Champions League Lessons

The events on London Bridge last night, like those at Westminster previously and Manchester, bring back the yoke of terrorism to these shores. For those of us who routinely went about life in the 70s and 80s when the IRA planted bombs in the capital and provinces, it was a time no-one wanted to see return; it has.

Now we see the same psychopathy, with a different religion as its mask. They achieve nothing but pain, allowing the festering sore of racism to surface behind policies of ‘national security’. The same ‘national security’ which promotes the hatred that bombs, shoots, stabs and drives into innocents, in the first place.

In the aftermath, the families of the victims – both dead and alive – are left with the iniquitous media, intruding and harassing them. Instead of allowing the privacy and respect the grieving process deserves (and demands), journalists prowl properties, post cards through doors wanting interviews, pestering instead of leaving the privacy the times should have. All human dignity is lost in those moments, stripped away violently by the terrorists and a lust for ‘the story’.

I don’t understand the grief of the violent loss of a loved one and selfishly, I never want to. The families of any and every terrorist act have my sympathy, be they English, European, or whatever nationality these heinous crimes are inflicted upon. They always have and they always will.

The Champions League

In the world of football, Real Madrid exposed the gap between the English game – and Arsenal in particular – last night in Cardiff. An entertaining first half gave way to a second half demolition; Real Madrid were worthy winners, albeit flattered by the final 4 – 1 win over Juventus.

While Juve were on top for the first half, it was Ronaldo – the obligatory “who else?” goes here – who broke the deadlock. No matter how much you may dislike his preening, to score 600 goals, all in decent leagues and for one of Europe’s elite international football nations, is impressive.

It led to a slew of social media comments gloating and revelling in Max Allegri’s failure to win the glittering prize. Which misses the point; Juve were in the final while we try to forget the 10-2 mauling.

The same mentality disparages Tony Adams playing career, unable to separate the Arsenal captain who walked through walls on the pitch and, well, you know where that’s going. The latter is something he has come to terms with; I find the recent comments in interviews and his book, frankly bizarre.

I remember a centre back who led his teams with courage, pride and passion; all in the name of Arsenal FC. What he says is no different to any other pundit; it’s all opinions. Why are his flaws as a person worthy of your derision? Basic human decency is in short supply at times.

In terms of technique, speed of thought; the Premier League is light years behind the likes of the continent’s élite clubs. We may have more money but that counts for nothing on the highest stage.

Can The Gap Be Closed?

It’s a tough question to answer, with never say never, the only reply. Some will put the gap down to financial doping, as if English clubs – Arsenal included – are paragons of virtue. None in professional are innocent; it’s varying degrees of guilt. That’s the same with any industry, before you try to paint football out as a unique case.


And the standard of football doesn’t help. The hurly-burly of the Premier League can be more exciting to watch but it doesn’t improve technique. The England national team suffers as a consequence.

So too do the top clubs in this country. Continued failure in the Champions League saw them dragged closer to the mediocrity of the rest of the top flight in terms of technique. Winning the title here is too much of a different game to success in Europe.

Do Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern have to adjust their games so much in the Champions League? Or do they play more or less the same way away from home in Europe and their countries?

The great English sides managed to bridge that gap; we don’t have any at the moment, and certainly not a great Arsenal one. That’s the mix which makes everything at the club, rather than being the sole preserve of manager, coaches or players.

It’s why when Stan and Ivan talk about winning the Champions League or bringing success in Europe, they open themselves up to ridicule. No-one believes them with many cynical about our Europa League chances.

The gap can be closed but the first step is to stop it growing. And that may take longer than any of us expect.

’til Tomorrow.

43 thoughts on “Champions League Lessons

  1. Avery sobering post Yogi.
    I heard that one of the creeps on London Bridge cried “This is for Allah” as he began stabbing people.
    When you are as deluded as that, even those who follow true Islam must despair of ever persuading their more rabid followers to take the right path.

