Champions League Semi-Finals Bring Out the Worst in Premier League

EPL logoIf I wasn’t a regular viewer of the English Premier League and I watched the Champions League semi-finals this week, I’d walk away with a feeling that English teams were horrible. Bereft of skill, no composure on the ball, an inability to control games, and as negative as the worst examples of stereotypical Italian soccer.

Yes, I know that Man United played catenaccio (thanks Wayne Rooney). And I know that Chelsea against Liverpool continues to be an abortion of soccer any time they play in the Champions League since the stakes are so high. But those combinations do little to win over non-believers of English football, and do even less to win over new fans.

For three teams who are in the top four of arguably the best league in the world right now (due to the abysmal season in Spain), we should expect more. Manchester United’s gameplan worked, but they were incredibly lucky not to let in a goal. Sir Alex Ferguson would argue that he doesn’t care about entertaining football and that winning is everything. Let’s hope Man United does it in style against Barcelona next Tuesday instead of yesterday’s anti-soccer.

From Chelsea and Liverpool, I honestly can’t get excited about seeing either team progress to the final. The teams are such close rivals on the European stage. And, as such, their games usually feature few goals. Expect Wednesday’s match to be settled by one lone goal or go to penalties. Whether it’s Chelsea or Liverpool that makes the final, they’ll be more entertaining to watch there in the final but I’d much rather see a winner from Barcelona or Man United lift the trophy. I would have much preferred to see Arsenal in the place of Liverpool in the semi-final if this past Tuesday night is an indication of the best that Liverpool can offer.

Listening to The Game Podcast yesterday, Guillem Balague previewed an interview he conducted with Barcelona’s Xavi. The Spanish player commented that the game of football has changed where it’s much more physical and that attribute is a key component in winning games these days. That’s why, Xavi argued, that English clubs are doing so well in Europe.

Let’s just hope that next week’s Champions League semi-finals are more entertaining to watch and give a better representation of what the Premier League is about.

27 thoughts on “Champions League Semi-Finals Bring Out the Worst in Premier League”

  1. You’d be hard pressed to find a CL semi final first leg as exciting as the Liverpool Chelsea match was. Plenty of chances, two goals, some controversy and undeserved result… it was a good game of football.

    United Barca less so, but then it’s a CL semi final. Compare either semi first leg to the Juve Milan final a few years back and you’d have to agree that both games were better matches of football and far more entertaining.

    At this stage at a competition of this importance you’re never going to get football to set the world alight – caution and therefore defending must come first as the stakes are so high. I don’t think your observations, if correct, which I disagree with as above, would indicate the worst of the “EPL” so much as the importance of the games and the potential rewards at stake.

  2. English players are generally bereft of skills and technical ability. Yet the British Isles have produced more great footballers in history than any other region, so skill isn’t everything. Pace isn’t everything even though Brits tend to think it. If it was, the US would be a heck of alot better than the 3rd best team in CONCACAF.

    In other words you can slice and dice anyway and say “oh they looked horrible,” or “they have no skill,” but the reality is everyone can find fault with anything or dress up anything because unlike most American sports this game is complicated and varies from region to region and personal preferences as to style are different.

  3. I was almost willing Barca to score last night, as they thorouly deserved a 1 or 2 goal cushion to take to Old Trafford next week.

    I have to fault Fergie for his team selection: Surely he has some ‘proper midfielders’ – players who can win and hold the ball – if he wants to double-up on wingers. By playing Rooney/Ronaldo/Tevez but asking them to do a lot of covering, he surrendered the initiative and the bulk of possession to Barca.

    They’re lucky that Barca seem to want to over-elaborate more than even Arsenal do.

  4. Barca didn’t want to over elaborate, they just were unable to break through United’s defence.

    I agree Anderson should have been playing instead of Tevez. Against a team who are going to play 3 central mids at home, you have to match that if you expect to have any share of the possession.

  5. Sheps, in your first comment, were you actually serious when you said that the Liverpool-Chelsea game was better to watch than the Barca-Man U game?

    I hope you were making a joke, because if not, I’m not sure what you were watching..

