QPR 1 – 2 Arsenal: The Cycle Continues

Arsenal’s 2-1 over QPR left little room for talking points.

It wasn’t a fun game to watch, at least from an Arsenal perspective. Again there were some not so spectacular performances from a few players. Alexis Sanchez will be the first one in mind, partly because he set the bar so high in the first half of the season, but there were others.

Sanchez is still playing decently but I don’t know if it’s all down to being tired or if it’s a dip in form. Being tired would play a part in any dip in form so it’s mainly down to Arsene Wenger.

Yet, quality player that he is, Sanchez sill scored a very Sanchez-like goal to put a momentary smile on this face.

It was another tame performance from the Gunners overall, though. Granted, away games in the Premier League aren’t easy no matter the opponent but until the goal it wasn’t a dominating performance at all.  I guess that’s the most one can expect of a team always striving for fourth.

The good thing is that we survived the bombardment of Bobby Zamora and Charlie Austin in the first half and basically nullified them in the second half.  Until the goal of course. Which is the very reason why we may still end up worried about getting fourth place. We keep giving away unnecessary goals late and continue to show our lack of concentration.

Gabriel Paulista’s injury basically puts us right back into that sticky defensive situation. Not that we were really out of since Mathieu Debuchy is still out.

What’s interesting is that, somehow, we are just four points of second place. We might actually automatically qualify for the Champions League for once.(And just as I say that the football gods are preparing to put Arsenal fans through a world of hurt in the next couple months.)

All the other teams vying for Champions League qualification won their games as well so little changed. Liverpool’s recent form is especially impressive so who knows what will happen.

Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday. At Old Trafford. Wonder how the wheels will turn after that game.

Until next time.

Liverpool owe Steven Gerrard but not at the expense of top-four finish – ESPN FC

Liverpool owe Steven Gerrard but not at the expense of top-four finish – ESPN FC.

A good article here.

I’m sure it would be hard on Steven Gerrard to be phased out like that but the author’s spot on. I don’t think he necessarily hinders this Liverpool side but they have players who can fit into the new system better. If it’s about getting back into the Champions League then Brendan Rodgers will have to rotate well. The FA Cup is another matter altogether. There’s no way Gerrard shouldn’t start that if they get there. He shouldn’t be taken off either no matter what. Hopefully he gets to end his Liverpool time on a high.

Expanding horizons: where will Major League Soccer open shop next? | Football | The Guardian

Expanding horizons: where will Major League Soccer open shop next? | Football | The Guardian.

Interesting article.

It matters less to me where these new teams will be as opposed to what the format of the league will be. I guess it will continue in the same mold as the bigger sports in the US since it’s more familiar. Why expand past twenty teams though? Why not officially setup a league hierarchy like the European leagues? Let the NASL and USL be part of that and not have teams constantly leaving the NASL etc. for the MLS expansion. I guess it points to continued growth no matter how it happens.

 

Borussia Dortmund Are Finally on Their Way Back | Bleacher Report

Borussia Dortmund Are Finally on Their Way Back | Bleacher Report.

Let’s hope it continues.

There’s still a long way to go but there’s no reason they can’t get into a Champions League spot although, realistically, they’ll be in the Europa League. They are 12 points away from a Champions League spot and seven away from a Europa League spot.

Champions League and Europa League Results Show Some Some Leagues May Be Better Than We Think

After Knockouts in Europe, is the Premier League Really the Best League?.

*Below is the original, full, version of the piece.

Results in the first knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League show that the perception of leagues matter little.

Let’s start by saying this.

Since 2000, teams from La Liga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 have won 21 out of 28 European titles across both of Europe’s top competitions. Another three of those titles went to Portugal’s Porto FC.

These leagues are generally considered the best in football, and therefore Europe, so that comes as no surprise. There are, as with any sport, peaks and troughs for teams and leagues but we seem to have come across a general consensus about the order of these leagues. The Premier League and La Liga are always in the debate for the first and second spots, with the Bundesliga, Serie A(once considered the mightiest of them all) and Ligue 1 shuffling around the other spots.

This 2014/15 season has again seen a large number of participants from these leagues and that’s partly down to how UEFA’s coefficient ranks their leagues overall.

