1. Manchester might not be the untouchable we initially thought
Bayern Munich 2 Manchester City 0
Manchester United 3 FC Basel 0
Probably two of the three main shocks of Game week two as the dominant city in English football collected a, lucky, one point out of a possible six. The demolition of Manchester City on Tuesday at the Allianz Arena emphasised that City are lacking the experience required to hold steadfast in Europe and also lack the team spirit to beat Europe’s finest, money can’t buy either as Mancini found out the hard way, City now sit second bottom of their group and must overcome current hurdles – mentioned later – to get back to playing at their best, as they have been in the Premier League. Meanwhile, on the red side of Manchester came early alarm bells, after initially looking in cruise control with an early first half 2-0 lead over FC Basel; United surrendered their lead to go behind 3-2 after three quick fire goals from Basel, only for United to show the attributes of defending domestic champions and salvage a draw in the 90th minute, but this served as a timely reminder to both that they must stay grounded whilst they almost take off in England.
2. Bayern Munich look good and back to their old self
Perhaps it wasn’t just because City lacked experience in Europe that they faltered. They were simply outplayed for most of the game and it was good to see Bayern back to winning ways in Europe following a very disappointing 2010/11 season both domestically and on the continent. It appears new coach Jupp Heynckes has got star players Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez playing at their highest level once again, as well implementing former Manchester City player Jerome Boateng into a defence which has only conceded one goal this season so far and is on a winning run of ten games without conceding. This shows that they look good not only domestically but could be this year‘s surprise package in Europe – though we all know the capability of this Bayern team, which didn‘t hit the heights last season with Louis Van Gaal at the helm. Analysts have noted that Heynckes has adopted a more balanced team with more focus on the defence rather than an out and out tendency to attack which was common under Van Gaal whilst keeping the same 4-3-2-1 formation.
3. Don’t underestimate the Portuguese
Benfica sit joint top of United’s group following a 1 – 0 over SC Otelul Galati win and 1 -1 draw with Manchester United and shown throughout the latter game that they have all the attributes to push through the group stages and potentially cause a shock in the knock out stage, with the defensively solid Luisao and experienced Joan Capdevilla at the back and prolific strikers Oscar Cardozo and Nolito amongst others leading the line. Benfica are also joint top of their domestic league after six games. Another Portuguese who shone through this week was Andre Villas Boas, and rightly so at £13.25 million, but his decision to start with Lampard paid dividends as he saw the veteran put Chelsea in the lead. Perhaps, though, one of his least finest choices was the decision to replace Lampard with Salomon Kalou who gave away the ridiculous penalty that led to Valencia’s equaliser, but many positives can be taken from a performance in which the initially disappointing Ramires shone through with lung bursting runs from the midfield and glimpses of the “old” Fernando Torres. And finally, one Portuguese who shouldn’t be underestimated is Cristiano Ronaldo, scorer of – arguably – this week’s finest goal after a swift counter-attack goal to open the scoring and Ajax’s defence at the Bernabeu with brilliant passing through Kaka and Ozil and great movement from Ronaldo to cut inside the defender and finish lethally.
4. Attack is the best form of defence
Justified by the amount of goals in this game week, 44 goals over 16 games averaging almost three goals per game. Shown with the Manchester United game and Chelsea’s willingness to attack along with Real Madrid’s fantastic attacking options and speed – see their fantastic opening goal against Ajax – and Barcelona’s normal demolition of BATE Borisov to mention but a few of the great attacking teams on show on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, it will hopefully also be the catalyst for further goal fest game weeks and provide excellent entertainment for the punters. Though the Chelsea game didn’t contain many goals, the pace of the game was incredible and both keepers were in outstanding form to keep the score low.
5. Arsene’s new boys are settling in, but the frailties are still there
Arsene Wenger is perhaps enjoying a little respite from the press vultures that are seemingly permanently eyeing their prey, looking for faults in his every move. However he would have sat a little more comfortable in the Emirates on Wednesday as he saw a dissected side squeeze past Olympiacos 2-1 with goals from new boys’ Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Andre Santos before Arsenal’s persistent fault of defensive frailties left Gunners fans in for a nervy end, which they fortunately pulled through. Wenger needs to look at bringing in a defensive coach before the knock out stages or there could be repercussions similar to the scoreline at Old Trafford. Notable also was the other result in this tough group, probably shock of the night as Marseille – on a torrid domestic form – overturned reigning German champions Borussia Dortmund 3-0 at the Stade Velodrome.
