The Barclays Premier League, the Liga BBVA and the German Bundesliga all culminated this weekend, plunging football enthusiasts worldwide into a pit of temporary despair. It’s true that the Copa America and the Euro U21s are on the way, but nothing quite matches up to the excitement of the week in, week out jostling for positions by teams in the top leagues.
The struggle for the Champions League places, the scrap to avoid relegation and the perhaps more enthralling scrap to avoid the Europa League spots have captured our hearts for many a month now.
Wait, did I say avoid? I meant “to get the Europa League spots”, of course. It does wonders to a club’s chances of achieving things domestically. Just ask Roberto Martinez.
It’s been a see-saw season for City, and a see-saw-conquered season for Chelsea. United managed to get top four, and more significantly managed to find Ashley Young. Liverpool started and finished abysmally, but that is clearly Sterling’s fault. Or Balotelli’s. Or Lovren’s. Or everyone but Gerrard’s. The rest of Brendan’s team did excellently and he is very proud of them.
Arsenal had an exceptional season. Finishing third, possibly retaining the FA Cup and having less than half the squad injured for most of the year puts this down as Arsene’s best in a long, long time.
Pochettino wisely left Southampton for a much bigger club that finished a massive four points above them and will be in the Europa League. Lallana, Lovren and Lambert wisely left Southampton for a much bigger club that finished a massive two points above them and will be in the Europa League. Southampton need to wait and see if Arsenal can beat Aston Villa next weeken- who are we kidding? Southampton will also be in the Europa League.
Leicester City pulled off the two greatest hustles the Premier League has probably ever seen- winning 7 in 9 to avoid relegation and convincing Roy Hodgson that Jamie Vardy is the next Thomas Muller.
Nigel Pearson may be some people’s manager of the year, but let’s look at other managers who have had real impact. Tony Pulis transformed West Brom from decent to extremely decent, Alan Pardew transformed Palace from good to extremely good and John Carver transformed Newcastle from poor to extremely poor.
Sunderland found themselves hovering above the relegation zone with two months to go, perfectly in line with their annual managerial recruitment drive. A rather sensitive chap for a man named Dick, Advocaat shed many a tear when he saw a frontline of Danny Graham, Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe for the first time. When they kept a clean sheet at Arsenal, he couldn’t hold back the tears because he knew they were never going to score in a million years.
Stoke, Swansea and Southampton overachieved, but why do things on a smaller budget that you can do by investing millions of pounds? These clubs bring shame to the top flight. Liverpool spent millions on Balotelli and Lambert, only to play Gerrard as a false nine. United spent millions on Di Maria and on Falcao’s wages, only to play Fellaini as a false footballer. That is the Premier League way. What is the point of financial fair play, if the commercial and transfer revenue generated by such clubs is not being wasted away?
This article would be incomplete without a review of other big European Leagues. Let’s talk about the Liga BBVA. Barcelona. Let’s talk about the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich. Let’s talk about the Serie A. Juventus.
Now that a thorough examination of domestic leagues has been completed, let’s shift our focus to a quick preview of a massive match coming your way in early June- an international friendly between the Netherlands and the United States. The Netherlands will be favourites, but the States will know that anything can happen in an intense, high-stakes game like an international friendly.
Also coming up is the UEFA Champions League Final between Barcelona and Juventus. It is one night after the massive friendly, so don’t expect many will be following this one. Still, let’s do a quick preview.
Messi, Neymar and Suarez are in frightening form and will look to put Barcelona in control. Juventus’ midfield quartet of Pirlo, Marchisio, Pogba and Vidal could, however, easily prove to be the difference. As we know, there are players on both sides who are great mates- like Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, so it should be a rather friendly encounter devoid of any controversy or incident.
Thus, another season comes to an end and with it ends what every football fan called “the weekend”. There is still much to write about, though, and many questions to answer.
Will Sterling leave? Will De Gea stay? Which English players will Liverpool overpay for this summer? Which world class players will Arsene Wenger underpay for and then lose to other clubs (only to remind us of when Arsenal go from “title challengers” to “consistently making top four since 1997”) this summer? The answers to these burning questions will come only with the passage of time.
Until then, as Jose said, “The Rottweiler barks, and the Prius goes by” or some such line about a car and a dog.