  6. On a certain level (and this is with all apologies to the Chelsea fans out there), this reminds me why I was hoping Fenerbahce would advance to this round.

    The problem with the CL semi-finals is this sense of paralysis that infects all the teams. None of these teams really play adventurous football to begin with, and with the big trip to Moscow now so close, they just clamp down even further.

    There is an additional problem: all 4 of these clubs expect to be here. That tends to bring out complacency. There’s no shock factor: being here just keeps things on course.

    The semis need an off-the-wall side to bring energy to it. Fenerbahce would have fit that bill just nicely. They always play daring football (I don’t think they have the ability to play cautious), and they would have more of a feeling of being overjoyed just to make it that far.

    Sadly, I don’t hold out much hope for next week being any better.

  7. Is it just me or did the official miss the foul on Ronaldo in the box? Secondly, are not hip-checks considered an infraction? I prefer a physical game myself but it looked like a foul to me. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  8. Mike, are you talking about the incident midway through the first half, when Marquez (I believe it was Marquez, at least) knocked Ronaldo down at the top of the box?

    That was never, ever a foul; Ronaldo dove. Also, it wasn’t a hip-check, it was a shoulder charge, which is perfectly legal.

    Just my opinion.

  9. I was shocked that Man United let Barcelona dictate the pace of that game. I did not see much in the way of quick counter attacks from United and feel they were very fortunate not to concede a goal. I would imagine the game at home will be much different but I too was beginning to hope Barcelona would get a deserved goal and put some pressure on.

  10. Michael, I’m afraid it’s you that’s a joker if you believe the following:
    A game with 2 goals and many shots on target is more exciting than a game with none and few;
    A shoulder barge is not a foul;
    It’s not a penalty when there’s no attempt whatsoever to play the ball, as with Marquez last night. He didn’t have the ball under his control, he made a challenge towards the player rather than the ball = clear cut penalty.

    The Barca Man U game was dull dull dull. The Liverpool Chelsea game was a well contested game of football – both teams had spells in charge – Liverpool far more of course, Torres had some great opportunities, and two goals. Where was the equivalent excitement last night?

  11. Just some research to prove that you are wrong and I am right.

    Shoulder Charge
    (aka “Fair Charging”). A type of “tackle” which can be legally used to try to “win” (i.e., gain possession of) the ball. To be legal, it: (a) cannot take place from behind (b) is only permitted within playing distance (i.e., 3 feet) of the ball (c) cannot be violent or dangerous (d) must be intended to win the ball & not just to knock down the opponent (e) must be shoulder to shoulder (not to the opponents chest or back) with the arms (especially elbows) close to the body (f) the player must have at least one foot on the ground (i.e., he can’t leap).


    Marquez violated at least c, d, and e in my opinion but two of those are moot as he most certainly not within 3 feet of the ball.

  12. Thanks guys for the feedback. I’m a new fan to the sport (3 years). I was @ St. Andrews pub yesterday watching the match and there was some debate even withing United fans themselves as far as if the aforementioned incident was indeed a violation. I’m aware that `intent` is one of many factors the officials consider when ruling but I’m still in newbie mode as far as learning the game. Thanks again for the feedback.

  13. OK, that was neither violent nor dangerous, he was trying to win the ball (Ronaldo would’ve walked in alone on Valdes if Marquez didn’t step in, and it was shoulder to shoulder. Ronaldo was leaning downwards a little bit, but that doesn’t mean that Marquez had to do the same.

    And yes, he certainly was within three feet of the ball. Ronaldo had the ball in his control, Marquez was next to Ronaldo, that’s three feet or less.

    A fair shoulder charge is not a foul, which is what this was. Ronaldo embellished the contact anyway, and as Man U already got a penalty on the road early in the game, they certainly weren’t going to get another one.

    Your point about the Liverpool-Chelsea game featuring shots on goal is misleading. Chelsea officially had three shots on goal all game and Liverpool had six, although two of this were bouncing dribblers from long-range from Gerrard. Combined, the Man U-Barca game had only seven shots on goal, but Barca fired 20 shots on van der Sar.