6. More “Openness” this season
More “Openness” you exclaim? As memories of Tottenham’s 4-3 defeat at the San Siro come to memory, where Gareth Bale became a £50million man. But it is true, English clubs have 11 points this season compared to 20 at this point last season. Along with this, Trabzonspor and APOEL hold top spot in both of their respective groups which contain Inter Milan and FC Porto along with Zenit St. Petersburg and Shakhtar Donetsk in a fascinating group. Teams also seem more willing to attack and seem to wish to snatch their opportunity in the competition. CSKA Moscow sit bottom of their group having scored the most goals in their group over the opening two games.
7. Barca show their greatness as things are about to get Messi
Lionel Messi, greatest player on the planet and virtually unplayable, with 13 goals to his name already this season and shows no signs of stopping. The little Argentine contributed two goals to his account on Wednesday as Barca brushed aside BATE Borisov without breaking sweat in Minsk. With Messi’s second, a fantastic finish following good interchanges between himself and Dani Alves down the right wing, he unleashed a frightfully lethal shot into the top right corner past the keeper cementing his place as the finest player on the planet.
8. Unai Emery is an underrated manager
“Who?” I hear you see as you quickly click on open new tab and Google his name. Emery has been overlooked in the managerial world of modern football, having taken over the reigns of Valencia in 2008 whilst the club was soaked in debt. I was fascinated by an excellent article in the newspaper about his achievements whilst losing prised assets David Villa (to Barcelona), David Silva (to Manchester City), Juan Mata (to Chelsea) and Raul Albiol (to Real Madrid) within two seasons, and remaining in £300 million of debt, Emery has found cheap alternatives, like Roberto Soldado – a replacement for David Villa – who have more than held their own in La Liga having held Barcelona to a 2-2 draw already this season. He said of his replacements for the stars’ he lost:
They might not be elite players but they want to be.
9. Experience is invaluable
The moral of the story for Chelsea and Manchester City, with differing consequences. Perhaps media questioning pressured Villas Boas into adding Lampard back into the starting line-up at the Mestalla, or perhaps it was managerial genius? Either way, Chelsea reaped the benefits as Lampard showed how crucial he is to Chelsea with a cool finish to put the blues ahead in Spain. Lampard also showed how much of a model footballer he is during his post match interview speaking about his lack of team starts,
You have to respect the manager, respect the team and the quality of the squad we have,” he continued “You have to keep on top of yourself, work hard and when you get your chance you have to show. That’s what I tried to do tonight.
Whilst Chelsea revelled in Lampard’s experience, City suffered in a lack of it – only Yaya Toure had real Champions League experience out of their squad.
10. No player is bigger than the club
Unfortunately, in what was a fantastic game week, the games were overshadowed by the reported refusal by Carlos Tevez to come on whilst City were 2-0 down in Munich. In a shocking turn of events, Tevez has been suspended by City for two weeks “whilst a full enquiry takes place.” He is one to get into controversy isn’t he? Having been embroiled in a transfer saga in January when he declared he hated Manchester.
Graeme Souness has hit the nail on the head with his summary of the whole saga
He is one bad apple. He’s a disgrace to football. He epitomises what most people think is wrong with modern football. It is totally unacceptable. He’s a football player and is paid to play. He is refusing to help his team-mates. It is all about him, him, him.
It is quite a U-turn from captaining City to the FA Cup in May as they beat Stoke 1-0 in May and typifies how the attitudes of a minority is shaping the majority of the stereotype that people collect of footballers’. City follow in neighbours United’s footsteps in the respect of taking a hard line over players believing they are more important than anyone else when Sir Alex Ferguson sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Ferguson has recently praised Mancini for his action over the whole affair and I must agree Mancini has handled it well.