Those rankings may not be as hotly contested as the FIFA rankings are on a regular basis but there is still some debate. Spain and England have been the only countries top the rankings since they began in 2003, with Spain coming first eight times to England’s five.

Going by the country of each league Spain leads the way, followed by England, Germany, Italy and Portugal actually ahead of France. Those results are switched even further when this season’s results alone are calculated in each round. Spain is still front with Italy, Germany, England and then France.

While the Champions League and Europa League tournaments provide an example of the strength of various leagues, it is the knockout rounds, especially in the Europa League, where the real business begins.

The Champions League is still in the midst of its first knockout round but the Europa League has already completed its Round of 32. The first thing that will jump out at many, which is a prime example of the perceived importance of the leagues, is the fact that only one of four British clubs remain after that round. Two out of three Premier League teams, Tottenham and Liverpool, were dumped out while the less fancied side, Everton, marches on. *Tottenham has a valid excuse with the Capital One Cup final coming just two days after their tie, though a better display may have led to a positive result. The fourth British club Celtic, from Scotland, went out against Inter Milan.

There’s been lots of talk in recent years about whether the “best” league in the world is pulling its weight in European football. Judging by those results, and UEFA’s coefficient rankings, it isn’t the best league. The first legs of the UEFA Champions League doesn’t help the case either as two of the remaining three clubs, Manchester City and, quite embarrassingly for them to be honest, Arsenal, are almost out of their respective ties while Chelsea is walking on thin ice. All of that has happened despite the signing of a new £5.1 billion TV deal that’s indicative of the riches available to those in England.

In step two well-respected managers from those losing sides to offer reasons, read excuses, for the Premier League clubs. Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger’s press conference comments reported by the Guardian’s Paul Doyle show just a hint of arrogance about the English league.

“It may be due to how very hard the English league is. The teams expend too much energy in matches and there is no protection in terms of preparing for matches and they pay for that in European competition against teams who are better protected in their domestic leagues and can prepare with less demands in their matches. For us, there is no difference physically between a European match and a domestic one.”

Manuel Pellegrini followed suit in his own press conference with similar commentary about the leagues difficulty while also adding a somewhat valid point about the Premier League’s participation in games during Christmas.

But we’re not here to do an all Premier League inquest.

The UEFA rankings show Spain first in both the overall and this season’s rankings and it’s not hard to see why. Two of their three Europa League knockout teams have progressed and, at the very least, they are on track for the same result in the Champions League.

Germany, third in both rankings currently, has one remaining Europa League participant from a possible two and are uncertain of how their three Champions League teams will fare. Italy, fourth overall and second in the seasonal rankings, has seen the progression of all five of its Europa League sides and has a good chance in the Champions League with Juventus. France, sixth overall and fifth in the seasonal rankings, has no one left in the Europa League and may have the same occur in the Champions League.

So what does all this mean?

The first thing, again, that comes to mind concerns the Premier League. These clubs are generally considered overrated despite all the money in their coffers, and this season is proving that theory again. There still isn’t a consensus as to why it’s happening whether it’s tactical, a difference in attitude or approach, or simply a matter of skill but it’s happening all the same. What’s even more surprising is the success of the Serie A.

Italy may well see a boost in their coefficient at the beginning of next season should the positive results continue. The Serie was once considered the dominant league in Europe but various issues of mismanagement and corruption has seen a dramatic fall in the perception of the league. Still, only Italy has the honor of having all of their clubs progressing, and all six still in the knockout stages. So, maybe the Serie A isn’t dead after all.

And what about other leagues or, rather, countries? Portugal was ranked fifth, ahead of France, in the overall rankings and are now eighth in the seasonal ranking with only Porto, in the Champions League, representing the Iberian nation. The Champions League still also has representatives from Switzerland and Ukraine in the form of Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk. The Europa League still has representatives from the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine(again), Turkey and Belgium.

All of those nations are in the top 15 of the overall coefficient rankings so UEFA isn’t too far off the mark there either.

