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Semi-Conscious

By | 30th April 2009

ronaldo-v-arsenalTen things I noticed from this week’s Champions League semifinals:

1. Much Ado About Nothing – Much to the woe of slobbering, over enthusiastic journalists everywhere, the Barcelona myth was partially debunked on Tuesday. It’s not that they were awful by any stretch of the imagination, but when faced with an  equally good team who didn’t stand aside and let them play through them they looked more than a little stumped. Granted Chelsea played with all the risk and adventure of Stephen Hawkings at Disneyland, but surely a truely great team would have a plan B? Evidentially not.

There are many reasons to dislike Chelsea and many reasons to admire Barcelona, but I don’t buy into the beauty and the beast analogy. It’s not as if Chelsea were defending for their lives and flinging themselves across the goal line every five minutes. They actually looked quite comfortable. Maybe, just maybe, Barca aren’t as supercalifragilisticexpialedocious after all.

2.Wet, Wet, Wet – There might not have been a wealth of great football but I still found this game strangely entertaining, mainly because it seemed to be being played on a Marsh Land and occasionally resembled Benny Hill on Ice. Or perhaps an end of the pier comedy remake of Platoon. Players were dropping like flies. Marquez injured himself doing a girly skip. Iniesta hurt his bum sliding around. Henry had no idea where he was for a good 10 minutes and was still obviously shaken when he fell over in the box trying to execute a clumsy pirouette. Drogba and Dani Alves obviously thought this looked like tremendous fun since they spent huge parts of this match pretending to be injured. At one point Abidal fell over trying to take a quick free kick. I thought it was hilarious.

3. You’re not the only one – Once again to the frustration of hacks up and down the land, FIFA poster boy Lionel Messi didn’t play like the God-like Uber-being he was supposed to. The player that caused Chelsea the most worry was Iniesta. He may look look like a substitute geography teacher no one respects, but he was their most impressive player and all their attacks went through him. It’s a shame then that he spent so much of this match falling over and trying to get other people booked. Which brings me to my next point.

4. I hate you so much right now – As we’ve already ascertained, there are many reasons to dislike Chelsea. The very fact they employ Drogba, Anelka and Ashley Cole should warrant a fine of some sort. There are similarly many reasons to dislike Cristiano Ronaldo. The diving, the preening, the pouting, and the complaining are all things that irk even his most strident supporters. The football world (and media) have pointed this out on many occasions. “It’s unneeded and unsportsman like, they say. It’s a black mark on his character. Just look at Barcelona, now there’s the perfect team. A team who play football for the sheer joy and in the perfect spirit of the game.”

What a load of BullPoo. While Ronaldo can certainly be a prick sometimes, there were 6 or 7 players on that pitch on Tuesday just as bad, or even worse. And none of them came in for anything like the physical treatment Ronaldo does on any given Saturday. Dani Alves particularly annoyed me. Him and Drogba seemed to waging a battle within a battle to see who could feign injury the most convincingly. He also whined, complained and tried to get people booked throughout. Ditto Iniesta, Abidal, and  Toure (who was justly booked for just this). The rumblings that have come out of the Barca camp since have been just as bad. Their whole attitude seems to be that of a spoiled child not allowed to play his favorite game – it’s not fair!. Well they went down in my estimation when they did that, and… I’ll tell you what, I would love it if Chelsea beat them… Love it.

5. Don’t know what you got till it’s gone – On to the second semifinal, and Manchester United seem to have reverted back to the team of old in recent weeks. However, some of them might be pinning for the ‘smash & grab’ team of earlier in the season. For many months United played well under par but managed to convert almost all the chances they created. Yesterday the opposite was true. You can’t have your cake and eat it I suppose. They should have had three in the first half. Rooney tried to baffle Almunia by heading the ball off Sagna’s head but it was so unbelievably clever it didn’t fool him. Tevez then managed the unique trick of hitting the ball with the wrong foot onto the right foot which was so unbelievably clever it didn’t fool him either – because he didn’t even notice it. After the wonder-shin of John O’Shea gave them the lead, Ronaldo should have doubled it with a header back across goal that was so unbelievably clever it didn’t fool Almunia  -because he was so slow at getting back across his line that by virtue of being in the wrong position actually ended up in the right one. Ronaldo clattered the bar and Giggs was unlucky to be ruled offside in the 2nd. Oh, and Anderson calmly slotted a good chance into skip half way down Sir Matt Busby Way. They could and should have put this tie to bed. I can’t imagine Arsenal being that bad again.

6. The 8(hundred)th Wonder of The World – Arsenal had their work cut out yesterday. Not only did they have to deal with Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov, but they also had to contend with (officially) the best player in the universe this season, Ryan Giggs. Giggs reached 800 games and counting for United last night. One of the greatest and most exciting players ever to play the game. I salute you, sir.

7. Pure and simple – Apparently, purists would love to see a Barca -Arsenal final. I can’t imagine why. Watching two teams pass the ball neatly around the center circle for 15 minutes before failing to melt their way through the opposition’s defence sounds terribly boring to me.

8. Where you gonna run to now – I’ve no idea what formation United were playing, because Anderson spent the entire first half further up the pitch than Rooney or Tevez. It seemed to be effective, though. He was unlucky to be ruled offside when through at one point, which would’ve been far more of a contentious talking point if it wasn’t Anderson. Let’s face it, he wouldn’t have scored.

9. Two little boys had two little toys – While two great teams were doing battle on the pitch, Sky viewers were also treated to a mammoth power struggle in the studio, as two great egos vied for attention. I felt very sorry for Ruud Gullit. He seems like a lovely chap, but he seemed to have been painted a very odd color by the make up people. To add to his woe, he didn’t have a hope in hell of getting a word in as a pundit. With Glenn Hoddle desperately trying to edge his seat further into screen shot and Graham Souness sprawling himself over his chair like a pimp in tight fitting trousers, the battle commenced.