    If you still believe the Liverpool-Chelsea game was more exciting than the Barca-Man U game, I’m sorry, you have no credibility as a viewer. Liverpool-Chelsea was a complete and utter borefest, with two mistakes leading to the two goals, and Barcelona could’ve easily rung up four on United. Yes, the Liverpool-Chelsea game was more tactically sound, but that doesn’t make it more exciting for the audience. Ask fans of both teams, they will tell you that their teams played awful soccer and were abysmal on the night.

    Go ahead and reply if you like, but I won’t be responding after this. I have no more time for someone who believes that utter rubbish on Tuesday was exciting.

  14. I like to be entertained so I enjoy watching ManU and Ronaldo advance through the tournament. It just annoys me that both Ronaldo and Fergusson choke so badly on the biggest stage. Fergusson has consistantly had the best squads in Europe but has only one Champions League final to show for it, which admitidly he won but only after completely botching the tactics, being dominated for 90 minutes and winning on a lucky fluke. Ronaldo is the same, last year against Milan, against France in the World Cup Semi and the FA cup final he goes completely anonymous. He had the chance to put the tie away with an early penalty, crushing the resolve of an incredibly fragile Barcelona team. But another choke job. What was Park doing on the pitch, same with Scholes and Carrick. Where were Anderson and Haregraves. Fergusson is a great motivator which works fantastically in the leauge or against weaker European opposition, but has been failing at the highest level for 20 years.

  15. Michael, you are a complete and utter idiot. How could Barca have scored 4 if they didn’t even have that many shots on target? What complete tripe you are blurting out. Your opinion may be different from mine, but mine is based on evidence, yours is based on what you want to believe (ie, that the “EPL” is boring, presumably), therefore mine has more value.

    Well, while you dispute the correlation betwen shots on target and the level of excitement in a game, without countering this evidence with some of your own, I can prove that you are definitely wrong and talking out of your rear end with regards to the Marquez challenge. Just a recap of my previous reminder to you of the rules of football. If a player makes a shoulder barge, there are a number of conditions, and if any one of these are true, then it is a foul and therefore in this instance a penalty. One of these conditions was that the challenge happens 3ft or more away from the ball. The ball was well ahead of Ronaldo when the challenge was made. Look at the highlights here and pause when the challenge is made (consider Ronaldo is 6ft, ball needs to be within 3 ft of challenge):

    You can’t be bothered to watch and check it out yourself? Ok then just follow the link to this picture I made which clearly shows the distance:

    I will therefore consider your lack of response after this point as an admission that you are wrong due to the irrefutable evidence proposed above.

    Thank you very much for coming.

    Waaa – failing at the highest level for 20 years? You are having an absolute laugh if you think that’s the case. The amount of trophies he has won is absurd – one season a treble. If that’s not the highest level I don’t know what is.

    And a note about Ronaldo’s performance last night. It’s about defence (last night, Yaya Toure and Ferdinand) in these games – there’s so much at stake that the emphasis in first legs is always to make sure you don’t lose it so you definitely have something to play for in the 2nd leg, rather than going all out to win it.

  16. Kartik you are a complete imbesol and waste of space if you really believe that tow CONCACAF countries are better than the US and that Britain has produced more good footballers than Brazil, Argentina or Holland.

    You accuse others on the air of being eurosnobs but that comment proves in your own way you are worse than Steven Cohen and those you attack. Perhaps you are the biggest Brit lover, Yank basher of all.

  17. Let me expand on my last point Kartik. You do nothing consistently other than bash the Galaxy and that shows your agenda: despite your professed interest in MLS and US Soccer you really want to see European soccer dominate. You praise Mexico now but I am sure if a Mexican team played an EPL team you’d discuss inferior the Mexican team was. Your comment on this thread once and for all exposed your agenda.

  18. LVU and Sams Army,

    I’ve read Kartik’s comment several times, and I have to admit I have no idea where you get the idea that he wants European soccer to dominate from that.

