It was a great week for the European clubs. The agreement with UEFA on the clubs’ three main objectives can be considered a great victory and further confirmation that the bigger clubs in Europe have a unique voice and are not just an adjunct to their domestic associations.
With eleven games remaining Swansea are one, perhaps two wins away from realistically ensuring their place in the Premier League for another season. The 2-0 away win against bottom the league Wigan also included their 10th clean sheet of the season despite playing for the last half hour a man short after Nathan Dyer received a straight red card. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s two goals furthered his claim as the best loan signing of the January transfer window – if there is such an award!
The 1-0 loss to Basle in the first round of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 means that a place in the last eight will be anything but routine for Bayern Munich. Back in mid-November after 12 games another Bundesliga title looked to be coming Bayern’s way. A lead of five points over a Borussia Dortmund side that had started slowly over the first six games had put Bayern in control. A dozen games on and things have changed dramatically. While Bayern have collected just 20 points from their fixtures Dortmund has been on a tremendous run with 32 points from a possible 36. Bayern are seven points behind champions Dortmund with ten games to go and should be more concerned over the likes of Borussia Mongengladbach and Schalke 04.
The first ever win by USA over Italy deserves mention. Yes, it was friendly but it does offer a psychological boost to the team and potentially intimidates future CONCACAF World Cup qualifying opponents. However, this was no triumph of flowing attacking soccer but a win built on good solid organization, hard work and a piece of opportunism from Clint Dempsey. The silence of those who wanted Bob Bradley gone and replaced by someone with a more expansive vision has been noted.
Chelsea allowed West Brom 25 shots which was the most they have allowed any opponent since 2009. The only saving grace for Chelsea was that they were not on the blunt end of a sounder beating. West Brom showed little respect to a side that had 14 points more than them going into the match. Gareth McAuley scored the goal but the pairing of Peter Odemwingie and Marc-Antoine Fortuné caused Chelsea all sorts of problems.
New boss Otto Rehhagel offered hope to Hertha Berlin fans that relegation can be avoided with a 1-0 win over Werder Bremen. The win moved Hertha out of the bottom three and ended a run of 12 games without a win.
The Football Association announced that the search for the next England national team manager is going to be a much slower process than many expected. The statement set off a round of speculation about who may be on the FA shortlist apart from Mr. H. Redknapp and Redknapp, Harry. Linking the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho to the vacant position makes you think that it is time that people who write this stuff need to realize why they have brown rings around their necks.
Milan put the disappointment of only drawing with title rivals Juventus last week behind them and destroyed a Palermo side that simply had no answer to their opponent’s passing, mobility and finishing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic gets the headlines with a hat trick but Robinho was outstanding. Milan is now three points ahead of Juve with a game more played. Juventus are still unbeaten but with 12 draws you wonder why it matters.
Has a Cup win ever oxidized more quickly than Liverpool’s win last Sunday over Cardiff? They were awarded a penalty, missed a penalty, took the lead through an Arsenal own goal and that was just in the first half. Wojciech Szczesny kept the away side in the match and a Robin Van Persie equalizer just before half time was against the run of play. But worse was to come as Van Persie scored an injury time winner to shell-shock Liverpool fans and place any hope of a top four finish on the scale of extremely remote. The reaction to the loss reinforces the notion that cup silverware is something but it doesn’t match a place in the Champions League.
A hammering in the Champions League by Milan and a FA Cup loss away to Sunderland has masked the fact that Arsenal are on a rather good run in the Premier League. A home win over Blackburn was followed by wins at Sunderland and Liverpool book-ended a win over Spurs. The last three wins all game after falling behind and two of the victories came from injury time goals. The win at Anfield also means that for the first time in their history Arsenal are undefeated on five consecutive visits. It means that Arsenal has slumped the mid-table in the crisis league.
Manchester City matched a couple of records this weekend as they maintained another clean sheet and beat Bolton 2-0 with a lot to spare. They equalled Manchester United’s mark of 19 consecutive league wins at home (both over consecutive seasons) and became the first team in over a century to win their first 14 top flight home matches in a season. Roberto Mancini did not use Sergio Aguero or David Silva in the game but they still dominated the match with Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan standing between his side and a worse fate.
To paraphrase Groucho Marx, Harry Redknapp has had a perfectly wonderful week, but the last seven days wasn’t it. A week past Sunday Spurs looked to be on the cusp of going 13 points ahead of Arsenal – now the gap has narrowed to just four points. The loss to Manchester United must have stung just as much as the loss to Arsenal – perhaps more so given how well Spurs played in the first 45 minutes. Now Spurs have a FA replay against Stevenage set for Wednesday and then a tricky visit to Goodison. Chelsea are also on the cards before the end of March. The implications of results from now until the end of the season for Harry, England and Spurs are profound.
Another managerial casualty at Stamford Bridge and now Roberto Di Matteo’s name has been penned on the whiteboard outside of the manager’s office. Back when Andre Villas-Boas was hired we ran a poll on this website asking how long he would last before he was chopped. It turned out the wisdom of crowds thought 15 months – 25% of the crowd got it correct with an estimate of between 6 to 12 months. It really is impossible to come up with a logical reason why Abramovich would hire AVB in the first place when he wasn’t willing to give him the time to retool and rebuild.
It is also impossible to understand why people who get paid to comment and write on the game for a living are still comparing Mourinho and Villas-Boas. If you want to compare AVB to anyone try Arsene Wenger. The difference was Wenger inherited a slightly less aged squad and one that had not been so successful in the short-term.
You can also find other Soccer Report Extra.com contributors on Twitter by following this link.
Have some thoughts and opinions you want to express? The Training Ground is your chance. Just click on the link.
Please refrain from posting comments that;
The House reserves the right to delete any such comments and to block further participation on the site.