  2. Well said, as always.

    This is the first I’m hearing of this as I generally don’t pay much attention to this matrix. I find myself thinkin, what’s new?

    Once Christiano and messi hang their boots up we may get another era of English dominance in Europe. They say “follow the money” and it’s going to get a lot harder for Spain etc…to keep up with England and Germany. And I’d imagine with managers like pep coming over the tactical side will improve over time also.

    Unfortunately for us we’re being held captive in a cave by a French dinosaur.

  3. You have said everything and more that I wanted to say about English soccer and beyond.

    On the initial topic though, it is amazing that the fear of terror in Turin can injur 10 times more than a night of terror itself.

    Have some pride in those who stop, think and have the courage to help rather than adding to carnage. There appears to have been a few in London.

  4. Colts,

    But the French dinosaur is in only one club, there are four English clubs in the CL and another 19 in the league. Why don’t we have another English club winning the CL or even the lesser Europa more often? Besides the refereeing in the PL is even more erratic,, it puts English clubs at a disadvantage in Europe.

  5. An excellent adage is; Never discuss religion or politics — so I will not, as it always ends in anger.

    On the footballing issues, I did not understand; – “Some will put the gap down to financial doping, as if English clubs – Arsenal included – are paragons of virtue. None in professional [?] are innocent; it’s varying degrees of guilt.” What ‘guilt’?

    As it stands, I cannot see Arsenal matching either of the two teams on display last night, and if we add in Barça, Bayern, PSG, Manure or Citeh – then, unless we have a very dramatic change in the roster, we will still not get past the CL group stages (not that we are even in the 2017/18 competition).

    And as far as the EPL – we are just not going to compete with Chelsea, Spuds, Citeh and ‘Pool unless we bring in some top players and keep Sanchez and Özil as well.

    Forget everything else – we need AW and Arsenal to go get some new, top players to have any chance — so maybe they will?

  6. On personal issues, I have every sympathy for Tony Adams, not for what he has said – which is rubbish – but for the fact he feels the need to say what he does. And that is sad.

    Another once brilliant sportsman, Tiger Woods, needs help and sympathy and not the castigation he has received from the media and many of the public.

    He gave everything to become the best golfer the world has seen, and like other sports people before him, he is finding it hard to adjust to what is effectively his ‘post sporting’ era.

    He made a lot of money in his career, because of his work ethic and talent, but has now lost his family and his raison d’être, as well as his pride and reputation, because of the medication needed for his chronic back injury.
    He needs to be remembered for his fantastic achievements, and helped by his fellow golfers and fans, and not subjected to cheap criticism by those gloating at the fading of a warrior.
    They should know better. 🙁

  7. Yogi, absolutely spot on mate! Hearts and minds are with those families that were affected and its not just yall but we have seen violence here in the States and quite frankly its heartbreaking.

    As far as futbol is concerned, I have said it MANY times before; the PL can never at present deal with other elite clubs because the principle virtues of the countries: English clubs are based on power, pace, physicality and running through walls, every other European country is based on technique and futboling IQ before the rest of those qualities ever come into the picture. Its why Spain and Barca dominated with Xavi/Inesta/Busquets and Xabi(Madrid and Bayern version) but those players never emcompassed what English clubs want. Its why players like Ozil, Thiago, Veratti, Modric, Silva and their ilk are so valuable but so often derided in the PL for not habing those qualities.

    For all the talk of money, PL clubs simply in terms of futbol can’t compete and until they change they never will.

  8. AC Milan are in talks with Dembele of Celtic, somebody tell me why we aren’t after him? He is world’s better finisher than any striker not name Sanchez and is a more complete striker than Giroud even at his young age. Shame if Aubameyang, Dembele and Morata all move for less than 60m as reported and we don’t get ANY of them.

  9. And if Everton are truly after Obiang than we Arsenal should be looking to buy Gueye from Everton who by all stat measures was the best DM in terms of tackles, interceptions and breaking up play. Even better than Kante.

