Can EPL Clubs Re-Win the Champions’ League?
La Liga Fans defend its brilliance, backed by the National success of Spain in Euro 2008. Added to the technically driven shows of its elite clubs, beside the host of talents Spain exports to the elite clubs in Europe, by well or with no way to avoid.
And while the Calcio Fans hail the world cup winners, praising the Italian Grinta and the tactical edge of the Italian-speaking league, with teams defending their territory and bouncing forward to create chaos and smash up the opponents.
There is no doubt that Champions’ league success of the Premier League clubs created a strong case for “Crowned Lion” football fans to believe in the superiority of the premier league, backed by the marketing-Financial value of the Premier League business wise, and the quality of the infrastructure, stadiums, coverage and whatever needed to give that competition an edge. At least for the Barclays’ League loyal fans.
As a part of our coverage for the Champions league knock out stage, we open today the first chapter of the EPL series, scanning the challenges vis-à-vis EPL clubs Champions League Adventure this season. We start with the Lately crowned UEFA Champions:
Led by Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson for the past two decades, Man United hunted 25 domestic titles, 6 continental titles, one intercontinental cup, and a FIFA Club world cup. Obviously the Red Devils have the “Know how” of winning titles.
- The Fergie Element:
It’s amazing how this guy can mix arrogance with the sense of change in his football DNA. I believe this is one of the little details that gave this coach the edge. A master of continuous improvement.
He creates a system and stick to it, but to a certain extend. He can smell the need of change and decides the right moment to turn the table around, whether he is tackling tactics and strategies to approach a game, or when he feels a player life cycle in his squad reached an end.
One game against Roma in Champions league 2007 was all what he needed to inherit then improve the Striker-free strategy. Applying that non traditional tactical methodology –Especially for an English club- earned the team an unmatched glory last season. But that wasn’t enough to mislead the old scot; the first thing he demanded for the new season is a Berbatov. He got his man and switched back to the offense structure he is aware he will need more often, being the team to beat.
No doubt, Sir Alex had and still has the quality players in his troops to win battles. But it’s also true that he was able to get the best out of his team, while some other clubs struggled even when they had more quality and depth in their squads.
- The Players:
After Peter Schmeichel retirement, Man United fans waited for long till they got the right man for the Job, Spi-der Sar. In Vidic, they have the best Defender in the world at the moment. With Ferdinand he creates one of the most impenetrable duets Assisted by one of the best Left backwards. That’s in brief the back bone of Man United. The Brazilian twins, uncle Neville, talented Evans, and the two long serving Brown and O’Shea cover the other needs and create the needed depth.
The Mix of youth and experience is the trademark of Man United midfield. With the likes of Scholes and Giggs leading and inspiring the current generation of Red Devils including Owen Hargreaves, Anderson, Michael Carrick, and Fletcher the Old Trafford Fans are calm and confident that the operation room in the midfield is well covered.
The flanks are ruled by Ronaldo, the FIFA Player of the year on one side, and With Nani, Park Ji-Sung and Giggs being the sailors on the other side. All in all, creating a lethal offense with the dual combination of looks-lazy Bulgarian Fox, Dynamic Rooney and Tevez the “Argentine prophet for the 21st century.”, as labeled once by Maradona.
Yet, what make Man Utd competitive are not the big names alone, but the mentality planted in the group. The collaborative work of the team in offense and defense, the desire to come back from behind, and the capability to win a game even when the form and performance are not meeting the best expectations are the main strengths of this club.
For a team winning all the titles Man Utd won last season, and performing as good as they are so far, it’s too risky for anyone to dig for defects without being hunted by the club fans. Yet, here we go, giving it a try!
1) Flanks Balance: Park work rate is admirable, and Nani may have the potentials. But with Giggs getting old, Ronaldo seems to be the only wing that can seriously generate threat from the flanks for Man Utd. That may prove being risky. Evra runs on the left feels like the only fresh breeze blowing from the left for the Devils in red.
Another unlikely surprise may happen. It’s always possible that Sir Alex may use O’shea as a left back (switching to a third CB when the team move forward), with Evra playing up front as a left wing and Silva as a right back you never know with the old man of Man Utd.
With Ronaldo cutting inside all the time, its Vital for both flanks of Man Utd to be active, not an easy challenge to tackle.
2) The Midfield: Man Utd midfield may end up complicating things for them. With all the attention spotting on how good the defense is, led by Ferdinand, Vidic and Co. with all the praise for the offense inspired by Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez and Bernatov. With Scholes and Giggs getting their fair share of paper talks. I believe Hargreaves, Anderson, Michael Carrick, and Fletcher will play THE vital role their own way, deciding the destiny of Man Utd in this Champions’ league adventure. Man Utd midfield lack a pure defensive midfielder. Hargreaves is injured, Anderson is a decent option but the same as Carrick they can’t play a defensive midfielder role perfectly, not yet. Scholes is getting old so he may not be fit to play the water carrier role when things get serious. The mentioned-younger-players need to hit their form before due time or else they will complicate things a little for Fregie.
With Evra flying on the left flank as a fullback, and if the team will have no player for the defensive midfielder role, Da Silva will unlikely play on the right back. Instead, a RB/CB player will take place to act as a third central back assisting Vidic and Ferdinand, and giving the freedom for Evra to move forward with no concerns.
3) The form and moral of back up players: Evans impressed so far, but how secure will it be to use him in Champions’ league if either Ferdinand or Vidic was not available? Will he meet the expectations? After a long break, will Neville bounce back to form? O’Shea and Brown are gambles as well; you can never expect how they will perform, with brilliance or catastrophically.
In the other hand, if Berbatov wasn’t available, there is no back up to use as a skyscraper in the box. There could be some promising names but none of them proved being reliable yet. Sir Alex will have to use last year successful structure of Rooney-Ronaldo-Tevez, but with the uncertainty surrounding Tevez transfer it may unsettle him as time goes by, and with Rooney being injury prone this option may not be definitely available as well.
4) Ronaldo performance in big games has always been a question. In my opinion, the impact of this debate created more pressure on him while performing in big matches more than his performance inspired for such debates. It’s important for this yeast of players to get into a game without feeling any doubts surrounding their potentials. Being in a position to prove his worth is not the best approach for him to focus, it increases the pressure and makes his game more complicated. With time and maturity he will be able to handle that better. If “time” means this season or the following ones, the coming days will tell.
Man Utd will face Inter today, and with the injury problems in the back line, this will be a big test. Adding to the fact that Mourinho knows the team he will face, and he rarely disappointed in his Chelsea days against Man Utd.
Next in this series: Highlighting another EPL club (Liverpool).
Beside the series covering Spanish and Italian clubs, coming soon!