    First, on the footballers in history point… honestly, who cares? So many people have so many different definitions of good/great that any team with enough history could be considered top of that list (and, as further proof of that, I think Germany could be added for consideration as well).

    Furthermore, I want to know when this attitude started going around that praising one side equalled bashing the other. Unless it’s a mortal enemies situation (and no matter how much hyperbole you see injected into sport today, IT’S NOT), there can be equally good things to say about all involved.

    On Galaxy bashing: the LA Galaxy has spent a lot to raise it’s profile and be this international entity, which is fine. But to be honest, they are bad. They’ve been 5th in the west and out of the playoffs both years under Lalas, and at this early moment in the season, they are in that spot again. Fair or not, having a league’s highest profile team looking bad paints a negative image of a league in general. It can come around, but right now it is a problem the league is going to have to deal with.

    On CONCACAF: Honestly, I don’t agree with him on the two better nations point right now, but he is correct in that there is work to do at US Soccer if it wants to stay top tier in CONCACAF. The region is getting better, slowly but surely. The US is going to have to do more to maintain a dominant position. Have they? Not yet in my mind. We’ll see once the heat of World Cup qualifying starts.

    I don’t agree with Kartik on several things, but I know this: he has genuine interest in North American soccer. You don’t devote the kind of time and energy or take the heat he has if you weren’t seriously a believer. The only thing exposed around here is that some can’t take criticism, but then again that’s hardly a new development.

  19. CL Semifinals were run before EPL bigmatch involving Man Utd and Chelsea this weekend. Maybe that is why both of them played under people expectation, especially Man Utd.

    I saw them very clear. They were distracted by incoming EPL bigmatch. EPL is important for Man Utd, but I think so is CL. So did why Sir Alex choose catenaccio to play against Barca. I don’t see any logical reason behind that.

  20. “Bereft of skill, no composure on the ball, an inability to control games, and as negative as the worst examples of stereotypical Italian soccer.”

    Nothing new with the analysis of English football Italian football has moved on but i understand the reasoning. It’s the “worst form”.. I do agree that negativity is a problem but the difference between an Italian sides negativity and Man United negativity against Barcelona was that Italian sides with the ball would have kept it and played tempo football unlike Man United’s kick and rush at times (as Cruiff suggested the technical weaknesses of man united defensive players)…

    TBH never thought Barcelona (who i implied man for man was my opinion the best football side in the world and got battered for it) would destroy a such inform man united team pure footballing wise. Shame really that Messi couldn’t play out the whole game and deco couldn’t play the final ball with Ferdinand particularly magnificent. Iniesta should play in the middle of the park always…

    Ferguson has said he has learned from mistakes such as the 4-0 thumping at Camp Nou back in 94…success in europe requires tactical awareness…the barcelona of few years ago was indeed special in their ability to outplay teams on any pitch.

    BTW liverpool and chelsea style of playing has got nothing to do with technical ability (note number of foreigners)…its the managers who employ these negative tactics. As with Man United who are stylish most of the time…

  21. Hedi. Don’t think the english media (and even parts of the spanish media) gave barcelona’s due a bit too much into puyol missing (and yes Milito/Marquez werent really tested). Although i agree they were a horrible slump but they have what i believe is the best talent in the world messi. Half fit messi and half fit deco were able to dominate however the final ball was missing. Don’t think Barcelona have ever lost to Man United at home and i think the times they have lost to English opponents were both liverpool. Remembering that Barca at home are still a formidable side to play against..away from home different story they lack the space for their normal game to be effective.

    The side chosen by Fergie looked a 4-4-2 but turned out to be a 4-5-1 was it fergie’s intention to play like they do week in and week out and attack? And was it the dominance of Xavi that made the game what it was? Or were Man united’s purpose to get out of their with that result? Fergie sure made it sound like that.

  22. Thank you Jeffy.

    Sams Army has been dogging me for two years on my blog so he’s widened the war so to speak by taking it elsewhere. He is convinced my entire mission in life is to see the LA Galaxy fail. I only call it like I see it with the Galaxy anyhow. Anyhow, he and the other person I am convinced is him also need not be responded to.

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