  10. H

    Do you think Arsenal don’t bend the rules to their own advantage? I hate this myth of puritanism surrounding Arsenal, as if we’ve never slipped an agent/manager/youth academy a brown envelope. Of course we have. we don’t have a small nation supporting us but we operate in other underhand ways, no doubt about it.

    As for politics and religion, I’ll paraphrase Brian Clough. We’ll talk about it and then you’ll agree that I was right…

  11. Yogi,

    I never contradicted your point – I simply did not understand what you were referring to.

    The somewhat rhetorical question, ‘Can the Gap be closed’ morphed into financial doping, paragons of virtue, innocence and guilt.

    My answer to the question tried to relate Arsenal’s inferiority to the sides I named, and the need to recruit top players in the coming transfer window simply to stand any chance of EPL or CL success.
    Even then that presupposes that the teams of those other clubs, who are so much better than ours, remain unimproved — fat chance.

    It may be my bad, but on re-reading the ‘Gap’ paragraph in the Post, I still do not understand the context, let alone have an opinion on whether you are right or wrong.

    Sorry. 🙁

  12. From the beautiful surroundings of this lovely Italian villa it’s hard to come to terms with the brutal attack on ordinary people enjoying a night out in London. The morons who carried out the attack are bad enough, but the faceless cowards behind them, who brainwash them and instigate the violence are the real terrorists.

    I agree with you Yogi, the relatives and friends of the dead and injured should be left to grieve in peace.

  13. On a visit to Washington, some time ago, I met C Breeze, and being a charming man he treated me to a drink from a bottle of his favourite bourbon.
    He then got to telling me about a related incident, concerning whiskey, that filled him with horror.

    It went something like this;

    Henry, he said, I had twelve bottles of whisky in my cellar…
    and my wife told me to empty the contents of each and every bottle down the sink…
    or else!
    So, I said I would… and proceeded with the unpleasant task.

    I withdrew the cork from the first bottle and poured the contents down the sink, with the
    exception of one glass… which I drank.

    I extracted the cork from the second bottle and did likewise with the exception of one
    glass… which I drank.

    I pulled the cork from the third bottle and poured the whiskey down the sink, with the
    exception of one glass… which I drank.

    I then withdrew the cork from the fourth sink and poured the bottle down the glass…
    which I drank.

    I pulled the bottle from the cork of the next and drank one sink out of it and threw the
    rest down the glass.

    I pulled the sink out of the next glass and poured the cork from the bottle.
    Then I corked the sink with the glass, bottled the drink and drank the pour.

    When I had everything emptied I steadied the house with one hand, counted the bottles,
    corks, glasses and sinks with the other, which came to twenty-nine.
    To make sure I counted them again… they came to seventy-four.

    And as the house came by, I counted them again, and finally I had all the houses and bottles and
    corks and sinks and glasses counted, except one house and one cork… which l drank.

    C Breeze then told me that his wife was not pleased with him, for some reason, just for carrying out the task that she had demanded.

    They do it differently in Washington!! 😀

  14. John Weeraga,

    As has been mentioned the coaching is below par compared to Europe’s top clubs plus no winter break puts England at a disadvantage.
    If you remember when English clubs did win it it was either a high level of luck or Christiano Ronaldo.

  15. With reference to my intention to keep away from discussing politics, I am sure that people never lie so much as they do after a hunt, or during a war or before an election

    I know that’s true over the last 6 months of electioneering in the US, France or the UK – you know the politicians are lying the moment their lips move. 🙂

  16. Colts,

    Manure won the CL 3 times – twice with Ronaldo.

    Liverpool won the CL 5 times without Ronaldo. Must have been awfully lucky. 🙂

  17. Thanks for the the post yogi

    There is a segment of Arsenal fans who seem to have developed an overly strong sense of self righteous indignation with the rest of world football in the Emirates era. I think morphed into a way to explain our relative lack of success and in their own minds it helps to absolve Arsene from responsibility. How can expected to win anything when he I saw playing fair and everyone else is cheating.

