problem in the Newcastle team is the complete lack of drive from midfield.  Cloggers like Nicky Butt, Alan Smith, Kevin Nolan, Danny Guthrie and Joey Barton make for a very one dimensional team.  Damien Duff and Jonas The Spiderman seem to be Albert Luque’s twin brothers.

Still, I think they’ve got enough to pick up six or seven more points by hook or by crook.  That will be more than enough in this turgid league.

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3. The real Champion’s League… The championship

Weeeeeeeee are the Chaaaaampions of the wooooooorld (aka League One)

Weeeeeeeee are the Chaaaaampions of the wooooooorld (aka League One)

Anyway, that’s a spectacularly boring nonsense we had to get through to reach the main event: Leicester City’s celebration of moving into the league Newcastle dread, and winning the competition that generates real champions… League One.

Yup, since the last update Leicester ‘The Brave Foxes’ City wrapped up a great first (and hopefully last) season in football’s third tier.  We did it with a 2-0 win away at Southend, just days after Derby fans were posting on this board that we will be caught by Millwall and Peterborough.

It has been a great season in League One, and should any Norwich, Charlton or Southampton fan come onto this board, I echo Geoff Stelling’s advice he gave me when we went down: “Don’t worry, it’s much better than you think it is.”  And not even in a patronising way, it’s been good watching teams actually playing football.  Comparing how Scunthorpe played against us last week to how they played when we were both in the Championship shows what I’ve been saying all year, that League One is a far more entertaining league.

Please regard this video for your viewing pleasure.  Indeed, to paraphrase one Scunthorpe fan, ‘what a Walkers’!

Next stop is the Championship, and much work needs to be done.  Word has it that we will add six players to our squad.  The most obvious areas that need solving are goalkeeper and right-back (where we have no players).  Hopefully loan superstars Dave Stockdale and Kerrea Gilbert will sign up full-time.  Next we need a midfield hard man to partner Andy ‘The King’ King, whose delicate feet will be a great treat to Championship crowds next year.

The final big change needed is the controversial one: strikers.  Matty Fryatt and Steve Howard have both been lauded for their exploits in League One, but fickle fans forget they were similarly hated this time last year for their pathetic displays in old Division One.  There is no pace and no finesse in that strike force, and with the ageing Barry Hayles and Paul Dickov as back-up new blood is needed.

For my money, it’s time to cash in on Fryatt.  Outside of his (admittedly impressive) 28-goal haul this year he has offered nothing to others in the team. More alarmingly, after scoring 21 goals by Christmas, he has scored 7 since (including a couple of pens and a handball).  He’s also got the touch of a bad cliche and is fat and one-dimensional.  Yet for some reason the media have fabricated him into being a great prospect (even coming in the top 5 of Four Four Two’s top 50 players outside the Premiership!).  The icing on the cake was winning the League One Player of the Year.  This is a nonsense.

If we can get £3m+ we should cash in as quick as possible.  The best thing about being down in this division is that you can see future quality players, and there are tonnes of great prospects in League One.  It’s not inconceivable that a club could be foolish enough to part with £5m for Fryatt, even though that figure is insane to anyone who has watched him play (ever).  If we can raise that kind of money we could feasibly replace him with Simon Cox (£2m), Gary Hooper (£2m) and Chris Taylor (£1m).  All three are much better footballers and it would be obvious business sense.

There are a bunch of players I’d love to see us steal from the descending Championship teams.  There will be a scramble for Andrew Surman, Charlton’s Darren Ambrose and Norwich’s Carl Cort… ok maybe not him.  But most importantly, it is a nice summer to be going into because we have a manager who can actually navigate the transfer market.  After sitting through Peter Taylor, Martin Allen and Ian Holloway’s ‘shooting for fish in a barrel’ approach, it’s great to finally have a boss who rarely gets it wrong in the transfer market.

Mark Davies was the best player at the Walkers Stadium since Muzzy Izzet.  He has somehow persuaded Tasho Tunchev (30+ Bulgaria caps) to come to League One.  Michael ‘Mark’ Morrison was plucked from non-league football to start 37 games this year.

So it’s an exciting time going into the summer.  Hopefully old Nige will bring in some more diamonds from the rough…

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1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

What a Walkers indeed!

Comment by mike




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