What it does show is that these top leagues are still the leading lights but not, as they once were, all-powerful. That is to say that “smaller” teams are still finding a way to compete despite the growing disparity in income between them and the European elite. Some, like Ajax, and Shakhtar Donetsk have formulated different ways of doing this while others, like Torino, pop up and surprise pretty much everyone.

A look at the Europa League Round of 16 ties and the possibilities in the second leg of the Champions League present some interesting thoughts. It is very likely that there won’t be any Premier League clubs when the Round of 16 concludes for both tournaments. *Everton, the leagues only remaining Europa League representative, face a tough tie in a Dynamo Kiev side boasting a good mixture of experienced players like Miguel Veloso and talents like Andriy Yarmolenko. All of the other “big five” leagues will have, at the very least, one participant in either competition along with possible representatives from Portugal, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland or the Netherlands.

This isn’t particularly enlightening news.

Clubs in the top five leagues have had varying success in the competitions in recent years. Spain and Germany have arguably been the most consistent in getting clubs into the latter stages of the competitions while Italy have had decent success in the Europa League since the 2011/12 season. English clubs have been particularly poor in the latter stages of these competitions, especially in the Europa League, while France has lagged behind all. And, of course, there are always others.

None of this is meant to assert that the top five leagues are worse than rankings or perception suggest. It does go to show, though, that it isn’t all about reputation, or money, in football.

European Leagues Weekend Roundup

Some changes in leagues throughout the weeks

Let’s take a look at what’s gone on with these leagues over the weekend.

Primeira Liga(23) and Eredivisie(Round 25)

Porto beat Sporting Lisbon to keep the pressure on Benfica, who picked up a big 6-0 win of their own. Four points is still the gap between the sides and it really will come down to the meeting between these sides later in the season.

Ajax beat PSV Eindhoven to close the gap in the league to a measly 11 points. Feyenoord’s draw saw them drop to fourth as AZ Alkmaar has now jumped into third place. The league is still PSV’s barring some sort of miracle

 

Ligue 1(Round 27)

The race in Ligue one continues to be an interesting one. Lyon still holds on to slim one-point lead after their loss to Lille. Paris Saint-Germain couldn’t make the most of that and were to a draw by Monaco(maybe Arsenal shouldn’t feel so bad now.) Marseille continues to fall bit by bit with another loss, this time to SM Caen. They’re still only four points off the pace though.

Ligue 1 highlights here

 

Serie A(Round 25)

The current state of affairs at Parma is the biggest news for  the Serie A recently as the title race is just about wrapped up now. Juventus and Roma drew so the Turin side has a nine-point lead. AC Milan continued to thrill with a draw against Chievo while both Inter and Napoli lost.

Serie A highlights here

 

Bundesliga(Round 24)

Bayern Munich continues to roll along towards another Bundesliga title, with another win. Wolfsburg continues to excite in their chase with a thrilling 5-3 comeback victory over Werder Bremen. The big story though is Borussia Dortmund’s ongoing rise, as they got a big victory over rivals, Schalke. Bayer Leverkusen also got a win.

Bundesliga highlights here

 

La Liga(Round 25)

It’s becoming a bit more of a two-horse race in La Liga, with Real Madrid and Barcelona pulling ahead of the pack a little. Barcelona is two points behind Madrid and five points ahead of Atletico Madrid after they defeated Granada and Madrid were held to a draw by a well-organized Villareal side. Valencia won their game to get within a point of Atletico Madrid after the champions tied with Sevilla.

La Liga highlights here

 

Premier League(Round 27)

Chelsea got two trophies on one day thanks to their Capital One Cup victory over Tottenham and Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City. Manchester United and Arsenal won as well, meaning pretty much all the “Big Six” teams are now in the top six. Tottenham could vault over Southampton should they win their makeup game, and Chelsea could open up an eight point lead.

 Premier League highlights here

Sergio Busquets the quiet star for Barcelona gets deserved new contract writes Sid Lowe – ESPN FC

Sergio Busquets the quiet star for Barcelona gets deserved new contract writes Sid Lowe – ESPN FC.

Definitely one of the most underrated players in the game.

Yes, his antics earlier on in his career were annoying but he couldn’t have been such a respected player and a mainstay in Barcelona and Spanish national team without any skill.