  18. C

    Arsene moved to a very strong emphasis on technical at the start of the Emirates era. . We have had more technical skill then any team in England and our squads would stack up with best teams n Europe in terms of pure technical skill. Arsene also made a huge commitment to teaching and developing technique and technical skill in our academy in this century. None of that has brought us success either domestically or in Europe on the pitch. Additionally our academy has not really produced any true impact players since Fabregas. Focusing on technical skill certainly has not been very successful for us.

  19. Is Zidane the greatest player turned manager, I know Pep, Koeman and Beckbauer are close; but I would give Zidane the nod. Before everybody says its easy to manage Madrid, well he has won 2 CL titles and remade that midfield and really defense while also getting the best out of Isco. We have seen other managers fail at Madrid even with thr best players in the world at their disposal.

    I think the type of player he was has really helped him in building that squad in his image more so than even Mourinho’s reign at Madrid.

  20. Evening,

    The individuals who attacked innocents in London are scum who insult the Muslim faith by suggesting that they are in any way connected. Great to see our security forces arriving in the scene quickly and dispatching the perpetrators. Also great to see that they have acted quickly in targeting the wider group involved.

    On to football matters; Wenger has restated his intention to buy a maximum of 2 – 3 players in this window as a major overhaul is not needed. Given that a new LB is already waiting in the wings and that Wenger has designs on Mahrez, it looks like business is completed. There is an outside chance that the Turan rumour has some truth to it, but that’s really our lot. So no real improvements to our goal scoring capabilities then.
    I’m afraid we reap what we sow and in giving Wenger another 2 years the club has consigned itself to another 2 years of continuing to fight for the CL spots with no ambition for a title challenge. A far cry from the stated expectations of both manager and owner after the new contract was signed. I can’t imagine that Alexis will be overly impressed with Giroud being one of the main strikers again in the coming season.

  21. Bill,

    No way do our teams stack up techniclly with thr best in Europe, to be honest mate they barely stack up to the best in the PL. Sanchez, Ozil, Bellerin, Cesc, RvP, Mozart when he was fit, Nacho and Xhaka; those are the players that stand up technically even now. I mean look at say Dortmund who are at our level: Aubameyand over Giroud technically, Reus, Dembele and Pulisic over Ox, Theo, Iwobi and Perez any day of the week, Gotze and Kagawa over Ramsey, Ox. Yes Arsene values technical ability but he can’t coach it for shit and doesn’t know how. If he does then there is no way Ramsey and Ox would be this shit at passing or dribbling consistently, or Giroud and Welbeck being so poor clinical as CF’s or Theo not having developed to a consistent level. On top of that tactically which is a manager’s technique he is done over by Pulis year in and year out so to think he will match up with Ancelloti, Pep, Allegri, Sampoli, Emrey and the rest is hopefull but not realistic.

    There is a MASSIVE difference valuing technical ability and being able to manage it and that is the gulf in quality between PL sides including Arsenal and the rest of Europe. I think you have this notion that because Arsene values technique we are blessed with technical players, well its FAR from the truth.

  22. YW,

    I hear what your saying and I do wonder what Zidane’s legacy will be. I think as far as legacy Cruyff tops the list because not only the managers but the way Barca play is Cruyff but as far as getting the most, Zidane might take the cake.

  23. The biggest reason that Spain has come to dominate the CL in the last 10 years is because Real and Barca have become the preferred destination for any truly elite attacking players like Ronaldo, Suarez, Neymar etc Fergie probably would have won at least 1-2more CL titles and REAl would not have won 3 of the last 4 if Ronaldo had stayed at manU

  24. Bill,

    Then how do you explain Spain and Germany dominating world futbol, is it no coincidence that those players have been dominate for quite some time? For that matter Madrid were lucky given Ronaldo’s clear offside goals to beat Bayern who outplayed them.