Richard Keys made the fatal mistake of not directing any of his questions to one person in particular, so it was simply a matter of which one of the two could get their opinion in first. Ruud tried on a couple of occasions but was soon drowned out as G & G just talked over him. Both talked with the deadly authority of a man who knows everything about the game (they were both such brilliant managers, remember) and is clearly right on every subject. As gripping as it was I couldn’t handle any more excitement and turned the volume off after 10 minutes.

10. One step beyond – United basically have to score at the Emirates to go through. I can’t see Arsenal getting three, but I also can’t see them playing as badly as that again. Certainly not at home. If Arsenal get the first goal then it’s game on – hold onto your hats. United – Arsenal games rarely disappoint when they matter.

Chelsea have the task of stopping Barca scoring, but with that looking a not too daunting task on this week’s evidence, a 0-0 scoreline to take into the home second leg is a very good result. However, both ties are too close to call. They could both go either way at this point. Chelsea probably have the best chance of going through and Manchester United look like the most impressive team. But it’s a game of two halves, and we’re only at half time.

Another stormer by Oscar… sheer genius or is he off the rocker? Have your say in the comments section below!



Reader Comments

The below views are those of our readers and do not reflect the opinions of Premiership Talk or its employees.
  1. Oscar Pye-Jeary says:

    Thank you both of you. It's very much appreciated…

    iammrben, I would agree with that completely. In fact I'd go as far to say as I think Barca are the most technically gifted side in the world, and a joy to watch. It's still a youngish team with a young manager. They're still learning so to speak..I maybe went a little over board with the Keegan para-phrasing..I wouldn't 'Love' to see them knocked out particularly. I'd much rather see them play glorious football, but I found their sportsmanship disgraceful at times as well as hypocritical and at odds with the way they like to be portrayed..I'm sure Pep will learn from this the same way Fergie & Wenger did. Both went through long periods of failure in Europe before sussing out how to do it.. he's done a brilliant Job since stepping up so far…

  2. Oscar,

    Fantastic article once again. Your articles never disappoint, and your humor never fails. Great work.

    I, like thousands of others, look forward to every article.

  3. iammrben says:

    Fair enough, Oscar. So, in other words, Barca perhaps displays better technical skill than most, but they rely too much on that alone to win their matches rather than adapting their game and tactics to their opponent. While I still think that Chelsea didn't do much other than park the bus in their defensive third, I'll meet you halfway and admit that Hiddink's strategy worked perfectly and the much-vaunted Pep didn't have any answers.

    Looking forward to your next article :)

  4. Oscar Pye-Jeary says:

    I would respectfully disagree with you Ben. Firstly I'd like to point out that I never once mentioned Barca's defence (who I thought were quite good) nor did I mention that Chelsea played particularly well. I even went as far as to ridicule their lack of adventure.

    My point was to highlight how exaggerated the praise for Barcelona has been this season. Praise you obviously agree with, but I don't. Merely a difference of opinion. While I think Barca are a marvelous team who have played some glorious football this season, I don't think they are the best thing since sliced bread and I think they looked ordinary against Chelsea who were the first club of a similar level they have played this season. They have breezed past every other team in La Liga and fallen giants like Bayurn because these teams let them play. Chelsea clearly had no intention of playing Barca at their own game but that is Barca's problem. Teams come and park the bus at Old Trafford, Anfield, The Emirates, The San Siro, The Stadio Del Alpi, The Allianz Arean and dare I say it, The Camp Nou. When such a thing happens it is up to the attacking team to show their strength and try and break them down. At no point in this game were Chelsea defending for their lives. Whilst they didn't attack, they also didn't have to defend very hard.

    In my humble opinion, and it is just that, when Barca were confronted with a team who blocked their usual routes to goal (stubbornly at times) they couldn't fathom how to get round it. They also then became petulant and very unsporting. This is a major weakness in Barca's game. You can't be the greatest team in the world if you can't adapt. Barca can't and Chelsea called them out on it. It may have been very ugly from Chelsea but if Barca were the greatest team since football began they would've troubled chelsea much more than they did

  5. iammrben says:

    Some decent points in your article, but this (below) is ridiculous:

    "1. Much Ado About Nothing – Much to the woe of slobbering, over enthusiastic journalists everywhere, the Barcelona myth was partially debunked on Tuesday. It’s not that they were awful by any stretch of the imagination, but when faced with an equally good team who didn’t stand aside and let them play through them they looked more than a little stumped etc etc etc"

    Think about it this way — the common conception is that barca is fierce on the attack and frail in the back. You argue that it required a team of such talent not found anywhere in La Liga or the rest of the European footballing world outside of the Premier League to play Barca straight and shut down their attack. Then why, pray tell, was their "frail" back line never once breached? Is it because the common conception is wrong and should be reversed (unimaginative attack, fortress in defense)? Or is it simply because Chelsea sat everyone back in their own half with Drogba very isolated and alone up top?

    Let's face it, if Chelsea really did play Barca straight up, they should have punched through a Puyol-less (for most of the match), Marquez-less (for part of the match) backline and torched an often wobbly Valdez for at least a couple. That's what Drogba, Anelka, Kalou, Lampard, hell even Malouda are for. But they didn't. They did exactly what Barca is accusing them of having done — they put up a 10-man iron fortress behind the ball with Drogba in front as a token gesture. This is not an accomplishment in the least. This tactic, while it can get results as we saw in Camp Nou, fails to impress. It was not a demonstration of superior Premier League talent/tactics/wherewithal, it was simply "let's do everything we can to get out of here at 0-0." And it was an appalling disservice to anyone who watched the match.

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