Archive for the ‘Champions League’ Category

Loan signings are cheating.  I mean how can Emmanuel Adebayor transform Tottenham Hotspur’s season and perhaps in the long run cost his parent club Manchester City the Premier League title?

For all of the praise the Premier League receives for being the best league in the world, it is fundamentally flawed in that it allows loan deals internally within the same league.

Jamie O’Hara last season joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Spurs and was a major influence in keeping Wolves in the Premier League. When the tenacious centre midfielder joined Mick McCarthy’s side were languishing in 19th position and eventually avoided relegation by one place and one point. Although you can’t say single handedly that the Englishman pulled Wolves from the brink but you could definitely argue that would have David Edwards and Karl Henry impacted as much in the middle of the park as O’Hara did?

Birmingham City were the team to take the unwanted final place back in the Championship but not because Wolves squad was better than theirs it was because Tottenham Hotspur’s reserves were. How can Spurs influence both ends of the table?

If you can’t loan out players between one Premiership team and another, then league’s such as the Championship are the next best option. The benefits of sending the likes of Adebayor, Jamie O’Hara and Yossi Benayoun out on loan to the lower leagues of English football are huge. Players of clubs such as Cardiff, Bristol City and Watford would learn and gain so much from having players who have Champions League, Premier League and World Cup experience within their team.

At a time where the gulf between Premier League and the Championship is currently criticised as being too big of a step up, surely an influx of experienced international footballer’s within the lesser ranks of English football will help bridge that ever increasing gap?

If we ban in the Premier League surely you’d have to prevent loan deals to teams with the same tournaments too? Adebayor couldn’t join Real Madrid, Quaresma couldn’t join Chelsea and Tevez couldn’t join AC Milan on loan (If the rumours are true). However we would expect Andy Carroll to score for Liverpool before we see a swift decision made by the footballing bodies.

The conflict of interests between loan deals is massive and yet in an era that has seen Serie A basically closed down due to match fixing, the most obvious form of ‘influencing’ games is a legitimate rule within football.

Overall if the rules were to change and internal loans were banned, the team that would benefit the most is Sunderland…as they’d get to send Nicklas Bendtner back.

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The top four over the last few seasons has come under intense pressure from the ‘lesser’ teams; firstly there was Aston Villa attempting to ruin the party, then eventually Tottenham Hotspur ousted Liverpool and got a taste of Champions League football and this season the Lilywhites missed out to Manchester City. Already, speculation has begun on who will be next season’s top four, especially as Arsenal appear to be getting weaker with each season that passes. This season, I think the Gunners became the first team ever to finish fourth in a two horse race! Liverpool’s new found resurgence saw them very nearly break back into the top four, after a horrendous beginning to this season under Roy Hodgson. Everything is in place at Anfield for a very successful 2011/12 season, starting with reclaiming their Champions League berth from Arsenal, and this is why (in this humble writer’s opinion).

Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri want to leave, and both players are exceptional talents, with Nasri taking the Spaniard’s mantle as Arsenal’s main star whilst the Spaniard sent flirty text messages to Pique from the treatment room. Both players’ decisions to openly state that they would happily leave Arsenal shows how little faith they have in the Gunners ability to challenge for the major honours; losing two influential players will rock Arsenal and no wonder kid signing from France can help fill the void or maintain their Champions League status.

Phil Jones, Jordan Henderson and, erm, Carl Jenkinson: not hard to work out who Arsenal signed is it? As Liverpool continue splashing the cash despite spending nearly £60 million on two signings in January, Arsene Wenger maintains his usual transfer policy despite all his promises that Arsenal will spend big in the transfer market. With very little happening at the Emirates and everything happening on Merseyside, Liverpool are very much a team preparing for Champions League qualification next season.

Belief is a huge part of achieving success in football and no matter what Liverpool and their fans have always believed, their club can achieve greatness and reclaim the glory days of the ’80s. Nothing has changed this season, and next season the belief will no doubt get stronger. It’s a different story over in North London; with players clearly displaying lack of belief on the pitch, the fans are quite rightly loathing their team’s performances and now many are questioning Arsene Wenger, Le Professeur, himself. Arsenal are a team heading for turmoil if they aren’t careful; missing out on Champions League football could be the least of their worries.

Arsenal shareholder Stan Kroenke has recently improved his stake in the club and has announced he intends to invest in the club, yet the Gunners’ board over the past few seasons has yet to show any signs of following this kind of ethos, and the fans will of course be reluctant to naïvely swallow this up. Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group, on the other hand, have already invested heavily in the squad and the club set-up. But this is not all about financial investment, the American group has had great success with their innovation in sports management and was recently named one of the top 10 most innovative companies in sports by Fast Company, a renowned American journalism group.

It is rare thing that fans of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur unite, however all of the aforementioned fans, crossed their fingers, prayed to the big guy in the sky and sold their soul in hope that Manchester City wouldn’t be able to ‘buy’ a top four finish. However credit, where credits due, Manchester City did exceptionally well in achieving third place and avoiding that dreaded Champions League qualifier. So that’s the first stage complete, but the real challenge is yet to come for the guys on Eastlands, will they have a Tottenham Hotspur style debut season or will they bow out without even a whimper?

It is a hard, physical and competitive season in the league alone before you consider cup competitions, that is why a strong in depth squad is a necessity in today’s beautiful game, something which isn’t an issue for City. Even if many of the players are rumoured to be on the move this summer, as things stand they are still City players, upfront there are Roque Santa Cruz, Jo, Felipe Caicedo and Craig Bellamy and that’s even before you consider Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. Manchester City are overloaded with players in all positions, and with rumours linking all of football’s current greats with the Manchester outfit, they hold a squad more than capable of succeeding in club football’s greatest competition.

Champions League football is played at a very different pace and style to Premier League football. Domestic football in England is fast, quick and highly entertaining and with all due respect to Robert Mancini’s side and set up, this isn’t their style of play, yes, of course they can play like the English Premier League stereotype but with the two defensive midfielders’ they were always going to have Mancini’s Italian defensive influence within their play. A more defensive approach is taken by the majority of teams in the Champions League, meaning City can play to their usual formation, tempo and style.

The one doubt in my mind over Man City’s ability to succeed in next seasons Champions League is their abysmal showing in this season’s Europa League. Poor performances and results against the likes of Lech Poznan and Dynamo Kyiv, were a clear example that Mancini’s side just weren’t ready for the challenge of Europe. Europa League is seen as a second rate and inconvenient tournament but until City begin regularly qualifying for the Champions League, they should be given the competition their best shot, especially with many believing at the beginning of the season that, the Europa League was their main chance at silverware.

The beauty of the Champions League is anything is possible, no one expected Rubin Kazan to ever take points off Barcelona or Tottenham Hotspur to reach the Quarter Finals. The jury is still out on what the expectations of Manchester City will be in next season’s competition but anything is possible.