  25. Bill,

    If futbol was as basic as your making it then the Poles would be a much better country futboling wise with Lewandowki, Argentina and Portugal would have won a World Cup (lets not forget Portugal won the Euro’s where Ronaldo scored 3 goals) and France would have won the Euro’s with Giroud winning thr Golden Boot with 6 goals then having Payet and Griezamann ties for 2nd with 3 goals a piece.

  26. Bill

    Agree re Real but United were schooled by Barcelona at Rome and utterly destroyed at Wembley. The latter, without Ronaldo, showed how big the gap was.

  27. HenryB,

    Drunk under the influence Henry-he doesn’t need help,he needs banging up-like any other prick that does it.
    Warrior?….he’s a fucking golfer.

  28. Yogi

    Fair enough. Barcelona outplayed a much stronger United team in 2009.

    I am surprised that Fergie was able to get the 2011 United team to the final. In the 2011 game United started Chicarito, Park, aging Giggs and Rooney as their attacking players against a team that had Pedro, Messi and David Villa as their 3 forwards. On paper and on the pitch that was a mismatch.

  29. My first sentence was supposed to say. Barca clearly outplayed a strong ManU team in 2009. By 2011 ManU was much weaker.

  30. C

    From the standpoint of pure technical skill, Ozil has probably been the best in world football for the last 6 years. Any team that has had Ozil, Cazorla, Sanchez, Nacho, Ramsey is better then any team in the PL in terms of pure technical skill and I think it can match up with almost any team in the world. The problem is that technical skill can control matches but it does not win them. The players who actually turn the passes into goal scored are ones who win the games.

  31. In 2009 Barca had a forward line of Thierry Henry, Eto’o and Messi. In 2011 it was Messi, David Villa and Pedro and the last time they won the CL in 2015 they had Messi, Neymar, Suarez upfront. They were brimming with technical skill all over the pitch but they start with the probably the best individual player in the world in this century and they have always had as much or more firepower upfront then any team in the world to turn the passes and ball possession into goals

  32. After Barca was taken apart by Bayern by an aggregate score of 7-0 in 2013 the way they rebuilt their team was buying Neymar and Suarez in successive seasons.

    The PL golden boot winners in this decade in the PL are Tevez, Berbatov, RVP, RVP, Suarez, Aguero, Kane, Kane. Those are very good players and the best forwards in England but other then Suarez and may be RVP for a couple of seasons they don’t match up well with the best forwards on the continent and none of the English teams comes anywhere close to matching the sort of firepower Barca and Real and Munich have featured. I think that is the biggest single reason that the English teams have struggled to go deep in the CL for most of this decade

  33. C

    For some reason international football seems to have a different dynamic and play out differently then club football. I don’t know why but neither Ronaldo or Messi is anywhere near as dominant when they play for their country. I also think there are exceptions to every generalization and Spain certainly dominated international football from 06-10 by building their whole strategy around a group of midfielders. However, the real reason they won the World Cup in 2010 was the team defense.

  34. Bill,

    First mate, Citeh have loads more technical skill in Silva, Sane, De Bruyne, Aguero, Yaya, Sterling. Yes Ozil is one of the most technical players in the world but Ramsey, nope. As far as with world futbol, mate you have lost the plot. We can’t match Bayer , PSG, Barca, Madrid, Athletico, Juve. For instance, on pure technical ability Ramsey isn’t even in the discussion with Thiago or the newly retired Xabi of Bayern, Veratti, Thiago Motta of PSG, Modric, Kroos or Casermo of Madrid, Koke of Athletico, Gomes, Raktik or Inesta ot Barca, nor Pjanic of Juve.

    Yes Spain won with defence but its because of their pressing which starts with their midfield and the fact their opposition couldn’t get the ball because of just how good their midfield was.

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