European giants in trouble?
This week’s Champions League encounters sprang loads of surprises, though it should have been expected. The European giants are struggling. Why?
Barcelona lost to Celtic; Real Madrid needed a last-minute equalizer to save them from defeat in the hands of Borussia Dortmund; Chelsea needed a late goal by Nigeria's Moses, to secure a much-needed victory against Shaktar Donetsk (who beat them in the first leg anyway); Arsenal drew 2-2 after having led by two goals to Schalke of Germany; AC Milan drew at home to rich, but less fancied, Malaga of Spain; a late Aguero goal saved Manchester City from a deserved defeat at home to Ajax Amsterdam and, last but not least, Manchester United trailed lowly Braga by 1-0 before late goals gave them victory.
The “lesser” clubs are now educated in “how to win”. Fierce but constant physical play is included in their game plan. That spares them the inferiority complex against these giants and lately the giants are having problems coping. Better defensive structuring and this style of play makes up for the lack of world class players in their roster.
Physically all the European giants are struggling and, if not for improved medical science and club doctors, we would have been nursing several more star injuries by now (they might be on the way).The star players of these giant clubs lack the necessary freshness due to the congested calendar of matches.
The obvious thing to do would be for the Giant clubs to sacrifice some championships in favour of the most important ones right? But no! Financially these rich clubs have a heavy salary and expenses burden, so they need every euro they can get from every possible game and championship.
The end result is that, till they all start getting eliminated from some of these championships, we should expect below-par performances from them.
Barcelona’s defeat was overdue. In as much as I love to watch them play, it is clear that they are not as good as they were under Josep Guardiola. They needed a last-second winner to beat relatively lowly Celtic at the first leg in Barcelona and had trailed 0-1. The injury to star defenders like Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique is telling on their defending.
Arrogance and lack of team cohesion is the bane of Real Madrid. Clearly Cristiano Ronaldo is unhappy and, in my opinion, deservedly. Mourinho was arrogant but good. These days he is rarely seen dishing out instructions. The team is not playing like one and, when Ronaldo is muscled out by a very well-organised defense network, like Dortmund’s, Real Madrid suffers.
Arsene Wenger needs a rethink and I believe his tactical and managerial limitations are beginning to show clearly now. Arsenal spent a lot of money this year but they are far from title contenders in my opinion. They lack that winning do-or-die hunger and they desperately need a striker that scores out of nothing for them.
AC Milan is desperately struggling in Europe. The loss and non-replacement of players like Clarence Seedorf, Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva is clearly a major reason why they are struggling.
Although I still do not consider Manchester City a European giant by silverware, by wealth and quality players they are arguably up there. Their problem lies around the short-sightedness and management of Roberto Mancini. How dare a coach blessed with so much talent spend his time always whining about the need for re-enforcement and new players? How does he expect to get team unity and results out of the players there now, if he is insinuating they are not good enough?
Having said all the above, I still believe the giants will conquer Europe. The Christmas break will do them a lot of good, except for the English clubs, who play all through it.
Though difficult, they should mostly qualify for the next stages of the Champions League and dominate the end stages.