The last hurdle
With Norwich gone and Liverpool and Citeh confirmed as champions and runners up, what’s at stake on the last day of this accursed and protracted season? Keeping things as simple as I can, with Bournemouth on 31 points and Watford and Villa on 34 and with just one goal separating the three clubs it’s ridiculously tight, with two of the three clubs going down. Bournemouth are at Everton who have nothing to play for while Villa are in a similar position to the Cherries, where David Moyes’ Hammers are already on the beach. Meanwhile Watford travel to Arsenal who after their midweek defeat to Villa also have nothing left to play for; the permutations are endless but I feel we’re going to say goodbye to the Hornets and the Cherries. It’s more interesting at the other end of the table with the games to watch being Chelsea vs Wolves, and United vs Leicester. Whatever the results one of Chelsea, Leicester, and United will miss out on a Champions League place while Wolves may need to win to get into the Europa League. A fascinating day lies ahead.
Sixteen years, fifteen managers, five owners later, Leeds are finally back in the big time thanks to a man they call ‘El Loco’. When Leeds appointed Marcelo Bielsa two years back, people’s reactions generally fell into two camps; some felt that for all the plaudits he had received over the years he hadn’t really achieved much, while others were of the opinion that a man feted by the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino as a visionary genius was the right choice to bring Leeds back to where they belong, I was firmly in the latter camp. Although Leeds fell away badly at the back end of last season they were a joy to watch with their high pressing game allied to their build from the back philosophy, and if that recipe sounds familiar it’s because we’ve seen it from Guardiola’s Citeh, Pochettino’s Spurs, and Klopp’s Liverpool over the past few years, and the roots of that philosophy germinated in the mind of Marcelo Bielsa. In 2012 Fergie’s Manchester United went down 3-2 at home to Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League and if it sounds close it wasn’t, to the extent that Bilbao were probably five or more goals better on the night, and that was my first glimpse of Bielsa ball. The second leg followed a similar pattern and though Athletic only won 2-1, once again United were played off the park and the greatest manager in English football was sent home with his tail very much between his legs. So what can we expect from Leeds next season? No doubt there’ll be one or two judicious purchases but the style certainly won’t change and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how Bielsa gets on in what is still, despite the dominance of Liverpool and Citeh, a ferociously competitive division. Whatever the outcome it promises to be a good watch.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Cartel; according to my definition a cartel is a self-serving organisation that consists of a group of vested interests that conspire together to maintain their position to the detriment of outsiders. (Or something like that) OPEC is one such example of a cartel, the Colombian drug gangs are another and the G14 group of European football clubs which ‘disbanded’ in 2008 was another and is the one that I’m concerned about. At the time it was ‘disbanded’ it was actually a G18 and its members were from Italy; Juventus, Inter, and AC, England; United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Germany; Bayern, Borussia Dortmund, and Bayer Leverkusen, Spain; Real, Barca, and Valencia, France; Marseilles, PSG, and Lyon, The Netherlands; Ajax, and PSV, and Portugal with Porto being its sole representative. Founded in 2000 to ‘represent the best interests of European football clubs’ the body was in constant conflict with UEFA president Michel Platini, with often recurring threats of a breakaway European Super League, modifications to the Champions League pacified the G14/18 and upon disbandment in 2008 a new more ‘inclusive’ organisation was founded called the ECA which consisted of 232 member clubs with 123 associated members. So all was fine and dandy then, or was it? Did the G14/18 ever really go away? The answer is no, as can be seen with the reaction of certain clubs to Manchester City getting away scot-free with their European ban being overturned despite their best efforts in keeping the closed shop at the top of the European game. Expect more ructions from the ‘entitled’ across Europe in the coming months.
Don’t do it
Football’s lawmakers, the IFAB, have decreed that the current temporary situation where up to five substitutions are allowed per game can be extended to cover next season should the respective national associations deem it necessary. Hopefully the FA will not follow this course of action. It’s been noticeable since the restart that the clubs with the deepest squads have been enjoying the unnatural advantage that two more substitutes have given them to the detriment of smaller, less wealthy clubs, who cannot afford the luxury of having multiple mega-expensive players sitting on the bench. It’s clearly unfair and unbalanced and should not be allowed to continue on to next season.
Team of the week
Hugo Lloris, Spurs, Keiran Tearney, Arsenal, David Luiz, Arsenal, Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea, Reece James Chelsea,, Jack Grealish, Villa, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang ,Arsenal, Phil Foden, Citeh, Mason Mount Chelsea, Harry Kane, Spurs, Raheem Sterling, Citeh. Manager Mikel Arteta, Arsenal. Much as it pains me to say it Mikel Arteta had a very good week with a somewhat lucky and undeserved win over Liverpool followed by a decent win over his mentor Pep Guardiola’s team Manchester City in the cup. (I’ll say nothing about the losses to Spurs and Villa)
This week’s games
Tomorrow 6pm; Chelsea vs Wolves, Leicester vs United, Southampton vs Sheffield United, Newcastle vs Liverpool, West Ham vs Villa, Burnley vs Brighton, Arsenal vs Watford, Citeh vs Norwich, Palace vs Spurs, Everton vs Bournemouth.
Last week’s question; one team has been relegated from the Premier League a record five times, which team? That unfortunate team is, no doubt to John Grundey’s chagrin, Norwich City, but if there is a silver lining then it must be the fact that the Canaries logically must be the best at earning promotion from the Championship back to the big time. Spurs fan Steve Langbridge was first up this week narrowly followed by SuperCanary John Grundey. This week; who was the last player to score a hat-trick in an FA Cup semi-final?
Quote of the week; “It is a remote tribal community worse than Yemen, and its people have a well-documented penchant for violence’.’ This is a Middle Eastern website’s description of where; Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, Chad, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Glasgow, anywhere in Cornwall? None of these, the place in question is….Newcastle! Personally I think the website’s being a tad harsh there… now if they were talking about Middlesbrough?